A Sound, a Thin Silence



The kangaroos and their Joeys run free in the cities of Australia.  The people multiply and the grasslands decrease and the kangaroos and their joeys run free in the cities of Australia.  The dingoes used to chase the kangaroos and their joeys, but the people multiply and the grasslands decrease and the dingo is no more.  The kangaroos and their joeys run free in the cities of Australia.

The government tries to protect the kangaroos and their joeys, but hey, don’t sweat it, cause, you know, big brother does its best, know what I mean?  And that’s not all, government tries to protect the dingo and the people and the grassland, too, catch my drift?  But it’s all cool, man, even if easy answers don’t come.  Like, I’m telling you, it’s weird though, a sound, a thin silence.  It comes, know what I mean?

The drought in Kenya eats away at the lake and the plant life dies.  The drought in Kenya kills its people and the Ethiopians leave their own drought for the Kenyan lake but the drought in Kenya kills the people and the people say this is not our fault, this is not God’s fault, this is the fault of big business; this is the fault of the West.  They have too much; their much has stolen the water of our lake and we die, cry the beleaguered Kenyans, swirling to heaven on cloudless skies, wrapped in dry shrouds, their burials parched and barren, their angst a lingering memorial to their belief that the largess that invades the West has left a dusty residue of want in third world countries.  Hear us, great cities of the West, they moan, don’t let the embers of our passing be merely grist for your mill of big business.

What nags at me is that sound, that thin silence that says there is something that can be done.  I’m just one person, but does being just one person negate what can happen if that one person gets involved?  It’s easier to leave it all up to government to find a cure, come up with a fix and I’ve tried that, but that sound, that thin silence, it’s still there pulling, saying I won’t be satisfied until I do my part.

There’s a boy I know from a small American town who grew into a tough Marine.  He fought the battle of four tours in Afghanistan and now he’s in Boston working as an EMT.  He was one of the first responders at the bombings.  He heard that sound, that thin silence.  Also, I know a Real Estate tycoon who hired workers and built houses and the salaries he paid meant people had hope they could reach their own dreams.  But, that sound, that thin silence penetrated his slumbers, propelling him on to great joy wrapped in the gossamer sound of laughter of the children of the garbage dumps who escape their prison for an sunny afternoon and feel their souls fly like the wings of the baseball tossed to them by the tycoon and they will sleep that night, bellies full, on cushions of love and care because he listened.

Then there’s this attorney, can you dig it?  The guy takes vacations to hammer nails to rebuild houses in New Orleans, can you beat that?  And one year, he delivered water purifiers to Haiti.  Oh yeah, he heard that sound, that thin silence, but don’t think that lets him off, ‘cause the government says, you have too much, rich guy, you need to pay more taxes.  It’s your duty to pay for those who haven’t had your success.  Right?

A wannabe actress waits tables in Hollywood, and a Pasadena fireman sees the wannabe actress on the stage and the Pasadena fireman and the wannabe actress fall in love.  And, the Pasadena fireman and the wannabe actress set up life in a Pasadena house.  But their dreams are disturbed by that sound, the thin silence, so the fireman and the wannabe actress sell the Pasadena house and travel to India where they slog through red tape and muddy powers that be until six months later, 7 Sisters Rescue Home opens and girls sold into sex trafficking find a refuge.  The US government says, you sold your house; you owe us for that profit.  The government thinks it has heard that sound, a thin silence, but what it hears is spend, spend, spend and we’ll pay for it by raising taxes.

In the muggy South, the young computer guru labors long into the night while his young wife and five small children struggle without enough food; and the car sits on blocks and the children play in a house that is too small and wear hand me down clothes and the young wife believes.  The young computer guru creates coding for the first online shopping cart and the fledgling online book seller pays the young computer guru with stock options, and it’s cool dude, ‘cause ten years later everyone’s older, right?  They’re like in a huge house and the clothes are new, but the computer guy and his wife, they can’t sleep, know what I mean?  They keep hearing that sound, that thin silence and some dude tells them about Eastern European children too old to stay orphans, their government’s about to dump the orphans on the street, so the computer guru’s family takes a flight of fancy, aloft in the skies to an ancient land on the other side of this spinning blue ball where they alight in a world of old stones, stained with a millenium of cries and struggles and battles of its people and there the computer guru’s family slogs through the red tape river, their green retirement dollars flung out before them to light their way and when they emerge they get to come back home to America and bring with them a teen-aged brother and sister who went from about to be homeless to still being able to be kids who play soccer and run marathons and learn English and the computer guru’s family just grew to seven kids, just like that.

