A Friend Returns – and Memories


About 40 years ago, “Mike” was my supervisor at my first professional job. We were both in our 20’s, and although Mike was just a couple of years older than me, he always seemed so much older. Maybe it was his role; maybe it was my being so young, even too young for my age.  Mike was smart, and he was funny.  He was 40 years ago, and he is now.

I was involved in the evolving feminist movement of the time, and I brought my growing consciousness to my job.  I read every month’s issue of “Ms. Magazine” from cover to cover.  Now, young women do not realize what women of the last generation confronted; sometimes, when I remember or tell the stories of those times, it seems as if it cannot be true, as if those were ancient times instead of the 1970’s.  When I think about the treatment of women the world over, the wage inequalities in this country, the limited rights of women as human beings in other countries, I realize these are still ancient times.  We have a long way to go.  And that’s an understatement.

Because of my feminist consciousness, Mike said to me one day:  “You have to meet my wife.”  She worked in the same job as I did, in another office.  Many months later I was sent to that office to work for several days, and I met “Jane” for the first time.  I remember sitting across from her at her desk for a moment, the conversation beginning.  The conversation we began that day would continue until her death, in her early 50’s, over 10 years ago now.  I miss her every day.  Mike was right.  I did need to meet his wife.

Over the years, our lives evolved and changed, as lives do.  Mike and Jane moved away, to another state.  They had two children, two beautiful daughters.  I remained single until my 30’s.  Every few months, Jane would visit me for a weekend. She’d drive  to my apartment late Friday afternoon, arriving in the evening.  We’d sit in my living room, talk for hours, Jane smoking one cigarette after another.  At some point, we decided we were hungry, so we’d dress up, put on evening-out makeup, tell each other how wonderful we looked! – and go out to dinner, talking all the time.

What did we talk about?  What didn’t we talk about?  What do we talk about with those particular people who meet us on so many levels?  Still, when I think about Jane now, I realize our conversations were mainly about our thoughts, our thinking, our opinions, our politics, our ideas, our hopes.  We didn’t talk about feelings, or motives, or foibles.  We didn’t go to those darker, those deeper places in ourselves.  Now, I wish we had.  Now, I’m not sure Jane could go there at all, although she was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known.

Our lives unfolded in different ways.  We took different paths.  I moved across the country, went to seminary, married my beloved at 34, and stayed.  Jane and Mike divorced, although I remained friends with both through the years.  When Jane met her second husband, I liked him, too, and I was proud to be asked to officiate at their wedding.  Ten years later, Jane died of complications from surgery, after she developed lung cancer.  I saw Mike next at her memorial service.  He came up to me after to say:  “Jane would have liked it.”  I had my own grief, and I was grateful for his thoughtful comment, but we didn’t connect that day.


By that time, Mike had developed Parkinson’s disease, and it was hard to see him.  In my mind, we will always be young.  That’s something young people don’t know about – how “old folks” are never old, in their minds.  We seem to stay stuck at some age, some age we have always, will always be.  Some time, I’ll write about my “stuck” age.

Through the years, I heard about Mike from time to time. I heard about his new marriage through Jane.  I haven’t met his second wife, although they’ve been married for many years.  I expect that if I did know her, I’d like her, too.  I’m  connected with Mike and Jane’s daughters on social media, and I can see their mother in them, often.  I see her eyes, her expression, her look in the pictures of her grandchildren.  I look for her in them, in her daughters.  I can hear her in the musings her daughter posts.


Sometimes, social media can actually help people connect.  Not just through “selfies” or meaningless comments; in real ways.  But the real connection is still real because we are human beings, with feelings, and memories, and relationships, and lives. This past weekend, I saw a picture of Mike on social media, posted by one of his daughters.  I “liked” the photo.  Later that day, when I checked in again, I had a private message.  It was from Mike, and it had been typed by his daughter, who is his caregiver every other weekend.

