Snow up north. Chilly here

Cold, really

January 30

I twirl the stem of the venetian blind

Reveal the russet day, the vinyl neigborhood

The metaphysics of daylight

Interfusion of sensory elements

My struggle, repeated

Fears repeated

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Quarto domingo del

Tiempo ordinario

The old dog, sweet and confused

Deficates randomly

Kitchen and bedroom

Saint Francis deSales:

O God, I am in trouble

And all is not well with me

I let the poor dog out

36 degrees in Florida

The starlings scatter to the looping

Utility lines

The empty

feeders sway. The dogs wander

Listen, too,

How every pause is filled with under-notes,

Clear, silver, icy, keen, awakening tones,

Which pierce the senses, and live within the soul,

As the sharp stars pierce winter’s crystal air

And gaze upon themselves within the sea.

Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

It is not so here

It is nearly 8 a.m. Sunday

Fourth Sunday

In Ordinary Time


Lionel Trilling in 1950:

…it is the plain fact that nowadays,there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation…The conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in actons or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.

There you have a seventy-two-year old manifestation of liberal smugness, ignorance, illusion and isolation. But perhaps this was, indirectly, a call to arms for the conservative movement which was underground and burst out in full view in the mid-fifties and, happily, struggles on today between the extremes of Democratic radicalism and Republican fecklessness.

But it is not entirely inaccurate to suggest that genuine conservatism, as opposed to Trumpism, etc., has once again lost its confidence or sense of direction.

Academia and the mainstream media treat conservatism as a kind of mental disorder. And they are likely to confuse the rabble that burst into the halls of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 with conservatism. I submit that this is a willful libel, and that they know better. I guess that action would fall into Lionel Trillings curious and wrongheaded 1950 diagnosis of a “conservative” action, or an “irritable mental gesture” transformed into mass action.

But, in the realm of ideas, look out there and see who really look like the crazy ones.

To be fair, look left and right. But don’t just observe the “irritable mental gestures” or actions of one side. Read! We’re talking about ideas here.

Sadly, however, there may be, as I think about it, much truth in British philsopher Roger Scruton’s diagnosis of the crisis of conservatism as stated in 1980, thirty years after liberal Lionel Trilling offered his two cents worth on the subject. Scruton wrote, Conservatism may rarely announce itself in maxims, formulae or aims. Its essence is inarticulate, and its expresson, when compelled, skeptical.

Conservative New York Times columnist Roger Douthat wrote recently, the ossified Reaganism that the younger conservatives intend to supplant is locked into the world of 1980.

Yes, there are, indeed, new brands of conservatism afoot in the land. Among the exponants of one such brand I might be at a loss to label might be counted Roger Kimbell, an art, culture and political commentator and editor of the journal, The New Criterion. And in the midst of a long analysis of the current state of conservatism in the current issue, he suggests that the election of Donald Trump, “unlikely though it seemed at the time” and given the alternatives, might have amounted to a battle for the soul of the country and, for some scholars and voters, in the current polarized state of affairs, may well have represented “the only chance for national survival.”

Which is why Kimball, an obviously intelligent and cultivated fellow, has spoken and written well elsewhere of Trump’s four years in the White House — of how he cut down illegal immigratiion, cut down on witch hunts on campus under Title IX provisions and mandates and racialist attacks throughout the federal bureacracy under the rubric of “critical race theory.” He’s written of how the 1776 initiative, begun under Trump, aimed at reviving in schools and colleges and, in the culture, an appreciation of our founding ideals — over against the tendendcy to blame America first in Academia, the media and corporate culture.

But, properly speak, he noted, this was more the “populist spirit” than conservatism, strictly speaking. (I’d also note that there is a strong strain of libertarianism in it.) And there were those elements of The Strongman, of which I, for one, remain deeply skeptical, if not fearful, when it occurs on the right or the left. In history, fascism, right and left, always seemed to coalesce around a single person and become a cult.

But what is that “populist spirit” as it is manifesting itself on American soil?

It is anti-globalist, prizes individiual liberty, limited government, distrust of the regulatory and administratie state and identity politics.

