Autumn Deepens

20151027_134427The trees make the creak of an old man’s back and

Sound the clatter of dead bones.

A soft wind whispers through them,

Like a spirit’s breath.

Branches wave to an Uncaring sky and

Leaves cling on in desperation.

The birds that are left and haven’t left,

Don’t sing— chirp, occasionally, wearily.

Leaves on the path whisper, “Shhh.”

To my noisy tread.

Deep-fried, hose-tripping science

IMG_8109As I shuffle along in my golden years, sometimes I trip on things, over which, I once sprung, gazelle-like. A leading culprit is the simple garden hose. Stretch it across a driveway and I will stumble over it. Let it lay on the sidewalk and I will, assuredly, find it with my foot and commit ambulatory transgression.

Like so many things, this happened just the other day. I was walking on a heavily traveled sidewalk.  Across the walk was a hose connecting an office building to a food truck.  I digress, but I thought you would want to know that the food truck sold, among other things, deep fried oreos. Continue reading Deep-fried, hose-tripping science

Lone Goose and Gray Shirt

A man, sitting, perfectly alone, in a hooded gray sweatshirt on the side of a short Flying Goose
hill, looks over a shallow valley with the pencil line of a creek meandering the length of it.   An even grayer sky reflects in the small beaver-built pond that, briefly, interrupts the feeble stream.

Grayer figures splash airborne from the water. Three geese lift off. Then two.  Then one. Then two and two more. Slowly wheeling counterclockwise, the geese accelerate and climb while connecting with each other.  The, nearly, black silhouettes etch the slate sky, complete the circle, fall into formation, and start, resolutely, southward. Still rising, they flash to the man’s right and out of sight. Ten geese headed south.

Not 60 seconds later, a lone goose comes in fast over the Gray Shirt’s left shoulder, sees the water, starts his glide and notes that no one is home on the pond. His air brakes engage as he aborts his landing.  About that time, the ten return.  Zooming right over the man’s head, a long fast flapping descent by the ten engage them with Lone Goose about 30 feet above the water.

Lone Goose flaps furiously, while the ten ease up, slightly, on the throttle, and the formation closes, executing a tight turn, and zipping by the man once more. Eleven geese headed south.

Gray Shirt’s shoulders slump just a little. He bows his head. Where are his rescuers?

Sojourner Truth

On occasion, those Old Testament names seemed to hit the nail on the head.Sojourner

Adam meant “man.”  That’s pretty accurate.

The beautiful Esther was “star.”

David, the man after God’s own heart, checked in as “beloved.”

Other times, like with Absalom, “my father is peace,” considering he led a revolt against his father, David, the name wasn’t always on target.

She was owned by another human and her name wasn’t Sojourner Truth but she legally changed her name to that and, more importantly, lived the name, travelling widely and speaking the truth on the abolition of slavery and women’s rights.

She said things like, “Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.” Continue reading Sojourner Truth

A Screen To Protect

screendoorDon’t slam the door!”  But I always did.

That door, with its spare wooden frame, was so simple…. a tall pine rectangle with a couple of wooden braces across the middle, plus steel screening stretched length and width with a hope of tautness.

A handle on the outside to pull it open and a spring attached from the door frame to the door itself helping it close and there you had it…. the screen door.

The sound of the spring stretching and the door— “don’t slam it”— sung something like a metallic, “Reeeeeeek, bang.” Every time (a hundred times a day) when one of us kids flew outside, those same lyrics, “reeeeeeked” and “banged.”

The door spoke of must and rust.  Must when the wood got wet and rust from the oxidizing screen itself. The smell from the screen was the same as that from distant lightning, wafting through a dry sky, not yet dampened by the rain promised in the bass voice of distant thunder. Continue reading A Screen To Protect

Pope Francis and Freckles

redhairedgirlGeorge Will, quoted in Rolling Stone, opines, Pope Francis speaks “in the intellectual tone of a fortune cookie,” saying things like, “People, occasionally, forgive but nature never does.”

On the other side, Steven Colbert, in response to Congressman Paul Gosar’s announcement that he would boycott the Pope’s address to the Congress, quips, “…you do not disrespect the Bishop of Rome.” Then, tongue in cheek, tells Gosar to send his tickets to him at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.

Who cares what the clever say? Continue reading Pope Francis and Freckles

Forgiveness and The Good Guy

Image result for free clipart forgiveness keyHe, let’s call him Bob, was always a good guy.  That’s what he told me recently, but, “back in the day”, he had done some pretty bad things.  It doesn’t really matter what his bad things were, but, if this were the game show, “Family Feud,” and the top ten answers were on the board, the two things that he did would have been there.

