Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Scent Like Shade

I might not be very good at reading pain. I once had a root canal, and was able to stop taking the prescription medicine about 24 hours after the procedure, but if I step on a rock or tack or Lego brick, I'm out of commission and whining for about a week. Having had back problems long before I got fat, I'm never sure if twinges are telling me to take it easy for a little bit or that I need to move around more to keep from getting worse.

This is where I have found myself the past couple of days. I have consistently walked the route I set for myself when I began this "read-cation," and at the outset I feel like a rectangle of stone is pushing down my spine. Today, my ankle tried to tell me that it had been stuck above a thinning shoe on miles of uneven pavement for three days and wasn't taking the trip. I told it to shut up and come along.

i couldn't see the honeysuckle
but its scent was like shade
i heard wings above me
but when i looked up, only song
then i felt hammering in the distance
but could only find horses grazing

This circuit takes about hours to complete, depending on how many stops I make to take pictures. At some point, I realize I'm no longer hurting, or that the pain is bearable. When I finish, a shower helps. But not always. Soreness stays, as it sometimes does.

But that is the thing with pain. It is difficult to tell what is a warning and what is your body saying, "You are getting stronger." Even when something is broken or strained beyond capacity, the only thing to do is keep moving. Life does that shit to you.

Perhaps the question isn't when to keep going, but when to pause and for how long. And HOW. Today, after I'd been on the path for only a few minutes, panting because I knew I should have gone earlier in the morning, I thought to myself, "This is resting? This is my rest." Then a large bird was flying overhead. Was it a buzzard? Doesn't matter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five Grasshopper Haiku

yellow grasshopper
what is your interest
in scaring me

deep green grasshopper
your bare legs must be burning
standing in my path
from a thick toadstool 
a grasshopper launched itself
against my weak chest
ant dried grasshopper 
reminder of smallness and death 
and still suddenness 

flying grasshopper
at the apex of your arc
shade of the Spirit


Yesterday was the first full day and first walk of what my wife calls our "read-cation." While my brother and his family have gone to the beach, my wife and I are house sitting and taking care of their pets. So most our day is spent reading without the distractions of regular life. 

I was told that if I walked down the road in front of their house and took right at each intersection of country roads, I could make a circuit of 2.7 miles. Because the dog that insisted on traveling with me got stuck at one point, afraid of a tiny yip dog reminding passersby of where he lived, I'm fairly sure I got in a full three miles. The soreness in my hips and lower back tell me I may need new shoes after a week of perambulating some of the inclines along this route.

the recent storm
blew down trumpet shaped flowers
amidst a pile of discarded beer cans 
both were too soon fallen
to have lost their color
but what I want to know
is what creature
crawls among them.

The night before, my brother and I talked about sin and pollution. Polution isn't sin, but really a picture of the effects of sin. Not sin as action, but as being. James wrote, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The word "polluted" could easily stand in for "unstained" (and is in at least one translation I know of). We are also told by John, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world."

The world is God's creation and I am to love it. But I must not take in its spirit, for it crowds out what is holy. The word holy means "set apart."  One reason I walk, I suppose, is because I must get to that place, unreachable by car, where I love God by loving the world without polluting or being polluted by it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Decorating Against Death

Over the weekend I found myself walking in cemeteries. After helping friends lay to rest a beloved pet in an unmarked, but sure to be remembered grave, we traveled to the rural plot where their had parents buried. There I saw the largest crape myrtle I've ever been close enough to touch. The July sun was bright. A light breeze swayed the surprisingly green grass as I listened to two brothers remember their connections to the old place.

The next day I walked first the periphery and then the inner paths, if one could call them such, of another small graveyard. Though late afternoon, I tried to get under as much shade as I could because the sun kept creeping under the brim of my hat. Here, where I knew no one under the ground or grieving such, I noticed indications of people decorating against death. Among the markers adorned with the usual gaudy angels, plastic flowers, and flags of various sizes, near stones engraved with maudlin poems and scripture quotations, I saw wind chimes, a birdhouse, a teddy bear affixed to a cross, two huge ceramic cowboy boot planters, and even one headstone with an engraving of a dog and notes from a piece of music I would not recognize if played.

did we talk along the road
did we use many words 
forgive me any misunderstandings
while my thirsty mouth was wide open

I do not wish to diminish the importance of these objects to the people sleeping near them or to the people who want to remember their lost ones. I am sure many of the stories which tie the dead to their places of rest would stir even my hard heart. I am interested in what these objects say about those gone, but I am even more interested to know what they do not say. There is much about us that could never be said, though a single monument covered the whole ground.

These are the words, for lack of adequate expression, that remain and are most significant.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


If you wonder if the devil is in Garland, then consider the fact that it is the only place I know of where one can get lost going straight and following a map. A few weeks ago, I found out there is a church in Garland which has a labyrinth on the grounds with a large tree in the center.  After following the directions provided by Google, I nearly gave up hope of finding it today. I'd driven back and forth on streets I recognized because I'd driven them many times, most often lost.

However, the church was found and the labyrinth located. It did not seem to have the color and beauty of the picture I'd seen on my phone, but it's summer, and I could tell immediately it would more than do.

I don't generally get headaches, but I've had one (or several) plague me the past few days. Most of the time it is one of those minor annoyances like a small branch scraping across the forehead. For a small thing, it is quite loud, usually telling me to walk another time. A couple of nights ago, it woke me up and screamed something unintelligible. I thought it had gone, but this morning it showed up just as I was about to step on this new (to me) path.

i have wrestled these streets
too long, demon,
to be put off
by niggling detours

Meditating on The Lord's Prayer, I arrived at thoughts about what Jesus didn't say. For example, "Give us this day our daily bread" does not say food will always taste good. "As we forgive those who sin against us" does not add anything about the conditions we are to forgive under. "Deliver us from evil" provides no hint that we won't see horrible difficulties. Perhaps I'm influenced today by the Job chapter of Philip Yancey's The Bible Jesus Read. Maybe, at least intellectually, I'm seeing my pain with different, albeit squinting, eyes.

If I could only get past this headache, I might see real burdens, and have enough grace to help lift them.