Well-tailored Time

I can hardly wait
for the next moment
and yet the present
demands its due;
to listen to the house sigh,
to see the floor’s peace,
to feel soap – warm on pots,
to smell wine’s fruit,
to taste labour.

Now beckons.

And when I
slip now on
like the well-tailored
time it is, You
settle my past, You
unsettle my future.

Now beckons.

Each breath in

I am

Each breath out

still here

Between each

now.

Room is Needed

“Do you need room?”

This is a question the barista asks me most days. Do you want your coffee up short, so that you can whiten it with a bit of cream, or milk, or a mixture thereof? I say no, but I mean yes, not that I want my coffee whiter but I want a bit more room in my life.

Life gets busy. Days are too short. The things I crave are sacrificed to the things that shout loudest. I am not complaining but stating facts on the ground. I make poor choices and in the making of them I breed yet more. It is hard to stake out a healthy vantage point when you are hard pressed.

Making room is not so very hard, though. It means saying “no” more often. Some of us are better at it than others. I’m not great at it because I don’t want to pass up opportunities. I don’t want to let down friends, acquaintances and those I admire. I don’t want to think through the options. But sometimes I need to say “no” because I need room.

Without room, I cannot turn. Without room, I cannot stretch. Without room, I cannot step backwards. These verbs all matter. These are verbs of faith, they describe wagering another way of being in the world – one bound by neither pettiness of spirit nor brag of pride.

But having room means having less. A roomy life is less cluttered. The roomiest of all lives are lived en route with nothing save what is near at hand. A roomy life is not only a life with less but a life that gives with less, which is not the same as giving less. The one with room gives with less because they give out of emptiness and may paradoxically give what is needed most: a little room.

We neither bear nor hear paradoxes without room. There is no place for paradox in an inn full to the brim, nor in a boat battened down with fear. But love casts out our fear. Love is paradox made flesh, as are faith and hope: love in the April sun as sharp as a razor, hope in fresh buds pushing up against cynicism, and faith in friends taking time simply to be together. These three together give us voice to play the barista, offering room to thirsty pilgrims.

Bottoms up.

Of March and Mirth

These days seem weighty.
March’s time does not march at all,
but shuffles along, sometimes even losing ground.
In fact just this last week
Tuesday followed Wednesday, which
meant I had to do Wednesday twice
and Tuesday too.

Spring came but just now announced a
reversal of course. Time
it seems, is not always on our side.

Thank goodness for space. Today,
walking home, a lane announced
that hope is in order – shouting out
a colorful mural like a street preacher. And
earlier in the day
an empty parking lot said
“Take a look!” and so I
did and the heavens wrapped me round
like a quilt,
like a mother,
like life.

Here and Aloft

Another summer has come
undone; with undue
hurry, harried clouds
rush autumn along.

I sit unsettled
by this season’s evaporation:
time’s rising like water
now made mist, the
ungraspable ever
more evasive yet
grasping me.

Even so, squirreled away nuts and seeds
remind me of my pantry and that I too
am both root and fog, both
here and aloft.

A Toast to Sabbath

Last week my wife bought a new toaster. It is a beautiful kitchen appliance with its artful balance of white and brushed metal, and a shape that would surely make it aerodynamic if it were to sprout wheels, which may yet happen. Why do I say that?

Well, when we first plugged in the toaster and fed it a piece of my wife’s lovely homemade bread, we were surprised to see a bright blue light emit from it when the knob was pushed down. We looked at each other, baffled at the utility of the blue glow that our toaster cast in our kitchen. Of course, it isn’t only our toaster that leaves us scratching our heads. I still recall our very first microwave oven. When our warmed milk was ready, a lovely “Ding!” called us to late night libation. I lost count of the number of “beebs” our latest microwave offers us. I fear buying another, wondering what will be done to outdo this senseless sting of sounds. All of which brings me to my observation: just because you can do something, that doesn’t mean you should do it.

Of course that insight isn’t altogether new. My mother told me it regularly as a child. Although this lesson might be lost on some designers, I think it is more relevant than ever because it seems we can do ever more things. After all doing one thing means not doing another; adding this beep means losing that silence; seeing this light means losing that soft shadow,

The question concerning what a technician should do – given what they can do – is not unrelated to the question of what a scientist should do in light of what they can do; nor is it unrelated to the question of what a politician, a bureaucrat, or a clergy person can do and what they should do. Choosing not to do something that I can do is a fascinating even if an unusual experience. We are encouraged to do whatever we can guided by the mantra of “no pain, no gain.” Yet experience teaches us that sometimes gain itself is a pain we cannot bear. There are moments in life when the most important job we have to do is to be still and wait.

Being still is an important spiritual discipline. Of course, it is not all there is to life. But it really is the condition for the possibility of living life in its richest iterations. Taking time to be is simply making time itself meaningful. To savour a second, a minute, an hour is to imbibe eternity, and so to live in Sabbath’s serenity.

Slivers and Shards of Time

I don’t think my experience is atypical.

I race from meeting to class to appointment to task to gym to bus to social engagement.  My life is split apart – too much to do wrestled into too little time.  No longer the singular whole I remember life being as a child, it is now shattered into sometimes seemingly disparate bits of time.  Singularity escapes me.  Perhaps this is a condition of the modern age, or middle age, or both.

In between these pieces of time, broken from one another, I find shards – shards and slivers of time.  Little bits: five minutes here, seven minutes there.   Sometimes these bits are barely long enough to take a breath.  Most often these shards of time are too short to do too much, and yet long enough to make me worry about wasting them.  So, I do what I most of you too would do with these fractured five minute moments: I check my emails and start projects that I cannot finish, and so start again, later.

But every now and then, other things beckon.  My eyes are drawn up to the painting over my desk.  It is an abstract impression of a northern Ontario lake, painted from the perspective of a cliff on the Canadian Shield.  The artist has layered colour over colour, and as the light strikes the painting at different times in the day, various hues show through.  I find myself both calmed and energized by what I see.

Sometimes, the light that illumines the painting draws my eye outside.  Across the street from my office, I see an oak tree.  In the winter, bared of leaves, I see that this tree is actually a dance.  Branches whirl – twisting they invite me to follow the contour of their contortions and to marvel how chaotic parts make for a symphonic whole.

Usually, the above is much more satisfying than checking my emails.

I call these mini-Sabbaths.  Smaller instances of the bigger discipline of stopping: to see, to rest, to pray, just to be.  These shards of time remind me that we are invited into repose, into rest, into the Sabbath for a reason.   We are recollected, reconnected and resurrected in stopping to remember where we are, who we are, and whose we are.   Curious, indeed, is our propensity to be busy instead.

Sun Goes Dawn

Now I see.

My eyes fall into view

transfixed by earth’s ridiculous riches.

A warbler’s yellow wing slides across my eye’s orb

and a cardinal calls with a clarity stalling time so that I am

locked, mid-stride.  She echoes me through.

Thoroughly impoverished, my ears suddenly

burst with possibility:

now I hear – sharply – and the

sun rays me.