When the Wild Appears

In the forest
not far from the house
coyotes serenade moon shadows
climbing tall tree tops
disappearing into early morning sky

First, their sporadic yelps
then deep soulful cries
telling mythic stories only wild spirits can know
Our ears, tuned to another octave
mistake their passion for lonely discontent

For one fleeting moment
something wild, and unmistakably foreign
bubbles up inside us
Desperately lipsynching their sounds
we awkwardly hope to understand

Then, in scant early morning light
slender dog-like outlines appear
Sensing their presence, we kneel
thanking God for His presence, and
wondering where our wildness has gone

Winter Zen

Winter’s eve drawing nigh
Dark clouds hover, January sky
Fading firelight, flickers gloom
Dancing barefoot ‘cross the room

Huddled shadows hushing night
In your arms hold me tight
Sharp-edged snowflakes fall so still
White frost clings, nearby window sill

Longing for what’s not there
No comfort found, my rocking chair
Sitting still, motionless
Holding on, memories caress

Brutal cold winter night
Full moon shining, oh so bright
Sitting still by the fire
Surrender there, all desire

Life Between Our Plans

Remember when you were ten
and thought at twenty-one
you’d be all grown up and perfectly happy?

Then, when you were thirteen
your father dropped dead of a heart attack
and your family all but fell apart.

Remember when you were twenty-one
and thought at forty
you’d have life all figured out?

Then, just as you finished college at twenty-two
you became pregnant with Jessica
and your plans to become a trial lawyer ended.

Remember when you were forty-five
all three kids were on their own, and you thought
you could launch a writing career?

Then, two days after your first book was accepted
your mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and
all your energy shifted to caring for her.

Remember when you were sixty-five
had published eight books, and you thought
Tom and you could finally relax and smell the roses?

Then, when you were sixty-seven
Tom died after a prolonged battle with cancer
and Jessica entered rehab for alcoholism.

Remember just yesterday, on your eighty-third birthday
you marveled at how life seems to happen
in between all the plans we make?

Nothing could be more true.

The True Blessings of Christmas

Look about
So much we have
Much more than needed
Certainly to survive
Let alone be happy

Deep down we sense
happiness is without attachment
Not another possession
Not from having anything, or anybody
Happiness: unconditional and beyond conditioning

Again, Christmas’ spell falls upon us
Showering us with so much–
The fruits of our conscious desires,
our bubbling hopes, and
even stronger, our unconscious dreams

It’s the dreams making me wonder
So powerful. Like nuclear bombs
exploding inside us
Rippling throughout our beings
Giving rise to that before the expected

Yes, look about
See past what you see
Hear beyond the words
Receive Christmas’ true blessings:
Peace, joy, gratitude, and love

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

About the Carol: 180 years ago the carol “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht”
was heard for the first time in a village church in Oberndorf, Austria.
The congregation at that Midnight Mass in St. Nicholas Church listened
as the voices of the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Mohr, and the choir
director, Franz Xaver Gruber, rang through the church to the accompaniment
of Fr. Mohr’s guitar. On each of the six verses, the choir repeated the last
two lines in four-part harmony.

Merry Christmas, Words Coming Close

The Holy, born within us
God’s seed resting, and awaiting
the right moment to open

Starting as a dream, bubbling up
filling us, and then
enveloping our being, like golden sunshine

His promise, now ours to keep
and grow through our lifetime
Not in one way, but all ways

In His likeness, we grow
Wedded to something higher
Something Christ-like

Ever-present, ineffable
Always there, lifting up our spirits
just when we need it

Perfectly unlimited, beyond words
but one said so many ways comes close: Merry Christmas
Èestit i sretan Božiæ, Christhu Jayanthi Nalvaalthukal
Nollaig Shona Dhuit, Kreesmasko shubhkaamnaa
Noheli nziza, Eid Milad Majeed
Froehliche Weihnachten, Joyeux Noël
Felices Navidad, Bon Natale

Christmas Memories

Memories, Christmases past
Fond ones, childhood fantasies
Sugar plums dancing through our heads
Magical ones, dreams materializing under the tree

