Time’s Masterpiece

Time engraves its passage in both man and tree,

Etched in furrowed skin and softly drooping limb;

A tree becomes more graceful through time’s artistry,

But for man youth’s beauty and abilities do dim.

Rare are they who delight in this life’s passing trial,  

And few men lose themselves, as does a tree;

First shade, then sacrificing body to the wood pile,

From sprout to fire they become time’s masterpiece.

Our fair youth laments the passing of each year,

The sculptor really does carve very cruelly;

The physicalities we’ve held so close and so dear,

Once lost, become a timely opportunity.

Forget those things that made for youthful charm,

Embrace the art of living like the trees;

Cast aside the consuming love of what you are,

Love others with a newfound human charity.

When youthful love is directed inward, towards our face,

Shame overtakes us at the close of this life’s race.

~FS

Perhaps, the Most Pitiable of Men

When God gazed upon me,

I believed I was the apple of His eye,

though when I climbed up and into that heavenly pupil,

I fell into deep darkness,

and found myself alone there.

Woe to me,

and those like me,

who have only their rage,

to comfort them,

and their violence,

to keep them company.

God touched the earth,

and I felt its sorrows,

He gave me the pains,

to endure in time,

as sweet expectation,

dances in the wind.

Yes, I heard the trumpet call,

and saw a golden sash,

upon which was written:

“Salvation.”

But I could not find the way.

~FS

The Way of The Babbling Brook

If you find me sitting by a babbling brook, in the shade, under the overarching branches of a stately Elm tree—join me silently, or leave me be. Leave the noise behind you; as I have done. Silence the hustle and bustle within you. Let us sit together and just be. I will not tell you what I do, so don’t ask me. I promise not to burden you with my trivialities either. Let’s be free. For now; for a time at least. Free from going and from coming, free from wanting and from getting, free from trying or becoming. Come, for now we are simply humans being. Just being. 

And when you find me, if you find me with legs crossed, and head buried deep within my hands; if I am crying, do not cheer me. For I am shedding; I must shed what’s false in me. Come cry with me, and let our lies fall into the brook; let our tears there intermingle, vanishing beneath the surface, disappearing towards the sea. And let our laughter arise spontaneously. 

Oh, if I could laugh at all infirmity. If my limbs were only made of stone, and could resist every urge towards comfort here. If I could abide all pain and not attempt to avoid it, or assuage it. Perhaps then I would live. Then, I might not lie. Then I would act as I think, and do as I will. My body would no longer be at odds with my soul, and I might learn to truly love. 

The little brook runs clear, and it is singing. Come and listen to it with me. For a time forget where you were going, and where you’ve been. Just watch the water flowing. Do you hear what it is saying? It’s saying that it’s okay. It’s okay what you aren’t, and it’s okay what you are. I don’t know if it’s okay, but the brook is saying that it’s okay. Perhaps this is why I’ve come here; and this is why I’ve sat here, to simply hear the babbling brook tell me, that it’s okay. I think I will stay here a while longer, perhaps forever, peacefully foregoing my own way. 

~FS

The Canine News, April 2022

Folks, it’s been an eventful month already, and we’re only half-way through it. It’s been cold, which makes us shiver, but we’re all very thankful for a warm blanket, and for the wall-heaters that really take the edge off. Aren’t we? But we have to admit, if we’re being honest, that the hail really scares us when it is coming down so hard on the roof. It makes us want to hide under the hearth, doesn’t it? What’s with the hail, anyways? It’s April for gosh sakes! Some of us already got our spring cuts, and it is damn cold out there without our surplus hair.

In any event, on to the news: First off, there’s a new gal in town. Not sure if you’ve seen her yet, but she’s a looker. Chunky, with a big flat nose as big as a lollipop! And she stinks to high heaven! Yes, she’s got it all. But to be honest, we don’t think she’s a dog. She snorts, which is odd, and she has this little curly tail that doesn’t wag. They say she’s called, “Chubby Chub-Chubs” and that the little girl she lives with named her. Be that as it may, and whether or not she’s a canine makes no difference to us, she’s worth a gander next time you’re in the neighborhood. If you can, get up real close, right next to the chicken-wire fence where she resides, and take a big whiff. She’s something special!

The squirrels are out in abundance lately. You’ve probably noticed. They’re everywhere: running along fencetops, up and down trees, tearing wildly across streets, even venturing to look into our houses through the back window or the sliding door. It’s fantastic, it is truly wonderful to be alive! One of our compatriots, Fritz, nearly caught an unsuspecting squirrel right off, when he went out yesterday morning, and then he chased another up a tree directly after that one, and by the time his walk was done he had chased a good half-dozen of the glorious little fluff-balls. They’re fast, they’re darty, and they’re twirley too! The larger dogs say that they’re tasty as well. We’ll have to take their word for it. There is so much about them to enjoy!  