Ultimately, it is a case of the powerful influence of the elite in academia, the media and corporations versus the rest of us.

It is, I’ll admit, very odd to have cultivated, conservative intellectuals and historians on the order of Kimball or Victor Davis Hanson vouching in any way for the crass Barbarian Donald Trump. Kimball has merely suggested that Trump is “a narcisist who never managed to learn the subtleties of narcisism.” I read in that an implied comparison with the likes of Trump’s presidential prececessors Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, though I could be wrong.

Keep in mind that the flagship publication of the traditional conservative movement, The Naitonal Review, founded by the late William F. Buckley, Jr., declared itself in the harshest terms opposed to a Trump presidency even before Trump won the nomination. And that opposition remains in place today. It has been critically suggested, among other things, in the pages of that journal, that Trump shattered the norms of presidential behavior in ways toxic to the body politic. And he’s still out there, aching to get back into power, while Democrats, drifting out to sea in a barque captained by a vain, borderline senescent stooge of those powerful interests enumerated above, pulls out to sea with him.

But, back to ideas. The late conservative scholar Richard Weaver wrote a book called, Ideas Have Consequences. I think I need to read it. Perhaps we all do.

More on all this later. For in 2022, ideas are going to have many consequences.


Before I and everyone else packs up our creches for another year, some thoughts on the Magi — and that Star.

It’s nearly little Christmas.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the the Star, and the Magi who followed it. How many were there? It’s not known, but legend has it they bore three gifts and they may represent, among other things, the three stages of life, or the three branches of the human race, semitic, white, black (which, of course, omits the Asian and therefore is beyond imperfect). The Magi were a once-powerful priestly caste of the Medes and the Persians, as recorded by Herodotus and others. They studied astrology and the divination of dreams.

How did they know about the blessed event? How far did they have to travel to Bethlehem?

They could have met with a very harsh fate had the brutal and crazed dictator Herod known they had ignored his request to report back to him the birthplace of savior. They could not have known, initially, of his terrifying and murderous reputation.

They were also said to be descendants of the great soothsayer Balaam. Nothing indicates that they enjoyed any great power at the time of the birth of Christ.

What about the star?

Identifying the star — that Star — is a thorny issue. How could these men, working with only the naked eye or the most rudimentary scientific instruments, have made astronomical observations of any precision? This is pretty much, word for word, the observation of that renowned and now mostly forgotten late French Catholic scholar Henri Daniel-Rops, writing in his marvelous book, Jesus and His Time.

It could have been a “nova” similar to the new star that appeared in the Consetllation Aquila in 1918 or that was noticed in 1572 after the massacre of St. Bartholeomew’s Day. But no writers on those times in question recorded such an appearance.

Halley’s Comet, when it appeared on January 10, 1910, was visible in Jerusalem, its light observed to pass rapidly from east to west, becoming difused in the east and reapparring in full visibility to the west, as indicated in the Gospel Story. But Halley’s Comet could only have passed over the sky of the countries in question during the year 12 B.C. and not the year 6 B.C., when it is most often speculated that Christ was born. Other comments recorded by Chinese astronomers in the years 4 and 3 B.C. tell us it would not have been visible in Western Asia. Also, a comet, being subject to their diurnal orbit like other stars, could not indicate a precise location, much less a particlar house in a particular town.

Kepler thought that this celestial pheonmenon might be a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn as occurred again recently. His calculations suggest this could have occurred in the year 6 B.C., even though this date was not yet considered the most probable date for the birth of Christ. Interesting.

And the word “star” as used in scripture does not mean the stars ordinarly visible, but indicates some astronomical phomenon.

On the borderland of science and legend, as Daniel-Rops puts it, is Russian poet Dmitry Merezhkovsky’s theory that the “star” of the Gospel was a rare celestial phenomenon, an equinocrtial passage of Aries through Pisces which would signify to the Babylonian Magi, haunted by the idea of a recurring deluge, the an announcment of the end of the world and a new age in the history of the human race.

