Saturday, March 13, 2010


Andee posted this on Facebook and I am pleased to share it here with you.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Heart thread - 03/13/2010

I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of Fernando, my friend Jay's grandfather, who died a week ago.

Also for the repose of the soul of Theodore, Keith Olbermann's father.

We give thanks for God's gift of the Lovely Mona on this, her natal festivity.

We also give thanks to God for Margaret whose birthday is tomorrow.

We ask the prayers of the Righteous Neomartyr Eric Joseph Kokosinski Iliff (11 October 1981 - 13 March 2007). You may read about him here and here.

I give thanks for the Holy Prophet Desmond Tutu who reminds us all: "Hate has no place in the house of God."

I give thanks tonight for Fran. If you would ponder tomorrow's Gospel, here is a good place to do so. She writes an awesome reflection on "Planned Obsolescence and Radical Forgiveness: The Ethos of Repair and Replacement."

Have you seen Tobias' poem The Elder Son and the Father's Repentance?

Let us pray for Mark Richardson, appointed the new Dean and President of CDSP.

Let us continue in prayer and relief and rebuilding efforts for Haiti.

Hmmm, and because I felt a prompting that might have come from the Spirit, I shall conclude with this prayer tonight.

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth; deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--the BB

Since y'all are enjoying acrostics....

The sun never says to the earth, you owe me. (Hafiz)

Moving toward a deeper love, a love affair with God, this poem reflects the advice of AlAnon to forgive ourselves for imperfection.

Lighting the Whole Sky

There is an absurd generosity in the Holy One that scatters
Haphazard all the energies and glories of creation, like star nations
Easily flung as diamonds across the velvet night sky.

Surely, we feel, there must be some obligation, some burden, some debt
Under which we must struggle to prove ourselves worthy of such
Nonsensical goodness. The smile of Jesus tells me there is

No burden other than the one we make for ourselves, for God is
Eager to give, to love, to bless, to make fruitful, to set free.
Visions are given to the unworthy and food to the wicked, and
Every gift is only and always that—Gift, free of obligation, a total
Risk taken by the Almighty and Merciful One. We may

Sing the praises of the Giver and share the gifts, or mar
And misuse them with our ingratitude, our fear, our insecurity.
You and I have nothing to prove. Perfection is for God—for us the
Sharing, the striving, choosing, rejoicing in the school of love.

That, the opportunity to know the smallest particle
Or spark of the divine fire, to be kissed by Heaven,

To know the bliss of Eternity in this moment, to be loved
Here in this place by the Source and Goal of all things,
Eating at the abundant feast with all souls, all beings,

Entering into the bridal chamber of God’s love,
And shuddering at the tender caress of the Glorious One,
Reveling in delight, alive and overflowing with life—
That is as close as we can come to obligation. To
Hear the Voice of the Beloved, that itself suffices.

You see, once loved in that way we cannot then close
Ourselves from God or from others, nor from ourselves.
Useless to resist the Divine Lover, with whom is all our bliss.

Our lives, touched by that Fire, cannot then cease to burn.
We become sparks, lighting the universe along with all those
Ever-shining stars. It is not debt, it is desire and delight.

My little efforts, my many failures, seem to undo this mystery, yet
Even when clouds cover the earth, the sun shines and God loves still.

June 28, 2002

(c) 2002 by me

--the BB

Friday, March 12, 2010

Inspired by Eliot and other things

This poem emerged from a tumultuous period in my life, following the break-up of a 24-year relationship (yes, my BFF still, now over 32 years of friendship, so this is not a tragic story, though it was a painful period). Themes struggling within me included the following:

What new things come to birth following death or fallowness? How does one discern what they are?

There is, early on, the echo of a friend's description of a stunning reddish-purple clematis blossom as a "whore of a flower." So easy to behold the obvious. But what delight to see shoots just coming up from the earth and recognize which plants will spring from them! I love to be around growing things.

So, what lies ahead?

How can we possibly know?

I had a wild and short affair - the requisite madness after divorce, no? - by every common-sense standard it was ill-advised. Yet it helped me stay alive and, in some respects, come back to life.

My body and soul were trying to hang in there as anxiety and depression threatened to tear me apart. I hardly slept at all. I wrote tons of poetry to help process my emotions and my emotions were raw and out there for all to see.

By the grace of God, the love and prayers of friends, faith, and therapy (and some medication), I survived.

As I began this theme of trying to make out a pattern I had no idea where it would go. This, for me, is part of the fun of writing acrostics. There is the discipline of a set number of lines starting with precise initial letters and beyond that: who knows? What emerged was the image of me as an icon being written by Christ. The concrete task of having written an icon of the Baptism of Christ not too long before all this made the process quite vivid.

