Thursday, May 4, 2017


I don't have any photos of Brenda, so here's me about that time.

It's one of those names that
reminds me I'm a heartless romantic.

I can't remember how we started
writing back and forth, sight
unseen, family of family friends,
cousin by marriage of bff's
brother, but we did. And sometimes
her sister threw a couple lines
and lipstick lips on there, too.

I was 15 and pretty stupid,
she was 18 and pretty, but
when she came to visit for
that summer we had what
I think was both our first
of summer romances, and
I think maybe her only.

Those coming-of-age films
show adult-becoming youth
learning what love is together
and then parting to go on with
their lives completely different
from who they were, and wiser.
They're very loosely based on what
really happens in summer romances,
except the pain only lasts for about
ninety minutes and has a resolution.

Brenda lived up the hill with her
sister and brother-in-law, where his
brother, my constant friend Andy,
and I used to go play Atari after I
got off work in the afternoons.
We mostly talked, rarely alone, except
for occasional evening walks, and
frequently at church rather than home.
The big date, as it were, was a trip
to the New York State Fair, as a close
to the summer and the summer romance.

I wanted her to stay, but everybody was
moving, and moving on; not drifting apart,
but headed toward different points, like
balls that collide and bounce in radii.
I cried that night. I remember it because I
can count those nights on my hand, and I
cried right there in front of her. She left.

I'm a lousy long-distance lover. Not
because absence makes the heart go
wander, but because I'm just lazy. Our
letters, like our romance, slowed, and
as they did, her cell growth increased.

I found out less than two years later she
had died, a cancer that took less time
than our summer together to kill her.
I didn't cry.
I had gotten used to not feeling about
her, and so I couldn't. I felt bad about
not feeling bad, a feeling I have often,
sometimes still about Brenda.

Did I love her? Probably
more now than I did then.
I have a better concept of where
she is now that she's not here than
I did when she just wasn't where I was,
and I have more expectation of
seeing her again, more hope
of forgiveness than I deserve.

If I had learned the lessons of that
summer romance that same summer,
maybe we'd have had a couple of summers
before we went our ways, you getting to
God before me. If you remember me
as I remember you, let's pray for each
other until the ultimate summer romance
ends in a marriage supper- I'll see you there.

Monday, November 7, 2016

They say I'm depressed

They say I'm depressed and they ask me why
I can't tell them; I won't even try
I used to smile while inside I'd cry
But I can't even smile now

They want to discuss which pills I should take
That will make me whole instead of a flake
There's just one thing I need for God's sake
But I can't figure out how

There was this someone I used to talk to
Whenever I was feeling a little bit blue
But she won't talk to me so what can I do
Can I go back to sleep now?

We used to have fun times, this girl and I
Now there's hardly even a hi
And I'm so sad that I can't even cry
No energy to cry anyhow

So if they get me dope I'll take it I guess
What's one more escape from the truth or less
There's nothing wrong I can fix in this mess
So I guess onward I plow

Can I have some drugs now? Can I have more sleep?
The things I have sowed can I start to reap?
One way or the other I'm into this deep
Can I just talk to her now?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Space is Full

I need to sit down and
write, and get rid of piles of
stuff on and off line that
clutters my space, the space
where everything happens.
Except it doesn't.
There can be nothing in the
way, nothing in my ears,
nothing in my eye, not
even a mote, and nothing
up my sleeve, no tricks
and no treats spilling
out for those i wish
were striking my pinata
and trying to bust me open.
But those people no longer
come out swinging when
I'm hanging around, so
instead I eat cream cheese
sandwiches and type complete
sentences of tripe into a
non-distraction environment
that's distracting me from
the fact that the one I'd
rather be writing for will
never read this anyway.
And no, you aren't the one.
My space is already empty.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Current Podcast List

I've fallen into a routine of listening. Not background music, not even audiobooks - although I enjoy both - but shorter form podcasts. These present information in an episodic and serial manner, which can be completed without as much fear getting lost in either the length or the breadth of the material. As I've formed the routine, the podcasts have lined up naturally for me in basic time slots and order.