On to more serious matters, it has been reported there is a strange blending of aromas to be found in much of the surrounding vegetation. Dogs everywhere are highly excited by this recent development, and we’re no exception. We’ll turn this next segment over to Fritz with help from his brother Rocco, who’ve both been doing some deep investigation into this story. It is a constantly evolving situation so we’ll try to give you the most current update possible. Here is what we know so far: in the shrubs alongside the main street there seems to be some combination of savory and sweet, possibly slightly urine-ical, it takes one back to the classic smells from continental Europe—possibly Paris—so first guess is it is Eau de Poodle, possibly with remnants of hamburger…or cheeseburger intermingled. Interestingly, not much further up the road some of the grass there also has traces of this same selection, although with a musty overtone added, which hits the nose slightly acidic at first, but then softens and is reminiscent of the seashore and dirty socks. Across the street from this, we think someone in the recent past probably dropped some eggs or rotten fish into a fern—maybe both—it was nearly impossible to resist, and both of us just had to roll for a while in it. The smell is fading though, so if you are interested in experiencing it for yourself, you should hurry on down before it’s gone! As we all know, good smells don’t last forever; and stink waits for no dog.

That’s all the time we have for today, it’s nearly time for treats. The weekend looks to be a bit warmer and excellent for some exercise. Get out there is ramble! Remember, if you don’t like your news, try a different news source! Canine News is your source for another perspective; widening your view of the world. There’s more to life than meets the eye; when in doubt, or overwhelmed, just follow your nose instead!  

~FS

Poetry & The Language of Creation

When I was a younger man, back when I was absolutely certain that I knew quite a lot about a great many things—whereas now, I’m only fairly confident that I know much less about far fewer things—but back at that time, when my expanding mind was burgeoning with fresh thought, the Spirit tried to teach me a little something about the world around me, of which it spoke that I was a small, but still meaningful part. Though at the time I was unsure of my part, or whether I had any part at all to play in the world—meaningful or otherwise. Yet, paradoxically I was at the same time the precise center of the entire world, at least in my own mind: a modern man—both narcissistically self-assured and insecure.

I was quick to speak and slow to listen; even so, the Spirit led me up a mountaintop to show me things I didn’t know. If only I had eyes to see and ears to hear, and a mind receptive to truths shrouded in mystery and shadows. The poetry of creation surrounded me and I was immersed in the language of the stars; like all people, made to understand (at least in part) the same celestial music that directs the moon and the wind, though I didn’t know it at the time. Perhaps I felt it then as a numinous possibility, a spiritual potentiality, but my mind was too dull, from too much calculation and from seeing the world too fully through the lens of calibration; falsely imagining that if I could measure reality, then I would know reality. We are enamored by the allure of quantifiable minutiae, making these an end in themselves rather than as markers pointing to our spiritual source. We speak but don’t listen, we speak our own language but do not try to learn, or remember, the language of creation.

When I finally stopped talking (which was very difficult for me to achieve) and I listened instead—another presence came and filled the space around me. It has taken me decades just to begin to quit talking, and to start listening. Spirit speaks poetically and enchantingly—and quietly. I try to write down what I hear. Sometimes I hear clearly, so as to take dictation in a sense; other times it is as though I am translating from another language into my own. However, when the wind gently shakes the tree tops, what else is there to say? As sunlight dances brilliantly upon the tiny waves of a sheltered bay, and as gulls glide softly through the silken water as silhouettes, why should I append this happening with any additional words whatsoever? Isn’t God clearly seen and known by what He has created; what then is the purpose of clarifying creation as it is occurring, simply with more words—as an ultimate act of redundancy?

Although…the words that we use to describe to one another the beauty and mystery of creation, might they be symbols that can and do describe something even further about God? Poetry speaks to the heart and soul, and communicates something that we humans are, perhaps, otherwise too dull of mind to perceive; directing our thoughts, and hearts, heavenward in an inexplicable encounter with the Divine—discovering word and meaning from the world around us.

~FS

Awakening

From within the numbing doldrums of a mind intent on worry,

on concern, on planning, on being prepared;

Out of the dearth of activating faith in our God above,

in trust, and hope, and love of what is unknown;

A spirit of invigorating life descended upon me,

igniting neurons that had slumbered;

A dove of light brought life to my apathetic mind,

which set me to remembering our God once again.

Oh joy! To remember after having forgotten,

to feel lighting-fast-thought flash here to there;

He shook me awake, like a slap to the face,

cold water over my head, tingling down my spine;

He spoke me alive, “life is to be lived,”

lived in love of Him and for what He has made;

He startled me out of my waiting stupor,

filled with anxious plodding and ponderous ennui;

I turned from my self-absorbed stultifying fear,

whereupon this is how He saved me.

~FS

Serenity

Through the thickets and the vipers of my inner world’s nest,

From every crook and turn and eddy where the demons do infest,

I’m searching for that treasure of a life that will not bite me,

A spiteless, and a fightless place, abounding in serenity,

Where goodness lays me softly down, in that my soul finds rest.

Shut the doors! Shut them fast! Allow this world in, no longer!

That wicked place where everyone is eaten by the stronger,

Find me in a quiet room, with manna from the skies,

Satisfied and peaceful, every tear wiped from my eyes,

At home again, no longer lost upon this earth to wander.  