Bob was a good guy– a stellar person.  Probably, would have been in the 99th percentile of goodness.  Does the evil that men do always have to live after them?  Yes.  That seems likely.

It is so interesting– everyone knows the despicable things that he did.  At least, that is what Bob thinks.  Bob is wrong. Everyone is never every one.

I was with him at a conference a few months ago and everyone seemed to like him. He sat at an empty table and people, who were acquainted with him, filled up those vacant seats and he was, quickly, in the midst of earnest and enjoyable conversation.  Our table hung together longer that the others and Bob and his cohorts were loathe to leave.

While walking with him in the conference hallways, our conversation was frequently interrupted by greetings from passers-by.

One woman in the hallway was cold to Bob, avoided eye contact and refused to even say, “Hello,” when Bob, cautiously, greeted her.  Right after that, Bob and I sat in the hotel coffee shop and I noted how pensive he had become.

I asked, “Are you all right?”  He said, “You know, I used to be a pretty good guy.”  The chill in the hallway left Bob frostbitten.  All of those warm greetings and the great table talk from the night before had been forgotten.  “I used to be a pretty good guy.”

I told him that he still was a good guy but what I said didn’t matter.  The jury of one– and there always seemed to be someone– reminded him that he didn’t, always, behave like a good guy.   He didn’t have to be reminded. He knew his shortcomings. He, always, remembered and his shame, guilt, and embarrassment wrapped him in solitude when he was laughing with even the most accepting group.

“I was a good guy.”   Bob would, in his own mind, never be that good guy again.  It didn’t matter that most people didn’t care that he did some bad things. Some didn’t even know that he had transgressed. Some knew the real Bob. He didn’t care that most had forgiven and forgotten, because some would never forgive or forget.

He would look in the mirror and think, “There I am. I was always a good guy. Well, I used to be a good guy.”  Bob wasn’t angry or bitter. He was just inside sad and lonely.  It made perfect sense that some people pretended to not recognize him.  He didn’t recognize himself.

Bob knows about the mysterious “forgiveness” key. He holds it in his heart. He uses it, almost, too eagerly with others. He just hasn’t figured how to turn that key in his own life.

Damocles Gets His Wish

Dionysius, of legend, was a very rich Greek king.  He had it all.  He employed people just to flatter him.  Really sounds Trump-like or like John BoImageehner, for that matter.  The flatterers complimented him at every turn.  Dionysius could do no wrong.

One time a fellow by the name of Damocles, a hired flatterer, was extolling the riches of Dionysius.  The king was so clever and so wise to be so rich.  He had art and jewels.  Armani was his designer. Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck each made meals for him everyday and he, only, ate the one he liked best. He had lobster flown in from Maine. Everyone wanted to be Dionysius including Damocles.

So Dionysius said to Damocles, “You know if you like what I have so much, how would you like to be me? Would you like to sit on the throne, wear the latest fashion, and display the finest bling.”

Damocles quickly said, “You betcha,” or, perhaps, ” All royal and wise king.  If your great beneficence so chooses a lowly wretch such as I, for such an august role, just command your humble servant and I will assume the throne.”

“Okie,dokey,” chirps Dionysius.  “Get some sleep. You will need it. Tomorrow you will reign.”

The next day Damocles was groovin’ in the throne room, one leg thrown up over the arm of the throne,  listening to the cool sounds of the lyre, the lute and the sackbut on his Beats By Dre headphones . The crown rested easily on his brow.  He was checking out culinary offerings by Gordon and Wolfgang when he looked up and, much to his surprise, saw a very sharp sword dangling by a horse hair just above his head.

“Whoa,” he says, “this is not good.”

He moves but the sword follows him.  Right above his head. All the time. He goes to the royal pool to swim some laps and the sword follows him back and forth.  He goes to the royal privy and the sword is still there and the horse hair seems even thinner.

The crown now weighed like an anvil and Damocles begged out of the deal. Dionysius agreed and Damocles re-assumed his old role.

Cicero, in addition to being a Chicago suburb and a lyric sung by Velma in the musical, Chicago,  was also a famous Roman orator. Of this incident, Cicero asks, “Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms.”

Maybe, the words of Rocky Horror Show bring it into sharper focus, “The sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, and I’ve got a feeling someone’s gonna be cutting the thread.”