Time Passes Away, But Slowly


“Quartering the topmost branches of one of the tall trees, an invisible bird was striving to make the day seem shorter, exploring with a long-drawn note the solitude that pressed it on every side, but it received at once so unanimous an answer, so powerful a repercussion of silence and of immobility, that one felt it had arrested for all eternity the moment which it had been trying to make pass more quickly.” ― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way


As I wrote in a previous post, the time will soon arrive when the tree out front of the house will have to be removed, but with the pandemic slowing everything down, it has been postponed for the time being, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to photograph both the tree out front and the larger one out in the backyard. Reviewing the images, I was struck by the sense of how much larger they seemed to be these days, and decided to see if I could find some earlier pictures to compare. Much to my surprise, I was able to locate several from the day we moved in back in 1990, almost exactly thirty years ago. It seemed like a natural development to then place them side-by-side and the resulting images showed a degree of growth and expansion that is eye-catching.

Aside from the notable differences in the appearance of the house from the various improvements and replacement windows, the girth and height of the limbs is clearly visible, and several of the limbs from years of storms and wind are clearly missing in the recent images. Periodically, the power company trims the branches near the power lines as a matter of course also, but it’s usually just a few of the higher branches, and now the necessity of having to lop off so many of the larger branches has sealed the fate of our arboreal friend. We’ve accepted this necessity and understand that all lifespans are finite throughout the life cycles of every organism, but all life forms have their own unique value in the ecosystem and should be preserved and protected as far as possible. In this instance, we have acknowledged that there is sufficient cause for clearing the area, and will honor the importance of the tree by storing the wood for future use.



Digging a little deeper through the family archive, I was able to locate several images I took of the tree in the backyard, and again was quite surprised by the huge difference in the width and growth upwards that took place over the last thirty years. The backyard tree was one of the key selling points when we were first considering several of the homes in the area, not only because it would obviously be an asset as far as providing shade in the summer months, but also because it seemed to dominate the landscape in the yard in a way that gave me confidence that it would provide much more as a backdrop for all the future events that would take place in the years to come. We were going to be raising our children in whatever home we chose, and it felt like this tree represented a solid foundation for taking on that important task. Shortly after moving in, in the first Spring, I photographed our gang standing by the old girl.



They are all grown up now, but the backyard tree was a constant presence during every outdoor family event at our home in their young lives, and it has been a constant companion for us all. It’s especially interesting to look at the early image now, side-by-side with the recent one, to see the other changes that took place all around the tree. Even to my attentive eye, the tree never actually seemed to change at all as the years passed, but in fact, as the time slowly passed, enormous changes were taking place inside the tree, hidden from our eyes by the nature of such gradual exponential growth on such a small scale that it was virtually invisible. Every year the branches would come alive in the Spring, dropping the seed packs all over the yard and the deck, and every Summer the lush greenery would sprout predictably turning the view into a jungle of green and shade, and every Autumn, the leaves faithfully burst into vivid colors that could reliably astound.



Even in Winter, the tree became a vital part of the backyard landscape, and provided the same steady, constant, reliable presence, all throughout the blizzards and bitter cold.






There are many changes that take place in a lifetime, some are fleeting and some lasting, which can alter us in ways we did not expect or want, but which, nonetheless, result in forward movement toward the person we WILL be. We cannot always predict the consequences of change, regardless of whether we initiate the change deliberately or it is thrust upon us by circumstance. Ultimately, change will come, one way or another, and the only sensible role we can play in the process, once it takes hold, is in shaping our response to the change. The degree to which it can be said that we might actually be able to participate in directing the course of change when it comes, depends largely on the person we are when it occurs, and our level of experience in dealing with the changes we encountered in the past.

The very nature of life, as demonstrated over hundreds of millions of years of evolution on our planet, is to adapt to changing circumstances. We rarely consider this background of change over many epochs of time as relevant to our cosmically brief existence as sentient beings, but it seems clear that our lives today, even down to the changes that occur within our own sphere of influence over a single, human lifetime, are one of the many consequences of the countless changes that have manifested over the millennia, and by that reckoning, we must then suppose that our adaptive responses to the changes occurring in our own lives, in some way, affect the continuum of which we are all an essential component.

