Mergansers swimming

Today it is freezing outside and snowing for the second time in just a few days. I felt led to get up and go outside, so I walked down to the Branford River near our home. It is a short tidal river emptying into Long Island Sound. Hooded Mergansers are amongst the water fowl that swim and dive under the brackish waters. They arrive in the fall and swim happily even in the coldest weather.

As I watched them, this short poem came to me.


Mergansers swimming

Brackish water meets swirling snow

Mergansers dive beneath river’s flow

I stand enchanted and feel Life’s glow,

the kiss of cold, the falling snow.



Startled male Hooded Merganser and female.


Mergansers flowing with the river


Headed to the party…




The sometimes dirty business of being compassionate

Today I went on an excursion into New Haven for art supplies and some leisure time at the Yale Museum of Art (outstanding and free) and for lunch at my favorite restaurant/ craft beer bar, The Cask Republic. Surprisingly, after being in Branford, CT for over a year now, this was my first day trip like this into the city. There is easy train service as well as bus service into New Haven yet I have been content to go in only on those days when I had to do errands in our truck. It was nice to get out and be in a different place. Being in the city though can be exhausting for me as I seem to pick up the energy of the people and the place pretty often and I am just a country boy by nature.

Today I at times felt a little like Siddhartha on his first sojourn outside the palace walls. The people I see in cities often seem as though they are to quote Bono of U2, “counting down for the pain to stop.” So many faces, expressions, habits , and mannerisms that bespeak of merely existing rather than living or living almost entirely in a painful place (I’ve been there and it sucks). I saw a family walking down the sidewalk where the woman was clearly in distress about something, her male partner pushing the stroller seemingly oblivious to her frantic torrent of words and to the small child breathing second hand smoke from his dangling cigarette. What can I do as a compassionate being in that moment as I witness such a scene? A well meaning question or offer of help may be met with a ferocious response from a person in such pain. I often just send a mental word of peace to all concerned as I walk past and hope that is enough. Is it?

Later at the train platform, I heard a woman say something about a poor bird and then looked down to see a grey catbird on the concrete near my feet. I immediately bent down and gently picked it up to get it out of the way of foot traffic. The beautiful bird was clearly in pain, gasping for breath and almost certainly suffering a great deal. Without any forethought I put some reiki symbols on it, mostly hoping to calm it down and then I placed it on the top of an emergency phone box to be safe. All the while I was looking at it and mentally saying how beautiful the bird is and that I loved it. These thoughts just came of their own volition seemingly from deep within me. Meanwhile there are many people on the platform with me that may have been wondering what the hell I was doing talking to an injured bird. My goal was to alleviate the suffering of the poor creature but only if it was clear that it would die painfully without any further assistance.

I left the bird there as a train pulled in on its way to the main station in New Haven. As it went by the conductor, who was leaning out her door to tell us all that our train would be coming soon from the other direction, noticed the bird as it tried unsuccessfully to fly from its perch to safety away from trains and people. I took this as a sign that the bird was indeed too infirm to live without a great deal of pain. Moving quickly, I grabbed the bird and in one motion as if butchering a chicken twisted and pulled its head off and then tossed the lifeless carcass onto the rocks surrounding the tracks. The bird was free of its pain and I had bird shit and blood on my hands with no way to wash them. I felt completely fine with that though content that I had done something compassionate for the beautiful catbird that no one else seemed willing or skilful enough to do.

I suppose the lesson for me to notice is that sometimes being compassionate can be messy. It can be messy when it gets in the way of our beliefs such as when we come to see those painted as “enemies” as real human beings. It can be messy because it is often unpopular to view the world through the compassionate lens because when we do we are then forced to make more mindful choices about the ways we live our lives, the resources we consume, and the systems we support with the money we spend. Can we see the world compassionately and still buy sweat shop made or even slave made goods? Can we look at our world compassionately and and see issues such as the politics regarding incarceration, immigration, and labor reform the same way and with the same “solutions” that we now have? I doubt that we could. Yet people of every major faith are called to be compassionate. Surely that means we need to get our hands a little dirtier. It starts where we live, work, and play. Let’s do this.

If a tree falls

The following is unedited. I typed it just how I wrote it in my notebook after watching the film If A Tree Falls…

It’s not as though I’ve never seen this type of thing before. The pain and rage is the same every time I do. Maybe this will be a helpful tactic for me to let it go.

If a Tree Falls-

When I see an injustice the ANGER within me rises

Unhealthy to hold it in, “unspiritual” to let it out

What do I do?

The words come out in a torrent


I am enraged as I watch those who are sworn to serve and protect

violently attack the truly defenseless

The rage subsides

I am stupefied, gob-smacked by sheer incredulity

that what I see documented before me ACTUALLY happened

and so it continues

Then comes wailing grief.

I cry for you Daniel McGowan, walking around my home

stunned once again from my COMPLACENCY of COMFORT

I weep for the Earth and the LIFE we all rely on

The squeaky wheel gets the grease–allegedly

We’ve been squeaking loudly for PEACE, CLEAN AIR, POTABLE WATER, HEALTHFUL FOOD


Thwarted at every turn by $$$$$, the lust for it, the “power” of it.

Why are THEY surprised when the wheel squeaking LONG and LOUD ignites?

