The Living Green

There is, within you, the living green.
It reaches through the weight of death,
a tendril of truth and freedom.
Sunlit joy and the weeping of rains
nourish its hopefulness.
Reality is the wall over which it climbs,
clinging only enough to move upward.
Its finger stretches to touch another hand,
in the growing grace of belief.
Someday, it seems to know,
the hands will clasp—within, without—
when walls have crumbled
and everything again is green.

Scribble Something Out

(This is a poem about the ineffable urge
to write, to express the colorful wonder of
wakeful living on the black and white of a page.)

Scribble something out, the voice says.
All this light and color, swirling. Feel the rainbow
with your face. You thought it impossible,
mere wishings of a child. But you know you are
part of it, now. You. You are the pot of gold.

No matter if the page is white and ink, black.
The color is within. Find the words, and write them.

Perhaps others who are color blind will see
and suddenly, will feel rainbows on their skin,
sense the breaking wave spray in fall’s first light,
the near-frozen breath of some sleeping hollow,
moist transience on the watching eyes of trees.

Write it down. Make of this wordless wonder
a watercolor story scratched out
in the ashes of a mind which touched the sun.
All but the spirit has burned away.

Weep. Write. And your black ink tears
may show someone their rainbow.

Hemiparesis

Late, sitting in my car, impatiently
tuned to the loveless morning news,
wordlessly wondering if I had within
what the day would surely require of me,
I saw her limping toward the school bus,
quietly following the others,
not calling attention to herself
(Except to her sheer mountain-faced
courage and the bated breath of hope),
slowly, steadily making her way
with book bag and a sack of lunch.
The others boarded, and I wondered
if it would be hard for her to see them
walking along with ease, not thinking
of requirements, not having to wonder
if they could do it, this simple stepping
up into the bus without stumbling or
falling, without needing help to a seat
or dropping their bags or
squashing someone’s sandwich,
without being embarrassed
for making the driver wait, and be late
for the next stop, without everyone looking,
not saying what she knew they were thinking.
I wondered what had happened, a stroke
or a bleed, head trauma, a fall from a bike
or downstairs, or, God forbid, a push or a punch.
Had love run away from her?
Had someone not helped?
I didn’t know. But I wondered this about her life.
And the news droned on and the stop sign retracted.
And I saw her raising her own flag, in my mind
I saw this, against the gray morning sky.
I witnessed her belief and her strength
and her resiliency. I saw it flying above
the news of politics and callous self-centeredness
and unregarded pain and the authentic
unheard cries of souls. And I thought, yes,
I can do this. I see her. I believe.
I can step up into the day with her help.
With her holding onto my paralyzed heart.

World Alzheimer’s Month

World Alzheimer’s Month begins today.

To raise awareness and combat stigma, I won’t be sharing any statistics today. I’ll be making no predictions.

Instead, I offer these thoughts, and an admonition:

—I believe the greatest among many losses associated with Alzheimer’s is the loss of relationship.
—I believe the loss of relationship is fueled by the stigma of presumed lost personhood of those living with Alzheimer’s.
—By faith, I believe personhood is innate, inherent, and inviolate; thus, it cannot be affected by Alzheimer’s at the foundational level.
—Personhood is intrinsically and fundamentally relational.
—This belief fosters the provision of compassionate, dignifying, affirming care for those living with dementia, and nurtures meaningful relationships.

Please believe that persons living with Alzheimer’s are still persons.

Please seek relationships with them.
Please connect with them.
Please remember them, and their care partners.
Please help to create a culture of compassion.

All’s Well

A picture’s worth a thousand words
for those, once blind, who see;
who hear, even in creeping things,
songs of eternity.
Who feel, in tremblings of the earth,
footsteps of Love, Divine;
who sense, within chaotic winds,
the Maker’s grand design.
Who, in the fabric of themselves,
in body, mind, and soul,
feel threads of living energy
that make the thunders roll,
and set the stars and planets in
their courses, with a bang,
that wrote the lyrics and the tune
the Heavenly chorus sang
upon the night incarnate Love
shot through the Earth to dwell,
proclaiming, for all time, this truth:
All’s well, and will be well.

The River Bend

I waited til the sun sank past the mountain top
and the water burned a turquoise-tinted flame.
A great blue heron soared above the dead treetop
where I sat and wished that I could do the same.

And I didn’t have a notion I could phone a friend,
‘cause the only name on speed dial was my own.
And I felt nobody else besides the river bend
gave a hoot in hell that I was there alone.

Now the only one that heard me was the river bend
when I finally learned to let my spirit cry.
And the pieces I saw floating in the river bend
were the wounded parts of me that had to die.

Now I’ve come again to sit beside the river bend
as its waters flow serenely to the sea.
And I feel that I will never fully comprehend
what the presence of the river did for me.

