Christian Wimin is a talented poet and long-suffering spiritual seeker whom I discovered through his book, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer.

He has forced me to do something I did not anticipate when I picked him up to read: I rejected him — or a good part of him, or, at least, what I take to be him, or, if not him, his spiritual thesis, to the extent that I understand it. I can only go by what I read, and I read the following on page 111:

The minute any human or human institution arrogates to itself a singular kowledge of God, there comes into that knowledge a kind of srtychnine pride, and it is as if the most animated and vital creature were instantaneoulsly transformed into a corpse. Any belief that does not recognize and adapt to its own erotion rots from within. Only when doctriine itself is understood to be provisional does doctrine begin to take on a more than provisional significance. Truth inheres not in doctrine itself, but in the spirit with which it is engaged, for the spirit of God is always seeking and creating new forms.

So, everything is relative, or “provisional”? Even God? Really? What use is a “provisional” or ephemeral or conditional, here today/gone tomorrow God?

Well –okay. I think I get what he’s saying. Such feelings have led me and multitudes to a kind of agnosticism in which the nature of God eludes us, or we suffer from God’s silence. Or, when it comes to orgnized religion and orthodox Christianity in particular, everything always seems, sooner or later, to ossify into stale praxis in musty old buildings or cold glassy ones, both eminating spiritual emptiness, clericalism where genuine spirituality is smothered by clostrophobic bureacracies, all supported by heaps of dry, demanding documents we call “doctrines” and “dogmas.” We’ve often been heartened by the bumper sticker slogans that proclaims them to be dubious and worthy of death (e.g., “my karma ran over my dogma.”)

(By the way, the default religion of the modern soul seems to be Buddhism –until you read the disenchanted testimonials of disaffected Buddhists disavowing Buddhist orthodoxy, or any claim that there is just One Path — or any limit to the numbers of paths to enlightment. Self-will is forever the bus running over any dogma, however orthodox or heterodox.)

What sent Wimin off on this heterodox tilt was a quote from that unendingly renowned spiritual culture hero, the late Thomas Merton. . That statement was: “The reason why Catholic tradition is a tradition is because there is only one living doctrine in Christianity: there is nothing new to be discovered.”

There is much to like about Merton. I like much about him. I once owned both his Seven Storey Mountain (read it and was moved by it) and The Sign of Jonah, his late 1940s jounal of his early monastic years. He somehow seems to maintain great popularity among self-identifying “liberal” Catholics who identify as “spiritual” but reject dogma and doctrine. Merton, before his untimely death in 1968, was plainly off on a tilt of his own, becoming topical and rather political over issues of war, peace and nuclear armament and more interested in eastern religious traditions and seemingly less willing to be bound by his once-vital vocation as a Trappist Monk happily embracing Christian orthodoxy or the centuries-old Benedictine rule.

That’s fine, to a degree. Everybody, even the best, now and then take a spiritual walk around the block. But I believe during Merton’s particular walk, his once rich vocation was sheered away as, more and more, he felt the need to become socially “relevant” but less orthodox within the silence of the cloister. That, in itself, made him popular with a less orthodox fringe of the Church eager to shake off what it percieves or experiences to be the rigidity of doctrine.

Wimin’s sour verdict on that quote of Merton’s is that it amounts to “a little bit of death from a thinker who brought the world so much life.”

Oh, dear!

Then he goes on to write, “To be fair, Merton himself certainly realized this later in his life, when he became interested in merging ideas from Christianity with Buddhism.”

Ah, sweet syncretism! A kind of srtychnine pride (to borrow a phrase from Wimin) of the agnostic dabbler. It did not, in my opinion, enrich Merton. It diverted him — pridefully.

I long ago, during a period of “searching,” read Merton’s Mystics and Zen Master. I don’t doubt that mystics (some of them Christian) and Zen Masters might find some common spiritual ground. But I would enter the exalted company of the likes of G.K. Chesterton and suggest that Christian tradition and orthodoxy has not failed but really never been tried — that the nature of our search is, with the help of God’s grace, to be more Christlike, amending our lives accordingly. And while there might be nothing truly left to discover doctrinally, there is much to learn. Our understanding of doctrine can grown and develop, just as we come to know and better understand the nature of an oak tree as it grows from a seed to a flourishing mass of branches and leaves and, organically, resists any effort to become a banana tree. And thre is, in fact, really much to re-discover in the spiritual realm, especially in the search after a greater knowledge of our individual selves and our relationship to the one-and-only true God based on the earthly actions and pronouncements of the Second Person of the Trinity. This, I submit,m is a divine adventure, full of thrills and spills, darkness and light.

I’ll own that Christian Wimin’s intense strivings toward what we might call enlightenment or even sanctity are authentic and heroic. He has long battled a painful form of bone cancer, and kept on searching and writing through pain and multiple operations. He is a most admirable and talented and insightful soul. But I just hate to see him falling, in this particular instance, back on a pedestrian agnosticism and spiritual relativism, suggesting (as he seems to) that Christian doctrine is a product of pride and is infinitely protean, as is the God who is its subject. And he does so in vivid, concrete, almost disdainful terms: we must view God as “provisional” and as ever elusive, or our faith becomes a “corpse.” Ouch! That makes us gods, right? We’ve seen this movie before — from Eden on. It is a war on certitiude that seems to sanctify doubt. Wimin might (I could only hope) profit from the admonition of St. John Henry Newman, which was offered to me at an especially painful, grief-filled, confused and doubting period of my youth — that “a thousand difficulties do not constitute one single ‘doubt’.”

But I know that’s a thesis always destined to be rejected by those who simply don’t ever want to be common travelers with observant or orthodox Christians of any stripe.

