The faith that gives us wings. Or at least a soft place to land.


Notes:

Sunday Morning

But there’s not much in the Gospel about the afterlife—John is the only one who talks about it. And doesn’t that seem strange? If the afterlife is so important? When the rich young man asks Jesus how he might have eternal life, Jesus doesn’t give him a straight answer… But I’ve read those verses a hundred times. The rich young man asks about eternity, and Jesus tells him to give away his money. He says what to do in the present—as if the present is where you find eternity—and I think that’s right. Eternity is a mystery to us, just like God is a mystery. It doesn’t have to mean rejoicing in heaven or burning in hell. It could be a timeless state of grace or bottomless despair. I think there’s eternity in every second we’re alive.

Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 5, 2021)

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

You tell people up here that you’re from the South, and nine times out of ten, they say the same old thing: “I’m sure you miss the sunshine.” Rhonda and I both miss taking sunshine and easy morning commutes for granted. But what we really miss are the laughter and embrace of our mothers and grandmothers and aunties, kin and not kin. We miss the big oak tables in their dining rooms where, as kids in the seventies and eighties, we ate bowl after bowl of their banana pudding as they talked to each other about how much weight you’d gained, like you weren’t even there. We miss helping them snap green beans and shell peas sitting at their kitchen tables watching The Young and the Restless on the TV perched on the pass-through. We miss how they loved Victor Newman, hated Jill Foster, and envied Miss Chancellor and how she dripped diamonds and chandeliers.

We miss their bare brown arms reaching to hang clothes on the line with wooden pins. We miss their sun tea brewed all day in big jars on the picnic table in the backyard, then later loaded with sugar and sipped over plates of their fried chicken in the early evening. We miss lying next to them at night in their four-poster beds with too-soft mattresses covered by ironed sheets and three-generation-old blankets. We miss their housecoats, perfumed with Absorbine Jr. liniment and hints of the White Shoulders they’d spritzed on from an atomizer that morning before church. We miss tracing the soft folds in their skin when we held hands and watched our favorite TV shows in their beds. Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest.

We miss how they laughed and were easy with each other. How their friendships lasted lifetimes, outlasting wayward husbands and ungrateful children. Outlasted that time Alma caught Joe cheating and she whacked him on the top of the head with the sword he’d brought back from the war, but he told the people at the hospital he didn’t know who did it. Outlasted having to hide your medicine bottles in your shoes because, otherwise, seven of your nine children were liable to steal them. We miss how they seemed to judge everyone but themselves. Or maybe that judgment was in the “nerve” pills they procured from the Chinese doctor on Bay St. who didn’t ask questions. We miss their furtive cups of brown liquor on Friday and unabashed cries for Jesus come Sunday.

We miss their one gold tooth that made us wonder who they had been as young women. We miss their blue crabs, the shells boiled to a blood red in wash tubs atop bricks over makeshift fires built in the yard. The wash tubs reminded us of cauldrons, full of rock salt– and cayenne-drenched water bubbling and rolling, mesh bags of seasonings and halved onions and peppers floating on top, along with potatoes and ears of corn. We miss how they stood over those cauldrons like witches, stirring a potion. With sweat beading on the tips of their noses and smoke swirling around their hands and wrists, they wielded long-handled spoons to press the frantic, flailing crabs toward their deaths.

We miss how they made our Easter dresses and pound cakes and a way out of no way.

Deesha Philyaw, from “Snowfall” in “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” (West Virginia Press, September, 2020)


Notes:

  • Let’s rate this book as: “Wow.” And Highly Recommended.  Finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. Winner of the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award, and so deserving.
  • Kirkus Book Review: “Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful, these stories will sneak inside you and take root.”
  • Los Angeles Review of Books:  “Her characters create intimacy and have hope, not despite their ugly odds but because of them.”

Walking. With: “You thought I was worth saving…”

334 consecutive days. Like in a row. Cove Island Park morning walk.  Dark Sky app reports 93% cloud cover. Hmmmm. 37° F, winds down. Well, that’s Something.

I inhale, hamstring biting. I ease into the front seat. There was a day, not so long ago, that getting into the front seat of the car was an unconscious act. Today, not so much.  Melissa Febos: What If The Pain Never Ends? “I understand that it will return, in one form or another, and that I will need the care of others, and I am determined, when that time comes, to meet it with gratitude and grace.”

Cr*p. No. I highly doubt that Me will show up. That Me ain’t here Today.

