Saturday, July 31, 2004


The walls bleed light.
Guard dogs are released at night.
Doves lean on fences.

The road holds its breath.
Cars trace water color
stainglass mystery sky.

Semi-conscious semitrailors
guide concrete wagon train
north-east, south-southwest.

Open air simulcrum
partially partitioned
into spidery ink

Friday, July 30, 2004

What Meow Means

Dame J, contemplating
Feed me, now!
Pay attention to me, now!
Give me milk!
Scratch me here,
behind my cute left ear,
not the right.
Play with me
and love me.
This octologue is not really from the perspective of the cat, but is based on the response the veterinary nurse gave when I asked her the implied question. "DJ" got her booster shots on Tuesday, and was treated for round worms. We also learned she weighs three pounds, and estimate that she is 12 weeks old.
Dame J, with new toy
Here, the little lady is pictured with a toy Elsie bought her two weeks ago. At the moment, she is more interested in other toys; but kittens can seem fickle that way.
Dame J, with Elsie
Speaking of Elsie, here's her leg with everyone's favorite ball of fur. Judging from her expression, the Dame is tired of playing model. I adopted DJ on July 2nd, and Elsie is lobbying to proclaim July 4 the lady's birthday. Well, it would be easy to remember, and is of little consequence to the kitten. So, I sang that immortal classic "Yankee Doodle Kitten"; the Dame didn't seem to mind.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Idée d’jour

A bit of perfume always clings to the hand that gives the rose.
— Chinese proverb

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

How to Admit You're Wrong, and Apologize

Brother Dave recently sent this quote from Dr. Tom Frame, Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defense Force:
As the only Anglican bishop to have publicly endorsed the Australian government's case for war, I now concede that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction .... There is no alternative to concluding that the March 2003 invasion was neither just nor necessary .... I continue to seek God's forgiveness for my complicity in creating a world in which this sort of action was ever considered by anyone to be necessary.
The complete statement is available here, and it is worth reading. No doubt certain infernal regions will freeze over before our current Chickenhawk-in-Chief will utter similar words.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Lost & Found

As I put it to Elsie on Saturday, I either misplaced or lost my Moleskine™ journal on Friday.

I had brought it into the study to type my "Traffic Report" entry. My memory was that I had slipped it into my pants' pocket (the convenient size is one of the things I love about this product) when I was done. I drove to work as normal, via the traditional zig-zag route. I parked, then started to walk to the building. Somehow, my pants didn't feel as heavy as they should have. I patted my left pocket, and felt no Moleskine.

"Well," I thought, "I must have been mistaken. I must have left it in the study."

Went to the study as soon as I got home, and — no journal.

On Sunday, I drove back to the parking garage and searched the area between where I normally park and the building. No journal.

I wasn't panicked, but I was sad to lose it. I've filled between 10-15 pages with my barely legible handwriting.

Elsie quite reasonably asked if there was any irreplaceable in the journal. Well, I'm pretty sure everything in the journal has been posted on my web-log. There was some sensitive information in the back pocket, but a person would have a challenge figuring out what that information related to.

Elsie's question suggested the obvious solution of buying a new Moleskine™. So, after hunting for it in the parking garage, I ran down to a local bookshop & got one.

Last night, on my way to bed, I had the idea of looking behind the flight path. I guess I should explain that "flight path" is my term for the place I stack stuff I plan to take with me each day. Currently, the flight path is my music center, which is topped by a hard-plastic covered turn table. There's between 2-3 inches between the music center and the wall.

You guessed it. The journal was there. Below, you see the interior of the journal with the original of "Traffic Report" on the recto.
Moleskine Journal
I suppose I'll need to start writing a lot more to make the purchase of an additional Moleskine worth it. Although — I've learned they make pretty nice gifts as well.

One last thing I like about the Moleskine — the paper quality is such that the pen seems to just glide across the page.

It's like skating with words.

Road Fragments

The road is a prayer
rising to meet the sky

8:30 —
McCoy Tyner crunches chords
on the piano, on the radio

July dives into autumn
clouds fill the western sky

like a reflection
of the eastern hills

dreaming the road
dreaming the endless curves

driving into the clouds
driving into prayer

Idée d’jour

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.
— Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Quote d’jour

A saint is a person who practices the keystone virtue of humility. Humility in the face of wealth and plenty, humility in the face of hatred and violence, humility in the face of strength, humility in the face of your own genius or lack of it, humility in face of another's humility, humility in the face of love and beauty, humility in the face of pain and death. Saints are driven to humbling themselves before all the splendor and horror of the world because they perceive there to be something divine in it, something pulsing and alive beneath the hard dead surface of material things, something inconceivably greater and purer than they.
— Tony Hendra (© 2004), Father Joe, Random House, pg 4

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Waters Meet

When waters meet
supplicant trees bow low
grass rises in wonder

Where winds dance
caverns open their throats
stars swing like pistons

Why earth sings
under fractured lava
travelling the same eggshell

How she watches
as we are well met
water finds its own level
My own netless stab at Langpo, with little understanding of what it's all about.

Idée d’jour

A great man is always willing to be little.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1892)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Iraqi Losses

As a supplement to the stats on American casualties in Iraq, Brother Dave offers the following educated guesses on the Iraqi side:
Iraqi armed force members killed - 6,000

Iraqi armed forces injured - unknown
Iraqi civilians killed - 11,000
Iraqi civilians injured - 40,000
Dave says this is a "best guess" noting that the hospitals were ordered not to keep records. He goes on to cite this chilling statistic: Number of years the thousands and thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium deposited on Iraq by coalition forces will continue to cause illness, cancer and birth defects - 4.5 billion years

Kitty Pics

During the Blog Panel at the Conestoga Science Fiction Convention this past Sunday, Mary Kay mentioned a charming tradition within the Live Journal community: people post pictures of their cats on Friday. Or, they post entries supposedly written by their cats.