I think that’s pretty amazing, but of course, the government says it needs the revenue more than the computer guru and his wife need the adoption deduction, so sorry but the tax code is changed.  Thin silence?  What’s this sound you talk about, says the IRS, your government is hurting, citizen, pay up.  It’s your job, Mr. Computer Guru to meet the financial burden of your government.  It’s not our fault you decided to spend your money in a foreign country to make a couple of kids American citizens.

And in the West the beauty queen and the musician conquer the entrepreneurial world and talented singers, dancers and musicians are employed to entertain the famous.  And in their house in the hills with the plate glass views of the city, the beauty queen and the musician encourage the lonely and the lost and the needy that hide beneath the pretty veneer of the talented singers, dancers and musicians.  They keep hearing that sound, a thin silence, so they keep giving their lives to help others.   Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Entrepreneur, says the US government, you’ve earned enough to be in the rich category, so your tax bracket just increased, aren’t you lucky.

I look at all of this and think, can I hear that thin silence?  What happens if I open my ears and let it change me, too?  Am I ready for the adventure, for what it might cost me?  Am I ready to give up my dependence on tax breaks and social security retirement to do the right thing?  I have to open my ears and hear, I have to, because nothing else will satisfy.  A sound, a thin silence.


Oh for the bravery of the Wild Outdoors



You’ve seen hummingbirds, right?  Minute things whose wings go faster than you can see, know what I mean?  They’re like a blur, they move so fast.  And the colors!  Jewel tones, like deep green and red and purple; they’re like, wow, just gorgeous, get my drift?  And they’re drawn to red things, right?  So the feeder in Mother’s garden is red on the top and the bottom,can you picture it?  And she makes this red, sugary water syrup and the tiny little things are drawn to it.  They hover over the yellow, daisy shaped holes in the base and drink with their little bodies making tiny up and down movements.  In the heat of the summer, the bees are drawn to the feeder pine and they swarm around the little holes, which means the hummingbirds have to brave the bees to get any of the sugary water syrup and I feel for those poor little hummingbirds because not only do they have to eat several times an hour to survive, now they have to fight the battle of the bees taking all their nourishment.

Is that fair?  Is life fair?  Is there any place I can go to get nourishment that doesn’t include some battle against some force that wants to defeat me?  Will I have the strength and courage to keep up the fight for what I need?



Oh, for the bravery of the jeweled colored hummingbirds,                                                                    oh, for the bravery of the loud, buzzing, bright yellow and black bees,                                                                                                                                                                                 oh, for the bravery of the feral cats who stalk the jeweled colored hummingbirds in Mother’s yard,                                                                                                      who ignore the loud buzzing of the bright yellow and black bees,                                                                                                                                                                    those feral cats who’ve got our movements down                                                                                                                                                                                             who know to run when we come outside;                                                                                                                                                                                                                oh, for the bravery of the wild outdoors.

It wasn’t always this way.  In the gauzy memory of my childhood, my stalwart father’s cheerful, loving spirit hovered over our home as its benevolent and strong protector and my ever present Mother in her dutiful homemaker role made a safe and loving canopy for my brothers and my sister and I to grow; in those days our sanctuary included cats and a caged bird or two and there was harmony for both species.

But somewhere along the way, Mother decided that the back yard should be a bird sanctuary, so she had Daddy get her a stone bird bath, shaped like a huge concrete flower on its concrete stem and most days, she went out to clean out the birdbath and put in fresh water and she kept the hummingbird feeder filled and she determined to chase away the feral cats in the yard to keep them from stalking the birds.



