Archive | July, 2018

Miller Avenue

26 Jul

It isn’t there anymore.  It used to be.  I know.  I became a person there.

And even though the red plank front porch and the pink bathroom with a claw foot tub and my tree house overlooking the garden and the old one-car garage that leaned slightly to the east…even though they were swept from the earth, banished in order to “upgrade” the neighborhood, the white frame house and everything about it is still an anchor in my life.

Every child should grow up in a small white house on Miller Avenue and listen to Spike Jones on a crank handle Victrola.  The rooms were small, especially the kitchen with green linoleum that buckled near the screened back door.  Perhaps like other homes, the dining room was a crossroads for anyone moving from one room to another.  A large black, lacquered dining table claimed the center of the room and, over time, became the social center for family gatherings.  Children got a fold up card table for Sunday meals.
Not bad for us.  We could avoid the boring adult conversations about the best place to buy 20 cent gasoline, the punctuality of the milk man in his horse drawn milk wagon, and the latest rumors about Jimmy the butcher.  Not a gang lord, Jimmy really was a butcher.  He had a big square chopping table.  And a huge cleaver.  And a used-to-be white apron that was the clincher.  He was a butcher.

I think it was a local law that only fried chicken, potato salad, green beans and jello were allowed in decent homes on the first day of the week.  We must have qualified.  Sundays were very predictable.  Church in the morning, chicken at noon, naps when the last drumstick was cleaned.  Everybody napped.  It was a kind of “loosen your belt” time for kids, aunts and uncles, anyone who could find space on a bed or couch.  I think potato salad must do that.  By 4 o’clock most of the potato salad induced grogginess had worn off and we could circle the dining room table for slices of dark chocolate pie topped with spiky meringue.  The chocolate pie ritual was second only to the fried chicken ritual.

My bedroom was added on the back of the house.  Small but adequate.  Two windows looked out to a tall china berry tree that shaded the faux water well my grandfather built.  We didn’t have a well but you might think we did when you saw the facsimile.  It even had a rope, pulley and a bucket that went nowhere.  In time it quit fooling people, so we stopped being proud of it.

I had a duck and a dog.  The dog bit me in the back and the duck chased me around the backyard.  They were replaced by a series of cats who were quite content to ignore me.  A specific childhood memory returns:  china berries, the little yellow berries that fall from the tree of the same name, berries about the size of a blueberry…china berries really stink when mashed on your cousin’s back.

The roots run deep.  They do.  The memories are more than events reassembled in my mind.  They anchor me to life.

I became a person on Miller Avenue.


Bad Dream

24 Jul


Relief came in the very early morning hours.
3:48 a.m.
The twisted green sheet was in agony from
a vice-lock grip.  It seemed the air had
stopped circulating and a strange chill
filled the dark room when his eye lids snapped
open and he stared, wide eyed, into the

A foul fragrance drifted on the oscillating
fan breeze.  When he lifted his damp
head from the sweaty pillow, released
the captive bed sheet and took a long, deep
breath, he whispered to the universe,
“Thank God that dream’s over.”

Waking from a bad dream is a great relief.
Waking from a very bad dream is like strolling
into heaven to find that the streets really are
gold paved and there’s a donut shop on every

Get the light on as quickly as possible, make
sure the back door is still locked, dump coffee
into a paper filter, pick up the half read copy
of Murder At Midnight, put it down quickly,
speak to the giggling coffee pot
(words unprintable)

About 2 p.m. he will remember his 3:48
experience, note that normal had now
replaced the nightmare, and wish that
it all worked that way
in politics.



22 Jul

Crowns have never been in style for common folks.
I can’t think of one friend who owns a crown.
Symbols of importance or position, crowns
are reserved for the elite, not the average.

Olympians, monarchs, beauty pageant winners,
cross carriers on the way to Golgotha.  They
know about crowns, and so does an uncommon,
common cactus who lives near my home.  We
got acquainted the other day, and I told her
how striking she is.  Wouldn’t you say?

What causes me to pause, though, is the
odd combination of gentle flowers and sharp
spines.  The metaphor.  I aspire to top off my
often prickly life with a garland of what religion
calls “righteousness” or “right living”, a crown
of peace or compassion or mercy.  And that
crown is assembled one petal at a time.  Day
after day.  Year after year.  A garland of grace.
A crown befitting a prickly old cactus.