Is this a Shangri-La, Utopia, or my solipsistic fantasy?

Would heaven breach this world faster, just because I’m weary?

Make-believe will never bring this reality to its knees,

This world outside me—and within—will not do, simply as I please,

When will God come, and finally give, the answer to my query?

~FS

When I Die

When I die I want the wind blowing into my face and around my head, and through whatever hair may still be growing there. Don’t package me up into a warm bed, in a warm room, to patiently await my expiration date. I want to be in the wilds, smelling the fresh pine, and not my own urine—if I am still able to smell anything at all. I want to feel that fresh breeze, blowing into my face; not pure oxygen from a tube thrust up my nose. Let me gaze out towards the horizon, and not up at the ceiling; out at the sky—streaked with golds and purple—and not up at an old brown water stain from a leak hidden someplace above the tiles. If I must go I want to go under the trees, and not in my bed, soiling my sheets. If you see me gasping and clutching at my chest, but I’m near a pond, on a mountain, or on a beach, leave me be. I’m dying my best death. Don’t ruin it for me with a call to the ambulance, or a trip to a hospital. When it is time to lay me down, into the earth, do not burn me. The time for fire is over; if I am to burn, let me burn while still alive: burning with love and burning with hope. Ignite me now with desire for all that is good, and all that is noble. Dress me in a simple gown, and place me in a plain pine box; and drop me into the earth to await my lord and king. And I don’t want to wear a suit, or a tie; those are fine, for other people’s funerals, but not for my own, thank you. I don’t need fanfare, I don’t expect a visit from dignitaries. Just close my eyelids, and set a little cross upon my breast. When I die, just say a little prayer and let me go. 

~FS

Prayer

Prayer is the gravity that anchors our being in peace. Prayer calms the thoughts and puts order to our searching. Prayer is our center and our arrow; it aims us at our target—Jesus Christ. I know that many people today don’t understand a need for Christ, they think he is foolishness, uselessness, or even damaging. But this is confusion, if we think Christ is these things we deny our hope, our strength and our source of healing. All good things within our heart and mind derive from a close relationship with Jesus Christ. Prayer guides us into the intimate depths of this most essential relationship. We must spend time in prayer, to know the peace that brings the chaotic confusion of this life to rest. I understand very little about this world but I understand something about prayer. Prayer is the most essential thing. It is the means of transcending sorrow and pain; it is the balm that allows Christ access to our heart in order to heal us. 

~FS

Pain

Pain casts us into many roles. It is a clever dramatist. One moment we are smug and disdain it—when it is light—the next moment it can torment us into unrecognizable beasts—when it is at its worst. It has the power to inspire, turning us into saints who run to alleviate the pain of others, and it has also the creativity to debase, transmogrifying us into devils who run to destroy others in order to alleviate the pain within ourselves.

I could be a Hitler. Sure. I could be a Mother Teresa as well. I could also be the drug addict laying on the sidewalk. I could be the parent praying fervently at their child’s hospital bedside, or the parent drowning their children in a bathtub. Pain drives us to many different conclusions. It can make us mad, and it can drive us mad. There are not enough tears in heaven, I think, to soothe all the pain on this earth. There is a hope of a future world without pain, but for now, there is enough pain in one square mile of dirt, to fill an entire universe.

Sometimes we are able to bear pain, by God’s grace, and can extend our hearts to others, helping to bear their pain as well. We enter into their pain, and we share it, and together we are softened and drawn close in bonds of charitable love. We endure, we struggle, we pray, we do whatever we can to lessen the pain of those we love. We are broken by the pain, and are subjected to extremes. The pain we feel in our own heart ignites and burns within us, and we pour ourselves out: in anger, in rampant love, in vengeance, in hope and faith, in desperation. The pain we see in others can make us frantic—though once our efforts to help them appear fruitless—it can turn our heart cold, we let ourselves freeze, to protect ourselves from further pain. We cannot look any longer, we turn the other way. It is sensible, what else can we do? The pain of others, especially those we know and love, will tear us to shreds, it will annihilate us, and break us, seemingly, beyond repair.

Sometimes we prefer narcissism, hedonism, or some other diversion from the pain of this life. At some point it just can be too much to bear; everyone has their limit. How can we fault them? Certainly we can judge them, especially if we aren’t feeling too much pain ourselves at the moment. I can’t fault them. Pain dialed up to a certain intensity is the stimulus for all manner of human failings. I’m grateful I haven’t endured that much pain.

But I’ve certainly had my share of it, and more than I’d like. As we all have, I would suspect. So, how can I judge even those who judge, or those who accuse others? Human judgement of others is just one more human response to pain; to the frustration that life, and human nature, isn’t what we wish it would be. Pain is a vicious cycle; one pain leading to another pain, and that pain feeding the next one. There is an end to pain in the next life (supposing you believe in that), but for now, pain is a very demented dramatist—casting us into roles we’d mainly like to avoid.  

~FS