That icon, "He Fills All Things with Blessing," hangs in St Cuthbert's Episcopal Church, Oakland, California. The wonderful batik with dancing and drumming now hangs in my bedroom. At that time it hung above the computer in the office at the church. It was a present of the aforementioned BFF and I framed it with complementary silk borders. Both are shown here in the body of the poem.

Dreams, visions, moments of agony and ecstasy, spiritual direction, and lots of anxiety all went into this.

As I reflect on Burnt Norton in this Lenten series, here is one earlier reflection, the most complex poem I have ever written.
--the BB

Dust on a bowl of rose-leaves

Emergent glories yet unrecognized, do they startle or confuse?
Xs formless at first, small seeds that blossom in elegant cross-stitch,
Cryptic till we see the hints of pattern—how to decipher or discern?
Eyes trained, dulled, by habit grasp the whorish flower, understand its gaudy
Pigments and display—that reveling in hue, curve, scent, allure—
Teasing, tantalizing, shameless in the cry: I am alive! Behold!

For children untrained, for weathered souls with wandering mind
Or the true gardener, wonder is allowed: to catch at first emergent greens, to
Rest and pay respect at breaking soil, at hints of configuration, before

The secret discloses itself, the plant is known. What clue lies in the
Heart’s unknowing, the futility of the mind’s appetite? Should
Each creature, moment, place explain itself? Would it matter?

Perceiving beyond knowledge—in the bone, the pulse, the breath—
Or simple ignorance: how do they differ? My sureties and
Insecurities both speak of what I wish I knew but don’t really.
Nothing, we acknowledge often, is so well known as the fact
That we know so little of this world, of ourselves, of God.

This being the case, how have I come to think that I can turn
Hints of the moment into knowledge of what must pass,
Ever planning, predicting, adjusting, seeking readiness?

Surprise overtakes me always. There is no certain knowing
This side of the veils, my eye-binding grave clothes,
Illusions wrapping me Lazar-like against the day’s blinding
Light as I struggle free of the enclosing stone. Shall I trust this
Luminous brilliance woven in the fierce voice of my Friend?

Plunged deep in swirling I never set in motion and cannot still,
Overcome, not by saltwater sobs but the great ocean’s womb
In which our life is formed, tossed in cosmic contractions,
Not sensing above, below, behind, before, beside,
Turned constantly about by waters I cannot grasp,

Tasting the wet death of bloody birth, the tearing terror,
Have I the faintest inkling of the way? I am lost in joy.
Earth and Heaven bring me forth, costly delight! Deep
Rightness! The wheel turns as it should, again and again—
Everlasting newness in the repetitions, inexhaustible grace.

What of the searing death, the birth of fire? Swirling tongues
Of flame now leaping, soaring, rising in exultant roar,
Up, up, linking worlds, sucking the air into its consuming ecstasy!
Lungs released from the waters cry for this breath, craving
Draughts of life even as each residue is burnt away.

Bereft of direction, possession, place, and certainty, I strike my feet on
Earth in rhythms only partly mine and mostly not. The drum calls.

Now I look up at batik dancers, total motion and abandon. There is
Only pulse and movement, nothing solid: action not quite frozen in fabric.

Do I have the slightest hint of what emerges now, in this place
And moment, this specific intersection of roads within the sacred hoop?
No sure knowing of my own self (desperately deceitful heart), no
Certainty of what comes to birth in me. And yet I dare trust that
Each moment, action or inaction, is part of God’s pattern,

Ancient and novel realities surpassing terms of our defining,
Now colliding, colluding, combining, creating, expressing life,
Defeating death through its acceptance—cruciform marvel!

The vision, O Christ, you gave me of yourself a year ago—
Halo of red flame amid the waters of baptism—only began to
Emerge with the painting of the ikon. You continue to unfold
Riches of meaning to my too small heart, painting yourself with
Every pain I must endure, each joy, each stroke of faith and hope and love.

I am now the maple boards, hewn and milled and cut,
Sanded smooth and joined by Nazareth’s son, sized with hide

Of rabbit, wrapped in linen (your shroud, surely),
Next closed in seemingly endless layers of gesso, sanded smoother still,
Lined with graving steel, your message and image carved into me,
You having first engraved my name upon your palm.

Then there is the guilt when gilded over with gold, fearing my
Heart cannot deserve such adornment. You reassure, knowing better than I
Each fault and flaw in the material you made and chose.

Does it seem likely that all creation and the creator’s presence
And blessing can appear in me? Your Gospel tells me, Yes!
Not understanding is no barrier to my formation in your image, gracious
Christ, I need but trust you in and above all, yes, and within me.
Even the deaths of earth and water, fire and air, are but birth in you, your birth in me.

July 31, 2002

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

—From T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” stanza II, in Four Quartets

After work

I know, I keep telling you how much I love living here. Well, it's true.

