Sunday, September 25, 2011


I have decided to change platforms for Along the Graybeard Trail. will be the new URL.

I hope you will follow me - make any change in your bookmarks - set up a new feed - subscribe.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Georgia O'Keefe's mountain

As so often happens when I looked through my pictures this evening, 
I came across pictures of Ghost Ranch. 
A picture of "Georgia O'Keefe's mountain" spoke to me. 
The colors and the time of year, I think. 
This was taken in October of 2009.

For some reason, I played with the picture using iPhoto.
I suspect that with a better program I could have preserved some of the texture in the foreground.
Still, it is an intriguing view.

See you along the Trail.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My heart aches again

The third execution this week in the United States took place today.

Prayers for the family and friends of Derrick O'Neal Mason, executed today by the state of Alabama. 

Prayers for the family and friends of Angela Cagle of whose murder he was convicted. 

I made a contribution to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. You can too. 

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not only Southern trees

As I type, I understand that the execution of Troy Anthony Davis is proceeding. If it is not, it will soon. He was convicted for the murder of Mark MacPhail.

Earlier today, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed for the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. He remained unrepentant; some of James Byrd Jr.'s family has expressed forgiveness.

Human Rights Watch reports that half a world away, 17-year old Alireza Mollasoltani was publicly executed in Iran. He was convicted for the murder of Ruholla Dadashi.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Mark MacPhail.

My heart aches for the family and all who love James Byrd, Jr.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Ruhollah Dadashi.

My heart aches for those who made these decisions and for those who had to carry them out.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Troy Anthony Davis.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Lawrence Russell Brewer.

My heart aches for the family and all who love Alireza Mollasoltani.

My heart aches.

In the midst of the sorrow, I give thanks for the glimpses of grace shown by family members, friends, and advocates.

Democracy Now played a clip of Strange Fruit sung by Billie Holiday, written by Abel Meeropol. "Southern trees bear a strange fruit," it begins.

Not only Southern trees.

The struggle continues.

See you along the Trail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Is this how we want to mark the International Day of Peace?

Without an intervention of some sort, Troy Davis will be executed by the State of Georgia tomorrow - September 21 on the International Day of Peace at 7:00 p.m.

I do not believe in the death penalty. I do not think it makes us safer. It does not bring anyone back. It rips the fabric of society - causing more wounds rather than working healing and restoration. It is rooted in vengeance - a lethal concoction of drugs injected into one's veins in exchange for murder or rape or other capital crime. Such crimes are heinous. Monstrous. Evil. Unspeakably so. But there has to be another way, other ways, to respond than execution. As my friend Shannon points out, are the countries that use the death penalty really the company I want my country to keep?

All that aside, there is also the question of doubt in the case of Troy Davis. He was convicted, but since then: seven of the nine original witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony; many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements. Courts have ruled that Troy Davis' innocence cannot be proved. But when does doubt reach the level of being "reasonable?" Does that level change after a person is convicted? Should the fact that the punishment is death affect what constitutes "reasonable doubt?" Does proving innocence trump reasonable doubt after conviction?

The NAACP provides a petition to ask Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm, who requested the death warrant against Troy Davis, to petition the judge to withdraw the death warrant against Troy Davis.

Amnesty International also provides an opportunity to contact the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Paroles.

I have taken both of those actions. In addition, I plan to fast tomorrow evening. And I will pray.

I will pray for Troy Davis and his family and friends.

I will pray for the family and friends of Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Officer MacPhail's brutal murder was the crime of which Troy Davis was convicted.

I will pray for those who are in a position to stop this execution.

I will pray for those who are in the position of having to carry out this execution should it come to that.

I will pray for all people who have had a loved one murdered.

I will pray for all people who have had a loved one executed.

I will pray.

May God have mercy on us all.

See you along the Trail.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not as good, but not as bad

Yesterday the Steeelers won - won easily.
A week ago the Steelers lost - lost badly.
There was a significant difference in the quality of the teams they played,
but there was also a significant difference in the way they played.
So the question is:
are they as good as this past Sunday
or as bad as the previous Sunday
or does reality lie somewhere in between?

19 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Double rainbow

It is unclear why this has remained unposted for more than a year.
When it was taken, I was not in a posting groove.

At the end of 2010 summer, 
a little over a year ago,
Tricia and I visited
the Great Plains.

Our adventure began in Denver, the starting point for this year's travels as well.
We drove north through Wyoming into Montana where we saw 
the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument,
cut east to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands
turned south through Nebraska,
and ended back to Denver.

We saw a number of national parks
and visited a couple of zoos.

We also checked out some state parks and historic sites
including Fort Phil Kearney State Historic Site 
near Banner, Wyoming.

There we journeyed to the location 
of the Fetterman Fight.

