The Invisible House series is available

My 11th book, “The Invisible House Series” is now available in Kindle. This is free if you have Kindle Unlimited, otherwise it is $3.99. The print version will come soon. These are essays and tales about negative space and impermanence. It is more of an art piece than anything else. It is pretty non-classifiable.

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“Invisible house series” book list

Beecroft, Julian  Lost Cities: Beauty in Desolation

Bonnett, Alastair  Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies

cummings, e e    The poem titled [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]      I especially like this poem as sung by Michael Hedges on his album “Taproot”

Goldsworthy, Andy   Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature   Anything by Andy Goldsworthy speaks to the nature of impermanence. This Scottish artist creates his work with whatever he finds on his walks in nature. He photographs them, and then they return to their natural state.

Harmon, Katharine You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment

Hughes, T. John Apparitions: Architecture That Has Disappeared From Our Cities This book overlaps “then” with “now”, showing ghost outlines of buildings that were demolished to make way for new ones.

Jones, Diana Wynne   Howl’s Moving Castle   This is part of a trilogy. This has also been made into a movie by the famous Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. It features a house that walks around.

Miéville, China   The City & the City  An intriguing speculative fiction story of two cities that exist in the same physical space but have entirely different cultures, languages, and habits.

Rives, T.M.         Secret New York – An Unusual Guide. Local Guides by Local People This has some nice examples of pocket parks and other overlooked negative spaces.

An open letter to the Church

I want a church that gets upset and riled up about homelessness instead of homosexuality. I want a church that makes sure people have a place to sleep, instead of caring who they sleep with.

Homosexuality isn’t the church’s concern.  Helping people is. 

So many churches don’t want to include gay people, for fear of losing their members.  They don’t want to upset them. Have you ever wondered why?

I like that Jesus was totally fine with upsetting the status quo. He pointed out people’s hypocrisy all the time. He was fine with having just a few people who “got” him. Part of that is because he wasn’t interested in money at all.

So many churches would fold if they started telling the truth and insisting their members not be bigots. So they say the “nice” thing instead of the right thing, out of fear. But perfect love casts out fear – as long as it is love of God and not of money.

“Thoughts and prayers” have never been enough. Jesus acted. He was hands-on when it came time to help people. The church is called to do much more than “love Jesus” – we are called to take his place in healing and reconciling.

I wonder how much of the decision of the United Methodist Church to not allow gay people to be ordained was influenced by what happened when the Episcopal Church installed an openly gay bishop. That divided the church and lots of people left.

I like to ask people to quote from anything Jesus said about homosexuality – – – and they can’t answer, because he didn’t say anything about it. He said a lot about loving and serving people, and a lot about not judging, and nothing about homosexuality. That indicates what our focus should and shouldn’t be on.

How about when everybody is housed, and nobody is hungry or addicted or imprisoned – then we can discuss who has sex with who. (Translation, we will never have that discussion, because the poor will always be with us). Our job is to show love, period.

We are Daughters and Sons of God.

We are all created by God – but more importantly, we are God’s daughters and sons if we do God’s will. This is not to be taken lightly.  Do you think of yourself as God’s child – really?

Any person who chooses to serve God – and does it, is a “Chosen” person. It isn’t a birthright, but something that is available to people of all nationalities.

Exodus 19:3-6

Moses went up the mountain to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain: “This is what you must say to the house of Jacob, and explain to the Israelites: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”

Note the conditional “if”.  If you listen to the Lord and follow the covenant, then you will be unique among all people of the Earth. The corollary to that is that if you don’t follow the Lord’s commandments, then you will not be special. Your commitment to doing what the Lord commands is what distinguishes you.

John 1:11-13

11 He came to His own,
and His own peopledid not receive Him.
12 But to all who did receive Him,
He gave them the right to bechildren of God,
to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born,
not of blood,
or of the will of the flesh,
or of the will of man,
but of God.

Note that we can become children of God, namely daughters and sons of God.

Notice the Lord’s Prayer, to be found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. This is the Condensed Gospel rendition, which blends them together –

Jesus was praying, and when he was through, one of his disciples said to him “Lord, teach us how to pray, just like John taught his disciples.”

He said “You should pray like this:

Heavenly Father, we give honor to your holy name.

May your kingdom come soon.

May your will be done here on earth just like it is done in heaven.

Give us our bread for tomorrow,
and forgive our faults in the same way that we forgive the faults of others.

Do not cause us to be tempted, but instead rescue us from evil.

The kingdom and power and glory are all yours eternally. Amen.”

It starts with us saying that God is our Father. This is a bold statement. God is directly approachable by us. If God is our Father, we are daughters and sons of God.

Matthew 12:46-50

46 He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. 47 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” 48 But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

If you do God’s will, you are the brother or sister to Jesus.  If you are his brother or sister – you are a son or daughter of God.

Hebrews 2:11-12

11 For the One who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying:

I will proclaim Your name to My brothers;
I will sing hymns to You in the congregation.

Jesus says he is directly related to his followers. 

See Psalm 51:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:22-23, Hebrews 13:16, Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 58:3-11 for examples of what God wants. 

God isn’t interested in sacrifices.  All the detailed rules in Leviticus are about what kinds of offerings were appropriate in the time of the Temple.  But what God really wants is for us to take care of people. Who cares if you keep kosher or you cover your head if you ignore the needs of your neighbor who is hungry or homeless?

I’ve read before that atheists serve God better than many religious people.  They don’t think there is a divine being who will take care of people, so they know it is up to them. Actions speak louder than words.

