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March 14, 2023

18 of 40

Water, is taught by thirst.
Land—by the Oceans passed.
Transport—by throe—
Peace—by its battles told—
Love, by Memorial Mold—
Birds, by the Snow.

Emily Dickinson

Weather has been replaced with Climate. Weather happens to you, or me, there, or here. Climate is the world’s.

But weather happens.

Last night our first Selectperson’s latest round of robocalls announcing the weather that will get her re-elected were dire, as usual. They could all be true. But there is no change in us.

The rains came and our swamp is a lake. Revealed in the predawn.

Water was always there, but now seen without tides. Air was always there, revealed by birds. Wind was always there, revealed by wailing in the black.

We are always here, too. Revealed in a baby’s smile, a hug, a death.

What is is not always known – until it cannot be avoided. We could not avoid the rain, it was weather – and for some, the climate that is the weather.

We try to be the trigger. We bring flowers to become love. We make music to hold our heart, I write these – but the world is there whether seen or unseen. How do you discover existence while existing?

But revealing happens. Water was revealed last night. My Selectperson hoped to be revealed. Buildings, words, rituals and music try to reveal God. But they do not. They reveal us to ourselves.

God is just there. The base element of life, the singularity of essential love is virtually as invisible as the air. And as overwhelming. And the truth. But we do not see it.

The bird in the air, the rain in our swamp, the battle that ends does not trigger, they reveal.

Jesus revealed. We take his essential love and word and ritualize it into the robocalls we discount, because we want to trigger, but we are no-so-good at revealing.

Hundreds of rains reveal nothing. If you do not look up, or if the TV is on, no bird or wind is seen or heard. We live in weather, but our climate is there, unseen. Until it is.

Death reveals, because, like climate it is unavoidable. All the Sunday brunches are just the services we have to trigger the reality of our lives. And those triggers stop when we cannot pull them. Then lives become life.

“I am…the life.” Said Jesus, before he, too, died. This was not a trigger, this was the reality of God that we can see, like the bird revealing air. His life after dying is, of course, as debatable as the climate.

But not the weather. There is no debate in weather, like love. Love is pervasive, inexplicable, and the reality of God because we did not, can not, make it. Love, God, is just revealed to us, whether we like it, or not. The revelation happens now, or when now ends.

Love is now, too. But love never ends. Not even when Jesus died.


March 13, 2023

17 of 40

A nearness to Tremendousness —
An Agony procures —
Affliction ranges Boundlessness —
Vicinity to Laws

Contentment’s quiet Suburb
Affliction cannot stay
In Acres — Its Location
Is Illocality —

Emily Dickinson

Some people watch the Oscars in search of “Tremendousness.” The staged importance centered on staged importance that stages life in the middle of life has irony. Like the Pritzker Prize in architecture or awards for literature, small groups confer value on the efforts of others.

Honors in sport have stats to justify them. Prizes in sciences honor huge achievements, defining just how huge a small group think they are.

I have lost hundreds of competitions where a small group determines my relative inadequacy. But I am entering three projects in two weeks in another competition, again, with low hope of anything being deemed better than the other entrants.

But I enter. Emily Dickinson published 10 poems, and she, like all who are published, see editors change what you had intended to share.

Because that is sharing.

What you do is not what others may think it is. The watchers of the Oscars take tiny efforts of a small group and turn them into soundbites of laud and derision. The winners have a “Tremendousness” they, somehow, did not have before they were focused upon.

I judged a competition a few decades ago, and an entrant was special to me. I pled my love to the other jurors and they were OK with it. It was the fifth, and last, time that project could be judged – and the first time that architect won anything. He has gone on to win scores more, probably more than I have.

Did that award make him?

No, no award makes anything, despite the laud. No rejection defines anything except a misfit. We are seen, or we are not seen.

But some watch the Oscars in search of “Tremendousness.”

Emily’s room was where she lived. The words from her were to end with her, they were to be burned. But they were not. Now they are ecstatic in revelation of the thoughts of one human. But not of the author. We do not, can not, know the sacred reality of creation.

We can try to build tabernacles of laud, we who do not do these things. But tabernacles are not valued in their creation but by those who had nothing to do with them, but simply experience them. And what they worship.

