Friday, February 26, 2010

Soul Healing Solitude

The first signs of spring are beginning to make their appearance along this latitude.

Our blueberry plants are loaded with blossoms about to bloom. One lonely daffodil is offering its yellow smile to us. Some of the hardwoods and undergrowth are beginning to pink up in the woods. Patches of clover are coming alive and an occasional dandelion is sending up its little sphere of yellow sunshine. It’s time to pull out the tiller and prepare the garden earth to receive the little seeds that will become food on our table.

It’s good to see these things, especially after this past winter season.

It’s been a long cold winter for us, its climatological conditions exacerbated by the extent of the difficult emotional things that pummeled us these past several months.

There is a sense of irony to it all.

The hard things that have a way of freezing us in place, hardening and tempering us to the harsh realities of life, will, if we allow them their course, soften and make more pliable our deeper sensitivities, always directing closer to Center and Source the soul invested in pilgrimage.

I find it interesting how these things have a way of driving me deeper into simplicity – simplicity of life, simplicity of faith – where the smallest of things are the greatest of things. These things have a way of increasing my need and desire for soul healing solitude, that realm of interior and natural geography that is so easily trespassed and trodden upon by the ebb and flow of life in a modern society devoid of an understanding or appreciation of this important matter.

Everything is white with frost again this morning.

Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed. Psalm VI.2

Monday, February 22, 2010

Revisiting Thoreau

I’m reading Walden again. I’ve read it before but that was decades ago as part of the required reading in college. The reading was sandwiched into a lot of other required reading during that semester. I didn’t, needless to say, get much out of it at the time other than the idea that one day I’d revisit Thoreau.

More than three decades have passed since I was first introduced to Thoreau and this time I’m taking Walden in more of a leisurely fashion. Studying on it. Reflecting on it. Taking it in little doses. Letting it simmer and distill.

I no longer have to cram until my brain hurts solely for the sake of making passing grades. That’s a course in living that I have no desire to repeat.

I find it a little funny, in a strange sort of way, how a book like Walden was made part of a life-directing program that was so at odds with the realities communicated by Thoreau. The lives of the program proliferators and professors in no way resembled the life represented in the book.

Revisiting Walden, at this particular intersection in life, may be more providential than accidental. Thoreau reminds me a lot of my own self. Here’s someone looking at the world and saying “this is really messed up”, someone grappling with the terms of the world’s gluttonous frenzy and wanting no part of the terms, someone totally discontent with having his life micro-managed by all the systems and institutions insisting on their rights to set and govern all the details and intricacies of life.

In this present age, like in that earlier age, there is no shortage of people content to simply accept the status quo of the terms and become slaves of systems that are never satisfied with the daily output of bricks. Personally, if mixing straw in mud is all there is to life, living life has then become a caricature of something that it wasn’t meant to be. It has lost and completely forgotten its center.

Unpaved Avenues

When I look at the woods
I see an elaborately designed invitation
inviting me to enter a challenging yet perfectly natural world
filled with unpaved healing avenues
where every breath and sight becomes a prayer.

A slowly but constantly changing world,
one resounding with the music of natural sounds, brimming over with tonic for my weary soul,
governed not by bureaucrats and industrial magnates but by the natural seasons that make up the course of time.

It can be a hard place for the unprepared,
for the uninitiated,
a place that requires its own special tool chest,
its own manual of principles and guidelines,
demanding its own set of skills.

These possessions
make for something akin to an unhurried love affair.
Their lack is bound to create
a mishap that you avow never to return to.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shucking Oysters

These past few months have been one mean emotional ride. A succession of events. A series of up close hard things. Exacting. Toll taking. Unavoidable. Mind and heart numbing.

Life is real. Life can be hard. Life can be real hard when it’s made of the stuff that reduces you down to the bare essence of who you are. Maybe that’s the hidden pearl inside the oyster of life. You have to shuck the oyster to find the pearl. Sometimes things get turned upside down and the oyster shucks you.

In all the shucking I’m given to wonder more why I do the things I do. It makes me wonder about the practical value of all the goods and commodities that form the outward appearances of life, points and produce of pride – the things most people use as indications of success in a world that is, as Mark Twain said, a multiplication of unnecessary necessities.

When it comes right down to it, it’s all a bunch of shiny butt fodder that people sell their souls to accumulate for the sake of appearances. Earth awaits its opportunity to swallow us all.

What of any real value will we leave behind when the earth’s mouth is opened and we are laid at the bottom of a hole filled with cold dirt? In the cold hole there is no distinction between rich or poor, color of skin pigment or life creed. The hole is unconcerned about what we dined upon as our finest table fare or the magnitude of our personal holdings.

The little birds come to our feeders. Sometimes they come in small droves; sparrows, finches, cardinals, wrens, and a host of others. Watching the birds at our feeders is one of our simple joys. It’s something we are given to and take pleasure in. It’s hard to find a day when the atmosphere around us isn’t filled with birdsong.

In my present state of mind it causes me to wonder if we are really doing them a favor by feeding them; tempting them, holding them close just to satisfy some elusive sense of need within ourselves.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


It's hard to content myself in a world of same looking houses separated by asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks.

Look at the trees.

Ponder the birds.

Listen to the wind whistling in the trees and the yips and howls of the coyotes as daylight wanes.

Notice the change - how the day sounds fade to silence, how a marvelous quiet pervades the moments just before the night critters begin filling the woods with their songs.

It's here that it's easy to believe that "God is in his heaven and all is right with the world." At least in this part of the world, one touched by human hands but not recreated in a way that erases God's fingerprints.