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air and water


air and water

it is a postcard night
in our little town
the honey-pink sunset
riding in on the breeze
I followed the schnauzers
home from our walk to find

a security guard
was shot to death
at a Family Dollar Store
in Flint, Michigan because
he asked someone to put
a mask on to shop

when it comes to Flint
we are way past the time
when saying we’re sorry
makes any difference
long before the virus
death was in the water

but the cost of safety
was more than anyone
wanted to pay so death
became a way of life
they already knew what we
are just beginning to learn

Calvin Munerlyn died
working to save lives
I want to say his name
out loud in the quiet of
my little town my little life
and drink in the sadness



daily digest


daily digest

these are the stay close
to home dig in the dirt
string up the lights
I planned to string
years ago days

the work from home
walk the dogs again
wear a mask to the store
go too long without
a hug days

the go to bed tired
try to remember what
day of the week it is
and wonder what is
coming next days

these are the celebrate
our anniversary but
cancel maine and eat
mexican food in the
parking lot days

the all that I hoped for
never saw it coming
wish there were another
way to keep our promises
to each other days

the miss everybody
get to know heartache
so grateful to be here
I’m with you I’m with
you I’m with you days



maybe it doesn’t get better


maybe it doesn’t get better

you may not have
read past the title
but hear me out–

we can’t do what we
are doing just because
we think this won’t last
and we can get back
to the way things were

maybe it doesn’t get better

I know–
I already said that
but what if the pandemic
pans out into permanence

or as permanent as
things ever get
what if we what we took
for granted isn’t granted

and we are left with life
and each other
for years, not days
yeah, I’m going to say it again

maybe it doesn’t get better

okay–I’ll say it another way
who knows what will happen
does that help

faith and hope hunger for uncertainty
love knows all you can count on
in life is someone else and let
someone count on you because

maybe it doesn’t get better
then again, maybe it does



buenas noches from a song-filled room


The seed of this post was planted when I sent a friend a video of Jason Isbell and the $00 Unit singing “24 Frames” from isolation. As I mentioned last night, he is one of my favorite songwriters. The title of the song refers to the number of frames that go through a projector per second. Isbell says

this is how you make yourself call your mother
and this is how you make yourself closer to your brother
and remember him back when he was small enough to help you sing

you thought God was an architect, now you know
he’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow
and everything you built that’s all for show goes up in flames
in twenty- four frames

Not a bad song for these days of quarantine.

The next band I found singing from their rooms was Barenaked Ladies doing a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.”

when you’re lovers in a dangerous time
sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime
nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight

Straight No Chaser is an acapella group that started singing together in college and then kept it going. Though they are used to standing side by side, here they are all singing from home.

lean on me
when you’re not strong
I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
for it won’t be long
till I’m gonna need
somebody to lean on

My YouTube search took a bit of a turn and led me to videos by choirs rather than bands. The Banbury Quarantine Collective is a group of people from England singing together to raise money for the National Health Service workers with their cover of “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

Another British choir are the Camden Voices who do a beautiful version of “True Colors.”

The members of the casts of various companies of the musical “Beautiful,” which tells Carole King’s story through her music does this rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend.” You just call out my name . . .

The Boston Children’s Chorus, working with choirs from around the world did this version of “I’ll Rise Up” by Andra Day–a new song for me, and a beautiful one.

when the silence isn’t quiet
and it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
and I know you feel like dying
but I promise we’ll take the world to its feet
and move mountains
we’ll take it to its feet
and move mountains
and I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
and I’ll do it a thousand times again
for you

Let’s keep singing to each other.



what kind of world

Yellow daffodil flower in the field

When I lived in Texas, I loved the annual art show put on by the bluebonnets across fields and highway medians; it is one of the most beautiful sights I know. They are long gone by now. April in Texas is early summer. In New England, we are still wearing our coats. The daffodils and tulips, along with some hardy wildflowers, are the harbingers of hope for more warmth. The crocuses came up with snow around them weeks ago; they are too optimistic to be believed.

Even without a pandemic, April is a hard month in this part of the world. April showers may bring May flowers but it also makes the people surly. Then close all the bars and restaurants and tell us to stay inside and we are ready to live into our reputation of being gruff. But the grey doesn’t last anymore than the bluebonnets.