The Christian religion, being codified and administered according to the divergent practices and beliefs of infinitely splintering congregations and denomination, can turn people away. To wit:

I was just in the company of a woman who attented the Southern Baptist funeral of a friend’s son who’d struggled his whole life with drug addition and recently died of an overdose. As she tells it, there was no divine conslation to be had at the preacher’s hand or from his mouth. He spoke in roaring fashion only of the possibility that the young man, a sinner like all of us, might or might not have found his eternal destiny in heaven and hell was alway a possibility. (Undeniably true.) Disenchanted in the extreme, she vowed never again to enter a Southern Baptist Church. Well, I might point out that that stuff from the preacher (again, as she tells it) ain’t orthodoxy. That’s heresy, in my Catholic book (and catechism). It’s Calvin, Zwigli and Luther working by their dreary, benighted, human lights.

It is worth noting that Christian Wimin, a bright an inquisitive soul, had an intense pentacostal upbringing in Texas and probably didn’t encounter an unbeliever until he got to college — and realized he was faking his salvation. Wouldn’t that be a bitch? Same sort of thing happens with Catholics. To an extent, it happened to me. When I realized my faith had gone unchallenged, it nearly dissolved under pressure.

But according to Catholic belief, we must persevere to the end, through the dark valley, depending on God’s supportive grace and mercy which are always available through our prayers, the prayers of our loved ones and, especially, through the sacraments, those visible signs of grace. We are saved or condemned by our own actions and we see now only “through a glass darkley.”

Yeah, I’m talking voodoo to a lot of non-believers. But, as that old sinner Kurt Vonnegut might have said, “so it goes.”

So, again, we are various grades of stumblers, and all children of the one God who can save us, lift us up after we fall. We have only to ask and, exercising free choice. Offered for our guidance, which we are free to reject, is what comes to us through centuries-old….doctrine.We seek love, understanding and forgiveness from one another if we are functioning normally and properly according to that “bright”-ness that illuminates Christian Wimin’s abbys. Could it be otherwise with the God we claim to believe and whom we don’t, out of love, wish to offend as we find Him in other people, even our enemies? God reaches us or is defeated in us in this very frail and human way.

Of course, I often love my sins, even the memory of them, more than I love God. I admit it. So I shouldn’t mind it when conscience begins blinking its red warning light. We CAN fall from grace. And I’m not preaching here. Just whistling in the abyss, and hoping it stays “bright” for me. And for you. For all of us.

Christian Wimin has written a short poem that reads:

My God my bright abyss

into which all my longing will not go

once more I come to the edge of all I know

and believing nothing believe in this:

(Yes, he ends with a colon — a fill-in-the-blank ending, still, at the volume’s end, blank.)

Let me be clear:

But note: Christian Wimin’s subtitle tells us he IS a believer. And he is a poet. So much of the Christian Bible is written in poetry, much of it beautiful. And from Job to the psalm writer, there is much anguished questioning. (Any actual readers of this blog might go back to the entry called, “On Serious Earth,” a meditation on atheist poet Philip Larkin’s poetic meditations while exploring a church buiding. Read Job while you’re at it. And Lamentations….)

In conclusion: G.K. Chesterton from his classic, Orthodoxy:

The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepeted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman; it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficulty thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob….

It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.

And, really, isn’t that basically what good old Thomas Merton meant and never truly ceased meaning, even as he now and then fell — and rose again? That we arrive home and recognize it for the first time. We discover that the truest thing has already been discovered. Isn’t it the truest and worst pride to be be found in the impulse to think otherwise?

Keep searching, Christian Wimin. You are well-named. I’m with you in that abyss. Whistling when it gets dark. Listen for me. It may be that we are home and don’t want to say so. Believing nothing believe in this – that there is nothing new to be discovered, just a difficult love to be embraced. Reliable sources have told me that that way lies joy and freedom.

I’m not there yet. How about you?


March upon us. March Madness (college basketball), winter’s last furious lashes, and they are fierce, wet, wild, wicket all across the Republic.

I write hearing things in the walls.

The madness of the March hare, or references to it, sprang out of English folklore, and, of course, Alice in Wonderland. It refers to the wild, wierd behavior of the hare in breeding season. For humans, breeding in every season, the wild, weird behavior is forever.

In like a lion, out like a lamb? Not this year. And never, really, in Florida.

March winds

I know of only one song written about March. It is, “The Waters of March,” written by the progenitor of Bosa Nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim. The English lyrics, about the third stanza of this tic-toc melody, go….

It’s the wind blowing free, it’s the end of the slope
It’s a beam, it’s a void, it’s a hunch, it’s a hope
And the river bank talks of the waters of March
It’s the end of the strain, it’s the joy in your heart

On March 3, 1960, my 7th grade class at St. Ann’s Parochial School, on Neponset Avenue in the Neponset section of Dorchester (and just several yards down the street from my Neponset Avenue home) went on a field trip to the Boston Museum of Science. The highlight of the tour, in which we were allowed to roam free among the exhibits (one I recall featured a headset which you donned to hear the ‘sound’ of sunbeams reaching earth) was an assemby at which a speaker demonstrated and/or explained various scientific phenomina. And the highlight of this highlight was when the assembling consisting of several Boston school pupils were told to close their eyes and on the count of three open them. One, two, three — and poof!!! A wrack of flashbulbs went off in the newly opened eyes of a couple of hundred seventh graders leaving on their retina an image of skull and crossbones (how demonic! A symbol of death imprinted on young eyes.) The entire auditorium erupted in shocked hilarity, arms reaching out to grasp this image of jolly roger floating before their stunned eyes. It was the climax of the day’s presentation and the instructor had a hard time quieting the young crowd that was about to end its day filing back into buses.

But it was a singular and very different experience for me. Because, misunderstanding the instructions, I CLOSED my eyes on the count of three.

Never could follow instructions.

That night a blizzard descended on Boston. Three feet of snow.

And the river bank talks of the waters of March

It’s the end of the strain, it’s the joy in your heart….


The short month. Two months into the new year. The kitchen butcher block rolling table always seems to have crumbs on it. I’m probably the culprit, slicing bread, making a sandwich.

