Choices by Tess Gallagher

I love this poem, and as Janice says, it is the kind of poem that invites us to think more deeply about our choices, and to see the connections, delicately connecting everything.

Heart Poems

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don’t cut that one.
I don’t cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.


This is the kind of poem that invites me to read slowly and read again. I like it for its haiku-like simplicity – not many words but capable of expressing what most of us would require many words to say.

I suppose on the surface, when she sees a nest clutched in / the uppermost branches, it could just be about the value of nests and the birds they harbour. But I hear so much more about choices we make that may have effects we do not…

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By Way Of The Interruptions – A Christmas Sermon On Luke 2:1-20

It is so true, the moments of “something new” breaking into our lives, which may seem like an interruption… wonderful reflection!

Interrupting the Silence

Christmas Eve – Luke 2:1-20

It began about nine months ago. Life was interrupted when the unexpected and unimaginable happened. And I wondered, “How can this be?” Life was changing and things were getting too real too quick. The government issued travel decrees. Some family, friends, and businesses closed to us and said, “No, you can’t come in.” So much has changed. Things just aren’t like they used to be. They probably never will be. It feels like it’s been one interruption after another. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? I’m sure you do. It’s not too hard to figure it out. It’s in the air. It’s all around us.

You know, don’t you, that I’m talking about Mary? I’m talking about what she might have thought about the past nine months of her life. I’m talking about the first Christmas. That is what you thought I was talking…

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the perfect reflection for ADVENT


Entering Advent In Hope – Fr. Daniel Berrigan

By Thomas Good – Thomas Good / Next Left Notes, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

“It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers—
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice. Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ—the life of the world.”

Daniel Berrigan, Testimony: The Word Made Flesh (Orbis Books, 2004).

Somber, Sober Sane: read this

so true. Please understand how important it is to continue to do social distancing, as Covid surges.

Myammy! Moving in together at 50...

Please Read this by Yale Epidemiologist, Jonathan Smith:

As an infectious disease epidemiologist, at this point I feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not being articulated or not present in the “literature” of social media. I have also relied on my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post; any edits are from that peer review.

Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous.

First, we are in the beginning of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these distancing measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks. This may lead some people to…

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The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac by Mary Oliver

so true, and Keats died at 39

Heart Poems


I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

so why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac

This is the third section…

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The Question of Reopening – A Sermon on Psalm 23 and John 10:1-10

I love this. Jesus is the gate. We need to keep relating to the gate, to the life within Jesus, “you in me, I in the Father” so that we may be one…” Being together in wanting abundant life, being in solidarity, is an important way to hold this “open gate” of the heart…

Interrupting the Silence

The Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23 and John 10:1-10

My first sermon in this Season of COVID-19 was on Psalm 23. That was six weeks ago. We began this season of life by reminding ourselves that the Lord is our shepherd and we shall not be in want. I’m sure you know how the rest of it goes – the still waters and green pastures, fearing no evil, the table in the wilderness, the overflowing cup, daily goodness and mercy.  

I commented back then how fortunate we were that Psalm 23 was one of our assigned readings and that it was exactly what we needed to hear. And I say that again today.

Psalm 23 and today’s gospel (John 10:1-10), with it’s images of shepherd, gatekeeper, gate, sheep, thieves and…

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Someone telling you your own story

The book “The Spirituality of Imperfection” by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, has been a favorite source of reflections for me for about 15 years.  One of the stories I love best is from Jewish lore.  I call this the story of The Baal Shem Tov and the Bishop.   The Baal Shem Tov before he died, asked a disciple to carry on his work, going far and wide to tell stories about the master.  In a far country, a wealthy nobleman was very happy to receive the disciple, and eagerly waited to hear the stories.  But his mind went blank.  Finally, after a few days, he started to leave, and then he remembered one story.  He was with the Master when they came to a Christian town, just before Easter.  The usual thing there was to kill a Jew, in the fervor around the crucifixion of Jesus.  So the disciple was very afraid.  But the Baal Shem Tov went to a big house, along the square, and threw open the upper window to look at the procession of people coming into the square.  The bishop in his robes was very imposing.  The Baal Shem Tov told his disciple to go down and tell the bishop that the Baal Shem Tov wanted to see him.  The disciple was trembling with fear, but went to the bishop, and was amazed that the bishop listened, and after his sermon, went with the disciple, to see the Master.  They went to an inner room, spoke for a long while.  Then the Baal Shem Tov came out, and said now they could go away.  The disciple was very sorry this was such a fragment of a story, but he did tell the nobleman about it.  The effect in the nobleman was immense.  He recognized the disciple, and he said, that the bishop in the story was he himself.  He was descended from a line of distinguished rabbis.  He had converted to Christianity in a time of persecution, out of fear, and had been praised, and raised to being a bishop.  He had had a dream, in which he recognized that his soul was in peril.  The Baal Shem Tov had told him that he should return to a simple life of holiness and prayer,  and give up his money and titles.   He should have hope, and  “When a man comes and tells you your own story, you will know that your sins are forgiven.”   When a man comes to tell you your own story, you know that your sins are forgiven.  And (what is always true), is that when you are forgiven, you are healed.

