Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tradition and Reflection

Taking Portugal at a walking pace is comfortable and enlightening. This is a land to be ambled or strolled--and always savoured. Business and progress do not seem as urgent as greetings and cafe conversations. Or the past.

A pilgrim en route to Santiago de Compostela

Our path is enriched by reminders from the histories and legends swirling around St James' remains and the courageous, curious holy people who hoped to understand some of the impossibilities of life. It's sobering to think that at moments we are in their physical footprints. Steps they took without paths, roads, cafes, credit cards, and albergues.  Surely other moments we muse through their metaphysical steps--the journey is ongoing and unpredictable. The journey is being human. 

An immigrant memorialised at Castelo de Neiva

Reflecting on the very long ago and far away saints has a mystic quality. They seemed as much part of the next world then as they are now: living at the liminal edge of this material world and the needs of flesh and bones. Looking at the granite immigrant who represents the thousands fleeing war and oppression, a pattern of desperation-driven sacrifice emerges. No matter that those people fled a mere century ago: their stories parallel ours when we step out the door and have no clue where the day and path will take us; even as they parallel the cloak and staff pilgrims of the Middle Ages. 

We seek. We get distracted. Sometimes we push through. But for me, not often enough. I long for my seeking to be soul-sustaining. For my will to prove true and the way to prevail over distractions or whatever would prevent me from finally finding my way home. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

On Camino

We have been walking for a week now. We arrived in Lisboa and took the train up to Porto. It was a flash from our past. Twenty nine years and a couple months ago we arrived in Portgual to learn a most complex and gratifying language. One our teachers claimed was "dead" because it did not change. 

After nine months we continued on to Moçambique where we integrated our language skills into those of a colonised and presumably liberated people. We missed quite a lot on our first time here: dedicated to conquering a language to engage a people. In the shuffle, we somewhat missed the Portuguese themselves. 

This journey has been delightfully different. Now we speak their language, albeit with an African accent. We are practically welcomed back to family and encouraged and blessed now by the very colonisers we overlooked before. Our distant goals blinded us to closer treasure. 

This trip I am seeing this amazing people with new eyes. Before I saw their backward focus: everything pointed to their former glory days, the explorers. Now I grasp how important their heritage is. But I run ahead. That will come. 

Today I celebrate their appreciation of cats. Every city has a feline community, Portuguese have a special relationship with them which the cats understand. These cats are friendly. The shortest street in Porto has the largest cat mural I have ever seen.  Painted by Liqen, a Galician artist, this Blue Cat is inscrutable and enchanting. He has a frayed computer cord in his mouth and a bemused smile. Butterflies flit around him. He sits on a discarded motherboard and is either carrying a medieval city on his back or it nestles in the backdrop. His titanic paws are solid, yet the foreground is strewn with debris--a skull, even. And a random gondolier poles his barge of--is it pottery--across the cat's chest. 

I expect the cat to mysteriously wink at any moment. He's Portuguese, after all, and knows he is   important in the grand scheme. Whimsy brings ordinary things to new light. A truly Portuguese trait. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Sunset at 7:58

I sift the sand for poems
and scan the waves for dreams--
as the sun with salmon tresses
sinks blind between the seams
of day and night and dusk descends
and mountains at my back ring round
the pinkish purple skylight blends
and augurs coming dawn

Monday, February 4, 2019

Wave Walking in three parts

Tightly together two stand as
one against the surf,
a surf too mild 
for such unity:
his arm circles her shoulder,
clasps his hand on the other—
she leans into him, a hand
in his back pocket.
Sidelong close
her right, his left legs blend
thighs knit, knees lock.
Looking out where sea meets sky,
muted couple—not young or old
in middle years, why
do they feel taut,
straining to breathe?
what have they lost or won:
a child—a cancer—a curse?
Behind I softly circum-
navigate them in their
“only two”ness,
their unknown tomorrow
they walk into together.

Further on a smaller couple,
look-alikes, but she’s taller, 
hands interlocked and raised for
gentle waves greeting.
Laughing, crouching, jumping 
together to defeat
the bright benign surf.
Together, you two,
keep holding those hands:
create a habit to save his life or 
hers or yours—
Laugh, jump, celebrate
the tide of life
it’s ebb and flow.

And now in the rocky shallows
strewn with grittier sand and
kelp artistically splayed
she poses poised in
a white nothingness to enhance
bronze bareness.
She flings blonde tresses with artless grace
face upturned
to sun, then the 
downward sultry pout
and turn again, hand on hip,
knee raised, back bent,
hand to lip, to back of head—
All the while the ragged-haired men
with camera and lights
plod in the murky water
clicking, turning, focusing, almost kneeling;
who’s directing this 
liturgy of worship, 
praise to human sexuality?
Is she priestess—
acolytes follow with
candles and incense 
or goddess— 
she moves languidly,
for adoration, 
or offering—
evocation, supplication.
out of the shallows into shadows,
on the grainy beach,
she changes vestments and 
continues familiar ritual dances
for a faceless congregation 
in cyber-space

Thursday, January 24, 2019


If I had wings I soon would be
soaring swiftly out to sea--
scanning horizons for a whale
upon whose back I'd gladly sail.

Monday, December 31, 2018



Greetings, long-waited XIX.
Been looking forward to you for
some time--now you've
arrived. here. 
how are you
than yesterday, yesteryear.

I would ask a boon of you:
a letter from me
dated 31 Dec XIX.

Not a cheat sheet
not instructions or predictions;
but some steelstrong advice--

mistakes to avoid
blindsides to sidestep
trust not to make
which battles to battle
entanglements to untie
knowing what those things
that I cannot change
are . . .

all this I'd dearly love to know.

then perhaps
arriving at the end
with smiling eyes
I'd feel a "not bad"
in my gut--

would it make a difference?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Christmas, day 12 and Epiphany

Our final in this series of meditations on Elijah. This is Elijah's only appearance in the New Testament. We are never told the subject matter of the conversation--it clearly was not for our information or the disciples. It was Jesus' appointment. But the transfiguration was for the disciples. 

It brings me to think: why were these two specific people chosen, of all the saints in the Old Testament? What set them apart?  It was not the miraculous. It seems to be their thirst for the Presence and revelation of God. Lord, increase my thirst.

Christmas, day 12 and Epiphany.  Moses and Elijah

Mark 9: And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

dusty people
are we all
intricate formation
complex organisation
beyond imagination

chemicals and 
minerals, we
four bucks fifty:
for value thrifty
that’s pretty nifty

fragile earth
is not prepared
to fathom the gory,
truth-laden story
of the brunt of glory

to speak Life
into death:
who would God choose
to bring heaven’s news
to the One He would bruise?

Not the one called to leave it all
and sacrifice his son—
or that promise-out-of-time born son—
or the one who saved from famine—
or the one who defeated the giant—
or the one who lived in a fish—
or the one who slept with lions—
or the ones who walked in fire—

only two would God choose:
the one who saw the back of God

and the one who heard Him whisper