St. John Chrystosom, though pre-scientific, knew that stars don’t do what the star of Bethlehem was said to do — that according to Catholic convert and scripture scholar Scott Hahn.

Stars in the sky were often identified with angels in heaven. The philosopher Philo of Alexandria speculated that the stars “are living cratures, but a kind composed entirely of mind.”

Thus John Chrystosom concluded that this was an appearnace of a Christmas angel. Those celestial messengers are forever being caught up in the cosmic drama, from the creation of the world. Good and bad angels are, to the devout mind, what accounts daily for all that is communicated to us in our universe. They are everywhere in the Christmas story.

My patron saint, Gregory the Great, according to Scott Hahn, accepted the angelic interepretation. He also observed the great difference beween the way God dealt with the shepherds and how he dealt with the Magi. The shepherds, though uneducated members of the lowest rank, were still members of the chosen people. They’d been hearing all their lives the prophesies of liberation destined for the Jews. So it was, says Gregory, that God announced Christ to them with angels.

“But a sign, not a voice, guided the gentiles,” writes Scott Hahn. He quotes Gregory’s homily on the Ephiphany, asserting that the Magi ” they were not prepared to make full use of reason to know the Lord.”

In other words, as Scott Hahn notes, when it came to understand the meaning of Christmas, “the simplest of pious field hands were better equipped than the most erudite scholars.”

But those scholars, to their eternal credit, came in an ardent search for the truth. “That’s something the angels could see — and work with,” writes Hahn.

And, it should be noted, they ultimately got their share of important angelic knowledge: an angel apperared to them in one of their dreams in time to steer them clear of Herod who might (God help us!) have tortured them to extract the knowedge they now posessed of the Infant Jesus’s whereabouts.

Thank you, angels.

And so, like those truth-seeking foreign gentile travelers, we must let the angels work with us and guide us now and to the end of our own desert journeys.

.…This Birth was/ Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death…

T.S. Eliot, Journey of the Magi

Yet the poet has his lone Magi, reflecting long after that journey and the witnessing of that birth, proclaim that he and his fellow travelers were afterwards no longer at home or at peace in their native lands (w)ith an alien people clutching their gods.

I know how he feels.

And so I say a wistful goodbye for another anxious year to those fellow travelers.

God willing, I’ll see them — we’ll all see them — again next year, in peace and joy.


We are windswept in 2022. Doors are slamming shut all about us.

We stand on an open, windswept plain, questions of the most intimate and critical nature swirl in a vortex — celibacy, friendship, marriage….

The storm has been raging for decades….

So it was, forty years ago, that I read what someone wrote, rather heavy stuff — and I pondered it too lightly, and not nearly long enough. I never forgot it.

In the tradition of Catholic Christianity, there is a tension between celibacy freely chosen as an image of God’s sacrificial life and marriage freely chosen as a different sort of image of that same love. Celibacy looks to the eschatological* meaning of that love, matrimony to its incarnational** meaning.

I never said it was light reading.

Secondly, friendship… is not alone a strong enough word to carry the meaning of marriage. The married have experienced other friendships. The friendship of marriage is of a different order indeed: searing, intimate beyond description, full of mystery and terror, excruciatingly painful, profoundly suited to our nature. ***

Now, that’s peculiar. Pain, suited to our nature. Hmmmm.

By the way, the above is from…

Michael Novak (1933-2017), Catholic philosopher journalist, diplomat, writing in the fall, 1981 issue of the journal Communio, which had been gifted to me and was devoted to the subject of the relations between the sexes. Novak’s contribution was entitled, “Man and Woman He Made Them.”

I’ve always enjoyed Novak’s writing. I think I mentioned elsewhere in this blog that I was once reading a slim volume of his, called. The Experience of Nothingness as I lay recovering from my first kidney stone episode in Doctor’s Hospital in Lanham, Maryland. I think the male nurse attending me was wondering, based on that title, about my overall mental state. Hope that a didn’t scare him. That was 1983, several kidney stones ago. I want no more stones. But I do want to understand the nature of our modern….nothingness.

