Death.. A Finch Takes Flight

When I went out front to get the paper and watch the sunrise this morning, I discovered this:

finch 2 finch 1

It’s a golden finch, frozen in lifelessness on the back of a lawn chair. Sometime yesterday afternoon or evening, it landed there, and died. It was not frozen to the back of the chair; it could have, had it chosen or been able to, gone elsewhere. But here, looking toward a live oak tree and a pile of firewood underneath, is where it landed, went to sleep, and died.

Yesterday, an unusual snowy day in this part of North Texas, was a feeding frenzy for finches in the front and back yards. I spread almost 25 lb. of sunflower seeds out during the day and all of it is gone this morning. The finches were joined by several cardinals in their hunger and inability to get at their usual fares of wild grass and thistle seeds, and the occasional mockingbird stopped by, too, though they prefer their meals warm and wiggly.

This is the first time I’ve seen a finch, or any bird, die this way. Had it been warmer, it may have landed, died, but then fallen to the ground in the grasp of gravity. But here, frozen in place, this one remains, eyes still open, stiff and posed in the posture of sleep.

I’m thinking, as I looked closely at it this morning: “What a great way to go!” I have no idea about the consciousness of death which a bird, or any animal, might have. I think we humans make the mistake of assuming that all animals besides ourselves go through their lives in a dull litany of pre-programmed instinctual behaviors that they have no control over, on their way to a death of which they are utterly unaware. Those assumptions, of course, are born in the prevailing human attitude that the universe, from microbes to galaxies, is a mechanistic, unthinking set of interrelated parts, adding up to a whole for the benefit of humans. Our own instinctual behaviors, in that worldview, are “negligible” in light of our “superior” abilities to evaluate, rationalize, and choose.

But I think, without a shred of scientific or spiritual data to back me up, that finches know a lot more about what they’re doing than we may have the calibrated instruments or divine revelations to even begin to understand. They certainly do not process, share, or make as many choices within that finch knowledge as our brains enable us to make. But their brains, like ours, have adequately developed for their needs now, in this particular epoch of relational life on earth. After all, this is the fourth spring in a row where some finches- not all of them!- have chosen to stop for awhile on their way north from Mexico, in this backyard, in this little town, on this little acre among the kabillion others in North Texas. Grandma and Grandpa finch must have had some information which they somehow passed along!?

And while finches may not have the ability to reflect on their own consciousness, they probably don’t spend an ink dot of time reflecting on the finitude of their lives either. Certainly, they do not live their lives in the obsessive dread of death that many of us do. Still, though, this finch chose to stay perched, on this chair, and wait in a way that it had never waited before. Without a single step to the left or right, it landed, sat still, slept, and died.

What did the finch know and when did it know?

What finch memories began to fade as the hours (or minutes) passed?

Is there a place within its flock that today is noticed by its absence?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I will come back to them for days. Join me in that speculation, if you’d like. Take a look once more at the pictures of that finch. In very real ways, I believe, it has taken flight once more.

And is flying around us all, right now.

A Respite from the Muck and Mire of Fundamentalism

I find the whole subject of fundamentalism tortuous. But I also know that one of the best ways to eradicate bacteria and mold is to expose them to the Light. So I will continue doing that, but I needed a break, and Graciel offered me one today with “What Do You Love?”at her blog, Evenstar Art, which everyone should go read frequently. It’s an antidote for many things. She writes:

“Today, I want you to quiet your monkey-mind. The part of your mind that swings wildly from one illusion to another. From one worry to another. From one judgement to another. I want you to practice focusing the part of your mind that leads you into made-up trouble on something positive. Practice focusing for one minute. Yes, just one minute. I want you to think about what you love. Not who you love. That’s another minute. This minute, I want you to think about what you love. Because it takes a bit of concentration and the monkey-mind must come to a rest while thinking positive thoughts.”

So here is my own one minute (or so) list of things I love:

*the golden finches which devour the sunflower seeds I put out for them this time of year

*the two soaring pines in the neighbor’s yard and the two single-note wind chimes that hang from them

*Wednesday nights

*the vultures at the lake, so crazily beautiful in their bigness and boldness

*sitting outside when the coyotes across the highway begin their howling

*the house in Ohio where I grew up. I walk through it frequently in memory

*Salem and Lola (OK, I’m cheating- they are both who’s to me, but since they are dogs I’m passing them off here as what’s)

*pick a beach, any one where salt water is lapping will do

*van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

*Madonna singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” (Yes, I know, odd. Deal with it.)