While we walked the grounds where battle once ranged
a small storm developed.

It brought enough rain to create
this double rainbow.

See you along the Trail.

19 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Red rock NYC

In the morning, early in the morning,
far too early in the morning,
I rise and stumble toward the bathroom,
the vista out my window catches my attention;
I pause to watch the sun dance in shades of red
on the buildings of Morningside Heights,
calling to mind the mesas on the Colorado Plateau.
For the longest time I stand,
feeding my spirit on the city canyons' beauty.

17 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Friday, September 16, 2011

His move

It's your move.

The words startled him;
his head jerked up,
he shifted in his seat.
For the briefest of moments, their knees touched,
bare flesh warm on bare flesh.
He quickly moved his leg away
as though he had seared it on a stove's lit burner.

It's your move, came the repeated words.

Their eyes locked,
one soul peering deep into another.

What happens next is up to you.

The clear invitation echoed in his head
and pierced his heart.
His breathing quickened as he pondered the words,

envisioning what might be,
sensing opportunity,
imaging possibilities of joy,
considering consequences.

He broke the gaze and looked down,
staring intently,
absorbed a whirlpool of thought,
momentarily lost in eddies of emotion.
After an eternal ninety-seven seconds,
he leaned forward and, smiling broadly,
reached out his hand and took
queen's knight to c3.

16 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Still 117

Riding up in the elevator today with someone I had not seen in a while, and the conversation went like this:

Did you make it through Hurricane Irene, OK?

I did fine. I was in Oklahoma.

That's one way to avoid it.

They had lots of coverage. I watched. 

How was Oklahoma?

It was good. Well, it was hot. 117 degrees.

117? (image a sense of amazement and wonder in the tone of voice)

Yes. But it wasn't so bad. It was a dry heat. Not humid like here.

At this point, the elevator reached his floor. Now I realize that humidity matters. Matters a great deal. One of the things I like about northern New Mexico is the lower humidity. But . . . so as he left the car, I said:

But 117 is still 117.

(laughing) 117 is still 117.

Enjoying cooler weather and hoping it continues!

See you along the Trail.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Train to DC

Sometimes the Trail 
we travel by rail.
I Amtraked today from NYC to DC
second time I took the train 
a pleasant experience
of course it would have been far more pleasant
had the day not started at 3:00 in the blessed A.M.

Photo - near Newberg, OR
October, 2009

Monday, September 12, 2011

Congratulations Sean

Sean completed the 2011 Ironman Wisconsin in Madison a short time ago. I am impressed. I look forward to hearing his stories.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


In the St. James Presbyterian Church office,
under the gaze of the Rev. Dr. Lenton Gunn,
who had served on the Advisory Committee of the
Presbyterian Hunger Program at the same time I did,
a parallel of timing occurred to me:
in early October 2000, I moved to Louisville
and so had been there for not quite a year
when on a crisp, bright, blue, beautiful New York day,
the attacks of September 11, 2001 took place,
in early October 2010, I moved to Manhattan
and so had been here for not quite a year
when on a crisp, bright, blue, beautiful New York day,
the city, the country, the world
remembered the attacks for the tenth time.
What to make of this? I know not.
I note the parallel, but my understanding remains

11 September 2011
St. James Presbyterian Church
Shire on the Hudson 

September 11, 2011

On this day of sadness and pride, remembrance and looking forward, St. James Presbyterian Church used the worship resources for the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 today during worship. We shared in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Members of the congregation had the opportunity to make Ribbons of Hope which were delivered to Battery Park (my pictures from there did not work).

As often happens, a number of international visitors joined the congregation.

It was a blessing and an honor to worship with and preach to the saints of St. James.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

God's Tears II

A couple of days ago, a conversation led me to reflect on rain as the tears of God. A friend said that his mother had told him the rain is God's tears.

I took the approach of God weeping over the pain we inflict on each other - the ways we hurt one another - the damage we do. The ways we treat each other certainly grieves God sorely. Indeed, it seems that God could weep eternally over ways we violate God's children. Sorrow, pain, grief, rage, all produce tears.

In response to my reflection, my friend Grace posed a simple question: "Are there ever tears of joy?"

I suspect that the events I was dealing with last week narrowed my vision and limited my thinking. Many things touch our hearts, minds, spirits, souls. The beauty of the world may make us weep. The wonder of love may cause us to cry. Amazing grace, incredible courage, profound sacrifice, all may elicit tears.

Tears of joy? Absolutely. Every day. Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

Team Sean

Sean participates in the Ironman Wisconsin in Madison, WI tomorrow. I am impressed by the dedication he has shown to prepare for this event. It is very exciting. I will be glad to hear when he has finished. His mother and his aunt will be present in Madison as his cheering section. Actually, I think they are there now. And I wish I was. But it did not work out that way.