Genes and What Really Matters

“Every human being, and every human mind, has roots that extend indefinitely far back through time…the consciousness of the individual is inextricably tied to the consciousness of the whole…Everything in nature is actually connected or implicated with everything else….(and) Whether we like it or not, consciousness has a persistent habit of intruding into all our discussions about the nature of mathematics, physics, and reality as a whole. We cannot just step outside of ourselves to discover what things would be like–assuming they still existed at all–if we were not here.”

“We have been compelled by modern physics to regard things in a very different light. As we shall see, we have been forced to concede that not only may consciousness have a purpose, but that it may actually be indispensable to the universe in which we live.”

–excerpts from his book, “Equations of Eternity,” by David Darling

As human beings, it is our nature to explore and to question and to seek the answers to the nature of the universe. It is an inclination as natural as any we can name. Carl Sagan, in his celebrated series “Cosmos,” said that he believed, “our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this cosmos in which we float, like a mote of dust floating in the morning sky.” Part of understanding the cosmos is investigating and trying to understand how our genes affect our biological nature, and if we can find ways to decipher and replicate the beneficial aspects of genes, without compounding or magnifying the negative aspects, we will, perhaps, contribute to that understanding.

Whether or not we ultimately find a way to connect the dots genetically to the mechanisms of disease, or replicate the chemical composition of DNA to construct synthetic microbes, or arrive at a comprehensive theory to describe the subjective experience of sentient life, the urgency for all of these endeavors to include as central to our understanding of them, something more profound than science has never been greater.

We recently celebrated the arrival of the newest member of our extended family tree, and it occurred to me that our search for scientific knowledge, particularly as it concerns the very nature of life itself, while of obvious value in gaining “insights” into our biological nature, could use a little of the kind of wisdom we can only obtain as we contemplate the results of the genetic mingling of chromosomes, DNA, and genetic markers.

Holding my granddaughter in my arms, recognizing that this tiny, squirming, and beautiful human being carries within her cells the genetic components of her parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and ancestors for generations, inspires me to feel a connection to her biologically to be sure, but far more immediate is the connection I feel spiritually, as someone who loves her and each of her extended family members. Without that connection, the science of genetics remains unaffected, but the significance of the consequences of that spiritual deficit could be profound. If we did NOT know about the genomic relationships at all, our spiritual connection would also remain unaffected, and there’s no way to know if simply acquiring this knowledge of genetic links would affect the relationship significantly at all.

All around us are challenges that point directly to the need to expand our collective mindset toward the planet Earth, in order to preserve it for future generations. Global Climate Change, a documented and increasingly worrisome source of severe weather as a result of increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere, will affect everyone on the planet, and we must begin to see that we are all in this together. Scientific investigations of the wider cosmos, from the possibility of discovering other sentient life beyond our solar system, all the way down to the elementary particles that govern our very existence, have profound implications for the future of our world, and as living, thinking, feeling, and creative creatures, we need to see ourselves as being an integral part of the equations that govern the physical world, as well as being capable of altering the outcome of our interactions on every level.

Looking into the eyes of your newborn grandchild is an experience I can recommend without hesitation, to anyone who seeks a greater understanding of the cosmos, even when a specific biological connection is not an element in the equation. I have been privileged to gaze into the eyes of each and every one of my grandchildren very soon after their arrival on earth. Each of them is precious in my eyes, and the spiritual connection of which I speak exists in exactly the same way and to the same degree as the one most recently established.

We may not ever achieve anything particularly notable in the eyes of the world no matter how long we live, but I can assure you, that seeing ourselves as “part or parcel” of all of creation, an inevitable consequence of a self-creating universe, and spiritually connected to all life, would go a long way toward enhancing our greater understanding of any part of the cosmos in which we float.

Grandfathers And Grandchildren

Recently, I performed the stage role of an elderly grandfather for a gathering of my extended family over the Christmas holiday, and enjoyed having the opportunity to express through a theatrical scene, the importance of giving serious consideration to our contributions to the well-being of our family, and to acknowledge both the challenges and the rewards that being a grandfather can bring to our lives.

