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Welcome to Saved by Design

April 4, 2019

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  Vanishing Subtlety

In Home Page: NEW HOME

In Absence: GOTCHYA

In Left To Myself : Sawdust

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: what…where

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days


April 24, 2019


Humans live everywhere: on a piece of dirt with a house, in a tower, with our parents, in a shared apartment, any number of places, but almost all of us have a plant, a flower box, a garden, even a site. There are 3 basic things that grow:

1) The store-bought, developed/engineered plants we nurture and create from seeds, seedlings, little plants, they are our pets, including our lawns, vegetable gardens/containers, full on gardens, either perennials or annuals, we control them. We future them, and mostly they live.

2) There are other plant (from nature, from friends, from stores) that are native, not bred into perfection. They explode into the landscape, or just die. Perhaps invasive or natural, things like pachysandra, ivy, ferns, lillie’s, wild oats, Aguga are there already or launched by us, and we let them take over or find a species that will take over

3) Then there are, well, weeds. The things that grow whether we like them or not. Dandelions, crab grass, poison ivy, They are deemed ‘wrong” we do not control them, they control us. We want them gone, or do we? We use chemicals, a shovel, our hands to remove these offending criminals. Why?

Today, we have 2 incredible resources of defining what we value and what to do about it when it comes to our gardens, flower boxes, yards, potted plants, inside or out:

Stacey Pope is the lawn and garden specialist who works at Van Wilgen’s Garden Center in North Branford CT. Van Wilgen’s is a plant nursery & store. She is the point person for thousands of civilian amateurs, who are confronting their grades Right Now – for the first time in 6 months.

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente is a passionate garden creator and advocate who created Natureworks  Natureworks – Garden Center in Branford. Natureworks, a very special retail garden center in Southern Connecticut . On an acre of land) Nancy has been focusing on organic gardening since Natureworks began in 1983. Education is her primary focus. She has dedicated her life to the challenge of being fully organic and sharing this passion with her customers

Join us as we explore how our where we live is affected by what else lives there, our plants and our homes


April 21, 2019

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60 years ago, I bet I felt it.

At 3.5 years old, I probably knew something was up.

I opened my eyes.

And BANG: The Basket. In my bed. With me. With colored eggs in it. A huge chocolate rabbit. More, the basket was FILLED with things I could eat. Now. That I Loved.

It was a glowing crown on a glowing time for a wee 1959. I could eat dessert before the day even began. In my bed.

I was loved. My siblings came into the room, 8 and 14, sharing the giddy delight over the fantastic miracle of the basket.

Then a service where we were all together, the church was packed. There were flowers everywhere. And shiny shoes. And hats.

Then off to far away White Plains (now I know 20 minutes away). Ride an elevator to Aunt Fanny’s – somehow related to my Dad (she was his surviving step-mom). She was bespeckled, lumpy, with a British accent and hair that had no discernible strands.

She served truly soft, grey food and glowing mint jelly. We were sick to puking of a day’s full gobbling of candy, so we ate little. Then watched some broadcast movie on TV with Charleton Heston or Elizabeth Taylor or Jesus.

We rode home in sleep,and started the next day like all the others.

After a year or 2 more of these Easters, they became memories, sought amid crashing lives. We pantomimed the rituals but we walked on the eggshells of a chaotic home at home, despite the full Easter Presentation.

What was always there become unavoidably known to me. Alcohol, inadequacy, fear and disappointment turned into anger and cruelty. Screaming regularly commenced around 7pm after the 6:32 train allowed a dozen ounces of Vat 69 scotch to leverage what we all sought to contain.

But my father was not evil. My mother was not cruel. They were both deeply damaged – my father by a completely unconsidered life of extreme effort and never living up to his own hopes, and my mother by my father. She was, if possible, even less aware than my father of much beyond the necessity for self preservation.

So all the following Easters became chasing after the one in 1959. The next year my sister was 15, and in a meltdown of dealing with her own, normal, imperfect humanity, which triggered a screaming response by my parents only possible with the add of alcohol. My brother followed suit. And it went down hill from there.

But in 1959 it was different. Love was there. It left, but it once was. It never returned.

The miracle was that Easter, each Easter, was, and remained my favorite day growing up. The fulfillment of greedy gobbling was ever there until I was shipped off to a Buffalo 10 years after that first sentient Easter. So was church. So was spring. But my joy was not triggered by these stimuli.

For pure engorgement nothing topped Christmas. Unending toys filled the living room, there was unbounded gluttony feasting on things, if not candy. But no, Christmas was terrifying in the surrounding anger and tensions the season created, or more accurately, revealed.

