Sunday, November 17, 2019


Like Most Revelations

 - 1929-
(after Morris Louis)
It is the movement that incites the form,
discovered as a downward rapture—yes,
it is the movement that delights the form,
sustained by its own velocity.  And yet

it is the movement that delays the form
while darkness slows and encumbers; in fact
it is the movement that betrays the form,
baffled in such toils of ease, until

it is the movement that deceives the form, 
beguiling our attention—we supposed
it is the movement that achieves the form.
Were we mistaken?  What does it matter if

it is the movement that negates the form?
Even though we give (give up) ourselves
to this mortal process of continuing,
it is the movement that creates the form.

When I  read this poem by Richard Howard it both pleased me and dismayed me. 
 I  began to read it again and first  I was stopped by the fact that the poet announces that it is "after Morris Louis."  I knew that Louis was a painter and an abstract expressionist but I did not know much more than  that.
The poem has always seemed to me to hold some profound truth-- LIKE MOST REVELATIONS.
The poem keeps declaring something about the relationship between movement and form and them questions or even negates  the declaration. 
The lines that I kept coming back to are in the  last stanza :
Even though we give (give up) ourselves
to this mortal process of continuing,
it is the movement that creates the form.
For the past month I have been thinking a  great deal about Richard Howard. I met  him  in the late 80s when I was teaching  at the University of Cincinnati and he was a visiting Elliston Poet.  We became  good friends and even team-taught a course together.
Richard is a sublime master of wordplay. 
Notice just in the lines I quoted .  He notes  that we both give and give up  in what he then characterizes as  "this mortal process of continuing."
 What a  deep way to characterize what life and time  do to us all --they  both  unfold and  mature us and  finally end us.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Mystery of Poetry in the Bucket


"Nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest places of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would have to die if writing were denied you. This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write?" – Rainer Maria Rilke


My first memory of poetry besides the nursery rhymes that my mother read to me and I recited back to her is my love for the poem THE HIGHWAYMAN. 
She read it to me once and after that I asked for it every night. I started to memorize the melodic opening lines and I would sit with the book on our couch and recite it to the book and believed that I was reading it.
 I did this several times a day and was relentless in it . When my mother saw and heard, she sat with me and just pointed to each word as I recited it and after many tries I suddenly got the connection and I was reading it.
 And I believe that I taught myself to read because I so loved the poem and wanted to read it any time that I wanted and not need to wait for someone to read it to me.

Listen to the wonderful cadences

The Highwayman

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Re-read it and see how it  feels in your mouth and in your mind

I loved the word pictures and when I looked at a moon in a cloudy sky, I said the line from the poem.

Since I knew it by heart it became a kind of party piece—I could recite it to friends and amaze them.

Also I loved the sad romance of the lovely Bess who dies to warn her lover of the waiting Redcoats.

My second favorite romantic poem was the tale of Fair Ellen and the gallant Lochinvar.

 Here is the text  first two verses of that poem which I also memorized and would recite often at the request of my Uncle Joe.


O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

There was another  brief poem by Wordsworth that my mother often chose to read in those Poetry Saturday  nights when all baths were over, my sisters were  sleeping soundly and Anna was out dancing

She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love:

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
—Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!



Friday, November 8, 2019



In the past few months of being home bound and watching more  TV than is
probably healthy. One show has grabbed my attention THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED on AWE channel.

 The main person on this show travels around the world -- often walking or using a bike or motorcycle, and I have liked the way he finds and takes us to unusual places and people. 
 It came to my mind that he was on a spiritual quest, but until today that  idea never surfaced in the show. 
Today he travels to Kashmir and it becomes  clear that he is exploring some  stories that Jesus Christ visited India both in his youth and then he returned there after his death.  

I was startled and gripped by this sudden shift in the show. I realized that I have my self wondered what Jesus of Nazareth was doing  before he took up public life when he was 30.  His entire public life as described in the  4 gospels was over in three years.

What was such an exceptional person doing in his  20s? 

We talk about how we  are made in the Image of God.  But when Jesus was born in that stable, he also took on himself the Image of our humanity.



Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999) was an Indian born spiritual teacher and author, as well as a translator and interpreter of early Hindu texts such as the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. I was personally introduced to him during a visit from Henri Nouwen in the late 1980s. He encouraged me to spread his teaching, which I have not done enough until now.
 Easwaran writes:
We are made, the scriptures of all religions assure us, in the image of God. Nothing can change that original goodness. Whatever mistakes we have made in the past, whatever problems we may have in the present, in every one of us this “uncreated spark in the soul” remains untouched, ever pure, ever perfect. Even if we try with all our might to douse or hide it, it is always ready to set our personality ablaze with light.
I find that paragraph fascinating and almost ecstatic. READ IT AGAIN!
What did [Meister Eckhart (1260–1328)] teach? Essentially, four principles that [Gottfried] Leibnitz would later call the Perennial Philosophy, because they have been taught from age to age in culture after culture:
  • First, there is a “light in the soul that is uncreated and uncreatable” [1]: unconditioned, universal, deathless; in religious language, a divine core of personality which cannot be separated from God. Eckhart is precise: this is not what the English language calls the “soul,” but some essence in the soul that lies at the very center of consciousness. As Saint Catherine of Genoa [1447–1510] put it, “My me is God: nor do I know my selfhood except in God.” [2] In Indian mysticism this divine core is called simply atman, “the Self.”
  • Second, this divine essence can be realized. It is not an abstraction, and it need not—Eckhart would say must not—remain hidden under the covering of our everyday personality. It can and should be discovered, so that its presence becomes a reality in daily life.
  • Third, this discovery is life’s real and highest goal. Our supreme purpose in life is not to make a fortune, nor to pursue pleasure, nor to write our name on history, but to discover this spark of the divine that is in our hearts.
  • Last, when we realize this goal, we discover simultaneously that the divinity within ourselves is one and the same in all—all individuals, all creatures, all of life. . . .
A mystic is one who not only espouses these principles of the Perennial Philosophy but lives them, whose every action reflects the wisdom and selfless love that are the hallmark of one who has made this supreme discovery.

 Such a person has made the divine a reality in every moment of life, and that reality shines through whatever he or she may do or say—and that is the real test. . . . [A mystic is marked by] an unbroken awareness of the presence of God in all creatures.
 The signs are clear: unfailing compassion, fearlessness, equanimity, and the unshakable knowledge, based on direct, personal experience, that all the treasures and pleasures of this world together are worth nothing if one has not found the uncreated light at the center of the soul. [3]

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


 God loves and creates each one of us as a unique being with different gifts and challenges.
One of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), put it this way:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand. [1]
I think this poem beautifully expresses God’s desire for us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity

If we stay small and “hide our light” under a bushel basket, there is almost no place for God to move in, through, and with us for the sake of the world!

Sometimes we have a false idea of modesty and humility--they do not mean that we should bury  ourselves. 
Instead we should take up the challenge of our gifts and  develop them to the fullest extent  that we can. Especially if we remind ourselves and others that the gifts are from God we will actually be glorifying Him--not ourselves.
He gave us  our gifts to see them shine and help improve the world.  
Our gifts are a continuation of the INCARNATION in daily life. 

They enable us to  be part of God's plan for the salvation of everyone.
  That is a huge order
--so drop the false  humility and put yourself and your talents out there. 

Risk laughter and ridicule  rather than hide what God has given to you.

Monday, October 28, 2019


Today is my mother's birthday.

 She died in 1997. In fact her death and the desolation I felt afterwards teaching in Cincinnati spurred me to leave this country and accept a Fulbright appointment to Romania.
  I had created a highly demanding routine of teaching and publishing  and I wanted to be somewhere where I was unknown and where  much less would be expected of me.

 My mother's life had centered around her three daughters --me, the middle one, and my older sister Janie and my younger sister Sheila, both of whom  had Down Syndrome
 Our family life  was shaped and blessed  by their needs and special traits and difficulties. My mother came to understand the challenges they brought to our lives as  gifts from God, and she often quoted to me the idea from the Bible that we sometimes entertain angels unawares.  That is what she believed and she also warned me that we would be judged by the way we treated Janie and Sheila.

