Thursday, September 30, 2010

Musical Notation: 2

Everything is His.

the door, the door jamb.

The wood stacked near the door.

The leaves blown upon the path

that leads to the door.

The trees that are dropping their leaves

the wind that is tripping them this way and that way,

the clouds that are high above them,

the stars that are sleeping now beyond the clouds

and, simply said, all the rest.

When I open the door I am so sure so sure

all this will be there, and it is.

I look around.

I fill my arms with the firewood.

I turn and enter His house, and close His door.

Everything is His.

Everything is Hers.

The bore, the log jamb

The wood lying in the field

The forest dying to make us doors

The trees are dropping into oblivion

Wind of change are tripping beings this way and that way

The storm of human conflict not above us

the gods that are sleeping now beyond prayers

And, simply said, there is no rest.

When a child moves aside the plastic door she is so sure

that the garbage dump will be there, and it is.

She looks around

And fills her arms with toys made of trash

And turns to enter His house, Her house.

Do we close the doors of our hearts?

Everything is His.

Everything is Hers.

Everything is Ours.

What tragedy calls out to you this morning and is it yours?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It doesn't have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try

to make them elaborate, this isn't

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

Just yesterday I wrote about doorways into loving and Mary uses a similar metaphor today, and so well. I wish I had this poem years ago when I was asked by a pilot in Afghanistan how to pray with her troops. She was leading a group stationed at a mountain airfield and they were coming under daily fire, and were dropping bombs on villages with innocent people. She said her troops were despairing and she asked me how she might pray with them. Our means of communication was email through the computer on her bomber. I don't remember what I said exactly, but it was something like this: Name the sorrow and fear. Name the thanks. Allow silence at the end so each individual's voice may be heard, and also so each could listen to the voices that arise.

So my prayer today would be:

Spirit of life, God and love of our hearts, I am grateful for the love within and without. I regret all those times I am not open to this love and keep it from reaching the depths within and without. Let me be quiet now in this moment, so I may listen within and without.....

What is your prayer today?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Place I Want to Get Back To

The Place I Want to Get Back To

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;

and so they come
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named

There are so many places to get back to:

  • The wild ocelot who nuzzled me in Tikal, Guatemala.
  • Discovering "Parrot Paradise" where over 200 parrots roosted every night
  • The last swim of the year in the Ichetucknee river in September
  • My wedding day
  • My dream of seeing an Ivory Billed Woodpecker
  • Hearing a voice on an airplane that let me know that love was enough/not enough and all there is

There are so many place to get to, and I hesitate to name one because that would seem to jinx the unexpected gift. Union with the companion by merging in love with this earth can come in so many ways in any of our days. I don't want to box out that possibility by boxing in how we may be surprised by love.

The sun rising through the trees says to me, "Here, now, not in the past, not in the future, today, this moment."

May gratitude today open the many doors that invite you to feel at home on this planet, in love, loved, and beloving.

What is your list of "places to get back too?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree Are the Words of the Lord


In the household of God, I have stumbled in recitation,

and in my mind I have wandered.

I have interrupted worship with discussion.

Once I extinguished the Gospel candle after all the others.

But never held the cup to my mouth lagging in gratitude.


The Lord forgives many things,

so I have heard..


The deer came into the field.

I saw her peaceful face and heard the shuffle of her breath.

She was sweetened by merriment and not afraid,

but bold to say

whose field she was crossing: spoke the tap of her foot:

It is God's and mine."

But only that she was born into the poem that God made, and

called the world....


It's close to hopeless,

for what I want to say the red-bird

has said already, and better, in a thousand trees.

The white bear, lifting one enormous paw, has said it better.

You cannot cross one hummock or furrow but it is

His holy ground.


I had such a longing for virtue, for company.

I wanted Christ to be as close as the cross I wear.

I wanted to read and serve, to touch the altar linen.

Instead I went back to the woods where not a single tree

turns its face away.

Instead I prayed, oh Lord, let me be something

useful and unpretentious.

Even the chimney swift sings.

Even the cobblestones have a task to do, and do it well.

Lord, let me be a flower, even a tare; or a sparrow.

Or the smallest bright stone in a ring worn by someone

brave and kind, whose name I will never know.

Lord, when I sleep I feel you near.

When I wake, and you are already wiping the stars away,

I rise quickly, hoping to be like your wild child

the rose, the honey-maker the honey-vine:

a bird shouting its joy as it floats

through the gift you have given us: another day.

Enough Mary! You are getting at something here that is uncomfortable.

