In the whole world, I and my family, are well within the top 1% in terms of money and our hope of “making it” financially. We have more than enough food and we have a house and clothing and the chance for a financed retirement. Most of the world, even in the United States, has no hope for retirement, much less a love for the J.O.B. that finances today. (Maybe there is no mistake that in the Bible that Job and his story of misery and faith is named job.) I have stable and satisfying work, and not just a job. I worked hard to have that and I am lucky to have that combination–or I am blessed or I am rewarded–no matter what I am in a place of having when many are in a place of not havnig. As I am looking to the new year I am focusing on the word gratitude. 1%? Is that an accident? Is that providence? Is that a cycle? That seems to have less to do with me than forces outside me. I…

I know that I am a soul moving through this earth with an amazing opportunity to be in a functional body and I hope to learn and love and relish this experience in a body. I have to feed this body almost endlessly. There is a part of my brain that continues to make up stories to make food interesting every three hours while I am awake. That is ridiculously amazing. Nothing, and I mean, nothing, becomes interesting again every three hours except food and water. There are not enough super models in the world to incite a three hour turn around in curiosity, but a tomato sauce at lunch followed by beet salad at dinner? I am up for that. How does my brain create this interest in food? That alone is miraculous.

I am sure that if I were really hungry I would understand much more clearly about my interest in food and my ability to get turned on by it. For some reason, at least now, I am not hungry, ever. Maybe, like Job, all this will wilt away and I will lose everything and grow boils, and then what? Will I still be grateful? Am I grateful for the bounty or can I know that I am sustained no matter what, even if I were to really get hungry? Someone I love is without heat every day right now and he has no recourse. He is just cold at night. It makes every day different to know that tonight will be unrestful. I don’t have that.

I don’t know how it all works. I am, as I said, a soul moving in and amongst this body and I am wanting to enjoy that truly. At the same time I see pain around me. I won’t abandon my plenty on behalf of someone else’s pain, but does that make my enjoyment of my ride through life, in some way, less? Guilt serves no growing purpose, so I am not looking for more of that. That leaves me with gratitude for the wonder of the life I have, for the eggplant on a Tuesday, for my wife’s hands who prepare it, for my working hands that pay for it, for the sun and the rain. It leaves me grateful for the heater that kicks on at night when the temperature falls to anywhere below ideal.

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Untitled 101

There goes my heart, again,
Until it actually leaves, until I found it running through the woods,
the past and future were everything and being between them is not
the same as being present.
That (the present, the gift) happens when my heart skips
down the path and my mind scrambles, as it always does,
for anything familiar, and…
and what is left is present, the other part, like I said, my
heart, in me and gone, both at once.

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Busy Brain

My brain is a whirling dervish. Mostly I am in it. It is interesting, flashy, sexy even. Exhausting. I would like to step off that ride for a minute please.
I have been meditating, a little. I like to have definitions for words. My brain, you know, wants them. It is relentless.
Meditation: the process of me being with my busy brain. If there is a part that is only with my brain then that part is not my brain, my mind. Let’s cross over to mind instead of brain. And the meditator is the part of me that is with my mind but is not my mind. I am both these things at once, like a particle and wave, like light. (this is a miracle or science or both…uh oh, here we go again)
The meditating part of me can love the mind but not be the mind. The meditator is engaged in compassion.

Compassion: the act of being with another’s passion. It is not a feeling, but feelings follow it closely. Compassion is the decision to remain when everyone else has lost hope and gone home, but it does not require hope on my part, only that I remain. It is simply the being with when the dervish of the mind or the cyclone of the heart are in full force and overwhelming. I am in compassion when I sit with you while you hurt, not saying anything, just staying. I am in compassion when I let my son or my wife get to the end of their rope and mine and I stay. I am in compassion when I meditate and hang in there with my busy brain, loving it, smiling, and waiting.

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It’s Almost Nothing, Just This Moment

It’s almost nothing, this moment between us
It’s the passing of our hands across the table
It is the paying of bills, it is the proverbial kitchen table
And us
Discussing the future, in capital letters and, you know
But really it is Sunday afternoon and we are walking and the light arrives
When we do,  and we remember this because the leaves shuffled out
In front of the bark and we remember this because we
Fell asleep holding each other for a minute until it was too hot
And we remember just the light and our family and our faith in
The next right thing, us, God, god, this right thing, and
We are grateful for the light moving among the

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Black Is Blue

Tonight it hit me that what is in memory, what is old, what fed my imagination (for better, etc) when I was 18, would comfort me. I was right. I turned on an episode of Miami Vice. Some would say that “Smuggler’s Blues” from Season One is the best episode of Miami Vice. Perfect combination of the fundamental plot of the show with undercover work, high risk with minimal thanks, perfect blend of relevant 80’s style music and fashion and nail biter ending. Watch it. It really helped me to remember my young self wanting to ride in the cool retro car, do good while doing bad in Miami and coming out ahead. I ate a burger while my child slept and my wife was hanging out with friends. It was quiet at the end of a long day in the O.R. with high intensity and good outcomes. I had done a good days work and wandering around in my past was a comfort. Good enough.

