Monday, April 12, 2021

The Stubborn Sin of Human Hate: When Will We Change?


“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."    --Nelson Mandela

It’s hard to turn around these days and not be confronted by hate, by the sin of human hatred: in acts of hate carried out by one human being upon other, by one group of people upon another group. Three hate stories are really haunting me now. I just can’t shake them.

There is the rise of acts of hatred and violence against Asian-Americans, the shootings in Atlanta, the random and frightening attacks on the streets of our cities. There is the ongoing trial of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd last year. A white knee pressed against a black neck, nine minutes of suffering and then Floyd was gone.  Then there’s this awful story out of Duxbury, Massachusetts, where the high school football team, for reasons I just cannot fathom, have been using anti-Semitic language in their play calling, casually tossing out the term “Auschwitz” before the ball is snapped.  WHAT!?!?

I just don’t get human hatred, human bias, human intolerance when it comes to how some feel called to treat fellow children of God. Maybe it’s because of the faith I try and practice, a faith that teaches me every son and daughter of God, everyone, is created in the image of God, in the likeness of God. So, when I hate another, in a way I hate God. I deface and mar the part of God that resides in every single human heart and soul and person.

I don’t understand hate because—and here’s a confession—I’ve never experienced hate, not at all, not once, not ever in the sixty years I’ve lived. White, I’ve never been discriminated against or threatened because of my skin color. Straight, I’ve never been dismissed as “less than” because of whom I choose to love.  Christian, I’ve never been told the way I worship is wrong or false. Male, I’ve never been leered at or groped or been denied any of my rights, because I have an X and Y chromosome rather than two X’s. This lack of experience must somehow breed a lack of empathy. Maybe that’s why, according to the FBI, of the 8,552 hate crimes reported in 2019, 52.5 percent were committed by whites; that’s double the next closest number.

And so, hate: it just is that most stubborn and intractable of sins, of human brokenness. To see the other, not a person, but as an “it”, and therefore to hate that person or hurt that person even take away that person’s life and why? Because they are different. Because they are a threat (real or perceived) to someone’s privilege in the world. Because we are all potentially blind to one truth. The “other” is not the “other”. The other is you, is me, is everyone. We are all equally worthy of love and respect and all because of how and who God makes us to be.  Period.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is right: hate isn’t somehow buried in our DNA or living in our bones. No. Hate is taught. Hate is a learned behavior. Hate is passed on from one generation to the next. Hate is fomented by xenophobic self-serving politicians and leaders. They use the language and actions of hatred to stir up and exploit the fears of those they claim as followers. They hate because it serves their thirst for personal power. 

So, perhaps, if hate is taught, then love can be taught too. Love, to combat hatred. Love, to reveal the ignorance and falseness of prejudice and stereotypes and bias. Love, to see, not a stranger in the person we share this world with, but instead a friend we’ve yet to meet. I’m crazy enough to believe with all my heart and soul that love will finally vanquish, once and for all, the human desire to hate and to hurt.

I’m also crazy enough to have faith and hope, in the generation of humans that are coming up behind me, the young and the younger, the hopeful and the justice committed. Maybe this is the generations who will finally bring us ever closer to the day of love for all, no one left out. Some days I feel like I must apologize for the actions of my age group! Thank goodness that one age and time are now moving us off the stage and that a new age and time are now ushering in a group to lead us and to teach us how to love.

The difference in attitudes sometimes, between oldsters like me and those youngsters is startling and stark. So many of the young people I know either don’t see differences or when they do see differences, they celebrate that God created a human tapestry. They dare to believe these threads can be woven into the whole cloth of a beloved community.

I don’t get the need to hate. I do get the duty for all of us to love. What a day it will be when hate becomes a distant memory and love becomes the law, and not just in the world but in every single human heart too.

No more hate. I can dream, can’t I? Can’t we? Let’s get to work.

                 

                  

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hello Spring! It's Great to Hear From You Again.

“The day God created spring was probably also the day God created hope.”--Bernard Williams, philosopher                

It is a sound I associate with pure joy. With rebirth.  With hope. A sound that evokes in me that most immediate and happy of responses. My heart leaps, my spirit soars, my soul calms when the notes of this springy tune tickle my ear. It is a sound all too easy to take for granted, but is, for many of us in the northern climes of the United States, the sound of spring.