I snap a few shots at Cove Island (to keep the streak alive), and head to Calf Pasture Beach Park in Norwalk. The new Inspiration Point.

I pull into the park parking lot, normally empty. A small crowd building under a large tent. What’s This? Crowding into my time and space?  Ahhh, yes, Easter Service.

I steer wide of the gathering parishioners, like I might be sucked into an unstoppable power of God-vortex and his Believers. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

The wonder, the riddle of my not having perished already, of the silent power guiding me.

It forces on to this absurdity:

Left to my own resources, I should have long ago been lost.

My own resources.

Franz Kafka, The Diaries of Franz Kafka: 1914-1923 


Notes: Quote, thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Studio Miniatur Filmowych

Sunday Morning

All gods are homemade,
and it is we who pull their strings,
and so,
give them the power to pull ours.

—  Aldous Huxley, Island


Notes: Quote Source. Photo: DK, Feb 5, 7:25 a.m. Cove Island Park.

Sunday Morning

In a May 1952 paper for her religion class, “Religion as I See It,” Plath laid out her “basic tenets”: man was “born without purpose in a neutral universe,” without inherent morals, and was responsible for his own destiny. There was no afterlife. “His mind may live on, as it were, in books, his flesh may continue in his children. That is all.” God was not to blame for man’s evils or triumphs. Plath claimed that she could “never find my faith through the avenue of manmade institutions,” and called herself an “agnostic humanist.” She happily admitted she was a pantheist at heart: “For my security, I resort not to the church, but to the earth. The impersonal world of sun, rocks, sea and sky gives me a strange courage.” For her, the vital world was earthly and present.

— Heather Clark, Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath (Knopf; October 27, 2020)


Notes:

  • Plath was 19 years old in May 1952.
  • Photographs: DK @ Daybreak. Jan 10, 2021. 6:43 to 7:20 am. 28° F, feels like 18° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT. More photos from this morning here.

Sunday Morning

The Sun’s rays shimmered through the needles of the tall pine tree overhead, and the grass glistened with dew as Joshua walked through the meadow, deep in thought. Sunday morning was quiet in Auburn. No noisy traffic broke the peaceful silence of the Sabbath rest. Sunday should be that way everywhere so people could give their wearied souls a rest from the nerve-shattering noise of their workdays. The quiet of nature is God’s tranquilizer.

— Joseph F. Girzone, from “Joshua: A Parable for Today” (Macmillan Publishing Company, 1983)


Notes:

  • Joshua, a Parable for Today” was a gift to me from our virtual blogging friend Ray Visotski. Ray’s Blog can be found at Mitigating Chaos. Ray, I’m grateful for the gift (which will stay with me) and for the friendship. (BTW, to tie into this quote, I looked for a pine tree and could not find one, and the grass was glistening but not with dew but with ice – and the meadow will have to be replaced with Long Island Sound and the Atlantic – – but the tranquilizer was all there.)
  • Photo: DK, Cove Island Park this morning @ 7:28 a.m.

Sunday Morning

I didn’t know if there was anything like a God. I didn’t care. But it was mostly clear to me we were not just castaways in some tohubohu bearing an ensign of meaning only for those desperate enough to concoct one: I felt mostly certain more was going on than met the eye—despite not having a real clue just what that “more” might entail. My assuredness on these matters owed less to faith than it did to experience, for I’d been hearing echoes of the uncanny since early childhood.

— Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies: A Novel (Little, Brown and Company, September 15, 2020)


Photo: DK, Daybreak. December 20, 2020. 6:23 am. 28° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford CT

Sunday Morning

[She] says Remember, you’re writing these poems for god.
I’m about to ask her what type of poems god likes
when the wind picks up, sending a flood of small, round leaves down the street. Got it, I say.

—  Chessy Normile, from “There Was a Forest of Pines I Loved for Years,” The American Poetry Review (vo. 49, no. 6, November/December 2020)

 


Notes: Poem Source – Memory’s Landscape. Photo: DK, Cove Island Park, Nov 12, 2020, 6:45 a.m.

Walking. With M-G.

Head Cold. Nasal drip. Nagging cough. Light nausea. Friday the 13th. Feels about right.

6:10 am. Cove Island Park. 192 days. Consecutive, and getting long in the tooth.

45° F. Wind gusts up to 25 mph. Drizzle. Wet. Cold.

Cloud cover: 100%. Like a million %.

M-G: You’re dragging.

DK: It’s that obvious?

M-G: Snarky too.

M-G: COVID?

DK: Can’t be.

M-G: How’s that?

