On Birth. The Concept of Conception and so on. Thoughts.

In ’61, my studio apartment, called the womb, got a bit tight through no fault of my own. The force of nature pushed me out through the tunnel of love. I choked on air for a moment or two, and cried. “Here I am, now what?” The sounds of a beating heart, fluids coursing around, and a muffled voice from without was snatched away.

Her words were instantly glued to my being along with dark chocolate eyes gazing at me, the center of the universe…for a time. Such a helpless little human, but she was right there when needed. Mom. Separation anxiety lulled with lullabies. Cries displaced by coos of attachment over time. 

Honestly, I remember zero about how it all came down. I had no control over which sperm out of gazillions would hit the surface of the egg first. Choice? I definitely had none. The mess and pseudo violence of birth my Mom and I endured, well, it happened, by design. Call it destiny. Label it mystery or miracle, or both. Admit it, we all try to comprehend the science fiction feel of human inception, and come up wanting.

I wept when my children were born. All four times I wept with them, and my Barbara who bore them. It’s such a humbling and holy experience. Ask any parent. You’re most likely remembering those miracle-mystery moments right now.

Thus far intelligent design is inferred. I tried to leave God in the background. It ain’t easy when fiddling around with grandiose concepts like these. Being human was and is never our own idea, let alone conceiving another human. In view of my religious beliefs, I can’t leave all this up to chance. I’d rather take a chance on faith, than have faith in chance. Pascal’s Wager and all that.

Pascal’s wager is an argument in philosophy presented by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, theologian, mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God.” Wikipedia   

Anyhow, I’ll try to keep this tight rather than to obtusely pontificate toward ubiquity. Wait. What?

I like babies. Apparently God does too. The rescue of us came through Immaculate Conception, and a baby designed and destined to bring tidings of comfort and joy. I won’t mention the mind blowing idea of it all. All this to say that every birth quiets me down, down to take pause and become humble and grateful.

Clifford, The Big Red Truck

The big white van, a.k.a. Big Bertha a.k.a. airport limo, was traded in for a red truck, a.k.a. Clifford. As more of our children fan out to put their own dents in the world, ours is shrinking. I remember when my mom had to learn how to cook for less. The crockpot was downsized to a pot. What a bummer. Crock was one of my favorite meals. Barbara continues to adjust to only five kids at home. Six, including me.

            Anyway, my plan was to get a pickup and a dog of my own and cruise around town really slow. One of my favorite movies is Grand Torino. In it Clint Eastwood has an old Ford F-150 and a dog. Strangely, the guy I buy autos from looks like a young Eastwood. “Do you feel lucky, punk?” he would say as he showed me around the used car lot. Not really.

            While peaceful transfers of power are fresh on our skulls, my transport of power shifted down to an extended cab where my 18 year old, 6’5” son, looks like “Elf” squeezing into the back seat. I have to admit that new things don’t carry the excitement they used to. Must be over time our sensors get a bit worn out. New doesn’t satisfy like it used to. I’ve talked to my peers and find they carry the same attitude.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful to have a red truck. The fact is, the thrill isn’t the same as getting a red Radio-flyer wagon as a pre-pubescent, skinned kneed boy. Why not? I mean, where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? Have I become one of the walking dead? Is youth really wasted on the young? Is desire thrown into the glove compartment?

            Let’s get more dumpy, shall we? Every now and again I think of all the packages I’ve set on porches. The next day, there was empty boxes set out. I’ve been at it for over thirty years now. I’ll wager that much of what was in those long ago deliveries are now in the trash bins of the world. At the least, Goodwill is cranking out a living from all the material girls…and boys.

            Is there a point, or poignancy? Clifford gets me from point A to point B. Yesterday I threw the remnants of a new wood floor in the bed of the pickup among many other dilapidated items to haul to the transfer station. I look forward to going for drives with my honey. There’s something about seeing a couple in a pickup truck that spreads a smile across my face.   

Honestly, Clifford is the object of my affection for now. It’ll wear off soon enough. That’s okay. Things are to be appreciated, taken care of, utilized, etc. It’s a used truck and it is designed that way…to be used, not as an object of idol worship. Except maybe when I’m idling at a light next to another truck hoping they’re envying me rather than the other way around. Just joshing…kinda.

            Keep on truckin’ ya’ll!