Like Emily’s words.

Like the few, fully macerated words that Jesus spoke. Said, remembered, recorded, translated, interpreted, retranslated, reinterpreted, and on. Beauty is just there. Some reveal it, others try to simulate it.

But things we create are just what we make. The things we reveal are from a larger place. “Tremendousness” that we cannot know, but can apprehend.

It is in the rituals like the Oscars, Emily’s words, the Bible, that humans try to capture what God has given us. Impossible, sad really, but it is all we have beyond love.

The Props assist the House

March 11, 2023

16 of 40

The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter –
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life –
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness – then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul –
Emily Dickinson

An infamous architect, George Costanza, screamed “Worlds Collide!” when the compartmentalized constructions of a TV series life crashed into each other to make a good show.

I am an architect. I am an Episcopalian. Six years ago, I wrote in silence during Lent. For four years ago, I started using Emily Dickinson’s words as a prompt in that annual devotion.

Emily wrote 1,799 poems. I have written with about 170 of them. But this morning, stumbling to connect, I tripped over “One of the 10 Best Poems on Architecture”. Yes, one is by Emily Dickinson.

Who knew?

Building is but the extension of humans. No other making remakes itself every time. The beauty of the nest, hive, dam is wrought directly from the genome. Humans do that too, but our genome explodes the design.

Humans try to make things – invent, validate, project, justify, express. Buildings do that for us. Just like food, or dress, humans go beyond need to delight. The reason for delight, for beauty, is the stuff that God has given us.

When you are fully created, making nothing of your self before what you have been given does what the gift was given to do, it is very easy to forget that none of us made ourselves.

We were given everything.

“The Props” go as unseen as the foundation. The House explodes in “plank and nail” and we know that we are the carpenter that “Hath the perfected life”. In our building. In retrospect.

Without the things we are completely ignorant of, let alone responsible for – gravity, material, mind and, yes “Soul”, there is no House. There is just the rest of the world we have been given to see. We may each “support itself” by our scaffolding of education and justification, but our facility was not earned.

We want, I want, desperately, to be the carpenter of my house. But the props, the scaffolding, cannot be wished away. The can be removed, but they are still there. Although architects try, very hard, to forget them.

Even Frank Lloyd Wright, himself the focus of a very small religion worshipping his deity, acknowledged God: found by him in the excruciatingly beautiful Nature he lived to channel. “Nature” is a benign aesthetic perfection, easy to subordinate to. There is a different, harder, perfection, that demands understanding, versus worship.

2,000 years ago something happened. Humans were trying to build their House, and the props and scaffolding were wrecked. But that murder built the House that life could not.

Think about it. I do.

Dog (and cat)

March 10, 2023

15 of 40

A little Dog that wags his tail
And knows no other joy
Of such a little Dog am I
Reminded by a Boy

Who gambols all the living Day
Without an earthly cause
Because he is a little Boy
I honestly suppose – 

The Cat that in the Corner dwells
Her martial Day forgot
The Mouse but a Tradition now
Of her desireless Lot

Another class remind me
Who neither please nor play
But not to make a ‘bit of noise’
Beseech each little Boy –

Emily Dickinson

Why do we love dogs?

They are not us, but of us. Some love cats, but they are not of us, and we want them to be, Perhaps that makes them of us.

But most simply love dogs. Is it because most dogs simply love us?

The fish that tend the whale, nibbling on the ick of its skin do not love the whale, but are fed through him. The dogs are fed by humans, but they love us, too. Cats are fed and they leave the bowl with unneeded food. Do they love us?

Like us, the dogs often eat without knowing if they are hungry – they eat until the bowl is empty. And then they beg for more until distracted. Like us.

Is dependency love? Of a kind. Do cats love us? Of a kind.

Does the grass love the earth? Does the bird love the air? Do we love God?

I would guess yes, without knowing.

But dogs know they love us. And we love them. Is that the chicken or the egg of love? Is it a perfect dance, or a trigger?

I love dogs so much that I do not have one. I could never give the dog the love the dog deserves. Many I know say the same about having children. Some even feel themselves unlovable.

Dogs just love. And love. And love.

