Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Coasters Revelation

 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
          Mark 8:36-37

There they were unpacking remnants of memories; posters, paintings, cd’s, vinyl records, books and more books and loads of glass and cup coasters. There were so many coasters from so many places and so many events and so many remembrances. Some were square,  some round, some stone, some wood and even a few leather ones.There were probably as many coasters as there were glasses, mugs and cups to be unpacked!

Another dilemma, ”which coasters to save and which one’s to discard?” There is limited space in the new safe harbor home. ”Too many coasters”, she proclaimed. “ It is time to sort through this abundance of stuff”, she added. Self-righteously he retorted,“ You can’t just get rid of memories. These are treasures. ”


The two concurred to retreat to the beach as a getaway and for some sort of sacred discernment about sorting and unloading . The sand, surf and sun sometimes provide relief if not answers. Usually there is just a lot of sun and sand and nothing more on these retreats. But, at this point in their move to the next chapter they believed, “what have we got to lose?!”

Mysteriously without warning or anticipation a friendly storm worn face appeared near the shores of salvation . It was friend from another lifetime when he and his companion had first set out on their odyssey together. Just seeing this face of a woman and hearing her voice fueled the furious flames of memories . Hugs and kisses were followed by her sober stories woven with tragedy and redemption. That sandy storm of the century had completely demolished everything that this friend and her family possessed on their piece of paradise on their island in the stream. A distant voice confirmed to the pilgrim that if there was to be a survivor it would be this good friend. Her things were washed forever but not her love, her faith or her memories.

This meandering pilgrim was one known for never lacking in words and yet he was speechless. He wanted to say how sorry he was for his old friend’s troubles. He wanted to say something about how if there was anything she needed that he would do what he could for her and her family. But, by her demeanor and  soul-filled inner strength he knew that she needed nothing of what he could provide save a  silent prayer. He wanted to tell her how grateful he was that she and her family was safe and well and  how he was grateful to see her again.

But there was only a sweet simple silence.

A brief exchange of semi-genuine promises to stay connected concluded the encounter and just as mysteriously the old friend was gone from sight. He wondered “Was she real? What just happened?” as he and his companion retired from the sands of time to their new chapter home.

The sun went down and rose again as it does consistently. The new day brought a summoned local plumber to repair this and that at the new place as the two continued their bickering about what needed disposal and what really needed to remain. As the plumber wrenched the problem away he echoed a journey similar to the one the two had heard the day before. It wasn’t déjà vu but it was a close second. The man recalled how his home had been washed away by that great storm that had devastated the home of the couple’s friend. No photo albums, no family heirlooms, no furniture or rooms where his wife, children and even grandchildren had lived and celebrated a multiple of fond occasions had survived the great storm.

“All I had left was my truck and my job” the plumber said with a prideful bitterness “but it didn’t destroy my memories or my hopes and dreams. It will cost everything I have and more to start over again. But it’s only money and it is only things, right? ” He continued and shared how a 1,000 homes on the mystic island had been lost.  A  1,000 homes of 1,000 families with a million memories. “I am one of the lucky ones.”  With  a heartfelt wish to the two for “good luck and good health” this fixer’s spirit disappeared off  somewhere into the unknown horizon.

The pilgrim’s contemplation “Was this fixer and old friend angels or coincidences?”

Sitting somberly the eyes welled up as the pilgrim reflected on his concern for things and attachments. The debate about salvaging coasters and memories seemed supercilious as he humbly grabbed for an empty box.

“Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.”

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”

“Don't you know what's wrong with me?
I'm seeing things I don't want to see.
Sniffing things that ain't no good for me.
I'm going down fast, won't you say a prayer for me?”
    - E. Clapton

Got to get better – Clapton ( smart phones click on link)

"There's a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door's thrown open
I can hear the organ's song
But the congregation's gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins"


City of Ruins Bruce  – (smart  phones click on link)


Friday, August 1, 2014

Ineffable: The Road Not Taken (An Anniversary Reflection)

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
            - Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

So what is it about fire pits, cigars and a glass of vodka on cool summer nights that lead to discourse on roads not taken, coincidence and time?

His first mate said, “Not everyone has had the life changing event that fueled a metanoia, a re-evaluation of life’s purpose and conjuring a deeper appreciation of the journey.”