--the BB

Before Eucharist Wednesday evening

These photos were taken Wednesday after work and before Mass, both from the parking lot of San Gabriel in Corrales.

There is only the dance.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.
--T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

What is that point, that place, that moment, that Person where all things converge and all opposites are reconciled? As a Christian, I would call it Christ, but humanity uses many names for the same reality. All motion is contained in its stillness, all time in its timelessness. I love the phrase, so evocative of nirvana: "The release from action and suffering, release from the inner/ And the outer compulsion." Wowser.

How badly do we need to be released from compulsion, within and without? Once free from all external compulsion we are not quite free. We need liberation from our internal drivenness.

Note that flesh can no more endure heaven than it can damnation. We are so frail, so limited, so unaware.

Once we are aware, conscious, then we transcend time because we are aware that everything transcends time, yet as finite creatures we only experience this within time. "Only through time time is conquered."

I shall repost a poem I wrote, an acrostic based on Burnt Norton, that involves two images. I shall incorporate them.

Shabbat shalom, y'all.

--the BB

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stuff going on

My apologies for the dearth of posts. Last night was the monthly healing Eucharist at San Gabriel, which is always wonderful, and tonight I met with someone for dinner. When I got home I did not have much energy for blogging either night. All is well, and our exploration of T. S. Eliot will resume.

Sing sweetly, my naughty nightingales!

--the BB

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mouth repairs

I had the prep work for my new crown done yesterday. Not a bad experience but today my tooth feels the trauma and I really want to crawl back in bed. We are not talking much pain at all, maybe 1 on the scale, maybe, but you know how distracting tooth pain can be, even just a tiny bit.

Anyway, after the dentist I stopped at Trader Joe's, did some shopping, and had a lovely dinner last night to treat myself.

But I did not blog.

Healing Eucharist at San Gabriel's tonight, which should be lovely.

Have a great day, y'all.

--the BB

Monday, March 08, 2010

The boarhound and the boar

Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.
--T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

I daresay, "garlic and sapphires" is a phrase that catches one's attention. We are beginning to enter the planting season here in New Mexico (still too early for many things) and the thought of garlic or onion sets being put into the soil, or being found in the mud, is not striking. Sapphires, on the other hand, we do not expect and would be startled indeed to find them. In our back yard, that is.

Yet sapphire mining involves the gathering of gem-bearing earth and sifting it at the edge of a river, so sapphires are actually discovered in the mud, reminding us not to fit the world too quickly into our own preconceptions.

Not only do we encounter these disparate natural items in the mud but they "Clot the bedded axle-tree." So many images and suggestions are found here. The axle allows wheels to function as means of transport and here the axle-tree is stuck in the mud. The turning wheel is going nowhere. Motion and stillness come up against each other. "Clot" can also suggest blood and circulation of bodily fluid will become explicit a few lines later with "The dance along the artery/ The circulation of the lymph." The axle also suggests the axis mundi, the fixed line about which the earth rotates, as well as the mythic world tree.

Eliot is busy linking all this imagery, or suggesting it to our minds, as he spins a complex web of relationship. Like many conceptual systems in philosophy or mythology, the macrocosm and the microcosm are linked, even as time and eternity are linked in this poem.

Neural impulses (the "trilling wire"?) and the pulse of the blood provide rhythm here in our time-bound incorporate reality and these continue in spite of ancient wars, now forgotten. There, under our scars, we may still feel the relentless beat of life that corresponds to the drift of the stars above. We ascend the tree, not merely climbing a tree in our orchard in summer but also rising along the world tree, the axis of our world, moving above it in light, as though rising now on the sun's rays. As we rise to such great heights, where we might hear the music of the spheres, Eliot reconnects our imagination once more to the earth, to "the sodden floor below."

There we hear the sound of a struggle between life and death, "the boarhound and the boar." Hunter and hunted, opposites in dynamic relationship, forever pursuing and pursued, as though captured in a pattern - frozen on a vase or a frieze - yin and yang, complementing one another and "reconciled among the stars."

Calydonian Boar hunt. Corinthian black-figured aryballos, ca. 580 BC.
Musée du Louvre
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Eliot sees all existence in a pattern so vast we need to move to the scale of the stars to comprehend it, just as we need to allow our minds to enter eternity where we may see past, present, and future united.

Have I seen sapphires today, in all their beauty, but failed to notice the garlic that nourishes body and palate? Or have I been lost among the bulbs of garlic and ignored the flash of the sapphire's beauty? Have I felt the motion of the tides in my own blood or cut myself off from the mysteries and magic of creation all about me?

Do I remain below and never ascend the tree or do I rise without anchor to my roots?

