Joining the Circus

I just saw a handwritten note from Galileo. He was under house arrest for believing we’re not the center of everything. Now behind me, in the park, a dozen beginners, of all ages, learning how to juggle. We have to start somewhere. The young man who’s so magical at this is asked to instruct. He smiles, “You have to keep trying. Just not the same thing.” Earlier, I leaned over a letter from Lincoln to a dead soldier’s mother. This,... Read more

The Bones of Grace

My wife, Susan, was ill last spring with a serious stomach flu that took us to the emergency room. Tending her brought me closer to the paradox of true care: that giving our all is what matters though we can’t take another’s suffering from them. Yet this awkward tending means everything. On the eighth day, after fixing her pillow and rubbing her head, we heard a bird we didn’t recognize, and that sweet short warble brought us back into life.... Read more

Though Loss is Everywhere

Your mother has died and you feel her tenderness everywhere you turn. You reach for her and come up empty. You long to pick up the phone and call. You look for things of hers to hold. But the dearest thing she held was you. Perhaps her greatest gift in going is that to feel her now, you have to hold yourself.   You ask how I can go on? Why don’t I have regrets? I guess I’ve been worn... Read more

The Antique Dresser

It was in the attic of my heart, one of those darkly stained, cherry dressers with slender legs turned on a lathe and lacquered. It had a small keyhole but no key. After all the years of opening and closing, the doors were slightly warped. I had forgotten it was there. But on this clear day, I felt at ease, and the breeze made the dresser rattle way inside and I went to see. The attic in my heart was... Read more

The Great Opening

It was the son of a soldier, a soldier who killed his own people. It was that gentle son who went in despair to his grandfather’s bridge to ask in his solitude why.   And that night he dreamt that everyone who’d been hurt and everyone who’d done the hurting met on that bridge. And in their awkwardness and pain, it began to rain flowers which grazing their skin opened their faces and they were healed.   And the flowers,... Read more

The Imperfect Circle

She was riding a horse sidesaddle through the yellowing leaves. He was watching her with such longing that I knew he would never love another. It is often this way. The heart relaxed open at the right time meets someone in the middle of coming alive and we think it can only be this one or we are lost. It can take decades to understand that nothing over there holds anything more precious than where we are. Yet it’s a... Read more

Beyond Measure

Having burned dreams to keep warm, I think of dreams as kindling now. Having carried loved ones as far as I could to the other side, I make your coffee and bring you a tissue, as if these gestures open us to Heaven.   Because they do.   Having outlasted the noise in my head and yours, I can at times hear the breath of life between our disappointments.   Meeting this way, more than halfway through, I ask different... Read more

The Art of Being Sensitive

Sometimes, when I can let things come and go naturally, it’s possible for me to glimpse the truth that, though I’m frustrated, not everything is frustrating. Sometimes, in the midst of sadness, it’s possible to glimpse that, though I’m sad, not everything is sad. Like everyone, I struggle with finding the courage to face pain, heartache, disappointment, and betrayal, trying to face those who have hurt me and to face myself. But I remain committed to facing things, convinced it’s... Read more


Peace is an odd word for the bubble of all there is breaking repeatedly on the surface of the heart, but I know of no other. The Native Americans come closest; nothing between inner events and what to call them. I see you and you always glow. Why not call you One-who-shines-like-a- sun-upon-first-meeting. Why not call the moment of doubt and fear: Dark-point-spinning-loose- that-presses-on-the-throat. Why not call the moment of certainty, the fleeting moment when everything that ever lived is... Read more

Feeling the Oar

I was in the air, frustrated that fog had delayed us. Now, I would miss my flight to Dallas where I was on my way to speak about obstacles as teachers.   I was feeling pissed off when I noticed my left hand on the seat—it was my father’s hand—the large knuckles, the pronounced veins, the bark-like wrinkles at the base of my thumb.   It was his hand as I had seen it countless times: guiding a piece of... Read more