Sunday Morning

Recognizing the dignity of each living thing, mobile or fixed, insect, animal, tree, or mushroom, has broadened my love for this world and diminished my need for a god in heaven. We have multitudes of gods on Earth.

Terry Tempest WilliamsErosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Photo Credit

Sunday Morning

Belief is tricky. One day I do. One day I don’t. Believe. But there are things I believe that have never wavered. My belief in God is not one of those. Not long ago, I made a list, my attempt to address this question: “Do I believe in God?” It went like this:

God as an old white man with a beard—No

God as a human—No

God as a being—No

God as energy—Yes

God as consequential—Don’t know

God without definition—Yes

God as a creative force in the Universe—Yes

God as natural processes in motion—Yes

God as evolution—Yes

God as gravity—Yes

God as love—Yes

God as forgiveness—Yes

God as beauty—Yes

God as a no and a yes—Maybe

God as wrathful and merciful—Perhaps—This one scares me.

God as Mystery—Most certainly

I realized through my Q & A exercise that my problem is with the word “God,” for all the limitations it has placed on my imagination, such as “God the Father.” This was the beginning of my erosion with Mormonism in particular and religion in general. It happened early. I watched birds and studied them. If I dreamed of a great horned owl and saw one the next day, that was normal, to be expected. If a yellow warbler came into my mind, it was not unusual for me to hear one. As a child, I came to understand my relationship to nature was reciprocal and that nature had a relationship with me. We called to one another. We called one another into being. What I mean by that is we have evolved together. I still have a tailbone. I trust what I see and I believe what I feel. Trusting direct experience is the open door to revelation. This was my foundation for faith. It still is.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Portrait of Terry Tempest Williams by Cheryl Himmelstein

Driving I-95 South. Baptized without God.

5:33 am. Friday morning.

Google Maps signals 17 minutes to destination. Smooth ride, cruising down I-95 South. Truckers, insomniacs, and DK listening to Audible, his book on tape. More Terry Tempest Williams, her new book, Erosion: Essays of Undoing.  Terry’s way in my head, and beyond, and yes, we’re on a first name basis now. “Our undoing is also our becoming. I have come to believe this is a good thing.”

The Heads-up Display on the windshield flashes alert: Object ahead on highway. It flashes an alert again. I tap the brakes.

A wind gust blows leaves across three lanes. I exhale.  Wonders of technology. Car warns you about objects on highway, or if you veer outside your lane. I’m listening to books on tape, beamed from the cloud. GPS tells me how long to the office. And I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

The car wobbles over uneven pavement. 4000 pounds of car, wearing grooves into the asphalt, with my back and forth 4-5 days a week.

Read somewhere from a survey that 85% of us wished to travel more.  And that one in 10 Americans surveyed say they have no interest in going anywhere.  Welcome readers, to Me, I’m on top of this stack of 10. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake Up Call

Why not call the
moment of certainty, the fleeting moment
when everything that ever lived is right
behind my pounding heart, why not call
that moment: Beat-of-the-thousand-wings-
of-God-inside-my-chest.

~ Mark Nepo, from The Way Under The Way: The Place of True Meeting 


Notes: Bird gif via Your Eyes Blaze Out

Sunday Morning

In the margin of my Bible, the heading of Ecclesiastes, I’ve added,

‘Reflections of an old man chasing after ‘good things.’

~ Lisa Anne Tindal, “Vanity and Strife” (Sept 27, 2019)


Notes:

Driving I-95 S. Tethered to Nothing?

5:15 a.m. Traffic flowing. 16 minutes to the office.

Long day yesterday.  Whaddya remember? What Stuck?

In bed. 9:40 pm.

ZzzQuil slow drips.

Mind whirring, but in slower revolutions.

Right ear bud pumping in “The Daily Podcast” with “The Anatomy of a Warren Rally.”

Words drift in and out, sleep meds seeping deeper. And then Mind stops, and locks on. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

The longer my father lived in this world the more he knew there was another to come. It was not that he thought this world beyond saving, although in darkness I suppose there was some of that, but rather that he imagined there must be a finer one where God corrected His mistakes and men and women lived in the second draft of Creation and did not know despair. My father bore a burden of impossible ambition. He wanted all things to be better than they were, beginning with himself and ending with this world. Maybe this was because he was a poet. Maybe all poets are doomed to disappointment. Maybe it comes from too much dazzlement. I don’t know yet. I don’t know if time tarnishes or polishes a human soul or if it’s true that it’s better to look down than up.

~ Niall Williams, History of the Rain.