Very little, if anything, of our existence is permanent.

One of the choices we are called to make in most any moment is whether to be present as it passes or to act like we are waiting for a bus and nothing matters until it’s time for us to go. Well, the choice is not necessarily that clear cut, but my point is if we equate significance with permanence we are going to miss a lot of stuff–and we might miss our bus as well.

“Pay attention to the lilies,” Jesus said, which makes me wonder if they were the bluebonnets and daffodils of Palestine. “They aren’t here long, but that’s not even the point. They take our breath away with their beauty. Be like them.”

The temporary nature of our existence is more evident for many of us in these days than it has been, perhaps. I mean, we all know we are going to die, but I don’t remember a day when the Boston Globe included twenty-one pages of obituaries.

How then, do we live knowing we aren’t going to last long? How do we consider the lilies, daffodils, and bluebonnets?

The reason the wildflowers are on my mind, besides being able to see the ones blooming in our back yard, is I read David Whyte’s definition of joy, which centers on the temporariness of it all–and the generosity.

“Joy,” he says, “is giving ourselves away before we need to.”

So, too, say the wildflowers. They know it isn’t going to last long, but they give it all away to make us believe spring is here. When they aren’t flowering, we don’t give them much thought. They finish flowering and go to seed, then they die. The flowers that bloom next year will not be the same ones we saw this year. They are connected, but they are not the same. We talk about the flowers being back, but we are seeing fresh joy–a continuity, but not a repetition, much like human history. Our legacy is connectedness, not permanence.

One of the hard things about this pandemic is we don’t know when it will end. In that way, it feels like living with depression in that it feels endless, bottomless, monotonous. At some level we know this can’t and won’t go on forever, but it feels interminable. Joy is temporary, surprising, and resonant. Depression is a sense of scarcity; joy is generosity unbound, even if just for a moment.

Jason Isbell is one of my favorite songwriters and has written two of my favorite love songs. One of them is called “If We Were Vampires” and it speaks to what it means to be living in time:

if we were vampires and death was a joke
we’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke
and laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand
maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
and give you every second I can find
and hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

it’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
maybe we’ll get forty years together
but one day I’ll be gone
or one day you’ll be gone

“Maybe time running out is a gift . . .” Whyte, again:

I was here and you were here and together we made a world.

I am here. You are here. Life is short. What kind of world will we build?

These days are showing us all kinds of things that are wrong with the world we have been building. We have heard over and over how strong our economy is and yet it has been brought crashing down by a virus. We are not as invincible or exceptional as we thought we were, or as we were told we were. We don’t have much time. Perhaps we have missed the chance to give ourselves away before we need to, but it is not too late.

One day I’ll be gone. One day you’ll be gone. For now, we’re here.


PS–You have to hear this song.




The subtitle to David Whyte’s book Consolations is The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. One of the words he unpacks is Istanbul. Though it makes me want to go find my They Might Be Giants CDs, I have never thought of Istanbul–the city or the word–as everyday.

Ginger and I got to go to Greece and Turkey in 2006, thanks to a Lilly Clergy Renewal Grant, and we spent some extraordinary days in Istanbul, Izmir, and Kayseri as we traced the steps of the Apostle Paul and then did a little wandering (and wondering) of our own. We walked through the Hagia Sofia, which was once a grand cathedral and is now a mosque, went underground to see the water system built by the Romans, crossed the bridge from Europe to Asia without leaving the city limits, and then walked the grounds and buildings of the Ottoman palace.

Whyte describes what was is an incredible memory for me:

Walking in the spice market of Istanbul after the antiseptic wrapping of the developed west we are enveloped by a shouting calling, hectoring, affectionate, begrudging, beseeching, laughing humanity.

Then he says, “We are never just one thing.”

In one of her books, Madeleine L’Engle talked about time stacking up on itself rather than stretching out, such that we are all the ages we are at one time. Her imaginative description of time led me to a short story I wrote for a creative writing class when I was getting my Masters in English. It was called “Waiting Room” and was told from the perspective of a man living with brain cancer and waiting for his test results.

