Simple Gifts

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Monday gratefuls: Rigel eating and running. Mary’s pictures from the Van Gogh show and the Beach. Hsieh Ling-yun. Shan-shui poetry, creative sensibility. Wabi sabi. Fermented foods. Korea. The United States, as a vision. The United States, broken.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The cool Wind off Black Mountain yesterday afternoon.

Tarot card drawn: The Lovers, number 6 of the Major Arcana


The gifts of our parents. The Ancient ones theme for our Sunday conversation. As it happened, Bill and Ode went first. Happy childhoods, role model parents. Smiles and good feelings. Tom, a thoughtful assessment of what his parents inherited from their parents and how that made him more accepting of what they had to offer him. Paul found gifts. There must be a pony in there somewhere.

We described our mothers as gentle and well-liked. We recognized from our childhood the post-depression, post-World War II definition of motherhood, realized in the women who birthed us.

Fathers were different. More individual in our telling. More difficult, sometimes, but also more formative. My father, from whom I was estranged most of my adult life, gave me a willingness to express contrary opinions in the public square. A willingness to use analytics to solve problems, to understand political life. A tendency to wander, to find the curious and the unusual. A conflicted version of hard work. That is, he modeled hard work. Always. But he expected it of me just because he was my father.

My mom modeled compassion, a desire to meet each person without judgment. She supported me, honored my gifts, which my father challenged, belittled. To this day I don’t know why he did that.

Mom, Dad, Me

They were both conventionally Protestant; not overly affected by their faith, but committed to it. Both of them prized intelligence and learning though my father denigrated it in me. Why? Don’t know. They kept in touch with their extended families, Mom’s in Indiana, and Dad’s mostly in Oklahoma.

At 74 I love learning, love figuring out how and why things work, what the facts and the possibilities are. I try to meet each person without judgment and to exercise compassion for their journey. A radical analysis of our economic, educational, health, religious, and political systems, mine since college, represented a working out of my father’s liberal views carried to what I consider their logical conclusions.

My impact from both parents seemed less profound than any of the other four in our group. That may be because my mother died young. I never got to know her after I became an adult. And Dad and I never overcame the distance between us.

We all agreed though that whoever we are now, in the elder stage of life, came through choice, intentionality. We are not the sock puppets of our parent’s gifts or their curses. Yes, they shaped our lives, no doubt, but how we use compassion, a sense of humor, a genius for invention, gentleness, a hard-edged approach reflects how we have chosen to incorporate them in the now long stream of our life.

A touching conversation.


The Lovers. A sequelae. As a change, a transformative wave, pulses through my life, as it creates difficulties, struggles, it does point toward a new creation. What will that new creation be like? Not sure yet. My sense, if I have to choose between important and unimportant (see below), I’m thinking of the difference between the Chinese literati role model and the engaged political and religious life I have known. Perhaps between passive and active. Learning and doing. Which will inflect my next path more?

There is a distinct and strong part of me that would read, write poetry, paint, listen to music, dine with friends, go for hikes, travel some. That has always felt like a lifeway that needed to wait. Come the revolution, maybe that would be ok. Come publishing. Then. Yes.

Now. In the wake of Kate’s death I’m once again reexamining my primary inclinations. When I met her, I leaned into writing, a definite change from life as clergy/activist. Perhaps I could see that change as a step toward a more reclusive, monastic life, a way only partially taken.

Is now the time? There’s a Trappist/Benedictine soul in this body. With those words referring to lifestyle, not content. There’s a Taoist soul in this body. One which does not take up arms against a sea of trouble, but rather flows around them, with them. There’s a mystical soul in this body. One that finds nourishment in odd places: tarot, torah, astrology, astronomy, poetry, paintings, sculpture. There’s a Great Wheel soul in this body, one that desires only a place in the natural process, a moment of birth, a short life, a long death. There is, too, a Jewish soul in this body, one committed to others, to community, to justice, to learning.

Will I try to rebuild my past life, only at a different age and place? Will I listen to the murmurings in my soul? Will I follow what I believe to be the deeper path for me? Deeper at this moment in time. The Lovers card suggests I will need to choose. Are these the choices? Not sure. Are these the best choices? Again, not sure.


*”This is one of the times when you figure out what you are going to stand for, and what your philosophy in life will truly be. You must start making up your mind about what you find important and unimportant in your life. You should be as true to yourself as you can be, so you will be genuine and authentic to the people who are around you.” Labyrinthos

“There is an approaching conflict that will test your values. In order to progress, you are going to have to make a decision between love and career. Neither will disappear forever, but the choice will shape your priorities.”  Trusted Tarot