MAY 30th

My father’s anniversary. William Douglas Wayland, only 54, nearly 55. Such a long seige of cancer surprising such a young man. It was, I’m now realizing, so terrible for us, who have now lost our sister and have a brother languishing in a nursing home, the very brother who came out of the house as I was clipping the hedges and said, “I think we’ve had it. They can’t find a pulse.”

It was the day after my triumph, a speech, a big speech. Dad never knew about that, me in front of 2000 people 69 years ago.

This day, this May 30th, a Tuesday, is waning. That was a Friday.

I’ve talked to Doug and Ron today. I’ve been told Bill saw a priest for communion. I saw to that. I’m so glad.

Family thoughts and all manner of thoughts going through my head.

I gave my speech in front of all the city, state and national dignitaries and with the assassinated President’s mother at my elbow as I spoke. Had his tragic death not occurred that November day in Dallas, there would have been no occasion for this speech, and so much in the world might have been different.

But it was, it did happen. I’ve wasted 42 years of my life drifting in a quasi-world of non-marriage marriage, of dissipation, of wasted talent. I’m 76 and can’t quite fathom that. Frozen in life, that must change. No pity, self or otherwise.

The following noon, 24 hours later, the bells were ringing at noon at the Mission Church down the hill from the hospital. My mother heard it. He went to God at noon. So much to think about.

That still, small voice, we must hear it, and those bells.

Dad, we are thinking of you. I’ve thought of you all this mostly idle day of my seventies.

It is 10:34 p.m. in Florida.

You were never here, Dad. But — you are here now….


The Scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.-Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

So, if you’re driving a Tesla these days, in addition to the likely possibility that you have done materially well in life, you are paying four-wheel, petroleum-free homage to an obviously very wise man who died amid the great mechanized insanity that was World War II. Nikola didn’t invent the electric automobile, but I’ll wager he was both a clear thinker and sane and just didn’t get around to it. Today, the world is full of deep thinkers who are arguably insane. They never fail to get around to making the whole world’s mental current AC/DC insane in their wild finger-in-the-electric-socket image and likeness.


I call it a bar more than a lounge. I’m not sure if what’s-his-name, the guy who owns it (I should know that name, just having an intermediate senior lapse) gave it the name, The Last Mile. And I guess from the name you know it’s not primarily a restaurant or sandwich bar or ice cream shop. Maybe a funeral parlor. LOL. The Last Mile — chills.


I stopped by in the daytime. As I told you before, it’s right on the East Boston/Revere line, not a whole lot more then one mile from the airport, 1887 miles from the farthest place visited by any of its patrons in its century existence. ( I just remembered where the name came from: the original owner had once–before his commutation and aquittal based on new evidence in a murder case back in the early 1900s — sat for a while on death row at Sing-Sing, or was it the old state prison at Charlestown? I think it was a New York crime, hence, Sing-Sing. Hence the “Last Mile” name.)

There was an Australian WWII vet who used to be a regular who fought in Borneo in 1945, the last campaign of the Pacific War. They once wrote a tribute to him on the wall: Aussie Phil Wantuck came 1887 miles for a drink at The Last Mile when it was over over there. And, of course, there was a picture of him, a substantial, golden-haired, moustachioed man, smiling and holding a pilsner of Narragansett lager (he drank cheap) in the Last Mile doorway. I think he died in 1992, but his kid used to come in here and when I was still drinking I spent a night chatting with him at the bar right up til closing time. He was a pressman at the Boston Herald. Haven’t seen him in a while. A fun guy to talk to with lots of stories about his father.


This was a rare daytime stop for me, just thinking I’d catch up with regulars like Jackie the Crow and Stickie Sammartino and the daytime bartender Tashtego Silva, a full-blooded Wompanoag Indian. I met Kenny Foy coming out the door, smiled and shook hands with him. Kenny is Chinese American and he’s always having to smile through a session of rabid international political sound and fury from Jimmy “Jibberish” Jamin, a drunk who starts talking politics, loudly, the second he walks in the door. Kenny warned me that the place was unusually busy because the women who attend the dance and aerobics class down the street decided to drop in that day, about seven of them.

Sure enough, I walked in and Tash Silva at the bar is having to try to figure out the exotic drinks they were ordering. He was too proud to have them stand at the bar coaching him with the jigger and shaker, so he had the Mr. Boston barside handbook out, first time I’d seen that in years. (Deano, the night bartender, know how to make all those silly concoctions. Tash looked like a guy sneaking studious glances at his lawbooks while on the job.)