There is no reason, no ick to eat from our soul skin. Dogs would love us if we had no food for them. If we do not know if we loved them, They love the evil, the incoherent, the completely compromised. Dogs love.

In Lent, death is the quiet way to love. Understanding how inevitable end is part of an unending love is the Easter end that is a revelation of what is always there. Love. And when our dogs die, many feel a pain that is as shocking as the love we feel for a thing we own. A pet. A love.

We are completely broken by the thing that has made us – love. We should not be surprised, but we are. We should not care that a man deemed criminal was murdered 2,000 years ago by a state in self-preservation – the furthest thing from love.

But I am ever shocked that we kill love. But we do. Our dogs can teach us.


March 9, 2023

14 of 40

“What mystery pervades a well!
That water lives so far –
A neighbor from another world
Residing in a jar”

People want to demystify these words by Emily Dickinson. We are curious about our curiosity. We want to control what we do not, cannot control.

“Whose limit none have ever seen,
But just his lid of glass —
Like looking every time you please
In an abyss’s face!”

A smiling Sphinx was discovered in the last year. A smiling Roman face in Egypt. It was fully buried. And revealed when other submerged civilization was apparent. Why smiling? Why Roman? Oh, it must be a emperor.

“The grass does not appear afraid,
I often wonder he
Can stand so close and look so bold
At what is awe to me.”

We are the ones who care. All the other things around us are blissfully unmoved by mystery. We want to know why more than what. We see what is below the wellhead and do not see the bottom. We want to see the bottom.

“But nature is a stranger yet;
The ones that cite her most
Have never passed her haunted house,
Nor simplified her ghost.”

From a place of full inspection, with gifts of understanding, intellect, facility to execute ways to see, then discover and analyze – all that capacity will out in infinite time – but all the factual elaboration runs up against motive.

“Related somehow they may be,
The sedge stands next the sea —
Where he is floorless
And does no timidity betray”

I may read every Emily Dickinson poem, writing, analysis – many have and dedicated their lives to her. And she is still a Sphinx. Because we cannot know her. We can only see the outcomes of Emily. We cannot but guess at motives

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.”

I know Bible scholars, too. They spend entire lives, in many entire schools, knowing the entire text of one book and thousands of others to see the bottom of the well. God is not us, Jesus was, but Jesus, and we, all of this, has a Father. I really did not know my father, but despite his damage, I love him. Because love was given to us, not by us.

I wish I understood.

To pity those that know her not
Is helped by the regret
That those who know her, know her less
The nearer her they get.”

Emily Dickinson

Ankle Weights

March 8, 2023

13 of 40

It was the summer of 1970, and I was the slowest human amid those trying to be fast. I was also weak among the strong. But more, I was meek in a place of aggression.

But I was alone after years where being with my family was more dangerous. I could see myself, versus fear the room. For reasons unclear I was sent away, and then even less clear, football was a new room.

And I failed. The speed I did not know I lacked was disastrously present on hot August afternoons the year before. The fear was even more debilitating.

So I bought 5lb. ankle weights, black vinyl bags filled with lead shot, with Velcro straps. They sat at the side of my bed for two years, or were in my gym locker, the other waking hours that I was not at an athletic practice they were on my ankles.

“The word” is that ankle weights are not good for you. Perhaps this is true for athletic performance, or even health, but they, and my effort, were all I had. After a summer of running, biking, and being in them I was no longer the worst failure on the field. I was fully failing, but a few were, now, “the worst”.

Knowing nothing, the ankle weights were with me the next two years. They saw me be one of the better triers of passion. The ankle weights died their best death: I was busting it around the angled, elevated, curved bed track above the Downtown Buffalo YMCA basketball court, and pushing into sprint at the end of 20 minutes, one bag on my ankle simply exploded, and a shower of tiny lead shot flew across the track. Which I, laughing, swept up.

They finally failed, but I had not.

I bought those bags of lead, or rather my mother gave me the money to buy them, but it wasn’t the weights, or the protein shakes, or even the screaming coaches that made me not need them. And it certainly was not some justified reward for effort.

No, it was what I had been given. The ankle weights were but the human attempt to define myself. That self was always there, God given, but the bags of lead were all I had. The two years that I wore them were a blind reach.

