“I’m confused.”


I have written about the beautiful birch tree that stands and grows and lives outside the front window of my house. I’m a city-girl, and honestly, until I grew older – and hopefully, wiser – I did not pay much attention to trees. I loved the elm trees I walked beside on the streets of Milwaukee as a child, because they were beautiful, their branches growing out over the streets, touching the branches of their neighbors on the other side. Years later, many of them would be gone, victims of Dutch Elm disease, and their disappearance changed the landscape of those working-class neighborhoods, the blocks of flats with their slanted roofs, forever.

Besides noting their beauty, however, I did not think of trees as inhabiting the same world of sensation and feeling as I do, now.

To have believed then that I would love a tree, actually love a tree and know that it loves me would not have suited my busy – too busy! – child’s mind. But I do love this tree, and I know the tree loves me. I’ve come to the beginning of things, the way life is understood in so many less-linear cultures than ours.

I watch with interest the passing of the seasons and the passing of the days through the branches of this particular tree.

This dry winter season, confuses the tree. I’m certain this long drought – we’re in the third year of drought in California – confuses humans, as well. But I can see the confusion in the tree. The calendar tells us it is January, the month when light comes back, minute by minute, moving toward the longest day in June. The tree still balances on its branches yellow leaves, the leaves of November. By the end of this month or the beginning of February, we can expect the new leaves to begin pushing up onto the branches.

Confusion is surely an important – and ordinary – part of human experience, as well. We don’t do confusion well,  do we? Many years ago, I learned a trick in some leadership journal, a trick I have used many times. In a meeting or conversation, when a suggestion or idea is presented and resistance and misunderstanding grows, a useful way to learn what is really happening is to say: “I’m confused.”

We don’t “do” confusion.   The common response to saying these words: “I’m confused,” is: Answers! I expect that “I’m confused” gets our minds going: “We can’t have this! We can’t be confused! We have to know! We have to explain! We know the answer! We know what’s right! We know what to do!”

Confusion moves so quickly to anxiety.  And then…

Saying “I’m confused” brings more information into a meeting or conversation. Some answers are given. Some unexplained events or feelings are explained, for the moment.  We are compelled by the insertion of “confused” to provide answers!

Confusion plays itself out every day, in every situation, in every relationship, in every event, personal and global. It is so difficult for us to wait – or not wait – for confusion itself to simply tell us what is needed – or not needed, for confusion – a visitor – to take its own to time to stay and to pass.

We move so quickly to answers, to explanations, to actions that may or may not be needed – or even good. We move so quickly because confusion – that dark and deep feeling in the pit of us – isn’t comfortable. We move so quickly to explain away this deep and dark feeling, to give it an answer, to move it along:

“Thank you for coming, but here, here is your hat, and there, there is the door!”

I will continue to watch the tree outside my window these next weeks, hopefully, months and years. I want to see how the tree handles these confusing times, these times when its sustenance has not been provided.

I continue to observe myself as I live in confusing times, changing times, times burdened by too much information, too soon, too often, too carelessly given.

I watch the rest of us, too.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void…”  Genesis 1:1-2


The Star


I started to follow in my sleep,
touched by the star itself.
The star paraded over my head
night after night.

One night I sat on a hill and watched the star
until the morning.
Then I knew it would lead me,
if I chose to follow.

I did.

The route: circuitous.
The country: rugged.
The ruler: vicious.
The companions: odd, and wise.
The nights: cold, colder than in my land.

I followed.
I did.

Stories say the star led us to a Child, the Child.
This I know now:

It led to Light.

—meb, Epiphany, 2015


I choose to see the story for its mystical vividness, realness, and depth.

There are many traditions associated with the Magi, and traditions have broadened and deepened the story, through the years.  Many of the traditions have arrived via art through the ages.


“The three Magi developed distinct characteristics in Christian tradition, so that between them they represented the three ages of (adult) man, three geographical and cultural areas, and sometimes other things. In the normal Western account, 14th century (for  Caspar is old, normally with a white beard, and gives the gold;  Melchior is middle-aged, giving frankincense from his native Arabia, and Balthazar is a young man, very often and increasingly black-skinned, with myrrh from Saba (modern south Yemen).”   from Wikipedia



How Time Passes



“Time passes much too quickly,
when we’re together laughing…” Robert Lamm, “Beginnings,” recorded by Chicago

In December of 2000 my mother was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor. Together, she, my husband and I made the decision to place her under hospice care. At the time, I was already tired  from being her caregiver and caring for a parish full-time. I was grateful for the hospice staff and how they worked with the staff at Mom’s assisted living home to make her last days comfortable – for her, and for me. I was grateful that Mom could stay in the home she loved so well, safe in her room, big enough for a single bed, a television set, and a desk in the nook by the window that looked over a parking lot and the school yard of Tech High School.

A few days before she died, Mom sat on the edge of her bed facing the window with its city scene: “I wish it would snow once, just for me,” she said simply, the Milwaukee Girl who had been transplanted just two years before to this strange climate. Had I known that it was snowing in the hills that surround the Bay Area of California for the first time in many years, I’d have packed her into my car and driven to see the snow, only a few miles away.

Instead, I was focused on her, my Mom,  the last precious days and hours and moments that we would be together. Moments flash through my mind, many times since those precious days and now, in these precious days and hours and moments.

In the years since her death the following February, 2001, I have often returned in memory to singular, stark, and lovely exchanges in that little room. I see her growing smaller and smaller, her eyes becoming larger and larger, until I looked deeply into reflections of my own eyes in hers. I rub her back as she talks to me of ordinary things, as if we were in another time in our lives together. On Valentine’s Day, I bring her a large chocolate heart from See’s Candy; chocolate was forbidden her because of type 2 diabetes, but as the days of her life grew shorter, I set those rules aside to bring her what she loved. She didn’t eat the chocolate heart, but I think she understood the gift: “Thank you,” she said, looking into my eyes.

Three days later she would die in that little room, with me as her companion on this side of that journey, whatever it may be.

Time stretches out – forever – to the young. That’s how it was for me. For every dream, there was a possibility. For every hope, a stab of feeling that announced it had not yet been fulfilled, but could be fulfilled. For every ambition, there was a way, although not yet discovered.

In my fifties I would sometimes awake early in the morning and see in my inward eye my life floating away behind me, like calendar pages drifting off into the wind. The
feeling: panic. Was there enough time? Enough time, for what?

As I grow older, life becomes more and more a parade of moments. Some of the moments I have captured in memory, like those precious last days with my mother. Some of the moments have been lost, never quite noticed at the time, never quite snapped in the conscious mind’s Polaroid lens.

I understand that the very old retrieve memories they had not known they had, memories that float into awareness as if they’d been behind the curtain on some stage. I’m not in that place. I hope to be, some day.

Now, I am grateful and often saddened by the moments that do come to mind. So many of the characters in memory are no longer here; so many I have loved I will not see again. Some of the places are places to which I will not return. Some moments were painful then, and are painful now,  in the remembering. Some moments are  funny… I laugh again, just as I did the first time.

This moment is already this moment, now. Yesterday’s moment is already past.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

The passage of moments cannot be marked by the ticking of some inner clock. They pass by too quickly to be marked at all.

Happy New Year, dear friends!