Sounds of the Trail

The first podcast, in the morning as early as I can take sounds into my ears without constant interruption, is literally a get-up-and-go story: stories of thru-hikers on the three trails that bisect the country longitudinally. Sounds of the Trail is in it's second season, and can be found here:

Why I'm Listening:
I'm listening to this because I like the idea of walking alone(ish) for a long time, and because my almost 13 year old son and I are planning to do a day or so on the Appalachian Trail in the fall of this year. Hearing firsthand from folks doing this is an encouragement to me to remember my goal and work toward it. In addition, it adds to my knowledge base about the trail, and what I might encounter outside and inside myself on it.

Why You Should Consider Listening:
The Sounds of the Trail Podcast tries to remind us in a visceral way that life, on or off the trail, is a journey that we are walking. The people they talk to are learning life without anything in the way, and are able to share the wisdom they are encountering as it impacts them.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

After Sounds of the Trail, I turn on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. This is an unusual approach to the Hogwarts universe conceived by a couple of Harvard divinity students. One chapter at a time, they explore the book as though it were Scripture, drawing out lessons by reading through a particular theme, and then applying the Lectio Divina method of approaching and applying a text. The podcast website is:

Why I'm Listening:
I'm listening to this because Andy is currently reading through the Harry Potter books, and I've just read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (while I thought was a worthy addition to the canon). I'm a big fan of the alchemical underpinnings to the series, which was a medieval method of seeking union with God through a specific series of experiments in the material world. I doubt this podcast will go there, but it uses another contemporary medieval concept in it's exploration of the text.

Why You Should Consider Listening:
The Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast's method of approaching a text isn't a bad one to learn for approaching any worthwhile piece of literature - including the Christian Scriptures, for which the method was originally developed. If you are a fan of the Harry Potter books, this will deepen your appreciation of them. If you are not, after listening to this podcast, you may find you are after all :-)

Worship in Spirit and Truth

The final podcast of the day for me, usually starting around lunchtime, is by the late Fr. Thomas Hopko, formerly dean of St Vladimir's Seminary. He had a number of podcasts and lecture series while he was alive, but this particular one spent 4 years walking us through a single Sunday morning service worshiping God.

Why I'm Listening:
I'm listening to this because I'm hoping to soon start studies for the diaconate, and as a deacon, my primary duties will involve liturgical action in this service. The more I can understand why we do what we do, the better I'll remember what I'm supposed to do. But since starting to listen, I've realized that Fr. Tom does everything from trace the development of worship in general, to explain what worship must look like in our own lives. This will impact not only my hopeful vocation, by inform my avocations as well.

Why You Should Consider Listening:
The Worship in Spirit and Truth podcast is literally about one very important thing: worshiping God in spirit and truth, as Christ said God will be worshiped. While the primary source material Fr. Tom is drawing from is the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom as used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the biblical concepts behind the development and motive of this liturgy are essential to worshiping God period. No matter what your background, if worshiping God is important to you (and I hope it is) the truths you will learn in this podcast will change your life, and I don't mean that in a trite throwaway manner.

Do you have a podcast routine? Share it in the comments below, and let others have the benefit of your time well spent. If you have time, give these a listen and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oh Won't You Cry

Two years ago today, I was riding home from church with Brent Kaseman to his house for an intentional community meeting. A little over two and a half years prior I had built a casket for Brent's firstborn Anastasia, who died at three days old as a result of a placental abruption. We weren't talking about that on the ride. Whatever hopeful topic we were talking about was interrupted by my phone ringing, something that rarely happens. It was my mother with the news that my sister, Dawn, was in the hospital, with her nearly to term baby Hannah still-born due to a placental abruption.

We had the meeting. We began by praying for Dawn, her family, and her child. We did our best to discuss a hopeful future. In between the call from my mother and a call from my sister, I took a couple of photos, the only ones I took that day, of two girls and a cat: 

It's such a cute, happy picture, and I can't look at it without remembering Dawn and Hannah.

