Prize

Every day there is a prize drawing. 
But you must be present to win. 
What do you notice? 
Don’t judge it good or bad.
It is a gift to you. Sit with it.
Study it. Welcome it. 
It is here to teach you
something about yourself.

If you are lucky, it will crack
you open, teach you
something about yourself
that you never knew
because you kept it hidden
in your secret core, the
place even you were too
frightened to speak about.

If you are lucky you will learn 
of your own secret power 
to transcend 
to be 
to love 
to heal. 

If you are lucky 
there was the white butterfly beforehand 
to remind you 
that you are going to die.
Maybe not today 
maybe not tomorrow, 
but soon, 
sooner than the television
would tell you to believe,
sooner than the newspapers 
will know

that before you know it
death will be upon you 
as a friend 
inviting you to come out 
of your straw house, 
the one you built 
with your own hands 
with sticks and mud 
hoping to fortify yourself
against his request, no, demand, that you leave
your supposed shelter 
and step forth unencumbered 
into your true sanctuary. 

For other cultures know that death 
is sometimes more 
than death, just like life 
is sometimes more 
than life, 
but only if you let it, 
only if you stop holding on
so tightly.

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Bicycle lesson

Morris wasn’t pleased with the bicycle instructor that had been assigned to him. He was more OK with the idea that it was a skeleton than the fact it was an “it”. How was he supposed to address it – Mr.? Mrs.? Ms.? Then he started to wonder why women got a different title when they got married, but men stayed the same. But he didn’t have time to wonder very long about that. 

He needed to know the correct title so he would seem like an appreciative student. He looked again at his assignment slip – Terry Hasenmiller. No help there – that first name could go either way. He decided to settle on “Teacher” as a safe bet.

After the preliminary instructions when it was determined that Morris wasn’t a complete beginner at cycling, the instructor decided to go over all the tips and tricks on how to maintain a bicycle. “As my teacher always says ‘if you take care of your tools, they’ll take care of you’.”

Bicycles weren’t for exercise in those days. They were a necessity in a culture that seemed to be going faster and faster. A bicycle (never a “bike” according to Terry) was what made it possible to get a job or an education other than just from what was around you. The bicycle was the great weapon against mediocrity and even poverty. With a bicycle you could pedal your way out of whatever you’d been born into and make for yourself a better future. You were no longer limited by your circumstances – you could rise above.

This attitude is why Terry was still alive – in spite of being a skeleton. Terry didn’t let something as common as death put an end to a good life. Terry hadn’t always taught people how to ride a bicycle, but it made sense now. If it weren’t for the bicycle, Terry would never have known there was a different life, ready for the taking, just on down the road. If it weren’t for the bicycle, Terry would probably be just like everyone else in that town – poor and content with a sixth-grade education.

(Written around 3/30/19)

Tree-house

The tree grew from within the house, all on its own, slowly taking it over. The owners were amused at first, but then they had to move out. It hadn’t simply eaten them out of house and home; it had grown so that finally there wasn’t any room left for them. It had taken years, of course, so they didn’t realize that was what was happening. All they knew was that they felt an increasing pressure, a cramped-ness, an overwhelming sense of smallness. They thought they had outgrown their house, but actually it had outgrown them.

The Mueller family had bought the house back in 1976, back when they had moved to Philadelphia. Of course it wasn’t called Philadelphia when the area had first been settled, all those hundreds of years ago. Back then it was Coaquannock, named by the Lenni-Lenape tribe. The name meant “Grove of Tall Pines” back then. Now there was no grove, because the pines had been cut down by the new immigrants, the new settlers from across the sea. They cut down the trees to build their beds, their chest of drawers, their homes.

They had moved in just like this tree, quietly, surely, intending to coexist side by side. But then they too grew too big and started pushing out the people who were there. Back then it wasn’t just a house, but a whole area, a city, a state, then the entire country. They set up their own rules, their own laws, even their own names for the towns they had taken.

So much for “City of Brotherly Love”, the meaning behind Philadelphia. They only wanted peace for themselves. “Brother” meant people they fellowshipped with, not everyone. They followed the letter of the law and not the Spirit.

Perhaps this tree was trying to right a wrong. Or perhaps it was simply following in the settler’s footsteps. Or perhaps karma is real.



(Written 6/22/18)

On the Call from God

What does it mean to be called by God? Let us look at two similar examples from the Bible.

Exodus 3:1-12

Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought: I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” he answered.

“Do not come closer,” He said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The Israelites’ cry for help has come to Me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worshipGod at this mountain.”

And then, in a later book we read –

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The word of the Lord came to me:

I chose you before I formed you in the womb;
I set you apart before you were born.
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.”