And I read the treatise on men and women so long ago, forty -one years. Tom Brady was a toddler, probably barely able to throw a football. A Hail Mary was still just a prayer to his apparently Catholic parents. There was no super model spouse as yet to affirm to him that — Man and Woman He Made US.

But I digress, sort of. I like and admire Tom B. He’s my goal standard for what the average, decent and accomplished family man will accept and believe.

And, no matter how simply or complexly we put them, we no longer believe these things now. Or, many of us don’t. A Majority. Care to take a poll?

I don’t know what Tom Brady believes, for instance.

Footnotes on the above:

*Eschatology: From the Greek, eschatos (“last things”, i.e., death, resurrection, immortality), logos (“knowledge of”)

**Incarnation: The religious doctrine or belief that God will or has embodied Himself in human form.

***I first read this Novak treatise when I was 34. A son was born to me that fall.

I was not, nor have I ever been, married. Friendship is not marriage. Cohabitation is not marriage. Man and woman — woman and man, if you will — He made us. Parents are a man and a woman, and they are married, though they may be divorced. They have made a convenant. They have entered into a state implying obligations, toward one another, toward the children, to society.

They are a family. Modern philosophy is obsessed with the problem of the individual and the state. Novak feels we have, for the most part, “systematically” neglected the family and asserts that “human experience is primordially familial.” Mother, father, offspring.

I chose, back in 1981, as, ultimately, did multitudes, to try to stand apart from all this — to believe it in abstract, but not believe in necessarily was real or applied to me, or, God knows, everybody.

Thus He made us. Man and woman.

No, many longer believe this., if they ever did. We think we’ve moved on. This assumes God has moved on, too.

Celibacy. Friendship. Marriage.

You can chose God, or the Zeitgeist. Novak, Lord rest his soul, wrote, in that same piece….

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the world) is nearlay always both wrong and arrogant. The pendulum of history customarily swings too far. To find the just measure, it is wise to lean against prevailing winds.

But for now, we are windswept.

Hold onto your hats.

Or, if hatless, your souls.


Early January can be a bleak and somber hour of letdown, a sudden stark plunge out from under the canopy of festive Yuletide nights full of commemorative lights into harsh daylight and reality, shorn of light, save harsh winter light low on the horizon. There is a kind of Cold Turkey quality to it.

I just coiled up a string of lights from out front and hung them in the shed. Will I own this shed or this place or be putting those lights out in front this place next year? The glow of them had outshone anxiety for the future, briefly. Small wonder some people leave their lights up all winter — and that Christmas Shops are popular, even in July.

In recent years, freedom from anxiety, some of it self-inflicted, has never been a given. But I pray for health and emotional and material progress, and some good jokes to tell, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Gentleladies, now and the whole year through.

I haven’t put away the crech yet. I’ll wait for the formal date of epiphany and the traditional arrival of the magi. A hard coming they had of it, writes Eliot of those faith-led astrologers, just the worst time of year/ for a journey, and such a long journey…

The snow is coming up north. We never sing, or dream, of a White January.

On three occassions in my professional life as a television reporter, I have been called into managers’s offices for what I felt were infuriatingly unfair adjustments or assessment of my work. All three were on or about January 7th. I’ve blocked out two of them and am busy erasing memory of the last one. But, again, they came in early January and were a stain on my life that had been so soothed days before by holiday bliss.

It’s all okay, I ended my career with wide respect from colleagues and am feeling great love for the trade I left behind seven years ago.

But what have I been doing these seven years? Well, writing here, at least for part of it. I’m a writer. Writer’s write, as a late professor, Edward Clark, was to often remind me. I need to write more, and better. That’s my –no, I won’t call it a Resolution. It’s a hope — and resolve. It is a professional, dare I say, artisitic aspiration.

But, back to January….

Much ado will be made of this January 6th in light of last year’s January 6th Capitol riot. There was, in a sense, a kind of national Epiphany in that early winter event, its meaning or full long or short-term import unclear amid a blizzard of partisan sniping.

I leave that to God and the modern magi to sort out.

I’m still sorting out early January….