Note: Not me in picture above…I wasn’t that cute.

Verse for 2021: “Come unto Me…” Jesus

Hindsight

We’re about to look over our shoulders and attempt to frame a year which seemed like a decade. The overabundance of information has dulled its own edges. We’re left scratching our heads wondering where the truth lies. Truth lies. Hmmm.

            I really want to write with the goal of resolution. You know, tie up 2020 with a nice bow and archive it in the attic. When we hit a deer, square on, in the early hours of this disheveled year, I should have known… I shy away from giving credit to omens or karma, but we all here revert sometimes to how our year began with a synchronicity of headlights, eyes, and a doe flying over our car like a reindeer.

            A yearly update used to roll off my fingers. Well, almost yearly anyway. One thing I’ve come to grips with is the consistency of my inconsistence. This year, being one in millions, and millions, and millions, I think I’ll try to hit some bullet points–if there are any bullets left, that is.

            I don’t need to write about masks, except to say when I find them in parking lots or by the side of the road, we’ve all been wearing them out (I mean that in the broadest sense imaginable.). Social distance? May I say, we’re still going the distance? Throw in politics, protests, lockdowns, economic duress, violence, and the static electricity of media, and voila! A goulash full of goo.

            Stop! Geez Jer, you’re always holding a half empty glass of prune juice. I’m actually considering a prune juice regimen. Do they make prude juice too? Wait. What?

            Anyhow, we’ve attempted to put the fun back in our dysfunction around here, with much success. I began with laughing at myself, which is where all humor is better off birthed. Bent souls all are we with creased personalities, depending on which fold comes into view, we see to it forgiveness or gratitude is applied.  

Our family is like a stew, thick and rich with history. When everyone brings it home for the holidays, it’s like adding water. A broth gives the dysfunction freedom to float around in the soup of us. We had such a wonderful Christmas knowing this is our family, birthed, adopted, and simmered together to warm us all. What a God given grace and mercy.

            As we headed toward winter, hospice showed up. 2020 was finding it hard to breathe, think, and hang on. Let’s say there is no fun in funeral. One friend’s grandmother quietly passed away. Then my sister Ellen lost her fight with dementia. Then another friend lost his son through brain cancer.

Death is not proud, and this year, humility was summoned time and again. Our faith was needed, and the Object of it was found faithful. God holds our grief and questions. Tensions get our attention if we make space to ponder and pray over them. I’ll have to admit making space isn’t always my first choice. Who wants to feel pain and loss? Yet, whatcha gonna do, stuff or ignore it through a plethora of escape modules? Yeah, sometimes.

Then there’s the two of us. Barbara and me, navigating this year closer than ever. We always discuss about being on the same page and what that looks like. We admit our differences–more as time passes. Barbara, boots on the ground, verbal processor, queen of diplomacy, and observer of the wide array of the world’s offerings. Me? Well, I continue to internally ponder, ten feet off the ground, and twenty paces away. My non-verbal processor looks for ways to button up thoughts, and find that the button fell off in the wash. Kinda like 2020.

I gotta say though, we are more we than we ever were. (Can I buy a vowel?)  I’m super thankful for all the grace God has dumped on us. Mercy too. Oh, how we need both! Our goal is to finish well, and grow until our time is up. I love her deeply.

A few more words to wrap up, button up, and then buckle up, because you never know when a deer might make a run for it.

Can I say it now?

“Hindsight is 2020.”

Cliché perfecto.

Listen, as we drive further into 2021, if we make space for it, our rearview mirror will eventually frame the most poignant events.

I pray the good, the true, and the beautiful will manifest in all our lives. I hope the two greatest commandments will be housed in our hearts this year… Love God, and love our neighbor.

Happy New Year!

My verse of the year: “Come unto me…” Jesus  Matthew 11:28

Green, Grass, Outdoor, Nature, Trees

Jesus Wept

This was the writing prompt I found:

In order to grow, I feel I need to…

            Cry.

            That’s all. Simple. I’d John 11:35 it. Jesus didn’t cry though. He wept according to some versions of biblical text. One short sentence. Two words. Jesus wept. Period. Full stop.

In order to grow, I feel I need to…

            Weep.  

            Weeping seems like more of a holistic release. A slow burn. Letting the tears fall where they may. Instead of blood-letting—tear letting, as it were. Slit those ducts open and let it rip.