Then the Lord said to me:

Do not say, “I am only a youth,”
for you will go to everyone I send you to
and speak whatever I tell you.
Do not be afraid of anyone,
for I will be with you to deliver you.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me:

I have now filled your mouth with My words.
10 See, I have appointed you today
over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and tear down,
to destroy and demolish,
to build and plant.

Both prophets protested, saying that they weren’t capable of doing what God asks.  But we have to remember that God sees with different eyes.  God knows our strengths better than we do – even ones that are currently hidden.  If God calls you to something, God knows best.  It is important to remember that you will be able to do what God is calling you to do if you do it WITH God, not by yourself.

(Bible translations are from HCSB)

A Wander book list

Aside from the mandatory “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman and “The Wander Society” by Keri Smith, what else is a wandering soul to read? Here is a brief suggested reading list.

Alemagna, Beatrice   On a Magical Do-Nothing Day 

Antony, Rachael   The Lonely Planet Guide To Experimental Travel 

Baxter, John  The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris

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

Cuff, Marcie Chambers   This Book Was a Tree: Ideas, Adventures, and Inspiration for Rediscovering the Natural World 

Deakin, Roger  Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 

Elkin, Lauren  Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London

Foer, Joshua   Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders 

Gooley, Tristan  The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs

Huth, John Edward  The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

Ilgunas, Ken   Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom 

Macfarlane, Robert  Landmarks

Macleod, Janice   A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World 

Miyazaki, Yoshifumi  Shinrin Yoku: The Art of Japanese Forest Bathing 

Rives, T.M.   Secret New York – An Unusual Guide. Local Guides by Local People 

Solnit, Rebecca    Wanderlust: A History of Walking 

Autism and ADD books

Elman, Natalie Madorsky – The Unwritten Rules of Friendship: Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Make Friends 

Grossberg, Blythe – Asperger’s Rules!: How to Make Sense of School and Friends    

Howley, Marie  – Revealing the Hidden Social Code: Social Stories (TM) for People with Autistic Spectrum Disorders 

Kelly, Kate – You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!  

Kranowitz, Carol Stock – The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder 

Meloy, C.G.  -Life & Spectrum: A Revealing Look at High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome 

Moore, Debra  – The Loving Push: How Parents and Professionals Can Help Spectrum Kids Become Successful Adults 

Myles, Brenda Smith  – Asperger Syndrome and Sensory Issues: Practical Solutions for Making Sense of the World 

Pera, Gina   – Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone You Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder 

Train, Alan – ADHD: How to Deal with Very Difficult Children  

Tips and tricks for art journaling

Don’t worry about it.  You can’t do it wrong.  Whatever you want to do is correct. This is an excuse to play and express yourself in a new way. Nobody has to see it, so you don’t have to worry about it looking “right”. You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy art journaling.

Remember “A picture is worth a thousand words”?   You can often express yourself in ways you’d never have words for by doodling, scribbling, or splashing paint on the page. 

Cut and paste is a totally legitimate form of expression. I use magazine cut-outs all the time.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby.  Often it is best to start out with a simple inexpensive journal that you don’t especially love.  If it is too precious, you won’t feel free to cut into it or paint on it.

It is good to pick a journal that you enjoy holding and is portable if you are going to sketch away from home.  I like one that has a spiral spine so I can work on just one side at a time.  Good paper matters – you want something that will hold up to what materials you are using.  If you are using wet mediums you’ll want to use thicker paper so it won’t warp.

If you are going to be gluing things into your journal, go ahead and cut out every 5th page before you even start.  This gives the journal room to absorb the extra bulk without making it splay open or breaking the spine.

You can combine scrapbooking, journaling, and sketching.  There are no limits to this art form.  You can glue in concert tickets or menus from a memorable evening.  You can take photos and print them out and glue them in. 

If sketching people who are moving (like musicians or workers), watch them for about 5 minutes.  They will have a ‘default” position they will return to. Roughly sketch that position.  When they move out, sketch what is around them.  When they return, add more to that part.

Most people won’t even realize you are sketching them because they are so distracted by what they are doing.  But try to be polite and discrete about it anyway.  People are best to sketch when they are being themselves. 

Sketching isn’t about making a photograph. You’ll need to leave some things out. The goal is to capture an impression – not to make a perfect replica of what was there.

Leave space in your sketch to write in notes.  Things I like to include – day, time, how long the sketch took, location, what was going on (why was I there – was there a special event?) and weather conditions if I am outside.  Consider using an interesting ink color.

There are many different materials to sketch with.  I like using watercolor pencils.  They are portable and easy to work with in the field. I add water using a small brush later.