The latter is altogether too precious for my taste, but I'm not above doing the former. Took a couple of pictures of the esteemed Dame Julian this morning, just for this purpose.
Dame Julian, about to pounce
Here, we see her in full pounce mode. Below, we see her in a slightly more sedate aspect:
Dame Julian
By the way, "DJ" will only read the Tulsa World. The Daily Okie she rips to shreds. She is obviously a cat of refined tastes.

U.S. Casualties in Iraq

Received via e-mail.
Many of you probably know that the US Death toll reached 900+ yesterday. A friend of mine did a little research to give a little more depth to that number:

Out of 1022 total coalition deaths, 901 are Americans, 61 are British, and 60 are from other allied countries.

I'm sure glad we have a "coalition", instead of going it on our own.

So far we've had 3331 soldiers wounded badly enough that they could not return to duty.
Our total number of wounded is 5394.
409 of those have happened since June 30th.

Out of all deaths, 25% have been non-combat related:
Hostile fire75974.3%
Non-combat related26325.7%
Total 1022
Data from:
which aggregates the data from the following sources:

Idée d’jour

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
— Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Traffic Report

Cows reported
on the road, southwest
one hundred fourth
and Mac Arthur.
Cows in the road, two
days in a
row. Good time
to drive slow.
Another Octologue

Watonga IV: Saturday

Part One | Part Two | Part 2 ½ | Part Three

This is the last entry in my series on our "Mission Trip" to Watonga, OK, where a group of us shared Vacation Bible School with local children (from about 3-5 years old). Unlike Wednesday and Thursday, I don't recall that Saturday had a particular theme. My assumption had been that the theme would be that humanity is one big family, and I was prepared to sing a song to that effect, but the structure of the day was a different than the previous two.

I was much more relaxed about leading the music Saturday morning. The previous two mornings, I was focused on playing only certified "religious" music. Since the kids weren't hanging on every note, I felt free to just sing stuff I enjoyed out of the Rise Up Singing book (published by Sing Out). This once again gave me a chance to sing with Nicole, whose voice blends so well with mine. And she clearly enjoyed it as well.

The goal for the day was to take the kids to Roman Nose State Park to go swimming. So — as best as I can remember — there was not a story highlighting a particular culture. Nor was the service bilingual. We did a service, which was followed by outdoor games until all was prepared for our Roman Nose trip.

One charming moment occurred while we were waiting to go to the park. Once of the kids shared her sun block with near-by counselors, including myself. Since I burn easily, I was very grateful for her generosity.

Once at the park, I chose to stay in the shade rather than play life guard. Since I was already feeling mildly dehydrated (perhaps a hold-over from the sweat), this seemed the wiser course. All the kids went swimming, under the supervision of a number of adults and a number of Youth Counselors, and reportedly had a very good time. They were sent home with the bags they made on Thursday, filled with their crafts, Polaroids, and song books, along with small bags of candy.
Let's review: I had three motivators for the trip — the sweat, the historical tour, and an opportunity for ministry, as recommended by Dean Back. I've written about the first two, and feel they were positive. But how did I do as a minister?

Going in, I wasn't sure I would have much to offer. I expected to be part of a choir led by someone else, and to help kids with the crafts. As it turned out, I became the leader of the choir, and was mostly moral support as far as the crafts went. By moral support, I mean I kept walking around the room and praising the work the kids were doing.

I received a great deal of praise for how well the music went. That is one of my gifts, and one of my joys, and it might make sense to focus my energy there. Having been twice burned in a church choir, I'm reluctant to pursue that official venue.

Did I "play well with others"? Well, I did my best to share the responsibilities, but the members of the choir seemed to drop off day by day. Not sure why. Maybe they felt more useful elsewhere; maybe I could have thanked them more, or been more proactive in seeking their help.

I suppose I still have as many questions and self-doubts as I did before I went to Watonga. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me.
One last note: I now measure the experience of heat against my time in the sweat lodge. It was 90° with 48% humidity when I walked back from lunch today. My thought was: "Not bad."

Learning the Sun Dance (2)

Leaves are learning the Sun Dance,
hanging from the thin blue sky
while clouds are split in twain.

Cars, lumbering in straight lines,
cannot learn the Sun Dance,
for they square the Sacred Circle.

This shadow stands atop grandfather stones.
This shadow is cleansing cedar smoke.
This shadow would learn the Sun Dance.

Idée d’jour

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.
— Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Learning the Sun Dance

Leaves are learning the Sun Dance
they hang from the thin blue sky
and sing to the wind

Cars do not learn the Sun Dance
they walk in straight lines
they square the circle

This shadow stands atop the rocks
this shadow is cedar smoke, cleansing;
this shadow would learn the Sun Dance

Last weeks in July, clouds
tossed away by ancient prayers,
the heart beats with the Sun Dance

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Blogger's New Interface

I figure if Ron Silliman can post an entry on Blogger's latest interface, I can too. By the way, hi Ron, and thanks for including me on your blogroll.

Seems like Blogger has been changing their interface once every couple of months this year. One change which I have found very useful is the ability to e-mail entries to your blog. Most of my entries are done this way. It reduces my time on-line, and makes it possible for me to do most of my writing at home (where it's appropriate) rather than at work (where it's not).

There is a draw-back, however. The right-hand margin. Most of my entries the past few weeks have been prose; sometimes, however, the line doesn't make it even close to the right margin. There seems to be a glitch in how the program reads blank "spaces". Because I care about such things, I meticulously go through and double-check the space at the end of each line. Missed a few yesterday, but I fixed that this morning.

Anyway, the latest Blogger interface assumes the user doesn't know anything about html. Since this is true of an increasing number of blog creators, this is probably a good feature. There is still an "edit html" option, which is what I use (I like to get my hands dirty on the code).

Like Ron, I'm dissatisfied with the "Preview" function: everything looks like it's in bold. It definitely does not look like it will once you have posted your entry.

