Friday, March 30, 2007

Outlaws of God

These days a title like that is likely to have me answering the door to a group of nerdy little men in bad suits, brown shoes and shiny gold badges... That is, assuming that they bother to knock at all. That doesn't really bother me too much; it wouldn't be the first time.

The chosen title comes from a short bit in the little book of meditations that I've been reading almost daily for the past year. The particular selection was something that I recognized as very familiar when I read it this morning, and then when I noticed its source, I realized that I had been reading it every few months for the better part of the last 30 years. It's originally from my favorite Merton book, "Raids on the Unspeakable."

"Every plant that stands in the light of the sun is a saint and an outlaw. Every tree that brings forth blossoms without the command of man is powerful in the sight of God. Every star that man has not counted is a world of sanity and perfection. Every blade of grass is an angel singing in a shower of glory."

I can't think of a better hymn to the glories of this gorgeous spring day and the radical absurdity of finding joy in the sunlight glinting off the long green stalks of grass (which I should have cut weeks ago), the tiny buds just now popping out on the dead branches of the tree outside my window, or the twitter of birds on the fence next door. Even my cat, Milo (she's not really my cat per se, but she has adopted me), is finding peace in the sunlight next to my zafu.

In my little pocket book of meditations the quote is included in a section on "A Theology of Love." It begins with Merton reflecting on the reality of a "different kind of justice" and "another kind of mercy." A whole new way of looking at things, removed from the rigidity of our limited perception of good, and evil, and justice, and time.

Gandhi is said to have declared that one must "become the change you want to see in the world," and I have been struggling with the sense of that, the real down on the ground earthiness of it, for the last ten months specifically, and most of my life in general. Right here in front of my computer, right now on this fresh spring day, I catch a glimpse of it in the outlaws who surround me; the saints who choose to grant me the gift of today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Life Is Good...

I woke up this morning to this story on my browser from the storypeople people, whom I have been fond of for 15 years at least.

This, however, was the first time that one of their pieces was as pointed and poignant to my own life (there have been many others... but this one took the cake).

Now... it's the other end of the day and I just got in bed, like I have done so many nights over the last many weeks, and I GIGGLED... AND I SMILED... and I thanked The God/Goddess/Universe for the beauty, joy and peace that I have been given recently.

And then... I just had to get out of bed and write this... pray it...
Into The Mystery... to all of you.

What a great day!

What a good life.



Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kicking at the Darkness in the Grand Lake

Last night I sat down and watched CSPAN (something that I'm actually doing more and more of these days as I listen to the battles mount in Washington over this illegal, immoral, evil and stupid war). CSPAN was covering the rally that took place at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater this past Saturday. I've written about it on Washington's Cousin, so check it out there.

It was an event that I wish I had actually made it to rather than watching it on TV several days later, but the fact that it happened at all, and the fact that something (ANYTHING) is being said and done to put a stop to the juggernaut of lying and murder is a good thing.

This past summer at the Baptist Peace Fellowship Camp in Atlanta I had the priviledge of being present when Barbara Lee was given an award for her courageous and solitary stand against the war... This event just makes me glad to know that there really ARE people of integrity and hope in the World and that they have the courage and fortitude to stand up and say STOP.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Running On Not Quite Empty...

I got a lot of encouragement this week. I received several contributions for New Orleans charities (I also DIDN'T get donations for New Orleans charities from some people I thought would jump on it, but that's another story)and I received several emails of encouragement to keep up the run.

Yesterday, I went to church at Grace Cathedral in The City and experienced an incredibly synchronistic service. To me that's not all that strange... One of the interesting things about attending a church with a liturgical tradition (unlike the Baptist church I was raised and trained in) is that the prescribed seasonal readings open up the opportunity for a breakout of subconscious connection that doesn't happen when everything is intentionally planned.

It was sort of a Lenten Epiphany... so to speak.

Following the service and a drive through San Francisco, carried along in a basket of spiritual energy, I drove back to Petaluma and ran my 13.1 mile half-marathon training run.

It was slow... but it was great!

I'm ready to go and I am determined to pursue not only the run, but the goal of raising money for the city that America has already forgotten.