We attended no Christmas Eve Service. I am assuming the insane prep made it impossible. But we went to church, together, every Easter.

No, the joy of these Easters was truly from within. From a within that was there, bizarrely, since those first Easters.

The gathering to church in Easter made me truly happy. No booze. No anger. No cruelty. I now know that a Sunday probably meant a hangover, as it was not a workday, so drinking was less circumscribed the night before. And my mother did Everything for Easter, so my father just watched. No pressure.

So the 10 minute drive to and back from church was happy. Then my sister went to California. My brother went to college. Then I went to Buffalo. And the island of connection to hope simply ended.

In Buffalo, I did not celebrate Easter and not for the next 10 years. Until I went to the church I am going to in 3 hours. I met my wide at Easter the next year. Our sons once sang in the choirs that reveal the beauty that transcends hope into the reality of expressed love. It is a full good thing.

Now our children have returned, we gather with a dozen dears for a feast at a restaurant after services, it is a great good time. It is a way to live what we know to be true – there is love, little fear, no cruelty, and now, precious little candy.

All the players of that 1959 Easter are dead, save one, my sister, who I have not seen in 15 years. Who lives 5 minutes from the site of that Easter.

The God I felt in those early years, who was there, right there in all those Easters, is better felt these days. I wish I could say I understood them, but I do not even understand Jesus.

But now, after 3 score years, I know that the muffled joy I felt in my grey flannel clothing was not from the basket, or the candy, or even the happy gathering and rituals.

It was Easter.


“Good” is not the “G” in TGIF

April 19, 2019

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In about 5 or 8 hours, in Sorrento, Italy, 500 or so men (only men) stage an Event.

They don robes that are what the KKK seemed to channel (hooded full body/head cloaks with eye holes and cone peak tops) and march, as units thru the Perfect old town in an ancient service of Good Friday.

What I do not know is legion, but I know the KKK/Christ allusion creeps out this ignorant yank – and according to our guide, a lot of touristas. But the “Processione” has full human commitment in a secularizing time, so much so that the 500 marchers inhererit their place, no room for volunteers.

I could show the pics, troll and cackle, but that is simply not the point. And the image for those involved is deeply holy, pungently cultural, embodying history – and for others, like me, who can only guess at hundreds of years of expressed devotion this March is just a bit terrifying. And that is perfect.

Because today is a day of us humans.

For we ignorant tourists, the entire God thing is a lot like that the Sorrento “Processione”: inaccessible, full of horrific potentials, anachronistic, just plain weird. I think it is weird because humans, we, are weird.

I think we are, I am, weird, because we have an extreme need to express, define, enforce and confirm our full lack of weirdness. We need to know, prove, that we have Truth, and need to make that truth everyone’s truth, because it is The truth. So we make 440 page reports on presidents with endless hours of decrying or exalting perfection. We see ratings, grades, salaries, college acceptance, resumes as evidence that we are not weird.

But we are also weird because we are without a huge, essential, lack of understanding: we are finally clueless about death, gravity, dark matter, chromosomes, and, well, God. So we build Canon so high and deep that cathedrals get so huge, and central and focal that in even a fully God-Denying culture, when a fire wrecks one, the western world fully convulses.

But we do not know why we are convulsing. We do not really get what is going on around or in us, so we build things, March with robes on, get into USC.

But we do know some things. I crack when I think of anyone dying. But we know, sort of, that everyone dies. We even know, when we can, that we die, too.

So a guy dies 2,000 years ago. Some try to say that is just as impossible to know as anything else that happened 2,000 years ago. It’s easier to deny death with massive cathedrals of constructed truths of the here and now. But, no, cut the crap, a guy a lot of people saw, and then told a lot more people about, and a plain old chronicler or two, with no axe to grind, mentioned it in the “real time” that we have of antiquity.

Get over yourself: it happened.

The guy who died was one of thousands that got the crap beaten out of him every year in a backwater Hell hole and had a public death March and celebration of his complete powerlessness made a full on show. No jive here. No spin. No hope. No canon, No cathedral.

Just death. And we remember it because we cannot shake how shook some, but quite a few, were at the time. Some mock it to deal with it; a hilarious “Colorforms Jesus” joke toy had a press on “TGIF” plaque to set upon the top of the Colorforms Cross in lieu of the one attributed as saying “King of the Jews”. Pretty sure the Romans would have done that too, if they could.

Who knows if all the particulars of who, where, how, are fully validating. The reality of death does not need validation. Neither does gravity, dark matter or chromosomes. They are. We just do not understand them.