Now you might name the sweet whistle of an American Robin as your spring sound. You wouldn’t be wrong. With its distinctive tweet, the red breasted robin’s short and quick song, that always ends on a high note, certainly lays claim to being a harbinger of the second season. Nor would you be off base to name the radio call of your first Red Sox baseball game of the year, your spring sound. Joe Castiglione’s voice, with his mellifluous and dependable delivery of play by play, for almost 40 springs now; it a spring symphony for many the fan. Maybe your sound is the click clack of your bicycle chain as it shifts gears, sounding a bit clunky, as it adjusts to being on the road again after six months of hibernation in a chilly garage.

I have a special love for spring sounds and for all sounds really, perhaps more so than any of my other God-given senses and the gifts these offer me. As a young boy, ear infections and benign tumors in the bone behind my right ear necessitated surgery; that produced scar tissue and that took away almost half of my hearing.  So, straining to hear in a noisy setting or positioning myself in a room or a crowd to hear better: it reminds me often of how grateful I am to just be able to hear. To listen. To be still and enjoy the sounds of life. The sounds of spring.

Oh, almost forgot…my cherished spring sound?

Peepers peeping: the sound of tiny tree frogs sending out mating calls at dusk from the wetlands and swamps found all over New England.  Officially the peeper is called the Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), an amphibious creature that makes a big sound for such a diminutive animal: they are about the size of a paper clip. They gather by the hundreds in cool and wet woodlands, awakening from their winter slumbers to herald the return of spring. Their distinctive “trill” sounds like…well, like peepers. When all those peepers peep at once, they offer such a familiar and comforting sound, their peeps combined provide a spring soundtrack. This is my absolute favorite spring sound.

So, the other night, as I set off on my daily walk just as the sun was setting, for the first time in a long time, since last October, the peepers returned, and they called out to me. Maybe you heard them too. In that sacred moment, winter was permanently banished, and spring returned to its rightful natural throne. That sound makes me want to take in and then let out a deep breath, to breathe a sigh of relief, for the peepers are telling me and all of us, that we made it through our winter of discontent, and may even be getting to the other side of a very, very long and trying year.

Apologies for those spring sounds there is not enough space to write about here. Like lawn mowers chugging and leaf blowers whining and ice cream trucks dinging. Don’t forget the sounds of youth sports games, the cheer of parents and grandparents rising up into a blue sky, and the shrill sound of the ref’s whistle—that is spring, absolutely. What else am I missing? Oh, yes: the sound of a chilly spring breeze as it blows through the budding canopies of the trees—with a ssshhhhh and whoosh.

What sound marks spring for you?

In the spring, in all seasons, there are so many lovely sounds to appreciate, to just listen to, sounds that mark the passage of time and sounds that somehow ground us on this earth. The sounds of each of the seasons remind us of one final miracle: the turning of this world, the yearly chance at redemption we receive from God in the gift of spring and all the ways this season of new life speaks to us and calls out to us.

Spring seems to say, “You can always begin again. Just listen to the peepers.”

Thank you, God. Thank you, spring.

 

       

 

 

      

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul? Yup!


“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.'”  --Kurt Vonnegut

Music has saved me more times than I can remember.

When I stood next to my father's casket on the day of his funeral, as the mournful notes of the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save", floated up to heaven. I knew he would be ok where he was going and that I would be ok too.

Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep, Its own appointed limits keep, O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea!

Music saved me when I had my very first slow dance, on a warm spring night, in my fourteenth year, in a cafeteria transformed into a dance hall, at the local junior high school. My partner and I moved and swayed to the music, caught up in adolescent angst and joy, as “Nights in White Satin” showed us the way.

Nights in white satin, Never reaching the end, Letters I've written, Never meaning to send, Beauty I'd always missed, With these eyes before, Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore, Cause I love you!

Music has saved me from COVID, in a way, too.

When on most Wednesday nights, since a year ago this month, I sit in the quiet of my dining room at the table, all alone, and yet in community, as my local choir sings through a song like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. We are on Zoom, separated and yet, we sing together. All together.

Someday I'll wish upon a star, Wake up where the clouds are far behind me, Where trouble melts like lemon drops, High above the chimney tops that's where, You'll find me, oh, somewhere over the rainbow….      

If you go back in time, in sweet memory, you’ll remember too, the times music has saved you. Soothed you. Taught you. Held you. Comforted you. Excited you. Singing “Silent Night” in a candlelit church on a chilly December evening, or chanting the Kaddish, a prayer for the dead, in a synagogue among the mourners. Or dancing with your new bride, your new groom, to Frank Sinatra at your wedding, so many years ago and yet it was yesterday.