            Fill in the blank: _______ wept.

            I used to cry quite a bit, back in the day, before pain, hurt, and loss weren’t thrown into an everlasting pyre and minimized as “life is difficult”– nothing to feel here. What the… How in the world?

“Have a heart,” they say.

“Do I have a heart?” I ask.

My as-sigh-nment this week from my counselor is to sit with the pain. What pain? Which pain? I’ve been to pain and back many times. Haven’t you?

Wait.

Sit.

Jerry, sling your memories over your shoulder as best you know how. Gather up your humanity and come down to the river. Be brave and vulnerable. I’ll help you unpack it. You know how people say “I laughed until I cried.” It works both ways, you know. You’ve said over the years “tears lubricate the soul”. You’ve stopped taking your own medicine. Your heart is broken, but not broken open. I Am a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. I’ll sit with you by the river as long as it takes. I want to replace the stony parts of your heart and give you a heart of flesh. Do you want a heart like that?  

  

“He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.” Psalm 23

  

For Rest

The other night, after my face was warm from the glow of the T.V. I took Apollo for a roundabout. Dog and human under a canopy of a starry starry night. No earbuds. No screen. Simply deep space and fire hydrants to bounce contemplations from twinkle twinkle to tinkle tinkle.

The next morning no word from the burning bush, so I walked to the other one by the garage. The red flamed leafs buffered a cool breeze, but offered not even a whisper. The leaves still spoke though. Color, loud and clear. “Red is our flame,” They said. “Don’t try to extinguish us. We will surrender soon. We will lay ourselves down.”

Then I sat bare foot on the back deck, early, coffee and a small stack of books. Each time the wind picked up the crimson maple leaves fell down. My mind quieted enough so I could feel my heart.

“You are never a great man when you have more mind than heart.” Beauchene

Why is nature so nurturing sometimes? Mother Nature–so apropos I suppose. Like a few evenings ago when we piled into the car for a drive. After a while our breathing found a rhythm. The beauty, deer, and cozy houses dotting the countryside relaxed our shoulders. We got out in it and were the better for it.

I’ll wager that if Jesus showed up and found us overthinking, worrying, and grasping for some sense of control in a schizoid world, he might send us out. I remember my mom doing that very thing, maybe for her own sanity, but nevertheless pushing us out into infinite air to breathe.

The order of the creation story is God saved the best for last. Us. Humans. There was a lot of creating going on before we arrived on the scene. God spoke and bam, out of chaos, order. Out of darkness, light. So much lush, sensual appropriations. It was a set-up–for us.

This weekend I walked nine miles through a forest full of trees. My legs were complaining loudly at the end, but my heart thanked me. Nine men and a cream colored lab hiked the Jordan Valley Trail in the northern Lower Peninsula on a crisp autumn day. The trail’s personality bore resemblance to a thirty-something—just enough weathered skin to settle in, but a passion for what’s next. There were so many metaphors laying around like dead trees. The path, a single rut, wound up, down, and around like a vein, carrying us like platelets as our chests felt both heart and lungs react. Air flow. Blood flow.

We’d ascend to ridges to step along the spine of foothill-like amalgamations, then descend to find the Jordan River meandering, chit-chatting over rocks and weaving through fallen debris.

If a tree falls in the forest… If a rivers babbles in its crevices…? Does anybody hear?

 Again, my heart searched for a baseline—a resting rate. I left much behind for a few days, we all did, and some of it oozed out over the campfire that night, seasoned with a ballad-singing, guitar-playing soul.

The forest was like a bold lettered clarion call to not loose heart. The trees, both fallen and upright whispered, “We’ve been waiting for you. We’re here for rest. We grow and fall just like you. We understand.”

The river had something to say as well. “Eternity is in your heart, like my open-ended flow.”

I know it was really God speaking like a creative via a brush stroke or the rhythm of pedantic pentameter.

“I Am, you know, and here you go. Get out into My gallery, and I will give you rest… Forest.”

“What’s Going On?”

I’ve got nothing to say. So I’ll let my fingers do the talking. Now, isn’t that a bit passive-aggressive?