What we want to understand we swaddle in 440 page reports times a zillion in Canon, vitae’s, endless validations and justifications.

I know so little that I have never gotten the “Good” in Good Friday. Stop: I know – “the-ressurection-could-not-have-happened-without-His-death” – I know, I know, but c’mon. Another guy, like all the other guys, like me, you, your mom, your kid, gets completely wrecked to death. Not good. But we remember it.

Its human.

Its Human Friday.

Why we remember it, why some us know there is something more, is because in a few days, no matter how many cathedrals burn, something happened. We cannot design, deduce, manipulate the little we can verify into proof. There is no video. There is no 440 page report.

I know something happened on Sunday. Not next Sunday, but that Sunday. Jesus died for no good reason other than it was Good. It was Easter.


Rebuilding A Tabernacle: Notre Dame

April 16, 2019


38 of 40

“Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” Those tabernacles were the best way that St. Peter could fully express his love of Jesus, but were just another human stab at loving God, and went unbuilt.

Now, in the place of Peter’s crucification, I hear the word that another tabernacle to God has been gutted by fire. Notre Dame In Paris is found to be as fragile as any of us, it’s makers

Right now, today, we tour St. Peter’s in Rome, with a PhD in antiquities and a devout Catholic. She was devastated by the loss last night of Notre Dame in Paris. Her endless knowledge of both religion and history was fully expressed in the sharing of the endless intricate realities of man’s conquest of materials and theology at St. Peter’s Basilica. .

My friend lamented Note Dame’s incineration “The windows are gone, the roof is gone, only a few firefighters were there in 10 minutes and it took an hour to get the rest there. An hour.” She was bereft. But humans made Notre Dame, were keeping it alive and functional, and were traveling there in droves for hundreds of years to revel in its dominance over the earth’s randomness. Whether everyone who goes to see Notre Dame or St. Peter’s now knows it or not, it’s creation and appreciation celebrates our gifts to God.

In those uncounted number of efforts perhaps one of those was repairing the roof, which meant that molten lead was left somewhere, too hot for too long. What was used to keep the rainwater out of Notre Dame Cathedral may have set its ancient, dry, roof timber’s ablaze.

Thousands upon thousands of humans built Notre Dame and chose not to have fire protection woven into it. One of those humans may have ended its viability. Until we fix it. And we will. Because we can.

But we cannot architect faith in our Savior. Not even an architect. Not even in Holy Week. My faith in God is in a different place than any fully designed, engineered, and crafted construction that I might build. Every building simply fails over time, just like every human. The love of God that becomes present in the work I do is without beginning or end – it just is.

We want to build our devotion and then we love what we have built: but faith is not a building. St. Peter was vetoed when he tried to build those tabernacles, but he helped build a place for Grace to the world that fully lives after he is long dead. What 2,000 years has built will still be there tomorrow after every devastation because we did not make it: God did.

We all want to be the architects of our lives, and rely on what we create to manifest what we will be. We try, very hard, to build timeless realities. But knowing how to do things often has precious little to do with what we control in our lives.

I am a state designated “Historic Architect” the 25 year Property Chair of an 1816 church, and work on any number of religious buildings every year, for the last 40 years.

At any number of endless meetings at these places of worship I say that every care must be taken in every aspect of building to the glory of God, and people nod their head. But when I say that if these buildings are gone tomorrow, that they are just things, and that God is what lives, not our constructions, it is disturbing to just about everyone in the room. We want to build tabernacles, just like Peter.

Faith in things has a shelf life. Faith in Jesus is fully detached from our dedications: that love is there, whether we think we earned it, made it, deserve it, or not.

What I, or you, build is just here and now until it is gone. Until we are gone.

Jesus built a huge life in 33 years 2000 years ago. It was ended. But it began again, neither due to him being a great carpenter, nor a cool guy, or anything but the Grace of his Father. Like every thing we build.

In the ashes of our lives, that always end, the knowledge of the reality of faith, and the creation of who we are, it is hard to trust. We trust that the flying buttresses of career, love, and worth will make all this construction here, now, worth it. But none of it earns any love, no matter how joyous our expression is.

All buildings end. All people end. The unending truth of God in our lives is nothing we can construct. It is already there.

Now let’s rebuild Notre Dame.



Sent by iPhone from Rome


April 14, 2019


37 of 40

In a far-away place I am shown ancient and old and new. They combine in a set of columns. Capitals from Rome, thousands of years ago, shafts from Sorrento, hundreds of years ago, and renovation after an earthquake dozens of years ago.