*thinking about and writing Sunday messages

*listening to stories that have never been told before


*the Moon, as it rises between those same two pine trees

*reading (again) Matthew 5- 7, and 25; John 1, 14, and 15; Genesis; and Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Revelation (the latter three because it’s just so strange for them to be in the Bible)

Yes, that took me more than a minute. You have my (and, I think, Graciel’s) permission to take more than a minute with your own list, too.

Tao Te Ching 6


The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.

Nothing about us, not a single atom on us, in us, or around us, is new. Everything about us was born in the Great Radiance which set light, heat, and all matter into the eternal dance of the universe. It is our lot- yours and mine- to host, for a little while, some of the music in which that always- beginning dance is happening. And each of our songs is unique, but harmonically pitched in perfection with the Source of all music, and with each other’s music.

Hear it? The next note, part of an already building crescendo, is being born in you, even now. It will resound within the chords of an aria that is incomplete without you; an aria that- right now, this instant- is being sung and without which, the universe will be incomplete. Stifle those notes, and the smallest parts of the world will not miss them, even as the Tao does.

It is always our choice to sing, or to dance, or to search for the colors when the monotones of our circumstances seem to overwhelm the Tao’s infinite vibrancy. We can give birth to new creation; the Image of God in us is our womb that propels us toward doing so.


How can one be bored when there are pecans to be gathered, shelled, and eaten? Or when there are dogs and kittens who need a home?

How can anyone turn away from a sunset, a loon on the lake, or the old man who is walking toward you with stories he’s never told?

Or how is it possible to sit still and wait, when you own a set of colored pencils?



New Year Promises (to myself)


To see, as God sees, I must quiet my imagination. I must see only what is there in front of me, and not what is being pushed in from the sides of my vision by others. I must see blue in its own magnificence, and not in the remembered shadows of a swimming pool. I must see you in the image of God and not in the reflection of myself onto you. Therein, are the visions of God.

To hear, as God hears, I must focus on that which normally cannot be heard over the din of human chatter and mechanized noise. I must hear the wind, and the cicadas, and the sounds of grass, in their symphonic harmonies. I must hear the sun on my skin and listen for my pulse. Therein, are the sounds of God.

To touch, as God touches, I must caress rather than grab, cup rather than pull, and learn of what I am touching rather than manipulating it. I must know that which I touch as a part of myself and not as a thing distinct and separate from me. I must be gentle in both love and fear. Therein, are the textures of God

To smell, as God smells, I must breathe deeply and discover the essence of the flower, the food, or the person toward which I lean. I must not evaluate, categorize, or criticize; I must seek the smells which are unique to every being, the eternal signature of their very nature. Therein, are the fragrances of God.

To taste, as God tastes, I must open my senses in anticipation, and not close them tightly in defense of memory. I must seek the ocean’s saltiness, the sky’s freshness, the kiss of winter cold, and the satisfaction of springtime rain. I allow tradition to act as a condiment rather than a definition, and permit even that which is bitter to be revelatory. Therein, is the palate of God.

I must run toward opportunities to experience that which is not-yet-known, with the same speed I move toward the comfort of that which is God-affirming. I must be ready, anticipating, and excited about the new, even as I am strengthened by that which is already known.

Rumi – Why I love him..

A Teacher’s Pay, by Rumi

God has said Be Moderate with eating and drinking,
but never, Be Satisfied when taking in light.

God offers a teacher the treasures of the world,
and the teacher responds, “To be in love with God

and expect to be paid for it!” A servant wants
to be rewarded for what he does. A lover wants

only to be in love’s presence, that ocean
whose depth will never be known.


I love Rumi. It’s that simple. I know, I know: Join the bandwagon. But there’s a reason bandwagons exist, isn’t there?

There are those men and women who are able to reach far beyond the superficialities of gender, nationality, or even time, and expose that which is in themselves in such a way that it is begun to be revealed in ourselves. We are probably not- not yet– as eloquent as they are about what we have discovered in ourselves, through their courage in writing; but isn’t it thrilling to know that what they have uncovered strikes a chord within us- one that we are able to begin to hear?

I love Rumi because he makes my body sing.