Fly me to the moon, Let me play among the stars, Let me see what spring is like on, Jupiter and Mars, In other words, hold my hand, In other words, baby, kiss me…You are all I long for, All I worship and adore…

Music saves us because there is nothing else like it in our human experience. It is at once mystical and unambiguous, primordial and simple, whether “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or Handel’s “Messiah” or James Brown’s “I Feel Good”.  Music mirrors the steady rhythm and beating of our hearts. It connects us to our deepest selves and desires, to others, when we sing in unison, and to God. For all the notes are given to us by the ultimate music maker, by the holy One, by the Creator of all that is good and beautiful and creative and inspiring. 

Music stays while other memories fade away.  We can’t remember when to pay a bill or what we had for breakfast yesterday or the definition of a word that’s right on the tip of our tongue and yet…When the notes of a certain pop song, from some childhood summer long ago, play on the radio, the words all come back to us, in a rush, as if we are transported back in time, and so we sing right along, hitting every beat, knowing every lyric.

Music: when the world opens back up again, the one thing I want to do, almost more than anything else, is to just sing and sing with others, in harmony. Sing at the top of my lungs until my voice is hoarse. Sing at the church I serve and sing in and with my beloved choir, my precious friends whom I miss, so, so much.

Sing at the party I will host for that choir. I pray that one night soon, fifty or sixty of us will gather in my home and we will pile into the living room and perform in that wildest of singing modes—KARAOKE! Someone will ask to sing a song we all know by heart and we will mark our regathering with a song. A song to celebrate the return.

Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, if the Bible tells you so? Now, do you believe in rock 'n' roll, Can music save your mortal soul, And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

What song will you sing?

 

 

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Does God Do Zoom?

 


Zoom (verb) 1. To move or travel very quickly  2. To be sucked into a technological abyss, marked by staring at and talking to, a lifeless screen from your dining room table, for hours on end   --Websters Dictionary (alt.)

Okay, I made up that second definition. In March 2020, if you had asked me for a definition of “Zoom”, I might have answered it’s either the sound that a very fast rocket makes in a cartoon or it’s the thing we say to a toddler, while clutching a spoon and trying to get that reluctant kid to eat, as in: “Zoom!!! Here comes the carrots!”

But that’s not what Zoom is these days, not in the past fifty-two weeks, certainly. It’s amazing to consider that what was once was an obscure app, a sometimes balky and slow program used by business folks for the rare remote meeting or by distance learning schools for students at home: Zoom now dominates our lives.

Zoom is the lifeline that keeps us all connected.

We either love it or we hate it or if you’re like me, we feel both emotions, depending on the day and time and activity. I love Zoom as a platform to teach my writing classes. It is perfectly suited to gathering writers and talking craft and critiquing pieces. I can’t stand Zoom when it comes to having the back and forth needed for a robust or normal discussion or conversation. Folks either talk over each other or begin to talk and then go mute in frustration (that’s what I often do) or they sit back passively and just watch the show go on.

Still, Zoom is now the tech portal through which millions of us are now seeing our aging parents and learning our ABCs and playing games with friends on a lonely Friday night and going to church and having business meetings, a shirt and tie on view up top, and down below, out of view, sweatpants, and cozy socks. Zoom is where many folks are now dating (AWKWARD!), and often the only place where grandparents can get a glimpse of the grandchildren that they miss so, so much (SAD!).

If anything symbolizes the weirdness and the dislocation of the past 365 plus days, it’s Zoom. According to the company, every day, more than 300 million people use its service to connect to others. In the past year, Zoom reports it is has logged an astounding 3.3 trillion meeting minutes.  Though none of us has a crystal ball to predict post-pandemic life, my bet is that video conferencing is not going away. It is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It is now the norm in our lives and so we might as well just accept it, albeit at times, grudgingly.

Zoom is here to stay. It’s quirks too.

Like the fact that I can use a thirteen-year-old photo for my Zoom “video off” function and folks might imagine I still look like that youthful guy in the picture. More hair, less grey and barely a wrinkle in sight. Zoom is where our less tech savvy friends and family give us a view of the upper half of their face, straight up their nose and no amount of our gentle coaching can change that perspective.