DK: Hood Brand Ice Cream Sandwiches.

M-G: Ice Cream Sandwiches? [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

The natural world is not, to me, a fabric of stuff that gleams with revelation of a singular creator god. Those moments in nature that provoke in me a sense of the divine are those in which my attention has unaccountably snagged on something small and transitory – the pattern of hailstones by my feet upon dark earth; a certain cast of light across a hillside through a break in the clouds; the face of a long-eared owl peering out at me from a hawthorn bush – things whose fugitive instances give me an overwhelming sense of how unlikely it is that in the days of my brief life I should be in the right place at the right time and possess sufficient quality of attention to see them at all. When they occur, and they do not occur often, these moments open up a giddying glimpse into the inhuman systems of the world that operate on scales too small and too large and too complex for us to apprehend.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)


Photo: Mand. “We had hail one day and I noticed that one hail stone managed to get trapped on a single web strand.”

Sunday Morning

I don’t believe in religion, but the aesthetics of Catholicism have stuck with me. I love the way church incense coats my hair and skin. It is a safe smell, like a blanket, waiting for me to curl up in it. I love stained-glass windows and religious portraits, the colours of Mary’s clothes and the bright red drops of blood on Jesus’s face. I like the Stations of the Cross. I like pausing to run my finger along an emaciated rib and wrinkle my nose at the thought of the vinegar being offered on a sponge. I like prayer cards and medallions and rosary beads. I like advent candles and Bibles edged in gold and the way the skirt over the tabernacle matches the colour of the priest’s robes. There is so much attention to detail.

I envy the faithful. There are shrines dotted around the hillsides here in Ireland, places where saints have supposedly appeared and healed the sick. There are wells of holy water and statues in the rocks, huts filled with prayer cards and gardens filled with painted stones in memory of loved ones who have passed away. I like to visit them occasionally. I sit in the stillness and observe people crying and praying and I close my eyes and try to let some of their hope get carried on the air and through my pores. I would like to believe that everything is accounted for, that there is life after this one, and that all of our decisions hold some kind of significance or moral worth. There is weight in religion. It is an anchor of sorts.

I cannot believe in the vengeful patriarch of the Catholic Church but sometimes, in the daytime, when there’s no one around, I go into the church and light a candle. I like sitting in the quiet and sensing my own insubstantiality against such old and serious things. I am learning that there is a good kind of smallness; a smallness in the face of the universe rather than a smallness in my own body. I like the ritual of prayer and reverence, even though I can’t identify with it. I like the feeling that other people believe in something.

~ Jessica Andrews, Saltwater: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 14, 2020)


Photo Credit

Walking. With Airborne Droplets.

2:30 am. I flick open Sleep app. 4 h 25 m.  Hmmmm. Dale-like. How does she do it? Lori’s magnesium? Something. Something.

Morning papers. COVID-19. Masks. No masks. Airborne Droplets. Transmission. Virus is a hoax? Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “Bring out your dead!

4:50 am.  I pack my sling…phone, camera, earbuds, water…and I’m out the door. This unknown life force pulls me forward.

57° F.  Special Alert: Dense Fog. Exactly how my head feels. Dense fog.

I walk.

Dark.

Walking under street lamps to Cove Island Park.

Infinitesimal droplets fall on my face. Airborne droplets.

I roll up my sleeves, first right, and then left.  Droplets land on the inside of my forearms, and they tingle.

“Hey you, Agnostic!”

“You talking to me?”

“See anyone else?”

“Can you feel that?

“I’m feeling Something. Something.”

Droplets stop. Infinitesimal, ephemeral, and gone.

Gull cries overhead.

They trigger David Gray’s tune “Gulls.” I search and play it on a loop:

This land belongs to the gulls
And the gulls to their cry
And their cry to the wind
And the wind belongs to no one…
Toward the sea that god sewn
Toward the sea that god sewn

And I walk, looking out over Long Island Sound, fog beginning to lift.

Feelin’ something…


Notes: Photo mine. Weed Avenue, Stamford, CT. This morning.