He tells me why I can lose myself in the magenta of a swamp mallow, or in the flight of a heron from one side of the lake to the other. I look up at the sky and know almost nothing about what I’m seeing, but I love looking anyway. And I share that ignorance with everyone at some point in the depths of space- we are all a part of a Mystery whose depth cannot be known, yet we are attracted to it, bound together by our attraction to it, and each other, and all that is.

My curiosity is insatiable. Don’t tell me to put a lid on it or tear away at the edges of it! There is Light there somewhere and what I know is that the Light will lead to more Light, and that it someday will absorb me and on that day I will be a part of the symphony and I, and you, and the swamp mallow, and the heron, and you, too, will resound eternally.

Rumi tells me it’s OK to think that way. I believe him.

"Road Hazards Affect Driving Conditions"

That was the top-of-the-page headline in this week’s local paper. Really.

In a small Texas town, it’s sometimes a challenge for editors to fill a paper with enough “news” to be able to pretend that it’s the news, and not the advertising, that is the reason for the paper’s existence. This is not to say, of course, that the local paper doesn’t have its share of “normal” bad and unsettling news, but the weeks between “Major Drug Bust on West Side of Town” and “Local Man’s Death Going to Grand Jury” are way more numerous than they are in, say, Dallas or Fort Worth.

So why do I love reading the local paper each week? It’s precisely because headlines about driving conditions are the norm and not the exception. Local newspapers do not have as their primary purpose the scaring of their readers into a state of fear and submission to advertisers for more information about pharmaceuticals, better security systems, and this weekend’s local Gun Shows. Small town newspapers, quaint and funny as they sometimes are, reflect lifelong local attitudes that have been shaped by less noise, less hurry, and- around here anyway- this:

moon crop 

This is the moon. I can see it almost every night, along with stars, planets, and the occasional meteorite. If it’s not cloudy, I can watch the sun rise and set by looking east or west from my backyard. If it is cloudy, I can join the rest of the town in hoping that it rains, or snows. Snow here is not only rare and pretty, but, like the rain, life-giving. It’s not an inconvenience on the 40 minute morning commute through traffic fumes and toll booths. It’s moisture for the fields, ponds for both the cattle and coyote, and the promise of springtime wildflower extravaganzas.

The rhythms of rural areas and small towns are determined by the land upon which they sit and the skies under which they are nestled. Going to bed with the glow of the moon coming through the bedroom windows is- for me- a far superior way to go to sleep, than with the light from street lamps, Taco Bells, and passing police and fire trucks ever was. (24 years in Dallas; almost 5 years here)

And while I have no way of measuring it quantitatively, I wonder often how it is to experience such an earth and sky centered existence for a lifetime? I wonder about that because, having lived in both urban and rural settings, I observe a richer awareness by people here in the countryside of where their humanity is rooted. The explosion of wildflowers every spring may, for some people here, become passe. Nonetheless, they are seeing them; the colors are filling their minds whether they are aware of it happening, or not. The Big Sky they have looked up at everyday since they were bouncing in backyard strollers,  is an ever-present reminder that humans are not at the top of any apex concocted in a corporate boardroom or automobile showroom.

I wonder about those things, because not only do I observe them, I feel them. I can hear ducks out at the lake, coyotes in the early evening, and the rustling of mesquite and mimosa trees almost anytime. I can see people I know driving by the house. I never hear obscenities like “Hump Day” and “TGIF” from people bound to share their misery at work that day with me. I feel the calm of the moon on the horizon and I feel a serenity in the calloused hands of ranchers as well as in the sounds of the Friday marching band on the football fields a few blocks away. I’m reminded of truths which really matter- like, ‘road hazards affect driving conditions.‘ And I’m not so prone to be addled by the subtle but relentlessly fearsome noise of emergency vehicles and morning drive time.

I have a clearer, more ready, less encumbered, and desirous view of this:


Tao Te Ching 5


The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the center.

When we fall into the clutches of judgement, we fall away from the embrace the Tao. As we seek the image of ourselves in others, we turn our backs on the Image of God in everyone.

It is there: in the confusion of Love, the misperceptions of Beauty, and the ignorance of Truth, the Source of perfect Love, universal Beauty, and unfolding Truth, is still to be recognized. We can perceive it. We can, even if it is only a hunch, be assured of its Presence. We can begin to be embraced again,  and we can be healed of ourselves.

Our tethers to the heart of God are those who live in wonder, whose questions outnumber the answers they’ve found, and whose lives are lived in perceptible and widening circles of inclusion. In those persons, and in each blade of grass and every towering oak, we can touch the Tao.