“You’re muted!!!” “UNMUTE PLEASE!” How many times have we had to say that or has someone said that to us, since last March?! Or better yet, how about Zoom’s kiss of death? “Your Internet Connection Is Unstable”— “THANKS FOR TELLING ME!” I want to yell at the screen. I know my internet is unstable: everyone on my meeting is now frozen in time, stuck in various embarrassing still life poses: eyes half closed, mouths hanging open, hands lifted to make a point, now just hanging there in mid-air. And yes, that’s exactly what you now look like to your fellow Zoombies.

Zoombie is the term for what Zoom does wrought: the state of head and heart and mind after a full day or night, or both, of uninterrupted Zooming. Tired and burning eyes. A numb butt from sitting for so long. A foggy brain, and an exhausted spirit, having spent so many hours just trying to keep up with this warped and odd and new form of human communication that is Zoom.

And yet for all my complaints about Zoom, here’s my truth. Zoom has saved me. It has rescued me from loneliness. As a single person, it’s kept me connected in times when, without Zoom, I would have gone crazy with isolation. Or become so sad or been lost to the people I love and who love me and the groups I so need, like my choir. Zoom has helped me hang on to the life I so love too, even, especially, in a time of pandemic.

So, Zoom on. Zoom away. Zoom until the cows come home! Zoom to your heart’s content and then zoom some more. Zoom to find others and to be found by others in these strange days. Zoom, and as we zoom, we might even thank God for Zoom. Which makes me wonder: does God do Zoom? Tune in next week! I’ll send you a link.

But for now? End meeting for all.


 

       

   

Monday, March 15, 2021

One Year Later: The Cruel Inequities of COVID in America

“The only true voyage of discovery, would be not to visit strange lands…but to behold the universe through the eyes of another.”       --Marcel Proust

Sometimes it’s all about perspective, remembering where we stand in this world.

Recently, a nurse from my health insurance company called me to check in on how I am progressing from hip replacement surgery last June.  After a bumpy first few months of recovery when I wondered if I would ever walk normally again, walk without pain, I was so happy to tell her my hip feels almost completely healed. 

“That’s great. Just a few more questions before we wrap up today,” she said.

“Fire away,” I said, even as I wondered what else she could possibly ask me about, having covered all aspects of my health. What else could threaten my well-being right now?

“In the past two weeks have you thought about harming yourself?”

“In the past two weeks have you felt unsafe in your home or in your neighborhood?”

“In the past two weeks have you been able to purchase enough food for you and your family?”

“In the past two weeks, have you felt in danger of losing your job?”

“In the past two weeks have you worried about losing your home or becoming homeless?”

My answer to each of those questions was “no.”

But as she dutifully inquired about parts of my life, parts of living that, truth be told, I so often take for granted as a given, I couldn’t help but wonder…well, what if I answered “yes” to one or more of those questions? What if beyond an achy hip I was in such despair that I’d want to take my own life? What if I had more mouths to feed than my own, and just did not have the money to put enough food on the table? What if the job I so love was taken away from me with an impersonal email: “We regret to inform you….”? What if this comfortable and cozy house I get to live in was gone tomorrow, and I had to scramble to find a place to lay my head on the pillow?

What if? What if?

One of the hard truths I’ve come to face in the past year, as COVID has ravaged our society, is how much this virus hasn’t just attacked the body. It’s also revealed and made worse, the wide disparities of life in our nation. It’s shown the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor, someone like me whose zip code reveals that I live a very good life, almost too privileged a life, while another person’s zip code might doom them and their family to daily struggle, even despair.

Consider: according to a recent New York Times article (“We Did Not Suffer Equally”), while overall employment levels for the wealthiest of Americans dropped by just 1 percent in the last year, employment for the bottom 25 percent of Americans dropped by 28 percent. Consider: in Massachusetts, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank, our state saw the largest growth in food insecurity in the country, since March 2020; a staggering increase of 59 percent. Consider:  because of COVID deaths, white Americans saw their life expectancy drop by a full year but Black Americans by almost three years.

While my idea of a bad day is spending too many hours on Zoom calls and meetings, not very far from where I live, a bad day means standing in a long line at the food pantry. Waiting for hours to get an appointment at the public health clinic for your sick child.  Going to bed and staying up all night, worrying about if you’ll ever find a job again.