As one author, Paul T. Corrigan, said of this volume, "Thirst," you elicit the human experience of tension between God and Earth. Your very title seeks to compare the two by saying that God's words are more beautiful than the locust tree. You would think it would not be much of a challenge, for as a child growing up in the Eastern U.S. I never found the Locust tree to be of much beauty. But then neither did I find God, his words, or his church to be much to bother about.

Times changed when I began to know of loss.

Since those dark times, my spiritual practice has been these last 15 years to find beauty in everything. Though I have not finished the journey, I go to others to ask these questions:

Is beauty in everything?

Is beauty enough?

In fact, I preached a sermon on this yesterday at the Unitarian Universalist Nature Coast congregation.

In my own experience, and in Mary's poems, I find my heart rate increase when I ask, "Why can't earth be enough?" and hear the answer, "It isn't." Like I fool, this response doesn't keep me from falling back in love over and over again with her. I also ask, "Why can't church be enough?" The answer too is, "It isn't" and damn my luck, I fall back in love over and over again with her.

Three months ago I left the parish ministry to serve as a community minister in multispecies ministry. I think it can be safely said then that I know of this tension between God and earth.. I hunger for God and thirst for reverence of the earth. There seems to always be something missing, and then suddenly everything is enough, and nothing is enough. I am a quiver of confusion and an arrow that I know not who points or where I will land.

A Native American legend is that the Thunder Spirit recognized his son by his ability to sit comfortably on locust branches, despite the thorns.

I don't know if comfort is too high a goal. Maybe though, me, no we - please join me - are truly Earth/God's children as we try to find more joy in a world where we are completely stuck. For out of these tensions, regeneration comes. Perhaps not just for us, but for the transformation of our society that comes from the wounds of loving Earth and God never enough.

In this poem, in this volume, the stakes are rising, and bless my heart, I am gaining insight into what exactly is at risk. It is the salvation of the earth's soul, which is also mine, and which is also Yours. Always.

Do you ever pit God against Earth? Do you accept both or neither?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Beautiful, Stripped Sparrow

in the afternoons,
in the almost empty fields,
i hum the hymns
i used to sing

in church.
they could not tame me,
so they would not keep me,

and how that feels,
the weight of it,
i will not tell
any of you,

not ever.
still, as they promised,
God, once he is in your heart,
is everywhere -

so even here
among the weeds
and the brisk trees.
how long does it take

to hum a hymn? strolling
one or two acres
of the sweetness
of the world,

not counting
a lapse, now and again,
of sheer emptiness.
once a deer

stood quietly at my side.
and sometimes the wind
has touched my cheek
like a spirit.

am i lonely?
the beautiful, striped sparrow,
serenely, on the tallest weed in his kingdom,
also sings without words.

I do not know how to properly analyze another's poem or another's heart. It doesn't seem the proper thing to do. So let me be improper. In this poem I do wonder if Mary regrets her years away from the church. Perhaps instead it is the years away from God, though I could have sworn she saw God everywhere in bird, tree, and flower. Maybe the difference was that her heart had not broken enough to let even more love and light in. Now it has. So she moves beyond words and poem. Her old ways of thinking don't capture the reality of the love, the entirety of it, and the humility of it. I too have walked in those lonely fields, singing "How Great Thou Art" feeling God as well as sparrow and tall grass.

Who or what comes to you in your loneliness?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Six Recognitions of the Lord


I know a lot of fancy words.

I tear them from my heart and my tongue.

Then I pray…..

I lounge on the grass, that's all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-where I have never been before….


Of course I have always known you

Are present in the clouds, and the

Black oak I especially adore, and the

Wings of birds. But you are present

Too in the body, listening to the body,

Teaching it to live, instead of all

That touching, with disembodied joy.

We do not do this easily….


Every summer the lilies rise
and open their white hands until they almost
cover the black waters of the pond. And I give
thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks,
it doesn't seem
festive enough or constant enough, nor does the
name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come
into it often enough Everywhere I go I am
treated like royalty, which I am not. I thirst and
am given water. My eyes thirst and I am given
the white lilies on the black water. My heart
sings but the apparatus of singing doesn't convey
half what it feels and means. In spring there's hope,
in fall the exquisite, necessary diminishing, in
winter I am as sleepy as any beast in its
leafy cave, but in summer there is
everywhere the luminous sprawl of gifts,
the hospitality of the Lord and my
inadequate answers as I row my beautiful, temporary body
through this water-lily world.