Sunday Morning

The day after the waxwings appeared at my birdbath, I found one of them, its flock long gone, panting on the driveway below a corner of the house where two windows meet and form a mirage of trees and distances. When I stooped to look at the bird, it lay there quietly. Though I could see no sign of injury, I knew it must be grievously hurt to sit so still as I gently cupped my hands around it to move it to a safer place in the yard. It made a listless effort to peck at my thumb, but it didn’t struggle at all when my fingers closed around its wings, and I didn’t know what to do. So much beauty is not meant to be held in human hands.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “Masked” in Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss 


Photo: Livescience.com

Sunday Morning

One of the earliest texts on the eye—its structure, its diseases, its treatments—Ten Treatises on Ophthalmology, was written in the ninth century by the Arab physician Hunayn ibn Ishaq. The individual components of the eye, he wrote, all have their own nature and they are arranged so that they are in cosmological harmony, reflecting, in turn, the mind of God.

~ Colum McCann, Apeirogon: A Novel (Random House, February 25, 2020)


Photo: A Photographer’s Eye, Nicholas Nixon

Sunday Morning

I don’t believe in religion, but the aesthetics of Catholicism have stuck with me. I love the way church incense coats my hair and skin. It is a safe smell, like a blanket… I envy the faithful. There are shrines dotted around the hillsides here in Ireland, places where saints have supposedly appeared and healed the sick. There are wells of holy water and statues in the rocks, huts filled with prayer cards and gardens filled with painted stones in memory of loved ones who have passed away. I like to visit them occasionally. I sit in the stillness and observe people crying and praying and I close my eyes and try to let some of their hope get carried on the air and through my pores. I would like to believe that everything is accounted for, that there is life after this one, and that all of our decisions hold some kind of significance or moral worth. There is weight in religion. It is an anchor of sorts.

~ Jessica Andrews, Saltwater: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 14, 2020)


Notes: Photo: Patryk Sadowski with Church of Ireland

Driving I-95 S. With Kerouac.

Yesterday, Sunday afternoon.

No rush hour traffic. No meetings. No conference calls. No deadlines to hit. No work tomorrow.

No lower back pain. No shoulder pain. No bite from cervical spondylosis. Body at peace.

I exit down the ramp onto I-95 South and head home from running an errand.

I’m driving directly into the sunset.  It is of such indescribable beauty that it triggers Mind to think of God. And then, No God. And then, Heaven. And then, no Heaven. And then, my late Brother.  At which point, I kill the heat and lower the window to let the late winter chill fill the cabin. Need to feel alive.

Lori introduced me to “e·phem·er·al” (adj.) /əˈfem(ə)rəl/. Lasting for a very short time. Fleeting. Passing. Short-lived.

And to “e·the·re·al” (adj) /əˈTHirēəl/. Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. Beautiful. Graceful. Delicate.

And I reflect on how few of these moments, I have. Not chasing. Not rushing. Not anxious. Not obsessed by Next.

And Lori again, this time with “epiph·​a·​ny” (n) /i-ˈpi-fə-nē/.  An illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.

Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have understood what Kerouac meant.  It wouldn’t have registered. But here it is, slowly seeping in.

Bless and sit down…and you will realize you’re already in heaven now. That’s the story. That’s the message.”


Notes:

  • Photo: I-95 S. near Exit 10. Feb 16, 2020. My shot.
  • Post Inspiration: “I used to think it was great to disregard happiness, to press on to a high goal…But now I see that there is nothing so great as to be capable of happiness; to pluck it out of “each moment and whatever happens.” ~ Anne Gilchrist, The Letters of Anne Gilchrist and Walt Whitman (Source: Brainpickings)
  • Post Inspiration:  “To love beauty is to see light.” — Victor Hugo
  • Kerouac quote: Thank you Whiskey River.

 

Sunday Morning (Feels like 21° F)

Q: How is the goodness of God manifested even in the clothing of birds and beasts?

A: Small birds, which are the most delicate, have more feathers than those that are hardier. Beasts that live in the icy regions have thicker, coarser coats than those that dwell in the tropical heat.

~ Jenny Offill, Weather: A Novel (Knopf, February 11, 2020)


Photo: European Starling by Ostdrossel

Sunday Morning

You are the doubter and the doubt,
worshipping a book you can’t read.

The awful quiet in your heart
is not the peace you were promised,

not the trembling hush before a revelation,
not a prelude to an earthquake,

not God’s silence, but his breathlessness.

~ Traci Brimhall, from “Gnostic Fugue,”  from Our Lady of the Ruins

 


Photo: Noell Oszvald.  Post inspired by quote from Mindfulbalance: “In our own lives the voice of God speaks slowly, a syllable at a time. Reaching the peak of years, dispelling some of our intimate illusions and learning how to spell the meaning of life-experiences backwards, some of us discover how the scattered syllables form a single phrase.” ~ Rabbi Joshua Herschel, Between God and Man.

 

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