Still Points

  • Wide Spot: Traveling Mercies

    Last weekend, in company with a large percentage of western Canada, we stopped in Revelstoke. It was a hot mess: trucks, boats, trailers everywhere; long queues for bathrooms, burgers and gas.  We were in the fuel line when someone towing a huge boat decided to back-up from the pump, an activity that snarled traffic as … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Happy Now?

     “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be,” Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said. A whole lot of psychologists and social scientists would seem to have proved this point in the last 30 years. Many of them have made their living teaching other people the five steps, or three … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Both True

    If I were to tell you the truth—the truth that I am barely willing to allow myself to know—I am almost always afraid. When I wake up in the middle of the night—which happens many nights—it’s because I am seized by fear. Sometimes it’s tied to a specific occurrence: atrocities in the Ukraine, an article … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Garbage

    I have a lovely neighbor who likes to believe that those beer cans by the roadside blew out of the back of someone’s truck on the way to recycling. I’m not so forgiving. I hate that mess in the ditch with a passion, and resent the perpetrators with a purple passion. I feel personally disrespected … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Hefted

    In parts of rural Britain, sheep are said to be “hefted to the land.” After hundreds of years of being herded on common land, the sheep have learned their place. Hefted ewes pass on to their lambs the knowledge of boundaries, choice grazing sites, sheltered folds, the round of seasonal return to their farm for … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Bumper Stickers

    I remember the freedom I felt, as a young adult, when I realized that every painful occurrence was not intentional. I read and re-read a few paragraphs from 12-step literature about how we mindlessly “step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate in kind.” I started to understand that my fears—of not getting … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Pouty Self

    My baby sister had brand new red roller skates. She lurched through the kitchen as I stood silent, radiating envy. The floor trim between the kitchen and the next room was beyond her skill level, though, and she fell on her bottom. I laughed. “See what you made me do?” she screamed. The ensuing squabble … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Wishing and Willing

    One of my favorite online resources is the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkeley. Researchers in the science of happiness and gratitude, they’ve got a bang-up website and tons of free resources. But the relentlessly upbeat tone has irritated me lately: Four Things You Can Do To Help Your Kids During the Pandemic! Happiness for … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Broken Bones

    Environmental activist and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy once said, “You don’t need to do everything. Do what calls your heart; effective action comes from love. It is unstoppable, and it is enough.” Or as one of her students transmitted it to me, “Everything needs to be done, so everyone should do what they’re doing.” I’ve … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Imagine That

    Years ago, as part of a retreat for environmental activists, we did an exercise imagining different points of view. Here was a scenario: a waterfront property owner had dumped sand to add beach to his property and, in the process, eliminated a wetland. There were three points of view: first, the wetland, its plants and … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Words Matter

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” When I was a kid, that children’s chant was a talisman to protect us from the startlingly painful names that kids fling—Fatty, Stinky, Coke-Bottle Bottoms and worse. But the words stay with us. Yes, I’d rather be called a name than physically … Read more

  • The Kitchen of Love: Eating Gimpy

    In the kitchen of love,  only the beautiful are killed. Death does not frighten a true lover  for those not dying for love are already corpses. –Rumi Translation by Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin I knew it was her as soon as I pulled the bag out of the freezer.  I knew because she looked … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Revisionist History

    Last night, out of the blue, an email arrived bearing a 43-year-old video. Sent via a chain of friends and relatives, the clip showed me at my first wedding, singing my heart out to the accompaniment of a slide guitar. My niece appended a note saying that she fully expected Pete Seeger to come onstage … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Cook Your Potatoes

    It’s a fallacy that deer don’t eat potatoes, or at least strip the plants naked. I guess I should be grateful for the stalks and tubers left behind, and hope that the deer get sick enough to discourage further nocturnal raids. It’s another fallacy that talking about how we feel always results in connectedness, support, … Read more

  • Wide Spot: The Answer, My Friend…

    If you’re as old as I am, you’re already singing the next line in this iconic Dylan song.  You also know that the answer “blowing in the wind” is both blindingly obvious and as ephemeral as a breeze down Carpenter Creek Canyon. I’d like to think that one answer to Dylan’s rhetorical ponderings is blowing … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Fresh New Hell

    The line “What fresh new hell is this?” was famously coined by the American critic Dorothy Parker when her writing was interrupted by the telephone. There’s something deeply true captured by Parker’s flippant phrase, that oh-so-human experience of feeling overwhelmed by one calamity while still in the throes of previous one. I prefer numbness to … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Moral Proximity

    I am an avid reader; unlike my high-minded family and friends, however, I prefer novels to non-fiction. A well-written novel can introduce me to a whole new way of understanding the world, like Richard Powers’ The Overstory. Even the deceptively simple novels of the ethicist Alexander McCall Smith—such as The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Close the Language-Door

    I thank my lucky stars (as my mom used to say) that I have a dog. Among other things, having a dog means that I am committed, no matter how somnolent, to an 11 p.m. walk every night around the front yard. Last week’s yard visits included views of the full moon—more accurately, the Pink … Read more

  • Delusion, Denial, Depression, Dark Night?

    “Are we all going through a dark night of the soul?” he said. “That’s what one of my teachers said last week.” I have pondered that question for a month and have decided that I disagree. I do believe that we are all suffering, whether conscious of this fact or not. But we are not … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Proximity Incontinence

    I remember walking home from school through the autumn leaves and sunshine, hurrying a little. Six years old, I had a full bladder and 8 blocks to cover. Things were fine until I reached the notoriously-hard-to-open back door. I yanked; it stayed shut. After a few more fruitless tugs, there on the concrete steps, urgency … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Feeling or Fact?