Being a grandparent these days, while retaining many of the basic characteristics we normally associate with this important role, has become expanded and extended beyond what it was years ago. Even just fifty or sixty years ago, the traditional roles of grandparents were fairly straightforward generally, requiring a supportive stance toward the parents, and filled with many pleasurable moments, not only watching the grandchildren grow and learn, but also spending time sharing advice and telling the grandchildren stories about the days when Mom and Dad were growing up. It was much more rare for children to have to live with their grandparents, although extreme circumstances did occur, like the loss of one’s parents, divorce, through some disabling illness or in the case of serious parental neglect or inability to care for a child.

In some ways, our modern day social environment is much more volatile and strenuous than in previous generations, and those conditions and exceptions are much more common these days. That certainly would explain how the role of grandparenting needed to change to meet this new reality. Each generation has its own unique challenges and opportunities which shape the social landscape through the years, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to recreate the conditions of previous generations in order to reduce our 21st century expectations and demands on family life.

What does seem most urgent to me, though, is the recognition, that being a grandfather or grandmother, no matter how one arrives in that role, and no matter what circumstances occur that assign us this very important role, presents us with an enormously important opportunity to not only assist in shaping the lives of the next generation of our family, but also points toward a fundamental connection that each of us has to all life, whether it is a very specific human life that a grandparent shares with their grandchild, or the most far flung life anywhere on Earth.

In a recent article by Jim Sollisch in the New York Times, he recalls how much more concern and stress accompanied the birth of his own children, and he describes his experience of becoming a father as “…a lot like becoming a German shepherd if German shepherds were capable of constantly calculating the risks of SIDS and peanut allergies.” Becoming a father is a lot like becoming something you couldn’t even have imagined being BEFORE having a child, but his exaggeration for emphasis does sort of capture the strangeness of it at first. He goes on to detail the difficult days of early fatherhood with his son’s several bouts with typical illnesses, and his stories about the differences with his second child definitely rang true for me, including one fairly serious injury report that most young parents could match at some point looking back.

He concludes by describing his experience of being a grandfather now, as always being “…the second line of defense, a bench player.” While this is frequently the case, it is much more common these days to be on the front lines of caring for and worrying about our next generation’s progeny. In my case, the role of grandfather took on a whole new level of worrying and concern when circumstances required us to care for several of our grandchildren on a daily basis for the early years of their lives. As a father, I had a fairly rocky beginning in the early years, not in my unabashed love and concern for my two small children, but in my inability to sustain a relationship with their mother.

The arrival of my children in my life was fairly challenging due to the circumstances into which they were born, but when I finally saw them as they entered the world, there was an extraordinary surge of love and positive emotion within me that could have overcome any obstacle, and I took to my role as father to my children without reservation. All other concerns melted away as I held them in my arms for the first time, and I was irrevocably altered in ways I never could have foreseen. Even as the circumstances worsened outside of their existence, there was a deepening of emotion and unconditional love that was unstoppable. Just when I thought that this would be my only experience of fatherhood, destiny and my connection to the heart of life, readied an impossible dream to unfold that would change me in ways that I never could have imagined.

****next time–an impossible dream come true****

Why God Sent Us Mozart

I found myself traveling today along the rural back roads near my home, on my way back from visiting with my children, and I had the rare opportunity to enjoy a pleasant drive through brilliant sunshine and vibrant blue skies, surrounded by farmland and the exquisite greens of a late summer afternoon. My heart has been burdened lately with a host of concerns that have made settling down to write here on my blog a bit problematical, and today it finally seemed like the sun was poking through within me, just enough to gather a few words to share with all of you.

As I traversed the beautiful byways between where I was and where I was going, I decided to insert the soundtrack to the film, “Amadeus,” into the CD player, (yes…some of us still do that…) and the music brought me to a place that nearly always is provocative and contemplative simultaneously–the musical landscape created by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The traffic was light today, so driving down the road alone, taking in such spectacular visual delights as I listened, allowed my mind to wander a bit, and also to connect with the creative human spirit which was Mozart, opening my heart and mind to both the nature and the nurture possible in such circumstances.