So many swirling dervishes, spinning hearts out of control. Soaked emotional ballasts thrown over the edge of reason. To try to right a ship that is surely sinking seems futile. News cycles peddling faster and faster and still unable to keep up. Pundits and prognosticators sweeping up the glass in the street looking for some coherence underneath.

Facts:

-George Floyd was murdered by a police officer, watched by other police officers, video rolling from body cams and bystanders’ phones.

-A bottom up/top down investigation ensued. All levels and departments of government on it.

-Protests justly formed.

-Riots are not protests.

-Violence is not peaceful.

Many more facts to add, but these slipped through my filter first.

I loathe going political. Honestly, fear gets the better of me and I would rather run silent to avoid push back.

I’d rather our sight be color-blind than color-coded. Since when is skin tone equal to tone of voice? When did we forget Dr. King’s dreams of mountain top perspectives and the long contemplative walk to Selma? I thought we were all just trying to get along. Rodney King and Dr. King sought to bring peace and reason to the fore, and yet we forget.

Trying times are not the time to stop trying.

If it weren’t for the masks at the protests and rioting, we might have totally misplaced a pandemic. Justifiable identity suppression while looting. A masquerade party involving drinks of a Molotov drunkenness. The piece of peaceful protests, (Our constitutional right, by the way.) thrown by the side of the road, and into crowds.

“What’s going on?” Marvin Gaye

What brought a cop to the point of kneeling on the neck of George Flyod with his hand in his pocket like la de dah, Whistling Dixie as it were? Why were bystanders just standing there? What would I have done in that moment? What happened to “Everyone stand back, let’s give him some air?” The arrest was over counterfeit money. No matter why the cuffs were put on him, an officer isn’t prosecutor, judge, or jury. On the side of every police cruiser are the words “To Serve and Protect”.  These officers redefined those terms and now all officers are lumped into a police state of mind. I don’t buy it.

I still believe law enforcement is part of our judicial system. You know, Law and Order and all that. The buck doesn’t stop with Officer Krupke or Jerry Orbach. Laws run uphill until justice is served. Equal justice under the law dispensed by a blind folded lady holding scales. The system isn’t perfect because people of influence aren’t perfect. Sometimes justice is underserved, mis-served, or deliberately maligned. We have to give it a chance, before we take the law into our own hands, don’t you think? Or would it be better to slice the system and dole out slivers into each and every ‘We the People’ and see how justice is served?

If that happened I’d be on the Barney Fife end of the spectrum. Empty pistol. One bullet in my pocket nestled near my heart. Or maybe Andy Griffith, handing out the benefit-of-the- doubt more than reaching for the handcuffs. In short, I drive a brown truck for a living, not a black and white.

Black and white…isn’t that the issue here? The thing is the issue isn’t black and white, clear-cookie-cutter solutions. The problem is some people can’t see beyond the colors to the content of the character. I’m not saying that character is all about grey matter. Grey matter is only the beginning. The eighteen inch trip from mind to heart is the path toward healing.

There were and are peaceful protests. There were and are candles and prayers. There were and are civil ways to air sadness, frustration, and anger. But those avenues take heart and aren’t easy roads on which to walk forward. On the contrary, it seems The Road Less Traveled is blocked by difficulty. The first line of the book is meant to be crossed, not a detour.

“Life is difficult.” M. Scott Peck

Let’s say our prayers and incite peace. These are matters of the heart. God help us all.

Dipping a TOE (Theory of Everything) in the Lake

Did Evolution Give Us Surfing? - READY... SET... QUESTION!

Big trees fell into Lake Michigan over and upon each other like pickup sticks. The beach became a trimmed path to wend down more than to lay on. What happened when I was so busy inland mowing my lawn? So much for long walks on the beach. It was more like an obstacle course, hiking around large upended stumps or limbo lumbering underneath thick trunks.

A bit overwhelmed, I found a perch part way up on a dune. The kids had invited me along to do some hammocking. Yes, that’s a thing now. Hammocking isn’t really a word yet. Auto- correct suggested ‘ham mocking.’ Next Easter I will try mocking the honey ham. Anyway, my kids dug their toes in and continued to the top, while I sat and pondered the plight of our most favored lake of the greats.

Is this simply another sign of the times? Is this God’s way of reminding us of how little control we have over the skin of the earth? Some suggest humanity has contributed to climate change. I don’t doubt that, but the degree of our influence on the changes are still under review to my mind.

