Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm in the middle of a rant;
it isn't finished...
As a matter of fact,
it will never be finished.
I'm not abandoning it.
I settled on this image
to be my photograph for today
it's nothing but peeling paint
on a garage wall
in an insignificant alley,
it rests me.

I'll take up the rant again tomorrow...
In the meantime take a look at some ordinary stuff,
I found on University Avenue today.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sometimes an image presents itself so beautifully, so perfectly, that it can barely be thought real; there is nothing a camera can do make it better.  These waxy flowers have been opening slowly for weeks on my back porch.  Sometimes words are like that.  This morning I came across a meditation by Rob Bell that needs no editing whatsoever.

"Agape doesn't love somebody because they're worthy.  Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.

Agape doesn't love somebody because they're beautiful.  Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Buddha said that it is not our preferences that cause problems but our attachment to them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

So he said to her, more telling than asking, “So you say there cannot be dancing if there is no color?”  What do you mean where there is not color?  Doesn’t everything have color?
With a wisdom older than the lifetimes of all her ancestors, she said, “Dancing is color. It’s all you need to know about dancing and about color.  It’s perhaps all  you need to know about life.”
“I see,”  he finally said... but, of course, he didn’t see at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

After his enlightenment, the Buddha is said to have passed a man on the road who noticed an extraordinary radiance and peacefulness about him and asked, “My friend, what are you?  Are you a heavenly being, a god?”  
“No,” said the Buddha.
Well, something is different about you.  Are you a magician?  Are you a wizard?”
Again the Buddha answered, “No.”
“Well, then what are you?”
The Buddha said simply, “I am awake.”  It’s probably the best known of the Buddha’s responses when people asked, “Are you a god or are you a man?”    
Many of the statements attributed to him stress the importance of wakefulness.  For example, “Every wakeful step, every mindful act is the direct path to awakening.  Wherever you go, there you are.”--- and, “Even loss and betrayal can bring us awakening." In the room at home where I stretch and wake myself up with yoga every morning my routine is the same every day. I roll my mat out onto the floor, light a candle, and start a C.D. playing soft music. I keep several books with short statements collected over the centuries in what we know as “wisdom literature.”  Each morning before I begin the yoga routine, I read just one of the statements. This morning’s statement has stuck in my mind all day long.  “We do not possess our home, our children, or even our own body.  They are only given to us for a short while to treat with care and respect.”  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Once upon a time... a long time ago, I discovered meaningful abstraction (not at all an oxymoronic adjective and noun) in the bark of trees.  If you know the short stories of J.D. Salinger, you’ll recall a telephone conversation between Muriel Glass and her mother in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”  Muriel was on vacation in Florida with her husband Seymore, who had recently returned home damaged from the Big War in Europe.
The girl turned the receiver slightly away from her ear. "Yes, Mother. How are you?" she said.

"I've been worried to death about you. Why haven't you phoned? Are you all right?"

"I tried to get you last night and the night before. The phone here's been--"

"Are you all right, Muriel?"

The girl increased the angle between the receiver and her ear. "I'm fine. I'm hot. This is the hottest day they've had in Florida in--"

"Why haven't you called me? I've been worried to--"

"Mother, darling, don't yell at me. I can hear you beautifully," said the girl. "I called you twice last night. Once just after--"

"I told your father you'd probably call last night. But, no, he had to-Are you all right, Muriel? Tell me the truth."

"I'm fine. Stop asking me that, please."

"When did you get there?"

"I don't know. Wednesday morning, early." 

"Who drove?"

"He did," said the girl. "And don't get excited. He drove very nicely. I was amazed."

"He drove? Muriel, you gave me your word of--"

"Mother," the girl interrupted, "I just told you. He drove very nicely. Under fifty the whole way, as a matter of fact."

"Did he try any of that funny business with the trees?"

"I said he drove very nicely, Mother. Now, please. I asked him to stay close to the white line, and all, and he knew what I meant, and he did. He was even trying not to look at the trees-you could tell. Did Daddy get the car fixed, incidentally?"
Seymore came home from World War II with what we now call PTS.  We don’t learn from any of the stories why Seymore had a thing for trees.  What specifically happened to him in the war is not the important point of the story. If you're interested in reviewing Seymore's case, read also Salinger's "For Esme, With Love and Squalor."  If you don't know "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," read that one, too.  You'll find both of them in Salinger's, Nine Stories. 
I’m not suffering from PTS, but I have a thing for trees. I feel compelled to look at them closely... and to listen to them.  No, No, I’m not talking about the mysterious “shoooshing” sound of wind rushing through a stand of pine trees or the rustle of dry oak leaves in late fall. I like that, too; and it speaks to me on some level, but I’m fascinated by the stories suggested by abstract patterns in bark.  Eucalyptus trees, for example, are veritable Rorshach tests. I’m not talking about the marks left on trees by thoughtless passers-by who carve symbols or words into the skin of hapless trees that can’t run from abuse.  Those messages tell more about the abuser than about the trees.  One of my favorite trees in San Diego is a much-abused rainbow eucalyptus at a back corner of Casa del Balboa in Balboa Park.  Fools names (or the objects of the affections of fools) and inane messages have been carved all over the beautiful skin of that tree as high as abusers with knives can reach.  
My photographs today make as much or as little literal sense as the abstract expressionist paintings of Franz Kline, Elaine de Kooning, Clifford Still, Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, Ho Ho Ling, and dozens of other artists.  I like their work very much. The paintings of these artists aren’t supposed to make literal sense, except as they are interpreted by the individual who has the courage to bring personal experience to them. If you can't find the images of artists intriguing, and if you don’t find suggestions in these bark photographs,  that’s your problem. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


"What do you know for sure?"
My neighbor means no harm
by asking... 
Every morning without fail
when he sees me mounting
my bicycle.