We’re not just experiencing a pandemic of the body in the United States. We’re also witnessing a pandemic of class divides and race divides and geography divides and education divides. Those seemingly innocuous questions my nurse asked me; these convicted me in a way, and reminded me that from a moral perspective, I can’t really be “healthy”, not in the largest sense, unless every other child of God gets to be healthy too. Healthy—and not just in body but in mind and in spirit and in heart as well.

The gift of the faith I practice is that it teaches me I cannot be fully the child of God I am meant to be, unless my neighbor also gets to be the child of God they are meant to be, as well.  This moral perspective in life asks us to view life, not just through our own eyes or our own experiences, but also through the eyes and the experiences of others, and “the other” too.

I don’t have to do that of course, practice radical empathy. I can live in my comfortable social bubble. I can focus on taking care of me and my own and no others. With the craziness of life these days and the herculean tasks all of face in trying to get through COVID challenges, it’s easy to have a narrow perspective. I get that. 

But what if you and I; what if we answered “yes” to one or more of that nurse’s questions?  Dare we take that perspective? For then we’d certainly pray and hope that someone else cared for us and saw us too. We’d absolutely depend upon the compassion of our neighbors and the help of government and the mercy of private charities like houses of worship.

Life is, finally, all about perspective.  Knowing where we stand but also knowing where others stand in this world too.

What if?

 

       

    

 

     

Monday, March 8, 2021

Boys Of Summer No More: Baseball Strikes Out in Pawtucket


In my little town, I grew up believing, God keeps his eye on us all, And He used to lean upon me, As I pledged allegiance to the wall, Lord, I recall, My little town...     --Paul Simon

A COVID casualty…

Last June, I didn’t get to return one final time to one my favorite places to see a baseball game, McCoy Stadium. I’ll never take in a sandlot competition there ever again. “There” is Pawtucket, Rhode Island, a hardscrabble small city, blue collar, proud of its once mighty place in the Industrial Revolution, and as a center for New England textile manufacturing in the 1920’s. Mills there once employed thousands of workers and drew power from the rushing waters of the Blackstone River.

Those days are long gone now, with most clothing factories having moved to the South first and then, later offshore. Churches with spires reaching up into the sky that once boasted of seating for upwards of 1,000 worshippers are now closed, along with the state’s once ubiquitous downtown department store, Apex.  But still I loved Pawtucket and the cozy confines of McCoy, having gotten to know its charms while a pastor in South County, Rhode Island.  I even caught my first and only foul ball in its parking lot, a singular gem in more than five decades of baseball fandom.         

I so enjoyed going to Pawtucket for a PawSox game, to watch the Triple A farm team of the Boston Red Sox battle an opponent, on a warm summer night, a Coke and a hot dog in hand, the stands filled with Little League Baseball teams and Cub Scout troops and folks like me looking for a fun and inexpensive way to spend the evening. Each year a group of guys from the church I serve would pile into our cars for the forty-five-minute drive south.

But now: there is no return.

You see, the Red Sox are moving the Paw Sox to Worcester, Massachusetts in 2021, and while I’m sure the new location will be sparkly and brand new, still, I will so miss driving into Pawtucket, with its small city, small town vibe. Pawtucket is the kind of place it’s easy for us to forget or overlook in our country, home to so many, but not a flashy big city swimming in prosperity nor a well to do bedroom committee for high tech and executive level workers.      

The PawSox were a big deal in Pawtucket. For fifty-one seasons, the cry of “Play ball!” echoed through its intimate cement and iron ballfield, with seating for 10,000 fans. Every spring and summer, folks from around southern New England like me would drive to McCoy for a game and spend some money and pay for parking and bring some life into the downtown.  What happens in our nation to small cities and small towns like Pawtucket when they are left behind from economic development? When the ballpark closes or the factory closes, when it can seem as if they are invisible to the more prosperous places and people around them?

The economic, social, and mostly invisible decline of so many American cities and towns like Pawtucket, has been on my mind because it is not just the PawSox minor league baseball team shutting down. In some professional housekeeping largely overlooked because of the pandemic, Major League baseball this winter announced that 41 minor league teams around the country will be disbanded permanently, leaving behind a slew of empty stadiums and broken hearts, in small cities and towns around the United States.

Places like Lowell, Massachusetts, that will bid goodbye to the Lowell Spinners. Burlington, Vermont fans will say a fond farewell to the Lake Monsters, along with Burlington, Iowa that won’t be able to cheer for the Bees anymore, a team that claims roots going all the way back to 1892.  The list of shuttered teams leaves a big economic hole in many places that are already down and out or struggling.  Norwich, Connecticut. Auburn, New York. Hagerstown, Maryland. Lancaster, California.