We came up with the idea of creating a group "Team Sean." We made a sign and then invited folks to take pictures of themselves in various places and post the signs on his Facebook page. Folks did. The picture posted here is an example: Joel in Dublin with one of my favorite libations. I put another on Sean's page.

I am very grateful to our friends who have participated. It has been fun to see the pictures and good to know that so many folks will be thinking of Sean and the others who are doing a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run tomorrow.

See you along the Trail.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Milk and cookies for Mean Joe

Make sure you have milk and cookies on hand.

Leave them out tomorrow night for Joe Greene.

The Steelers play on Sunday.

No need to thank me.  Just doing my civic duty.

See you along the Trail.

Antonio has been found

Good news!

We have learned that Antonio Ariza has been found and is alive. We will post more information as we receive it.

Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach, advocacy and prayers.

Please continue to pray and act for God's children who have been disappeared in Colombia and around the world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

God's Tears

Something different happened when I left the office tonight. Well at least different from the previous two nights.

It was not raining. I simply note that. I am not complaining about the rain.

Places are desperate for rain. Children of God are dying, in part because of drought.

The simple reality is that for last two nights I and many other New Yorkers have made our ways home in the rain; others have endured the rain because they had to work or because they had no place to take shelter.

Tonight, it was overcast and damp when I stepped outside. But not precipitating.

This led to an interesting conversation:

When I was a child, I used to believe that the rain was God crying. That's what my mother said. And I believed her.

Maybe, I said. We certainly give God enough reasons to cry. Look at how we treat each other, what we do to each other.

We do. We do.

We bid each other good-bye and I headed on toward the train.

And then the obvious flaw in that idea occurred to me:

If raindrops are God's tears, it would never stop raining.

See you along the Trail.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I will not sleep well tonight.

Of course I rarely sleep well, but at least I will know why tonight. 

It is hard to sleep, at least for me, when my heart aches even more than usual.

I learned last night that Antonia Ariza went missing on September 1, 2011. The information came from our partners in the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Antonio has been working with the church for a number of years in their ministry of accompaniment with people who have been displaced in Colombia.

Despite the ongoing and repeated threats to his life, Antonio has remained committed to the cause of peace and justice for displaced persons in Colombia. He was continuing his tireless activities as president of the Atl├íntico chapter of the National Association of Displaced Persons of Colombia (ANDESCOL).    

Antonio's whereabouts remain unknown. He has become one of the disappeared.

The IPC is mounting a search for him and are pressing his case to all authorities in Colombia. Presbyterians are joining in the effort. I spent a good portion of the day working with partners from the Colombia Accompaniment Program on a letter to the US Embassy in Bogota from Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The letter is at the request of the IPC and is shaped by information they provided.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has identified action steps to take. The list was created with the assistance of Rev. Sarah Henken, Regional Liaison for the Andean Region for Presbyterian World Mission. The steps are designed to pressure the authorities in Colombia to place the highest priority possible in the search for Antonio. 

Here's an update from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship on the action steps: 


Thank you so much to everyone for your outreach in regards to the case of Antonio Ariza. We have received word from the US Embassy in Bogota today through numerous channels that they have our information and that they are working on his case.

We have also received feedback from many of our loyal grassroots supporters that they are experiencing issues with email bounce-backs from both US and Colombian addresses that we have provided you with. We apologize for this inconvenience, be assured that the addresses are correct, but their systems have a number of safeguards to prevent spam, and due to the volume of emails we have generated, some of them are being turned away by the automated systems. We have no control over this.

At this time we do not need to continue to send faxes to the US Embassy. They have received our message, and additional faxes would probably be counterproductive since they have been flooded today by our organization and our partner organizations. Please continue to fax/email the offices of Colombian officials as able.

Thank you so much—your solidarity means so much and we will continue to keep you posted about our continued advocacy for Antonio. Your prayers continue to be of great need and comfort to all in this time.

–The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

I had the privilege to meet Antonio when I was in Colombia during Holy Week and Easter of 2011. My heart breaks for him, for his family, for his friends, and for all who have been disappeared. My heart breaks that we live in a world where some people think they can simply make people with whom they disagree, people who threaten them, disappear. And not only are there people who think that - they are in position to make it happen.

May God's peace be with Antonio - with his family - with his friends - with the people of of the IPC - with all who been disappeared - with all who sleep poorly tonight as they wait and worry for loved ones.

See you along the trail. I look forward to the day I see Antonio.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In therapist's office,
you talk through bad times;
on found scraps of paper
I scribble poor rhymes.

6 September 2011
Downtown 1 Train

Monday, September 5, 2011

Finally back to the gym

The past
can haunt us,
inspire us,
live within us,
shape us,
guide us,
influence us,
come out in our lives at times
and in ways that we never expect.