I keep hearing all kinds of soft feelings and deep hearted concerns for the poor city, eighteen months after the storm... but frankly... I want to see people DO something. New Orleans NEEDS your help.

Friday, March 23, 2007


I just found out, to my great frustration and regret, that next week marks one of my favorite New Orleans events, The Tennessee Williams Festival. Last year I attended several panels and even got to compete in the Stella Shout Off where I received a rousing ovation, but no prize. I've been practicing throughout the year, and considering last year was my first spontaneous shot at the shout, I'm sure that, with a bit of a costume change and some serious direction, I could have TAKEN it this year... I'm sure of it.

Oh well... Next year in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Running to Stand Still...

This is a picture that I took of myself while in the process of running my first marathon in 1996. The Big Sur International Marathon from the center of Big Sur north 26.2 miles to Carmel Valley. It was an amazing experience and a killer run. The clearest image I remember (besides the whales off the coast) was the guy who was leaning up against a small wooden fence on the side of the road at about mile 22. He had his shoe off and was gingerly nursing his foot. As I moved slowly by (the blood from a broken blister squish squish squishing in my right shoe) I thought to myself, if I do that, I'll never finish the race.

So I kept moving and with a patient combination of walking and running (running very slowly) I made it to the end.

I ran that race that year as a celebration of the fact that Marsha had beaten cancer and that she, and our family, had made it through the 9 months of chemicals and surgery and suffering that represented the battle. As I climbed the long hill up from Bixby Bridge to Hurricane Point, I cried as I pushed myself with the memory of how Marsha had pushed herself over and over, every day, through the cancer and back to health. I ran with a mantra in my head... "If Marsha could do that, I can do this." It got me through.

Six years later, in 2002, I returned to Big Sur, with Marsha along for the ride, to run the race again. This time we stayed together at Deetjens Big Sur Inn where I had stayed by myself before, and Marsha drove the car up past the runners to meet me at the finish. It was a bit easier that year, and I ran it a bit faster. It was still tough. It was still fun.

This year, as part of my newly discovered determination to get things back on track and to move forward from this stalled position that I have been in since Katrina, I have decided to go back to the Big Sur Marathon, and Hurricane Point, and do it again.

I am really not in any kind of shape to run this race. I am probably in the worst shape I have been in since I started running over ten years ago, and my training got severely curtailed when I got the flu at the end of January and it stuck around for a month.

However... this past Sunday, after a particularly abysmal run, I came up with a plan. I am running this race for New Orleans in much the same way that I ran my first race for Marsha. The reason that I am telling you all this is because I have decided to use the race as a fundraiser for some of the causes in The Crescent City that really matter to me.

I've set up a website to explain this in more detail and to give you an opportunity to contribute. Please go there and join me. Everyone who contributes will get reports from me on how things went and how much we raised and ALL OF THE MONEY WILL GO TO CHARITIES IN NEW ORLEANS. I'm trying to figure out some additional way to say thank you, but I haven't come up with it yet... But I'll keep you posted.

Please join me! Please give!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Whole of the Moon

The morning in Northern California, where it's been incessantly bright and sunny over the last week, broke Irish grey and foggy just like it should be on St. Patrick's Day (at least that's how I expreience it in my imagination) but has since opened back up to the bright and shiney almost spring day that it is. The grass in my backyard is brilliant green (and way too long, but that's another story) and I am feeling elated.

My friend E sent me the card above and in the spirit of the day I am sending it out to you. I've spent the morning working on some new projects and compiling a 6 hour collection of Irish music (of all varieties, from Decklin McMannis with whom I share a birthday, to The Chieftains, to Sinead O'Conner, and The Waterboys).

My great wish for the day would be to spend next year in Ireland (as a "foreign born" citizen)... maybe even surfing on Achill Island, an island off the west coast that stands in the mist a sort of island Brigadoon (okay... so I'm mixing cultural metaphors here) that I found in a book a few years ago and have longed to visit ever since. Next year in Achill!

I hope you have a joyous holiday... I'm on my way to watch rugby with my daughter.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Looking for love in all the wrong places....

I've really been too busy with less important things than blogging and so I really don't have anything to say here, but when I saw this picture in Huffington Post, well... what the hell is a blog for????

