Lagoon Walk: Fall Festival edition

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Thursday Therapy: the exquisite and vulnerable frontier of shyness


“Shyness is the first necessary crossroads on the path of becoming…Without shyness we cannot shape an identity ripe for revelation.


Shyness is the exquisite and vulnerable frontier between what we think is possible and what we think we deserve.

Without shyness it is not possible to apprehend the new. Total confidence at the beginning of a new phase of life means we are misinformed, that we are deeply mistaken, that we think we know what is about to occur and who we are about to become. Shyness is an invitation to a particular form of beauty, to qualities that are meant to be both practiced and cultivated; shyness is our friend; the annunciation that we are just about to walk through the door and through all our difficulties, attempt another beginning.”

—David Whyte in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

Photo: Justin Wolfe

Autumn: real and colorful, fruitful and whole


“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline. The days grow shorter and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do? She scatters the seeds that will bring new life in the spring, scatters them with amazing abandon.

In the autumnal events of my own life, I’m rarely mindful of the fact that seeds are being planted. Instead I fixate on what I’m losing – on the decay of meaning, the decline of a relationship, the slow death of a vocation. If I were to look more deeply, I might see the myriad of possibilities that are being planted to bear fruit in some season to come.


In a culture that prefers the simplicity of either/or thinking to the complexity of paradox, we find it hard to hold opposites together. We want the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, gain without loss, light without darkness – and we end up making Faustian bargains that fail to sustain our lives.


Autumn constantly reminds me that my daily dyings are necessary precursors to new life. If I try to “make” a life that defies the diminishments of autumn, the life I end up with will be artificial and colorless. But when I yield to the endless, interplay of living and dying, the life I am given will – like autumn – be real and colorful, fruitful and whole.”

Parker Palmer

Photo: mendhak

Jogging nuns in Monona


On Saturday afternoon I was pleasantly startled by the sight of nuns jogging in full nun apparel on the streets of Monona.

These must be the nuns that now live by Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; one of my daughters met them recently.

This sight immediately brought to mind the theory of “benign violation” in humor, whereby something is funny because it is outside the bounds of what we normally expect.

It also brought to mind a recent New York Times article about how a convent in New Jersey has succeeded in attracting several college-educated Millennials:

With all the technology, I think they’re just saturated,” she said of the curious. “And they see this life as really radical and they have a desire for it. Maybe their families are fractured and they see our life as really stable. Of course, people come to it from all different places. One of the friars told me his novice master decided to become a friar because friars had their own bedrooms and he hated sharing a room with his brothers at home. That is why he came, but it’s not why he stayed. If God is calling, you can’t be happy doing anything else.



Sunday Morning: crunching the Google data about God


“People may not share their doubts with friends, relatives, rabbis, pastors or imams. They inevitably share them with Google. Every year, in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of pointed questions, most of them coming from the Bible Belt. The No. 1 question in the country is “who created God?” Second is why God allows suffering. This is the famous problem of evil. If God is all powerful and all good, how could he allow suffering? The third most-asked question is why does God hate me? The fourth is why God needs so much praise.


Not only is “who created God?” the top question nationally, it is also the top question in every state.

Some religious people, most famously Job, have asked why God has made their lives so difficult. Now we have evidence on what challenges elicit such questions.

What is the most common word to complete the following question: Why did God make me ___? No. 1, by far, is “ugly.” The other sad answers in the top three are “gay” and “black.”


Relative to the rest of the country, for every search I looked at, retirement communities search more about hell.

When very bad things happen around the world, people search for news; they do not search for prayers, the Bible, the Quran or anything related to religion.”


Source: NYT

Photo: Jay Gooby

Thursday Therapy: the necessity of a certain amount of turmoil and confusion


“Everyone has confusion… Simply by confronting paradoxes or difficulties within your life, designating a time to confront them several times a week, they seem to be not so important as they do when they’re weighing on your mind in the middle of the night, by yourself, with no one to talk to…

I went through a lot of changes about [therapy]. It’s like driving out your devils — do you drive out your angels as well, you know, that whole thing about the creative process. An artist needs a certain amount of turmoil and confusion, and I’ve created out of that. It’s been part of the creative force. I mean, even out of severe depression there comes insight, if you meditate on it. It’s sort of masochistic to dwell on it, but you do gain understanding.”

