Author Archives: Rich Neal

A palette of simple things

Short-story writer Andre Dubus was born on this day (Aug. 11) in 1936. He wrote stories about regular people like bartenders, mechanics, and waitresses, maybe even like me. After an accident which resulted in the loss of one of his legs and confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, he said, […]

Avaunt!

It’s time to retreat and rest a while from my labors. Life is an improvisational art, at every age. So says Mary Catherine Bateson, cultural anthropologist and daughter of the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. She’s a prolific author, but the two titles that catch my imagination are those of her best-selling books, Composing […]

Like treasure hidden

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field . . .” (Matthew 13:44) July 25 was a life-changing day for Jack London. On that day in 1897 he set off for the Klondike Gold Rush. Gold had been found a year earlier, but it took some time for news to reach the […]

Buffalo Dusk

Carl Sandburg died fifty years ago yesterday, on 22 July 1967, and yesterday I discovered his short poem “Buffalo Dusk.” At first I thought the title referred to my adopted hometown, Buffalo, New York, but soon found it striking closer to my heart, as you may, too, if you read it. “The buffaloes are gone,” […]

The sacred pause

Within minutes of posting my morning message from Holloway Memorial Chapel (“Important work like sittin’ around fishin’), an article from Tara Brach came along to serve as a timely complement, “The Sacred Art of Pausing.” “We fill our days,” she observes, “with continual movement: mental planning and worrying, habitual talking, fixing, scratching, adjusting, phoning, snacking, […]

Important work like sittin’ around fishin’

“Important work like sittin’ around fishin’ remains to be done.” In making this quaint observation, Pogo was not the first to recognize the importance of being alone and idle. The value of solitude has been affirmed throughout history. Early in the nineteenth century, Emerson wrote, “In the morning, — solitude;” said Pythagoras; that Nature may […]

This awe-full rowing toward God

There is in my head these days a sound, almost metallic though not harsh but smooth, like the sound a singing bowl makes when caressed in the right way or like the sound yin-yang’s opposites make in their endless, whirling dance. The paradox is, I am perfect, complete in each moment of my condition and […]

Lifting the angel latch

“The secret of happiness,” Socrates said, “is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” Tradition holds that when a person desired to enter a monastery, he would stand on the threshold, strip naked, and plead for admission, upon which he would be given new clothing appropriate to the new […]

On getting to know the Sirens

“You are worried and distracted by many things.” The words have dogged me for decades. Jesus addressed them to Martha when she tried to triangulate him into settling her disagreement with Mary about some after-dinner chores (Luke 10:38-42), but they keep hitting their mark in me. So do the ones that followed, “there is need […]

Time for stillness

“Be still,” we’re invited. And the fruit of stillness – genuine stillness, not the interstitial pause between the many agenda that claim our attention – will be an experiential knowledge of the Something Deeper that dwells in stillness, the something we call “God” (Psalm 46:10). Being still requires a lot of slowing down, for me, […]