I love this story, because although I am a Christian, I understand that there are people who are and must be, true to their own faith, their own understanding of God.  I do not think we should try to convert or change people’s faith.  What I do think we should work to change, is our own behavior, and especially that part of us which is conscious, which has that “still small voice” of conscience.   Expanding our ability to love, to forgive, and to have patience and forbearance, is what we are being invited to DO.  God calls to each of us, and God forgives us, and we need to hear that voice of forgiveness.  We never hear the voice of God when we are self-satisfied, but only when we are trying to live with peace, with serenity and courage, and to do the will of God.  Putting aside our own egos, trying to help meet the needs of others around us, is what most heals.  When we reach out in love, in solidarity, and forgive each other, we are most like the God we want to be close to, and with whom we want to be in relationship.

Pandemic update, end of March

Not only do we still not have enough test kits so that we can really find out the denominator of the number of people who can make it through with just mild to moderate symptoms, vs. needing oxygen or ventilators, we still don’t have the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in every hospital.  For the past 10 days I have been reading stories from good doctors on the front lines who have been told by administrators that they cannot wear masks, because it will scare patients.  It may be they couldn’t get enough of this equipment, as the administration pitted states against each other and hospitals against each other, to try to get the needed masks , gloves, ventilators, and gowns and booties.  This is against the backdrop of the administration under Mr. Trump sending 17.8 tons of PPE to China to try to help in February, as the Wuhan epicenter escalated into full-blown terror.  This was a good instinct to help our neighbors in distress, but left us without the back up for a pandemic here, and no new materials were ordered or authorized, in spite of the dire predictions of likely spread to the US.

Many friends have been trying to find masks, or make them from cloth, but the cloth is not good for stopping viral particles, compared to the surgical masks (56% effective) or the n95 masks, (95% effective).  In New York which is now in the exponential growth and death rates are skyrocketing, there are big trucks parked outside the hospitals to take out the dead bodies, and doctors and nurses barely able to control the constantly escalating demands for ventilatory assistance.  There are plane-loads of docs and nurses going to help NY, and I feel so grateful for these brave people, and worried for them, also.

San Francisco has been able to stay in Shelter-at-Home mode, and to avoid the escalation so far.  The data show that it is working, and we have only had 380 deaths, not the almost 2,000 of NY, NJ and CT.  Our whole Bay area has been asked to stay in for another month, and the peak is supposed to be April 15.

I spent the past several days trying to help docs with finding support to say they can wear PPE, and we got it 2 days ago from AAFP.  I wrote Governor Newsom yesterday asking for him to please issue an edict that all medical personnel must wear PPE, and preferably the n95 masks.  Today the NY Times published an article about the doctors fighting the administrators of hospitals to get appropriate equipment and be allowed to wear it, instead of being fired.  This is good, the media is now going to help us be heard, and force the hospitals to get the masks and have everyone wear them.  It also is now apparent that many people in the public arena are willing to wear masks to try to limit contagion, which is also great.

I feel guilty in being safe here in isolation at home, when so many are dying.  The deaths of 51 doctors in Italy, along with 10,000 people, is heartrending.  I saw a photo of coffins lined up, and it made me able to finally write a poem, called “50 Coffins in Italy”.   I sent it today to Rattle, hoping they will accept it, as something dealing with what we are seeing in the news.  I am trying to comply with the plan to “flatten the curve.”   I am still registered in the Medical Reserve Corps in our town, if they need retired docs to come in.  I don’t want to go to another place, I need to be able to be at home, at least.  I have been walking down the driveway and back up again, to get exercise every day.  I want to go to walk on the beach, but am saving it for when I really need it.

I ate an artichoke for dinner, cooked in the pressure cooker.  I have been trying to learn to eat better, stay healthier in my patterns, boost my immune system. I have some lemons and some ginger, and I have been making tea.  I have made chicken soup with a lot of garlic.  Little by little, I am trying to get a sort of rhythm at home, along with getting to be part of the zoom meetings for the Lectio Divina, and for Al-Anon.  This is helping me to stay connected.  Also I am checking with Sebastian almost every day, and I got to speak on the phone tonight with Andy, who is in MN.  He still thinks the president has helped do the right thing for the pandemic, so it shows how the media has twisted the minds of the people.  We are going to see if this finally makes people understand his absolute failure of leadership;  Trump’s failure to care for the common good, and “to form a more perfect union”.   I am grateful for the work of so many independent journalists, and this week, especially for Heather Cox Richardson.  I am going to sleep so much better, now that I know our docs and nurses have the n95 masks.