At the merest sight of a cat, she rushed out as if she too had wings, all the while yelling or hissing at the cats and the yard erupted in the black and gray blur of running cats and a great cloud of bird wings rose from the grass to the fence and to the trees where they squawked loudly at the whole commotion.  These days, Mother has lost her wings and her movements are slow and ponderous, punctuated by her cane’s thunk and the times she gets outside are fewer, face it bud, it happens to the best of us, but this doesn’t change her worry, know what I mean?

No, what happens now, if you get what I’m saying, is, now she frets and fusses and tries to hiss at the cats through the window or bangs on the wood part of the back door to scare them off.  Or, she does try to slowly get outside and I’m sitting there, trying to write, and I’m thinking, how can I write with all this going on around me?  Is this part of the test of being a writer, being forced to find the concentration amid all the distractions?



I resist the urge to try to take over the task for her, resist trying to alleviate her stress, to make her situation better.  In truth, she’s the only one who can decide to let go of the things that make her nuts.  I can’t fix that for her, so I am resolved I will not let her stresses make me nuts.  I let go. I envision the hummingbird and I take flight.  I will fly unafraid as on the wings of a writer.

And the circle of life goes round…

circle of life family


Family.  A collection of men and women, boys and girls, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters, adults and children, little people and big people, older people and younger people, teenagers and senior citizens and babies and every age in between.  And the circle of life goes round.

They come in all shapes and sizes and ages; from the spectrum of the patriarch and the matriarch who started the whole procession across time and states and lifestyles to the tiny ones just starting out on their journey that could take them across time and states and lifestyles.  And the circle of life goes round.

The patriarch and the matriarch began their journey together in the days when not so long before they’d had to brave the cold and dark of night to visit the outhouse; and not so long before, the family had gotten their first car; and not so long before, one of the older brothers had brought in enough money to have the telephone wire run to the house.  Why, there wasn’t even a radio in the house when they were young.  Not so long before.  Not only that, they’d had their own small children running around the house before TV became the new phenomenon.  And the circle of life goes round.

And the patriarch and the matriarch did their best for their children and felt great pride as their children became young adults and started their own separate journeys across time and states and lifestyles and they cried a little (or a lot in the case of the matriarch) as the home nest emptied and the patriarch and the matriarch were just two again.  And the circle of life goes round.

And the family came together in happiness and enjoyment when the first grandchild was born and the patriarch and the matriarch felt vindicated and pleased as they kissed the chubby cheeks of the golden-haired little girl.  And the circle of life goes round.

And careers took hold and the children’s lives were busy and spread out around the states and weddings were celebrated and more grandchildren arrived and the patriarch and the matriarch wished they lived closer so that they could squeeze those grandchildren on a more regular basis.  And the circle of life goes round.

And the grandchildren thrived and the years were captured in the school photos and family portraits and milestone announcements that were sent to the patriarch and the matriarch who proudly decorated their walls and table tops with these trophies of the Family.  And the circle of life goes round.

And the years marched on while grandchildren grew and aged and began careers and found mates and began the next generation and before you knew it there was a third and a fourth and a fifth generation of offspring and they spread across the years from the newborn to the middle-aged.  And the circle of life goes round.

And one day, the family paused in its mad pursuit of life to mourn the death of the elderly patriarch and to contemplate what it all means and to be grateful for their place in the midst of this maddening and nurturing animal called family.  And the circle of life goes round.

And the matriarch moved slowly on through the pain and difficulty of old age, and her children, gray-haired and slower themselves, began to see themselves in a new light, no longer the ones on the quest for new worlds to conquer but instead the pillars of this thing called family.  And the circle of life goes round.

And they saw they were part of the procession that would continue after they were gone and they prayed that the third and fourth and fifth generations and beyond would find the real meaning of life; that they would cherish and embrace this thing called family.  And they saw they would have to trust that the thread of beliefs and values that were passed from their ancestors to them would continue on to their descendants.  And the circle of life goes round.

Why they remember a time when TV was black and white and man first walked on the moon and every house had a landline, except in those days it was just called the telephone.  And the circle of life goes round.