Light

The cold house sleeps.
Outside, summer swelters and respires.
Waking, I take to the floor,
thinking in terms of coffee.
A window, set between extremes, stops me.
I watch. A street light flickers and glows.
Crepe myrtle fingers etch their
secret messages to the gutters.
Something darts. A distant dog is barking.
Is anyone, anywhere awake? I wonder.
Then I am mesmerized. Droplets of fog
condense softly on the window pane.
Contrasts. Crosses. Silhouettes of limbs.
Shards of light soften in the mist,
blending the darkness into grays.
So many grays. The passing of time.
Life is increasingly gray and foggy.
But it slow dances and glows.
I breathe on the glass my lungs’ air.
Darkness. My gift for the light.
In this inhaling, exhaling moment,
the light comes into me.
Photons with molecules, their escorts.
And the human becomes a living soul.

Life is Like an Elderly Couple

Life is like an elderly couple
sitting in a pair of rockers
on their porch in a small town.
By them skate two students
carefree after class; a lurching
dog barks in tow, chasing the rabbit
of time that hides in each moment.
A little clapboard house of faith
sits quietly on the corner for
the poor and hurting, holding
God’s breath in its lungs
for sabbath exhalations.
A few streets over, a siren sings
its urgent call to intercessory prayer,
and two hearts answer.
Sparrows, wrens and titmice
flit through shrubs and roses
they planted together one spring
long ago, when young love refused
to let anything fade away.
Gnarled and thorny now, the garden
holds their tiny winged elegies like
raindrops that shimmer on the leaves.
Next door, pots clank in preparation
for an evening meal, and they think
of family gatherings, filiality,
empty chairs at empty tables
and hoped-for happy reunions.
As the sun drops slowly behind
the belfry to the west, they take
each other’s hands and talk about
faith, friendship and forgiveness,
peaceably present to themselves,
and their faces turn the same shades
as the sun-stroked sky.

The Dogs

This morning, I’m thinking of all the dogs I’ve had in my life.
Of course, there were the Sams. Three of them. Two beagles
and a mix. I barely remember Sam I. When viewing old photos,
some of that Sam comes back to me, out in the dirt, playing
with my dump truck, a cool tongue in the face. Sam II helped
me through kindergarten and grammar school, defended some
forts against marauders, and chased one truck too many.
Jody, a Spitz mix, was a friend true as any I’ve ever known.
He sat waiting for me each day after school. I could see him
jumping straight into the air when I topped the red hill, curly
tail whooshing the afternoon away for Nana’s chicken
and dumplings stewing in a pot of pure delight. He liked
those little slick chicken soppers as well as I did. Being an
only child, I ran with Jody and his friends, talked to them a lot.
And they knew me. They knew me. Jody wandered off and
went blind. I caught a glimpse of him a few months later,
called him, but he wouldn’t come. Briefly wagged his tail,
but didn’t jump. Then he was gone. Sometimes, I see him.
Little Sam III was a beagle pup we got my parents around
their retirement. Used to sit in his chair hugging his blanket,
one corner in his mouth, kneading it with his paws, like dough.
He seemed to think it was his mother. I think he was a decent
surrogate for me after I left home. Then some time passed,
our girls came along, and we needed a pet again. Heidi, our
miniature Dachshund, found us one fine day as we examined
a litter, she being the runt at the back, and pooped on Ellen
when she picked her up. The wand picks the wizard, of course,
and Heidi had chosen. The last fifteen years have been a
beautiful being together with her sweet girl self. There’s still a
good bit of that poopy little pup inside her, the one I put in
my coat pocket and took to the nursing home to visit Dad
after he got Alzheimer’s, knowing children and pets and hymns
and old photos and biscuits and prayers and painting and
Carol Burnett Show reruns gave us the best chance of finding him.
Sure enough, when he saw her little Black and Tan face, the fog
was lifted and the blind man came back when we called him.
Now, each morning when she greets me, tail wagging for cheese,
looks at me after each bite, and smiles, I come back home to
myself and to my kin, in gratitude. I feel Heidi and Jody would
have liked each other, come to think of it. Thank you,
dear God, for the pets with whom we can share our lives.

Pictures in an Old House

Old houses give would-be photographers much material with which to work.

Light, shadow, and old houses are friends from way back. They remember the same things when no one else is left to recall them. Having been together for a long time, each knows the ins and outs of the others. They’ve nothing left to hide. And they wouldn’t want to, anyway.

So, it’s fun to get in on their stories. To catch their unseen angles. Their rare views. Like a mailbox past the porch rail by the road, casting streetlight shadows between a gap in the the living room curtains.

Or the bedroom lamp, eccentric as an old aunt, shedding her lights like handfuls of trinkets for each niece and nephew.

Mason jars in the window, a little bit askew, like folks standing in an unemployment line.

Hard edges surely are softened here. The light knows when to speak sharply and when to whisper. And it’s the whispering that’s the louder, to me.

So I prick up my ears, pull out my camera, and wait.