Not just about things, but people
Those we love, family, friends
Surprise, a heavy snowfall on Christmas Eve
Blanketing earth, silencing the daily clamor

Wonder, the Christ Miracle, wrapped in story
Unfolded, enacted, over and over again
Finally, engraining itself in our souls–
Its purpose in the first place

Learning to give, of ourselves, to others
Family, hearts tethered together
Those loving us most, and
Giving to us before themselves

Beauty in color, rainbows donning evergreens
Wispy gray smoke, spirits drifting across rooftops
Bright reds and greens, blood and life eternal
Rosy cheeks, Jack Frost nipping at our toes

Special sounds, sleigh bells in the snow
Christmas carols, Silent Night
Hearty laughter, tears of joy, and
Best of all, hovering golden silence

Christmas, always going beyond ourselves
In so doing, finding our true selves
Christmas, the magic inside us
Christmas memories, remembering life is a gift

Within the Shadows

Something wild rages
just out of reach of the sun’s touch
and beyond the moon’s forever lost call
An unspeakable wildness somehow we know

And down below, and beyond
the incarnate always walk alone, and dance
at midnight with the eternal flame
extinguishing the inner darkness

And in those shadows
the empty hollows fill with twilight’s wonders
and silence clings to our soul
like dreams to our first waking breath

And should danger appear, remember:
He that dwelleth in the secret place
of the most High shall abide
under the shadow of the Alimighty

Footnote: Last stanza from Psalms 91:1

St. James Cathedral, Toronto

Large decorative front doors
Opening our hearts wide

In a good way, Anglican
With sharp edges probing us

Old, reaching out to the ageless
Making us feel our timelessness

Ornate beauty, inspiring us to find
What lingers just beyond our grasp
But causes us to rise
Above our small selves

Light through stain-glass windows
Streaming through us
Into our souls

Angelic voices, capturing our sweetness
Carrying us high above

Faces, all shades of the rainbow
God’s love, from all directions
On Third Advent Sunday
At St. James Cathedral in Toronto

Wearing Cowboy Boots to Toronto

There they were
At the very back of my closet
I smiled
They shined back at me
My black leather
white-stitched Tony Llamas

Why not wear them to Toronto?
It’s winter
The weather forecast says snow, lots of it
My mind is made up
I don the boots

Everything fine and dandy…
until airport security
Nearly fell on my face
Hopping around
Trying to remove the boots
in the security line
My wife rolls her eyes
The lady behind us muffles a laugh
What could I do?
I crack up too

Two hours later
Immigration line, Toronto Airport
I catch the guy next to me
staring at my shiny black boots
He quips: Cowboy, eh?
I saw his smirk
He thought he had me
I paused
He had this one coming
Yessiree
Howdy pardner
I’m Slim Aikens
County western singer from San Antone

Mind you…my cowboy accent is good
The man’s smile vanishes
from his chubby face
He bought my story
Hook, line and sinker
I pushed on
Singin’ at the Royal York tomorrow night
Stop on down

Regaining his composure, the man replies
No thank you
Not much of a country music fan
My wife shoots me a glare at this point
I had gone too far
Several people were now looking our way

We were rescued by the immigration officer
Next!
Occupation? Oh wait I know…
You’re the Country singer Slim Aikens
Reason for your visit to Canada?
Strictly pleasure
Pleasure, eh?
Seems you got an early start in line
He winked and waved us on through

I was in DEEP trouble with my wife
All because of these stupid boots
Needless to say
I removed them in the cab
They never did see Toronto

December Daybreak

Deafening quiet December morning
Still cold air surrounds and bites at nothingness

Fresh white snow…piled deep, muffles
worldly worries and woes

Light creeps slowly into day, through naked trees
awakening bright red cardinals
plopping from perches into glittering snow
in search of first light breakfast

No highway sounds, lawnmower roars
only the sound of lingering stillness
hushing the heart into patient repose