I sat for a bit, then pulled out of my back pocket a small book. If Einstein Had Been a Surfer by Peter Kreeft is a slim hardcover about the search for the Theory of Everything. Although it is a short walk on a really long pier of thought, I found it fascinating considering the view of dunes cut off at the knees and horizontal trees still bearing green leaves.

Now, I don’t know why, but for a few months now I’ve been queuing up surfing videos. Before that, I had a fetish for tsunamis. Before that, I thought of how unfathomable the oceans are and why God proportioned them thus. Consider this…maybe God’s thought was to overwhelm us with motifs of eternity like the universe having no back wall on which to hang our pretensions. How about the ocean blanketing 71 percent of our little blue planet? Maybe God thought 29 percent was all that humanity could manage.

[Side note: Did you know the saline of the ocean is within .5 percent of the saline percentage of human amniotic fluid?]

Anyway, as Kreeft surfs (He is a surfer, by the way, along with being a professor of philosophy at Boston College.) the waves of thought in search of an ‘everything’ that curls in on itself, he employs a philosopher, a scientist, and a surfer in conversation. After a few pages in I realized how over my head I was, trying to grasp what they were after…but the undertow. I caught a small wave and I wasn’t sitting on top of the world like one of the Beach Boys.

I set the book down several times to look off in the middle distance, the distance being a huge lake of which I could not see the other side. A metaphor of eternity, infinity, or simply a bigness beyond what my eyes beheld in total. I knew Wisconsin was over there somewhere, but right then all I could do was exercise faith. I couldn’t see everything. Hmm.

A thought spilled on my conscience. “Jerry, you’re not Einstein, Kreeft, or a surfer. Why are you splaying intellect? What is it you’re after? Does thinking about these things bring about a peace of mind, or mitigate a piece of your mind?” If anyone does capture The Theory of Everything, then what?

Hang on, I’m about to hit the brakes and take a sharp turn.

Recently someone reminded me that the first temptation of humanity was knowledge of everything. “Just take a little bite of the fruit and you will be as God, full of knowledge.” Well, hey, becoming a know-it-all seems harmless enough. How about realizing you’re in the nude and reach immediately for underwear. How about playing hide and seek for the rest of your life? The ole be careful what you wish for scenario.

Surfing. Channel surfing. Surfing the internet. Have our eyes gotten Googly all of a sudden? Do we ride the Youtube all the way to shore? Since when do we need a 24 hour news cycle, real, fake, or everything in between? Knowledge is power as they say, but is absolute knowledge absolute power? There is a forest. There are trees. Do we understand the difference? Is it okay for elms to lay down on the beach? Does all sand eventually fall through the hourglass? Will the theory of everything distill our intelligence into artificiality? Will we be as gods, or will we be okay with bearing God’s image? Will we acquiesce to God holding onto the final coherence, keeping intact the mystery and majesty of human existence and God’s?

I set the book down and turned to look to the top of the dune. My son was up there, taking in the broadest perspective. My daughter was next to me as we took in a narrowed view of the lake. Down below my other daughter was waist deep in the chilled early summer waters. I may not know the theory of everything, and at this point, I’m not sure I want to. What moves my desire is theories of somethings, like sharing an afternoon at the beach with people I love, taking in the creativeness of God, and thanking God for both. Surf’s up.

Heard Immunity

No typo. Yes, a bit playful. Everyone has a need to be heard. Nobody wants to be herded. I’ll admit, part of the reason I write is to be heard. Our voices are a gift to others while our ability to hear is the mechanism to receive such gifts. Ever wonder why God gave us one mouth and two ears, I mean besides the scientific anatomical ones? I figure it might be so we listen twice as much as we talk.

The immunity part comes in when talk becomes cheap. It’s simple supply and demand. Ever been around someone whose mouth prattles on and on? They supply too much. They tome on and on and you tune out. Blinking becomes a conscious choice so your eyes don’t succumb to glazing over. You throw a penny of thought into the conversation and coins gush out like a slot machine on steroids.

That’s when heard immunity kicks in. It’s not that they don’t have anything to say. On the contrary, mixed into the white noise of their run on sentences are clues. Their mouths aren’t open and shut cases of our prosecution. A word, a phrase, and tone of voice start rolling over like a rock tumbler. If we can hang in there, we might stop looking at their mouth and make more eye-contact. If I can cup my ears for a little longer, maybe, just maybe, I can interpret their words in the context of their whole. Did you know that body language accounts for the majority of communication?