One thing Ron mentions is a problem with paragraphs beginning flush with the left-hand margin. Not something I've had trouble with, and I had honestly assumed Ron had intended each paragraph to be slightly indented. Well, I just looked at Ron's html source code, and I think I've identified the cause: he's copying Word documents into Blogger. How do I know this? Little clues, like the code <p=mso PlainText>; that "mso" stands for "Microsoft Office". There's an extensive stylesheet, which looks mighty similar to the trash that MS Word generates when you copy a document into FrontPage.

Hey, Ron: drop me a line (address is available under "E-mail me" on the left), I might be able to help you clean up some of that WORD trash.

Ron also says: "for me the ability to set poems that move away from the left hand margin is always the key." I assume he's talking about a type of "typographic" poetry, here. This is a challenge using html, even with the assistance of Cascading Style Sheets. The root problem is the lack of a standard in browser software. An additional challenge is the control the more savvy users have over how their browsers render a page. So, the best you can hope for is something relatively close to what you intended. I don't currently do poetry that depends much on word placement, but "Never Thunders in Hades" is one example. "Farmer of the Night" is another.

How did I get the word "watching" to float at different points in the line in "Never Thunders"? The use of in line styles; for example: <span style="position: relative; left: 77pt"> This little bit of styling caused the line to begin 77 points left of where it normally would. But I'm still gambling that the user will see things exactly as I do in my browser, which is not a safe bet.

I'm geeking you out, aren't I? Well, you're feeling similarly to what I feel when I read one of Ron's typical entries.

Quote d’jour

... I know nothing else but miracles ...
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with miracles,
Every foot of the interior swarms with miracles.
— Walt Whitman

Monday, July 19, 2004


  1. Nostalgia :: craze
  2. Irreplaceable :: memories
  3. Odd :: duck
  4. James Spader :: Sex, Lies, and Videotape
  5. Flamboyant :: Oscar Wilde
  6. Intense :: scrutiny
  7. Simple :: Simon
  8. Septic :: tank
  9. Ton :: of reasons
  10. Turkey :: fat
Subliminals are updated weekly at

Idée d’jour

Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing the ground. — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, editor and orator (1817-1895)

When Blogs Collide

The Conestoga Science Fiction Convention was held in Tulsa, OK, this past weekend (July 16-18). The Very Rt Rev. Dr. Omed invited all interested pilgrims to visit him in his element, and kiss his papal ring.  Also, believing himself to be the moderator of a panel on blogging, he invited near-by bloggers to sit in on the panel. The latter held little interest (not much for kissing rings, personally), but I jumped at the chance to display my ego to a larger (and, presumably, captive) audience.

As it turned out, one of the good doctor's former girlfriends, Mary Kay Kare, was the moderator of the panel. She was part of the gang during the good ol' bad ol' days, when I was attending college & majoring in substance abuse. She remembered me, apparantly with some fondness. She was willing to let me sit in on the panel.

One other person accepted the doctor's invitation - Paulapalooza. She recently moved to Arkansas City, KS, which is about 2 1/2 hours from Tulsa. That's a lllloooonnnnnggggg way to drive to spend a couple of hours with fellow bloggers. I believe she came primarily to meet Dr. Omed, but she seemed genuinely pleased to meet me as well. She had nice things to say about my recent entry on my experience in a sweat lodge.

Paula came with her entourage: husband James, and her children, thing 1 and thing 2. She's been part of the Salon community for three years, and began her blog as a way talk about books and music. Lately, however, she has been detailing her family adventures, in particular the shenanigans of things 1 and 2. Incidentally, fans of Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat should recognize those names — and I'm sure she was thinking of the book rather than the movie.

Pictures were taken, and you're likely to see a rare unaltered photo of your correspondent if you check into Dr. Omed or Paulapalooza's blogs in the next few days.

I had no idea what Ms. P looked like - neither did Dr Omed. She has not posted a picture on her blog. She says she lacks the knowledge. Well, that Salon community is famous for advising each other on such things, my dear lady - write the good doctor and he will instruct you. If you were working in html, I'd also be pleased to help. Anyway, she is a very attactive young woman with shortish dark hair (for which I am a sucker).

As predicted, the panelists outnumbered the audience, but I think we were an audience for each other. Which pretty much reflects the reality of this blogging exercise, as well. Naturally, I issued a "raging ego alert" (which tickled Paula), but we bloggers were respectful of each other and hardly ever spoke while another blogger was speaking.

Dr. Omed and I have known each other since high school (I was at least a year ahead), and we get along famously. Paula fit in immediately. Of course she had a sense of us, and we of her, from the blogs; but there's an additional element added by physical presence (and vocal quality, and so on).

Incidentally, she thinks Dr. Omed resembles his blog. I was a bit more of a surprise. Of course, I'm sparing with the self-portraits.

The three of us do plan to reconnect in the near future. The next summit will center around an exhibit of Etruscan jewlery at the Mabee Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee, Oklahoma. That will be a little further for Ms. P and her entourage to travel (about 3 1/2 hrs, I suspect), but this will be the only showing in the United States. I'd say that would be worth the trip, even if Dr. Omed & I were a complete wash-out.

The next blogger I'd like to meet? Real Live Preacher, off course. I can just picture him drinking a beer while I genteely sip an O'Dooles, and talking about - well, you know, stuff. I wouldn't mind visiting Madame Fi in Colorado, nor Sam in the wilds of Montana. If I ever went to England, I'd like to meet Dick Jones.

If you pilgrims and poetry lovers ever happen to be in Oklahoma, let me know. A summit could possibly be arranged.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Watonga III: Friday

I have been sporadically writing about my participation in a Vacation Bible School (VBS) in Watonga, Oklahoma. Part I related the trip to Watonga, and the conversation I had with Robert, a troubled young man. Part II talked some about our work with the kids who attended VBS, and a little more about a sweat we attended Thursday evening.

I've already mentioned the fact that we were “recycling” materials used the previous year for the Cathedral's VBS. The theme was “Under the Same Sky”, and was intended as a celebration of humanity's diversity (specifically, racial diversity). Each day was supposed to focus on a different ethnic group: Thursday was focused on Hispanics, and several parts of the day were bilingual (Spanish/English). Friday was focused on Native Americans, and parts of our presentation were offered in Choctaw, if memory serves.