I remembering, years ago, hearing right after the holidays a brief, unremarkable radio new report of the death of a famous actor and major Hollywood figure. It felt, to my young teenaged mind, like the announcement of the return of adult life as usual — no more festive lights or Christmas music (though some lights might had lingered) that allowed us all to be children or, at worst, teenagers. It was once again time for sorrow, war,and the gray light of day. From divine birth to human death — again.

Tragedy reborn. Business as usual.

It’s not that I had any particular love or admiration for this particular actor who died that long-ago early January. I guess it might have occurred to me that he was probably sick all through the holidays. And that was sad.

The actor’s name was Dick Powell — fairly famous actor, director, singer, producer through the years of my early life. I’d seen him on television from time to time. He was only 58 at the time of death. I’ve checked — he died January 2, 1963.

The big crystal ball had dropped in Times Square, the crowd had roared and gone home — and somewhere in the instantly busy world, the once very famous, now nearly forgotten man named Dick Powell died.

That’s life.

The cause of death was cancer. John F. Kennedy, native son of Massachusetts, was President. He was only 46 and riding high after having successfully confronted the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba. Wife Jacquiline, like her husband, a young and popular figure, was probably pregnant by then. New life was on the way.

The baby would be born that summer in resperatory distress at Cape Cod hospital. Fellow teenagers hanging out on a summer’s afternoon by the First Boston Ten Pin Bowling Alley, told of hearing the armada of sirens as the ambulance carrying the baby sped nearby on the Southeast Expressway en route to Massachusetts General Hospital. The baby — Patrick Bouvior Kennedy, member of one of the most famous families in the world — would die, despite frantic efforts to save him, at one of the best hospitals in the world. (Had there been helecopter medflights and advanced pediatric medical procedures available in 1963, might he have been saved? )

News reports showed the obviously emotional wrung-out young President and his wife, the First Lady, leaving the hospital. There was commentary that a sad chapter was ending for them.

Another cataclysmic chapter would very soon follow.

In November, the President would be assassinated in Dallas. The life of the world would be altered utterly. The baby Kennedy, buried at a family plot in Brookline, would be quietly disinterred and laid to rest with his father at Arlington National Cemetery.

My 53-year-old father witnessed all this in sorrow. He was healthy that prevous Christmas of 1962. But he, like the departed Dick Powell before him in Christmastime, would be dying of cancer by Christmas, 1963 — and would die on Memorial Day, 1964. He would have been 55 on June 11, 1964.

It is January 3, 2022. I should have been thinking of Dick Powell yesterday. I’ll pray for him today — for the repose of his soul, a good Catholic thing.

And for my father — and for former colleague Bill Campbell who died on the last day in January on or about 1976.

And you know what? January is a new beginning for us, the living.

A hard coming we had of it…

And the magi went home, “with an alien people clutching their gods…” The poet tells us “they should be glad for another death.”

But, boy! in the meantime, did they have a good story to tell!

And we’re all listening, this January, and every January.


New year. New year. Nothing new. Forever old, forever new.

Something borrowed, something blue.

Diane near tears, no, in tears New Year’s Eve because she does not want the other goldfish to die. We both have COVID. Half the world, at the moment, has COVID. Perhaps it is the little misery inculcated by the virus that makes her tearful and unhappy, not merely the life of a goldfish. I feel it. And I don’t want the goldfish to die, either.

There were two goldfish in the AquaGarden mini-pond. They were the two out of four that survived, the other two disappearing instantly. Disappeared in the five-gallon ocean. Where did they go? Into the abyss.

The remains of one turned up when I probed the waters deep in the dark rear of the small bowl-shaped tank, feeling blindly, because the area is covered by the plastic semi-circle wedge of garden above it, from which spills a little waterfall. That’s why I wanted this aquagarden — for the sound of that waterfall out there in the Florida room.

I wanted a piece of the fabled Garden of Eden in my Florida room, with its little bar of subaqueace light, like a ray of penetrating midnight sunlight, even in the unlit room.