I was going for the light to the carport last night, hearing Diane Harrison pulling up and about to step out into darkness. I knocked over her orchid and smashed the vase. I saved the orchid.

I was in Tampa at Joe’s office by the little inlet. Outside, before coming in, I stood and looked west toward the pink clouds over the darkening water.

There was only gentle old Alex, Venezualan, Joe M., whose office it was, and me. Just the three of us. Prayer.

Where do I go from here? I keep going to the same place. That nowhere place.

Looking at condos earlier in the day. I don’t want to move. I just want Diane to be happy. And me able to live with integrity, with peace of mind.

The condo area, down by the lake, was very nice. But — move again?

True, there is much to fear living in a vinyl and metal place in a place of violent seasonal blasts.

I walked today — past the ibis and muscovy ducks. It was very nice. It was after 9 a.m.. People here and there talking to their neighbors.

I see my old broadcast group up north will get together March 14. I won’t make it, of course. I wish I could.

The year goes. And goes. Pray. Work.

I participated in the Emerson “Pizza&Politics” zoom session today. People from coast to coast speaking on my desk. I’m glad I do this. It was all about Ukraine. Where will it end over there? What will happen to us? To the world?

Happy? Old Saying: your happy as you make up your mind to be. Plus which: it’s decidedly ungrateful to be anything but happy. Especially me: I’ve been given so much.

Today’s gospel, as we edge along in Lent, was Matt 6:7-15 It contains the Our Father.

Finish your writing. Sacrifice. Concentrate. Pray.

Welcome March. The year goes. Lent goes. Repent. Realign. Real-ize. Whatever it takes to improve the game and the vision.


February has been light on entries. In fact, I believe there’s only one, being my visit to the Last Mile Lounge.

So, with apologies for offering something so slight to my phantom readership — this recollection came to me today: how after returning to Massachusetts for my junior year in college after a summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains working at Kings Canyon National Park, I had brought a Sierra stone back with me. Just a nice little stone that, over many years, maybe centuries, had formed in the California wilderness. It wasn’t gold, it wasn’t precious. Just an ordinary stone — but special to me because it came from the land of the Sequoias. And one day in the woods of New Hampshire — I could not tell you exactly where — I came upon a stream. Alone, reflecting on the massive continental distance between the California mountain woods and these New England woods, I took the stone out of my pocket and dropped it in the stream bed.

I assume it’s still there, that little California stone that crossed the country — still there in that stream. Stones don’t wear away for generations, right? Perhaps even for millenia. And this was deep in woods where few have visited regularly or construction would seem unlikely to displace anything.

I just got thinking about permanence. I could go on — permanently.

No, I couldn’t. And the stream, flowing water, has been known to wear the earth down to canyons — grand canyons!

Well…that’s enough of that. For now. I’ll probably go on thinking about my stone — occasionally. This February Friday night Florida, with light rain expected and a beautiful gray cat spotted in the back yard, seemed like a good night for it.

I hope it was for you, too. Think of that stream, still flowing. Think of the tall, deep forests from which it came — a National Park. (And, of course, you really aren’t supposed to take anything out of a National Park, are you. Oh, I’m in trouble now. It was 1967. Is there a statute of limitations? Yes: death.)

And I hope that’s not a kidney stone I feel coming on. I pray not.

Once again, let this stony meditation end here.


It’s been a long while since I dropped into The Last Mile Lounge on that stretch out of Boston (where my imagination put it), roughly the East Boston/Revere line. I dropped in recently.

There had been weather, there was a lull now. It was Friday, mid-afternoon. A few folks, men and women, have dropped in after work, probably the end of their work week. There would be more later, after five. Deano, the night bartender is already on duty.

I’d forgotten about an occasional patron named Jerry Krause; don’t know him well –not as well as I feel I know Sticky Sammartino who’d dropped in at this odd hour for a single draft. Jerry Krause, the same. These guys, believe it or not, have a book club at a place around the corner where some of the regulars live, an old apartment complex. I think they meet in Pete Garafola’s place. Occasionally they’d meet in the branch public library; occasional out on Revere Beach when the weather’s real nice. They’ve invited women to join, but so far, no takers. And they were spending about a month reading From Here to Eternity. They like military-related stuff, some of them being veterans. They surprised me when one of them told me they’d read Anna Karenina and plan to tackle War and Peace this summer. But the weather — chilly but clear — had lately pushed the Club back indoors and they meet on Wednesday nights, if I recall, probably after some of them grab a bite at a place they like over in Lynn. Pete G. provides beer, soft drinks and nuts for the actual club. What a bunch. I swear I’m going to drop by some night.

Anyway, Stickey nodded a greeting to me, Jerry (they call him Jerry K, I understand) also nodded, though I’m pretty much I’m a stranger to him.

Jerry was obviously kind of in the dumps, from what I could observe. I don’t drink, just come around The Mile, as they call it, because (inexplicably) I like the place — and I can tell you about all I hear and behold there. Deano knows me well and sets me up a tonic and a splash of cranberry. I don’t even have to ask. I’m personally thinking about how a grand nephew of mine was laid to rest last summer after overdosing on his depression medication. An absolutely terrible event in the lives of everybody who knew him. I told Stickey about this. I believe Stickey had told his Friday night drinking buddy Jackie the Crow (who’s been in the hospital for something). Jackie must have told Jerry (though I didn’t know Jerry knew Jackie, but, then I remember — they’re both in book club.)

I wasn’t sitting at a table very long when Jerry came over –made a special point of it — to express his condolences about my grand nephew. “Really sorry to hear about that,” he said. “Jesus, that’s heartbreaking.”

“It was months ago now,” I said, ” but the hurt remains — in the family, especially the parents, the grandparents… very bad.”