He thought privately, “Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
(CABG) changes everything.

The Florence Nightingaled one counseled, “… Maybe there was a reason your business unraveled. Maybe if you continued down the path you were on the heart would have failed. Maybe there is a greater hand at work with different plans.”

Finally joining the conversation the pilgrim chimed in, “Maybe it was that accidental invitation twenty four years ago to contemplate on the patch of holy ground on the bluffs over the big muddy, just a mere 930 miles from home, is where a baptismal immersion onto the grace-filled Odyssey commenced? Storms were brewing in the distance; this vessel was being prepared for an unknown sea. Then just as mysteriously a second invitation surfaced to another sacred safe harbor where spiritual guides would help this pilgrim navigate the oceans of mercy. What would have happened to this breaking heart if this pilgrim had not been lowered into the presence of redemption and healing by his new companions?”

He postulated further “So many incidents and connections altered directions and plans. A faithless private troubled associate pleaded me to maintain courage and introduced me to the wizard of St. Mary’s where my heart was repaired and allowed me to continue. It seems as there is an abundance of “what if’s” and “there but the grace of God go I” contemplations. It is so tempting and easy sometimes to get lost in a wilderness of worry, isn’t it? But, there is something ineffable about the letting go and being present. ”

“So, here we sit in a new safe harbor that was never part of the plan. A place we passed a thousand times but maybe we were not ready or maybe it wasn’t ready for us. Then when we thought we were ready a storm rose and suddenly we unexpectedly found ourselves in exile, a state of limbo. Maybe we weren’t really ready? Maybe there was something more at stake.”

The first one chimed in convincingly that “ Your exile’s purpose was to keep me company during me recent rough seas at work. Having you staying with us helped me.”

The Pilgrim added “Maybe the time in limbo was a sacred gift where we would be eased into the transition into the next chapter? Who would have dreamed that after all the twist and turns we would end up this side of paradise?”

 “Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right”
       - Here Comes The Sun, George Harrison

  Here Comes the sun ( Smart phone click on link)

“Tonight this fool's halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I'm comin' home,
These are better days…”
           - Better Days, Bruce Springsteen

Better Days (Smart Phone click on link)

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

CABG August 4,2008


Monday, June 30, 2014

Fourth of July: Little Egg Harbor, NJ

(The F. Scott Fitzgerald Model home
Little Egg Harbor, NJ)

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

   -Ulysses , Alfred,  Lord Tennyson  

“Everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City”
    - Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen

“How does one become a butterfly? They have to want to learn to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”

Fot most of the forty-year Bloomsday passage
On this side of paradise,
The two of them had
Rockawayed the days and nights.
Wondering if the green light at West Egg was real
They were “simultaneously enchanted and repelled
by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
That ancient aging ticking clock
And tattered calendar indicated
That time finally had arrived.
They sang together
“Everything dies baby that’s a fact,
Everything that dies someday comes back.”
Unlike Alice who didn’t care much what path to follow
These wanderers launched out again-
They  “beat on, boats against the current.”
The baggage they carried
Was heavy, rich and not a burden.
Multiple graces and so many friendly faces
Find favor in their memories.
Whyte’s journey prayer echoes
 On their passage to hope
“You are not leaving but arriving.”
And a sign strategically placed
By some greater hand
Calms the ambiguous sea,
“Heaven is a little closer
in a home
by the water.”
The first one said softly
“The aurora is rising
behind us.”
The second one said
“Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”
It was their Independence Day.  *

(* Thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Boss, Lewis Carroll, David Whyte and of course Joyce and FS Fitzgerald for the inspiration)

So much to say …. My own words inadequate ....I will let the songs below do the talking…. Enjoy!

Smart phones click the link if you don’t see the music videos on your page.

 One of these Days – Neil Young

 These are the days – Van Morrison
Rockaway the Days – Bruce Springsteen
 Cousin Caterpillar – The Incredible String Band

Watching the wheels – John Lennon

 Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters
Fourth of July Asbury Park – Bruce Springsteen

Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

Wishing blessings to my Jersey Girls, family, friends and neighbors ….

Always Grateful,


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Inadequate Gratitude

"At the Day of Judgment we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done." ( Thomas A’ Kempis , The Imitation of Christ, Book I, ch. 3.)