The visit with my son included an opportunity to enjoy the play of light and the elements that make up the environment where he lives. Lounging in the old fashioned kitchen was the perfect prelude to the journey through the rural landscape, and before I headed out on the highway, I took a few minutes to capture several images of the magic light which always seems to illuminate the kitchens in our family.

As I turned out of the driveway, I slipped in the Mozart CD and was surprised by the power of the music to fill in the gaps of the silence within me; it seemed to accompany the passing sights perfectly, particularly two choral renditions, one from his opera, “Don Giovanni,” and the Requiem, K626. The performances were nearly hypnotic in their effect, and I thought it a bit synchronous for the music which was created so many years ago, (Mozart lived from 1756 to 1791) to be able to match perfectly this 21st century road trip.

My inner landscape also seemed to match the outer one as the excursion progressed, and I briefly felt completely one with all the elements of my experience, placing those concerns and delights into a temporary state of equilibrium. A recent conversation with a dear friend who encouraged me to continue with my work here, gave me just the push I needed to find a moment to bring it all together and share it with all of you.

The challenges are great for me at present, but I have been journaling and recording ideas for expanding my mission and my vision, even though none of it, so far, has made an appearance here. As I contemplated what I might write about this particular day, it occurred to me that having to endure situations like mine is one of the reasons God sent us Mozart. He was like a brilliant shooting star across the skies of life in the 1700’s, but his music and his genius have endured across the centuries to fill in the gaps of our inner silence, even today…

…more to come…

A Link With The Infinite

“Never in the world were any two opinions alike, any more than any two hairs or grains of sand. Their most universal quality is diversity.” –Montaigne, Essays, 1580


In a letter-writing conversation with a thoughtful friend some years ago, the topic turned to how to engage others more deeply without abandoning our own sense of self or compromising our ability to function as an individual spirit in the world. My friend wrote, “…deep engagement without reluctance, in my opinion does turn the world upside down, and the only way to engage at that deep level, unless you are still in the womb, is to let go of your own consciousness. But there is a conflict because what we seem to hope for is deep engagement not with our primal undifferentiated selves, but with our developed selves; but the developed self by nature is separate, has evolved to live independently of the host, the mother.”

In response, I turned to the writings of C.G.Jung, and his ideas about the process of individuation, which, according to a notation in Wikipedia, “…is the process in which the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious – seen as a developmental psychic process during which innate elements of personality, the components of the immature psyche, and the experiences of the person’s life become integrated over time into a well-functioning whole.” Jung believed that “…the essentially ‘internal’ process of individuation does not go on in some inner space cut off from the world. Rather, it can only be realized within the larger context of life as it is lived.” Our developed selves, brought about by individuation are, in my opinion, perhaps more accurately described as being founded upon our primal undifferentiated selves, rather than as something separate from it, but it seems pretty clear that it is our developed selves which inspire conflict when it does occur. Conflict seems to me to be more of a cultural problem than one of the host being separate from the mother.


In a letter he wrote a few months before his death, Jung stated:

“It is quite possible that we look at the world from the wrong side and that we might find the right answer by changing our point of view and looking at it from the other side, that is, not from the outside, but from inside.”

For me, the connections I recognize as those which I strive to engage without reluctance and without turning the world upside down, transcend the developed self. The crucial point of the matter here seems to be our connection to the infinite. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:

“If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change…In our relationships…the crucial question is whether an element of boundlessness is expressed in the relationship…Only consciousness of our narrow confinement in the self forms the link to the limitlessness of the unconscious…In knowing ourselves to be unique in our personal combination—that is, ultimately limited—we possess also the capacity for becoming conscious of the infinite.”

