Saturday, February 28, 2015

BOUNDLESS WONDER – Extending Our Grasp of Beauty

The universe is immense beyond our comprehension. Yet this vastness is reflected literally at our fingertips. For there, in a single skin cell, exists another  “universe”—one of ever-smaller and smaller particles.

Human skin cells - PHOTO: CK-12 Foundation -

Even an atom, which itself is a ten millionth the size of the period at the end of this sentence, is made up of components that are proving every bit as hard to count as the number of bodies in the celestial universe.

Here, at Nature’s extremes, is where perspective begins to get a little weird. It’s fascinating to ponder how the infinitely big and the infinitesimally small are equally incomprehensible. The same goes for relative time, value and other less obvious qualities.

And, as physicists venture into the realms of quarks and quasars, we’re learning that the rules governing those concepts are going to have to change.

PHOTO: Sish Advexon -

Two things you might think would fall at opposite ends of a scale of time, size or space might, according to these new realities, actually lie right next to each other or even coincide. In these latitudes, large encompasses small; bad includes good; beauty has its ugly side. In everything lie the seeds of its opposite. And the astounding Intelligence that designed it all, at once everywhere and nowhere, looks on kindly as we endeavor to understand. 

       Wherever you may be in body or in 
       spirit, I hope you’ll choose to see beauty.

So the worlds I continue to explore around, within and beyond me are ultimately the same world. It’s all one, and it’s all good—the beginnings, the endings and everything in between.

What this means is that the extent of life’s wonders and mysteries is bounded neither by our skin-and-bones frailties nor even by time. No, the miracles we experience are limited only by our curiosity, our imagination and our faith. I hope you’ll choose to explore those boundaries. And, wherever you may be in body or in spirit, I hope you’ll choose to see beauty.

I’d consider it a great honor to join you for a leg of whatever boundary breaking you've undertaken, be it a walk in the woods, a quest for ideas or a journey of faith. Let me know the limits and barriers you've overcome. I have so much to learn.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Explore the place where sense & emotion overlap.

There’s a place where all the sense impressions that come into you churn and stew with stuff that’s looking for a way out.

Here is where true meaning and much of memory forms, and the essence, the aroma of it, exudes through your skin.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE DOG LISTENER – Getting Through to a Scared Pup

Sally called upstairs to me with an unusual note of urgency in her voice. Something about a dog. By the time I got downstairs, she’d already gone out the back door of our townhouse and into the central commons area we share with others in our complex.

A couple of our neighbors were out there too, and a dog. He was a spirited, young, mid-size golden-and-something mix. I could see at a glance that the animal was agitated—like he desperately wanted to find something or someone.

Sally quickly filled me in: the dog had been seen wandering around our complex for the past few days. He was obviously a stray. Everyone had been trying to get him to come to them so they could see if he had a name tag. But the poor thing was really spooked. Every time someone got close to him, he’d run away.

They’d called him; they’d offered him food; they’d even tried cornering him. Nothing worked. The day before, Sally said, someone had called Minneapolis Animal Control, but by the time the guy arrived, the wary pooch was nowhere to
be found.

   He lay down three feet behind me, let out a 
   big sigh and laid his head down on the grass.

Sally racked her brain for some way we could help the little guy. Eventually everyone else gave up and went back into their homes while she and I thought about what we could do.

As we watched the dog, now on the other side of the commons, I had a hunch. I asked Sally to stay where she was and to keep as still as possible. I walked very slowly about halfway to where the dog was pacing, eyeing us nervously. I didn’t know if I believed all I’d heard from PBS nature programs about avoiding eye contact with wild animals, but I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I kept my eyes on the ground, sat down on the curb, and just waited.

It didn’t take long. The dog started walking toward me, tentatively at first, but then more purposefully. He still slunk low, but his tail no longer tucked as tightly between his legs. He just kept coming all the way to where I sat, lay down three feet behind me, let out a big sigh and laid his head down on the grass.

Over the next few minutes, I was able to turn gradually and face the relieved animal, extend my hand and pet him. Eventually he let me attach a leash to his collar. 
       We are here not to dominate or exploit 
       Nature, but at her pleasure.

I was amazed by what had happened, but not surprised. The thing was, I knew it was going to happen. It was almost as if I’d been able to will it. And, though it’s surely presumptuous to think so, I believe there’s something to this. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I know it has something to do with faith.

This experience reinforced my conviction—despite our culture of self-reliance and control—that we are not always masters of our environment. Indeed, we are here not to dominate or exploit Nature, but at her pleasure. And part of what faith does for us is to reassure us that that’s okay.

This faith has no label; it’s not Christian, nor Buddhist, nor Muslim. In this case, it’s just knowing that if we approach the natural world around us on its own terms, with eyes, heart and spirit open, nature never fails to reward us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BLUE-SKY BLIZZARD – Awash in Wintery Wonder

This morning in the forest every branch and twig seems more slender for the epaulet of fresh snow atop its shoulders. The fine lines of dark taupe and raw umber branch and spread, etched in a Maya blue sky. Crisp post-Alberta-clipper
air hovers, breathless, at around zero.


I swear I can hear tiny creaks and clanks, whispers of those the hot water pipes in old buildings make, as still-rising sun heats the branches. Though nothing will course through them for another month and a half, there is movement. Imperceptibly, the rough, warm bark swells. Dampened by the first drops of snow melt, it exhales tiny wisps of steam.

Those slight, rising air currents merge and grow, and soon stir the branches. To my right, a few falling flakes catch glints of sun; then more to my left.

      The five-year-old in me opens his mouth and 
      catches as much as he can on his tongue.

PHOTO: Lee Rentz

I stand among trunks in a pool of sunlight. An inkling lifts my gaze, and suddenly I’m awash in a fine, dazzling-diamond mist. The five-year-old in me opens his mouth and catches as much as he can on his tongue. Though too little to even wet it, the snowy spritz quenches my grateful soul. And then, but for a few straggling flakes, it is gone.

I look to position myself under another snow shower, but the game of wonder whac-a-mole frustrates me. I guess the one prize will have to do…for now.