Santa, Santa, Forget Me Not

Santa, Santa, forget me not
All year long, been a good tot
Made my bed, said my prayers
Ladies sit down, pulled out their chairs

Santa, Santa, forget me not
I’m good as gold, sister’s not
She pulled my hair, pinched me hard
Slut pushed me down in the yard

Santa, Santa, forget me not
Presents for everyone, I have bought
For me all I want is that choo-choo train
If I don’t get it, I’ll go insane

Santa, Santa, forget me not
Last year what you brought was squat
Reason you said is I’m a tattle tale
Good all year, not one did I blackmail

Santa, Santa, forget me not
I’ll leave you cookies, cocoa hot
Want a date with my mom?
She’s real hot, a real cherry bomb

Santa, Santa, forget me not
Got your note, postman brought
Says I broke the golden rule
Can’t trick me, I’m no fool

Santa, Santa, forget me not
Just a few things, I forgot
Forgive me please, I’ll change my ways
Bring that train, you, I will amaze

Santa, Santa, why no response
Why this asinine nonchalance
Give me exactly what I want
Or you, my ghost will forever haunt

Breaking Ego’s Hold

Ego servants, you and me
To things we love, can’t get free
Ensnared we are by selfish pride
Forgetting that, in God we all abide

So much energy oft gets spent
In things propelling our descent
In things focused just on you and me
Leaving no thought to humanity

Habits learned over a lifetime
Worsen yet in our prime
For it’s then, we’re at the top
Afraid we are, bad habits stop

Off course at times, we steer our ship
Hard it is to get a grip
And change our proud and selfish side
The dark parts of us, we cannot hide

Because it’s hard, that’s no excuse
Around our necks remains the noose
While no easy answers within our reach
Must we each day, practice what we preach

Our Stations in Life

Stations in life
Places we find ourselves
Often when we least suspect it

Positions we assume
Unknowingly and otherwise

Parts of our journey
Sometimes journeys within journeys

Once conscious
always offering us a view
if we choose to look

A place for seeing, and
escaping what we don’t want to see

As simple as looking into someone’s eyes
Reflecting on a conversation
Giving up what you want deeply
Letting go of one station
without the next one being known

On Advent He Speaks

God speaks to us, always
Even when we think He’s not there
He speaks through everything
and nothing
Not always words
Other signs and wonders

His, a voice inside, coaxing us:
Be true to ourselves
Be true to Him
Honor the Essence, He says
That which comes before
Honor the Creator, the Holy One

Sometimes we want our words
to be His words
Sometimes there are no words
Just silence stilling our souls
Sometimes we forget He’s there
Just His presence, watching over us

Christmas nearing
He reminds us to commune
and shine in Christ’s love
In each breath, Advent
An eternal coming
Within His words and silence

On Being Present

Don’t look back, you’ll only see
A faint, disappearing reality
Your past may beckon, set it free
Things behind you, let them be

Ahead of you, the future lies
Much to come, a surprise
Look ahead, if you will
But careful not, the present kill

Always in the now you are
Dangling even, from afar
Soon enough, the future comes
Now again, it becomes

Time escapes all of us
In between, we are thus
No matter where you are sent
Try your best, be present

Saturday Evening Fireside Reflections

Life…
That which breathes
Returns breath, and
ventures forth into death

Death…
That needing no breath
Beyond immediate comprehension
Waiting on all of us

Breath…
Borrowed at best
Wind, blowing through us
Carrying us to death’s doorstep

Truth…
Breath’s best friend
Always a step away
Everything we are and beyond

The end…
Filled with new beginnings
Always escaping us
Infinity’s juxtaposition

December Comes Again

December
Twelfth month, last page
Sagittarius, Capricorn
Signs, influences, wonders

An end, soon a new beginning
Short days, long nights
Out my window, naked trees
dancing with flirting snowflakes

Lone whitetail deer
Snow-covered forest path
Standing still
All about, winter’s cold breath

Colorful wrapping papers, silky bows
Red and green greeting cards
Sweet-smelling evergreen
Christmas, here soon

December comes again