Those that make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.


With an equal, level playing field, there need be no violent protests

Common sense must needs prevail.

Shine the light on the injustice, the fallacies promoted that say

‘the economy’ and ‘national security’ are more important than HUMANITY

and the equitable meeting of HUMAN and ECOSYSTEM needs

Some say NO- never speak, never reinforce, so counter-intuitive…


I just want Peace, Clean Air, Water and Food. WILD PLACES TO BE.

Help me Goddess to manifest this reality.

Awaken and Live

I wrote this poem to be a reminder to me to LIVE, really LIVE, here and now. To let go of anger, blame, and other impediments to healthy relationships. It was inspired by the first of the Dichotomies in the Dhammaphada though I am not a Buddhist. Death comes to all, why waste precious life energy being angry at others or in self loathing?

Do you KNOW that you WILL die?

Stop sleepwalking through LIFE!

Do you know that you will die?

Now is the time to AWAKEN and LIVE!

Do you know that you will die?

Knowing this you can REALLY LIVE!

Do you know that you will die?

Death comes to all, the paupers and the pampered


Do you know that you will die?

Find your PASSION and LIVE IT!

Do you KNOW that you WILL die?

We are all unique expressions of LIFE!


Do you know that you will die?


The person who you are fighting WILL die too.

Do you know that you will die?

Be peaceful with all people, for all people will one day die.

Do you know that you will die?

Be compassionate with all people for EVERYONE knows grief, sorrow, and loss

Do you know that you will die?

FORGIVE everyone, including yourself!

Forgiveness is sweet, LIFE is sweet!


Do you KNOW that you WILL die?

Now is the time to AWAKEN and LIVE!

Here. Now. Live.

Native Heart, Indigenous Soul

This piece came pretty much in a torrent of words and emotion.

Four Elements

Native Heart, Indigenous Soul


Awaken to your Native Heart,

from there comes the truest wisdom,

for we are all Native to this Earth.


Is there another home we belong to?

Can we roam freely from our Earthly home?

Awaken to your Native Heart,

It beats within us all

rhythmically calling us to INHABIT

the Land upon which we stand,

to create a Life-place,

and to…



Answer the call of your Indigenous Soul!

It is calling you, me, and everyone Home.

Your Indigenous Soul calls you to INHABIT,

rather than OCCUPY the Land

upon which you stand!

This Land is your Land!

Wherever you walk, wherever you stand

Your Native Heart beats

with the same rhythm as THIS Land,

be it in the East, West, North or South.

One Planet. One Heart. One Tribe.


Heed the CALL!

A Native Heart beats within you.


Remember that YOU are NATIVE to this EARTH,

this HOME.

Awaken to your Native Heart’s beat,

it beats inside you, me

everyone, everywhere

because we are all Native to Here, this Earth.

One Planet with One Heart.


Awaken to your Native Heart,

calling you, me, everyone

to make it right,

to reverse the blight

and we can do it all

with Love and Light,


if we listen to our Native Heart and heed our Indigenous Soul.


Our Native Hearts

beat in rhythm with our Mother

who births ALL we need to THRIVE.

Our Indigenous Souls wail with GRIEF

for the Rivers and Streams that flow

poisoned to the one world Ocean.

Our Native Hearts yearn for clean water.

Our Earthly Mother wants to give us clean water.

Let Her.


Answer your Indigenous Soul.


One Planet. One Heart. One Tribe.

and yet…

Many Beings. Many Cultures. Many Lands.

and yet…

One Planet. One Heart. One Tribe.


You Native Heart beats with LIFE!

Be. Here. Now.

Where do you LIVE?

Your Native Heart demands to be heard!

Your Indigenous Soul longs to know THIS Land

upon which you stand!

Your Native Heart beats with the same rhythm

as the Land upon which you stand!

Your Indigenous Soul wails

for the wounded Land,

 upon which you stand!



Close your eyes. Breathe.

 Be still and know,

your Native Heart, you Indigenous Soul.

We are all Indigenous People,

though some have forgotten more than others.

Just know that your Native Heart remembers.

Your Indigenous Soul knows who you are.

One Planet. One Heart. One Tribe.

Your Native Heart beats inside

reminding you to INHABIT Earth

while giving back to Her,

rather than OCCUPY and take from Her.


Your Indigenous Soul calls you to the remembrance

that our Mother give us ALL.

Nurture Her. Love Her. Hear Her.

She is calling too.

Are you listening?

One Planet. One Heart. One Tribe.

and yet…

Many Beings. Many Lands. Many Cultures.

and yet…

One Planet. One Heart. One Love.

A Ho.

Four Elements

A poem I wrote while taking a break on the  trail yesterday when I went mountain biking.

Four Elements

What message does your soul send

when in stillness you  listen to the leaves

 as they dance in the wind?


Rest stretched out on the earth

with your palms upon Her skin.

Can you hear Her heartbeat as it beats within?


Sit quietly beside the running stream

and hear Her melodies played freely,

to bless body and soul so sweetly.


What once dormant rises within

while staring into the flames of fire ?

 A fierce, urgent, primal desire?


The elements speak, for each one to hear

through the ineffable Spirit.

Hear them, loud and crystal clear