It looked like the a few guys from the book club were there, too. They usually meet up in the evening up the street on Wednesday nights, either at the branch library, under cover at Revere Beach or at one of the guy’s apartments around the corner. But I guess a few of them had evening conflicts, so they met for lunch — and there they were. But a guy I don’t see that often, Bill Kirner, a younger member, told me they’d paused reading some novel they were working on to read a book about mass shootings. “Topical,” said Bill, ” guy’s a lefty who wrote it but he has some good ideas about seeing these things coming, figuring out who the next perpetrator might be, at home or on the block, if you know what I mean.”

That caused me to take a quick look around the room in paranoid fashion. These were regulars, none looking morose or suspect. The women had just been dancing and exercising and showered off and looked clean-smelling and at peace. I’m a firm believer that anybody who dances and showers works off any desire to shoot anybody. But then, I’m an idealist.

I realized there was a guy in the corner, sitting at a table by himself near the old, still-working relic of a phone booth ( that thing’s going to be in a museum someday). I believe his name is Joe. That’s all I know. I’m on good enough terms with Tash Silva, believe it or not, to go behind the bar, pour myself some tonic, spike it with a splash of cranberry juice, drop a lime wedge in it and go find myself a seat. I chose to go join this Joe. But first I said,

“It’s Joe, right? Mind if a join ya?”

(I knew from past experience that he — and nobody — comes to The Last Mile excpecting to sit alone.) Joe, didn’t say a word, just pulled out the seat near the phone booth for me. That’s the best way ever to be affirmed in a request to give somebody company. If they give a weak smile and say, “sure” or “no problem,” I feel less welcomed.

We chatted about stuff for a minute. He works for a sheet metal shop in Lynn. He knows I go around calling myself a writer. Then he told me what was bothering him.

“I just came back from a visit down in the Florida Panhandle. Real peaceful down there, not like Miami or Tampa. Quiet, remote, peaceful.”

“Great, I said. And now you’re back at work and back in the madhouse?”



Joe ( I think his last name is Cassidy) got real thoughtful and, yes, morose.

“It was the kind of peace that makes you hear noises more, out in the world and in your head. Down there, the birds — chickaees, house wrens, cardinals, doves, and this woodpecker — funny as hell, coming back and back for the seed at my friend’s feeder. And you could see out into this little quiet bay and the house was at a point in a little canal among other houses up on stilts to protect them from hurricane surges. I mean there were boats lifted out of the water but ready for the summer, thought you can boat year round down there. You could fish right off the dock, too. I caught a nice redfish, let it go, but snapped a picture. What to see it?”

He pulled the picture out of a breast pocket. I looked at it. Very nice fish, probably fourteen inches.

“How do you know these people?”

“Children — grown children — of a guy I worked with when I first started at the shop. We used to fish together, boat together off Nahant.”

He got quiet again, like he was down there on the Panhandel again in all that peace.

“The only sound was some hammering from people buiding there dream house across the canal. You build solid stuff down there, but there’s always the hurricanes. They can wreck that area. The Gulf was sparkling down the street, but still, there’s that danger.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s a danger.”

Now he was really quiet, didn’t say anything for a fu ll minute. Then:

“There were no storms, not even a cloud. My plane flew into Logan and I look out the window. Okay, the weather is nice here, too. Spring is here, I guess. But it was crowded and ordinary-looking down below.I swear I saw a patch of snow.”

He looked at me. I guess I probably looked ordinary, too.

“You know — your Greg, right?”


“Well, it’s not about geography, Greg. There are lots of peaceful places — the mountains, the seashore, by the Gulf or by a lake. Down the Cape — the parts that aren’t built up which are few and far between — or, at the right time of day, right in the Boston Public Garden. No, it’s how I need peace and right now I have no peace, no matter where I am. I’ve been in a relationship over forty years, never married, kind of feel like we took each other hostage.” He looked at me. “You’re a single guy, right?”


“I’m with somebody, but I’m not with them, if you know what I mean. And suddenly her and me — we’re having a little trouble hearing and we yell at each other even when we’re not mad at each other.”

“Did your…’friend’ go with you to the Panhandle?”

“Yeah. And she’s a good person, don’t get me wrong. In fact she knows these people we were staying with better than me. Much better. Everybody was great. They made food. I tried to help but mainly they just treated me like a king. Treated her like she was a queen. But I felt like a slave just the same. A slave to conditons I made in my life. Only when I got off by myself, or when I was with them but NOT really with them and they let me be quiet and kind of alone, maybe picking up a magazine, or –I don’t drink like you it got to be a problem — but I might have had a glass of water or ice tea or a ginger ale. I was at peace.

“But it was just the birds and me, and the wind chime. And the wind, and the view of the water. And I could imagine being free.”

He smiled, then laughed. “Like the birds.” He laughed some more.