The speaker was Blu Clark, a historian. Blu is an impressive individual on his own, but for me part of his fame derives from his mother, who was instrumental in the movement to include David Pendleton Oakerhater on the Episcopal calendar of saints. The day partially revolved around the communion service, and in place of a scripture, Blu related a story from David Pendleton's life:
David was a brave warrior, but he was eventually captured and sent to prison in Florida with other Enemy Combatants. Capt. Parker, the military warden, believed it was possible to educate these men, and arranged for teachers. Among these teachers was Mary D. Burnham, and the better-known Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Now, David was fascinated by the white man's inventions, and was anxious to learn more about them. However, he was not prepared for what he learned this particular day. In the process of discussing medical advances, the teacher took out her false teeth. Well, this started quite a stir in the class. The class had never seen a person remove parts of themselves before. Why, who knew if the teacher might not remove her leg or arm next!?

The class started talking among themselves, in their native tongue, trying to understand what had happened. Finally, one of the teachers was able to break through the growing din to ask what the class was talking about. One of the students pointed at the main teacher and said, "She's bad", meaning she was not whole.

Well, when the teachers figured out what this meant, they were quite amused. Doubled up in laughter, in fact. By this point, Capt. Parker could hear the noise and came to the classroom to find 2-3 women doubled over. His first thought was that the Indians had attacked their teachers, and he drew his revolver. Happily, one of the teachers regained her composure sufficiently to tell him all was well.

My history lesson continued that afternoon. A group of about nine people went with Indian Missioner Jim Knowles to visit sites associated with the original Whirlwind Mission and St. David.

Now, I have a lousy sense of direction, and I couldn't begin to tell you where the original Whirlwind Mission was in relation to Watonga. We drove east of Watonga for between 45 minutes to an hour before we reached what is now mostly cattle ranches. Though we saw the Whirlwind Cemetery first, I'll show you the mission first:

The reason this is known as Whirlwind is because Chief Whirlwind donated the land to the Episcopal Church. Later, when it became important to have a Biblically-associated name, it became Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family. The mission also served as a day school. The day school was intended for Indian children who were too sick to attend boarding school. At the boarding school, the children were not allowed to speak any language other than English, and were not allowed to practice their native ways.

At the Whirlwind Mission day school, where David Pendleton served as headmaster, the families camped around the mission or along the ridge. The children simply walked back “home” at the end of each day. They still spoke their native language while they learned English, and still practiced their traditions even as David taught them about the new chief, Jesus, whom he had chosen to follow.

It was amazing how many children in the area were too sick to attend the boarding school.

Here, you see the sign for the cemetery, which is south of, and across a creek from, the Mission. There are only three stones in this plot, one of which is a stele listing the names of all the people known to have been buried here. The Plains Indians did not mark their resting place. Many tribes set corpses on stilts and burned them; others left them exposed to be consumed by birds of prey.

Somewhere near Fay, OK is a sort of "free" cemetery, which is where David Pendleton, and many members of his family are buried. The cemetery was originally owned by a Baptist church, but the church let the deed run out. There is no record of ownership at this time.

The cemetery is amazingly historical. Furthest from the road are the oldest graves, dating from the early 1800s. David's stone is, perhaps, a quarter of the way from the back. Some may think a saint of the church should have a more impressive stone; but I think this stone is just fine. Even better is the near-by tree.

Diagonal from David's plot is the stone for Standing Twenty, a powerful medicine woman who lived around the same time. There are few women's names recorded in this cemetery, so the fact that her name is indicates how special she was.

Jim related two stories that illustrated her power as a medicine woman:
The Sun Dance is a sacred ceremony which takes place during July. It's very bad for it to rain during the Sundance (logically enough), and this particular year storm clouds were threatening.

The tribe called on Standing Twenty, and she came out with her herbs, which she tossed to the eight directions as she chanted. After she had chanted for some time, the clouds parted. Jim said he believed that if Moses could part the Red Sea, Standing Twenty could part the storm clouds.
The other story is a bit more incredible:
A woman's friend was suffering a stomach ailment, probably cancer. The woman brought her friend to a sweat lead by Standing Twenty. Sometime after Standing Twenty had closed the door to the lodge, a beaver worked its way in. The beaver walked across the hot rocks, straight for the one with stomach cancer. The beaver clawed her stomach open, reached his head in, and pulled out a foul mass. He took the mass, walked back to the stones, and beat the mass on the glowing stones for some time. The afflicted person somehow survived all this, and lived for several years to come.

Quote d’jour

Time is an illusion that only makes us pant.
— Yann Martel, Life of Pi, pg 242

Definition d’jour

Edible, adj.:
Good to eat, and wholesome to digest, as a worm to a toad, a toad to a snake, a snake to a pig, a pig to a man, and a man to a worm.
— Ambrose Bierce, writer (1842-1914) [The Devil's Dictionary]

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Religious Connections

Been a while since I have posted a religion-related entry, aside from the sporadic series on Watonga.  To compensate, I point you to a couple of posts on others' blogs:
  1. In his Challenges to a New Church, Matthew Sturges lists what he considers to be the requirements for a vital faith community. I'd make this required reading for struggling missions, new priests, and recent converts. I can't think of a thing to add to Matthew's list, and agree with every point.
  2. I think Mother Sarah makes a related point in her entry concerning this past Sunday's Gospel reading (see entry for July 5, "Proper 10, Year C").  As she says, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer is really asking who he can exclude. Jesus gives an elegantly simple answer, "no one." I especially liked Sarah's line,
    ... in the "who's my neighbor" question, Jesus asks us to place ourselves in the shoes (or the ditch) of the most desperate person we can imagine before we answer. I'd like to see what would happen to our discourse as Christians and/or Americans if we did this on a regular basis before determining policy with respect to any question.
What connects these two entries for me is the notion that "life in Christ" is dynamic, and requires something more than obedience to a set of rules. You know, it's easy to have the lines clearly marked; it's easy to have a set of rules and regulations that help define who's in and who's out. It's harder to love the heretics and/or the pharisees. It's harder to accept people as Jesus would. I can't think of a single instance in the Gospels where Jesus rejects someone. When addressing the Law, Jesus challenges me to explore my heart rather than worrying about what my neighbor is up to.

