Monthly Archives August 2013

The True “Twilight Zone”

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my brother landed a paper route, distributing the Eagle Rock Sentinel on Thursday and Sunday mornings. It meant getting up at 5 a.m., walking six or seven blocks to the drop-off point, bagging up papers on the street corner in the dark, then hoofing it up and down a hillside neighborhood for a couple of hours, dropping a paper as near to every porch as possible (especially those whose owners were known to tip an extra dime on top of the 40-cent monthly fee).

Pete was three years older and already showing the entrepreneurial bent that would lead him to a long career as a partner in an accounting firm. So he hired me to help deliver the papers, scoring me my own bag so we could walk up both sides of each block and thus cut the delivery time in half.

He paid me the princely sum of a dollar for each such outing, eight dollars a month...

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Conversations With My Massage Therapist

We have a problem. It’s a knot, a tangle; we’re not quite sure whether to pull or push or just set it afire. It’s thorny, unapproachable, but we want a solution, we want to ditch this pain, this tension, the one in our shoulder especially, the right shoulder, the one that always bitches at us as it takes on our woes. (Or does it cause them?)

This big bag of skin, encasing these mysterious organs moving blood and bile, and this exquisite system of levers and pulleys and pivoting joints, muscles for climbing and lifting, smiling and punching and kissing—our servant or our master? Do we pound it into a solution or beg for its bestowal of grace and relief?

I have a body encasing a mind and spirit, I am a body of mind and spirit, I am a bodyspiritmind. I am that I am. That’s a quote reportedly from God himself, but it feels pretty right for this body and its fingers typing these words.

Meanwhile: My m...

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A Sermon on Forgiveness

The kind people at the Unitarian Universalist Community of Lake County invite me a time or two every year to step into their pulpit and deliver a guest sermon. Earlier today, I shared this message on forgiveness with them, which serves as a kind of followup and elaboration to my post last April in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. I found it useful to return to this topic in a more expansive way after some time had passed, and I hope readers may get further food for thought as well.

Forgiveness is one of those topics we’re never quite done with in human life. The “I’m sorry/That’s OK, I forgive you” dynamic gets introduced to us sometime in our toddler years, when we inadvertently take a whack at our grandma’s nose while reaching for her glasses and our parents, aghast, tell us with great earnestness, “You hurt Grandma, tell her you’re sorry!” Mortified and confused, we mumble something and hope ...

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Darkness, Troubles & Sunflowers

Life ain’t easy. “When you’re dark and troubled…” begins the Carole King song that was made even more famous by James Taylor. When we hear these first words to “You’ve Got a Friend,” all of us inch right up to the edge of our seats and bob our necks forward in anticipation, because we know in our bones this what of being “dark and troubled,” oh yes we do. It’s the human lot, at least on occasion, and when the Brood Brothers descend and linger, wearing their dark suits with midnight-black shirts and matching hankies, we know they’re not our friends, and we need a Carole King and James Taylor to fill in the second half of that opening line, that dependent clause, with a soulful, wise and expansive response.

Or else, at the peak of summer, we can consider the sunflower.

Let’s, shall we?

Sunflowers are part of a huge family—think Italian baptisms with dozens of long tables set out in the coun...

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John Muir and the Wild Calm Within

Why do I always feel, when I am meandering about in the mountains, so wildly free and self-possessed, and at the same time so puny and insignificant? Does the vastness and majesty of the setting release some heretofore unknown chemical that allows me to settle contentedly into my niche as a speck of cosmic dust, desiring nothing more than to exist in this moment of plain clarity and calm?

These are questions the naturalist John Muir may well have asked himself at age 30 when he nixed an offer of a partnership in an Indiana machine shop that made wagon wheels and set out to discover the world. He first headed to Florida on a 1,000-mile walk and eventually crossed back over the continent toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains, over which he was to spend much of the rest of his life tramping...

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