RAGGED END OF MARCH

Last day of the month.

You will remember the minutes crowded with meaning, the moment of pain, the aimless hour;

You will remember the cities, and the plains, and the mountains, and the sea…

RESURRECTION

Kenneth Fearing, 1935

My brother Bill was born the year this poem was written. Bill is confined to bed, recovering from a broken hip, in a double occupancy room in a North Andover, MA rehabilitation center. He seems to have slipped into demensia and might speak to me or his wife in a kindly or a nasty manner, depending on his mentally variable mood. His prospects for ever getting out into the world again are thinner than he knows or can ackowledge. We three brothers, the twins and I, do our best to comfort him from afar. Two of us — Doug in Denver, I in Florida — are very far away;

We all wonder what earthly fate awaits us, with our beloved sister already five, going on six years gone. Have I ever fully registered (“processed”) or mourned that death?Bill’s two sons are in far-off Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay area. It is all so sad and so worrisome on this last day of March, 2022.

One morning in 1940, 5-year-old Bill, in the Boston subway with our mother, heading in-town for a shopping trip, standing apart from her, became momentarily frightened, crying, wondering where his mother went. The passengers, all certainly gone now, were warmly observing and ready to comfort and intervene in a small child’s moment alone in the world, the way every Ukrainian child refugee must feel now, staying close to their mothers, if their mothers have survived, in this catastrophic war that is taking the world back to 1939, 1940….

Mother of God, intercede for us, protect us.

The tragic sense of life is everywhere this last day of March. April hours away; what Eliot called the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire

And I will miss a deadline for an important writing project, desire beginning to fail me. Memory strong, but not necessarily of the events of recent years that are speeding by.

We must begin again, if we are able, at every moment of our lives. And may my brother Bill find some comfort where he lay at this hour, so helpless, the first-born of Bill and Joe Wayland on September 16, 1935. We’ve been raised to believe that we all have an angel watching over us, even when we are sinning, most especially when we are sick.

I did get a priest for him. And I got word back that he was grateful.

A DIRE POSSIBILITY

The following comes from NY Times writer German Lopez, writing in the March 27 on-line edition of the paper. But I think it’s a possibility and a prognosis any of us could make at this critical and worrisome juncture in the world’s history. We need to pray it does not come to pass.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could mark a troubling shift: the end of a relatively peaceful global era.
Though it has not always felt like it, the world has since the 1990s endured less war than any other period in recorded history. Wars and resulting deaths plummeted with the conclusion of the Cold War in 1991 — and the subsequent end of direct and proxy conflicts between the world’s great powers.
“The end of the Cold War was the greatest thing to happen to peace in a long time,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
But the world has since changed. After emerging from the Cold War as the lone superpower, the U.S. grew weaker, bogged down by failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Russia and China evolved into more formidable powers; they are now better positioned to challenge a world shaped by American norms and rules.

THE REAL GREEN NEW DEAL

(On the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day, 2022)

“Wherefore then in Ireland they who never had knowledge of God, but until now only worshiped idols and abominations — now there has lately been prepared a people of the Lord, and they are called children of God. The sons and daughters of Irish chieftains are seen to become monks and virgins in Christ.”

St. Patrick’s “Confessions”( first published in 425.)

THE TASTE OF ASHES

At the 1st Synod of Westminster held at Oscott, England in 1852, St. John Henry Newman preached his famous sermon called, The Second Spring. It was delivered during a period of rabid religious persecution and controversy. It was a beautiful appeal for peace and tolerance.

What follows are the sermon’s rhapsodic beginning lines:

We have familiar experience of the order, the constancy, the perpetual renovation of the material world which surounds us. Frail and transitory as is every part of it, restless and migratory as are its elements, never-ceasing as are it changes, still it abides. It is bound together by a law of permanence, it is set up in unity; and, though it is ever dying, it is ever coming to life again….one death is the parent of a thousand lives. Each hour, as it comes, is but a testimony, how fleeting, yet how secure, how certain, is the great whole. It is like an image on the waters, which is ever the same, though the waters ever flow.

So the subject here is obviously of a historical religious nature. But Newman’s words amount to a longing for spring, rebirth, peace and order — and they have an eternal ring and application. In 2022, we are ever so much in need of a Second Spring on every mortal front, from your house to the Ukraine.

It might seem a trite sentiment on the tongue — saying we long for spring. But, then, abiding natural truths when we voice them, or, if you will, taste them, in contrast to their evil opposite (like all spoken supernatural truths AND evils and ALL benevolent realities that struggle to life like spring blossoms despite threatening tangles of malign, poisonous vines) — yes, these, put into words, often DO sound trite. Yes, they do.

