Tuesday, February 28, 2006


It’s not common hereabouts but usually well tolerated. Starting with a noticeable change in the air—which becomes cooler--with over-cast sky; the lavender, violet clouds merge into purple, with blacker edges here and there, serving to urge rain-people to walk out-of-doors.
It began with ...
a .
and a drop
and more drops
walking with wet faces
can be fun, with smell of
steamy wood, wet grass; even
damp dust from rainless days, is
fragrant. Now raindrops are falling,
falling on our heads—and all over this
land. Northern winds picking up speedy
delivery--rain commands its own perform-
ance—the choice to endure rain is not our own
choice to make. Big wet splashes are leaping up, up
from the street and filling the bay; looking more and more
like a regular gulley-washer now—the sort of rain only a
fool would not have brains enough to come in out of, at
once. Through windy coal-black sky and hills, the
soughing of wind and shriek of flailing, drenched limbs are
eerie, like the cry of poor damned souls. Overhead are
plumed branches, leaves and fronds thrashing, lashing,
and cracking loudly, wildly; heard amid the strange thick
darkness the bones of ancient dead warriors must come
alive—with Ezekiel the end-times witness, and the clash
and roar of warring armies—deafening rumbles and
groans, flashes of lightning. God bless all the sailors out at
sea in ships today, and all those souls on land, too. Signs
appear now in the sky, signs of further change—but
welcome sun rays break through and reveal the sloshed,
glossy-wet trees, now bathed in tints of warm amber-
greens and bronzes, starkly limned against the cold, grey-
black thunder-heads still looming above the churning
bay—contrast in lurid color and light. A fantastically
colorful rainbow arcs dramatically across the heavens—a
promise; the rain goes away as it came, from buckets-full,
to dribbles
to drops
to drips

And the land is new-wet and reborn, for a short time at least, the way the Lord first made it, the way He must have looked at it, and saw that it was good. So clean it smells good, feels good and everyone forgets--even little two-foot-high runaways splashing through lingering puddles in their best shoes and stockings--forget the darkness and revel in the heavenly light.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Lots of days here start like this early morning; windless times that fishermen know well--boats glide easily and cleanly out to the banks. There is no rustling from nearly transfixed palm-leaves; water in the bay is glassy, fog-colored and reflecting only the silence. The ocean is moved by smooth, sprayless currents; a day perhaps to go after lenguada, the tongue-shaped flat halibut.

It must have been such a morning at the Sea of Galilee, when Peter and his brother Andrew came ashore to find a stranger waiting for them. It is recorded, “Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Mat. 4:15, 16). The brothers learned they were to be fishers of men, and followed willingly!

Here at the beach it is a Sunday; sea-birds in neat rows natter fitfully like parishioners restively waiting for the service to begin. The hush is almost chapel-like and a prayer rushes forth unbidden: “Dear Lord, let me be caught in the net of men such as those, and lifted up.” Amen.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


When I write something that I think is both well-written and original, it is like telling secrets or revealing the answers to riddles. But the results then seem to me less interesting, like the punch line to a familiar joke; as if there is really no artfulness to the obvious. My tendency is then to resist writing down thoughts that come to mind in order to protect their pristine importance. The net result is an exercise in self-defeat; when I turn again to those undoubted gems of literary skill they are completely forgotten.

There is so far no way out of this predicament because if I write anything down the result is just ordinary at best—it remains great only if not written—and lost beyond recall. Of course it will also be forgotten by everyone else if written down, perhaps a sort of notoriety, but why share my lack-luster words with others?

The solution to the predicament is presented by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the elder, who recorded that he shared some lines of a humorous poem he had just written with his man-servant, who broke out in helpless laughter. “Ten days and nights with sleepless eye, I watched that wretched man. Since then I’ve never dared to write as funny as I can.” I will just not write as splendidly as I can—or as funny, for that matter.

Friday, February 10, 2006


Signs in the sky and over the waters! From my bayside lookout post there is a dark patch in an otherwise clear sky. There is a similar patch in the bay below. The water there is a warm gray, a dull mixture of blue and darker ochre, on either side it is the usual cerulean blue—sky-color to most painters. Here at the beach the map shows us further out from the rest of California shores than most surrounding terrain; there is sparse vegetation here. Little of this is indigenous to the area; nearly all of it, palm trees included, was carted in from somewhere else, and fire hazards in our local brush is not usually a problem. But today looks different.

A chunk of my distant panorama of the Sierras and local Anaheim Hills is obscured by smoke—and where there is smoke there is also the scourge of fire. “I read the news today, oh boy!” People up there in the hills are fleeing their homes at the very last minute (though it has been said that if there were no last minutes very little would get done in this world), taking the few most precious articles one can think of, almost always door-keys and hairbrushes. I don’t know if the lintels or sills of those doors were marked by more than the fire-inspector’s notes, probably not blood from a freshly slaughtered lamb. But the local exodus has begun and smoke marks a path across the waters—from this side we can only pray that all the children of God shall emerge safely, all the children, and that the evil flames of their pursuers be drowned.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Not many people know that as I walk daily with my indispensable walker around a modest circuit, I usually sit down briefly by the bay-side in order to inspect the day—and check out the action on the street. Even fewer know that when skate-boarders glide past me I often ask if they want to trade with me, walker for skateboard. Some times I even ask roller-skaters and cyclists. So far I have got quite a collection of blank or bemused stares and an uncertain laugh or two—but no actual takers. The closest I have come to a live one was when a toddler came toddling over and put a vise-like grip on my walker. Not understanding the childish garble I appealed to his nanny who, as it turned out, spoke no English. It was then made clear to me that he had asked “Es esto su jueguete?” (“Is this your toy?”). I reluctantly turned the kid down. Although I might have really enjoyed a ride in his stroller, the nanny seemed less than impressed by the idea. Whatever!

The reverie of sailing swiftly down the street, carelessly and carefree, is hard to let go, but this “incident of the playful child” reminded me that the common term, in Spanish-speaking countries, for my walker is “burro”. As I made my way back home, lurching along, plodding slowly, I was also reminded of Balaam and his little donkey. When he wouldn’t go as swiftly and directly as Balaam wished, the poor little beast was cursed and beaten—about the way I have occasionally felt towards my metallic mount. But the little “burro” was only obeying the Lord, and how bravely he persisted.

It came to me that perhaps it is not the Lord’s will that I sail down the street on a skateboard; for that matter, perhaps it wasn’t anyone’s will, even mine, truth be told. This thought has probably saved me from a most unkind fate, for which I thank the Lord.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


This morning at the beach seemed, in a manner of speaking, strictly for the birds. No one else out there, they made the most of it; fishing once in awhile but mostly soaring and diving, dipping and gliding, they rose and wheeled as a flock. Of course someone had to ask, “Where would birds of a feather flock, if not together”? But they rose and fell gracefully and I must say, for the most part, gravely and soberly!

Such madcap antics should, as a matter of propriety, be accompanied by gleeful shouts, but their cries were low-key and raucously solemn. It came to me that these displays were actually deeply ingrained and, if likened to human mannerisms, ritualistic. After all such a bird flew tirelessly from the mountains of Ararat one day long ago-- and these descendents appear to know their job, to herald eternal hope for all humanity—officious and solemn this morning and every day. Or maybe they are just looking for rainbows.