Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Grief long past, only memories stir,
enhanced as I sit before a mirror.
My pale blue eyes, a heritage,
along with paler skin. Visions
of dark waves, an immigrant ship,
crossing wide miles carrying
a mother, father and two sons.
Buffeted by waves and fears,
comforted by dreams and hopes,
promises of a new land.
War was over, a chance to start anew.
Searching for familiar faces,
open arms of welcome;
a man’s feet began to dance,
a woman’s cackling laugh erupted.
A joyful warm reunion
on foreign soil that became
an eternal place to slumber,
while a bright blue bird bids
them rest with a lullaby.

(Poem inspired by photograph taken by and used with kind permission
of Christine Valters Paintner - be sure to visit Christine's Poetry Parties at

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OCTOBER 17th - 19th


Sunday, October 12, 2008

"GOLDENGROVE" by Francine Prose

I do a lot of cruising around the various web pages of NPR these days. Their news is good and the reporting solid, but considering the state of the presidential campaign (not to mention the economy), I find I'm spending most of my time on the books and music pages these days. Very few books make it to the top ten list and even fewer are noticed by Oprah. NPR manages to find some buried treasures every once in a while and that's what keeps me coming back.

Just last week, I stumbled across the NPR story about a book titled
“Goldengrove” written by Francine Prose. Briefly, it is the story of a family suffering through the loss of a teenage daughter/sister due to drowning. The author conveys subtle as well as obvious emotions through a masterful use of language. I won’t reveal much more of the story. I recommend going to the NPR site as linked above for more information.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the drowned girl’s younger teenage sister. Now, as a more than middle-aged man, one might question how I’m coping with this point of view. Just fine, thanks for asking. You see, I picked up this book with ulterior motives. Don’t tune out…stick with me here.

Thirty-six years ago, when I was twenty, my adult brother drowned. It would take too much time and too much space to convey all of the information surrounding this time, but suffice it to say, I felt and still feel that I was never allowed the time to grieve that loss. Those of you who have seen a therapist will be familiar with the phrase, “work through a wound.” I have yet to meet a therapist or anyone who has been in therapy that can precisely tell me HOW to “work through a wound.” I have asked if it is enough to simply “touch” that loss. The non-answer I get is: “We all have our own ways of working things out.” I’m guessing this is what they teach therapists to say as an alternative to shrugging their shoulders.

I haven’t been to a therapist in over 4 years. I decided this particular therapist had taken me “as far as he could.” (You see, we, as patients, have developed our own nonsense language!)

But, after having read the review of the book as well as an excerpt, something resonated in me. There was something about the language and phrasing that made me feel at home; it made me feel as if this author had an understanding of what it feels like to be a surviving sibling, a surviving child. Grieve comes with many masks and only experience tells us which masks are required at which time with which people.

I’m only 100 pages into this book right now, but I felt it important to share this discovery with others. The sooner we learn that masks only work for so long, the better we will all be.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


At dusk when earth
releases colors
to the sky,
and trees and homes
fall into shadows,
our eyes rejoice
in bursts of grace and glory.
Softly birds sing compline
hymns to call us
to great silence.
On our knees
we pray for sleep
and easy death
to sooth our weary,
earthly bones.
The heavens release
some scattered drops
of rain from wispy clouds,
a baptism
as we enter night,
returning to our sacred womb.
A pillow prepared
to hold my head,
lies on the ground
to beckon me.
In morning I’ll awake
to see the colors
of Eden’s dawn.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Snuggled up close, to one another,
cover to cover, page to page.
Word to word, cloistered together,
ever ready, wisdom to engage.

Birthed in light and fertile air,
a dream to every willing heart.
A never, but ever, changing vision
to each eager guest impart.

Yellowed pages comfort fingers
longing for a sense of time,
smells of ancient ink arise
lifting words and prayers sublime.

O hear, the sound of one book closing,
as an accent to new thought,
freshly given to the world,
consider what God hath wrought.

(poem inspired by photograph taken by and used with kind permission of Christine Valters Paintner of www.abbeyofthearts.com)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Inside, outside,
upside, down,
memory of growth,

longing for renewal,
stones, flames,

shadow, sun,
wide oak tree arms embrace and shelter.
Hanging chimes, a swinging monk,
torches, candles, acorn shells.
Leaves crunch, weeds prosper,
distant birds call us to prayer.
Dappled sunlight, breathing deeply
Earth’s music settles over me.
Far winds cause leaves to chatter,
speaking names, butterflies leap,
searching for unspent blossoms.
Sagging limbs grip dying leaves,
grand old trunk, moss-covered bark.
Dead leaves caught in summer’s spider webs,
dancing, longing to fall to home.
Filtered light slashes through forest timbers,
rage against cruel winter’s return.

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Monday, October 06, 2008


Gently flowing shallow water
passing by the river banks
where fifteen solid men have gathered
to share their secret souls.

At sunrise, a primal fire rages
awakening our deepest desire
to tell our stories, to make them part
of our private weekend’s legend.

With talking stick, we honor silence,
listening for the spaces where
each man encounters private dreams,
praying for some recognition.

Learning how we share our journeys,
we gather strength to walk alone
knowing now in hidden hearts 
that others share our glory and pain

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Friday, October 03, 2008


This Sunday morning, I’ll sit up close
and listen to the old men sing.
These high-pitched hymns weren’t written
for those sweet baritone and
thick, rich bass voices.
Maybe they could reach those notes
when as boys their voices squealed,
letting go of the tire tree-swing
as they pitched into the river.
But those days you couldn’t get a pair
of Sunday shoes on those calloused feet
that ran all summer barefoot.
Once they realized the pretty girls
got gussied up with lacey gloves and
tiny white purses, the boys struggled
into starched white shirts and fancy ties,
craning their necks to catch a peek
at the new girl in town. But now I’m content
to remember those days as a smile

breaks out on my face each time I hear
“How Great Thou Art” sung by old men
auditioning for Saint Peter.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008


This Sunday morning, I’ll sit outside
and listen to the old women sing.
Falsetto voices mix with raspy croaks
to tell a deeper story. In their voices,
I hear the whoops of young girls
skipping rope, giggling when
a cute boy passes. The soft lilt
of the first words of flirtation
turning to scorn when suitors
turn away. The breathy excitement
as “I will” becomes “I do”
and a voice that quickly sings a gentle lullaby.
The 3am whispers that plead for rest
while another life grows in her belly.
Tears of joy and anger when it all
becomes too much. A hushed prayer
to lift this burden if only for a while
answered by the cries of an infant
child of her own daughter. Sitting in a pew
on Sunday morning, holding this new
life about to be washed in the water, smiling
as together they listen to the old women sing.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Blue moon casts a shadowed glow
over ground that young ones tread,
seeking truths, binding their hearts
to stories yearning to be lived.

Two lovers breath at the edge of the world,
arm in arm, they pledge devotion
sharing one heart eternally.
Bright stars nod their assent.

Each evening they return to sleep,
renewing vows in barren fields.
Consecrated by a holy leaf
shed from the tree of life.

Poem inspired by photograph taken by and used with permission of
Christine Valters Paintner of

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