Listen. Listening can be hard work sometimes. It’s a skill in need of constant development. Make no mistake, listening is not the same as hearing. Just ask my kids. When they call me ‘Jerry’ I know it’s after multiple attempts at ‘Dad’. My wife knows I can’t do two things at once. To tell her I’m listening while checking my phone? Fail.

In all this distancing, sheltering, and personal protecting, there are spaces created to listen. I can’t say I’ve taken every opportunity to really listen. I’d kick myself if my leg reached that far. Instead I’m pounding these keys as a note-to-self.

Two ears plus one mouth equals communion. Community. Communication.

Two eyes plus two ears plus one mouth equals better reception.

Heard immunity is something I want to avoid.

4 Shocking Facts the Wool Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

 

An Eagle, A Weasel, And A Grain Of Wheat (I went long today…cup of coffee’s worth.)

Thursday, often overlooked, fills a gap between Wednesday and Friday. These days are often not named by the sequestered, the distanced, and the unemployed. More people are getting a hint of the homeless while hunkered down in their homes. Do the homeless know what day of the week it is? Do they give a flip?

“Hey you, what planet is this?” Captain James T. Kirk

Precisely.

Anyway, I simply want to mark this day as Thursday, for the record, and all that. Thursday April 30, 2020 for hindsight’s sake!

The Muse didn’t tell me to go get my laptop to write the words above, but I had to dip my toes in the ole ‘stream-of-consciousness’ for a bit.

The thought at hand comes from my readings this morning. I’ll start with where I ended. A weasel. Take a sec now and what comes to mind when I say weasel… Definitely not a term of endearment, eh?

I’ve been re-reading Annie Dillard’s book Teaching a Stone to Talk. In one chapter she details the life of a weasel. A ten inch squiggly line of an animal. She tells of a man who shot an eagle (Must have not been outlawed at the time.) and attached to its neck was the skull of a weasel. Weasels go for the jugular and don’t let go. Their jaws are like vice-grips, and after clamping down, they take their prize back to their den and sequester for a few days until the need arises to play fetch again. (Kinda like safaris to bring back toilet paper and hand sanitizer these days.) Apparently the weasel missed its mark and the eagle wrestled, clawed, and ate as much as it could. Eagle-weasel…Fascinating.

Well, I couldn’t help but overlay a metaphor over such an image. Now, what comes to mind when I say eagle? Right. Weasel going after the jugular of an Eagle. We’re talking freedom here and the defending of it. I gotta be careful or this blog might turn into some sort of hummus of hubris in which we keep grabbing the chips on our shoulders to dip and dip and dip.

I’ll be the first to admit I shy away from talking politics. (By the way, do you know the definition of politics? Poly means many, and ticks are things that suck the blood out of you. J) I usually don’t talk religion in a matter-of-fact way either. Those who do might be considered courageous or fanatical, depending on who is listening and the filter with which they listen.

I believe our country was founded on freedom, warts and all. I believe my Christian faith is also founded on freedom, some Christian knuckleheads notwithstanding (Myself included from time to time.). First, country-wise, a Trail of Tears, no explaining that away. We also confess to the sin of slavery, and thousands died, white and black, to bring about emancipation. It’s human nature to look on the color of the skin first before discovering the content of anyone’s character. Some are more skilled in getting past appearances than others. (That could be a blog post [or a book] in itself. Probably is many times over.) We can make confessions of creeds and miss the point entirely, which is Christ himself, not crusades or Christian religion per se.

How are you feeling so far? If I were you. Wait. If I were me, I’d crack some eggs, scramble them, and lay the eggshells between us. It’s like back a few generations ago when the topic of sex was spoken only using winged insects and avian references. If we do discuss religion and politics it’s usually after we’ve had one too many and our defenses are down. Well, what I mean is there are plenty of talking heads…often talking past each other. Our divisions gladly pluck up talking points and paste them over each other’s mouths. I know. I know, but don’t we all like a bit of drama with a splash of optics?

Annie Dillard, the weasel and the eagle, was read last. The first thing I made an effort to get synapses synapping was in the gospel of John. Jesus, in usual fashion, had his disciples scratching their heads.

