Tag Archive | mystery

Tiny Red Autumn Berry


(I discovered this tiny berry growing in the hedges surrounding our deck)

How many pigments crushed to

paint this bright red berry almost

swallowed whole by all the spiky

needles preening in their glossy green?

How long to shape this perfect

roundness, stroke to satin smooth

this tiny lucent skin?  And why such care for

one so small, unseen by almost

all the world?  This berry spells a

mystery, a wonderment of all things

small—my tiny life, and yours, and

tiny lives that shine around the

world in quiet dignity, blotted out

almost amidst the greens of overblown

celebrities or by the browns of sweat and

toil or by the harsh and sooted hands that,

seeking gain and theirs alone, so careless

smudge the careful-crafted images of One who

joys in every berry small, in every little life, in every

speck of the divine encased in fragile dust.


After the Earthquake: An Old Woman Prays in Nepal

nepal praying

(in a ruined temple the day after the April earthquake)

Life smashed to ruins around her,

shards of centuries piled high to

bury treasured icons, chairs, and roofs,

arms and legs, as well as hopes

of mountain sunshine, it buried, too,

in all the dust that every footstep

stirs into the fragile air, scented now

with death and stunned to silence as the

earth continues to rumble and spit

black ashes over all the lifeless eyes

of both the living and the dead.


Yet the old woman clasps her withered

hands; bows her ancient head; accepts that

there are ways unknown to her, that

there is mystery in and beyond this strange,

strange thing called life; that powers

outside her grasp determine much of her

tomorrows and todays; she nods to them,

both reverent and perplexed.


A sparrow hops and chirps across the

waste in which the woman stands; she,

too, in time may sing again, but not today;

today her voice is only arid wind, a

wind scraped raw across the jagged

rubble of her soul; the sparrow cheeps and

chirps again; the woman bows again;

and I bow too—to her, to mystery, to

sparrow song of a God whose eyes hold

loving fast each tiny creature sifting through

the wonders and the terrors of our world

when mountains quake and shred the

patterns of our lives to dust.


My Easter Breakfast Rose


So quiet you sit on my breakfast table,

mystery unfolding in your

tender petals shining stardust in the

silence of this Easter rising morn.

Christ is risen; you, too, are rising, inner

secrets densely wrapped and bursting

energy inscrutable, profoundly beautiful;

I sip your gentle pink assuredness of

life’s ongoing stirrings and arisings;

taste the fragrance of the secrets hidden

in the layers of your folds, whispering

the mystery of life to come, when you, and I,

and every blossom I have ever known, unfold to

shine beyond all time at God’s high breakfast board.





Requiem for a Small Black Bird


I lay you to rest, little one, your

body rigid, stilled, and so alone,

at the base of an old maple tree;

cover you with fallen twigs and leaves;

simple nest to shelter your returning to the

elements of earth and air.

kyrie eleison


I have no words to speak; simply

mark the spot with mottled rock;

breezes hum above, a wordless litany to

close your too-short life.

kyrie eleison


I knew you only in your death;

dark mystery laid out at dusk on our cold

deck, tiny feet clutching the air,

feathers shrouded black around your

fragile bones, wren-like beak sealed

tight against the whistle of the wind.

Such dignity in your demise, your

moon-white breast so still;

such fearsome beauty shining

bold, shining proud against the

emptiness of death…

kyrie eleison


…a shining that has brushed

across the calloused ridges of my

soul, awakened me (how easily I

fall asleep!) to cherish every

fleeting wonder of this life, every

marvel wrapped in wingèd joy,

before it, too, is laid to rest beneath an

old maple tree, leaving me to

ponder mysteries of hope that

lie so close, and yet so far beyond the

final shelters that we weave with all our

fallen twigs and leaves.

Farewell, little one.

kyrie eleison

Sedum Feast


“Hurry !” I whisper, eager for their blooms to

soften rusted summer days; of course they

pay no heed, breathing as they do the endless

patience of the stars; like chefs devoted to a

fine cuisine, these sedum pinpoints, sedately

poised on my front porch, so careful measure,

gather all they need from rain and sun and

cool of night; serene they toil, unruffled, unafraid,

‘til in the fullness of their time, with modest blush of

joy, take off their aprons, don their robes of rose

and stoles of green and lay before the bees and

butterflies—and me!–a spread rare, delicate, and rich;

with priestly nod invite us each to come for all is ready; sample,

sip, and feast with grateful heart; mystic feed at leisured pace on

mead and nectar fit for monarch, free to all who hunger, thirst for

taste of hallowed mystery, for wisdom of a patient heart, for

grace to still the fears that flit around the edges of our

falling summer days.

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Thin Places and All Saints’ Day


Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen, 4200 BCE and 2900 BCE, County Clare, Ireland


        “Thin places”—places where whatever it is that separates the living from the dead feels almost porous.  Places where the supernatural world seems palpable and where the natural and the divine seem mysteriously and tightly woven together.  Places where visitors feel a mystical sense of communion with whatever or whomever lies beyond this mortal sphere. 

        Ireland, with its rich Celtic and even earlier sense of a world mystically inhabited by spiritual forces beyond this mortal sphere, has numerous thin places widely scattered across the Irish countryside.  Sometimes, as is true of the Poulnabrone dolmen above, these thin places are ancient burial sites with a single entrance.  Sometimes they are very early monuments built around openings that highlight the winter solstice.  And sometimes, like the Hill of Uisneach at the very center of Ireland, they are sacred hillsides where ancient heroes or even divine creatures are said once to have lived and where, some believe, the spirits of those ancients continue to dwell.

        I’ve never visited any of these hallowed Irish sites, but when I read recently about some of them, I found myself intrigued by the whole idea of “thinness.”  A closeness to those who have gone before.  An intimate sense of the Divine, powerfully reaching from Beyond into our Here and Now.  And I realized that, while I don’t have any thin places to visit, I do experience thin times now and again.  Moments at the altar rail when I sip the Eucharistic wine and feel a Presence holding me.  Evenings when I step into a glorious sunset or bright moon rise and feel the distant closeness of a Power so vast it takes my breath away.   Moments when I see the intricately detailed pattern on a small butterfly and sense a profound Love that cares for tiny things like butterflies and me.

        Thin times.  Precious times.  Intense and almost haunting times.  But I believe the thinnest of all thin times for me is the annual celebration of All Saints’ Day in church worship.  The somber reading of the names of those who have entered the nearer presence of God in the previous year.  The organ chime that solemnly and respectfully rings a final tribute to each life now gone from us.  And then the majestic singing of that most triumphant of hymns, “For All the Saints.” 

        As the organ swells and voices all around me sing exultantly, recalling those “who from their labors rest,” I feel myself joining hands with so many of those now gone from this world.   I have a strong sense that I am no longer “here” and they “there.”  We are, for one brief shining musical moment, together as one—one in “blest communion,” one in “fellowship divine.”   Heaven and earth are joined.  We sing and dance together.  And for that one brief shining moment, as one people—the living and the dead—we look forward to that coming day when separation will be no more, when tears will all be wiped away, when we will hymn as one the harmony of life together in God’s Nearer Presence.

        Thin places.  Thin times.  Places and times when the veil that falls between the Here and the There seems so thin it’s almost as though it is not there at all.  Places and times when our hearts become a little braver, our arms a little stronger, because we sense that we are not alone.  Places and times which cause us to bow in deep and reverent gratitude for all of life—life in this world and life in the next.