And they saw that the beliefs and values could transcend the new age of smart phones and iPads and technical gadgetry that consume the time and energy of the family.  And they saw that the beliefs and values could live on as the future dawns with even more startling and unimaginable advancements.  And the circle of life goes round.  And the circle of life goes round.

Exercise those trite sayings…



If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?  Yeah, but what’s a girl supposed to do when the stupid HVAC is wigging out?  Oh, yeah, they say it’s working  all right, but man, can you believe what they think is right?  I mean, come on, just because warm air finally comes out and eventually the house warms up, I mean, seriously, am I supposed to believe the thing is fixed?  What’s a fix anyway?  That thing that makes you feel good or at least makes you forget why you felt bad? 

Bad, smad.  It’s all relative, right?  I mean we’ve all got those relatives that make us crazy.  Pull your hair out time, because if you don’t do it first, they’ll sure do it for you.  And where does that get you?  Bald patches, that’s where.  Of course with bald patches, you might maybe feel the warm air more and then maybe you won’t feel cold.

So, anyway, like I was saying, if they think the way the heater’s working now is right, what happens when we switch to A/C?  Will the thing run non-stop but never do the job?  Oh sure, it’s easy for you people on the West Side where the temps don’t do much moving up or down.  Try living somewhere else.  Like further out the 10 freeway where you get to colder nights and hotter days.  Hey, no jive, I’m telling it like it is.  We’re out there in the desert.  Although, I must confess, not as far out in the desert as say, Palm Springs, or Needles.  Needles.  Now that’s hot.  Drove across the Mojave to the Painted Desert and Monument Valley in Arizona, and on to New Mexico.  110 degrees in the shade.  If I’m lying I’m dying.  Dying for an ice cream cone or a chocolate shake while trying to find some shade under the arms of a Saguaro Cactus.  That’s like trying to stay out of the rain under a scarecrow.  Ain’t gonna happen, my friend.



When Dad’s got the car running again and the four of us kids and Mom are back inside, roaring down HWY 66 at sixty miles an hour, the windows all rolled down to keep all of us from melting, now that’s a scene, everybody’s hair is standing on end and all arms are up at an angle, anything to dry out those pits, anything to keep one part of your body from touching another part of your body.  At least it’s dry air, right?  Thought that was nuts?  You ain’t seen nothing yet.  Just keep pointing that car east until you get to real heat.  ‘Cause ain’t nothing hot like good ol’ humidity.

If I’m lying, I’m dying.  Oh yeah, you think you’re dying.  Try breathing when it’s 95 degrees out and at least 90% humidity.  Might as well just forget taking a shower and putting on clean clothes.  Did you know Atlanta didn’t even become a serious city until the 1960’s when air conditioning became the thing to do?  They put A/C in all those offices and voila!  No more mid-day siestas.  What do you know, a banking center, a business center, an up and coming city bursts into life.



I mean, you’ve seen “Gone With the Wind”, right?  Why do you think those big old plantations had shutters on all the windows with heavy drapes and genteel ladies spent the heat of the day in their crinolines and wore out their delicate wrists moving their tiny fans back and forth.

You can dig it, right?  You gotta do what it takes to breath, man.  Gotta keep the outside looking good.  Keep the sweat dried off and the smiling face painted on.  I mean, who’s your daddy?  The one who takes care of you, right?  And who wants to take care of you when you’re looking all bedraggled and wilted?  Who’s gonna trust you as their Realtor when the A/C in your car dies and you have to excuse yourself to go dry off and put on the dry clothes on that you left hanging in the office, because you knew the things you’d worn from home would be totally ruined by the humidity by the time you got to the office?

But I digress; it’s the heater we’re talking about.  And hey, this is April.  Shouldn’t be too long and we won’t need the heater till next fall, right?  Ha!  You wish!  I’m not alone in this predicament.  There’s my 85-year-old mother who’s cold unless it’s at least 75 degrees inside the house.  And the absolute rub?  Live long enough in the same space as the elderly and your own body temp changes and what do you know?  You’re cold too, unless it’s 75 degrees inside.  Now that’s irritating, my friend.  Just plain irritating.  Know what I mean, jellybean?

Did I write that right?