Avocado Salad

(Modified from “The Higher Taste” recipe)

1 ripe avocado

1 small tomato (plum is good)

.5 cup pitted Calamata olives

½ bunch Romaine lettuce

Dressing –

A sixth of a cup of olive oil

1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice

.5 teaspoon salt

.5 teaspoon Japanese Seven Spice

.25 teaspoon ground cumin

                Blend on low speed in a blender for one minute.

Cut avocados and tomatoes into small pieces. Place in a medium bowl with the olives. Pour the dressing over it all and mix lightly. Marinate for at least ½ hour in the refrigerator. Serve over lettuce.

Serves 2.

A plan – poem

Why do I write all this down?
Why do I document my days, 
catalogue my dreams, my discoveries?
Is it important that I write down
that once again
I went to bed late,
got up late,
was in a rush,
didn’t have time
to write letters or make art
but did have time
to watch meaningless videos 
through Facebook, like I’m
channel surfing for something meaningful
to share to inspire or encourage or inform.

Deep down, I’m not made for this life
of early mornings, of schedules,
of having to be anywhere and do something
like a trained monkey.
It is hard to fit
a full-time life
alongside a full-time job.

Maybe I’m writing up my
escape plan,
detailing the attempts to escape
that have failed,
so I can remember
to not do that
again.

The Sneeze

Sarah spent that whole day sneezing. She was being paid for it. It was a job, after all, even though it was just for the day. Some crazy photographer wanted to capture what a sneeze looked like, so he had put up fliers around town. Actresses came but he shooed them away. He didn’t want a forced sneeze, or a pretend one. He wanted the real thing. Only an authentic sneeze would do. This was for science after all. At least, that’s what he told himself.

He almost didn’t hire Sarah – she seemed too fancy. He suspected she was an actress by her clothes. She assured him that she dressed up for every interview. She believed it was best to dress better than expected. But she had no idea what to expect for an audition to sneeze, so she wore her best party dress, just to be sure. She needed the money. She couldn’t afford to act like it was a done deal, that she’d get the job without any effort.

The photographer liked her spirit, so he decided they needed to try to capture her sneeze. It wasn’t allergy season, so they had to resort to various methods to induce one. A feather was used, then a pinch of pepper, then some snuff. Sarah stood before the camera and tried each item, and the photographer pressed the shutter release. He rigged up a new system to take 10 photographs in quick succession. It wouldn’t do to miss one, and he never knew exactly when it would happen. They tried all three things and got three different sneezes – small, medium, and large. Sarah was a little embarrassed how much she sneezed after the snuff, but it was exactly what the photographer was looking for.

But he wasn’t just photographing her sneeze. He had her stand barefoot on a metal pad during the experiment. Wires ran from it to a small metal box with dials and scopes and a paper readout that looked a bit like an EKG. He was testing to see if there was a difference in her when she sneezed.

The Church taught that it was dangerous to sneeze because it was the breath of God you were casting out. So while it looked like he was photographing a sneeze, he was really measuring what God’s breath was. Did it have weight? Was there an electrical charge? Did the person lose anything during the sneeze – and if so, did it come back, and when, and how? Was there a difference if you said “God bless you” or not? What if the person wasn’t a believer – was there any change then?

He was a curious man, barely over 5 feet tall. He had a small voice it always seemed to be apologizing for something or other. His nails were clean, now, but sometimes they bore traces of nail polish in improbable colors. Nobody knew if he had a significant other, and if so, what gender they might be. He didn’t even have any pets. He kept to himself, except for the once a week he went to the local American Legion Hall for the music. He went there for the same reason he got a flu shot. He thought it did him some good, or ought to. He wasn’t certain enough to miss either one of them, just in case. He wasn’t sure what he’d catch if he wasn’t a little social. Maybe depression? Delusions of grandeur? Right now he barely had delusions of adequacy, but he knew that was part of the territory of being an artist.

And an artist he most certainly was. When he stepped behind the camera he became someone else, someone confident and sure. He was no longer short, or strange, or socially awkward. He could talk with people instead of just at them. It was a lifesaver that he had discovered photography as a form of self-expression.

Most artists had to build up their clientele, schlepping around their portfolios like second-rate prostitutes. He’d had the good fortune to start his career doing school photographs. He could learn the trade and get paid for it. No marketing – all he had to do was show up. Somebody else made all the contacts and did the hustle for him. It was ideal. He thought all artists should have it this good. Being an artist and marketing your work were two entirely different skill sets, after all.

It was while he was photographing Mrs. Murphy’s first grade class that he got the idea about documenting a sneeze. It was on an unusually cold day when school picture day came around, after a month of warmer temperatures. The children, unused to the sudden change, were sneezing in the makeshift studio that was set up in the gym.

Several retakes had to be made to make sure he’d gotten a good portrait. All the mistakes got tossed into his seconds box. He wasn’t going to do anything with them – they were for an acquaintance he knew at the American Legion. She was a songwriter who was almost as eccentric as him. They were an unusual sort of pair – both united in their oddness. They didn’t fit with people, but because of that they sort of fit with each other. They weren’t a couple, mind you, just friends in an offhand sort of way.

She fancied herself a visual artist as well, cutting up pictures from magazines and gluing them in her handmade journals. Sometimes she’d slap paint or stickers on the pages with the pictures and write stories about the people. He figured she’d like some actual photographs to use so he brought them to her.

Little did he realize but she was also a bit of a psychic. When she saw the first image of six-year-old Brian Thornton having a sneeze into the crook of his arm, she threw the photo down in shock, exclaiming “He’s not right!”  After she recovered, the photographer asked her what she meant. She simply stated “He has no soul!” and left it at that.

Now maybe that was true for little Brian. He was an odd child according to the teacher. But he was also sneezing at the time, so maybe that was it. So the photographer was now on a quest for the human soul, by way of photographs.