What's Shrub thinking here? Personally, I think he's contemplating another back rub episode. But perhaps he's just pondering... "Firing all the lawyers would just makes me SO HOT!"

Something about the look on Harriet's face reminds me of my friend Pete DeKramer, but I just can't quite figure out what or why.

Captions are welcomed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kid... Have you rehabilitated yourself?

Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had some things to say to the Chicago Tribune Monday and in this piece on George Washington's Cousin I make some observations about General Pace's theological militarism, and propose a return to one of the great tactics of the anti-war movement.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Taking some folks for granted...

It hit me this afternoon that I had let International Women's Day come and go with no acknowledgment whatsoever, not here, not in my daily life, not even in my dreams.

Last year I wrote a long piece on IWD, concluding it with a litany of the blessed women in my life. That piece is here, and I went back to read it so that I could remind myself of what, somehow, just got by me this year.

Despite the fact that I allowed the day to slip by me (I've been letting a lot of things slip by me of late), I still want to hold up the women who have brought me through my life, along with the women of the world who have somehow, quite miraculously, kept the rest of us from annihilating ourselves with nu-cu-lar war, or some other vile creation of our testosterone infected brains.

Thanks "Ladies"... I'm really glad you're around... EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Monday, March 12, 2007

An Answer to a Friend

Last week I received a letter from a friend of mine who was raising a rather angry question regarding why any of us (at least those of the left leaning perspective) should really give a damn about the condition of health care for returning vets. I decided to answer him publicly.

You'll find the response (along with his original email) at George Washington's Cousin.

On Reaching the 672nd Step

I read last week that The Dipsea Demon, Jack Kirk, died at the end of January at the age of 100. While we're speaking of what humans can do (and I was, just below, in that time warp of blogging where things stand still until you move them along again) The Dipsea Demon was one of those amazing humans.

Jack is one of my heros. He ran The Dipsea Race, from Mill Valley, over Mt. Tamalpais and down to Stinson Beach 67 times, winning it twice. "Old Dipsea Runners never die, they just reach the 672nd step," his most famous comment about the race, is based on the collection of 671 stone steps that runners have to take on at the beginning of the run from Mill Valley. It's a grueling little start and one of the many things that makes running The Dipsea so unusual and so incredibly fun. Jack's comment is a sentiment that most Dipsea runners take to heart and it reflects the weird and wacky commitment that people of all ages, shapes and sizes bring to the race. Once you run The Dipsea (the oldest cross country footrace in the U.S.) you really are a part of a strange band.

Jack continued to run the race until he was 96, when he didn't finish, but he made it all the way to the top of Mt. Tam anyway. It was the very next year, 2004, that I first ran the race and on that day he started with the first group, but was then sped around to the finish to meet the runners as they came home. Watching him at the start of this race that begins in the bucolic little suburb of Mill Valley, heads up through the redwoods on Mt. Tam, over roots, rocks and mud puddles only to then let gravity take over as the course hurtles down the other side toward the Pacific Ocean and Stinson Beach, was a stunning experience. At 50, I was in no real shape to run the race - I had certainly not adequately trained for it - and while I stood there trembling in my red running shorts and ankle socks, the vision of Jack, nearly twice my age, slowly moving toward the line to begin the tortured trudge up and over that hill I've lived with for thirty years and that Jack had covered so many times... Well, it's why I keep running.

I had the chance to meet and talk with Jack in 2005, the one hundredth anniversary of the race, when he put in an appearance as an honorary runner and where dozens of runners, all connected to Jack in some way, wore shirts that read "Family of The Dipsea Demon." He was friendly, engaging, inquisitive and delightful and his simple presence moved me to keep running this one of a kind footrace over the mountain.

Ever since that day, I've had the audacity to imagine that I was sort of taking up the mantel of The Demon, looking to a date many years from now (when I'm 65 actually) when I too will win this race (it's a handicapped race and so with another 12 years of preparation that's not exactly as impossible as it sounds). Jack of course has plenty of other people willing to pick up his crown and run on (and I should probably point out that Jack was a lifelong vegetarian), but you can definitely count me among the contenders.