Monthly Archives: April 2023


For twenty years, this tree has provided a shady place on hot summer days, a beautiful foliage display in Autumn, and a favorite vantage point for our cats to look for birds, mice, and moles. On the back side, it’s charred from just above the base to the first big split – a scar from a former neighbor’s thoughtless and reckless trash burning. Blizzards and Nor’easters have taken their toll, and weakened it to the point where it is a potential hazard to two houses, a garage, and the fence. An arborist is removing it today. I am sorry to lose this silent resident that has added so much to my life without much notice or appreciation on my part.

The beauty and impact of many living things are subtle, only coming to awareness when they are no longer present, or soon to be gone. Love and strength come in many forms, some bearing leaves if not audible voices. With gratitude for twenty years of hospitality, and regret for not offering them earlier and often, God be with you, kind neighbor.

Personal Appearances

Personal items are boxed or tucked into drawers. The shades are pulled to the same length, toiletries and Kleenex boxes are next to the razors and toothbrushes in the bathroom closet. Cat bowls and scratching posts are in the basement next to the boot tray, and the cats are off site. Rooms are clean and tidy. Other than the books on the shelves and food in the cupboards, there are few traces of the people who live here. We have done our best to create a space where potential buyers can imagine themselves living because this house is for sale.

I am keenly aware of the particularity of the places I’ve called home, and how traces of my family are evident in almost every corner of every room – things we’ve chosen to put on the walls and tables because one or more of us find them beautiful or useful, things that say something about who we are and what we hold dear. Our personalities appear in them, making our home as unique to us as our neighbors’ homes are unique to them. And that is as it should be.

Clearing all the living spaces so that new people can imagine calling this house home is a lot of work, but I’m happy to do it. It’s time for other people to hang their own pictures on these walls and set their chairs on the back porch. Removing things that get in the way of their coming is, in its own way, is the best welcome I can offer.

[Photo by David Fredrickson]


The wisps of cloud dipping down mark its edge. There’s a soft rustling and a faint brush of moist air. It’s rare in this part of the world – a visible wall of rain moving down the mountain toward me.

These few words and this image are the best way I can offer an experience of it, but it isn’t something easy to recognize from a photo or description. They might help you recognize what they indicate sometime in the future, or bring to mind an experience you’ve already had of rain coming in. They may draw you in to the experience, past or yet to be.

Sometimes, I think that’s what scripture is – humanity’s best attempt to share an experience of God in word and image. If you’ve already had the experience, they will draw you back into it. If your experience is yet to come, they’ll guarantee you know it when it arrives…


While out on the beach there are two empty chairs that say more than the people who ever sit there.

Jimmy Buffett, Lone Palm, Fruitcakes; UMG recordings, 1994

They’re nothing special – you can pick them up in any hardware store. But without them, would I stay still long enough to notice the big, beautiful world just outside my door? Without a second chair, how would I catch a glimpse of the inner life of the friends, neighbors, and family members who grace my life with their presence?

In Jimmy Buffett’s song, I figured that the empty chairs represented missed opportunities – no one ever sat there. But it could just as easily mean that the chairs themselves speak to what time and vantage point offer us every day: a shared glimpse of the inner and outer worlds we inhabit.

A view, a loving other, and an awareness of their value. For these valuable things, I thank you, God.

Life on Schedule

This morning, I was pruning back the branches of a spindly shrub, then taking the dead branches back to the brush pile. Walking back to the house, I saw this bit of green poking through the dirt.

The chives I divided from my plant in Wareham had emerged, pushing back the crumbly dirt and last year’s leafy leftovers. I’d started looking for it well over a week ago. The irises, lilies, and daffodils were coming up, but no chives; because chives usually appear earlier than the flowers, I assumed that it hadn’t made it through the winter. Yet, here they were, several inches in length, healthy and happy in this new place. With barely any attention, they will be here for years to come, adding flavor to food and beauty to the yard.

Life has its own timing, and doesn’t limit itself to my schedule or expectations. I may plant, tend, and harvest, but the plants are following their own inner logic and timeline. There’s something wonderful about that – and it’s good to be reminded that life has its own terms.

If I could remember that truth when it comes to all life, including people, I’d be a whole lot closer to wisdom and graciousness.

The Greatest Mystery

And what is this that we call love?

Tell me, what is this mystic secret hiding behind the semblance of our lives,

And living in the heart of our existence?

What is this vast release coming as a cause to all effects, and as an effect unto all causes?

What is this quickening that gathers death and life and from them creates a dream

more strange than life, and deeper far than death?

[Kahlil Gibran, Prose Poems, (Andrew Ghareeb, trans.); New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1934, pp.5-6]

At the end of this Lenten journey, almost at the feast/betrayal/death, how can I not wonder at the vastness of God’s love and the dreadful depth of human fear that would kill it rather than embrace it?

Walking the Walk

An almost-healed ankle sprain has me walking a bit slower than usual, and taking advantage of the many benches Manchester’s downtown offers. That’s how I ended up in this spot on Saturday, seated on one stone bench and facing another – a pause between the bookstore and the woodworkers’ shop. What has hindered my activities for weeks has also opened spaces in going from one item on my to-do list (Easter cards) to the next one (box for organizing). Had I not needed to stop, I wouldn’t have noticed the beautiful curve of the walkway I was soon to take.

The curve itself is an example of functional beauty, but it also offers something in its curvature: a change of perspective for anyone who walks it. What a lovely way to be reminded of the world that lies between point A and point B – and what a grace it is to spend time in the in-between part of the journey.

Letting go of what doesn’t matter: The frustration of moving slower than usual.

Loving what does: The beauty that a slower pace and curved path offer.


Rain has buried most of the scattered snow islands, giving the wild thyme a drink and encouragement to grow. There’s still snow on the mountains, creating the fog rising over Route 7 – a ribbon of mist that marks and obscures the highway all at once. With the drumming of the rain on the roof and the cover of mist on the road, I have no idea how many people are on the road, what they are driving, or which direction they find themselves going. I acknowledge the mystery that I see, but my recognition of it doesn’t give me any insight into what is behind the veil. Unless I travel the road myself, or someone gets off at my exit and tells traveling tales, I’ll never get beyond knowing that there’s a mystery in my backyard.

Where are you going? What wonder, grief, and joy accompany you? Who has loved you, and whom have you loved long and well? Do you know how precious and unique you are – and how that’s true for every living thing?

If there’s any chance of catching a glimpse of what’s behind the veil, it’ll come through just such questions. All that’s required of me is a listening ear, time, and hospitality – and, perhaps, a willingness to share my own life’s travel tales.

Loving what matters: The mystery of the here and now – and a glimpse behind the veil.

Letting go of what doesn’t: The worry that there’s nothing behind the veil.