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Every Decision

Every Decision

Every, Every Decision Is Life Or Death

I could stay put, stand in line, be quiet.
I could do my part, be a part of the team, cooperate.
Maybe I should wait for a better time, maybe.
Now’s not good.
Be practical, bide my time, compromise even.
I should trust the system. I have come this far…
I could weigh my options. I should do that.
Why am I rushing? I should take my time,
See what the others are doing.
I need to cover all the bases and get a read on this.
I should wait for a sign, hedge my bets and
Keep an eye on my six. Don’t go in to this blind.
Be on guard, keep my eyes open.
Bide my time.
Keep my options open.
Don’t worry, tomorrow will be a better day.

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Keep Looking

Keep Looking


Today I made a pile of rocks with my kiddo for an hour. It was a three inch square pile of little tiny rocks.
Today I developed a photo of a partially focused tree. It was a forgettable moment that moved me, the photo.
A good day.

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Sometimes the light shines through the corner of my hat, and then…

Sometimes the light only gets there through a corner, around a turn.
What happens when the questions stop and there are only answers. This is a serious question. Or…

Is a person swimming toward help any different than one who is rescued?
Or one swimming in the other direction?

The invisible threads weave the fabric of faith because we pick them up in the odd places. We find our want of and for god at a concert and the county courthouse, in the arms of the one we finally love, in a summer tomato with olive oil, in the finding of cancer in your colon, in the light at the corner of a hat.

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I spent the night in jail and looked at the walls and I wondered how I would eat the food for years and days and days on end. From the perspective of day one (and only one) it was inedible. Down the road I would savor it in order to stay alive, I know. I am not so proud as to go hungry, but the thought of it, one day one and only one, was demoralizing.

In jail, the lights don’t go off, which over the course of time, would be a sinister torture. By the course of time, I am thinking, anything more than two “nights”. There was a camera watching my cell in my cell. I wondered how wide the angle on the lens was. I wondered how many holes were in the acoustic tiling in the ceiling. I wondered what the guards talked about as I watched my cellie pace like a puma, twenty and stuck already in probation violations and stacked charges and no help. He asked for my free three minute phone card. I gave it to him. It had about 30 seconds left. His father was in prison for life and had been for his whole life. I felt through that math and tried to combine those numbers with the aching heart of a boy, fatherless and there is not an equation for that and now his son paces.

This is easy for me. One night. I made a mistake and can pay my debt, but this is real. This place is not to be brushed with, these people and their cameras and their books have long memories. There is little mercy for brushing up to this barnacled arm of the government.

In the same way that chronically hospitalized people have a vocabulary and know the vocabulary somewhat of the people who watch over them, the people in jail know vocabularies. “I’m here on theft three, arraigned by the same s.o.b. judge, cop didn’t show and they still stiffed me until she could fit it into her schedule.” etc.

There are no flowers sent to jail, like there are at the hospital. No bouquets, nothing lovely. The phone is the one lifeline and calls are dollars/minute and no one there seems to have a nickel to shine on a dime. It is loud and bright and there is no moment of privacy ever. If the cell door opens, the cell has to empty and when the cell door closes, the cell is full again.

I left there, walked out, un-cuffed and free and felt grateful and I tried to feel into real time there and I despaired. I could find no good thing might come of time there for me or anyone else, but I don’t know everything, about me or anyone else. Maybe there is some good thing. But if there is it would come by way of the camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. I am sitting now looking back on that single awful night in that hole while I watch the tide take the detritus off the beach as the ocean slips itself back into itself and I am listening to jazz, to Dexter Gordon, and I know that we humans have made agreements with each other about how we will act and how, if we don’t act a certain way, we have agreed to lock each other up in crazy little cells, maybe even kill each other. It won’t help. Killing you won’t prevent me from finding the grace or the evil within me. It just kills you. And in another lesser but also real way, endless prison sentences fail to achieve what they set out to do, on average. There are people I don’t want to be around and want around my son, but the system, overall, feels bottom heavy and hopeless. Maybe they should at least allow some flowers in there once in a while.

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Tidal Pull

I am thinking about the tide and watching it now, again, for several days. We are about 60 feet above the tideline in a house on the Oregon coast and I can see the ocean moving from above. I know there is a still moment between neap and ebb, but I can’t see it. I look for it and then get distracted for a minute and what was coming in is now retreating. It is not violent but it is relentless.

We spent the day dropping crab pots in to the Nehalem River’s mouth where it meets the ocean. The crabs ride the tide in and the pots fill. The ocean rumbles in to the river and, like Listerine it washed out the mouth. After a little while the pendulum swung, the river pushed out the water to the sea, the crabs were gone and we pulled our pots and went home.
What if the water didn’t move? I think I would want it to, but I wouldn’t know the difference. Unmoving water is called stagnant, a word not nearly as lovely as neap or ebb. Swamp, bog vs ocean, estuary. No contest. I’m resting in the motion.
This is one of the first poems I ever wrote. I was twelve

Tidal Pull

I wandered down the line between the sand and sea.

The moon’s tide receded around my ankles, gently, incessantly pulling me.

It was nighttime, and I was beckoned to the sea. The invitation was brief. I could easily have walked straight into the foam.
Maybe I did.

In that brief moment I understood the rhythm of the water and stars and night laboring to birth another day—just as when watching a sparrow fly, I can sometimes mobilize one beat of its wings, hold the magic and glory of flight, but just a single beat—then
it’s just a picture of a bird.
I was one with the sand and the sea. There was no more line.

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