– excerpt from Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” 1963, New York: Random House.

inner world2

I have struggled to come to terms with the compelling inner sense of a connection to the infinite that has appeared regularly in my writings these many years. I often struggle also with attempting to articulate this inner urging and to describe it in ways that can be appreciated by my readers here. Of necessity as temporal beings, we often resort to temporal references in order to allude to that which cannot be described in temporal terms. The nature of life, temporal existence, the physical universe, and everything relevant to that existence cannot be described completely in terms belonging only to that physical existence. We have devised ways of referring to these other aspects of life and existence, particularly as they relate to our very human nature, and acknowledge them as existing in a domain far removed from the temporal–as far removed from the temporal plane as we are from the quantum world of the very small, and the farthest reaches of the physical universe. Although we are, in some important ways, defined by these two opposing aspects, the truth seems to reside between them.

Sometimes, we all need to step away from the table, to catch up on our sleep, or to clear our hearts and minds from all the clutter that can accumulate. Wellness requires periods of rest; mental health requires periods of sleep and occasional disconnects. No one goes on vacation all the time, just every once in a while. It is unlikely to find peace in even a deep connection unless we are able to find some peace in ourselves. This is the absolute goal in successful relationships, and I feel strongly that I DO have some peace within me now. I may have some additional work to do through contemplation and ruminating on my path that brought me to my present place in the world, and psychologically we should all be continuously working to engage our hearts and minds in the pursuit of progressing as a person, but the foundation I now possess has been hard-won and warrants consideration when I sometimes still feel that twinge of the memory of the pain that led to the peace of where I am now.


Each of us suffers subjectively in ways that cannot meaningfully be compared to the suffering of others. As a person who cannot seem to avoid empathizing with the suffering of others, I have endured my own suffering with a fairly unique perspective as a man. My mother told me that as a young boy, when one of the other children in the neighborhood would fall down or be crying for some reason, I would also cry. As I witnessed the birth of each of my children, I cried buckets of tears, and holding one of my grandchildren now or when I see any newborn child, my heart absolutely melts. Reading about the tragic circumstances that seem to appear regularly in the news these days frequently brings me to tears. I can’t say I know many other men who have this problem. These experiences clearly are of the “very human” variety, and it seems to me that our very human nature is more complex and mysterious than any of the science, psychology, or philosophy of mind currently can illuminate.

The Fulfillment of Life


Michelangelo Buonarroti – The Dream of Human Life

Writing about “Life,” or rendering artistically the everyday scenes of our temporal existence goes on all the time in every culture and it has become commonplace in our time to read about or to see the results of those efforts everywhere we go. Actually “living our lives” and answering the important questions about life are a whole other matter. As artists of every variety know all too well, it’s far easier to look at the world and express your art than it is to undue the tragedy and mayhem that we see in it. As a writer and a reasonably well-traveled fellow, I am far more adept at describing and expressing my thoughts about the world, than I will ever be at unraveling the tangled web we are all weaving as modern humans.

Recently, I was asked by a visitor here if I had come to any conclusions about what purpose there might be to our existence, and by inference, to life itself. Modern Homo sapiens are currently the only known species capable of asking such a question, and since this now familiar variety of human life has only been in existence for about the last 100,000 years or so, the path of life that led to creatures who can think well enough and be sufficiently self-aware to ask such a question obviously existed well before modern human beings showed up.

Since Life is at the top of the list I posted recently, and since all of the research and study I have conducted over the years frequently suggested this question for myself as well, I thought I might introduce the subject with some general thoughts which might serve as both an opening to talking about life and as an initial response to the question.

human body

The Life of the body is problematic, right from the start. In the womb, we are fragile, unable to survive outside of our mother, and so tiny at first that we cannot even be seen except with a powerful microscope. In spite of all the advances in medicine through the centuries, there are still no guarantees that every child conceived will flourish. There are still many different ways in which a new life might not succeed. Our beginning in the womb is tenuous at best. If we are fortunate enough to be constructed of healthy genes and to develop in a healthy womb, even after we emerge into the world and take our first breath, life continues to remain uncertain.

