Thursday, January 10, 2013

Walking out with Howard Brinton

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my resolutions for the year is to complete my book about the Brintons that I've been writing and researching, off and on, for over ten years. It's been so long--nearly a year and half--since I last worked on this project  I was feeling distant from it. I needed a sign that  this was indeed what Spirit wants me to do, and lo! my friend Stan Searl calls and says, "I'd like to read you a poem about Howard Brinton."

How amazing is that!

Stan is a Quaker educator and scholar, author of several books, including "Voices From  the Silence" and "The Meaning of Silence in Quaker Worship" (see He is former clerk of Santa Monica Meeting, and one of the groomsmen at my wedding. I love the image of his spilling a drop of blood from a peace rose onto a first edition of "Friends for 300 Years..."

Stan is currently at work on a series of poems on Quaker themes, some of which I hope to feature in my blog along with my own poetic experiments.

By the way I am convinced, and have evidence, that there is a prophetic quality to Stan's work: when he wrote a poem about my marriage to Jill, he included an image of two red-tailed hawks leading us from Santa Monica to Pasadena. When he wrote this poem, Stan had no idea that red-tail hawks were the favorite birds, the totem animals, of Jill's father and that two red-tail hawks hovered over the cemetery when her father was being interred. Jill and I found this "coincidence" to be uncanny, and a sign that Spirit is indeed inspiring Stan's verses!

Another sign that I need to finish this book is that I asked Claremont Meeting if they'd like me to speak about my latest book "Quakers and the Interfaith Movement." They responded that they would prefer for me to speak about the Brintons in June--two weeks before I am supposed to give my workshop on the Brintons at the FGC Gathering.

The stars seem to be lining up, urging me to complete this long-overdue assignment before I join Howard and Anna in the next phase of our journey.....

Walking out with Howard Brinton
“As a great devotional writer tells us, only love can pierce the dark cloud of unknowing” (Howard Brinton, Friends for 300 Years).

The afternoon wind
Picked up
Over the Santa Monica Mountains,
Pushing clouds down
Behind the Hollywood sign
As I sat
Howard Brinton’s Friends for 300 Years,
Smelling the pages and
Walking out with Brinton
Now more than sixty years ago
As we strolled around
Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania,
Open to bird calls
Fluttering out in front of us,
Over a large,
Peace rose,
Its yellow flowers
Open on this early September day.

Bending over the rose,
I started to fall
He caught me and
As I try to steady myself,
A thorn
Spiked my left index finger,
The trail of blood
Dripping onto his book,
Leaving droplets of blood on the pages
Of the original 1952 edition,
An oozy sticky,
Deepening stain that
Marked that precious volume.

Licking the blood from my finger,
I followed him
Into the Pendle Hill barn
For my first lesson about
The kernel of Quaker theology.

In the barn,
Cool and pure and sweet,
Yet drowsy in the late afternoon sun,
We sat together
Knee to knee,
And listening
In the afternoon silence,
Breathing together
As if open to a silent presence

So that the Light
Stole upon us
And we became
Children of the Light,
Dwelling together
Within the cool, sweet and sticky
Of God’s presence.

I heard him
Quoting Toynbee and Otto,
Drawing us into communion,
Being in the light,
Open to breathing together,
Locked up in some
Mysterious unity,
Gathered up and
Centered in the Divine,
Practicing the Presence of the Divine Spirit.



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