“It’ll never go away,” he said. And he seemed like he knew what he was talking about. He looked like a man, as the poet says, acqainted with the night. I invite him to sit for a minute. Stickie was busy talking to Deano at the bar. “You know,” said Jerry, ” I wonder when we’ll figure out what the pandemic did to us, the isolation and stuff, to the kids especially. I mean there are probably other things, other factors, but I know it got to me, the isolation. It’s why I came here more often, because Jake, the owner, kept bucking the state health people. ” He looked at me intently. “Stickie told me you’re a writer and used to be a reporter around here.”

“That’s right,” I said.

He said, “Like I say, I was coming in here a lot during the lockdown, at least when this place was fighting the lockdown– I’d come off hours, like early in the morning when the place opened up and I could get an egg sandwich from Jenny, the Sunday bartender. I liked talking to her. I’m single, you know.”

“So’s Jenny,” I said. I must have done something like wink, because Jerry proceeded to say, “I’m single but I’m a confirmed bachelor. I just like talking to people and I wouldn’t be talking to a woman who was married and I wanted Jenny to know I wasn’t flirting with her and that I hoped she had a boyfriend.”

“She’s got a few,” is said, and thought how unhappy Jenny, knowing Jenny, must have been when a guy told her he wasn’t flirting with her, because I was guarantee she was flirtiing with him — though he was obviously older than thirty-something Jenny. Men and women like to flirt. I do, anyway. But Jenny’s a tough girl, don’t get me wrong. She just likes men, which isn’t a crime yet.

“Good,” Jerry said. “I’m glad to hear she has a boyfriend.”

“Probably several,” I said.

He finally sat down at that point, but didn’t act like he intended to stay, just to get off his feet. But he also seemed especially eager to engage another human being who might, I suspected, be a little more receptive to his tender observations than old Stickey.

“I don’t know what going to happen to the world when somebody so young can be so down in the dumps,” Jerry said. (And wasn’t it interesting that he used the same adjective that had floated into my mind when I beheld him and his somewhat sorrowing countnance on the bar stool.) All at once his whole complexion went dark. Really down to the dumps, which he, plainly, intended to sift. He had reddish blond-to-gray hair, with a scumble of wiry gray hair at the brow, blue eyes and freckles and some wrinkles you might see on a guy in his late forties who’s putting on hard years. I didn’t ask, but I learned later from Sticky that Jerry works overnights at the post office and always seemed to like the isolation that overnight work can afford a person. (Now, isn’t that strange! Here was a guy concerned about how isolation might have affected kids during the long lockdown — and he (allegedly, anyway) prefers isolation.) He liked nights, too. Sticky wondered if he slept hanging upside down during the day, like a bat. He laughed when he told me that (this was a month ago, after Christmas, when Sticky was talking about Jerry before I finally met him. And he told me more about him in this particular day day after Jerry left, which he plainly was getting ready to do, in a little while. But he wasn’t going to leave until he leaned on the table, looked at me earnestly and told mehe prays for the world, the Whole WORLD, especially for young people.

“I grew up in Lynn,” he said, on Chatham Street. I’ve seen the city change. I love it just the same.”

“Where do you live now?,” I asked him.

“I’ve had an apartment in Saugus for about a year but I’m not going to renew the lease. I used to come here to this place after I finished my rounds — I used to deliver mail tostreets around here and delivered packages. This was when I was first working for the the P.O. I got to know Jake, the owner. He used to serve more food then. Sometimes he didn’t charge me. I heard he was going to start serving more food.

“The license says he has to,” I said. The city’s been on him about that. Jenny, some of those people, they can make sandwiches, cook burgers. out back. They’ve got a kitchen,as you know. Deano and the owner just had it remodeled, fireproofed, all that. They had to put sprinklers in here, too,.”

“I know that,” said Jerry. But he was clearly wasn’t folling my mind into the kitchen. He was pondering his life now. “I guess I’m thinking I could retire pretty soon with a little pension at some point in time.” He’d been looking around the room. Now he looked at me. ” Stickey tells me you’re retired. Your name is Greg, right?”


“My brother’s name was Greg.”

“Not living?”

“Died like your grandnephew, an overdose.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it was years ago, way back in the eighties when we were young. Same stuff going round and round.”

“Yeah, but, like you said, you never….”

“No, never,” he said. You never get over it. How old was your grand nephew?”

“Twenty. It was the day after his birthday.”

Jerry shook his head. “So your grandnephew wasn’t even born when we started going through so much stuff in the world, 9/11 and all that.”

“No,” I said, “he wasn’t.”

He had me thinking now, pondering this tragic episode in my family and how there’d been a young guy, millions, probably –especially Iraq and Afghanistant war soldiers and Marines, who’d come, then gone. And as I said, “Born in this century. Gone in this century.”

Jerry sat back. I said, “Can I buy you a drink of something?”

“No, I’ve still got my beer at the bar. I don’t drink much, really.” He’d grown noticably morose with the information that my grandnephew’s entire life was enclosed in this still-young century.

“I’m thinking about just how sad things can get,” he said. That seemed like stating the obvious, maybe a little shallow. I wondered, his this guy a little weird? But ultimately, no, I decided — not weird, but intensely and simply human. That thought also seemed shallow and trite as it rolled around my head. But, I thought, so what? Then Jerry said,” I work in this big, big noisy, bright room overnight with a lot of good guys and I’m making people’s loveletters and bills and packages go on their merry way like life going on its merry way and sometimes I think I can see these people who are sending this stuff. I mean people don’t write love letters or anything like that anymore, they just send emails.” He folded his hands, like a kid at school. He spoke like a kid at school, young — simple. Perfect. He was looking up toward the TV where there was no sound but images of a fire, storm destruction. I knew this, because I’d swung myself around a bit when Deano arrived with my tonic ( he didn’t have to bring it out to the table, but Deano’s good to me) and I kind of wanted to see what Jerry was looking at so intently. But disaster just seemed to be a backdrop for everything that was pouring out of him. Something to prime the pump of sentiment and fond reflection.