Am I the hunter or the hunted, the boarhound or the boar? Can I allow the perception that I am both?

How may ways do I manage to fragment myself? My world? My relationships?

Can I pause, reconsider, and open myself to wholeness again?

Am I willing to transcend duality?

--the BB

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Le Weekend

Today we had the Gospel of the gardener pleading on behalf of a non-bearing fig tree, beseeching the master for one more year to dig a well around it, shovel on the shit, and see if it can't produce.

And this weekend I was working on enlarging my wells some more (with rain and wind they are always needing to be reestablished) and adding compost around my fruit trees, roses, and vines. I have a lot more to do, but I got some done while the weather was beautiful. The buds are swelling on all the fruit trees and I can even see hints of new growth on the grapevines. I believe I have seen all of three tulips sticking up their noses through the mulch.

I watered everything thoroughly either yesterday or today. And tonight it is raining (and, if I did not mistake the sound, there was hail for a while during the Oscars).

Three cheers for a woman being chosen Best Director! I also loved Sandra Bullock's gracious and embracing acceptance speech.

Yep, I veged on the couch watching the Oscars tonight.

--the BB

Laughing in church

Fr. Tony preached on the serious topics of sin and repentance today, as befits Lent, but when we posed after the service so we could capture in photos something of our worship together there was altogether too much hilarity to sound very dour. Which is a good thing. We were all gesturing toward one another and I had a hard time getting a photo that actually looked as though Tony were preaching and we were dutifully listening. Here Anne Marie is mimicking the preacher's gestures. And after that we were all gloriously misbehaving.

If church is not a place of joy, even during Lent, then you really should not be going there.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

--the BB

Into our first world.

Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
--T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
"Shall we follow?"

There is the element of the call, the invitation, the summons, or - as I like to think of it - the sweet seduction of the Spirit, luring us onward. We are always free to respond or not. To say no, of course, is to miss out on the delights of reciprocal love.

Here it is an echo, the call of a bird, a thrush. "Deception of the thrush"? What deception is this? Or is it that we think we are being called to one place, one time, on thing, only to discover that it is another? In crude mercantile manipulation this would be the "bait and switch" but in things divine it is usually that what we imagine is too inadequate for God's purposes, so we think we are pursuing A or B only to find we have entered the entire alphabet.

What is this first world Eliot mentions? He writes of pressure, heat, and vibrant air; of bird call and "unheard music hidden in the shrubbery;" roses that "had the look of flowers that are looked at." These are images of what can be felt, or almost felt, seen though invisible, and heard though the music is unheard. This is sensory language and the world of the senses is the first world we can easily conceptualize yet Eliot keeps invoking the unseen and unheard in the midst of this. Is the world beyond the senses, then, our first world, our primary world? Is it a dualistic trap to keep contrasting them or attempting to distinguish them? Are they coinherent realities?

Eliot had a transcendent experience in the garden at Burnt Norton, one in which time and eternity were one and unseen presences were, for a moment, sensible. His language here is rather incantatory, full or repetitions and juxtapositions that remind me somewhat of Orthodox worship that rings changes on certain imagery that is full of paradox. Such language leads us out of our normal thinking habits to expand consciousness, multiply possibility, and overcome opposition.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
The unseen presence resembles our ancestral shades. We claim the presence and they are our guests now, yet we are their offspring and therefore we and our entire context depends on and flows from the past, which was their present. Perhaps we welcome them, yet they are welcoming us - accepted and accepting.

We move in accordance with the inexorable logic of garden architecture down the empty alley (or is it empty?), and into the box circle (the circle surrounded with boxwood shrub, as it is known in the U. S. and, perhaps at the same time, the squared the circle, another figure of overcoming opposites), to the central figure of the pool. Fountains and pools, with lifegiving water, make natural focal points in gardens, but this is a drained pool. And yet "the pool was filled with water out of sunlight" and the moment passes with a passing cloud "and the pool was empty." In the brief moment when the surface of the pool "glittered out of heart of light" the hitherto unseen guests were "behind us, reflected in the pool."

Past and present united, perhaps always but only glimpsed in moments like this. Oh yes, and future too. For if we are creatures that have come to being through the unfolding of the past which is therefore contained within us, then are we not contained in those yet to come?

The bird that called us to this mystical place now urges us to go. We can no more tarry here than Peter, James, and John could stay on the mount of transfiguration. Why? "[H]uman kind/ Cannot bear very much reality."
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Do we prefer our divided, analyzed, compartmentalized, sequential world to one that is organically and mystically in perpetual union?

Can we face coinherent realities?

Lent gives us space to think about it all. Perhaps even to experience it.

And the greatest coinherent reality in Christian tradition is the Holy and Lifegiving Trinity.

Dare we enter that Presence, experience that union, join that dance?

-the BB