How does one say farewell to trusted friends who have been with you every step of the journey so far?
How can one express gratitude for the inspiration, the comfort, the illumination, grace and mentoring these companions have provided?
Is it important that others are aware of the significant impact of the ideas and insights that these compadres provided?

All that has resided in the cluttered attic can’t continue on the passage to the next chapter. It feels like Sophie’s choice. It is unfair to choose.Anger swells against the pilgrim partner who insists that there is no room for many of the friends.

Advances in technology and the prospect of collecting a digital compendium are not the same and an unsatisfactory solution.There is something to be said about touch and physically grasping, if not caressing gently, the confidantes and mentors. Just knowing that they are at an arms length is comforting.

“Not to decide is to decide”

But the moment of reckoning occurs and reality wins where only a few will join the pilgrim onward. A divine breath speaks silently of a somewhat solemn solution …some poetry, some novels, some educational texts, some sacred tomes, some historical records…. and so it goes. Refusing to say “goodbye” to those left behind this reflection then will be a humble “thank you” to each one.  Also, let it be known that each one…yes, each one. …these sacred gifts ….every page…every word…every idea…every concept will remain as an integral part of burning flame in this heart.

I will never forget. I will try to find a way to honor  the words... of the poets, the authors, storytellers, spiritual masters, saints and  inspirational teachers .... and how they have blessed me.


Friday, May 2, 2014


There was that day when she stood
 Waiting and welcoming
Glowing radiantly in the rays of the midday sun.
Trees stood in their full color guarding
The pathway to her heart.
It was as if she knew that the time as perfect.
She was the treasure the pilgrims had sought.
Mature but not tired,
Proud but not overbearing.
A flight of birds burst in formation
To exploding out into all directions,
Mother nature’s feathered fireworks

Days, became weeks, weeks months and months years.
The birds and their songs never departed.
In the dark soul of night she was honored by the sounds of
The crickets’ celestial chorus accompanied by
The sound of rustling leaves slowly
Shaken by the breath of God.
Her purpose was to be the perpetual peace-giver.
She would be more than a sanctuary
Island in the stream.
Gilbranesque filled photo albums record remembering
Moveable feasts of joyful gatherings and celebrations:
Baptisms, birthdays, Christmases and Easters
With friends and family!
Canine companions freely frolicked frequently with her.
In times of grieving she was a source of
Mystical silent prayers of solace
And comfort for the tears.
Always strong she stood her ground and sheltered her clan
From the frozen winters, sweltering summers
And the storms of all seasons and sources.
When they were tired she provided a safe haven
From the busy-ness and strain of the world.
All souls felt safe with her and would dream in comfort.
She was, no, she is sacred ground.
One pilgrim would lovingly anoint her honoring her with flowers
While the other would assure that music
Continuously sanctified this temple.
Those gathered with her flourished.
But truth and complete love can be found in letting go.
The pilgrims’ first then their second would say farewell
Launching out on their own journeys to find out.
She would always be there when and if they would feel
A burning desire to feel that unconditional love again.
A wise prophetess she seemed to know
Her work here too would come to an end.
A time would soon arrive when the original pilgrims
Would pass solemnly through
Her door of salvation one final time.
There will be no “goodbyes” just gratitude
Knowing they could return to her in their hearts.
If perchance you visit her lend an ear and listen carefully,
You can hear the pilgrims’ spirits
Living within her forever.


 Our House – C, S, N and Y
(Smart Phone click Link) http://youtu.be/7G6cFtsxKz0

  Home …David Byrne 
(Smart phones click the link)  http://youtu.be/06jFQMxPtxw


Thursday, April 3, 2014

An April Fool Reflection : The Contented Fisherman

The Story of the Contented Fisherman:
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the industrialist.
"Because I have caught enough fish for the day," said the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch more?"
"What would I do with it?"
"You can earn more money" was the reply. "With that you can have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats... maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me."
"What would I do then?"
"Then you can really enjoy life."
"What do you think I'm doing right now?"

-       Anthony DeMello SJ

Passing through the door leading into the next season the pilgrim sailor wondered about the progress, if any, that he may have made along his journey. He realized how he easily got lost . One can get lost along the way especially when he is distracted by state of his attachments to things and people and worrying about the pieces he can’t control.