The photo came up this weekend in ThisLife, reminding me that the anniversary of Hannah's birth and death was at hand. Thinking about it, a song came to mind, kind of a lullaby spiritual, which I wrote and recorded yesterday afternoon. You've got most of the idea already; let me explain the chorus. My mother was able to attend the funeral, and to hold Hannah just before they placed her in the casket at the gravesite. She told me that Hannah's body was still pliable and warm - you see, she had never been out of someone's arms from her birth until her burial.

Click the link to hear the song sung:

Cry, baby, oh won't you cry
You're so sweet that I could die
So still and pale, oh won't you wail
As the Angel passes by

I'll hold you until God takes you home
I'll hold you until God takes you home

Cry, baby, oh won't you cry
You don't need a reason why
But if you don't then I must fail
To hide the tear that's in my eye

I'll hold you until God takes you home
I'll hold you until God takes you home

Cry, baby, oh won't you cry
The bank of Jordan's drawing nigh
The Angel carries you through the gale
I'll hold you again baby by and by

I'll hold you until God takes you home
I'll hold you until God takes you home
Cry baby, oh won't you cry
You're so sweet that I could die

PS: Dawn nearly did die two weeks later when she went into full eclampsia.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Grilled Avocados with Sausage Salsa

What I did:

Browned 1 1/2 lbs sausage

In blenderish thing I chopped up:
About 7 medium tomatoes
5 or 6 medium peppers from Costco's mixed bag
A medium or so onion (I used yellow)
About a half head of garlic
3 smallish peaches

Once I had it all chopped up, I put it in a bowl and added various spices to taste.

1. I turned on the grill and sideburner to medium (300 to 350)
2. Cut the avocados (Not too hard or soft - better harder than softer) in half and take out the pit
3. With the salsa heating up on the burner, put the avocado halves face-down on the grill
4. Close and let cook for about 8 minutes or so, checking to make sure they aren't burning
5. Once they seem heated through good, if they don't have some char lines, move them over the searing plate of other open flame area for a minute or so
6. You can carefully scoop the avocado off the peeling, or you can wait - your preference
7. Take them off and spoon the salsa into them
8. Top with shredded cheese
9. You'll want more of the salsa than fits in the pit area - there will be plenty for that
10. One avocado (2 halves) will be plenty per person, trust me. It's filling enough

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Splitting the Infinite

Words are my toys. I like to brazenly make mountains out of molehills, to perilously snowboard their verbose slopes, to secretly spelunk their cavernous underbellies. Most of all, I like to gleefully split infinitives.

My English teacher used to always tell me that, someday, I was going to seriously regret splitting infinitives. To constantly split infinitives, she told me, was to wantonly commit an act against nature, and the Universe would find some way to properly exact judgment against me.

I didn't believe her. 

Not until today.

While trying to again split an infinitive, I accidentally split the Infinite.

He is, after all, the Word.

I was expecting to really see something spectacular, like an eclipse accompanied by large chunks of the Earth succumbing to centrifugal force, or storms with surges larger than Al Gore's ego, or perhaps Elvis having cheeseburgers with Jimmy Hoffa sans Quikrete. Turns out I was to sadly be disappointed. Instead, I found in my living room, in my recliner no less, a guy who looked a lot like Armin Shimerman, if Armin had a beard and slightly larger ears. He sat with his hands tented, and a brief smile playing in the clearing of his lower face.

"Well, " He said, "Your English teacher DID warn you."

I had to quickly choose between conflicting urges at this point: having a fair idea who this was, the urge to prostrate was strong; but, regardless of my respect for Shimerman's work, the idea of kneeling at his feet was somewhat absurd to me. I opted for hospitality.

"Would you like some bread and wine?" I asked, offering what I had handy. I used to normally have sardines as well, but had already consumed my daily quota.

His smile broadened. "I could ask you the same thing," He chuckled, "And I think you may need it more than I do right now."

For the sake of doing something, I poured us each a glass and proceeded to gingerly hand Him His. He raised His glass. "L'Chaim!"

"To you, " I replied, and drained my glass. I sat back down in my writing chair.

With my nerves steeled, I tried to preemptively rectify the situation. "I need to really..."

