Christmas ’21

Well it’s been a busy day of holiday preparations but I kept my priorities straight and recorded my song for this week 51 of #songaweek2021. If you look closely you can see the flour on my sleeve from the pie-making marathon I had just finished.

I dedicated this song to American health care workers and educators because I’ve been thinking of them often lately in these continuing difficult times of pandemic life.

May we each and all find at least a moment of peace this holiday season, and share some good will with one another.

Merry Christmas, it’s good to feel you near me in this dark and deep
Happy new year, let’s be the resolution that we want to keep

Sing for everything we’ve hoped and held
Make room for everything to be lived and felt

Season’s greetings, there’s got to be some joy for everyone to find
Happy holidays, we need to find some time that we can all unwind

Sing for everything we’ve hoped and held
Make room for everything to be lived and felt

Peace on earth, I still believe it’s possible to get along
Good will to you, the kind that sinks in deeper when you pass it on

Sing for everything we’ve hoped and held
Make room for everything to be lived and felt


In the season of shortest days and darkest nights, I like to write songs like this. Winter can be a soul-sucking time of year, or from another perspective, it can be a time to slow down, pull in, lay low, and breathe.

As I was writing this song for week 49 of #songaweek2018, I was aware of the following influences: the feeling of an Irish blessing we sang in choir when I was in college; Handel’s Messiah (I love the way the word “comfortably” is sung in “Comfort Ye My People,” so I did it too); and the Christmas song “Oh Holy Night” which is referenced in “harmonies and holy nights.”

And still, on my mind throughout the year and now more poignantly as the year draws to a close, my Grammy, whose health continues to decline as we await her departure into deepest rest.

Slow dance of the winter, deep sleep of the snow
Clear light of the night sky keep you as you go
Soft blanket of crystal, beasts nestled below
Still evergreen branches, lone call of the crow
All of the fragile ones have flown

Winds wending through treetops comfortably sigh
Rivers rest, insects hide
Memories and melodies murmur in your mind
Harmonies and holy nights hold us all through time
All through the night beyond our sight

What If

What if you are more than what you think? What if we are all more valuable than all that we believe?

Here’s my song for Week 25 of #songaweek2016:

What if I were you, what if you were me?
Could we listen to each other, could we let each other be?
What if we were both about to die?
Could we find a common mercy looking in each other’s eyes?

Or is this sad race to the end the best we can do
and when it comes right down to the wire is it me or you?

What if I told you I’m not so sure
would you ridicule my weakness, add a point to your score?
What if I found out that you’re afraid
would I crow that you’re a coward, have a cynical parade?

Is this sad race to the end the best we can do
and when it comes right down to the wire is it me or you?

What if we both took a flying leap
off our high-minded horses
into heart-deep conversation?
Could we make some waves of grace
that ripple out from you and me?

What if you are more than what you think?
What if we are all more valuable than all that we believe?

Baby of Bethlehem

I wrote this song in 2008, but it never felt finished until I rewrote the last verse yesterday. Peace to you and yours, to neighbors and strangers, allies and enemies, to all of us everywhere.


Belfast and Belgrade, Beirut and Beijing

Baghdad and Bosnia filled with broken things

Tanks plow the streets

Bombs sown like strange seeds

Give them the baby of Bethlehem


El Salvador, Saigon, Sudan and Syria

Sierra Leone and Somalia are weary of

Fat cats and their dogfights

Nightmares in broad daylight

Give them the baby of Bethlehem


No crying he makes, no death or disease

What child is this who’s broken to be our peace?


Littleton, Newtown, Facebook and Hollywood

Pine Ridge and Ferguson and Bedford-Stuyvesant

We’re scared and suspicious,

Anonymously vicious

Give us the baby of Bethlehem

Peace to the People

When the Occupy Wall Street movement began over two months ago, I just wasn’t interested. The national political scene mostly tires and annoys me, so I don’t pay much attention.

Then there was the UC-Davis pepper spray incident, apparently not the first of the pepper-spray incidents. How about an 84-year-old woman? But I digress.

There they sat, quiet and stubborn college students; and there they stood, riot-geared tough-faced police.

I don’t know or understand the whole story. I know police work is difficult and complicated. But a scene like this leaves me cold, wondering what in the world we have come to. So do the vicious comments people scream at one another in the cyberspace around such videos.

Contemplating the scene after watching it the first time (and having a good little cry), I saw children all around. Idealistic and strong-willed children sitting on the ground. Threatened and insecure children strutting in their sunglasses and holsters. Simplistically-indignant children shouting “Shame on you!” at the bullies.

But no one stepping out of their pigeonhole. It probably wasn’t the time or place, but it seems we have less and less times and places for people to un-dig their heels and speak with kindness, patience, and genuine interest to one another across ideological lines. (A stream of pepper spray sort-of discourages such things too.)

Most of us have learned from childhood that we must fight to win. Of course, not at home with your sister (“share your toys!”). But in the movies and the storybooks, and definitely in the adult world – we have learned that you can’t prosper if you don’t beat down the bad guys. The good guys win. Not everybody. Only the good guys.

Republicans and Democrats, Tea Partiers and Occupiers, and many of us watching from our comfortable armchairs, are too often colorblind. We can only see ourselves and each other and the world at large in black and white. We line up people and ideas on “good” and “bad” sides, and then we start shooting – or spraying, or shouting. And we miss the depth of colors, the beauty, truth and goodness mingled with selfishness and brokenness in life at every level.

This is not to say we don’t form opinions and speak out for them. Personally, I am glad the Occupixies are doing their thing, and I much prefer this movement to the Democrats and Republicans (and philosophically I prefer it to the Tea Party, but I admire the grass-rootsiness of the TP too). But ultimately, we’re all a little lost, aren’t we? And it probably wouldn’t make things any worse if we practiced more patience and peace, listening and learning.

As I contemplate the UC-Davis pepper-spray scene – from my comfortable armchair – it’s easy to spout grand ideals about peace and love. But in the heat of showdown moments in my own life, I have stood (or sat) in each of those positions. I have sprayed and been sprayed, and I’ve shouted at bullies too. Sometimes, we become so passionate about our ideals or enraged about injustice, or even threatened and impatient, that we do dig in our heels or lash out at others; and I’m not suggesting that we can or even should keep such things from happening at all costs. History has taught us that “good guys,” eager to stop evil on every front, can all too quickly become “bad guys” in their very acts of fighting evil.

Occupy Fort Pierre National Grassland! - a day in our peaceful parenting protest

In discussing environmental and agricultural concerns, Wendell Berry called gardening a “complete action,” because it is not only a symbolic protest but also an actively-implemented solution to the problem it protests. Though I won’t be joining any tent cities, I have realized that I can launch my own protest just as effectively right where I am. I think maybe peaceful parenting, like gardening, is a complete action, and in watching the Occupillars, I am inspired to keep at it.

Today, my family and I look together for the good in each person. Today, we practice love and respect with one another. Today, also, I scream at my children and they push and punch one another. We’re good and bad, and everything in between, but we continue to get back up, apologize, and start over again.

Peace begins at home. But it doesn’t have to end there.