I show the picture on the Internet. Then comes the comment, unexplained: “spolie”. I ask the sender, from Colorado, who I do not think I have met, and he notes that the Latin word relates the “spoils of war”, remnants that are now in the hands of the victorious.

But the triumph, here, is not over an enemy – but maybe it is.

The triumph is over time. “One and Done” is a convenient hand wipe of the incurious. On this distant shore, the reality of a fluted capitol over a smooth shaft appropriates history to serve the present. In a place where Roman remnants are used as bumpers on the outside corners of buildings built a thousand years later – reused against carriage damage –  is delightfully dismissive of the sacredness of the past.

Familiarity breeds contempt, and the dead were familiar then. The long dead were just a lost group who once ruled a place, so, when gone, spolie.

Talk of discovered, then reburied, villas, walls of defense repurposed to support one side of homes, the zombie-ized roots of indigenous sour lemon trees to support new branches grafted onto to them to make sweet fruit from a different species all hold the past as just a platform for the present.

Little veneration (as New England has) for just a few generations past.

And, in a talk here, I think of the talk I had with an ancient doctor at a meeting 20 years ago.

”It must be great to think that, given time, things like cancer will be cured, done. You save lives.” I gushed.

”Well” he said, “in truth doctors only get what they can out of the way, end the things we can, and let the body cure itself. We really do not know how that happens. We are clueless about the way we ultimately repair ourselves. So we help, but if damaged cells do not cure themselves, death happens.”

We can do things, but if the body of history was not under our feet, then it could not happen.

I think I can understand things, but I cannot understand what I do not know. Just like the doctor. So we trust. We have faith.

I believe in God.

Unlike many I know, I cannot begin to think I know anything about the knowledge other humans have made and my experience. So all the rituals, canon, human effort of religion is simply just a nice attempt to register to what we do not know. Like medicine, it often works, sometimes fails, but was once leeches and cocaine.

So it is Palm Sunday, the recounting of a week that led to death, 2,000 years ago. Some say it did not happen. Others say that the resurrection did not happen. History only offers spolie, the stuff we have after the events happen.

We cannot be then, only now. And we cannot be the future, let alone know it.

Here, in this distant land, history is so redolent around us that most here do not smell it. I do not know how the grain was grown that makes the perfect bread I eat, either.

We use the past because we do not have any other choice. I have faith because I do not have any other choice. When I was in the hospital two years ago I had no fear or confusion, despite not knowing anything about what was wrong within me, and certainly no understanding of a future, because, I think, it did not matter.

The coming death of Christ mattered to him, some, but then it meant nothing except the realization of the meaning of history. And the future. Not of understanding, but of faith.






April 10, 2019

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Broken expectations reveal what was expected.

Last night, when I walked out of Penn Staion I knew where I was – 8th Avenue and 33rd Street – but I looked for the Empire State Building to get my bearings. And it was gone. I looked up and down 8th Avenue and saw no One World Trade Tower, either way. No bearings.

I chose what I thought to be the right way, east, but there were no shadows, let alone a setting sun to walk away from. I walked down a couple of long blocks, and there it was. The Empire State with no visible crown of glory, no King Kong Beacon, its spire.


Actually very low clouds.

I laughed, but I was forced to trust a muscle memory of Manhattan’s grid. When my balance simply vanished 2 years ago for a few days, I had to trust my eyes and my upper body strength to hold me up to move anywhere. I had no gravity other than the weight of things.

The fundamental things do not change, but your perception does.

In about 12 hours I go to a far away place to teach for a few days. I do not have to have bearings, I am focused on those there, wherever there is. But after those few days I have a few days to see things. Not my usual practice, but I relented to those there who begged and my wife who likes to be part of a greater world.

I will have no bearings there, either.

I have had zero time beyond getting things done to think beyond getting things done.

The normal state of affairs.

We always have bearings where we want to have them. I know where I am with each small task, and where the next is. Until something happens. And things always happen. Bearings widen, or focus, or are completely missing. Things change.

But if I can get silence, or it is imposed upon me (as when I had no balance) I hear what was there, unnoticed. I am old enough that people that were with me from my birth are dead. I remain, they are gone. I now know, really know, that I will be gone, too.

I do not think our pets know that. My car does not. But the silence also reveals a bearing unknowable in coping. I am never alone. And have never been alone. Even with parents and siblings lost and away in full dysfunction from the time I knew I was me and not us: maybe 5 years old.

Sure, a rationalization via the delusions of youth is way easy, and would be empowering, Clearly my bearings were, and are, a reactive coping mechanism formed by an infantile abandonment. A coping mechanism. That’s it.  Like bad habits. Or bad friends. Or bad acts.