I said what was on my mind after a minute when he was quiet again. “You sound depressed.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Nothing serious. Nothing you medicate. Just that longing for freedom. Peace and freedom, like people feel after a war and that they can’t feel while they’re in the war. I’ll feel better, and maybe feel a little of that freedom when I get back to work tomorrow, get working in the noise and with the sheet metal. Sometimes noise is good, I guess. And maybe I get talking with the other guys and the few women who work there. It’s a good place. We work hard. It keeps my mind and my hands occupied. You don’t like it, though, when the only way you can be at peace and feel free is when you’re isolated by noise.”

He looked out toward the door, which Tash, breaking away from his complicated bartender duties, had just propped open. It wasn’t warm enough for air conditioning, but an open door might let in an April breeze with the car exhaust from the fairly busy street out there. Of course, it’s dark in The Last Mile.

Now I said something that was on my mind.

“Joe, it’s a real nice day out. Spring time. Why do you suppose guys like us or any of the people here come into a dark place like this in the middle of a nice day full of sunshine?”

“Well, I’m not staying long.”

“Neither am I.”

Joe turned thoughtful. “But it’s company I guess. Human voices,” he said. “Close quarters. This place is intimate in its own crazy way.”

“That must be it, I said. And it’s familiar.”

“But I have this vision of peace,” Joe said. “Nature — maybe a place where God can talk to me.”

I took that in.”That’s heavy,” I said. “I suppose it’s a little like a church in here. Or a chapel.”

“Yeah, I guess. Or maybe it’s not heaviness of it, it’s the lightness. And the company, the voices make a kind of — light. Light in the darkness.” He looked at me. ” What are you drinking?”

“Tonic, a little cranberry, bit of lime.”

“Nice. Sounds refreshing. Can I guy you another one? ”

“No. No thanks. I’ve got to be going after this.”

It was then I noticed he was drinking ice water. Tash had given him one of those blue transparent cups. “Just water for you, eh,” I said.

“Life,” Joe said. Water is life.”

We left it at that — and left about the same time.Outside I watched him walk off toward his car. It was noisy. I walked all the way up to Revere Beach, each street a little quieter as I approached the cold April sand and the surf. I felt like I needed to see water. And maybe find some more peace up there, even without human voices. Just the gulls and me. Those gulls, I figured, were distant cousins to all those wild birds down in the Panhandle that became Joe’s friends. I’m sure there are gulls and sandpipers down there.

As you can see, my occasional bar friend Joe had got me to thinking — about everything; mainly about how you hold onto a vision of peace. How to find that peace.

I guess you pray for it.


In or around 1957-58, I was a 5th grader at St. Ann’s parochial school on Neponset Avenue in the Dorchester (specifically, the Neponset) section of Boston. We were learning our catechism. I still have my Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine, as it was called. Millions of Catholic children across the nation were instructed from the identical volume which was in a question-and-answer format.

I still have my copy. The Sisters of St. Joseph were our teachers — our catechists.

In our class — 5B– we were asked to protect our catechism copies by stapling on a sturdy light red cover made of material like oil cloth, which has helped preserve my copy’s deeply yellowed, fragile and flaking 131 pages these 65 years.

Sadly, my catechism has survived far better than the Sisters of St. Joseph, which was among those Catholic religious orders sadly decimated by its wayward, culturally conforming superiors in the seductive post-counciliar period of the 1960s and into the 1970s. It was those more senior St. Joseph nuns (though I believe “nun” is supposed to refer to cloistered not teaching orders) who insisted the order’s legions of devout women uniformly come out of their uniform, which was the “habit” — from the Latin habere, or habitus, referring to “condition or state of life.”

I’d wager that the majority of the subordinate sisters of that era still embraced their “condition of life” and welcomed its centuries-old outward manifested of a white linen coif and wimple and black full-length black tunic. It certainly set them apart, and they knew it would be their sacrifice. I once interviewed three aged St. Joseph sisters — forget just why — and they told me they didn’t want to give up their traditional dress but were ordered to do so. The habit had been their visible message to the world of their complete devotion to Christ. Sounds corny to modern ears.

Now, of course, we don’t need a “uniform” to tell the world we are Christian. But priests, nuns and sisters are consecrated religious. It had long been understood and accepted that religious garb identifies the individual’s consecrated state. Clothing is such an identifying mark across religions. Consider the Buddhist monks. (Get a bunch of tattoos and dye your hair purple and you’ll have declared outwardly your inward conversion to our age of expressive individualism that is no longer quite so individual.)

For sisters and nuns, I submit that the shedding of the religious habit began the outward manifestation of a different, more worldly theology and, ultimately, of inward conversion to a multitude of secularized, “liberalized” attitudes and beliefs. They often came, if they remained in the order, social workers more consecrated religious. The ranks of confused, disoriented sisters and nuns commenced to expand disastrously. The world welcomed them, but did this calm their inner storm? Some adjusted, many left. It was not a happy time for the rest of us who were once inspired by their visible sacrifice.