But the Life of the spirit is not bound by any such limitations. Its health is unaffected by any physical malady. When we describe the life of the spirit, we speak of an inner life-the spirit within-sometimes referred to as “the Soul.” The Catholic Monk, Thomas Merton, who wrote one of the most profound books on spiritual life, entitled, “The Seven Story Mountain” called it “the inner experience.” It is in this realm, where we experience the most exquisite joys, and the depths of sorrow, and everything in between.

mom child

There are many different viewpoints regarding which relationship might be considered most important in life, but few familial relationships can claim the centrality and significance of the one between a mother and her children. Sometimes children grow up without their mother for one reason or another, or are born into a family in which the mother is unable to be a proper mother for one reason or another, but I think it’s fair to say that the role of the mother is, by far, the most personal relationship we can have with another person. With its many facets, from carrying us inside of her body before birth, through the care and feeding of us as infants, to teaching us the many lessons we need to learn and grow as young children, and through the many stages of our lives for as long as we have her with us, there are many contributions that only a mother can make. The mother who gives birth enjoys a level of intimacy with that child that cannot be duplicated or reconstructed after they arrive in the world.

No matter what kind relationship we have with those we love, we often don’t realize just how much the spirit of life figures in our experience of the world and our temporary existence as human beings, until we are faced with the end of life. But if we take the time to examine these important considerations while those we love are amongst us, it makes it a bit easier to celebrate their lives when the body can no longer sustain itself. It might seem strange to say that we celebrate someone’s life when they finally reach the end of it. The end of life and celebration seem, on the surface, to be contradictory. And yet, what greater reason to celebrate than the fulfillment of life; the arrival at the goal to which all life has pointed, and the place at last for which the soul has always longed.


But we are so human, and the end of life feels like such a loss, that we can easily forget the other side of the coin, which is the transition into a life of the spirit. We often see the end of temporal life only as a door closing on life, not as an opening to a much greater one. We feel the emptiness within ourselves, making it so much harder to remember, through our tears and grief, that as St. Paul said, “We know that when the earthly tent in which we dwell is destroyed, we have a dwelling provided for us by God, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by hands, but to last forever.” Many of the world’s mythologies and religious traditions suggest some variety of transcendent existence which supports our lives as human beings, and which can mitigate our sense of loss. We cling to life in a completely understandable human way most of our lives, suffering terribly when we see that it is lost too soon, and sometimes we despair even when it dwindles slowly at the latter part of a long and fruitful life.

Each of us abandons our grief and arrives at joy once again in our own time, but it is always there waiting, and we must, at some point, attempt to locate it. Of joy and sorrow, the great poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. When you are sorrowful, look again into your heart, and you shall see, that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”


All the work I had done to come to terms with and to put into words, the core matter of the spiritual nature of human consciousness, had never been so vital to me, as it was when facing the loss of the connection to my dear brother. Contained within my experience of his last days was the perception and recognition of the very essence of the life of the spirit, and tending to his spirit during those days was the fulfillment of the essence of the spiritual awakening that had been percolating in me for years. The character of this connection of two spirits was experienced with a profound recognition of the significance of that connection, so full of life and love, right to the last.

The realities of the temporal world, have not escaped me. I am not running blindly into the sun. I nearly lost my footing many times when enduring the grief which followed the loss, because I did not fully understand and could not have known, the extraordinary circumstances that would lead to the recognition of what it means to exist as both a physical and spiritual being.

Every aspect of the spirit within me is invigorated by the potential of the spiritual connections possible in this life. The revelation of the Jonas material, now thirty years ago, was a prelude to the release of the spirit about to come. After the journey began, I realized that I could no longer trip and slip through the important learning and work necessary to come to terms with the experience. While I remain uncertain about how I will share what I have learned, or even if expressing what I have found in a comprehensive way will be possible, I view the work I have done these many years as my first tentative steps to encourage others to seek the path to the fortress of life, and to pursue the ultimate fulfillment of their own unique purpose.

Maternal Memories


All of my siblings and I, along with many family members and friends, said a final farewell to the grand lady who brought us into the world today. Over the past several months, as her health began to decline, each of us stepped up the frequency of our visits, and dedicated our energies to bringing her as much comfort and joy as we were able to conjure for her. As difficult as this day felt for us all, our reflections and our wonderful memories which came to us during this time, provided a degree of comfort and joy to us in the process.


