Saturday, June 25, 2011


The atmospherics were perfect, cool, still, cloudy. I'd just found my blue slicker so I was ready for rain should it arrive. It has been raining for days, chill damp rain that makes me grateful for a reprieve before the bright, hot summer sets in. Today I woke to thunder and downpours, but they had stopped and the weeds were calling me.

I drove up Prospect Hill, an old ski and woodland oasis in the middle of the city. I parked my car between the two massive, concrete water cisterns and set out down my favorite path, the one between two old, dilapidating and graffitoed cinder-block ski huts that would serve nicely as hermitages. The crown vetch and tower mustards had gone crazy, and a reliable patch of spiderwort was blooming, but drooping with the morning's rain.

White moths fluttered around a surprising proliferation of Viper's Bugloss, mustards were busy going to seed and all sorts of clovers were blooming. I was happy to be alone -- but was I ? Bees and moths, ants and wasps, beetles and flies were everywhere. I felt a shiver of companionability. Weeds, bugs, humans -- swarms of us, here for our allotted time, then not.

Earlier in the day I had scanned a blog entry by a priest. He was going on, as they they tend to do, about fellowship, congregating, the virtues of "small groups," and, as usual, I had winced. Church is no place for the unsocial. It is like a planet with an atmosphere alien to our lungs. We breathe, yes, and we probably don't die, but our metabolism shoots into the red zone and our hair stands on end. Horrere.

We flee to the woods and dream of becoming Taoist hermits, of embracing a metaphysical Ground that doesn't have two eyes and four limbs and a thumping, circumcised heart.

I have been trying, with little success, to clear myself some space. The several workplace proposals I raised were shot down like the clay pigeons of an Olympic skeet shooting match. Blam, blam, blam !

So I take what solitude I can get. My car. My office. The woods. Under the bedclothes at night. In the dim laundry corner in the basement. I dream of smashing the pager with a hammer, crying Noli Me Tangere ! I dream of winter, a hut, a lamp, snow.

This is my intrinsic disorder. I may be loved in spite of it, but I must not act on it.

For that, brethren, would be a mortal sin.

Monday, June 20, 2011


A walk beside running water is good, and a walk downstream from falling water is better. Water is a fine accompaniment to whatever song might be running through one's head.

Salve Regina, I sang under my breath, up to the point of yet unmemorized Latin and neumes. It seemed right to be singing about banished children of Eve in the woods; it seemed right to be addressing mater misericordiae as I glanced at the dirty foam in the inlets of the brook beneath the falls, and at a trail of Bud Light cans in the rhus by the path.

On the threshold, one can take liberties. Marian devotion is not unheard of in certain neighborhoods of Episcopalia. There's little enough girl talk in the Big Book, so we take what we can get and run with it. I listened to a lecture, recently. The cleric was explaining how women could not be priests, but that they had plenty of other Biblically validated roles available. For example: virgin and widow.

Mother Mary, Mother Earth, Guan Yin, Bodhisattva of compassion. At the end of Compline, the last office of the day, monks sing a hymn to Mary. These are lovely hymns and I borrow them like vestiges of lullaby to and from my own mother.

In half-understood Latin, they are like the words we heard before we could speak, more melody than sense --

or like the sound of the stream falling over rocks and logs and discarded tires.

I've been taking pictures of weeds for 5 or 6 years now. Weeds have taught me a lot, and I am grateful for the teachings.

For example, I have learned that I, too, am a weed: common, undistinguished, tough but vulnerable, nothing special, but, paradoxically, one of a kind.

As I have lamented the onset of high summer -- the terrible, bright, green, hot, lush season -- the weeds have reminded me that each seed is a miniature winter, a well provisioned hut for dwelling safely underground, undersnow.

That may also serve as an image of heaven,

not an authorized image, however. It lacks a certain eschatological je-ne-sais-quoi.

I, on the other hand, am brimming with je ne sais quoi.

Let us take, for example, the homiletic cavil against the image of an "angry, vengeful God."

"Our God," boasts the man in white, to his credit meticulously avoiding the male pronoun even though it is Father's Day, "is a loving God, a God who adores each and every one of us individually, unconditionally, and more than we can ever imagine !"

You will be glad to hear that I did not spring to my feet, as if filled by the (un)Holy Spirit, and cry, "God may not be angry and vengeful, but neither is God loving and adoring ! The Numinous and Infinite Ground of Being does not have a freaking human heart (yes, yes, I know, I know -- there is the little matter of the Holy Trinity and its human-heart enabled Jesus plug-in) so let's get back to words like "awesome," "terrible," "incomprehensible" and cut the anthropomorphic crap that reduces "God" to a human simulacrum, a ginormous homunculus !"

That's the problem. Once you start with the words, logorrhea sets in; one might speak piously of Pentecost correcting Babel, but that begs the question of silence, as in "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep."

Weeds are prodigies of silence. Humans scatter words like pollen --

Hail, Birdsfoot Trefoil, full of grace

the Lord, so to speak, is with thee !

Blessed art thou and thy fruits,
now and at the hour of our death !


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Round Up

I have been on a long, strange journey, a journey through weeds and cathedrals, a circular journey which, like a dream, ends in waking. A damp, unseasonably warm week depletes itself in storms, clogged and rumbling ears in vertigo. And, voila, suddenly all is ordinary and convalescent, bright and still. Stand on your own two feet, sit on your own two cheeks. Everything returns to the body. The stories rise and evaporate. I've been tearing up scripts for days. Circus animals nuzzle my perimeters. Was it my Ouija hand or a parrot ? And who is that woman in the pew, peeking through her fingers ? She is tired. She was up all night writing Dear John letters. They clog her Missalette like unholy cards.