While you're surfing about, check out Real Live Preacher's story "Even the Rich Woman".

Idée d’jour

Revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst.
— Walter Weckler

Thursday Morning

Kitten on the keys
Dice on the pavement
Trees etched against the sky
Grass in marauding parades
Lambs on elegant chaise lounges

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Update on “Dame Julian”

Took this picture of Dame Julian on Saturday morning. It's my hope to take at least one picture of her each week, so we can track the progress of her growth.  Here, she is posing against her "daddy's" tummy for scale. How she has grown! Imagine, just a week ago, I could fit her in my hand.

Currently, she spends most days in the bathroom, as the rest of the house isn't quite kitten-proof. When I get home, she is a little ball of energy. Though she likes to track me, she will also race through the house at top speed for unknown reasons. The floor is filled with kitten-appropriate toys: newspaper, paper bags, and cellophane. I've rigged up a "cat dancer" type toy, a bouncy spider hanging off a stick, and we both get exercise this way.

She has altered my world. I normally would come home, turn on the tube, and become a turnip. Now, I've got some duties:  move her out of the bathroom, clean the litter box, play kitten games. Elsie says the scene of me using the kitty dancer with DJ is quite amusing.

DJ and I do have something in common: we like to take long naps on Sunday afternoon. I laid down on the couch Sunday afternoon, and DJ cuddled up on my chest. Something supremely comforting about having a purring ball of warmth on your chest while you're napping. We slept for almost three hours, except for the brief intrusion of an ill-timed phone call.

She is a cutie, isn't she?

Happy Birthday, Woody Guthrie

Image © 2004 by Charles Banks Wilson
This painting will be officially installed in the fourth floor rotunda of the Okla. State Capitol Building tomorrow. The artist is requesting an in-lieu commission; namely, donations to the Huntington's Disease Society of America (details here).

Today is Woody Guthrie's birthday. It is also, ironically, Bastille Day. Woody was on the side of freedom from the day he was born.

Oklahoma has been slow in recognizing its native son, primarily because so many thought he was a Communist.  He was a union sympathizer, and wrote a column for the Daily Worker, but was never an official member of the Communist party. Woody was too much of an iconoclast to be a member of anything.*

Curiously, when the Oklahoma Gazette ran a feature article on the life of the musician, one letter to the editor claimed that Woody never did a hard day's work in his life. And, I suppose, it's true that Woody didn't hold a regular job for very long. If memory serves, his radio show lasted a couple of years; his service in the merchant marine lasted a few months.*

As Woody saw it, his job was sharing his music. Any musician can tell you that performing is a lot harder than it looks. To claim that Woody was a bum, or that his belief in the common worker was a sham because he didn't break rocks (or whatever) is unfair. Woody just didn't care about money all that much. He was more concerned with sharing his music with every day people. He performed on a street corner with the same enthusiasm he would for a union rally.

I'm pretty sure I read Woody's "autobiographical novel" Bound for Glory before I'd heard much of Bob Dylan. But it hardly matters. Both men have had a profound influence on music. Maybe all Woody did is write new words for existing folk tunes; but who do you know who has done it so well?

*See Joe Klein's Woody Guthrie: A Life

Monday, July 12, 2004

More About the Sweat

I have been sporatically posting entries about my trip to Watonga, OK, two weeks ago to be part of a Vacation Bible School. Previous entries are posted here and here. In re-reading the latter entry, which discusses my experience in an Indian Sweat Lodge, I've remembered some details.

The first round, as I say was intense. To be surrounded by the multiple languages seemed to be a small taste of what Pentecost might have been like.

The experience of time can be affected by so many externals. If you're anxious, time seems to drag to a crawl. If you're enjoying yourself, time seems to go very quickly. The first round seemed to go on forever. The third round, when I chanted with our hosts, seemed to go very quickly. The fourth round, which got extremely hot with the addition of thirty stones, seemed endless. This contrast gave me a sense of the meaning of "kairos", or (roughly) "timeless time".

I mention, in passing the traditional way the Native Americans have of voicing approval. Well, I assume it's traditional. In any case, they make a "hmmm" noise which is like a yummy sound; and they say "Wha-hey" with approving enthusiasm.

You may wonder whether I had any visions in the sweat. Nothing life changing. During the final round, I did see patches of earth-toned colors.

Vote for Freedom

Early last week, Tom Ridge announced an increase in the terror alert. This announcement was suspiciously made close to the announcement of John Edwards as Sen. Kerry's vice-presidential candidate. The announcement was along the typical lines of "somewhere, sometime". The memos that came out in the months prior to Sept. 11, 2001, were models of specificity and clarity by comparison.

Now, someone doesn't have to be a political analyst to figure out the Democratic and Republican conventions would be mighty tempting targets. Heck, a terrorist could hit Podunk, USA, during the convention to much the same effect — if not greater. Another tempting time would be around the time of the elections — and the erstwhile Minister of Homeland Defense is investigating whether the national elections can be delayed in response to an attack (or, one presumes, a threat).

I hope I'm not the only one in America who is nervous about the prospect of the elections being delayed. If the party in power can reschedule the election, they will certainly do so to their benefit — there is no assurance they will reschedule with only a terrorist threat in mind.

Michael Moore's brilliant bit of agit prop (Fahrenheit 9/11) posits the notion that the Repugnicans want to keep us in a constant state of fear and anxiety. The supposed advantage is that fearful people are likely to maintain the status quo. It's a hypothesis I'm unwilling to reject out of hand, though I am wary of most conspiracy theories.

But, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? One of the Buddha's "Fundamental Truths" was that "Life is suffering"; a modern corollary might be "Life is dangerous". The attack on the World Trade Center in the mid-90s certainly proved vulnerability to foreign attack. The OKC bombing in 1995 proved we are as vulnerable to domestic terrorists. School shootings, among other acts of random violence, also confirm how risky life in our modern world is.

Bottom line: we can reduce risks, but we cannot guarantee safety. A dedicated small group of "true believers" are likely to create damage regardless of securing the borders or checking people's library records. A "lone gunman", such as John Hinkley or Chapman, are even more likely of success.

Senator Kerry can no more guarantee your safety any more than the incumbant. But, he can work to preserve your freedom. If you are willing to trade your freedom for security, fine. But, you ain't gonna be 100% secure even if you trade in the last freedom available. Myself, I'm going to fight to preserve every freedom available.

For me, the first step will be voting for Senator Kerry as president.


  1. Crippling :: headache
  2. Tough :: as nails
  3. Slinky :: snake
  4. Slogan :: eering
  5. Stuffed :: shirt
  6. Instructions :: impenetrable
  7. Expletive :: deleted
  8. Cartoon :: wedding
  9. Toddler :: race
  10. Insinuation :: malignant
"Subliminals" is a weekly feature at

Idée d’jour

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
— Bertrand Russell

Friday, July 09, 2004

We Are Walking

by George Wallace

we are walking, you are having a bad dream and i am a character in it
you look at me, you are standing on the petals of an enormous flower
the land is yellow in every direction, the sky is lavendar and heavy
your eyes open and shut, one might describe this as a fluttering motion
sometimes i pinch myself around you, even then i have no feeling
your eyes are butterfly wings, sky is pollen, dust is everywhere
you are having a bad dream, you have a name like suspicion
you kick at the world like raw wheat or flax on a miller's wheel
the land goes on forever, it is covered with pollen in the sun
this sunlight is dust on the wings of an enormous butterfly
like a field of sunflowers after a longwinded conversation
you are having a bad dream, some dreams do go on a bit
your eyes open and shut, we are walking in a field of sunflowers
the sky goes heavy with dust, i am a character in your lavendar sky

George Wallace is the poet laureate of Suffolk County, NY

Idée d’jour

The bluebird carries the sky on his back.
— Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)
Which immediately reminds me of the classic "Far Side" cartoon: "Having been abandoned by the bluebird of happiness, Henry is visited by the chicken of despair"

Dream of le petite Dame Julian

I could have sworn I shut the bedroom door.
Yet, I hear her mew near the bed.
I see her shadow on the wall,
near my head.
I'm half awake.
It's like, two o'clock in the morning.
I rise slightly from the pillow
and reach for her shadow.
I keep missing her.
Come morning, the bedroom door
is still closed.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Watonga II: Thursday

The materials for the Watonga Vacation School are based on materials used for Camp Cathedral during the previous year. The theme of last year's "Camp Cathedral" was "Under the Same Sky," which concerned humanity's diversity. The advantage of this is that we don't need to re-invent the wheel — no new lesson plans, music, or crafts. Simple is good. I should mention the lesson plans are intended for ages 3-6.

We fed the kids breakfast while the music team (myself as leader, with 2-3 others) played. The organizers were well-intentioned, assuming the kids might not have eaten — but as it turned out, many of them had. That was followed by a brief Biblical passage, a song, then a story on why there were so many religions. Chelsea read this story, which compared different faiths to people finding different paths up the mountain. I appreciated the "many rivers lead to one sea" aspect of this story.

We then took the kids to a local park, where Mother Carol officiated at Holy Communion. After this, were games. Once they seemed to have spent their energy with the games, Cheri gave them canvas shoulder bags to decorate. These bags would be used to hold the crafts, photos, and other keepsakes the kids would gather during VBS.

We stayed at the park until about one o'clock, at which time various volunteers drove the kids home (all the kids lived relatively close to the park, or the church we were meeting in). The counselors then went to Roman Nose State Park, which is a lovely area just a couple of miles north of Watonga. Many went horseback riding, or rode in the paddle-boats. I went hiking with Kent and Jackson.

The trip to Roman Nose reminded me of a time Dana and I went there. It was during an especially hard time in my life, and Dana decided a camp-out would be good for me. As it turned out, it rained the evening we got there, and we ended up sleeping in Dana's car. We didn't have a camp stove, so breakfast was an adventure (most wood was too moist to catch fire). I also remember what a mountain goat Dana was as we climbed the hills — what pass for mountains in Oklahoma. I had a hard time keeping up.

I did better with Kent and Jackson. I got a little winded, but I managed to keep pace with them through the whole trail (~2.5 mi).
That evening the group went to Concho to join a sweat lodge. The sweat lodge is part of the Cheyenne/Arapaho spiritual tradition, and should not be confused with Swedish saunas and the like. The tradition at this particular lodge was to have four rounds of about 10-15 minutes each. One of my motivations for coming on this trip was the sweat, and I was determined to make it through at least one round. The lodge is a small dome, about 2-3 yards in diameter. In the center of the dome is the pit where the heated stones are placed; this pit is, maybe, a yard in diameter.

The stones are heated throughout the day. More are added with each round. Each round begins with a sprinkling of sage and cedar on the stones, and people are encouraged to ceremonially "bathe" themselves in the smoke. Once the prayers begin, water is poured on the stones, which produces an amazing amount of steam. I am told the temperatures in the lodge rise over 200° when that water is added.

Randy was leading the sweat that evening. He explained he had learned the method from his elders; in particular, his uncle, who was there. He talked about this being a prayerful time, and entering into it in an attitude of prayer. He explained that his uncle would be leading chants in their native language, but we were welcome to offer prayers in our language if we wished.

He talked for some time as ten heated stones were placed in the center of the lodge. He made a special effort to relate his spiritual practice with Christianity, which impressed me. Then, finally, the flap of the tent was closed. I closed my eyes as the Native chants rose. I held in my mind the image of two people for whom I wanted to offer prayers.