I am going on — on the first day of the near year — about two fish in a plastic bowl of water. Somehow, it seems fitting. Should I write of the wildfires sweeping Colorado? Of the virus? Indirectly, I am. I am speaking of, writing of, the fear and despair it is possible to feel along the smallest ranges of our paltry existences. We express it, unawares, when we speak of the smallest things.

The nature of despair, said the Norwegian philosopher, is that it is unaware of being despair.

God, I’m in pieces today. I fear I’m about to waste another year.

Wait…as the carol asks, ‘do you hear what I hear?’ It will seem a fake and cringe-worthy deus ex machina…but…

I hear bells. I hear the bells of the consecration from the television mass playing in the other room.

William Carlos Williams:

Tho’ I’m no Catholic

I listen hard when the bells

in the yellow-brick tower

of their new church

ring down the leaves

ring in the frost upon them

and the death of the flowers

ring out the grackle…

O bells

ring for the ringing!

the beginning and the end

of the ringing! Ring ring

ring ring ring ring!

Catholic bells –!

I kneel. The world would see a fool, if it could see me, kneeling to bells. At the very idea of — incarnation. God Incarnate. One God in Three Divine Natures. Kid’s stuff.

Baltimore Catechism. Who made us? God made us? Who is God? God is the Supreme Being who made all things.

This is under Lesson 1: The Purpose of Man’s Existence

(Oh, yeah? What about “Woman Existence?”, I hear someone, a man, formerly a woman, but now married to a woman who was formerly a man, snidely bellowing in protest from out of the dark galleries of 2021, now ever darker in 2022.

Hoc est enim corpus meum

Religion is for fools. A radio reporter colleague of mine, now semi or fully retired — and a very decent guy — once uttered, in passing, that religion is for sheep. I happened to learn later that his daughter was going to divinity school.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi…

The pope, the holy father, the boss has gone to war with those who pray Latin at mass, traditional people. He’s obviously, by slow measures, wants to cancel their tradition. We wants us to be modernists. He is spreading despair — the holy pontiff, smiling, spreading despair and division in the name of God. The world loves him, but wonders why he fails to change everything, bring the whole rotten Catholic house down, since it is clearly only some cruel, anachronistic resurgent soviet empire in need of repurposing as a kind of Red Cross or club. He needs to say gender is a choice. He hasn’t, and won’t. He’s Catholic, after all. Every fool is a Catholic, right?

The smaller of the two goldfish is, perhaps, dead somewhere in that murky pool below fake lilly pad and rocks I bought at the Florida rock and garden store. (One must BUY rocks in Florida.) The water may have grown toxic, maybe killing the fish. Perhaps global warming has come to the Florida room, killing off species.

Diane loves the fish. She loves the birds. She is a loving person. She loves me, even though I ignore her like the vilest of sinners, like some cold fish. I guess I model my religion by being insufferable.

Happy New Year.

Fish in the little artificial pond, birds that too seldom visit the almost exhausted feeders out in the scrub of the little back yard — here is sorrow, perplexity and despair.

The choir is singing in the other room.

Robinson Jeffers wrote in 1928 in the poem “Meditation on Saviours” (sic), I pledged myself awhile ago not to seek refuge, neither in death nor in a walled garden,

In lies nor gated loyalties, nor in the gates of contempt, that easily lock the world out of doors.

What does he mean? It doesn’t sound good. Poets can be so deliberately and passionately ambiguous. But I guess that’s life. What’s clear? Life’s an ambiguous poem that we all wish went, simply, roses are red, violets are blue, the goldfish swim in brown, dirty water — and I love you.

Isn’t reading a poem or living a life a leap of faith, a leap into the abyss? What’s an abyss? Webster calls it anything too deep for measurement. Sounds about right.

Jeffers, when he invokes the name of Christ, calls His followers “apes.” Sounds about right where I’m concerned, anyway. Can someone make an angel of this ape that is you and me? Isn’t that the promise?

I see the monks, the world over, at prayer on this New Year’s Day, which the Catholic Church, even its divisive, autocratic and quirky pontiff, observes as the Solemnity of Mary, The Mother of God. Who among the millions waking with hangovers knows that? Or cares?

