Monthly Archives: August 2020

Forgotten Language

Once I spoke the language of the flowers,

Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,

Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,

And shared a conversation with the housefly

in my bed.

Once I heard and answered all the questions

of the crickets,

And joined the crying of each falling dying

flake of snow,

Once I spoke the language of the flowers….

How did it go?

How did it go?

[Shel Silverstein, Forgotten Language, Where the Sidewalk Ends; New York: HarperCollins, 1974, p. 149]

I don’t know if it’s so much forgetting the languages as it is forgetting that each form of life has its own life and language. It’s one of the reasons I love spending time in the garden and walking in woods, on beaches, and down the familiar streets of this town I call home: my selfish deafness to the languages of non-human life is lifted, if just for a few minutes.

Ann’s Colors

Colors (by Shel Silverstein)

My skin is kind of sort of brownish

Pinkish yellowish white.

My eyes are greyish blueish green,

But I’m told they look orange in the night.

My hair is reddish blondish brown,

But it’s silver when it’s wet.

And all the colors I am inside

Have not been invented yet.

[Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends, New York: HarperCollins, 1974, p. 24]

Ann Fowler picked this poem to share for last Thursday’s poetry reading. The theme was “color,” and these eight lines are all about that. In fifty words (a few more, if you count the contractions as two words), a simple and profound truth: what we are on the inside is so much more than a passing glance of the outside reveals.

Twenty-six years ago today, I stood with my love in a church chapel. We said our vows and began a whole new adventure. I know Dave better than most do, but I don’t kid myself into thinking I’ve seen all his inside colors. There’s a lot more to see.

But what I have seen these past twenty-six years: amazing.

August 25, 2020

Neruda’s Flowers

Ode to some yellow flowers

Rolling its blues against another blue,

the sea, and against the sky

some yellow flowers.

October is on its way.

And although 

the sea may well be important, with its unfolding

myths, its purpose and its risings,

when the gold of a single

yellow plant


in the sand

your eyes

are bound

to the soil.

They flee the wide sea and its heavings.

                    We are dust and to dust return.

                     In the end we’re

                   neither air, nor fire, nor water,



neither more nor less, just dirt,

and maybe

some yellow flowers.

[Neruda, Odes to common things; New York: Bulfinch Press, 1994, p. 57]

Neither more nor less than dirt – an Ash Wednesday sentiment. It’s true, too, in its own way. We are no more nor are we any less than ashes and dirt. Except we are also God’s beloved. Neruda never states that, at least not explicitly. Still, there are the yellow flowers. Perhaps, just perhaps, they are a glimpse of divine love.

On Not Finding You At Home

Usually you appear at the front door

when you hear my steps on the gravel,

but today the door was closed,

not a wisp of pale smoke from the chimney.

I peered into a window

but there was nothing but a table and a comb,

some yellow flowers in a glass of water

and dark shadows in the corner of the room.

I stood for a while under the big tree

and listened to the wind and the birds,

your wind and your birds,

your dark green woods beyond the clearing.

This is not what it’s like to be you,

I realized as a few of your magnificent clouds

flew over the rooftop.

It is just me thinking about being you.

And before I headed back down the hill,

I walked in a circle around your house,

making an invisible line

which you would have to cross before dark.

[Billy Collins, The Trouble With Poetry (and other poems); New York: Random House, 2005, p. 58]

I’ll never know what it’s like to be you, only what it’s like to pretend to be you. I’d be wise to remember that. The best I can do: join hands with you and share the secrets of our holy and wholly different lives.

Contemporary Announcement (1983)

Contemporary Announcement 

Ring the big bells,

cook the cow, 

put on your silver locket.

The landlord is knocking on the door

and I’ve got the rent in my pocket.

Douse the lights,

Hold your breath,

take my heart in your hand.

I lost my job two weeks ago

and rent day’s here again.

[Maya Angelou, Contemporary Announcement; Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?; New York: Random House, 1983]

That wonderful feeling when there’s enough money to cover the basics: food, clothing, shelter. The dread and shame when there’s not enough money to cover the basics: food clothing, shelter. In just two paragraphs and a word short of a full deck’s count, Maya Angelou puts us in that rented apartment.

These words are being lived out by millions today, thirty plus years after Angelou published them. Will we ever learn that poverty is not a moral shortcoming or a character flaw?

Jesus, Saint Francis, and Gandhi all figured that out. I have hope the rest of us can, too.


A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away

And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door

When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.

The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong

In wanting to silence any song.  Robert Frost

[Frost, A Minor Bird; A New Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems; New York: Washington Square Press, 1971, p.199]

Sometimes, the songs I try to silence are beautiful. Other times, perhaps they are the ones I most need to hear.  In a world full of people singing their truth or spinning lies, the least I can do is pay attention.

Rumi’s Star

A Star Without A Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,

it easily forgets her

and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,

then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light

and work your way toward wisdom

with no personal covering.

That’s how you came here, like a star

without a name. Move across the nightsky

with those anonymous lights.

[Rumi, Say I Am You, John Moyne and Coleman Barks, trans.; Athens, GA: MAYPOP, 1994, p. 59]

My friend Eldon firmly believed that the name you were given influenced the person you would become. Unlike a rose, Eldon wouldn’t be the same (man) under any other name. He has a point.

God’s name isn’t spoken or written out in Hebrew – assigning a name might lead to the erroneous conviction that any human mind or heart could encompass all that God is (was/will be). It’s a valid point.

Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to embrace a nameless state, just as before we were born and grown. We might have an easier time remembering that we cannot be contained by whatever letters comprise our monikers; and we might dare believe that the infinite God dwells within us as surely as in the limitless beyond. Just maybe, our life’s point.

The Pasture – An Invitation

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan’t be gone long. – You come  too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf

That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan’t be gone long. – You come too.

[Robert Frost, The Pasture, Anthology of Robert Frost’s Poems; New York: Washington Square Press, 1971, p. 15. It’s the first poem in many Frost collections – his invitation to his readers to join him in seeing the wonder that waits just outside the door. Or inside it, for that matter. ]

This isn’t an invitation to a party or a once-in-a-great-while gathering. This is an invitation to come along on the mundane traipsings of daily life, and to help out with the day’s work – lending a hand, or at least providing good company.

Only a select few are asked to come along for these little trips that will add up to a lifetime.

Treasure such invitations, and for God’s sake as well as your own, grab your jacket and go.