Steeples and Stars


Spring has arrived in Vermont.

Iris coming up. You know what pops in my head when I see these new iris? “And these are my steeples” from that kids game where you fold your hands into a church. I like visiting churches… as a tourist. I’ve seen quite a few across the world, but not many inspire the simple awe of spring and sunlight on new green, or the grace of hands on dirt, or the benediction of brushing off damp gritty knees after kneeling to weed. Excuse me while I go look up the word benediction… Not totally sure what it means…

A little boy asked me not long ago what a church was, as we drove by one, and I tried to explain, I said churches were where people went to pray and talk to God. He asked me if churches where were God lived. Well, I said, it’s kind of his house, but he doesn’t live there. He’s everywhere. I thought that was the end of it, but then he asked me, “what are we made of?” What are we made of? What? What should I answer? Skin and bones? I reached way back and remembered a song lyric and something about carbon. We are all made of stars, I said. He was quiet the rest of the way home.

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Searching for Grace

Bean & Bantam all rights reserved

Outrage sells news. Outrage makes you click a link, and rakes in on-line profit. We tend to click on headlines that serve up outrage more than any other type. Outrage fuels resentment. Resentment fuels more resentment.

We have enough resentment. We have enough to be outraged about. We have enough divisiveness. We have more than enough derision, bullying, and snarkery. We have plenty. We don’t need more snark. We don’t need outrage. We don’t need resentment. We don’t need walls. We don’t need registries. We don’t need bullhorns. We don’t need hate. On the flip side, we don’t need peace or love as much as we need something else. Why something else? Why not peace and love, and “all you need is love”? Because at this point, at this time, in this world, I’m pretty sure peace and love are… well, maybe just too far out of reach for right now.

What we need is grace. Can we start with just a little bit of grace?

In trying to figure out how to define grace, or how to explain this idea of grace as the thing that we need more than anything else right now, I poked around in search of what grace really means. Merriam Webster wasn’t helpful at all. I mean, not at ALL, which surprised me. Their definition doesn’t grasp even a little bit of what I mean by grace. 1) “Simple elegance or refinement of movement.” No. 2) (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Uh, I think I mean grace is a more secular way. We can’t bestow blessings on others without god or christian belief? 3)”do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence.” By one’s presence? Really? Not by one’s gifts or one’s humor or one’s talent? To do honor or credit just by showing up? What about the factor of doing whatever it is WELL. So Merriam Webster has some work to do in my opinion. Their nuance on grace is completely missing, somewhat like the grace I’m thinking of is just about almost but not quite missing in the modern world, or specifically in 2016 and 2017 in the United States.

Continue reading “Searching for Grace”

Civility and Snark 

Rockingham Meeting House
rockingham meeting house

This is the Rockingham Meeting House, one of the two oldest church buildings in Vermont, circa 1787, used for early town meetings until the mid-nineteenth century, then abandoned and empty until early twentieth century interest in historical preservation. I’ve heard my father spent summers as a teenager helping maintain this, way back when. The window glass is wavy and flecked, and the mullions seem to have more paint than wood.

Meeting houses and churches were once  where the people used to come together, to listen and discuss and disagree, to talk things out and move forward despite any disagreement.  This no longer holds true.

Many of us now frequent Facebook, or an online newspaper comments, or Reddit, or Instagram, where we can choose what to see and discuss for ourselves, and block or hide what we do not agree with.  I think many of us are always certain of our own opinions, and we watch the comments section like the spectacle it is, with a level of disgust.

What happened to talking civilly about differences in opinion? Was there a time, way back when, when it was possible to have a hot topic discussion without derision, without snarkery, or condescension, or insults?  I am so tired of snarkiness.

When we either don’t see opposing views because we’ve tailored Facebook feeds and news sources to suit our preferences, or we can’t share or discuss opposing views civilly offline or online, we become ever more convinced that our particular views or ways are “right.”

Are we all becoming more insular, isolated, and ever more unable to see the world from another point of view? Unable to talk with people that don’t share our own views? Is that really a good idea?

What we all have in common should be greater than any of our differences.

through a glass darkly
“through a glass, darkly…” view through a window to the other side of the meeting house.