I just wanted to get better, and all I could do was work.

I had no clue that God was there, but I knew I was not alone, living alone wherever I was. Once fear left as the metronome of a young life, I might see that. Like these mornings pumping on a bike, allowing the rest of me to listen.

A wounded deer leaps highest,
I’ve heard the hunter tell;
‘T is but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is still.

The smitten rock that gushes,
The trampled steel that springs;
A cheek is always redder
Just where the hectic stings!

Mirth is the mail of anguish,
In which it cautions arm,
Lest anybody spy the blood
And “You’re hurt” exclaim!

—Emily Dickinson


March 7, 2023

12 of 40

The Body grows without—
The more convenient way—
That if the Spirit—like to hide
Its Temple stands, alway,

It never did betray
The Soul that asked its shelter
In solemn honesty

Emily Dickinson

Babies are exquisite. Things of expression, discovery, beauty. Why?

We delight in things we know, despite knowing them, perhaps because we know them. The shaft of light, the bit of green coming thru the grey in spring, even the cold of water have all been part of us, but we discover them at any moment, like the baby we see at Starbucks and have a joy that defies, literally, understanding.

Our understanding of ourselves surprises us when it, too, is with us every day.

A 68 year old is freshly defeated in a dream when her 20 year dead mother rejects her. That dream place, every night, is discovered as if new, We are distraught when our cars are missing, we are lost or forget the midterm exam is happening in an hour.

For a couple of decades our bodies grow. Our minds and hearts do too, but the body stops and the mind keeps changing in understanding. We discover the things we have often long discovered. After a few decades, we discover new frailties in our bodies.

If we made ourselves, there would be few discoveries beyond what the world presents. But we find fear and delight as if the familiar is unprecedented. Because we are, in the moment, discovering what we can never know because we did not make it.

I make things as my life’s mission. Each place, piece, person I am with is new, even though my life is in the thousands of them. Because I do not make what I help create. The abilities and skills even insights in creation are through the same body and mind that is discovering all the places already known. Every time.

Because God is in those places, that baby, the dream, even the water that thrill.

And in those thrills we know our severe inadequacies. We are not Jesus, even though He is us. We cannot touch the face of God even though a baby’s is His. We can get the pain or delight in our bodies, but we know, ultimately, the cause is not the damage or ecstasy of our bodies, the cause is the gift of those bodies.

And, as Emily says, our soul.

The Body grows without—
The more convenient way—
That if the Spirit—like to hide
Its Temple stands, alway,

It never did betray
The Soul that asked its shelter
In solemn honesty


March 6, 2023

11 of 40

A toad can die of light! 
Death is the common right 
Of toads and men,– 
Of earl and midge 
The privilege. 
Why swagger then? 
The gnat’s supremacy 
Is large as thine.

Emily Dickinson

I woke after 10 hours.

In wrestling with the cold (everyone has) and cast-in-place legs, I took a day off from my body. And awoke.

To a vista across the swamp – light hitting dormant trees beyond anything else. Photons, or whatever, had travelled, fully unseen, to that moment. A tiny (tiny) bit of light from a mighty source 93 million miles away was shot into a stand of trees, waiting for that light to awaken them. In a month or two.

I had just seen a photo of our sons, 24 years ago, 9 and 11, equally far away and a tiny bit of a larger than measure life. “The gnat’s supremacy” is with me every day.

The wee molecules of virus that terrified us for a few years (some still) and the throat and nose version were the unwelcome house guest these few days. When combined with a month of lactic acid in my thighs, the 10 hour shutdown was necessary.

A toad can die of light! 
Death is the common right 
Of toads and men,– 

But this morning light is life. Undeniable beauty found in the friends, music, images and words I bathed in yesterday – with my throat and thighs – is not the light that shot my eyes 30 minutes ago. Life is what you do, but it is also who you are, unseen through the millions of miles you travel, until you actually do see it.

The pain of my thighs or my throat, or even the crazed search for an image or word in any day of creation is living, for me. But the things I do are not the things I have been given.

Emily’s words are given.

Why swagger then? 
The gnat’s supremacy 
Is large as thine.