The past
may not even exist,
at least at times,
according to Faulkner; "the past is never dead;
it's not even past."

The past:
remember - never forget?
let bygones be bygones?

The past:

The past
has seen me try
and come up short; and yet,
despite the past,
in spite of the past,
because of the past
I try again.
I try again.

5 September 2011
on the way to the gym
Shire on the Hudson

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A start

Step by step
One day at a time
I know the platitudes.
I have said them.
I have tried to live them.
Again and again and again
I have tried.
Several times
I have made a step or two
and stopped.
Several times
I have succeed for a day or so
and then fallen short.
The words sound almost hollow.
Yet they contain great truth,
and so today I note:
A start.

See you along the Trail.

Mists of Avalon

Partway into this movie - or mini-series - have found some weirdness, some appeal, and several interesting things.

Interesting that James Coburn was the executive producer. James Coburn of The Magnificent Seven. I wonder what the back story is?

Interesting who the players are. In the scenes with the young Arthur, I was sure I recognized him. Near the end of his time in the film, I realized it was Freddie Highmore (August Rush, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland and more). A very young Freddie Highmore, but Freddie nonetheless.

Interesting version of the "relationship" between Arthur and Morgaine that leads to the conception of Mordred. Could be even more interesting to see how this develops.

Interesting take on how Arthur obtains Excalibur.

Interesting take on how Lancelot and Guinevere (Gwenwyfar as it is spelled here) meet.

I am interested to see what else proves interesting.

I need to reread the book. I suspect there will be many significant differences.

See you along the Trail.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Children's books of Huguenot Memorial Church

I have always liked books. English major. Children's books have held a special appeal to me. Books written for children can be amazing: in words and images they may carry profound truth. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program makes good use of children's books. Intergenerational conferences often included a time of bed-time stories in which staff read books of peace and justice.

Why this focus on children's books?

On Friday, September 2, I visited Huguenot Memorial Church (Presbyterian) in Pelham, New York. We were planning a seminar for the church at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.We might not be able to come to you, but we would love to help plan a seminar for your congregation or other group. Contact us.

My visit involved a tour and conversations with Rev. Jacob Bolton, Rev. Stephen Michie, Mr. Floyd Tolliver, and Ms. Teisha Hickman, all of whom told me about the church and its ministry. I learned of children's programming, mission trips, ministries to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, efforts to address hunger, support for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, participation in Habitat for Humanity and more. I saw the chapel, the stained glass in the sanctuary, the chapel that can be used in a variety of ways, the columbarium, an incredible triptych proclaiming the birth of Jesus, and the the gymnasium where cabarets, gymnastics, and basketball take place (not necessarily at the same time). All testaments to faithful disciples of Jesus.

Things really clicked when we entered the library. I checked the shelves and suddenly the corner that houses the children's library caught my eye. Bright colors. New books. Diverse titles. Some I knew; some I recognized; some new to me; some in the pictures; some on a list of books for families living in a multifaith world.

I have already started to look for some of the books in the pictures. I invite you to do the same.

See you along the Trail.

Baylor 50 - TCU 48

Cheerleaders chewed purple fingernails
to the quick as the final drive of the 112th contest
between young men began.
In the midst of the offense and scoring,
a few defensive plays occurred.
Legs seized with cramps
in the Texas heat.
Penalties, stupid, stupid penalties
impacted drives.
Missed field goals early in the game, 
at the time seemingly unimportant,
suddenly mattered,
mattered deeply,
when the first and last interception
sealed the result,
leading some to storm the field,
leaving some to stare in disbelief.
College football!

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Friday, September 2, 2011



Looking through some digital photographs, 
I came upon this one of moon and trees.
Someday I may say something profound about this image. 
For the moment I simply ponder and revel the contrasts it contains.

The photo was taken on October 26, 2009 at Ghost Ranch.

See you along the Trail.

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

I see the moon

I see the moon.
The moon sees me.
The moon sees somebody 
I want to see.
On a cold night in January,
the moon
patiently works its way
through tree branches
above the fields near Stones River
to see
to remember
to honor
to grieve
those who forever lie there and
each night receive
the lunar visitor.

29 January 2010
Stones River National Battlefield
2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Going or coming?

Do you ever wonder:
"Am I coming
am I going?"

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson

Storm sentinel

During the recent visit of Hurricane Irene
to New York and 
the Shire on the Hudson,
one of the possible outcomes was 
the loss of power.
Contemplating this possibility,
it seemed a good thing to have
one light that would be left in the on position
should the power go off
so that it would come on
providing a reminder that the power had been restored.
This night light was what chosen.
When I fell asleep it was lit;
when I awoke it was lit.
Faithful sentinel of the storm.

2 September 2011
Shire on the Hudson