Neither of us goes to work
as we once did every day...
No demand
for certainty from anybody 
so there is no striving for

He wouldn't understand,
so I don't make the effort
to explain
that knowing for sure
anything isn't important
any more.

What I want when I ride
down the hill to nowhere
in particular
is to know I know I exist...
I am... and in my going I feel
my being.

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Defense of Apples

 Let me say right up front that I like apples, all kinds of apples, and all colors, and my initial intention with this journal writing was to make a case for the apple as a symbol of all that’s good. I will go right on insisting that apples are good and suffer from slander laid on them-- by poets and painters and people who insist that an apple was the original forbidden fruit or that in its delicious freshness there is the inevitable reminder that freshness doesn’t last. Although I tend to resist the idea that the apple in art is appropriate as memento mori, there’s no avoiding the suggestion by Robert Frost in his poem, “After Apple-Picking” that the fruit is associated at the end of the day with the “long sleep... coming on.”

  After Apple-Picking by Robert Frost

 My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
 Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell, And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Sermon for Earth Day

 All things bright and beautiful
 just outside my front door
the snail
ravaged, decimated, ate down to the stalks
my lilies...
I think they are lilies...
one after the other
while I was away... whatever,
they are mine...
were mine
and now only one is left... 

They are of the earth,
these snails,
and tigers,
and brown pelicans.

They and those people
 I don’t especially like
with political notions absurd,
even dangerous...
They are of the earth.

 All of the earth.

 “And all the earth is holy ground,”
she said.
“Everything and even more
The Earth is the body of God.


 before you dismiss
the idea
 keep in mind
that all theology is metaphor,”
she said.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Today's journal for the Blog is short. Margaret and I are waiting at National Airport (O.K., O.K., I know. It's now known a Reagan National Airport) for a flight to Chicago and then another to Denver and then another to San Diego. It'll be a long, but very good day... lots of reading... It's amazing what you can see from this airport. I was surprised to get a photograph of the National Cathedral with such clarity... and with the little point-and-shoot Sony camera.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today’s pictures are a mixed bag. I’ve got to include flowers because they dominate this area in early spring. The mosquitos take over later. It’s springtime now, and I can’t ignore the flowers. Nancy, Margaret and I took a drive over to White’s Ferry. We had lunch at a place near Nancy’ work, and then drove through a part of Maryland that saw a lot of Civil War action. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture of the Warren United Methodist Church that was standing in good shape when Robert E. Lee and his army and J.E.B. Stuart trudged along the road up from the Potomac River a couple of miles away.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It’s been a long time since my children were actually “children,” but I don’t remember feeling as if I had to tell them cautionary tales to keep them safe when they were out in the world... or to give them specific advice about what “not to do under any circumstances.” I assumed it wasn’t necessary. I was wrong. Now that I’m an old man looking back, I sometimes try to excuse myself for those lapses of judgement by declaring that “times were better then.” Of course, that’s not true. There have always been people “out there” who can and will hurt others, especially when they think they are being provoked.

So what would I say to them if they were young children now, and what do I think I should I be saying to Michael and Jeremy and Dael and Bryn and Lee and Shae and Ava and Nina and Julian? What would I like to have had the chance to say to Trayvon Martin?

I’d say something like this: As you go about the business of staying alive and well on this earth, try to think of people generally as being good and helpful rather than bad and dangerous... But keep in mind also that there are some out there who can hurt you. In “real life” there’s more reporting of what bad people do than what good people do, so you may hear more about them than about good people who do great good for mankind. In school you hear about historical figures like Hitler and Stalin and Bloody Mary and about fictional characters like Darth Vader and Voldemort. You must know that people who can hurt you aren’t always people who are obviously evil. You can be hurt even by people whose intentions are not evil, but who nevertheless are foolish enough, perhaps stupid enough, to carry a gun. If someone confronts you and demands to know who you are and what you are doing, as was apparently the case of Trayvon Martin, say clearly and as assuredly as possible why you are where you are and where you are going...without being confrontational. If the person is hostile, demeaning, or solicitous in any way, don’t get into an argument but go as quickly as you can to where there are likely to be other people. If the person moves toward you menacingly or in a way that seems to you to be inappropriate for the situation, yell for help as loudly as you can and move as quickly as possible away in a direction where there may be other people. Try very hard not to touch the person who threatens you. If there is a house nearby with lights on in it, go there and pound on the door.

I’ll save other things I would say to them for a later time... except maybe that generally it’s a good idea not to be in unsafe places in the first place, especially if you are alone... And if you are black... or if English isn’t your first language... or if you are gay... and be very wary if you are in Arizona where a law inforcement officer can stop and detain you if he/she thinks you look like someone who might be illegal... And perhaps you should be careful if you go to Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming Nevada Arizona, New Mexico, Vermont, Kentucky, and Virginia where citizens are allowed to carry concealed guns without a permit or license. Now that I think of it, you’d be wise to avoid Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, and Illinois... where the law allows people to carry concealed guns after they’ve paid their money to get a permit or license.

Oh, Yes... I almost forgot. Maybe as a general rule you’d better stay out of Florida altogether. Some people who live there think the law allows them to shoot you if they feel threatened. Florida’s legislature passed a bill in 2005 which has come to be known as the “Stand Your Ground” law.