“It’s really a good place to work, the Post Office,” he said. ” I just wish there was more handwriting and not labels, more handwrapped packages, more handwriting on letters coming down the conveyer. Not plain gray cold typed stuff….and, y ou know, the Fedex and UPS guys, they get to do a lot of the delivering of good stuff. Maybe no letters, but packages. I envy them.”

“Why don’t you go back to delivering packages,” I said, sensibly. He smiled. Something came rushing into that forty-something head– though actually I now realized he had to be fifty-something — fro that face, and if he had a brother who died of an overdose in the Eighties.

“Christmas, I love Christmas in the Post Office.,”Jerry spouted. The room almost seemed to light up when he said it. (The Mile did have some Christmas lights and a tree, but they’d come down in the first dreary days of the month. “It makes me sad that it’s January, that it’s over,” Jerry said. I guess I had to agree with that.

So that was it. That was what was making him sad. A Post-Christmas World.

“I mean they bring in extra people at the P.O., so you get to meet them and get extra help, but you can see all these packages coming down the conveyers that you know are gifts trying to get to somebody across the country someplace. And then all the cards — people still send cards, not as many as when I started at the PO.. But they send them — and they are in these colorful envelops sometimes. You see them coming. It makes me happy. “

I decided to ask him something that was at the back of my mind. “Jerry, how old was your brother when he died?”

“My age,” he said. “We were twins. Identical twins. We were eighteen.”

So — this Jerry WAS older than he looked. Weren’t we all, I thought. No, I thought, again. Some look positively whipped and ancient at fifty. But I took in the news that Jerry Krause had a twin…..I took it in, knowing now that I was looking at the face of another man who never made it to this century or this year of 2023, except in the identical face of the sanquine, pensive twin soul across the table from me.

“He was a very beautiful person,” Jerry said of his brother.

“What was his name?”

He looked at me a little quizzically. In fact, a lot quizzically. “I told you,” he said. “Greg, like you.”

Boy, did I feel stupid. “Yeah, sorry, I said, and then wondered how I could forget my own name. “My folks told me Greg was named for a Church. I was named for a prophet. ” He smiled broadly at that.

“Jeremiah,” I said.

“That’s me,” he said.

Stickey was suddenly standing over us and putting Jerry — that is, Jeremiah’s– half-drunk pilzner of beer in front of him. ” It’s getting worm, my friend.”

“Join us, Stickey,” I said.

“After I go to the boy’s room, and I gotta make a phone call.” He had his cellphone in hand as he walked off toward the hallway leading to the bathrooms.

“You know, please apologize to Stickey when he comes back,” Jerry said, and took another drink of his beer, leaving a full finger of amber. “I’ve got to get home and get ready for work. Plus I’m at a meter. ” He got out a dollar, stood, walked over to the bar, slapped the dollar down as a tip for Deano who smiled at him and picked it up as he was coming back from dropping of a draft in front of a guy who’d just walked in. Dean’s suave and polished that way. Jerry came back to the table and said, “You know, I’m planning on moving back to Lynn. It’s got problems, but it’s home for me.” He sat and, it became clear, had one more piece of information for me. But it came as kind of an odd wind out of nowhere.

“It was like demons came down upon him, darkness,” he said. He was talking about his brother — Greg. ” It was the drugs, but it was life, too. No pandemic to bring it on back then in ’85. . Just that big darkness. “He looked around the bar that had only two other patrons at a table nearby. I hadn’t noticed that about four people had walked out while we were talking. I was looking over toward what must have been one of the last phone booths in the country — wooden and vintage — that Deano told me still got used regularly once a month by a well-known bookmaker.

“It’s nice meeting you and it’s been nice talking to you,” Jeremiah (after the prophet) Krause said to me. “I’m going to pray for your grandnephew. Is he laid to rest near here?”

“Not far . In Winthrop.”

“Someday maybe you and me can go pay a visit, drop some flowers and a few prayers. And you know what?”

“What?” I said. Since I wasn’t going to be seeing him in a few moments, I took note for the first time of his clothes — his blue pull over V-neck sweater, a gold chain and some kind of medal around his neck. His coat still hung on the back of his stool at the bar. It was maroon and had some kind of a patch on it. It looked well worn.

“Now, Greg, I’ll tell you what I was telling Stickey and that is, that I’ve decided I actually WILL be retiring soon. I’ll have a pretty good pension. And you know what I’m going to do?”

“What’s that?”

” I’m going to get a job delivering flowers. Packages are great, but I love flowers. That would make me very happy – flowers for wedding, flowers for funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, flowers from lovers, delivering them to other lovers. That’s how I’m going to spend a rest of my life, as long as I can drive or walk. I’ve never had a garden, either. I may get one. But I’ll deliver flowers. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a great idea.”

“Brighten up the darkness,” he said. He stood up. “See ‘ya again sometime, ” he said, and offered his hand, which I took and which he shook warmly. Then he grabbed his jacket off the back of the stool and was out the door. Stickey was behind me, under the TV, talking to somebody on his cell phone. He had loads of people in his life. I was hoping he’d tell me more about this Jerry when he was done. (And, as indicated, he did.)

I guess Jerry Krause seemed “down in the dumps” just from the look about him — the look on his face. Okay, like a kid, he missed Christmas. But maybe he’s just a serious, solitary kind of guy who occasionally, having no wife or kids or any prospect or desire for such things, feels obliged to take on other people’s loads from time to time. I felt I knew him better now, and, thanks to him, I suddenly knew all I needed to know to make my January afternoon a little warmer and brighter, as if somebody had just delivered flowers to my table.