He cut me off. "I don't believe that you understand yet what you have done," He said. "What you need is to begin again."

With my eyes still on Him I nervously lifted my glass to drain it again. This did nothing to help my courage, since there was almost as little wine left in the glass as coherent thought in my head. I saw my water bottle on the desk and picked it up instead, taking a swig of some of the best wine I've ever had, and choking. In an instant He was up and smacking my back, concern and a slight giggle in His voice. "You're OK? That one never gets old for me, you know. Old Abe at the wedding," He shook his head in pleasant reverie. "Good times."

He handed the bottle back to me. I glanced up at Him and sniffed before I tentatively sipped again. He returned to my recliner, and I started over.

"What I think I did, Lord - May I call you "Lord"?" He acquiesced with a brief wave that straitened the pictures on the wall, "- is that I think I broke the cables that bind space and time, and everything will begin to sud - um, to fall suddenly into decay and chaos." I sat back in my chair waiting for the blast.

It was a blast of laughter. When David mentioned the "laughing to scorn," he didn't mention how that affected the scorned. When others think you're a fool, you can content yourself with the assumption they're wrong. This laughter accepts that you're a fool, assumes that you know that, too, and then makes you reject yourself as a fool, willingly and with no other option. This isn't the maniacal laughter of the villain, or the derisive laughter of the one who takes pleasure in the fall of others. This was the knee-slapping hilarity that ensues when an inside joke is shared, and which ends in wiping away tears of merriment and arms around one another's shoulders. I'm serious, there was actual knee-slapping. He leaned forward and lightly punched my shoulder.

"Buck up there, Buddy - May I call you "Buddy"?" I have no idea what my face said, but He continued. "Philip, then. No biggie here, Phil." He patted my shoulder again. "Does everything look likes it's coming to pieces to you?"

I looked around. My mother couldn't have cleaned the place up like it was now, the stars were visible even with the apartment lights on, and there were sardines next to the bread. "I'll be goddamned!"

He laughed again. "No, see, that's the point here. You won't be goddamned. Not by me, anyhow. There's only two of us that can do that, and I refuse to God damn you. I suggest that you refrain from doing so as well."

"So," I said. "No chaos then? There seemed to have been last time."

"No, no chaos then, either." He shook His head. "See, the first time someone intentionally tried to split the Infinite, he failed dismally, moved here, and began teaching others to try also. The difference with these others (your ancestors, in case you hadn't guessed, and other extended family members) was that they actually contained the Infinite. As each sought a piece for himself, he obtained it. The Infinite was split."

A realization dawned on me. "I didn't do anything particularly special, did I? Splitting the Infinite."

"Accolade and garland special, no. Short-bus special, on the other hand..." He grinned. "See, the Infinite isn't something to be grasped, until it's handed to you. It's the attempt to steal it for yourself that cuts you off, that makes what you have finite and temporary."

We both reflected for a moment. "So, if I split the Infinite, the Infinite splits?" There's no good time to pass up a bad pun. We both smiled, He more broadly than I.

"For the Infinite to be, it has to be everything, so the situation had to be remedied. Otherwise, the situation you were afraid you caused would be the current one. That which had been separated had to be restored. The pieces had to be without separation or confusion. They had to be freely given and received. When they were freely given, the splitting that occurred was the cause of what you assumed to be chaos the last time."

"Splitting doesn't always break things?"

"Of course not," He said. "Try giving of yourself sometime."

I passed the bread and fish and poured another glass of the the excellent vintage for each of us - no matter how much nose a wine has, it doesn't taste right out of a water bottle. While I masticated, He continued.

"There was a lot of splitting that day, and I don't mean the disciples!" He joked. "My body, the veil, the graves; and it was all part of setting things right, drawing them all together, making one new man out of two."

"What I did is all taken care of, then?" I asked Him. "Is there something I have to go and do?"

"My son, " He said as He rose from my recliner and reached out His open hand to me. I found myself finally on the floor at the feet of Armin Shimerman. "Go, and split no more." He disappeared. His voice returned for one last word. "Also, have some bread and wine."

He split. I plan not to do so again.