We “old folks” know how to connect.  We know that connecting isn’t simply having hundreds of friends.  We know that connecting is something else, and we know when it’s there, and when it’s not.  And in that message, Mike connected.  He told me some things about his life now, with Parkinson’s.  He told me that there had been many changes in his life.  He told me a few things about what life is like for him, now. That message has stayed with me.  That message has reminded me of so many happenings, so many events, so many images that are a part of the fabric of my life, and have been for a long time.  That message brought me gratitude, a gift.   That message opened a door in my heart, one of many doors, an important, feeling-filled door.  Images arise, moments with Mike and with Jane, other moments with other friends, other connections, other times.

Sometimes, it’s just good to remember, and to be grateful.



What You Are

‘As if the sorrows of this world could overwhelm me now that I realize what we are. I wish everyone could realize this. But there is no way of telling people they are all actually walking around shining like the brightest sun.’ Thomas Merton

FullSizeRenderCalla Lily at dusk – shining like the brightest sun.

[White calla (Zantedeschia aethopica) is the classic variety, with vase-shaped white flowers that rise from a clump of dark green, shiny leaves.]

You are so beautiful, beautiful beyond any beauty you have ever seen, ever will see, or any beauty you can imagine.  And if you are so beautiful, so is every other living creature, every human being, every plant and tree and animal and flower and star and mountain and cloud and drop of rain.  We are all shining like the brightest sun.  We are part of the Great Being.

This is the truth!

For a moment, imagine what the world would be like if we all saw through the dark, shaded barriers of our small egos to the light beyond, the light that is us, the light that is the whole of this creation.  How we would love one another!  How we would reach out to one another with help and hope and compassion!  How different this world, this one world we are given, would be!

We look at one another and at the world, ordinarily, through the lens of our small selves, our ego-selves, the part of us that is harsh and critical and demanding – of ourselves, and then, of others.  What we see “out there” is only a reflection of that wounded, small self we so often identify with.  And so we miss – we actually do not see – the light, the whole person, the little bit of beautiful we each are.

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.” – Max Ehrmann, 1927.

And that “little bit of beautiful” is all-beauty, all-whole, all-loving, all-kind, all-compassion, all-connected, all, all, all, all, all – complete.  Whole.  Light.  Love.  Truth.  Peace. Hope.  Joy.

As the world seems to become more and more unkind, it is going to take some of us to turn around, turn toward the Light, to let go of our small selves, to identify with our Whole-ness, our True Selves, to change the world.  This doesn’t mean you have to stop doing what you are doing.  Whatever you do is important.  What it does mean, though, is that you will have to stop identifying with your small self, moment by moment, letting-go by letting-go…

This is the true work.  This is the work the world needs us to do.  If you’re too busy doing other things, other important things, then you’re too busy to do this work, this work of letting-go, of dissolving the barriers in yourself that have clouded the Light.

You are shining, like the brightest star!  Yes – you!  Yes – now!  Yes!  Yes! Yes!


At the Cemetery Gate



I stop at the statue of Mary,
white marble dedicated a century ago.                                                                                                           There I pause – something in me turning to devotion at the sight of her –                                                             to behold this stone-cold effigy.
Together, we continue the silence that attached itself to me when I walked among the graves.

From there, I enter the gate, walk into the noisy city.                                                                                A dark-skinned post-man steps down from his truck,                                                                       sees her, too.

He genuflects, ancient devotion repeated for this stone-cold effigy.

meb, 2/1015



Shining Through

This past week, I hiked with two other folks to Chimney Rock, from Ghost Ranch, NM in the desert north of Santa Fe. It was late afternoon, and as we walked, we moved from sun-sparked paths to shadowy places where the ground was covered with a layer of snow and ice, the dark side of the mountain that does not see the sun.

From time to time, we stopped to drink water at this altitude – over 6,000 feet – to stay hydrated and to chat about our rising view. It’s funny how close things look, and how far you have to hike to make it to the top. I didn’t know my companions well; we told stories about our lives as we walked. It’s good to have good companions on the journey.