It is January 4, 2023. I have that January feeling. It’s not a great feeling. Forgive me if it’s your birthday or anniversary month, but anxiety and a creeping sense of the blahs always overtake me on the morning of January 1. It’s the feeling you get when you get in your old car (mine is a 2015 and I’m reminded that 2015 once felt new) and you prepare to crank the ignition, and hope the old bag of bolts starts up. ( It starts, but the air conditioning has failed. In Florida, no air conditioning in the car amounts to a grand a sweaty case of blahs-on-stilts — i.e., the malaise.

Now for my metaphor: As with my car, it’s that time of year when you turn the key and hope the new year starts. You hope it take you where you want to go. Pretty good, eh? Yeah, just pretty good.

I just read last January’s posts. Very depressing. I hoped for change. It all depended on me. Nothing really changed. But, on the deeply sad end of things, a beloved nephew died suddenly July 13. Then, very, very far down the scale of concern and sadness from that catastrophe was that one of my dogs had to be put down (May 15). This year, some of those I love are very ill and very old. I’m praying.

So, on this early January day… I pray, pray, pray….

I just went out to Lowe’s to buy a new filter for the refrigerator. My Veteran’s discount didn’t apply. It cost me $64. But a new filter was long overdue. There was a little red light giving me that message. Red lights tell us things. And loud buzzes and whining alarms. I’m supposed to change the filter every six months. The packaging for the filter says I am now reducing twenty-eight contaminants and, potentially, they include Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Neproxen, Phenytoin, Timethoprim….

And those are just the pharmaceuticals. Funny things — I looked up carbamazepine and it’s used in treating seizures and bipolar disorder. I guess the chemical hasn’t been concocted in the world’s labs that doesn’t start out having great uses before it becomes a poison. It’s like the worst things we ever did when we were young — they all started out as fun. (What kind of fun were they having when they cooked up COVID?)

Back to my filter. Waterborne stuff being filtered out might include assorted micro-organisms, or metals, including, of course, lead. The sort of things that have given me kidney stones. Then, the pesticides. Oh, my! By now, reading the packaging for that filter, I’m feeling resigned, as I take my first long sip of water, to let grace and nature take their course. I’m hearing Doris Day singing, C’est sera, sera….whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see…. ( that’s from a very old Hitchcock movie called, The Man who Knew Too Much. Never in my life have I felt I knew too much.)…

What I feel about the water is what I feel about the year. But if I’ve got ickies in my water, well, the pesticides I’ve allegedly filtered out include Atazine, Carbofuran, Endrin, Lindane……and on and on….

I’ve gone my whole life never having heard of any of these things, much less knowing I might be drinking them. We live immersed in dangerous science. We are hypostatic organic systems, in the mind of a future Harvard moral philosopher I once dated. We were in our twenties. I took her for Chinese food ( I believe she was eating vegitarian). I’d been happily, luckily “fixed up” with her by old, distant friends met during a summer working in the Sierra Nevada while a college student. (Ah, times lost, memories….etc.) Speaking of luck, the future philosopher and I dined at a place in Cambridge called, The Lucky Garden.

For much of our lives, we dream of living in a Lucky Garden. We don’t necessarily think much about heaven, and sure as hell don’t think much about hell. We just hope we’re lucky. (I believe the current MegaMillions jackpot is at $940 Million. Imagine a couple of folks in a little woodframed bungalo on Main Street coming into that kind of dough? Or you? Or me? The total budget for the city of Largo, Florida (where I currently reside) is $309.7 million, up 18% from last year. The population (last year, anyway) was 82, 381. I’ll bet that will rise, too, especially after this winter. But just think, I’m just a digit and still feeling very much like an alien in the subtropics. Like a roaming hypostatic organic system. A white Anglo-x. Three years ago, I reduced the population of Lancaster, Mass by one. (Did they miss me?) But I’m a restless digit, a restless hypostatic organic system. I’d like to re-increase Lancaster’s population — and Largo’s population only in the cool months.

Now, if I could only kill off the January mosquito that has somehow managed to spawn and commenced to whine about my ears. Where’s a little Atazine or Carbofuran when I need it? It would be ironic, right?, if pesticides in my water got me and the mosquito went on happily whining about. But my bug guy tells me mosquitos only live twelve hours. It seems like, in the eleventh hour, they always manage to bite me, then, like Simeon, go happily to their death with a load of my Type O blood in their tank. And every night, a barely visible little — I mean little — cohort of sugar ants can be found floating in the tank to my Keurig. Not in the sugar bowl, mind you, but in the Keurig. Go figure. Water again. Where’s the filter in my Keuric?! Or, here’s where a little poison in the water might help. The average cup of coffee probably brings us micro-chemicals out of Brazil, just for taste. Who knows?

My next purchase must be an evapcore for my failed car air conditioner. Even in January, you don’t want to be without air air conditioning in Florida. (Temperature today, 82 degrees, and, damn it, a trifle muggy.)

I’ve been quoted a price of $1230 to fix the A/C. Now, if I could just win the lottery….It might ease the blahs. Or maybe they’ll invent a filter to filter out the blahs.

But I’m guess I’m bound to confound all this snarky January ruminating and say the only times I succeed in filtering out the blahs is by praying. And the only lottery I really want to win is the one that brings me –and the world — peace. True peace. In January, and the whole year through.

I’ll end on that preposition. (Or, is it an adverb?)


I woke at 2 .a.m..Silent night, Holy night….a cold breeze is gently playing the wind chime in the carport.

Darkness. A cossetting darkness one could welcome for the grace and the memories at the heart of it; an easier time to remember that “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day (I’m singing it within, that traditional carol, so seemingly politically incorrect and exclusive in our divided time, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen…” Rest us all).

It might, in fact, have been April that He was born, the same season in which He died, and this merely the solticial period when the sun was at it nadir and the pagan’s brightened with their torches and their ceremonies to penetrate and enliven that darkness before He came, and so the feast of our deliverance seemed a light-giving substitution in human hearts and minds. Traditionals will give you meterological and other reasons to believe December 25 is, in fact the day. But it does not matter. He is born everyday — and dies for us everyday. But there needs to be THIS day of our joy and remembance.