For me thinking that Janie was angelic was  easy.  I have written in other entries on this blog that she was an ideal older sister. She helped me in all my escapades. She stole pears with me and she never squealed.

 On the other hand Sheila had a more emotionally difficult  and volatile nature. Sheila died of leukemia when she was  sixteen and I was twenty. Janie outlived my mother by just one year and died  the summer after I returned from Romania. I was with her  and my Aunt Anna for her last moments. I  often think of Janie and miss her. 

Recently Richard Rohr  has  reminded  me of the experience of Tim Shriver with people with Down Syndrome. 

He  writes about Tim Shriver and his experience with people in the Special Olympics

Tim Shriver, a friend and Chair of Special Olympics, works with many people whom our culture excludes or disregards. Through their eyes he has come to see God’s presence in every human being. As you read Tim’s words, imagine how you might stand in solidarity with someone “on the edge,” someone who has been excluded, and see that individual through God’s eyes. 
You cannot believe in or practice unitive consciousness as long as you exclude and marginalize others—whether it is women or people of different sexual orientations or people of religious or ethnic minorities or, in my experience, people with intellectual disabilities. My work is largely with and in support of people who have significant vulnerabilities because of intellectual disability. In many cultures these people are excluded and oppressed, though often unconsciously, even more so than other marginalized groups. . . . They are thought to be hopeless. Mostly they are ignored and forgotten.
For twenty years I have been mentored by these same people. Some might not be the best-spoken, the most articulate writers, the most celebrated thinkers, the fastest runners. And yet, despite all of that, I have met person after person who emanates a kind of radiant light. After a while, even the densest of us may have our eyes opened to that something which transcends all superficial distractions of disability: the unimaginable beauty of every person. That beauty is ours for the seeing if only we have the eyes to see, if only we pay attention.
I try to maintain those eyes as I engage in this work. At times I will pull myself out of whatever I’m doing and try to remember that I’m united with all that is. I give myself license to step away and reconnect. I fail mostly, but once in a while I succeed, and when I do, I feel like I am touching a “sweet spot” of wonder and peace. It enables me to be present to people in a way that I can communicate to them that I love them unconditionally. There are no conditions to our unity, to our oneness.
Many times I’ve watched, for instance, as a person with Down syndrome stands with a gold medal around her neck, arms raised high to a cheering crowd. I can’t look at that child, at that human being, without slipping out of dualistic thinking. Those moments are a kind of sacrament of unitive consciousness. They are “both-and” moments where shadow and light coexist in the same experience. . . . Divine energy shoots vertically through me like a force, and says, “See! Look! Pay attention to what is right in front of you! That is all you need to know!”

My two sisters were right in front of me and I felt  their closeness and dearness to God whenever I was with them.

Saturday, October 26, 2019



 Lately I have been reading about Celtic Spirituality and the concept of "thin places" and "thin times" in that tradition.

 Are there thin times and thin places in the Bucket?
With the days shortening and the onset of Halloween we are coming to one of the "thin times" of the Celtic Year. Thin times are those times in the year when the connection between human activity and divine activity becomes less opaque to us.
 When we feel some possibility of communication between souls still caught in time (us) and souls that have re-entered eternity. 

The idea of human life as the time we spend between two eternities is a widely held one on Celtic thinking and writing
Here is how the venerable Bede describes the experience of life and our ignorance of what was before life and what may be after life on earth:

 “The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. 

So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine tells us something more certain, it seems justly to be followed in our kingdom.” 

The season of Samhain as it was called by the Celts was the end of the harvesting season and the marking of the onset of winter.

It was a time when those of us alive could communicate with the dead. The residue of this idea comes through in our celebration of Halloween and in the Christian accommodation of ALL Saints Day November 1 and All Souls Day November 2. It also erupts in the well known Mexican celebration of November 2 as The Day of the Dead. 

Since my mother's birthday was 28 October, I especially feel close to her at this time of year and sense her presence in her Pawtucket house amid belongings that she treasured and the poems that she left behind.