Here’s an idea. When travel opens back up again, when those of us who love a road trip will get behind the wheel and just drive, watch out for the places you might not normally visit, the places that highways pass by, the lonely places, the invisible places and then get off the byway and visit.  Eat at a little diner. Walk Main Street. Poke your way around an antique store and remember….

We need places like Pawtucket in our nation and in our lives. Need the people there too.  Need to care just as much about those anonymous cities and towns as much, maybe even more so, than the wealthier places that so many of us call home.

Goodbye PawSox. Thanks for a great run.

     

 

 

             

 

Monday, March 1, 2021

10,000 Steps a Day: Walking My Way to a Spring of Hope


"But I would walk 500 miles, And I would walk 500 more,
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles, To fall down at your door...."  

--The Proclaimers, 1988

Ten thousand steps. Every day.

That’s my personal goal for keeping hold of my sanity and for getting off my duff, in these cold days of late winter. In these days of distance and dystopia.

That’s not an arbitrary number: it actually comes as a challenge, courtesy of my Fitbit fitness tracker, an electronic watch-like device affixed to my left wrist, 24/7. It tracks every single step I take; from the moment I put my feet down on the floor by my bed in the dim light of morning, to the moment late at night when I lift those same feet one last time at day’s end, and go to sleep.

It tracks every single stride. Not one left out. Not just the steps that are good for me but also the steps that reflect both the mundane (34 steps from my Lazy-Boy to the upstairs bathroom), and the weight gain (42 steps to the bread box that contains a tempting bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and 40 steps to the freezer with black cherry ice cream calling out my name). And yes, there is a direct correlation between the abundance of calories I’m now habitually consuming daily, and my need to get moving and get going and get up and get walking. I’m trying my best to push back against my stress eating and the resulting pandemic poundage.

The daily walks are helping. 

I wish I could say I’ve always been a walker, a strider, a perambulator, those hardy and hustling souls who are perennially outside and moving: the dog walkers and pods of retirees and urban dwellers and annoyingly cheery fitness fanatics, folks who have always walked. Until this winter of our shared discontent, walking to me was a necessity only to get from the house to the car, into work, then back to the car and back inside, with side trips to the grocery store and Starbucks. Nor am I a lover of winter, am instead actually somewhat of a winter wimp, even after having lived in these chilly northern climes for six decades now.

But this winter and spring? I have to walk. I must walk. I will walk.

I walk to clear my head after staring at my Zoomed up computer at the dining room table for hours on end.  I walk to talk to God, to share with my higher power the highlights and lowlights of my life and to ask for help. I walk with my faithful friends, Jill and Kacey, and with my brother Ed, every week, to get some desperately needed time with living, breathing people, face to face. To just hear the sound of a live spoken voice, to unload on someone else about how frustrated I am with social isolation or how challenged I am with work or how sad I am that I can no longer see so many folks whom I love or how glad I am just to see someone. 

I walk to remember how beautiful this time of year is in New England: with its sharp and blue skies and the sound of snow crunching underfoot, everything else so quiet, so sacred, still. I’ve walked through the woods in teen temperatures with a brisk wind blowing, biting at my cheeks. I’ve walked in a delicate snowstorm, oversized puffy white flakes descending, as if from heaven, a gift from the Creator of all that is good. I’ve walked past a donkey named Jonah at a trailside farm in my small town, he and I exchanging glances as fellow creatures. I’ve walked more in the last ten weeks than in the last year.

Who knew that something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other 10,000 or more times a day, could be so good for the mind and the body and the soul?

There is something mystical about walking. We somehow connect in our primordial bones with all of those ancestors who came before us. The farmers who walked their fields, among budding crops, as their daily work. The kids who walked to school balancing book bags and then stopping off for penny candy at the corner store. We even walk with the hunter gatherers, long, long ago relatives, they who walked and who ran for survival.

We were born to walk, to live a life marked by self-created motion, from the miraculous moment when our parents cheered us on as we took our first few halting steps, to the final time we will walk in this life, grey haired, leaning on a cane, ready for one last journey back home, to the power that makes all life.

And so, I walk.  Keep moving ahead. I stay on the trail as I dream about warmer days and warmer walks and a warm spring not so far away, a season that carries within it the hope of a new world being born.

I’m not there yet. But I’m on the way. I hope you are too.