Even In The Darkest Night…

21 Jul


Even in the darkest night, beauty lives.
Even if I can’t see it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Darkness is not an enemy, it is a prelude.
If darkness did not exist, I would not know the wonder of light.
May we experience the presence of peace today in both light and darkness.


19 Jul


fullsizeoutput_1337Today will be spectacular.

For reasons that haven’t even occurred to me
yet, but for one that is especially powerful,
today will be Strawberries and Cream at
Wembledon or the Yellow Jersey at the
Tour de France or Cooper’s Bar-b-que in
Llano, Texas.  Because today, when I’m
occupied with this or that, I will turn
around and there it will be.
A Celestial Slideshow.
A Painting In Progress.
And I will think, “Grab the camera!”
but maybe I’ll just sit down and
watch the artist apply shades of
color, depth and dimension as only
the Artist can do.
I make a motion that we change
the designation of the season from
Monsoon to
Is there a second?




Finding Beauty

16 Jul

There are days when sanity and stable mental health join forces and issue
a declaration:  If you want us to hang around, get off the usual path for a time
and explore, wander, get lost on purpose, put your map away, turn off the
GPS.   When you ask yourself “where am I?”, you are there.

The beauty of wandering off the path is that you discover beauty.

Yesterday I picked up my camera, left the desert path I know so well, and wandered into a rugged showroom of nature’s most astounding features.  The path always tells me where I’m going, that’s its job.  Follow me and I’ll get you there, wherever “there” is.  But climbing the pathless hill, walking along the unmarked ridge line was an experience both thrilling and treacherous.

I have found that abandoning the familiar path in search of beauty almost always pays off.  You find it.  Or, it finds you.  The Vermillion Flycatcher proved my theory yesterday.  She dropped out of the sky, sat on the tree limb in several poses, head this way, left profile then right.  And, as if on cue, this beautiful creature lifted off, circled once and vanished into the afternoon sunlight.

But even the momentary glimpse of the brilliant red and the graceful flight of a small bird is enough to confirm my suspicion.  When you look for beauty in the world, you’ll find it.  It is there.  It is always there.

Look Deep

11 Jul



One of life’s little jokes is getting old and losing the visual clarity of youth.  It’s no joke and I’m not laughing.  I wear trifocal glasses in order to keep the world in focus.  The top part of the lens is for distance, the middle section for reading things at an arm’s length away, and the third is to read the newspaper up close.  Or my electronic device on which I’m typing at this moment.

Sometimes I look like one of those dolls with a wobbly head.  I bob and weave until I get the object in focus.  Stepping off the curb was an adventure when I first got them.  Reading the fine print on a loaf of bread is still a show stopper at the grocery store.

But glasses don’t create the stunning landscape or the mountains that glow in the sunset or the wonder of waves crashing against huge boulders on the Oregon coast.  They make it possible for me to see beauty clearly, but my trifocals and I are merely observers, appreciative travelers.  We are grateful to the Light that shines beauty along the path and paints the yellow flowers and wires together minds that can create trifocal lenses.

One more unsolicited observation.  Look deep.  That’s where the real beauty lives.

Sky Canvas

10 Jul

Most of us who live in the desert can’t wait for the rainy season, Monsoon Season we call it. Then, of course, when the heavy rains come, as they did today, we complain because roads are closed, washes barricaded, trees toppled, and the standing water at intersections gets my car all dirty!  Logically we know that rains are absolutely necessary in this extremely dry climate, and we know that when the Monsoon comes it produces beautiful wildflowers, green mountains, and the needed reserve for drier days.

We can’t have those things unless the rain falls.  But there is something else that I think is extraordinary as the result of downpours.  The bright, clear sky of the desert is lovely through the year, but if you want to see SKY it comes with the rains.  Many times during the year we get to witness wonderful sunsets, but nothing like the spectacular sky show that happens when the giant, puffy clouds during the rainy season are electrified by the evening’s setting sun.  It is breathtaking.  My camera and I love this time of year when dark and light come together, painted with a golden paintbrush, and displayed across the heavens for all to enjoy.

I guess the point I’m making is this…if it weren’t for the dark, stormy days, we would never stand on the corner with our mouths open and gasp with delight when the sun explodes on the cloud canvas in the sky.  You are welcome to draw any other moral or spiritual conclusions you like.  I’m just delighted to welcome the storm for all the good reasons…and then look up and be thoroughly amazed when Light meets cloud.