I remember clearly the first funeral
at which I offiated
in a country church.
I was a young pastof
I had all the “right stuff” to read in my hands
and the family I dealt with was grateful.
Three decades later
I left off being an official comforter.
I did reasonably well in that role
and look back on it with satisfaction.
In some ways I got close to death –
talked to many grieving people –
proclaimed matters about the afterlife
while leaving my own questions unanswered.
It is strange to consider all this now
as I close in, in a different way
on this reality.
About eighty years ago
a friend of mine called Bob
came to supper at our house.
He joined our family
around our dining room table.
My father served the food
that my mother had prepared.
When Bob’s plate was passed to him
he took a serious look at the asparagus
that was one of the offerings.
He said “What’s that?”
and my mother told him
and then suggested that he try it
since it was obvious
he’d never seen it before.
Well, he tried it –
one big bite of it.
He made an awful face
“Do I don’t like it!”
Ever since then
in my family
we often refer to our “Dis-likes”
with: “Do I don’t like it!”
In recent days
and even in recent years
I have applied Bob’s vernacular
to Old Age.
Trees of various heights
punctuate the horizon
with their finger tips.
Clouds swimming in the sky
slide behind them
playing hide-and-seek with my eyes.
Their shapes change a bit
when they are hiding
and when they become visible again
they are not the same.
The other day while joining a few others
for breakfast in a magnificent dining room
I saw through one of its large windows
the coming of the sun.
It was was announced by the clouds
colored in silver and gold and the blue –
clouds that had rested through the night
and were awaiting the morning’s sun light.
The sky was colored in such a way
that it took my breath away!
There were several diners there
dealing with scrambled eggs and bacon
and french toast and cereal.
I rose and pointed out to many imbibers
how beautiful was the morning.
No one seemed enthusiastic about the gift
in the east that colored this day’s beginning.
I was disappointed not to be joined in zeal
by my breakfast mates.
I felt very much alone
while listening to knives and forks
and an occasional voice.
Soon the display vanished
and only I had savored it.
If there is nothing on your mind
about the big cruel world —
where hurricanes and cyclones blow
and earthquakes shake —
or man reveals his capacity for violence
with guns ad knives and fists and avarice —
if you have freed yourself from such considerations
you might be susceptible to the weather.
And it easy to think about these things
when surrounded (almost) by tall glass windows.
It is windy today
and low gray clouds claim the sky
and the water in the bay is churning.
Sometimes the weather gets inside you
and makes you blue.
At least that’s how it is with me
when I see the weather
through the large windows
provided by our geriactric entrepreneures
who give us our homes – for a price
We, the fortunate ones, can see the sea –
can focus on the changing sky.
That is unless our aging bodies intrude
where we are doesn’t matter much.
I suspect that most of us
sometimes get into the place
where where we are
and even who we are
doesn’t matter much.
It happened to him more than forty years ago.
And it changed his life!
He built a plant stand made of cherry –
made it at the Penland Craft School in North Carolina –
and it changed his life!
It was intended to be a respite for a chaplain
but it turned out to be an amazing turn-around.
.It was as if God was saying: “Work with wood –
forget preaching. You did OK but now
try something new.”
And so began another career —
his making many different things
with different woods
obeying the voice within
but protesting a little
because he was nearly fifty!
With spousal support being so encouraging
he entered his new world:
creating and creating and creating –
and learning —
selling to craft shops all over the USA –
What a joy it was for many years!
And now: this distant view of an old man!
What a cherished memory!
The plant stand is still standing
and it speaks to him each day
in spite of his bad hearing.
in the dream I saw a lake –
quite small and round.
It was surrounded by fir trees –
And each tree had garlands
hanging from their branches
and the garlands were made of
I was told not to question
the beauty that confronted me
So I stood staring at the scene
and asked no one anything like:
“How can this be?”
But I can tell you that in my sleep
I saw what I saw
and when I awakened I wondered.
One day recently
while spending time atop a treadmill
I started counting steps
while watching time go by
on a nearby clock.
It turns oue that I take 82 of them
in the course of a minute
or 820 as ten minutes go by
or nearly 2,500 by the time
I claim a half hour
on a wonderful man-made device.
I am grateful that I can walk
and grateful that I can add.
For those who can’t I feel sad.
How do I express my thanks
I am humbled by it all.
Too many serious matters engulf our world
and I don’t know enough
to comment wisely about them
even if consulted
(which has not been the case).
So I turn to trivial matters
because I must turn to “something”
because I can’t be silent!
I recall that once somebody told me:
“You can’t do two things at once!”
I don’t recall the circumstances
of the “two things at once”
but I thought about the fact
that some guy or gal
did, in fact, give me that advice.
So here is where my mind went:
I had just put a cough drop in my mouth
and then started shaving.
As my tongue and cheeks and teeth
rolled that cough drop around
while energizing my saliva
I pasted shaving cream on my face —
pulled out a razor
from the special place I keep it
and began removing whiskers
from my cheeks and chin and upper neck.
It took about ten minutes
to accomplish the two matters
I had assigned myself.
The cough drop dissolved
and my face was deprived of whiskers.
You likely could give many examples
of “two things at once”
if you think about it seriously.
And the many problems besetting our world
might take a “back seat” for a moment.
Every day I see them –
I see them atop the posts
driven into the Bay
some time ago
as harbor markers.
The gulls fly
and then access their tops
and wait for their lunch or dinner
to swim by.
As I watch, my mind wanders
and I think that gulls don’t have to wait
as I and many others do
as their days unfold.
Then I wonder what old gulls do
when then get old –
when they can no longer fly.
I never flew
and often thought I’d like to.
I still would like to glide
as I’ve seen those gulls do
but the only way that I’ll go up
is to ride the elevators.