But forgive, please, me while I torture another metaphor and say, as this difficult winter in the world draws to a close, that we are longing for that old taste of spring. We fear it may have a stale taste. We like to think it would taste much better if we could only truly bite into it.

In the Ukraine, however, our fear is that it would taste like ashes.

OF THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

“A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong….I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy.”

-Socretes, as quoted by his student Plato in the Apology. He had been accused of “corrupting the youth” of Athens and was to become an ancient — and perhaps the first — victim of the “cancel culture”.

On the calculation of whether he’d live or die — they killed him.

UKRAINE REQUIEM

One man and one government is perpetrating this civilizational enormity. It has already laid waste so much of Ukraine and destroyed so many lives that there is no clear point of return. Putin and his government will be judge by history. The Orthodox Patriarch must speak out in the name of God. All humanity must intervene, even if only with our prayers. China is the other half of the pincers of this monster, and it is all so frightening.

Tolstoy is weeping.

ASH WEDNESDAY, 2022

Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope

Because I do not hope to turn

-T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

To turn our hearts towards God, to be converted, means that we must be prepared to use all means to live as He expects us to live.

Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God

A pure heart create in me, O God; put a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 50

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto thee.

T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

FLIGHTLESS AT THREE O’CLOCK

Oh, what a terrible feeling!

I speak, I write — of a gull, probably a juvenile, absurdly walking about, flightless, a wing out to the side, probably broken. Diane said, “he’s been attacked.” There are many feral cats in this world of mobile homes. I emptied a cardboard box from the shed of its assorted tools and gadgets. Diane found a kind of sheet. The wild bird sanctuary said, bring it! Catch it and bring it. After parking the car (we had been driving into the park on the main street when we saw it and were forced to swerve around it), I looked back up the street and saw it crossing back across the street, bewildered by its inability to fly, as vulnerable as a creature can be. By the time we’d gathered the box and sheet, it had gone from sight. I’d seen it turn down a street. We cruised. Diane yelled at me, “you’re going too fast.” I yelled back. I yell a lot these days. Up and down the streets, very slowly, we went. No sign of her. I somehow think it was a “her.” She had a black head, white and gray body. She was small. One does not see many gulls in the park. There are woodstorks, egrets, moscovy ducks, blue heron…then the common domestic, non-tropical birds, the bluejays, mocking birds, grackle by the hundreds, it seems. Sparrows, perhaps, now and then, a migrating robin, crows, of course. And gulls. But so close too the Gulf it is odd we don’t see more.

I felt so sorry for this little gull. But we could not find it. The box remained empty. Her fate, unknown.

Later, after dark, I walked two miles in darkness, cloudy skies, a congenial and cossetting sense of mystery all around me. I felt, for a change, that I was doing something healthy. In the clubhouse they were playing pinochle, a Monday night ritual. Lights on, warm, pleasant gathering. I walked by. Diane was in there. I glimsed her standing, talking, perhaps telling people about the poor gull.

Where did she go?

It was about three o’clock when we saw her. I was not having a great day. They were having the worst kind of days in far off Ukraine. Stopped to tell the parked handyman of our search for the wounded gull and he said, “you have too much time on your hands.” It was an offhand comment (speaking of hands), not intended to wound. It was a man’s world’s quick judgement, one of his typical mordant appraisals as he walked, smiling, back to his truck. I’ll bet he’d have stopped for the gull. The person in the vehicle behind us, a truck, also slowly swerved around it as the flightless creature, used to soaring so high, circled in the middle of the grimy street, is time in the skies probably gone forever. (I think I’m well into what they call the “pathetic fallicy” here — the attribution of human emotions or attributes to animals. I think the handyman, no logician but filled with common sense and used to fixing things, was trying to “fix” me in that regard. Or maybe this is all an act of “projection”. Perhaps it’s me that’s feeling “flightless”now.)

Three o’clock. All that was good about this day, was that hour when time seemed to move more slowly then suddenly speed up toward darkness, and the hours when there would be more LESS “time on our hands” to to have the luxury of thinkinig about the gull; a time when we must parepare to do serious work on serious earth on the coming serious days.

While people are suffering and dying in Ukraine and who-knows-where-else, it is important to be able to — forget. Is this, by chance, what Kierkegaard meant when he wrote, “If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much”?

At three o’clock it was neither sunny nor dark. There were clouds and a sprinkle of rain, then muted light.

Where did the little gull go? There are cats, which is to say, danger, everywhere. But they will fall prey, too, too…STOP!!

I must forget. But it must be terrible to be a bird and suddenly find yourself unable to fly. She would not survive.

I’m surviving, thank God. And I’m still in search of my wings.