Notes:

  • Photo by Indonesian Photographer Sukron Ma’mun.
  • Another inspiring quote from same book: “The River Shannon passes below our house on its journey to the sea. Come here, Ruthie, feel the pulse of the water, my father said, kneeling on the bank and dipping his hand, palm to current, then reaching up to take my hand in his. He put your arm into the cold river and at once it was pulled seaward like an oar. I was seven years old. I had a blue dress for summertime. Here, Ruthie, feel.”

Sunday Morning

“You’re going to ask if you can marry my daughter,” Nan’s father said.

“Yes,” James answered.

“Why?”

James thought: Because she is jolly and pretty and bright, like a firefly, blinking in and out of hedges and trees. Because I imagine her in the kitchen, washing dishes, looking out the window and humming to herself, her brow knit in concentration. I imagine myself coming up behind her, putting my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. I imagine her face turning up to me, bright and pale and astonishing, and I imagine her lips just before I kiss her, full and parted, almost singing the words of a song. Because I think beyond kissing her, because I think about her naked and warm under clean sheets and damp from the bath. I imagine her bare ankle rubbing against my own. I imagine her hair disheveled; I imagine myself smoothing it out of her eyes. I imagine making toast with her and eating it at a round table. When I do, I am just as crazed with passion for her as I would be in bed. There is no difference between imagining her naked and imagining her with a kerchief over her hair. 

“Because I love her,” he said.

~ Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, August 13, 2019)


Notes:

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

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There is a lot more going on in our lives than we either know or care to know. Who can say what it is that’s going on? But I suspect that part of it, anyway, is that every once and so often we hear a whisper from the wings that goes something like this: “You’ve turned up in the right place at the right time. You’re doing fine. Don’t ever think that you’ve been forgotten.”

– Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC


Notes:

  • Inspired by another quote from Whiskey River: “Perhaps I’m old and tired, but I always think that the chances of finding out what really is going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say hang the sense of it and just keep yourself occupied. ~ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 
  • Painting “Swallow” (2011) by Nicky Loutit (via Your Eyes Blaze Out).
  • Quote via Whiskey River

Sunday Morning

Last year, as often happens, my mood waned with the autumn light. At work, I stared blankly at my computer, inexplicably on the verge of tears. At home, I counted the minutes until I could sleep. I still woke early, intending to read and write, but instead lay on the couch, idly thumbing at my phone. I felt numb to the world. My psychiatrist adjusted my medication and suggested I invest in a light-therapy lamp. “Winter is coming,” he said without a hint of irony…

The darkness threw me over the edge. Over the next few days, as I began a free fall into despair, I was surprised to find a quiet comfort in the birds flitting about my friend’s window. Suddenly, I grew envious of his yard, a seeming prerequisite for a feeder. Then it occurred to me: I am not the first apartment dweller with this predicament. I opened Amazon, where I’d been browsing for light-therapy lamps, and discovered feeders that could be attached to our apartment windows with suction cups. “I bought myself a Christmas present,” I told my wife when I arrived at my in-laws’ house.

When we returned to Brooklyn, a house-shaped plexiglass feeder and four pounds of Deluxe Treat birdseed were waiting…Three days later, my wife texted me a picture of a blue jay. More soon appeared. So did sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves and a single red-bellied woodpecker. Within two weeks, I was ordering 20-pound bags of birdseed, Eastern Regional Blend, and filling the feeder’s trough daily.

Initially, it was the sheer novelty that caught my attention. My phone couldn’t compete with a woodpecker eating two feet away. Then I started to actually notice the birds, the peculiar rituals and particular charms of each species. I saw the nuthatches creeping down the window frame vertically, like awkward thieves, and dashing in for single sunflower seeds. The fat, insatiable mourning doves gorging themselves on white millet. The cardinals loitering shyly in the pear tree, waiting for them to finish.

The novelty has faded over time. But the beauty of the birds continues to draw my attention. In the tableau of blues gridded across the jay’s wing and tail, I see patterns of a Mondrian. More than once I have begun to scare away greedy doves only to stop short at the gleam of iridescent plumage. In these moments, and in the daily routine of filling the feeder with seed, I forgot my anxieties.

That something as simple as bird-watching could release me from the confines of my mind came as a surprise. When I began to struggle with depression, at an evangelical college, the faithful proffered a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This provided exactly zero comfort. I wasn’t sure I still believed in a benevolent father. And besides, I’d seen enough dead birds in my cat’s maw to question their value in his eyes.

If the birds still don’t fill me with any divine reassurance, they provide something far more valuable: a respite, a chance to turn my attention away from myself to the grace and beauty of the world. I don’t know if God is feeding them, but I am.

~ David Michael, from “Letter of Recommendation: Bird Feeders” (NY Times, July 9, 2019)

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