Recovering to my inner gnat, gauzey eyes can see the light that no mission can focus upon. God made that gnat, and the sun, and our sons, and Jesus pointed it out. This morning, across the swamp.


March 4, 2023

10 of 40

The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
From Immortality.

The Only Shows I see —
Tomorrow and Today —
Perchance Eternity —

The Only One I meet
Is God — The Only Street —
Existence — This traversed

If Other News there be —
Or Admirable Show —
I’ll tell it You —

Emily Dickinson

“When I am alone, I can feel it.” Says someone in the middle of disease. The endless therapies, pain, exhaustion, examinations – months of wrecking a body to extend it. All those intensities abate from time to time, and in isolation, the disease itself can be felt.

Not a friendly feel, but the undeniable reality that in our isolation, we are not alone.

“The Only News I know
Is Bulletins all Day
From Immortality.

Of a certain age, the mad rush to career, kids, laud or just expression changes. The company of your manifestation loses the rapt focus of the moment.

“The Only Shows I see —
Tomorrow and Today —
Perchance Eternity —”

The nights we share are now numbered. But it is not age, it is the realization of finitude. We do not remember our beginning, have yet to have an end, and now, now, we can sense the sequence rather than the moment.

“The Only One I meet
Is God — The Only Street —
Existence — This traversed”

Emily Dickinson wrote in silence. So do most, I guess – I do. The conversation is not heard when the noise around is loud. “When I am alone, I feel it.” I never see a dead chipmunk, or squirrel – they are immortal in being alive, like we are.

“If Other News there be —
Or Admirable Show —
I’ll tell it You —

Life has not exploded yet here in New England. We are in a hibernating, wet and dim world. So we distract or we connect in the absence of the din of life. My friend also said, “I want to see another spring.”

He will.

And if the incomprehensible mysteries of our composition have a reason, perhaps we all will.


March 3, 2023

9 of 40

His bill an auger is,
His head, a cap and frill.
He laboreth at every tree, —
A worm his utmost goal

Emily Dickinson

Every trudge to work through the early morning is greeted with a squeak.

A woodpecker, whose relatives made about 100 holes on our home, has perforated the eaves of our barn. Emily Dickinson is seldom wrong, but where this bird pecks, there are no worms.

While stopping at the plywood in our the siding of our house house, this pecker chisels thru the oriented-strand board of our barn’s “Structural Insulating Panel” (SIP’s) eaves, upside down. It would seem just for fun. The foam insulation that is the core connector between the plywood skins of roof has no nutritional value. I am guessing it is pretty toxic.

But this little pecker has made a home in the soft insulation.

I awaken our guest every morning and his squeak shoots him out of his hole over our front door, and tiny white particles of insulation gently swirl to the ground.

Of course, this house invader is defiling an award-winning expression of genius. This interloping grandstander is sticking out his or her tongue at me, the architect, through his chisel halves. Outrageous indifference to our family’s long effort at making a place – after their family has turned our home into a holey place sixty feet away.

No, the little pecker, and his grandparents, were just being what God made them. God made me to build barns. He does not protect what I do, even cause what I do, he gives me, and the woodpecker, the ability to do what we, and you, do.

I will cover those eaves in a peck-free surface. Just as I have, and will, slide a piece of copper behind every house-hole next door. I will adapt to the realities of the things I do not control, again.

I know the morning squeak of my resident is the same as the disgust his holes incurs in me. I wake the pecker up. I wreck his warm sleep nestled in cancer causing insulation.

But I made the place he or she lives in.

Just a bit like humans on this earth. The pecker has no idea that this thing of the soft innards is made by anyone. It is just a place for him. He or she can only see today. The reason for the place is not there for the pecker – but the unrelenting need to peck is.

I need to peck too. That is why the barn, our house, our family, these words, are here.

Because God seeded those capacities in me. For no reason that benefits Him (or Her). My pecking is just what I do, too. But I do think about what the pecker does not – not the carcinogenic trappings of a life, by the reason that there is life.

There is no reason in the pecking when no worms are there. But pecking happens. There is no meaning to the endless making of things in my life to God, other than I am using what has been given to me.

Maybe that is all Jesus asked for, 2,000 years ago. Seek. Knock. Peck. Well, that does happen. Thank God.