As a young boy, many of my earliest memories were of days spent together with Mom. We grew up in the 1950’s, and like many American families of that time, Dad was the provider, and Mom stayed at home to raise the children. But to understand our true origins as a family, we have to go back before the courtship and marriage that led to this arrangement. Born into an emotionally reserved family of modest means, experiencing her own early childhood during the Great Depression, and her teen years during World War II, our Mother had a foundation in her formative years that would be difficult for those of us today to fully appreciate. We always listened attentively to Mom’s stories growing up, and the tales of having very few resources in her youth, of rationing during the war, and of the challenges our parents faced just to court each other and marry, and they all painted a picture of a very different world than the one we all know today. Raised with only one brother, it was her joyful and abundant summer visits to the home of her beloved aunt, who had a house full of children, that instilled in her the notion that she wanted a family just like it. Her devotion to her role as our mother, had its seeds in the experience of her youth.


Mom was our champion, our protector, and our teacher, and she performed all these roles with equal skill and enthusiasm. Throughout my childhood, in spite of my tendency not to “look before I leaped,” my Mom never made me feel as though there was anything wrong with me. Her patience and loving tolerance for a whole variety of trials that I managed to present during my adolescence never resulted in anything more than perhaps a sigh, and an urging to try and give my actions a bit more thought the next time. Her gentle prodding and steady diligence to steer me in a better direction always felt like love, and the image above shows a degree of the good effect it had on me.


Throughout my tender youth, my prevailing memories of my Mom were of her as the most beautiful and happy woman of any that I knew. As a youngster, I obviously had no idea that one of the main reasons for this perception was my emotional and psychological position as her beloved son, but even as I grew and matured, I never lost the sense of how beautiful she seemed in comparison to all the other Moms. Whatever youthful innocence was responsible for coming up with this idea, it never seemed to leave me in all my travels.


When I joined the military at age 20, my Mom cried in the kitchen when I told her about my plans, and she began immediately to prepare a meal for me to eat. Since she already knew more about what it meant to be a soldier than I did, she felt the maternal urge to feed me, since my meals would very likely soon become nothing at all like home cooking. We talked for some time about what it would mean to our family dynamic and how the others would react, but she embraced me and smiled and seemed proud of me. I had no idea that my life was about to change drastically, but in her gentle wisdom, she knew that the time had come to start my own path, and she wished me well.


Of all the many wonderful memories that come to mind as I reflect on a lifetime as her son, one of the most enduring is the memory of her “secret technique,” for making gravy. All of us would marvel at the process from a distance, and even though it seems unlikely to us now that there was any exotic “secret” behind the formula she would use, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, or whenever a family dinner required a “gravy boat,” we were kept at a distance during the “secret” phase of the operation, and even during a recent gathering while she was still able, I snapped this photo of her and nearly got a spoon over my head for disturbing the workings of her culinary method.


In her final days, Mom was in her element. In spite of her weakened state, even with so many visitors coming and going during the day, she rose to each occasion, and frequently dazzled us with her ability to engage and respond to the banter being offered with a nimble wit. We spent many of our last hours with her laughing and dodging her admonitions when we would come up against her fiery will. In one particularly emotional moment on our last day together, as we sat close, Mom put her hands on either side of my face and whispered, “I have loved you since the day you were born.” It was classic Mom right up to the end. By the early evening on that day, it was clear that her body would not be able to sustain her spirit much longer, and as she slept in the wee hours of the morning, she crossed gently over the threshold into the next life.

It has been a mixture of wonderful memories and difficult moments these past few months as Mom began to slip away from us, but we recognized how fortunate we have been to have known such love with our Mom, to have enjoyed a lifetime of benefits as her children, and to be able to live the lives we are living now, in large part, as a result of having her as our Mom. The lasting legacy of our Mother lives inside of each one of us. It is composed of mutual love and respect for one another; a sense of purpose in being a parent ourselves; a devotion to those parts of our lives which matter most to us, and a deep abiding love for our own children. Now it’s up to us to pass it along.

