Monday, December 31, 2012

“In a sacred manner I walk”     Black Elk Speaks    

2012 was a year for coyotes. At home, I met them in the yard, and heard them singing    in the night.
Then, as I stood beside a thinly-restored, strip mined Alabama landscape, I heard a vast coyote chorus insanely yapping at the setting sun, like demented choirboys mocking the efforts of a damaged earth to heal. 
But coyotes do not mock the earth. These, after all, were heyoka tricksters of the Spirit, who only seem to lie,
And to ally
Themselves with what is most bleak and dry
Within the self.
In time, I come to see that they have drawn me out
Beyond my customary hunting-place,
To where I can hear their voices differently,
And now I see
The one that they were laughing at
Was me

Not “me” as I am at this moment, but “me” the scoffer,   
The safely cynical,
The strip miner,
The heedless coal-consumer,
The crucifier,
The one who “wags his head” at a humiliated earth and scolds the Christ for having dared to venture out     
                  from  heaven.
“See what happens?” I jeer. “What did you expect?” I howl.

But these coyotes have tricked me again,
lulled my well-defended soul into complacency,
And now I can hear them differently, laughing still
But no longer at the struggling pine trees and violated earth, but with them,
And with the resurrecting self in me
That loves coyotes and will not die.

“In a sacred manner I will walk,” they cry. 
And in a sacred manner I will die, and burn like coal in sacrificial fire.
Only in a sacred manner I will walk and talk.
“Only In a sacred manner I will walk,” they cry.
Only in a sacred manner I will die. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Meditation on Luke 1:39-45  The pregnant Virgin visits her cousin Elizabeth, also unexpectedly

This gospel story has to do with the outrageous joy of those who find themselves unexpectedly blessed.

What is so outrageous about joy? Because it persists and rebounds amongst the shambles of a violent world, a place of murdered children and their martyred minders, a place that sees  grieving parents blamed by pistol-packing pastors and the funerals of innocents picketed by professional haters.

Outrageous because we ourselves are killers,  sending out unmanned drones to patrol the outskirts of our empire, like guardian angels with their souls detached and projected through the air from  a thousand miles away, projected into space and refracted back, lethal as a crossbow or a spear, except not so precisely aimed. In this way we protect ourselves from enemies (and anyone else in their vicinity), without any risk to ourselves, without disturbance to our shopping sprees.
The only joy that can survive in such a place would have to be outrageous, or else simply blind, or nuts.

                                                                 "All generations will call me blessed"


I prefer to think, outrageous. Valid, like Elizabeth crying out as the Blessed Mary came waltzing through the door, “And why has this happened to me?” How is it that we find ourselves so pregnant, after all these unpromising events and unfulfiling years? How is it that, regardless of our gender or our years, potential squirms within us at the sound of a friendly voice? How is it that we feel outrageous joy, despite the danger looming in the sky and at the school?

With Mary and Elizabeth we are called into subversive conclave, meeting in the hill country to avoid detection by unmanned killer drones, meeting to laugh and slap each other gently on the back (for we are pregnant, after all), meeting to practice breathing and breast feeding techniques, and give vent to the outrageous joy of those who find themselves so unexpectedly blessed.         

Friday, December 21, 2012

“Guardian Angel”
Drawing  by Fritz Eichenberg

In Connecticut, the twenty children lie
Unguarded in the dust, and then
Negligent angels laid their rusty weapons down,
And wept at Bethlehem.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Quam delicta # 5: In Memory of Mary Alice Heaton

Quam delicta # 5: Pilgrimage Psalm for Altar Guilds in memory of Mary Alice Heaton 

How dear is the altar at St. Stephen’s to me O Lord!* my soul doesn’t exactly rejoice when I have to cover for someone who doesn’t show up for their altar guild duty, but my heart and my flesh still rejoice at in gleaming silver and polished brass.
The sparrow will most definitely not make a nest under your altar, O Lord of hosts,  at least not if I have anything to say about it, *but as a metaphor it works for how much at home we feel in your house, O God.
 Happy are those who wash and iron linens for the altar, O Lord, especially if they follow instructions and do not use starch, * for in decency and order will they praise you, and the less happy clappy the better.
Happy is the altar guild whose strength is in you, * whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.
Those who go through hard times will find refreshment, * at the altar rail and at the font, in companionship with others who have shared the journey, and even at the grave where we make our song.
They will climb from height to height, and from that high vantage point will catch a glimpse of sacred landscapes:  * of the place at Empire, of the ranch in Wyoming, and of former times at Kemper Hall, and Flint.
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand when confined to bed, and to stand at the threshold of St. Stephen’s * is like standing at the gates of heaven, with choirs of loved ones waiting there  to bring me home.