Time stands on its head like a circus clown. We do not move forward, only up and down. We are every age we have ever been or will be in any and every moment, as if the moments of our lives happen simultaneously, though we experience them one by one.

I am fourteen at my brother’s military funeral;
I am seven putting a tooth under my pillow;
I am twenty-eight and my son has survived the surgery;
I am sixteen pulling out of the driveway for the first time;
I am fifty-four holding my first grandchild;
I am thirty stretching to touch a name on the Wall;
I am nine going to the principal’s office for cutting off Sally Jeffrey’s pigtail;
I am twenty-five laying down next to my wife for the first night in our first home;
I am seventy-two being pushed down a colorless hall to a semiprivate room;
I am eighteen registering for the draft;
I am forty-five with my Christmas bonus;
I am sixty-one at my wife’s funeral;
I am thirty-seven waiting to hear the results of my brain scan.

I am thirty-seven writing that story, and forty-nine spending the afternoon in the Spice Market, and sixty-three writing a blog post on a rainy, chilly New England spring evening.

We are never just one thing.

The more I repeat the sentence, I hear it differently. Rather than the we meaning you are never just one thing and neither am I, I hear it as we–as in all of us together–are never just one thing. To talk of who we are is to allow ourselves to wander (and wonder) through the spice market of our life together and take it in with all our senses.

We are never just
our fears
our wants
our appetites
our failures
our successes
our occupations
our hangups
our talents
our selves.

We are the imagination of God with skin on. We are capable of incredible love and significant damage. We can rise to the occasion and we can bring down the house. We can breathe life into one another and we knock the wind out as well.

I suppose I could go on in cute couplets for some time, but they set up something I don’t want to do and that is deal in polarities. We are not one or the other, us or them, which is the default American description for just about anything. To say we are never just one thing is not only saying we change, the way I can say I am a minister, a teacher, a chef, an Apple Creative, and an editor. Let’s go back to L’Engle’s sense of time. We are never just one thing in any given moment, or any given relationship. We are living all the layers at once. The hopes and fears and dreams and responsibilities and loves and obligations and disappointments and imaginings of all the years are met in us everyday.

Just like Istanbul. I guess it is an everyday word after all.



the lesson of the loaves


Two of the great unexplained shortages of our unfortunate isolation is flour and yeast. For some reason, everyone decided not only that they wanted to bake bread, but that they needed enough yeast to last until early 2025.

Bread is one of those things you don’t just decide to make. I am quick to say I am a cook and not a baker. I have learned how to make cookies, and, yes, I have to bake to do that, but it is a whole different ball game when yeast gets involved.

The only bread I have ever made with confidence are my mother’s Refrigerator Rolls, which are a Thanksgiving and Christmas staple at our house. I am pretty good at those. The problem with the recipe is it makes so much bread. That is less a problem when we have a table full for Thanksgiving Dinner, but a recipe that makes forty really good soft rolls when three of us are confined to quarters is a recipe for a small, though tasty disaster.

When I found this recipe for Hawaiian rolls and realized it only made fifteen of them, I decided to give it a try. My first batch was tasty but doughy–a sort, chewy paperweight. A couple of days later, I tried again, but my lack of patience still got the best of me. The rolls had a little more air in them, but they still had not risen to the occasion. I did some reading about working with yeast and looked at a bunch of bread recipes to see how and when the yeast was incorporated and what other ingredients went with it. I learned a little bit of science and a little bit of art and tried again.

The third time, I mixed the milk and yeast together first and let it sit for a minute. Then I added the pineapple juice and melted butter, then the sugar and salt, and then the eggs. I also let it rise a bit longer. They came out taller and lighter, but not quite there.

On my lunch break today I went for batch number four. Since I had afternoon phone meetings, I knew I would not be as tempted to rush things. I followed the same procedure as the third time and then left the dough alone for the first rise for over two hours. It had doubled. I shaped the rolls and set it aside for the second rise. I wrapped up some work stuff. Ginger and I walked the pups. An hour later, they had risen also. When they came out of the oven, they looked and felt and tasted like I wanted.

A little over a week ago I wrote about Mark’s account of the feeding of the five thousand where Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people and they say they don’t have the money or the bread to do it. Jesus asks what they have and they bring a sack lunch: five loaves and two fishes. Jesus tells everyone to sit down, starts sharing the lunch, and everyone eats–with leftovers.

