Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Long day on the river
That old border of GA and SC that Ron Rash writes about—a time when a little girl got drowned way on down
But not today
Happy endings and everyone safe, eddy hopping and ferrying, some surfing in open boats and kayaks
Many rapids
Many flats
leaving us boaters with tired triceps and worn out abs and sun-burnt forearms and scalded necks even on already weathered and chiseled bodies.
We played in the surf.  We joked with ‘twerry about it,” which thanks to Nathan I still share with friends today like Angel and TT.  If ever some friends needed to ‘twerry about it’, but another story for another day.

Dinner was a welcome treat of burritos and guac, sour cream and salsa
Not enough food to suffice, but I don’t think there could have been enough on counselor budgets, hungry stomachs,
And Roark guidance.  He taught me frugality—a lesson I rarely follow, but still good to know.

Long after dinner
We parted the old-like house
We headed down the stone steps, hundreds of them
Down, down, down
And there before us was our craft, a ski boat from the 70s
Wood paneled and mildewed
It was perfect.
We set out on the calm mountain lake in North Georgia
A setting so different from the jostling water of the Chattooga where we had played in the afternoon.
Now it was nearing midnight and
Hilltops, mountaintops surrounded us in an amphitheater where we were the stars and the moon up above lit up the lake bright
River and Anne, the latter later known as Enna Deer, broke into a harmonized duet that would have made Bonnie and John proud.

There’s flies in the kitchen
I can hear ‘em their buzzin’
But I ain’t done nothin’ since I woke up today

River, with her beautiful long hair and her New England hard edges being softened by a summer in Appalachia. 
She was soft in voice and demeanor like a down jacket
and as content to call North Georgia home as anyone who had lived in the Clayton vicinity for a half century or more. 
This paddler, ironically and beautifully, named after the streams and tributaries and fjords where she took comfort and solace and made a summer paycheck,
belted out the melody and Anne followed behind, the true master picking up the slack and making the song really come to life. 
I could see in the face of the professional that they were not perfect, but she let it go. 
It wasn’t a night for perfection. 
It was a night for improvisation and relaxation.  Friends of friends all becoming fast compadres by the miraculous beauty of the surroundings and the trust that these acquaintances were trusted by others near by.  Those who found themselves in such a place on a June evening, they had to be friends, long time friends, even if some of them met in the back of a shuttle pick-up truck eight hours before.

A note lower than the melody, Enna Deer came in clear and gritty

Make me an Angel
Flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
That I can hold onto
To believe in this livin’
Is just a hard way to go

The two sounded like angels.  I believed the song and that its' lyrical dreams, Make Me An Angel, were coming true because the long blond curls of River and the sharp features of Anne which I had for so long thought beautiful yet intimidating, they were softening and I was seeing her in her element, making magic with her voice.  I barely knew River.  Never saw her again.  She was Nathan's college friend and I have always loved her—inner beauty, outer beauty, whatever.  What’s the difference?  She was beautiful and I loved her.

I had never heard these words before
Like so much the Nest introduced me to
Classics that I thought came straight out of the Eagle’s Nest

This is a memory decades old, but was it yesterday?  Could be.  Thanks to John and Bonnie on the iPod I can get at all the vision and the dreams, the images and the symbols.  The song alone has many stories to tell.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


4/17/18 Last day of Pellegrino’s 5.0.

Start the morning at Mad Hatter’s.
I look out on the morning and the morning looks back on me. Some say it’s cold, but it’s not, not really.
Today I look for change. In the flowers, in me, in others, in you, God.
If all are steady, and there is sameness, that is okay. The world needs steadiness, seeks it, is comforted by it. But change is what I am looking for. Silently.

They move by in awkward flurries
The trees are not gangly
The cars have a predictable smoothness
But rare is the runner who gives much thought to how they move across the ground. Most are awkward. But they are are out there and I am not.

I give thanks.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Coaching Together...Coaching Individually

Sometimes when a couple is working on a relationship together, an individual coaching session can help one or both individuals make progress. It takes more time, investment, and patience. It may be scary to work without the other, but it often produces clarifying results.

I remember one relationship I heard about many years ago. It was not a marriage per se, but it was a very important and loving relationship between two people. They were both committed to making it work. They sometimes yelled. Sometimes even hit. They really felt strongly about the other person in the relationship and most of the strong feelings were love.

One participant kept talking to the counselor about the problems of the other person. How much he wished the other person would change his behavior. The client in the session said, "Should we go ahead and get him in here? How do we change his behavior?"

The counselor said, "I just want to talk to you for a while. I think everything we need to make things a little better starts with a change in you."

This was difficult and unexpected news for the client, but he really wanted the relationship to improve, and it did. Some of what worked were practicing meditation, getting alone during times of stress, and very clear and calm statements of expectation for the other person in the relationship.

While this example of coaching did not begin with the couple in a session together, it was about the couple, and as it turns out, the couple never saw the coach together. Sometimes the best person to change is yourself.

Work that starts with me will fix a lot of life's so called problems.

More coaching advice on Facebook from Be Married and at

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Travelers, a brief announcement

Over the loudspeaker at the airport you might hear, Your attention please, Flight 312 arriving from Amsterdam will no longer be arriving at Gate 30, but will now be arriving at Gate 33. I repeat, Flight 312 from Amsterdam will now be arriving at Gate 33.

This type of announcement is expected, common, borderline mundane if you are familiar with airline travel. For a vast number of reasons, gates get changed, we are not typically told why on the ground, but we are basically told, Move! You are in the wrong spot. Your expected guest is arriving somewhere different than where you thought. This sort of announcement at the airport is strictly informational and not meant to startle or surprise or incite a riot or change the world. It simply tells family and friends that there expected travelers will be showing up at a particular time and particular location and it has changed. Go over there and they will meet you at the end of the hallway. Stay here and you are going to miss them.

