How important the small things are!
Time spent with a friend stacking
Stones in the ground while the cool breeze
Gentles the sun’s blazing rays
Reminds me that I’m not alone.
I am part of this world—as the grass,
As a neighbor, as the birds in the sky,
As the leaves of the trees.
How vital are the minutia which
Keep us grounded? Putting away the clothes,
Preparing dinner, taking out the trash,
Feeding the dog…we are carnal creatures,
Living physically, subsisting as all
Organisms do: by making a place
In relation to others; by caring for
One another, by being home.
It is a lie of the ego which insists
“I am destined for some great thing.”
A champion hubris hoping to attain
That which only God may inhabit.
I once told myself I must look beyond small things,
That I would soon “be someone.” That
People would care what I thought
And read what I wrote.
Those days are long gone.
Now I am pleased to enjoy discovering
The wormy grains of rough-cut pallet wood,
Distressed by years of abuse and weather,
Dismissed as disposable resources meant
For moving something valuable from one place
To another. I see myself in the boards, in the rocks,
In the trees and the dishes: a mere thing in this world,
Used up and thrown away by people who know
Little other than their own ambitions to be something
Other than what they are, to treat me as chattel. I have
No more ambition of my own, other than to survive the day,
To come home to my wife, to feel her warm smile,
To sense her steady breathing beside me at night, to bury my
Nose in her honey hair and hold every detail about
Each moment in my mind as long as it will stay
Before fading into that nameless euphoria
Which has no words, only that note of
Visceral contentment felt deep inside:
The distant memory of peace and security
Known only by the innocence of childhood.
This summer, a pair of Warblers
Chose our porch to raise a brood.
It didn’t seem the wisest choice to me,
As, no matter how thoughtfully we open it
They constantly find their world upturned
Whenever we use the front door.
But I don’t claim to know what goes on in
The mind of a bird. I suppose as they
Built their moss-covered nest
They must have thought the space
Under the eave seemed hidden enough
To be safe from the Red-tailed Hawks
Which patrol the trees in our neighborhood
And high enough to be safe from
Invaders of the slithering variety.
Though their presence, viewed through the
Storm door, taunts our orange and white
Tabby to the brink of madness,
I guess they figured a little foot traffic
Is a small price to pay for a safe place
To settle down and raise some chicks.
And I like to think that maybe we’ve earned a good
Reputation in the local bird community.
The young are hatched now for a few days,
Their tiny heads popping up over the edge
Of the soft nest. Left alone while mother
And father hunt, I climb onto the railing
To see the babies. Mouths open, eyes closed
Waiting for mother, the three chicks seem
A tiny grey ball of soft fluff.
“We’ll keep an eye on you until she returns,”
I whisper. In a heartless world it seems
The least we can do.
Heat-loving crape myrtle,
Its early-summer blossoms
Shed their tiny petals
Snow-like in the verdant grass.
Reaching for the knobby
Branch, I pull a
Cluster of its sweet
Fragrant softness, to cut it
Clean with my knife,
Which I close and put
Back in my pocket.
Burying my nose deep
In its sweetness
I draw deeply into
My lungs its spirit:
A soft aroma, drawn
From far beneath
My feet, deep in the
Red clay by roots
I cannot fathom.
Knowing of only one
To share the moment with,
I carry the tender shoots
Past the Roses and
The Hostas, the Basil
And the Cilantro, the
Lemon Balm and the
Lavender into the kitchen
Where she washes
The supper dishes,
Her blonde curls skimming
Her neck with such tenderness
As would make Solomon
Blush. Presenting my
Offering, I hope only
For her smile.
He has shown you, dying one,
What is required.
It is not great acts, done in “his name.”
It is not towering accomplishments,
The building of powerful institutions.
It is not measured in bricks and mortar
Or in titles, power, and success.
These things require power, wealth,
And the sacrifice of one’s neighbor.
One must do “a little evil”
To build something so great.
What is required, just as in Micah’s time,
Cannot be bought with sacrifices,
The likes of which are offered also
To the idols of our neighbors.
If it could not be purchased
With thousands of rams
Or ten thousand rivers of olive oil,
Offered with a self-serving heart,
How, then, can you think
That another campus will honor him?
How can you think he would be impressed
With yet another giant temple
To your own power and achievement?
How can you think he would care
About anything that can be bought with money?
Do not think that your giant barns will save you.
His burden is lighter than that.
His requirement is easy.
He wants you to act justly:
To treat those around you fairly,
To do what is right when it comes
To your neighbor.
He wants you to love mercy:
To value kindness even to those
Who you deem unworthy of it.
To look to the people “beneath” you,
Rather than those “above” you.
He wants you to walk humbly
With him: to be smaller
Than you would wish to be.
He has already shown you how.