Waiting, Seeing, Creating

The older I get, the more I am convinced that Dr. Seuss had it all figured out. If you want to understand our environmental predicament, read “The Lorax.” If you want an ode to the imagination, go after “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” And if you want to know about life, dreams, and what it is to try to get through it all, read “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

I know “The Waiting Place” better than I’d like to. I venture out, explore, reflect, live in the moment, but sooner or later, I recognize it. I’ve circled back to the waiting place. As much as I try to be my own man; as much as I try to be open to God’s voice and direction; as much as I try to be open to the Universe, God and the Universe move at their own pace, not mine. And so, the waiting.

It can be a habit. But waiting doesn’t have to be just sitting around. I can wait actively. I am not in prison. And even in prison, there are role models for how to wait.

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman sitting outside on the benches playing checkers and talking in a scene from the film 'The Shawshank Redemption', 1994. (Photo by Castle Rock Entertainment/Getty Images)

Andy Dufresne, of Shawshank Redemption fame, had more meaningful adventures behind bars than most free men have. But he came to a point where he realized it was time to make a change, even at the cost of his life. I realize there are movies and books that I come back to a good bit, and Shawshank will likely continue to be one of them. Andy’s “get busy living, or get busy dying,” sticks in my soul as a life mantra. A reminder.

Dufresne and Louis Goldstein could have been peeps. The only words I remember from my Washington College graduation were Goldstein’s, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” That was his take on “God helps those who help themselves.” Maybe you’re in the waiting place, well, get up and do something about it, or don’t expect to move very far.

When we are in the waiting place, we can feel stuck. Or I can. And part of that reason is because we know the waiting place. We can get comfortable waiting. We know what it feels like. So we hang on. And by hanging on, we make ourselves stuck. It’s by letting go that we move on in the direction we are supposed to go.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

So we need to let go. Be unanchored. Undone. Untethered. We need to start. To start something new, to create. In the letting go, in the creating, what we need is to create, to begin our lives anew. Each day.

To speak of creativity is to speak of profound intimacy. It is also to speak of our connecting to the Divine in us and of our bringing the Divine back to the community. This is true whether we understand our creativity to be begetting and nourishing our children, making music, doing theater, gardening, teaching, running a business, painting, constructing houses, or sharing the healing arts of medicine and therapy. – Matthew Fox (the minister, author of “Original Blessing,” not the actor from “Lost”)

We get out of the waiting place by being ourselves, differently. By opening ourselves to creativity. By creating our lives. By being inspired and doing something with that inspiration. By allowing God to light a spark in us and being consumed by the spark of Divine inspiration.


Last Child on the River

We floated homemade skimboards across a chest-high channel into Boone Creek. That was the entrance to our after school and weekend reality. Park on the side of the lane and rescue the stashed boards from the brush, then spend the hours through sunset cruising atop what seemed an endless perfect sheet of water–water being the upside to growing up on the Eastern Shore.

The thing that takes me back there most quickly is watching the girls experience all the same things I loved.


Seeing them on the water, exploring beaches, hunting for minnows, crabs, shells, sea glass, and found treasure. There is a simplicity that seems universal.


The built world fades away.

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist. – Richard Louv, “Last Child in the Woods.”

These are the experiences I never want to stop having with the girls–when they are outside with friends, family, other kids, adults, lost in time and fun on a beach, on a river, or in the woods.


The pictures here speak louder and more clearly than my words, which is as it should be. It’s a visual and tactile world. It’s a world we found as kids, discovered as if we were the first to come across it.

Prize the natural spaces and shorelines most of all. because once they’re gone, with rare exceptions, they’re gone forever. In our bones we need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chapparal, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience. – Richard Louv

There is something to being outside on the water. There is something to watching the girls discover it with their friends, and seeing it become a part of who they are.

But in the end, and to the girls’ laughter,  those experiences just as easily beg the question of who is the child on the river?


Hurricanes and Riverbeds

I dig storms. I always have. The build up, the uncertainty, the excitement, the aftermath. Thunderstorms, hurricanes, snowstorms, blizzards. I have biked and run in conditions ill-suited for humans; walked in waist-deep streets after hurricanes and driven around surveying storm and snow damage.

I am not alone. We don’t have a Weather Channel obsession because of days of abundant sunshine.

September is a time of year on the east coast where storms find their way into our psyche–the possibility, the coming of them, the anticipation.


Rainer Maria Rilke is one of a handful of writers I come back to over and again, for inspiration, for glimpses behind the curtain, for a kindred historical soul. Rilke wrote his “Duino Elegies” and “Sonnets to Orpheus” in what can only be described as storms of creativity; visions channeling divine inspiration. He described it as a “hurricane of the spirit.”

mountain-ranges, peaks growing red in the dawn
of all Beginning,–pollen of the flowering godhead,
joints of pure light, corridors, stairways, thrones,
space formed from essence, shields made of ecstasy, storms
of emotion whirled into rapture (from The Second Elegy)

Rilke wrote in a whirlwind. Reading about the intensity of effort and emotion and thought he went through in writing, I’m not sure many of us would want, or survive, his hurricane of the spirit intact.

Being in a constant state of storm, or constantly on guard for a storm doesn’t seem like a way to live life. Richard Rohr‘s daily e-mail yesterday morning offered a different approach to being swept up in the storm.

The contemplative’s inner stance is not one of being swept downriver along with everything else. The contemplative’s repose is not a passive state, but an engaged, silent receptivity… like a riverbed, which is constantly receiving and letting go in the very same moment. Vigilant receptivity and nonclinging release are one and the same for this riverbed awareness as it constantly receives all coming from upstream while at the very same moment releasing all downstream. – Martin Laird

Be the riverbed. That’s easy enough, right? Take all that life throws at you, let it wash over you, and don’t cling too tightly to any of it.

It’s a repose. It’s a metaphor. Easier said than done, but helpful. It’s a letting go of the storm, of worries, while being receptive and mindful. Not a bad stance for a Monday.

2016 Sept Town Creek chill