Later, when the disciples are trying to row into a headwind, Jesus comes walking on the water, scares them half to death, and then gets in the boat. And Mark says they didn’t get what Jesus was up to because they didn’t understand the lesson of the loaves.

The lesson of the loaves for me this week is that bread takes time. Two teaspoons of yeast don’t transform four cups of flour into bread in just a few minutes. Bread takes time. And these days, what I have is time. Well, time and a good appetite for carbs. I have time to wait, time to fail, time to learn, and time to bake for those I love.

hawaiian rolls

1/2 cup warm milk (100 – 110°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
1/2 cup canned pineapple juice (room temperature)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 (20 ounces) all purpose flour, divided
1 large egg with 2 teaspoons cold water, beaten

Heat the milk in the microwave for about a minute on high (at least that gets it to the right temperature in mine). Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it. Whisk the yeast to dissolve it. Add the pineapple juice, melted butter, eggs, sugar, and salt and whisk until they are combined.

Add two cups of the flour and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a big sticky mess. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn it to medium low. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough comes together. You may not need all the flour depending on which brand you use. I use King Arthur and I find a cup is about five ounces. Once the flour is added, turn the mixer to medium-high and let it run for about five minutes, until a soft and smooth ball of dough forms.

Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let rise until it has doubled in size. The original recipe I used said that would be about an hour. Maybe it is our old drafty house and our cold New England spring, but it takes closer to two for me. (My point is let it sit until it doubles.)

NOTE: One of the tricks I learned is you can control the temperature a bit by putting the bowl in the oven–while it is turned off–and turn on the inside light.

Grease a 13×9-inch pan. Gently take the dough out of the bowl and put it on a clean surface. Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough into fifteen equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place in the prepared pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and let the dough double again, which may take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a small bowl combine the egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Once they have risen, brush the tops of the rolls with the egg
Bake the rolls for twenty minutes or until they are golden brown on top.

One other lesson of the loaves: these are really good warm with a little butter and honey. Leftovers, not so much.



milton’s ginger


One of the ironies of my life is that I am married to a woman named Ginger who does not, for the most part, like ginger–except when it comes in a good ginger molasses cookie.

When i think of ginger cookies, I think of ginger snaps with the spice and the crunch, but I am married to someone who loves a good soft and chewy cookie. So I set out to create a cookie that would do both and came up with what we called “Milton’s Ginger” when we sold them at the Durham Farmer’s Market because I’m Milton and she’s Ginger . . .

You get the idea.

This is another recipe that can’t be made on the spur of the moment. The dough has to chill for at least a couple of hours. I suppose if you cooked them immediately after making the dough they would flatten out and be crunchier. I have never tried that.

milton’s ginger

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

sugar for dusting the cookies

In a stand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and molasses until light and fluffy–five to seven minutes. Add the eggs and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cocoa powder, and cayenne pepper. Make sure the dry mixture is well-mixed before you add it to the wet mixture. Move the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°.

Using a 2 oz. scoop, scoop the cookies on to a parchment-lined baking sheet. I scoop ten of them (that’s how many fit on a baking sheet for me in four rows: three, two, three, two). Then I shape each one into sort of a mini hockey puck and dip the top in the sugar. I used to roll the whole cookie, but found that the sugar on the bottom burned, so now i just do the tops.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. (I bake them on the short side so they stay chewy.)

The recipe makes about three dozen two-ounce cookies.



oh, man

MAN - close-up of grungy vintage typeset word on metal backdrop. Royalty free stock illustration. Can be used for online banner ads and direct mail.

I finished the Gospel of Mark in the new translation by David Bentley Hart. I also finished a chapter in Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno, which was written in 1912 and translated by J. E. Crawford Flitch. The two translations are a century apart and aimed at two different purposes, but they share one thing in common: they make no apparent effort to use inclusive language.

Yes, I know the (male) writers back then–whether in biblical times, the beginning of the last century, or almost any time in between–didn’t think about stuff like that. Mrs. White, my social studies teacher at Lusaka International School told our seventh grade class that “man” stood for everyone.

Except it doesn’t. It never has, really.

