Yearly Archives 2021

Ninth Annual Holiday Photo Gallery

Nine revolutions around the sun for “Traversing” this week, which lands us on the doorstep of our Ninth Annual Holiday Photo Gallery. Today, we will wander as we please, linger where we want, and emerge all the better in the spiritual and aesthetic nourishment that is so fundamental to our very survival as self-reflective creatures with an eye always scanning ahead toward more joyful horizons.

May these shots from stellar photographers around the world be worth more than any 1,000 words I could pull together as we inch ahead, ready or not—because time just does not care—toward 2022.

With the good news being: still here!


Poof! Good-bye, 2021…by Doug Wheller


She’s a lady—and an imposing one, at least from this angle…by dr.larsbergmann


Apparently not his first rodeo…by Klim Musalimov


Just another crazed cumulus…by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


Into the mystic in Mya...

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What Is Sacred Space?

At this time of year when much of the world is observing events steeped in ancient lore and enchantments, what can we say about the settings and places where we perceive something as sacred? What do we even mean by “sacred space?” What qualities must any space reflect to be deemed “sacred?” Who decides what those qualities are?

Years ago, “U.S. News & World Report” ran a lengthy cover story headlined, “Sacred Places.” Its rather exhaustive list of such places contained all the usual suspects, though it was dominated by buildings and monuments.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

The Golden Temple in India.

Stonehenge, Karnak in Egypt, the temple of Confucius, the entire city of Mecca.

Interestingly, there was little said about awe-inspiring natural settings—the Grand Canyon, Mt...

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Brilliant Songs #26: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo”

We’re into our annual holiday music mode, our surroundings suffused with traditional Christmas carols and pop songs saluting the season. Little drummer boys going pa rum pum pum pum, sleigh bells jingle-ing, ring-ting tingle-ing, oh, but we have a merry time gliding through the malls and filling our baskets with impossibly packaged toys that resist penetration with all the impregnable fortitude of Fort Knox, do we not?

But amidst all the commercial ballyhoo, there lies a more contemplative dimension: that of a sacred inwardness, a bow to darkened days, the denuded trees and grayed skies of winter, with its incipient if distant promise of renewal.

In much of the world, the symbol of this promise revolves around a child born in a manger to a poor couple, a special star appearing in the sky to note this birth was destined to transform the world...

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Spiritual or Religious? Walking the Language Tightrope

When I served as president of the board at my Unitarian Universalist (UU) church years ago, I commenced one board meeting with the check-in question, “Spiritual or religious? Church or congregation? Worship or service?”

These were actually one question, the dual poles of which are reflective, I think, of a (mostly) healthy and perhaps eternal tension among and between people who profess to practice a religion and others who have fled organized, overtly theistic religion but who retain an avowed “spiritual” orientation to serve as a North Star in their lives.

.In the case of UUs, I had to include the “church or congregation?” snippet because some members resisted calling what we did there every Sunday and most all the days in between “church,” despite the entire setting and context and rituals being pretty much indistinguishable from what that word has always meant to people across the religious firmame...

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Not Just Splashing Around: Maxine Kumin’s “Morning Swim”

Swimming is a fine and salutary activity—aesthetically pleasing, easy on joints, good for heart and soul, huge fun for kids exhausting themselves on a summer day splashing around, playing “Marco Polo” and hoisting themselves onto the deck for endless cannonball jumps into the water as parents keep an eye out from nearby chaise lounges, the drink holders securing their refreshments of choice.

What’s not to love?

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) loved swimming too, but her “Morning Swim” poem, first published in “The New Yorker” magazine in 1962 and later in a couple of collections, isn’t about any of the swimming described above.

Kumin was a lifelong swimmer (on the team all four years at Radcliffe) who took to the water with a poet’s sensibilities. The particular swim she describes—in the “chilly solitude” of dark morning fog in a lake, “oily and nude” after hanging her bathrobe on ...

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