    Two conversations and two questions: in the first exchange, a woman assured me that she was right in her stance about wearing/not wearing a mask because she could “feel it in her body.” In the second, a man said that when someone criticized him, she was being abusive—he knew this to be true because of … Read more

  • Taller Than a Dog

    As I took the dog out for our early morning walk on Friday, I spotted her best friend down the street. Dolly, whose head rises a little over 18 inches off the ground, could see only the driveway rising in front of her.  I, being four feet taller, could see over the rise of the … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Holding the Post

    I recently went up Red Mountain Road to drop off some jam for friends. Their driveway being an impassable pile of snow, I parked below and followed a trail up the side of the mountain through a tract of mature forest. I felt those woods before I really saw them. Something made me stop, take … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Contagion

    In a photo that went viral recently, an elderly man with COVID-19 is seen from the back. His head is buried in the arms of a physician as he weeps. The hospital gown gaps, his scalp shows through thinning hair: a vision of naked vulnerability. The doctor who hugs him is fully garbed in PPE: … Read more

  • Wide Spot: A Certain Kind of Blindness

    If the recent snowfall made you dream about mai-tais on the beach or desert hikes; if you’re longing for the simple joy of hanging out; if you’re craving dinner parties and indiscriminate hugs; I say, join the club. I am yearning to stand too close, to reach out and hold a hand. I’d like to … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Transformers

    My grandson, Noah, is captivated by Transformers, those toys depicting sentient robots that configure themselves into other forms. The longest hour of my life was when he read me the Ultimate Guide to Transformers, which details the history of every character and all the forms they have ever taken. Mostly I heard about Optimus Prime, … Read more

  • Wide Spot: Over the Meth Lab

    One of the jokes going around has it that being a Canadian these days is like living over a meth lab. When I first heard this line, it was in reference to the intentionally stoked fear and loathing that currently characterize U. S. political discourse. What the joke didn’t address was the fact that even … Read more

  • Wide Spot: False Flat

    Recently, my sister introduced me to the term “false flat.” The phrase, coined by bicyclists, refers to a stretch that appears to offer easy riding but actually inclines uphill. The rider is seduced into expecting an effortless peddle but instead has to keep pumping. When you’ve anticipated coasting, it makes the ride that much harder. … Read more

  • Keep Within

    Keep within, And when they say, “Look here,” or “Look, there is Christ.” Go not forth; for Christ is within you.                            –George Fox, Quaker mystic Everywhere we look, there are signs and reminders that the best thing we can do for each other is to physically separate ourselves—to keep within our homes when we … Read more

  • The Other Edge (George Meier)

    If you’re a hockey fan, you’ll know the famous Sidney Crosby—one of the greatest players ever. And if you are a hockey player looking to improve your game, you can watch Sidney demonstrate skating drills using the outside edges of his skates on YouTube. In hockey skates, a small, hollow trough runs the length of … Read more

  • Oh, honey

    We had never met although we had friends in common, interests in common, were about the same age and lived in villages just down the road from each other. Now I was never going to know her. So I thought. +++ +++ +++ I got the text from a mutual friend, who knew I might … Read more

  • Dancing (George Meier)

    If we are part of a shrinking church membership, at some point we will get booted out into the world.  So, from one point of view, why wait for the doors to hit you on the way out?  Why not reinvent the church in the very centres of our communities?   At least we will get … Read more

  • Facing Reality (George Meier)

    When I began full time ministry in 1992, my call was to help churches facing difficulty to become again a vital and transforming presence in people’s lives.  My frame of reference was the church as the indispensable container for experiencing, nurturing and sharing God’s love.  We just needed healthy churches and everything would be fine.  … Read more

  • Toward a Cruciform Theology of Communion

    Note to the Reader: This theological paper was written three years ago.  For many of you, communion isn’t an important issue, and the length of the paper will be daunting (21 pages).  But if you, like me, struggle with the meaning and practice of the sacrament of communion, this may be of interest. Part One: … Read more

  • Bear Attention

    A teacher of mine once defined attention as the most genuine form of love.  He taught me this using a rock, which I was to observe for 15 minutes without composing metaphors, rehearsing geological history, or discerning the face of Jesus in the markings on its side.  I was simply to see it, stripped of … Read more

  • Loving the Lake to Death

    Note: This appeared in the September 2012 edition of The United Church Observer, but I forgot to post it here!     I fell in love with Slocan Lake in southern B.C. the same way I fell in love as a teenager: head over heels, infatuated, besotted, enamoured. I couldn’t stop sneaking peeks: green mountain … Read more

  • Learning Local Customs

    AN IMPORTANT NOTE:  Each year, the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society—which I currently serve as president of the board—hosts a “Lake Lies and Tall Tales” event where community members tell stories and compete for prizes.  This year, the “most fishy” tale was awarded a gallon of fish fertilizer, and the best story won a photo of … Read more

  • A nun and neuroscience, an apple and the Divine

    January, 2009 The nun Sister John of the Cross, the central character in the novel Lying Awake, has spent long, dry decades in a Carmelite cloister outside Los Angeles, praying and waiting for a tangible sign of God. As the book opens, she has finally begun living the contemplative’s dream: daily ecstatic union with the … Read more