Big Daddy’s Barn

(A 45 year-old memory)

The boy creaked open a half-hinged door.
The barn exhaled its cow’s lung full of dank hay breath –
sweet feed and corn cobs, fur dust and feathers.

“What sleeps slack-jawed under the floor,”
he pondered, always fearing falling through,
“with eyelids cracked crustily for manna from above?”

Stopping to read Braille messages in saddle leather scrolls,
he looked to the loft, just glimpsing the striped coon tail of a spy.
He pecked a stale kernel or two off a cob left behind,
crunching their consistency of candle wax and peanut brittle.

A dark corner called, so he took a notion to hide a while in the hay
and watch the shifting edges of morning light sweep their way
across knotted planks to the hidden earth beneath.

Knee deep in a farm field daydream, he heard a horse bray,
and thought of wanting to feel its rubbery lips and warm breath
searching and sniffing for sweet feed in the manger of his hands.


This Morning

This morning, while driving in a slow rain on my way to work and pondering the melody of Elgar’s “Nimrod,” I saw something that will hang with me like a painting and speak to my soul for a long time.

A slender high school-aged man wearing glasses that sat just a hair off level and looked a bit big and dated for his face, stood wearing a green over-sized raincoat under a worn black umbrella at a school bus stop near the end of his street. Beside him stood a young girl, probably early teens, if that. I couldn’t make out her features or her garb, as she was partially hidden in the raincoat folds hanging just to the young man’s side. There they stood, sister and brother, I presume, silent and still in the coarse mist of a fall morning, framed in wet light and shadows like a freshly-stroked impressionist painting. They could have been anywhere, at any time. But they were to my immediate right as I was driving in. To think, I almost missed them.

My perception was that traffic around me slowed, perhaps to pay them homage, but I could be wrong. If it didn’t, it should have. In recent memory, I have seen no more poignant expression of the totality of the human condition than this young pair of sentient beings, leaning in to each other at the intersection of have and have-not streets while waiting in the nearly-not rain of Wednesday morning.

Like a visual depiction of hope, sanctuary and benediction threaded through the melancholic lines that bow and weep and sing in Elgar’s elegy, the young pair tightly held onto each other in this lean-to shelter made of their small bodies and their spirits’ filial bond.

I saw gray and I saw rain. And I saw a rainbow and I saw pain.

And I saw a love light hiding under a bushel, as worn black cloth folded up and the doors sprang open on a yellow bus, and I sped along to work in the glowing midweek mist.

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The Descending

At times like this time
now I feel you here.
The air is you. The floor and walls.
Sound vibrations. The hum of background.
The song in my head.
Each word a pocket photo.
Or a ring. A baseball. A wink.
They are suddenly, eternally you.
And you are here with me.
The stately Oak itself
bends down to you and me
and to a lasting love
because of the Holiness
that bends us all
to bowing not to breaking.
And the river sighs. Flows ever on.
I’m crying. I’m praying.
I’m gone.

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Lament on a Moonlit Eve

When the moon lies low on the southern hills
and the wind is scented pine,
in the midnight calling of whippoorwills 
sings the voice of Madeleine.

With the falling mist on her fairy face
and her footprints in the dew,
Madeleine met dawn with angelic grace
and a blessing, ever new.

Walking in the wood near her village lands
with a rev’rence deep and still,
she transformed her heart into praying hands,
her desire into God’s will.

Now the hills and the hollows graced before
by the singing of her soul
keep an all night vigil in her lore,
their own grieving to console.

Dearest Madeleine of the moonlit eve
met the Master, kind and good,
and each mourner now yearning to believe
walks a fairer, deeper wood.


Nature’s At-Onement

When alone in nature, I can feel, at times, an emerging awareness of deep connection, a sense of belonging, coupled with a sweeping experience of awe and wonder.

This most often awakens an acute inner awareness through the interplay of light and shade with waltzing shapes of leaf and limb, when tilted sunlight and its breeze waft through a forest sub-canopy in early morning or twilight’s verge.

Following this may come an enveloping, uplifting sense of embodiment within another realm, a shimmering new presence within the inhabited world; or perhaps, imbuing this world with presence.

And I am a member of this new world–this Heaven on earth, as it might be described–fitting in as a thread in a rich tapestry of many colors and patterns. Everything is enfolded in light, and emanates, from itself, the self-same light.

Peace pervades, and a thinning of all space that lies between.  There is, at once, not only a sense of my own uniqueness and authenticity, but also a sense of the presence of many different “others.” This experience of the “other” is completely devoid of judgment, comparison, or assignment of hierarchy, and is framed with unbidden compassion.

Only authenticity, vulnerability, honesty, acceptance, life and love remain after the last leaf has fallen.

All of this is recognized as gift, pure and undeserved, drawing forth well-springs of gratitude.

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He Taught Us How to Listen

In the paper yesterday I read of the passing of a good man whom I was fortunate to know.

He was well-respected and accomplished and had done a lifetime of good work. When some friends and I knew him, he had developed Alzheimer’s, and it affected his language prominently. But he still had much to say.

One day, while we were near him and listening, he managed to get out a story that was very important to him — something he needed us to hear. It was a story about a meaningful time in his life when he had done a selfless act for his colleagues. It took several minutes for him get the story out, piecemeal, but the more words and thoughts expressed, the richer and deeper the impact of the story on all of us.

That day, he taught us how to listen — intently, mindfully, compassionately — and he taught us about the rewards to be found if we do.

He showed so much courage in sharing his story, when many may have chosen to be silent out of frustration, fear or shame.

What he shared was the content of his character. And Alzheimer’s hadn’t taken that.

Could not. Cannot, in fact.

So thank you, brave and storied soul, for venturing out with your Self.

Rest in peace, R –

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