We name what matters to us. If we only name the men and say that covers everyone, what we are really saying–and what we have actually been saying for centuries–is that men are the ones that matter because we have different names when it does matter, that is when we need to make a distinction. But that is not the only time it matters to name everyone.

It always matters.

Even though I have been moved and challenged by both books, I have also been exhausted by having to do my own translation to widen their scope, and I have been saddened to think I can’t recommend them without explaining their egregious blind spot. Or perhaps I give the two translators too much credit. They may have done it on purpose. It doesn’t matter in one sense: the impact of their choice far out shadows their intent. The damage is done.

And it is damage, not semantics.

I don’t care if someone wants to use history, tradition, linguistics, or theology to justify using man instead of humanity. It’s not a matter of word choice. It is a matter of compassion and humanity. Exclusive language leaves people out.

And all people–not all men–are created equal.

The exclusivity goes beyond our language around gender. As the pandemic has unfolded, i keep hearing about the ways in which “Americans” are having to learn to live with uncertainty around jobs, food, school, and life. The truth is that those who are having to learn those lessons are mostly white people. There are millions of Americans who lived in poverty and food insecurity and without reliable health care before anyone knew about Covid-19, but they have been invisible because they have not been named either.

I know of two gay couples in our little snow-globe town who have been verbally accosted for walking together by people shouting “Social Distancing” as they drive by. No one has yelled at Ginger and me.

What I am saying is not new. Neither is my anger or frustration. Tonight it feels fresh because Hart has brought new life to the New Testament in many ways and I am saddened that his imagination fell short of finding a way to include those who don’t look like him such that, fresh or not, he falls in the stack with all the other male translators that have settled for naming themselves as included and thinking that would be enough.

I don’t know much about David Bentley Hart other than what he wrote in his introduction to his translation of the New Testament and what I read about him on his Wikipedia page. He wrote an earlier book called That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. I would love to know why one who trusts that all will be with God in the dimension beyond this one didn’t see a need to choose language that matched his theology.

I feel like I am picking on him and I don’t mean to do so. He is an example, not the problem.

I have spent the last half hour writing and deleting closing paragraphs that were admonishing, indignant, and incendiary. I didn’t start this looking for a fight, so I am not going to finish that way. When I started writing tonight, I didn’t know how the post would go, other than I felt compelled to talk about how sad it has felt to read the two books.

May we choose our words and name each other in ways that create room for one another to belong.



it was thirty years ago tomorrow . . .


Tomorrow, April 21, 2020, is our thirtieth wedding anniversary. In the course of our marriage we have lived in five cities and four states, Ginger has served four UCC churches, we have had eight residences, eight Schnauzers, and I have had five different careers. I have lost track of how many people have lived with us over the years. Thirty years ago, all I knew is I wanted to be married to Ginger. I had no idea what an incredible adventure it would be. The poem below is a revision of one I wrote a half a marriage ago. It still says how I feel.

signature moves

every so often, when I sign my name,
the person behind the counter says,
“that’s quite a signature,” as though
I’ve done nothing but doodle.
“no one else can imitate it,” is my answer,
“that’s what makes it my signature.”

my morning movements are as much
a signature as my recognizable ,
my hands act from muscle memory:
wash and trim the strawberries,
stand them up to slice, and then
spread them out like pages, and
ink them with the blueberries

the fruit sits on a plate we’ve had
as long as we’ve been married,
when I first began to work on a
new signature because my name
changed along with yours,
as we wrote something new together.

and then there’s your coffee:
my hands move with confidence same
as I show when I sign my name.

this is who I am.
this is who we are.

I can’t think of one without the other.
the daily mixture of fresh and
familiar, what is known scribbled
on the surface of each new day,
held together by a hyphen –
my favorite piece of punctuation.

We were supposed to see the Red Sox play for Patriots’ Day in Boston and then drive up to Maine to stay at the inn where we stayed on the first night of our honeymoon. Instead, we will stay home, probably watch Fever Pitch again, walk once the rain stops, and pick up some Mexican food. (Yes, Connecticut has good Mexican food.) It will not be the day we expected, but then again, we have lived a lot of days like that.

I am grateful for my life first and foremost because of the person I have gotten to spend it with. I love you, Gigi.