Harold Bloom in American Religious Poems says that there is a particular powerful theme in American poetry, especially the poetry that relates to nature. In these poems there appears over and over again the idea of humans as the risen Christ. We each are divinity, and this is reflected back to us from trees, birds, mountains, lakes, and flowers around us. Harold Bloom only briefly mentions Mary Oliver, but he wrote his volume before Thirst came out. If he had seen this poem I believe that he would have said, “I told you so.” In these astonishing lands through which I have travelled aplenty, we dissolve the self and yet build up the self at the same time. We humans are glorious only because we are everything else (and perhaps more depending on your theology), including the offspring of God, or God herself. I don’t know if this is a shift for Mary in her older years and after loss of loved ones, or if pain, confusion, love, and beauty has peeled back a layer that was always there behind her previous poems. As I turn the page to go on to the next poem, it is as if I am helping Mary peel back the layers in these leaves of poems, praying that I might do the same until there is nothing left but everything.

Where do you recognize divinity?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church: The Eucharist

Something has happened

To the bread

And the wine.

They have been blessed.

What now?

The body leans forward

To receive the gift

From the priest’s hand,

Then the chalice.

They are something else now

From what they were

Before this began.

I want

To see Jesus,

Maybe in the clouds

Or on the shore,

Just walking,

Beautiful man

And clearly

Someone else


On the hard days

I ask myself

If I ever will.

Also there are times

My body whispers to me

That I have.

I admit that the idea for doing this blog on Mary Oliver’s poems came from the movie “Julie and Julia.” In that movie one character finds meaning by cooking one of Julia Child’s recepies a day and then blogs about it over a year’s time. In one part of the movie she gets into a section of the cooking book of foods she doesn’t like - Chaud-Froid. This is where you cook meats and then serve them cold in sauces or in gelatin. I wonder if in some ways I have hit my Chaud-Froid section of Mary Oliver’s poems.

It’s not that I mind the metaphors and symbols of the Christian church; I just miss the ample references to the nonhuman world. Mary has always been lovely that way. Every day I can get out of the human centered world and see that the interdependence that tree is bird is me is you. Yet, in all those earlier poems I noticed that they didn’t get to the human condition so much, the suffering, the death, the loss, and the injustice. I missed that she didn’t address that.

So here we are, a poem about a man who asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves, even in the midst of our great pain and hurting. Now that’s a recipe that may not be easy to make or consume, but worth trying none-the-less. What else is love for?

What is your relationship with Christianity?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coming to God: First Days

Lord, what shall I do that I

Can’t quiet myself?

Here is the bread, and

Here is the cup, and

I can’t quiet myself.

To enter the language of transformation!

To learn the importance of stillness,

With one’s hands folded!

When will my eyes of rejoicing turn peaceful?

When will my joyful feel grow still?

When will my heart stop its prancing

As over the summer grass?

Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake.

I would climb the highest tree

To be that much closer.

Lord, I will learn also to kneel down

Into the world of the invisible,

The inscrutable and the everlasting.

Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree

On a day of no wind,

Bathed in light,

Like the wanderer who has come home at lat

And kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary thing;.

Every motion; even words.

Beyond loving then, there is stillness, emptiness, death. So much of Mary's work points us towards joy, and running towards union with love. At some point though even that is a superficial desire, a strategy to heal ourselves and be whole. How much must we let go? I suppose when a close one dies, we shock our system into contemplating that there is nothing but letting go to be done. It consumes us. Mary loses her poetry and bows down, no longer Mary of words. I lose my birds and bow down, no longer LoraKim of parrots. Ah. Nothing left but bowing and light. So I begin my day, turning to the east, turning over, in a deep bow to the sun.

What do you have left to lose?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Pretty Song

From the complications of loving you

I think there is no end or return.

No answer, no coming out of it.

Which is the only way to love, isn't it?

This isn't a play ground, this is

earth, our heaven, for a while.

Therefore I have given precedence

to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods

that hold you in the center of my world.

And I say to my body: grow thinner still.

And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.

And I say to my heart: rave on

I once had a dream in my early thirties. This was a time of me of conflict and pain, and my dreams captured this by having reoccurring themes of loss. In this one dream, I actually dreamed a music video that sang, "Love is not enough, and it ain't dead yet." Somehow in my wisdom I knew that the loss would never go away and the only response was to love all the harder, even though there was no guarantee that it would solve anything or lessen the pain.

Just this past weekend I helping to facilitate a Unitarian Univeralist spiritual retreat for the Mississippi congregations. In that time we as a group reflected on joys and sorrows and came up with a response to this. Our joy is the source of our sorrow - for we desire love and connection, and not getting "enough" of this causes pain. So our answer? Well, more love, more connection, more hope, and more joy. It's pretty much a "no brainer" and an "all hearter." What could be more simple, or more harder/hearter?

Today, whatever is your loss, please join with me in responding my loving more. For when we sing, "There is more love, somewhere" it can be now, with you, with us, this next breath.