But I did none of these. My siblings did, in spades. Hell, my parents did. I just coped with chaos by avoiding it. I found no solace in being completely alone amid the din, I was lost. But I was not alone. I had the bearings of a tiny boat in a raging sea. But I did not sink.

I saw no Harvey, heard no voices, prayed no prayers save “sorry” and “thanks”, but I was not alone. In my youth there would often be silence for the 18 hours I was awake on weekends and school breaks. But the last 45 years there has seen no end to talking. I am fully engaged, with social bearings replete with action and effort.

But I will be silent again.

A woman I barely knew, but knew for 20 years, died yesterday. She simply did not wake up it seems. She was always happy to see me, and I tried to make her happier, riffing the funny line as well as I could. But her presence is now only felt in her absence, by her absense.

These 36 days of unbroken silent writing, in this Lent, largely in the dark, will now pause these coming 8 days of high performance. I will return for the Trideum, and a coda. I know this because I know Easter is there, even though like the Empire Stare Building’s Tower I cannot fathom it.

In absence and in distraction, the reality of God is so fundamental, personal and incoherent that it is daunting, even just a bit annoying. No activity, distraction, tragedy or triumph hides or reveals what is always there. There is no low hanging clouds to hide the reality of the presence of Grace.

Its there, whether I want it or not…


April 9, 2019

35 of 40

You have to care to get angry.

Whether by fear or hope, emotion is the engine of our triggers.

Writing as anger is still shocking to me. Last night, I was witness as two men went at it on the Internet, with a ferocity that was a bloodless, distant, fistfight. It could have been live, or ten years ago, but the relentless back and forth was personal and universal. It was vindictive, intellectual, mocking and demeaning.

It was human.

We care too much. When the same project I helped design evinces loathing and loving I need to override emotion and stop the counterpunch before it is thrown at my detractor, and resist hugging my positive regard.

They are humans talking to a human. Not truth, nor am I.

The rollercoaster of having children is perhaps the best example of our frailty. Any sign of projected genius in your child lauds you. Any flaw or slight in that same human betrays all your hope.

Fewer people than ever in America are deciding to have children. There is no reason, for any human, to logically determine that the half million or more dollars you spend on each child you bring into the world (and any amount more, if you have any amount more) is a good thing for you to to.

Children used to farm when the parents could not. Their enforced fealty validated their parents’ values. But the essential truth for more and more parents is that you protect, teach and nurture, but, now, the rest is the child’s life, career, gender, love, faith is out of the parent’s hands. But you still want to project and protect.

But parenthood has no substitutionary condition for its fear and joy. There is no entity or person who is our cultural parent.

The president used to put us to bed in Fireside Chats. Now no one is more roundly mocked or instantly second gusssed or unflinchingly supported. What was once a comfort is now a trigger.

I think that the present mindlessly defensive reactions are now how we respond to more and more things, while fewer and fewer of us are actually becoming parents. Perhaps sophistry, but lives that birth children now live longer without them in their daily lives. Life is no longer near ending when your children become adults.

So more and more of us are now living for us, not them.

The Instagram pic I show above is supposed to be “art”. A Baldwin door knob lets us turn the latch and enter places we desire to go. When it’s sphere of brass is replaced with a sphere of cactus, well, a choice must be made.

There will be pain involved. Do I want to forgo it to go into the next room? Or outside? Or inside? Or have children? Or be president?

We are provoked to protect or project every day. The provocations are becoming ever more visual, instant and simplistic, as untold trillions of triggers parade before us on the Internet.

Our existing wiring is being adjusted to new stimuli, My guess, here in the dark, cranking on my bike in silence, is that we think less. I crank on the bike and go nowhere. I do this because it is what makes a 63 year old body function better, maybe longer. But it forces focus. I think, in the last 5 years Lent has forced focus on me as the once overarching dominant focus of our children has left our home.

The circumstance of each life determines the context of provocation and reaction. In theory the threat of vulnerability makes fear existential as a child, that morphs to meaning as an adult, that, I guess, morphs back to focus on our very existence when time makes ending it nearer.

“The threats are unending!” Is the joke piped up in response to “See you later!” Yes, they are.

Humor is the opposite of anger. And humor as anger, so prevalent now, wrecks even the possibility of joy.

Silence is better than anger or fear. The promised pain of the cactus doorknob is, as is all the exploding memes and trolling, only supported in the din of fear. Lent, and it’s end, Jesus’ end, is Easter.

Not a symbol or a metaphor like the doorknob cactus, but the truth of a time that humans struggle to understand.

Or at least I do.