Then — prayers were offered up in English. And, in the tight dark confines of the lodge it seemed that I was being bathed in the many languages and voices, such as we had bathed ourselves with the smoke of cedar and sage earlier.

I was feeling overwhelmed, and overheated. I had been told to lean close to the floor, and bend as far away from the smoldering stones as possible; this helped. When I arose, I felt the gentle touch of an eagle feather, which is the traditional way of helping cool someone off. It actually worked, also.

Well, at the end of this, I decided I better rest and drink as much water as I could. I was feeling especially dehydrated. So, I skipped the second round, but I returned for the third and fourth. Of these, the most meaningful was the third.

At the beginning of the third round, Randy encouraged the guests (us missioners) to sing with them. "Don't worry if you're singing the right thing," he said, "but, you might surprise yourself." It made sense to try, since music is such a fundamental part of my spirituality. I discovered that I followed their chants fairly well — except for a phoneme here and there — and the singing helped take my mind off the heat. At the end of the fourth and last chant, a beautiful female rose up in the darkness: "Cast me not away from your presence, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." I recognized the voice as Nicole's, and I was both surprised and pleased to hear her sing. But, even more powerful was the response of our Native hosts. They voiced approval, in their traditional way.

The next day, the Indian Missioner reported a conversation he had with Randy following the sweat. "Your cathedral must be very prayerful. This was the most powerful sweat I've done." This was highlighted by the fact that at least two of our young people reported seeing visions during the sweat.

More About "Dame Julian"

Here she is, Dame Julian, looking as sweet as only a sleeping kitten can. "DJ" is a rescue kitten.  She was rescued, in other words, from euthanasia.  She was among a group of kittens it the Health Sciences' Animal Resources Facility who medical residents used to practice a procedure (don't ask). One of the lab techs in our department learned these kittens were going to be "put down" if they were not adopted by 5 on Friday. She and another tech took it upon themselves to bring the future Dame and her sister and brother to our department. Happily, all three kittens were adopted.

Now, I have resisted getting a pet, although I'm quite fond of cats. My concern has been that the animal would be relatively lonely, since I'm out of the house so frequently (on average).  I think it a tad ironic that I would write my poem featuring a romantic vision of a cat on the same day I would adopt one. I still have that concern, though I'm assured cats are fairly self-reliant. So — we'll see how it works out.

I asked Elsie to suggest a name for the new addition to the house, and she suggested Dame Julian. The source of this name is Julian of Norwich, a 14th century saint, who had a special affection for animals, and is best known for her Revelations of Divine Love in which is recorded the well-known reassurance "All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

DJ is pictured, incidentally, on a pillow which sits at the top of my recliner. She fell asleep there, just behind my head, while I was watching tv. The pillow is maybe about a foot square, and she fits on it rather nicely, don't you think?

I take the responsibility of pet ownership seriously. I don't know how I'll be able to support this kitty, but I keep her namesake's reassurance in mind. She is loved, and is providing cozy companionship.

Watonga I: Wednesday

To begin with: I arrived at St. Paul's a little after 3 Wednesday, June 23rd. We had been told we were to meet in the south parking lot, so I waited there for a bit. Then, I noticed people going into the building and figured I might as well check it out. As soon as I entered, Anne K— (organizer) came over to me and told me that Mary R— was sick and probably would not be coming. Mary had been in charge of leading the music, and had recommended me to fill in. I was both honored and more than a little nervous.

We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Anne wanted to be sure everyone was present & accounted for, and that all our youth counselors had rides. Robert was my passenger. He's a troubled kid, but his conversation helped keep me awake driving both ways.

I'd like to take a minute to talk about Robert. He's obscenely overweight; a poster-child for youth on-set diabetes or coronary arrest. He made clear early on that he didn't care for the normal "kid stuff", so I asked him what he did enjoy. Turns out he's a computer gamer. Which makes sense. He's up late at night, playing against people in Signapore, minimal physical activity, lots of junk food ... well, I could see the effect. I don't have a large car, and he was rolling over the seat. Close to the shift.

Robert has been part of the Watonga VBS mission trip for three years. So, I thought it would help me to ask him about the sweat. Yes, he had done it. The second year he did it, he had a vision of several important women in his life. Out of this grew a discussion about Robert's theology.

He claimed to be agnostic, but it turned out that he believed in God; he just thought that God was a sick SOB who didn't give "a rat's ass" about humanity. There is where some old listening skills came in handy. I didn't challenge him, or correct his use of the word "agnostic". Instead, I noted that he sounded angry. As it turned out, he was angry with God, primarily associated with a number of deaths early in his life, but also connected with his parents divorce (when he was 4 or so). He didn't mention it, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't blame God for his physical condition as well.

In retrospect, I compare our stories. I was born with a facial disfigurement. I was the object of taunts through Jr High. I never knew my fraternal grandfather, and my maternal grandfather died when I was 3 or 4. I certainly have as much right to be angry at God as Robert. I called myself an atheist for a period, based on what I considered sound philosophical and logical principles. And perhaps I was angry with God for a time — but it didn't last long. What makes us different?
Watonga is about 107 miles, or 1.5 hours, NW from OKC. We drove west on I-40, then north on Hwy 81. The highway was especially scenic, if seemingly endless. I had already arranged to sleep on the mission's property with Kent and his son, so I went there after I dropped Robert off at his motel.

It was good to be with Kent and Jackson. Both are healthy, mature individuals. We pitched our tents and set up camp in fairly short order, then built a fire. There are some street lights on the property, which illuminate things fairly well. Just as I was practicing the music (for the first time), Kent turned off the lights so we could better enjoy the fire. Well, best laid plans.

I slept fitfully. The main distraction was traffic noise - our campsite was several yards from main street, which is also Hwy 33. Woke up early the next day, and started woodshedding the songs for our Bible School.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


  1. Natalie has a lovely cartoon "Thinking about Parents, Time, and Mortality" (see entry for June 27).  She did not create it in response to my entry for Father's Day, but the two entries do seem to complement each other. Of special interest is her record of what clothing her parents were buried in. This particular element reminded me of my poem "Death of the Father", which I wrote shortly after my father's death. The last line is "The father was buried wearing his bolo tie." Curious how such details can haunt.