Of course, the other kind of darkness is always with us, that “heart of darkness” — and it was with me even as my sleep was interrupted and I rose in the heart of Christmas darkness. It was time to fight off that darkness and recall that He came “to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray….O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…. ”

It is colder than it’s been in decades on this morning in Florida, the thirties, freezing. But I welcomed it, freedom from the sultry, endlessly sunny and sticky months.

Did I pray? I go soon on a Christmas Day journey, (having attended the holy sacrifice of the mass last afternoon). It will be, God willing, an easy five hour journey in a country that is tortured by severe, paralyzing, dangerous weather. Thank you, my Blessed Lord, for sparing me that challenge. Protect and comfort my family. May we never forget you, the whole day long, or ever. And I do, so often.

I did go back to bed for that “long, winter’s nap…”

Merry Christmas! To young and old, the living and the dead, to all God’s children, as we seek and so easily forget, “the wonders of his love….”

Another carol, that. Let us sing.


….and suddenly, joy on that journey. The night of the Third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the color goes from penetential purple to rose, for joy. Joy on the journey.

That journey to Bethlehem: After so many barren and desolate places, where only a few clumps of purple anemones or cyclamen showed life and color among the scrub, it must have been comforting to see the little white town perched on its twin hills. Beyond it, the land descended, a pitted gray expanse like boiling lead suddenly frozen in the bubbling state, plunging down toward the Dead Sea. But surrounding the town were orchardds, blooming fields and olive groves…

Henri Daniel-Rops (translated from the French by Ruby Millar), 1954.

Why does no one read this great writer anymore? Or perhaps they do. I do. I share, above, his vivid evocation of the Holy Family’s journey to that birth that changed the world. Sunday night.

The Christmas golf cart parade went by my place tonight. All part of the journey.

Someone threw me a bunch of peppermint mints. I appreciated that.


The endless beginnings: “the ways deep and the weather sharp… (“Journey of the Magi”), or, for me for the last three years: the way flat (because I dwell in Florida), and the weather soggy (because it is the sub-tropics). It is still a hard journey. There, now and then, comes a chill, a deep cold, a wind, a soul-scouring inner storm and turmoil. In Advent, we pray for sun and calm and we hope….

I was glad when they said to me: ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ So, accordng to Psalm 121, did the pilgrims of old chant as they approached the holy city of Jerusalem.

Those journeys, to Bethlehem, to Jerusalem, were always hard.

I’ve just had another birthday. I’ve gone far in this journey. I’ve been lazy, strayed from the path, only to find the way harder than it most certainly would have been had I stayed the course, stuck to the pilgrim path. The Way……

On 12/1/14 at 10:09 p.m.. I wrote of a “crisis of will.” On 12/13, hour unknown, probably night, I d bright-yellow highlighted in a book the need to be “attentive to our personal prayers.” In 2013, hour unknown, I’d noted the danger of ” the dwindling and cooling of our desire for sanctity.”

Saintliness? Must I? Me? Get real!

Yeah. And that’s the point: Reality. Life on life’s terms and God’s terms…

The reality of our situation in this vale of tears, this valley of darkness. (“You better watch out. You better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why…..”)

Love saves us. Love and mercy. Advent. He is coming….

Year after year, season after season, I fail to vault over big, abiding obstacles in my life. I thought it would be last year. Last year, I thought it would be the year before. And so on and on, that mountain an infinite regression in my rearview mirror….and the years have passed….

In this season, since childhood, into adulthood, the culture’s inflatable images of Santa, Old Saint Nick, are, of course, a kind of a subliminal stand-in for the true Deliverer, That babe of humble estate. For millions, both the babe in the manger and the Big Fellow in the Red Suit coming down the chimney are myths of equal incredulity. In England, and probably here, non-Christians now greatly outnumber believers. Don’t we know it. The evidence of our faithlessness is all around us. Well hidden is that One encountered in prayer and crisis, forever King, forever merciful, but expecting much of us, Our Father, full of love and mercy., so we are told, so we must believe, and begin to believe when we consider all the bitter, empty other possibilities.

Now, to my ears and written down before my eyes, all the above reads and sounds like vapid, prayerbook pretend-piety. Small wonder no one is listening. At my church, much as I love much that I see and hear and all whom I meet there, I cringe when we sing the “modern” Gloria. It’s in 3/4 time, like a waltz, and accompanied by the pipe organ in up-and-down herdy-gerdy carnival style. The herdy-gloria Gloria. (Don’t mean to be such a critic, but, in my experience, the deepest piety is inspired by solemn, polyphonic, decidedly serious but no less joyous and ancient chords, either sung or merely heard. But — I must be humble, charitable and open. That just my preference. In a way, it might be best to encounter God in silence. It’s all about grace….and a soul-healthy ‘fear of the Lord…’

Fear of the Lord. Advent. You better watch out….

And love, of course. God is love. So we are told and so I believe. For many years, as a late teenager, I doubted it all. Then I was told that a thousand difficulties do not constitute one single doubt. (accoding to St. John Henry Newman). We have only to keep chipping away at the difficulties, as we might at a rock or any other obstacle in our path. I know I made this point to my late sister, who always seemed to insist she could not delve far into the faith, “because I question” I think she feared her probing would somehow confirm her doubts, that there was no possibility it might, instead, affirm or give birth to her faith. I told her much of St. Augustine’s Confessions was written in the form of questions. She never seemed to be convinced — not in this life. Now, unlike me, she knows the answer to every question. Her earthly birthday was at the outset of Advent: December 1. I pray for her and, throughout November, prayed for all the faithful departed.

But back to that prayerbook of mine….

I would read, paragraphs later in that prayer book, “for he is to come, he will not delay” among the Advent Antaphons. In 2012, I read that the growth of our Christian life is obstructed and hindered by the rocky obstacles that are “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” I John 2:16.