Damn that church with its Mary stuff! Its Mother and Father stuff.

The apes of Christ itch for a sickness they have never known; words and the little envies will hardly

Measure against that blinding fire behind the tragic eyes they have

never dared to confront.

What the hell is old Robinson talking about? Damned if I know. But I feel, however ambiguously, an indictment poking out of the poet’s 1928 mind filled with the sorrowful rubble of bombed out cathedrals and temples. It was, after all, just ten years after that cataclysim — that abysmal (WORLDWIDE) War To End All Wars and just ten year before the start of the Next (WORLDWIDE) War. Virginia Woolf was in such despair over the march to a new war that she filled her pockets with rocks and drowned herself in a stream, in death joining the fish, ungolden, in their gray element.

…and the young Jew writhing on the domed hill in the earthquake, against the eclipse (Jeffers)

The infant Jewish child, the Savior, is still in the manger of my little creche. I must now put Him away, with the shepherds and magi. I must march into another year…

I must learn to write 2022 on the checks. And I must go and spend a great deal of money to fix a tooth that fell apart when I bit into a submarine sandwhich on New Year’s Eve. I must go back to the hard-driving “sponsor” who is pushing me through the “steps”. Up the steps, or down down the steps — to a cement floor somewhere at the bottom of that measureless — abyss?

In 1851, Matthew Arnold visited the famous Carthusian monastery in the French Alps — The Grand Chartreuse. Through Alpine meadows soft-suffused/ With rain, where thick ther crocus blows, / Past the dark forges long disused…..

Robinson Jeffers, not unlike me, would have preferred to stay out there with the flowers, not in the dark, prayerful interior of that retreat. Arnold, too. Can’t blame them.

But inside….

There were images of the suffering Son of Man on the walls and by the knee-w0rn floor

Noone, to this day, in that same monastary or wherever one finds Carthusian monks, sacrafices more, isolates more, prays more, works more in solitude and silence, producing the famous Chartreuse liqueur. How many monks? I don’t know. (I recall, in dimly remembered Cambridge day in my small redoubt, adding sweet Chartreuse to a solitary drunk, wishing to enchance it however slightly to something beatific. It didn’t. I recall darkness only.

It is a hard calling, a hard life, the monks life, that much of the world, like Robinson Jeffers, saw only as a tragic case of simean fools in slavery to an illusion.

Jeffers seems to embrace mortality, the inevitability of entropy, of the beauty of nature though it all, fish and fowl and plant must die, after which comes the the dark abyss — the grave unconscious depths that lie beneath the shining, roaring blue surface of the Pacific beside which he, Jeffers, lived and loved and wrote.

Arnold, contemplating that Alpine cloister, proclaimed, we are like children rear’d in shade/ Beneath some old-world abbey wall,/ Forgotten in a forest-glade…

Two apes unawars, perhaps. Three, counting me. Or, perhaps, we’re aware, as I am on this New Year’s Day – that January 2nd is coming quickly. I’ll watch some fellow, much younger apes play football on my electronic devices with their big screens and colorful images and voices simulating distant reality, real only in some remote way incomprehensible to me as I sit in my cloister, recovering from infection by a headline-making pathogen invisible to me — knowing I’m looking at paying over a grand to get a broken-down tooth crowned and that it sits right next to another tooth that fell apart years ago and also needs to be crowned for another grand, or more.

Right now, I feel like I’m just dripping paint on a canvas. My Pollock.

Salve Mater misericordiae/ Mater spei et Mater veniae…

Hail, Mother of Mercy, Mother of hope and of pardon, Mother of God and of grace, Mother full of holy joy.

Her feast. My failures to love, my faltering faith. God, forgive me. God, help me.

God, in 2022, I must trust in You. But I don’t really know You.

I believe you can pull me from the abyss.

There is nothing I can explain to the poets. My poet’s soul, my child’s faith flies me over the abyss — toward home….

We stand about in open spaces

And shiver in unlit rooms

T.S. Eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”


Pray for us.