  2. I was sad to hear Marlon Brando died. "On the Waterfront" is possibly one of the greatest conflicted movies ever made. And Brando's performance is a revelation, regardless of Elia Kazan's questionable politics. I still remember Dr. Omed and I going to see "Superman" at the drive-in; the good doctor claimed that one could see Brando counting the dollars as he held that infant. More likely, his lines were taped up on a wall somewhere, and that's why he had that expression. In Brando's memory, I watched "Don Juan de Marco" on Sunday. It's a slight movie, but he and Johnny Depp seem to be having fun.

  3. Some time back, I reported that I had submitted some poems to the Wallace Stafford Poetry Contest sponsored by Rosebud Magazine.  I regret to report that I did not even place. Not terribly discouraged, as I entered on a lark. Who knows?  Might start sending out more work on a lark - ye olde scattershot method of submission. Or, perhaps, regular readers of this space could recommend on-line or paper journals that my work might be especially suited to.

  4. My house is now a home. Have a kitten, named Dame Julian (for Julian of Norwich). Slow blogging is all her fault, as she insists on typing entries in her own special language. I hope to follow-up with a report on my work with the Watonga Vacation Bible School, as soon as the little lady allows it. 

    Ummm ... can you say doting daddy & spoiled kitty?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Idée d’jour

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed,
given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

Monday, July 05, 2004

Idée d’jour

Our lives begine to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
— Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968)

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Variations on a Theme

Cloud heavy sky
calico cat on the porch
sleepy July morn
Gun metal grey clouds
embrace the town's center
A calico cat rests,
curled in a circle on the front porch
At the dome's edge, clouds
dance and dart at play
The cat watches the traffic pass
wonders why we go in a straight line
Why we do not dance
Why our voices hold no song

Friday, July 02, 2004

Idée d’jour

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.
— Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Idée d’jour

Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.
— Mary Wollstonecraft, reformer and writer (1759-1797)

Confronting the Face

Afraid I haven't had the time to write about my experience in Watonga. I do more writing at work than is probably safe, or wise, and it has been especially busy at work this week. Also, it took me a couple of days to get my schedule back in synch after being on "Indian time" in Watonga. My past few evenings have been busy as well, since I've been attending a lecture series by J. Philip Newell. I attended a lecture series presented by Rev. Newell last year, and wrote about it here, here, and here.

It's been interesting, attending this series on the heels of my trip to Watonga. Added to that is my reading of The Life of Pi, which is the most spiritual novel I've read in some time. So, I'm on a mini-retreat, in a manner of speaking.

The title of Rev. Newell's lecture series is "A Celtic View of the Stages of Life," and it is based on his book One Foot in Eden. One of the basic tenets of Celtic spirituality is that people are essentially good. This is in obvious contrast to the dominant view, that we are born with Adam's stain of sin. But, the Celtic view is that God created everything, including humanity, as basically good.

This view is not romantic; it does not deny the reality of evil in the world, or the reality that humans will make selfish & egotistical choices that has negative (evil) consequences. However, where Augustine would say the evil is who we are, the Celts would say that the good is who we are.

Rev. Newell's lecture on Tuesday concerned infancy. The deep Celtic sense is that God may be perceived in an infant's face - the innocence, joy, and love is all there. As illustration, he quoted William Blake's Cradle Song: "Sweet babe, in thy face / Holy image I can trace" (Songs of Innocence, Dover, 1971, 50). Philip even suggested that we keep a picture of ourselves as infants nearby to remind ourselves of our true nature.

And that is where my defenses went up. As I think I have mentioned, I was born with a facial deformity — thanks to years of surgery, it's barely noticeable, but I still carry the pain of the school-yard taunts. I do have a picture of myself as an infant, and it is monstrous (in the literal sense of the word).

Or, could it be that I have internalised those school-yard taunts as reality?

The presentation ended with "Contemplative Journaling", a sort of automatic writing as prayer. Philip challenged us to hold that infant face in memory. Just as we entered this time, I remembered a painting of the Boy Jesus which I have over my desk at home. My entry, presented here unedited, became a transcription of my life with the Boy Jesus in my place
The boy Jesus walking with grandfather
playing chinese checkers in eternal afternoons.

The mis-shapen face like warped glass;
the playground boy infected by burs and his love-longing.

The tender boy with foriegn face
training the sparrow at his throat
training the robin & the poor will.
The thin child training for heart song.

The boy Jesus forgiving those who jeer & call him names;
he does not strike them down —
he loves them and seeks only love in return.

The boy Jesus eating pudding in grandmother's kitchen.
The boy Jesus learning her love,
training in her song.
Training in the beauty of her love.
Training beyond the funhouse mirror of his face.
Next, we meditated on Jesus speaking to us through the scripture passage "To such as these (children) is revealed the Kingdom of Heaven." Here's the prayer that came out of that time:
Blessed are you, Brother Jesus,
you heal my face & make it new.
Through your fiery spirit I have sweated away
The playground mask
Every taunt & slur is burned away
Blessed are you, Brother Jesus, mighty to save
You protected my innocence against violent attack
You trained me
You made my soil rich, deep, and loamy
So the wounds would be seeds
Seeds of song
Seeds of caring
Seeds of your infinite life-giving Love.

Thinking about pi

I'm thinking about pi,
that mysterious mathematical figure
which teaches us that the circle is,
in its essence, unknowable.

St. Teresa spoke of an Interior Castle as the source of prayer and the
Holy dwelling place.
What if that castle is a lodge or a hogan?
What if the dwelling of the Holy is a circle & is thus unknowable?

The child within is also a circle
embracing infinite potential
the handkerchief of innocence & experience
His trail of memories is a circular labyrinth
leading me back to that child.
Open the door, walk out once more,
rejoice in the blessing of a new day.

“God's grace be on this house,
and all who enter in”
Future entries will help explain some of these images.