–Joni Mitchell in Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words via Brain Pickings

Photo: Bill Watson

Sunday Morning: perfectly at ease with whatever comes

jimmy carter

“In America, what we call faith is often loud, often exclusionary, sometimes violent and too frequently enamored of shiny, expensive things. […]

You did not hear much about faith last week when Jimmy Carter held a news conference to reveal that he has four spots of cancer on his brain. The 39th president made only a few references to it in the nearly 40 minutes he spoke, and they were all in response to reporter’s questions. Yet, you would be hard-pressed to find a more compelling statement of belief in things not seen. Unsentimental, poised and lit from within by an amazing grace, Carter discussed the fight now looming ahead of him, the radiation treatments he will undergo, the need to finally cut back on his whirlwind schedule.

He smiled often. “I’m perfectly at ease with whatever comes,” he said, in such a way that you believed him without question. […]

The heat and hubris of human life are such that that state is difficult to conceive, much less to reach. Our lives are defined by wanting and by lack — more money, new car, new love — and by the ceaseless hustle to fill empty spaces within. Media and advertising conspire to make you feel ever incomplete. So it is hard to feel whole within yourself, at peace with what is, whatever that turns out to be.

But who, gazing upon the former president, can doubt the result is worth the effort?”

Leonard Pitts Jr

Photo: Brian Brown

Thursday Therapy: BFF with distress




Image source: Brian Collinson

Lagoon Walk: 90 degree edition


“Sometimes I think that the point of birdwatching is not the actual seeing of the birds,
but the cultivation of patience.” –
Lynn Thomson

90 degrees
Feels Like: 96
Humidity: 54%
Pollen Count: 11.0 (!)

A lazy Labor Day weekend Sunday.
I rise from my second nap of the day.
There are seven library books to return.
So I grab ’em and head for the lagoon.

No birdsong to speak of.
Even the cicadas are keeping it to a dull roar.
I keep an ear out for the bird I’ve been hearing the past couple of weeks that sounds like a monkey.
(That would be the white-breasted nuthatch.)
I don’t even hear that.

I finally catch sight of the great blue heron!
A pair or two of these herons always nest at the lagoon every year.
My summer is never complete until I spot at least one of them.
Now it is.

Walking towards the gazebo/Dream park/shelter part of the park.
A man stands at the lagoon shore talking loudly to himself.
Bluetooth makes it so hard to tell if someone is madly talking to themselves
Or not.
I don’t look hard enough at him to be able to tell if there’s an earpiece
Else he might think I’m slightly mad.

Then I catch site of a young photographer in a pink shirt.
His camera is on a tripod and pointed out over the lagoon.
I surmise the throng of happy people in the shelter must be wedding guests.
Unlike me he probably was able to photograph the great blue heron.

After dropping the library books off I spot a sign along the sidewalk,
The first in a series of four Burma-Shave style signs:



Sunday Morning: Orni-theology


“So over the years I have been trying to develop a new branch of science, which a friend and I have jocularly called ‘orni-theology,’ or the theology of birds.

[…] Martin Luther in his fine exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, became quite lyrical when he commented on Jesus’ teaching about the birds. He wrote:

You see, he is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men. We have as many teachers and preachers as there are little birds in the air. Their living example is an embarrassment to us… Whenever you listen to a nightingale, therefore, you are listening to an excellent preacher… It is as if he were saying, ‘I prefer to be in the Lord’s kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and he himself is the cook and the host. Every day he feeds and nourishes innumerable little birds out of his hand.


–John Stott, from The Birds Our Teachers: Biblical Lessons from a Lifelong Bird Watcher

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