Sort of like Jesus? You know the whole world was waiting for Jesus. At least the whole world that we study in Scripture. That whole world in scripture is Isreal and they were waiting for the Messiah. Waiting for a gate change. I imagine they were waiting for someone like David, or someone from a past war. Maybe a prophet like Elijah or Elisha. Maybe they were waiting for Moses.

A baby? Not a baby. In Bethlehem? Not in Bethlehem. In a Virgin's Womb? Beyond imaginable. Way beyond a simple gate change.

As the Tobacco Trail Church prepares to celebrate Christmas, we might start with this announcement over the loudspeaker at the airport:

The angel Gabriel has the mic, and says to Mary (I guess she represents the friends and family who wait at the wrong gate), Do not fear, Mary, you shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High... Lk. 1

There were others at Gate 30, moving toward Gate 33. You and I, we are like shepherds, bumbling down a path, traveling from Gate 30 to Gate 33 in hopes that we will see him.

I'm not so sure the world sees Jesus very clearly these days. What he came for. How he came to declare peace among the nations. How he came to disarm rather than to mobilize. He did come to inspire our work and our rest and our families and our calls. He did come so that we might praise him and his father through his spirit. And when I say the world doesn't see him very clearly, that's not some other guy or gal I'm referring to, that's me, a Shepherd in this story. That's you, one of the Maji. That's your cousin, who plays Joseph in the play. That's some person from high school who wronged you, you think she is your enemy, but she's really just one of the angels making a difficult announcement. Telling the world something difficult to chew on. It will be a baby. It will show up in a nowhere nothing place like Bethlehem. The baby grew in Mary's womb. Who's Mary? We say. Right, nobody you've ever heard of.

We think we've figured out who everybody is in any story, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let's be honest, I or you are the good guy. The other guy is Herod. No the other guy is just the innkeeper, trying to take care of his family. He didn't know he was denying the savior of the world a warm bed.

I want to see Jesus more clearly. I want to be more generous with my neighbors. I want to do these things this December thanks to this particular announcement, that He's coming and will be called Son of the Most High. I want to find him along a long and winding road to Bethlehem and at the end of it. I want to see him in a manger along with others stars in the creation drama, the creation musical. Those stars, seen by you and me, the intruding paparazzi, trying to catch a glimpse and a fame-filled photo that we can hold onto and share with others, those stars will be lowing cattle, and sheep, always sheep, maybe a donkey, three camels with kings who come to lie down, bow down, before the King.

I want to start with a walk today and begin to imagine seeing all these things. Accepting the announcement, waiting for the traveler, and then living with the truth. Let's take a walk.

*reflection before an Advent Walk on the American Tobacco Trail, December 3, 2017, the first Sunday in Advent.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Friends Are So Important...

My father has been saying this for as long as I can remember. Yesterday I was flooded with reminders of how important these words are for living a full life. I went for a run and then headed to the Open Eye for a cup'a'joe. Walking in with me was Zu on a conference call, but still chatting with me and Goofus. Goofus, the good doctor of Carrboro, was sharing the paper with me and we waxed on as we often do about how to live life to its fullest. Goofus is a seeker like me, always learning from others' prayer practices and their music and how they are able to achieve a sense of being in such a cluttered and busy world. Goofus asked for a quote for the day on the way out and I hunted through an important book for a quote just for him by Agnes de Mille said/wrote: To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.

Then, there was Tom, waiting for our friend, Kerndog, so they could bounce around some ideas about publishing and public relations. I married Tom and his wife in May thanks to a referral from another friend, Gumbi. Then, in walks Squonk with my new Sport Slippers--a Squonk patent. These are retired shoes that have now been turned into casual slippers by cutting out the back heel. They are the perfect fit and we are now in negotiations with China and many running shoe companies in terms of marketing options for this cool new product.

Friends are so important. They are taking care of you and hopefully they let you take care of them. There is no right way to be friends. We all have different gifts to give and we all need to receive various gifts over the course of our lives. I believe that God surrounds us with just the right sort of people to nurture us into who we are meant to be. That even includes folks we would not consider our friends, but that is another story for another day.

For today, look around, who do you count among your friends? This may tell more about you than your resume or your own account of who you are and what you are about. It's not about the number of friends. This is not about acquaintances and it is not about popularity. You may have lots of close friends and that's great. You are probably an extrovert and can manage all those folk, but whether it is two or 200, your friends tell the story of your life. My mother never needs more than a couple of really close friends, same goes for my wife, but their friends speak of them as if life does not work so well without them.

If we were to look around at the most unhappy folks in the world they feel as if they have no one. No one to look out for them and care for them. If they died, no one would notice for a long time if ever. If you feel this way--do something about it today. Join a small group at church. Attend an AA meeting even if you are not an alcoholic. Find a group run and go every week. Sign up for a book club. Loneliness is a real emotion, but the human heart cannot sustain it for too long. We need other people and guess what...other people need you.

drafted 10/21/09

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Five Poetic Breaths (5/5)


A covenant to forgive
beginning with one's own self
Having mercy on one another
tolerating the frailty and the inconsistency
allowing the other to take a step away first to the side, then possibly
and not rushing the inevitable step forward back toward a semblance of what 
was once held in common or held in difference

Tolerating the shadow in the other
choosing not to resist the dark place how ever much yours resembles my own dark corners of existence

We ventured into friendship with commonality that now has welled up as something we might just fear and attempt to escape
because it is too much an echo and mirror of our own turmoil

We did not simply enter this union based on shared joy.

There are times when your creative funnel flows faster than my own and I have a choice:
jealousy and rift
joy and shared accomplishment

The best of friendship is that
once heard
try being unheard