Near the top, I stopped to take the picture that accompanies this post. I have an eye for seeing things that don’t seem to go together, but do go together. I suppose that’s also useful in life, because sometimes the strangest things actually work together! Still, when I stopped to take this photo, I couldn’t see what I was trying to capture, with the sun reflecting on the lens.

Even so, here it is!


In the background, you see Chimney Rock, the object of our afternoon hike. In the foreground, you see the tree that has suffered from several years of drought in these Western States.

These days, I often reflect on how a long journey has led to this place in life, and how, as often as life has seemed a struggle, the journey has led me back to the place where I began: my true self, my true being, me being myself, all the while struggling to be myself.

It’s true for all of us. What we present to the world is often such a brittle piece of ourselves, a dried-out self, trying too hard to be good, to be nice, to fit in, to be what we think is expected of us. Or we present a fearful self, exposed to the elements from the time we were young, pushed into a shape that does not suit us, a shape that is in the minds of others, but isn’t who we really are. We think we are our accomplishments, or our goodness, or our strongly held beliefs or preoccupations.

We are so much more. We are so much more real. We are so much bigger and stronger and full of beauty and strength and glory. We’re made of so much more, more power and light.

All the while we are offering our smaller selves, our larger self – our True Self – is there, all the time, shaped by larger things, by wind and rain and experience and light, the goal that is not the goal, the One, the Only One, the one we are seeking and cannot seek, the One who shapes us, the One we have always been.



The Practice of Gratitude


The practice of gratitude is a powerful, profound spiritual practice.
Often, gratitude is not offered in this deep way.

It’s easy to be grateful, to give thanks to The Powers, when things are good.  It’s easy to give thanks when you get the job, when the wound heals, when your kid gets into the school you wanted, when life feels abundant, when you are happy.

It’s another thing, entirely, to give thanks when life is not giving you what you want.  Then, the true practice of gratitude kicks in.

Corrie ten Boom writes of her years in a concentration camp during World War II.  During those years, she survived by being grateful.  How does a human being survive the most dire, the most hopeless,  of all of life experience by being grateful?

“Be joyful always, pray at all times, give thanks in all circumstances…”

The deep practice of gratitude comes from the deep knowing that you, your small self, your ego, your desires and plans, are not in your control.  The deep practice of gratitude comes from the wisdom that there may be some power at work – something outside your ability to understand or to know – in the very circumstances you are given, whatever they may be.

A long time ago, I visited a woman, then in her 90’s, who was hospitalized for a grave illness.  Surely she would not leave the hospital to go home again.  When I walked into the room and walked toward her bed, I saw her back turned to me.  When I walked around the bed to let her know that I was there to see her, she turned toward me and said:  “I was counting my blessings.”

“Give thanks in all circumstances…”

I’m not suggesting that this is easy.  The spiritual path, that deeper journey, is not easy.  It takes work.  It takes surrender.  The spiritual path may ask that you surrender your most heart-felt desire to What Is.  We all know this is not easy.  This is hard work.  This is the real work of life, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever circumstances you may find yourself in at this moment.

This work involves your facing your feelings, and giving thanks, even for those difficult and even painful feelings.  This work involves saying “Yes!” to life, whatever life brings.  This life involves staying with what is happening – inside of you as well as outside of you – and knowing this is what you are given, this is a gift, this moment, this life.

So often we have been promised a spiritual path that is no more than positive thinking.  We want to believe the suggestion that if only we believe this or that, if only we think the right way, or that if we think positively, our lives will change, we will be different.  That approach avoids the work of surrender, of gratitude, come what may.  That promise points to an easy grace, a grace that does not exist.

Without facing into the storm, you will not exit the storm.  This is truth, this is wisdom.

“For all that has been – thanks.  For all that shall be – Yes.”  – Dag Hammarskjold, Markings