You are Truly Here…

The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer (c. 1668)

Astronomy has always fascinated me. Ever since I was a young boy, I was intrigued by the planets and the stars, and wanted to know everything there was to know about what I could only barely see when I looked up at the night sky. Constellations were magical in my young mind. I truly believed that the ancient people who gave each of the mysterious shapes a name, and to which they attached a meaningful story about the various mythological characters and the mystical creatures of those mythologies, knew something about the universe that I could only imagine. I could not fully grasp the ideals contained in the mythological stories, nor could I truly decipher what they were suggesting about life right here on Earth. I couldn’t even truly understand why I felt such a powerful urge to gaze up at the panorama all around me in the night sky. Somehow, opening my heart and mind and spirit to the stars, made me feel alive and real.

As my life progressed, I never lost my fascination with the experience of the firmament of night, and even into my adult years with the additional opportunities to view the starry vault from different locations in the world, my heart would always long to fly up into the darkness for a closer look. Something about outer space drew me inexorably up amidst the innumerable elements within the celestial sphere, until one day it finally dawned on me. The universe all around me was my reference point to know that I am truly here.

We can get lost in a crowd and still feel completely alone. We can disappear into the night, but still see where we are going. We can be absorbed in a book or a movie, and still realize who we are and where we came from before becoming absorbed. We can live our whole lives without ever experiencing a truly transcendent moment, and still feel that we somehow have a connection to something bigger than ourselves. But once we discover and truly experience a deep and abiding love for another human being, once we are awakened to the existence of the unmistakeably potent thrill that accompanies our acknowledgement of that connection to another, and then inexplicably suffer the gut wrenching experience of loss of such a connection, it throws away every doubt we might have about truly being here.

“Love – Loss” by Philip Straub. Medium: Oil on board. About this Image: One of a series of paintings created to explore human relationships.

Recognizing that our lives, and the lives of all those who inhabit the planet, are an essential component of the universe in which they come to pass doesn’t come easy always. With so many human beings populating the Earth in the 21st century, and with so few of us finding each other, caring for each other, or even getting to know each other well, it’s hardly surprising that we sometimes fail to see our essential connection to the lives of the billions of inhabitants who share this life with us, including every other living creature who walks, flies, or crawls along the surface of the planet with us. In order to reach such a recognition, we must carefully examine our relationship with each of those we do encounter, and as far as possible, engage them fully and learn to accept the diversity of strengths and weaknesses that each soul possesses, without relinquishing what is most essential to the connection in ourselves.

My good friend and fellow blogger patricemj recently posted an insightful look at one particularly illuminating example of how this awareness and love for others can bring us to see that we are truly here, and I recommend you stop by to have a look:


Of the many illuminating experiences which can be instructive with regard to knowing that we are truly here, particularly after what might have been the accumulation of many years of almost forgetting that we are here for some good purpose, is the arrival in our lives of a brand new person on this Earth. Here is a brief excerpt from my personal journal about one particularly illuminating moment:

“Writing this morning next to a portable crib with my two month new granddaughter, sleeping peacefully after I shared a sleepy half hour or so of her morning feeding, I can’t help but contemplate the extraordinary quality of our communications since her arrival in my world. Pure delight overcomes me as my eyes land upon her face, and she bursts into a wide smile, her own eyes opening widely as well, and her arms and feet gyrate with excitement in anticipation of being picked up and cuddled. As a man with a reasonably functional adult brain, my responses enjoy a much richer and fuller range, but my granddaughter’s more limited repertoire of responses are nonetheless sufficient for her to receive the desired, although instinctive immediate response from me to satisfy her immediate needs.”

Watching a child awaken to conscious awareness is a nearly miraculous process, and if you are not fully conscious yourself when such an opportunity arises, you will soon find yourself in the thick of it before long. As time progresses, each time I have the opportunity to share time with this bundle of excitement and joy, I am reminded again that I am truly here:

Now three years along in life, this young lady hasn’t lost a single bit of her power to remind me that I am truly here, and while there are many ways to increase our understanding and appreciation for the power of love in our lives, including every possible variation and quality of love between two human beings, there are no limits to what we can accomplish by opening ourselves to our powerfully urgent longings to connect to others.

…..more to come….