To Gather Paradise

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

~Emily Dickinson

The possibilities contained within a Dickinson poem are doors and windows standing wide open for interpretation and comprehension. When I visit Emily’s dwelling full of mysterious capitalizations, inscrutable dashes and sideways rhymes, I am blind, get easily lost, stumbling over this and that, and end up wondering where she is leading me and how far I’m willing to go.

Yet she tells me
– This –
to get my attention, hold it fast, to look up and out, beyond, and into forever.

is what I must do when I read her carefully chosen words and dashes
is what I ask of a reader who opens my email or comes to my daily post
is us dwelling in possibility for a moment or an eternity,
all eyes and windows and doors wide open to grasp a glimpse of Paradise.

is our hands spread, ready
to gather, to hold, to embrace, to pray, to fold
to prepare us for Whatever Comes Next…

photo by Sara Larsen

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God Was Here: A Sight to See

the Eye of God nebula


In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than 
to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain,
a child was born in a cave in order to save the world; 
it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.
To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam 
out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior—the team 
of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar.
He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.

Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray
clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away–
from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end–the star
was looking into the cave.
And that was the Father’s stare.

~Joseph Brodsky from Nativity Poems




We are not forgotten:
and this is the point.
A marvelous sight to see, a wonderful sound to hear
as we too are revealed in His Glory.




Deep in the cold of winter,
Darkness and silence were eve’rywhere;
Softly and clearly, there came through the stillness a wonderful sound,
A wonderful sound to hear.

All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Sounding in majesty the news that they bring;
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Welcoming our Saviour, born on earth, a heavenly King.
All bells in paradise, I heard them ring,
‘Glory to God on high’ the angel voices sing.

Lost in awe and wonder,
Doubting I asked what this sign may be;
Christ, our Messiah, revealed in a stable,
A marvelous sight, a marvelous sight to see.


He comes down in peace,
A child in humility,
The keys to his kingdom belong to the poor;
Before him shall kneel the kings with their treasures,
Gold, incense, and myrrh.

~John Rutter “All Bells in Paradise”



The Loneliest of Places





This land changes you if you let it…

There is no place to hide here
from yourself and what you fear.
The meadowlark will break your heart
the magpie steal your breakfast
and once you’ve seen the buffalo graze on Sage Creek
they will rumble through your dreams forever.

Diane Weddington in Badlands III

It seems hopelessness may be all that thrives in this loneliest of places where wind chews at the rocks.  But there is toughness and remarkable color and diversity too.  Hope cannot die where the sunrise and sunset create a portrait of paradise for a few brief minutes twice each day.

Yet despite it all grass grows here, in patches and strips, pulling moisture from the thin topsoil veneer.

It is a promise — even the barren can bear fruit.







Lenten Reflection–The Gradual Descent

photo by Josh Scholten

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C.S.Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters”

I recall a Twilight Zone episode long ago written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (who later went on to write “The Waltons”) about a back woods hunter and his coon dog who drowned pursuing a raccoon one fateful evening. The next day they found themselves lying alongside the pond, and set down a trail looking for the way back home. The trail took them to an entrance gate where the friendly gatekeeper welcomed the old hunter in but refused to allow the dog (who would have smelled the brimstone far beyond the gate). The hunter refused to enter without his dog so they continued down a long long path that seemed far less traveled.

Eventually they were found by a messenger who was looking for them, and who led them on up the road to paradise–coon hunting and square dances every night. They were told, “You see, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”

As a child, I remember thinking how quickly I would have been lured in the wrong gate, choosing the easy way rather than seeking the longer way of the harder path that would lead to heaven.

Each step, every day, takes me closer. The path itself may not be an easy one, but it was never meant to be. I hope it won’t take a dog to help me know which way to go.