“What have I learned?”, he reflected .

He thought about those aspects of his existence that he truly loved…his girls, his friends, the mentors, the people and places and experiences that filled him with joy. He thought of all of nature  - especially the majesty of dawns and sunsets and birds singing freely and the sea. Then he recalled the poems (…yes, the poems) and the books and music that comforted, inspired and continue to fill him up.

He is glad that he no longer fights the battle to fill his silos.  Sometimes he tries too hard to be authentic. Sometimes he realizes that being human is imperfection. Sometimes he is attentive to bringing a little smile to those in pain or those who are alone. Sometimes he just finds himself lost in being mindful of the present, the divinity of all things, and the wonder-filling grace. Sometimes he is aware of the fact that he just needs to let it all go and just be.

April is national Poetry Month

“We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
-       Dead Poets Society

“The Gate of Heaven is everywhere”
-       Thomas Merton

"True spirituality is not a search for perfection or control or the door to the next world; it is a search for divine union now. The great discovery is always that what we are searching for has already been given! I did not find it; it found me. “
-       Richard Rohr, The Naked Now

The Buddha's Last Instruction

"Make of yourself a light "
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal - a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire-
clearly I'm not needed
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

                                -       Mary Oliver

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes

- Stanley Kunitz

                                   April 15, 2013 Boston Strong …Remember!
     - and keep all those who were killed or injured and their family and friends in your prayers.
                                             (click link if not viewed on smart phone)



Monday, March 3, 2014

A Winter Metanoia

Does it seem like some days you are in a never ending dream trekking through some dark gray Paul Simon-like winter’s day -  over and over and over? Books and poetry begin to lose their comfort. Desolate Chicago blues tunes are the common acceptable choice to play on your winter weary home stereo. The dog,who normally delights in brisk walks, hesitates as his senses warn him of the frigid consequence of stepping through the door.

Television broadcasts of golf tournaments in summer-like climates are no longer watchable as viewers sink into deeper doldrums. Local liquor entrepreneurs promote and delight in the increasing of bourbon and wine sales. A news story of how a husband and wife who took turns at using their 12 gauge shotgun on their state of the art flat screen when a 24 hour ice skating marathon was broadcast are seen as local heroes. Meteorologists hide as they are officially persona non grata everywhere. Congress, in its half-hearted attempt at across the aisle collaboration is said to consider legislation to either shoot the messengers of bad weather or to ban winter forever. Baseball spring training games are considered as a cruel tease. Children urge escapes to the home of Mickey Mouse while their parents secretly plan for a midnight getaway to Hemingway’s retreat at Key West . A nasty rumor leaks out that the Pope is preparing an encyclical that God has stopped listening to many in certain sections of the world and that “arctic vortexes” will become the new norm. There is no new Noah to facilitate escape. Hope wanes.

They say the next snowstorm will not be as bad as the last one. They say that it is better to fill the tubs with water just in case the power lines come down due to the weighted ice. They say the children no longer delight in the “snow days off” as they will need to make up the time instead of a spring break. They say the retailers have raised the prices of coats, hats, scarves and gloves. They say the municipalities have used up their budgets for snow plowing, sanding and salting. They say get your provisions before the roads freeze. They say, “you are on your own!”

Without warning something happens as pieces mystically fall into place.  A not–a care-in-the-world giggling gaggle of cherubs pulling sleds and ice skates saunter off to the hills and pond past your window.  The white blanket suddenly seems to purify the once dark dismal landscape. A starling’s soft soothing song sweetens the chilled air. The chimes respond gently to the frosty divine sourced breeze. The late owl’s call continues to query you and you no longer hesitate to answer.  A last minute almost impromptu family reunion fills your home with unconditional joy and love. All this is then capped off at your birthday dinner with your family as you celebrate the now with one breath and in gratitude realize that warmth and spring is ever present … within. The heart’s voice whispers “Wishes do come true and everything is good."

The Winter of Listening

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
Silence and winter
has led me to that

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

~ David Whyte ~

Shoveling Snow with Buddha
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Below is link to audio Version of the above poem

and some apropos favorites from a favorite...a common birthday mate of sorts...George Harrison
If you don't see the video on your smart phone try the link or your PC

                                         The next two are from the Concert for George