“Listen carefully: (interesting, Jesus already knew they might not get it) unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, is sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have if forever, real and eternal.”   John 12:24, 25. The Message Bible

Okay, what the heck does a grain of wheat dying have to do with the old eagle/weasel? I got to thinking about how we humans like to weasel out of things. It seems our tendency is to stay in our little stories. Get what we get and go to our den until we need something else. At least that’s my modus operandi most days. But this weasel…the one that bit like a tick and wouldn’t let go, died attached to freedom. Who knew the places he flew before dying. In an odd way maybe he was buried in the sky. Hmmm.

I suppose I should have a point. It’s personal, first and foremost, like a finger pointing at my chest, because in the end it’s our hearts that matter, right? Okay, let me put it this way. I see eagles occasionally on my delivery route. It’s as if I saw one and it flew over to me and said, “Bite me.” It’s as if Jesus walked up to me and said, “Jerry, you are that grain of wheat.” It’s wholeheartedness gone wild, courageous enough to risk it all. Death be not proud. Living to die, and dying to live and all that. So much more, but I’ll chew on this awhile, no, maybe clamp down.

Tether. My Mom on the Phone.

Out of the quarantine of mind, I thought of my mom on the phone. A throwback fifty years when telephones hung on walls or sat on tables next to thick directories Schwarzenegger couldn’t rip in two. Hers was centrally located in the hallway between her bedroom and the kitchenette. It hung patiently with rotary eyes circling portions of the alphabet. Off white, maybe because she reached for a smoke each time it rang, and a twenty foot cord slung between receiver and base. To call, she’d have to take several finger rides on the rotary ferris wheel to connect with a voice on the other end.

I swear we could jump rope while she chattered about with Maxine (Affectionately called Magazine by all her ten children.), When she bandied about in the kitchen blabbering on with Maryanne Himes we plucked the cord like a guitar string. I use to love to take the phone off the hook when the cord was pitifully tangled. I’d stretch it as high as I could reach and let the receiver spin like the bobbins on her sewing machine…Singer sewing machine. Green with fancied lettering on its body. Anyway, the phone.

I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would think of what we’ve done to his marvelous invention? We cut the cords. We only have to reach in our pockets, or rifle through the cushions to call someone. Wait. Call? Honestly (Mom’s catch phrase.) Talking on our mobile phone is the function of last resort, no? [Odd thought: What if we gathered some old cell phones and made a mobile mobile to hang over the bassinet?]

Back to my dear mother. She could talk. She would listen. She had a strong neck, despite the pain in it I gave her sometimes. She could prop that yellowing dog bone of communication between her shoulder and chin for what seemed like hours. I’ll bet she could hold a shotput in there no handed.

In the mornings she’d find her coffee, Virginia Slims, the green bean bag ashtray, and stretch the dickens out of the cord to sit to table talk in the dining room. I remember the two clicks, always, of the lighter. I recall the uh hums and drags on the stick, hearing them before seeing them. I’d round the corner to find her in a worn out nightie and a thin line of smoke wafting above the cigarette pinched in the clasps of the tray.

In the evenings, same gig, except a drink in a tumbler or an Old Milwaukee with the tab pulled and dropped into the can. The surgeon general let her know about the tobacco hazards, but the beer company didn’t care about the choking hazards of a pull-tab. The conversations morphed a bit between sunrise sips and evening slurps. Reviewing the day’s activities after the fact was more colorful than the sizing up of the laundry list in the morning, which, by the way, always included laundry. Let me be clear…death and taxes, tis true. More true is death and taxes and laundry. Just ask anyone who has children splayed all over like grass seed.

After I moved out, for the second or third time, I’d dial 342-8127 to hear her voice dole out questions, advice, and little popcorn phrases like “oh, honestly” and “for heaven’s sake.” While I talked, occasionally I’d hear her blow smoke off to the side or ice cubes knocking together. My shoulders relax at the thought of it. Sometimes idiosyncrasies over time bring a sense of security.

My mother, God love her, kept the same number from the beginning of time until she hung up the phone for the last time in 2012. Sure, she traded in the cord for an antenna to untangle a bit, and then a simple cell. But that cord, like an umbilical, always stretched far enough to reach me and those she loved.