So, here I sit again in front of those sheers on the window that soften the view.  Write without a purpose or goal in mind, my writing teacher, Jack, instructed.  How does that work?  Especially when the mind is always thinking, moving from subject to subject.  I don’t know that I get this exercise, God.  How do I write with no goal or agenda?  Do I write the random thoughts that lead to whole other subjects?  Do I write the ongoing conversations that you and I have throughout the day?  Do I write the goals for the future?  The fears?  The frustrations?  The hopes?

If I have to get Jack’s book out to look at the example again, isn’t that writing with a purpose?  And, since I’ve spent the last few years thinking about stories and plots and characters and writing them, how does that get turned off?

I was just preparing for tomorrow, for the class I help teach on Sunday’s.  It was all about listening to God’s Spirit speaking to my spirit.  How do I have all that in my head and not write about something specific?

Meanwhile, Mother is in the other room burping.  Loudly.  It’s the GERD reaction to what she eats.  I’ve explained to her several times that’s why she has a hard time swallowing, getting medication down, taking all the vitamins and supplements I want her to take so that she can be at her best.  She’s determined to eat what she wants so I drive her crazy with my reminders about GERD.  She complains about her GERD symptoms, which drives me crazy.

Ok, now there I go, telling a story.  Or am I just embellishing or explaining a small thought into full-fledged sentences and story lines?  I’m not sure I get this process.

So, how do I do this?  If this is just a journal of what’s happening in my head, then it’s a writing down of thought processes that always lead back to you, God.  Because I don’t like dwelling on any thought, fear, hope, joy, whatever, without bringing it back into context of how it fits into You, God.  For me, that’s what pulls all of life together.  Knowing that there’s a bigger picture than I can see, but taking joy in the knowledge that it’s like the backside of an intricate, detailed tapestry.



Lots of random threads that seem to go nowhere, colors intermingled, some tiny stitches overrun by long, bold stitches, everything seemingly unorganized.  But, when the tapestry is turned around, there is a beautiful scene or portrait that couldn’t have been planned or designed by me, yet it’s there and every now and then I get a glimpse of the beauty that is being made through the pain and struggle, or during the inane and boring, or the frustrating and difficult.

Hold that thought.  Mother is calling from the other room to come turn off the ceiling fan over the dining room table.

It’s another hot day and the A/C can do just so much to take the heat off the house.  Personally, I’d be happy with fans in every room, but the medication Mother takes for high blood pressure and huge edema in her feet and legs, lowers her blood pressure and with it her body temperature so that she’s always chilled.  And accusing me of trying to freeze her out when it 78 degrees inside the house.  Good thing I’m beyond hot flashes or we’d really go at each other in frustration.

So, now the fan is off, the orchid is watered and I can return to the keyboard and she can return to trying to stay awake.  I read the other day that the curse of the elderly is spontaneous sleeping.  Mother and I laughed over that because it’s true and she is always trying to stay awake.  Or maybe I laughed and Mother frustratingly agreed it was true.

Mother’s calling again.  It seems the water that I just gave the orchid was too much because it’s running out of the pot.  Good thing I put the pot on the table before I watered it so that it has a long way to run before it runs off the edge of the table.  Mother, of course, is sure that I’m about to flood the dining room.  It only takes three paper towels to sop up the excess and Mother is mollified.  Somewhat, anyway.



She and I have two different outlooks on the world.  Yin and Yang.  I tell her that her glass is always half empty and she tells me no, it isn’t, her glass is cracked and the liquid is oozing out the bottom.  Totally agree with that!

Daddy’s glass was always bubbling up and the excess running over the top.  How in the world did her live with her for sixty-one years and not lose his excess?  How did he retain his equilibrium and provide enough for her as well?  Well, I know the answer to that.  I’ve never known anyone who loved God more and spent more time with God daily than he did.  To me, that proves it.  God has to be big because he’s bigger than Mother’s pessimism.

Which brings me back to the whole point of a journal.  For me, anyway.  It’s reaffirming, with every rabbit trail, every thought, every distraction, that God is big.  Big enough to get me through.  And, thankfully!  To get me through with excess bubbling over the top of my glass instead of leaking out the bottom.