I’ll say!

Believe. Look at us, helpless, pitiable… Waiting. For centuries, waiting.

What I recall, year to year, is everydayness, things unchanged in all those centuries. I just took out the garbage again. I stay mired in…Situations. In sin. In cowardice and damnable life habits of thought and action. In garbage.

On a bookmark dated Christmas, 1987, from friend and mentor, Rev. J.L. Donovan wrote: “St. Paul tells the Ephesians 2:14 “He” is our peace. He reconciles our unconsious and conscious. He speaks to us from within ourselves. I hope this book becomes a “vade mecum” of your own quest for Peace.”

The book for which this was the bookmark was a collection of the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, ( a 19th Century Jesuit whose works are celebrated by poets of every era since, be they secular or religious). In Hopkins’s poems we find examples of the depth-charging syntax he used over and over to write, for instance, of “God’s Grandeur”, “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil/ It gathers to greatness, like the ooze of oil. Crushed.”

G.M. Hopkins died in 1899 and is buried in Dublin. J.L. Donovan died in 2019 and is buried in the hill above the grave of parents, sister and brother-in-law in Boston. Both the poet and the priest told us we will live forever. It is what Christ told us.

But for now — we are’ ‘on a darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night.” Old Matthew Arnold amid his prolong doubt and despair could not fathom the isolated piety of the monks sequestered far up in the Alps at the Carthusian monastery of the Grand Chartrreuse (yes, where the monks make the yellow liqueur). Arnold went on wandering between two worlds, the one dead/The other powerless to be born. The year was 1855.

We’ve gone on wandering between those two worlds, through two World Wars, living in fear of a Third.

Advent. When Frosty and Santa appear on lawns, sometimes in illuminated plastic, hard or inflatable; sometimes (especially or Frosty) in great white balls of Styrofoam.

Joy. Sin all around. We are children forever; forever williing to be awed by the delightfully kitchy. And that’s good.

About this time last year, a young girl cut me off in traffic and responded to my gentle toot with an obscene gesture which she kept displaying for about a block. She’s a year older now. I wonder if any wiser. Am I? Do such things still bother me? Do I do such things myself?

It was Advent. I wanted to break her finger. I silently wished her a Merry Christmas she could not hear.

All civilizaton, all history is Advent. He Is Coming, sometime. Coming always.

Sin and evil abide, like traffic. Like surly, obscene, embittered teenagers.

Abides in me. Am I wrong that some of the worst crimes I remember were committed in Advent? Again, all time is Advent. The Evil One is always busy, and busiest in holy seasons. So my mentors Hopkins and Donovan would remind me.

He is coming….

Enough. Pray like crazy. Get ready. Again. Change. Above all change. Pray I change. I’ve already had one sinful argument this morning.

Yes, I’m talking to myself. I was talking to myself as I took out the garbage — again.

But it’s Advent again.

I go on talking to myself, but I must make that talk into prayer.

Pray. Pray….without ceasing. Persevere to the end.

It’s Advent again.


…..I speak, in this case, of political attack ads, so grim and unforgiving, never sublime, always ridiculous… they have finally skulked off our TV flatscreens and vanished from our parlors and our hearing. But, oh, the animus is out there, lurking, waiting for their hour to come round again….

They were a sign, and a tedious one, of the times. Now, that First Tuesday is gone. The controversies, especially over elections and ballots, will take longer to subside. Let’s forget about it for a while just the same. At least for this peaceful Sunday.

Let’s sing of November, the month in which we are called upon to remember and pray for the faithful departed. Always, perhaps except in sunny Florida, this month does pierce the heart with its sharp shadows and memories, as they begin to swarm as the year draws to a close. “Time is the fire in which we burn” – Delmore Schwartz.

It is the month, at the end of which –about fourteen months after the second Great War ended and the troops came home and the lights came on again, all over the world,” (as the song goes.) — that I was born.

In Florida, heat and humidity persist and disorient. But with that northern soul Melville, I allow it to be “a damp, drizzly November in (MY) soul,”too. and why not? There have been spells of rain here in the sub-tropics, and the storm called Nicole that ravaged the eastern coast of Florida, sent torrents of rain to Tampa Bay. I welcomed the rain for the peaceful way it made me feel on a Saturday morning. I mourn the horrible losses of fellow Americans along the coast. The sea and the wind, like death, came like a thief in the night, killing property; thankfully not, for the most part, killing any people.

The sun and humidity should never linger this long — not into November. There should be no hurricanes in November. But, as they say, it is what it is. Or was.

Let me forget about politics and storms for the moment. The gospel for this day, and the priest at mass this morning reminded us that we cannot forget about death; and November, in which I was born, is, nonetheless, the month of the dead.

John Donne, preaching at Whitehall in 1631, offered a consolation to the soul “against the dying life and living death of the body.” And this, some thirty odd years before The Great Plague of London and centuries of catastrophes.” (Maybe he saw it coming. You’re never going to be wrong seeing plagues and all things resmbling plagues coming your way, it seems.)

“There we leave you,” the Dean of St. Paul’s wrote, ” in that blessed dependency to hang upon him who hangs upon the cross.” (Ole John D. sure sounds Catholic and was Roman until 2015, I believe. He should have stayed the course., a guy who could write so fervidly and hopefully of “an ascension into that kingdom, which he (meaning Christ) has purchased for us with the inestimable price of his uncorruptible blood….”


And so, like you, John, I’ll “never send to know for whom the bell tolls.”

And, in this month of prayer and remembering, I will go on remembering, and praying for, among many others, my grand nephew Thomas Bailey of Winthrop, Mass., only 19, dead four months tomorrow.

“Death Be Not Proud,” wrote John Dunne after a crushing loss.

To think I began this writing of, of all things, political TV ads. Gone with the (November) wind.

And good riddance, your sour screen gremlins.