Things also went morally, socially, culturally disastrously awry for multitudes of plain Catholics and their children throughout the same period. I count myself in that number.

The first chapter of that Baltimore Catechism is The Purpose of Man’s Existence. (Guess that should be a Person’s Existence, if we’re to be political correct.) The last chapter is Prayer.

It’s almost Holy Week.

Keep praying.


March is speeding to its end. In Florida one cannot usually exerience the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” effect. I can say that I miss the seasons in all their varigated harshness and unpredictability — and langorous summer days or colorful autumnal glory and moods of mortality and early gloaming, or snowy, icy midwinter beauty and chilled, sparkling distances and warm isolation. I miss the degree to which climate invests life’s passages with their own character. I recall, too, how so often the anticipation and longing for spring and her flowers goes unrequited when winter seems to go seemlessly into summer and springs temperate, moderate interval is blighted by cooler than normal temperatures — or rain. I recall serial Junes in which rain seemed constant, only to end in July’s dank or scorching discomfort. Then, all too soon, the earth’s rotaton was plunging us back into fall.

But, seasons are life. And life often feels more like life if there are those external passages we feel against our skin and within our souls.

Then there is Christmas — the Yuletide. Joy for many, torture for many. Emotions are at their apex or their nadir. Darkness, either cosseting and comforting or alienating and unbefriending. The colorful lights festoon the world — and make January all the darker and colder.

Summer in New England can offer variations unlike anything anyone will ever experience in Florida or the southeast or subtropics, at least so far as I know and based on my own long exposure to the subtropical seasons. In New England, it can be blisteringly hot and humid one day, up into the nineties, then, the next day, be cool and dry. I recall mid-Julys that felt, at least a little, more like a green October.

Haven’t all of us experienced a curious sense of sweet disorientation in those periods of the fall known as Indian Summer? For one thing, they occur only periodically. Sometimes, chilly autumn descends and never looks back. We have felt resignedly the natural shift into cool temperatures, said goodbye to summer, braced ourselves for the coming winter — then, suddenly, though the golden leaves lie redolently all around us and the branches have become partially bare — it is summer again and the dry calm or the warm breezes can plungeus unexpectedly into a confused, complex moods of longing — and, longing for what? Not, I would suggest, for the lost summer but for all that has happened in our lives, all hopes, all fears. (And it is sad to know that this name we gave to this lingering breath of summer has its origin, at least from what I read, in Native American raids of settlers’ farms when good weather continued into fall. It makes it, then a very insensitive, politically incorrect term. And even more insensitive term, still used apparently, in England, is Old Wives’ Summer . Frankly I love the term Indian and am sorry the current long winter of grievance and retribution that has descended on us has staged a raid on terms that have long lain neutered and harmless. But so it goes.)

I recall that the early days of November have through the years been a time of sudden temperate days, even a little humid. I recall a terrible, accidental death of a child in my neighborhood one November 9. And I recall that the early darkness was warm. And every early November day of damp, dark warmth takes me back to that evening I’d prefer to forget.

And, living in Florida, where the seasons are subtle though seemingly seamless and the emotions and temperments the weather evokes and the sense sometimes of being in a room where the lights are never out, like a prison cell and the topography is flat and the vegitation vivid or scrubby and rough and the earth sandy and the weather always threatening to be electric and violent and destructive but also simply “nice” and inviting to half the nation half the year — here I’m inclined to write a whole long, different meditaton.

But now I am thinking of the metalic reality of northern climes where there has been both horrors and delights and, in the case of New England, remarkably mostly mild weather. ( Perhaps winter and snow-lovers are sorrowing). But my brothers lie aging and ill up there, and my grand nephew is several months gone at only twenty, and the mourning is unrelenting.

And as I move toward the end of this sponteneous Friday morning meditation, I go looking for something by the late Hartford insurance executive who also enjoys the reputation of being one of our nation’s greatest poets, though I might find Robert Frost more accessible, especially on the subject of weather. But I’ve taken down, instead, Wallace Stevens who, the short poem, “Of Mere Being”, writes,

The palm at the end of the mind,

Beyond the last thought, rises

In the bronze distance,


A gold-feathered bird

Sings in the palm, without human meaning,

Without human feeling, a foreign song.


You know then that it is not the reason

That makes us happy or unhappy,

The bird sings. Its feathers shine.


The palm stands on the edge of space.

The wind moves slowlyi in the branches.

The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

(end of poem)

Yes, I’ll conclude saying, it is not the reason that makes us…whatever.

Perhaps, it is –the season.

It is the end of March.

Yes, I’ll end here, though, of course, I could write on endlessly –through season after season comes,and goes.

But I’ll end.


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 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?)