Thursday, December 13, 2018


Yesterday got away from me before I could get a round tuit. Even early, for once in a century I drifted off to sleep in the predawn darkness, got back in bed, pulled up the covers, slept until nine o'clock. Then up for a bowl of Tuesday night's supper spaghetti that I'd missed because we went to a party, errands, back exhausted, nap and up in no state of mind to write, so, sorry, Self, about my first day in eight years to miss blogging, but this refugee "life" seems to be changing me somehow, mentally &c.

Even eo, I've never written anything toxic in my life. Only Frank and Ernest, ho anaginoskown noeito. 

Sitting here in the darkness, Life Is Good. Black coffee, which there's a low dresser by my chair. I don't open the shade because light from the intersection shines on Linda's face across the room; so I keep a square of white paper towel on the exact corner. In the black dark I can still see the white square to sit my coffee cup down on. And this morning, bought at World Market yesterday, Canadian maple cookie to nibble on. So life is very good indeed.

Even more very good this morning because instead of a blank mind, or, worse, worst, reading news before starting to write and getting caught in political outrageousness, I read good, better, best, an article in Hagerty magazine online that a friend shares with me. 

Never owned one, but I rode in one once, it would have been 1978 after I retired from USN and started my business. In Cleveland, where I started driving from Harrisburg about every two weeks for a year or so developing a client, and my contact, Banks, had a 2002 coupe, I don't remember the color but it was original and all correct and at speed sat on the freeway curve like a pancake. The perfect two door but among my about sixty-five cars starting with a 1947 Buick with one fender skirt missing, I've never owned a BMW and would only lust after that model. Ownership would have been practical in Harrisburg, but not Apalachicola or Panama City, because I'm no mechanic.

At the moment, Walton County is as far geographically as I can get from Hurricane Michael, in this lovely, spacious resort condo. But I need to escape mentally, emotionally to let it go: Hagerty and memories of a BMW 2002 help immeasurably in clinging to sanity.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

is by gathering

Most anyone who preaches learns over the years how to draw out a Bible story or other text and transform its situs im leben to the present and lives and situations of one’s audience, usually a congregation seated for the sermon. Further, anyone who has participated in and somewhat developed an art called Theological Reflection acquires a habit that becomes almost a sensing instinct, to perceive one’s own situation in whatever one reads. Just so this morning, reading in The New Yorker online magazine, an interview with Esther Perel about her psychotherapist experience with human relationships, I found my own self in a particular question and answer paragraph about an effect of “cataclysmic events.” 

EP's situs was Holocaust survivor, but (with apology for reducing the most horrific event in human history to a four hour storm and its comparatively insignificant aftermath) I see it from the inside looking out as a hurricane survivor. My experience throughout life has been, and continues, that every event, every experience I have, good or bad, lifting up or tearing down, exuberant, exciting, boring or grievous, in some way or other has helped me both to go on living my own life sanely and also to function more effectively, knowingly, understandingly, as a priest and pastor, counselor, mentor, friend. From a much longer and other focus article, here’s the paragraph.


Q to EP: You grew up in Belgium, as the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

EP response: All Belgian Jews were deported, sixty thousand of them. A few thousand kids got saved by being hidden. After the war, the entire Jewish community of Belgium—which at this point amounts to about forty thousand people out of eleven million Belgians—were people who came from the camps, from the woods, from hiding places. The entire community was a community of survivors. That’s all we knew. And the community of survivors, worldwide, without any input from psychiatrists or psychologists, had gatherings—gatherings for the survivors of camp such-and-such, gatherings for the survivors of village such-and-such, parties, planting of forests, creating life, having children.

And that coming together, why is it interesting? Because it’s the first time people understood that there was such a thing as an adult trauma. Before then, Freudian thinking said it’s all between zero and five. So now we had a notion that you could have been perfectly fine before, but a cataclysmic event like this can destroy you, and the only way you can remember a sense of continuity, a sense of purpose, a sense of connection is by gathering with others. And that’s what I watched.


What does it do for me? Speaking just for where I am this morning, I see, am reminded, realize, that my ongoing experience of the Hurricane Michael aftermath is expectable, predictable, can be analyzed and worked through. Is not shameful, not weakness. Just and only human. That this cataclysmic event can destroy me, and indeed I have felt a sense of that from the moment of coming back to after Wednesday, October 10, 2018 and driving through Panama City from bridge to bridge, and not once, but over and over again and again and again, every time, and still.

That smiley face assurances and stiff upper lip optimism do not help me in the least, in fact can feel outrageous, stir up the anger, deepen the depression into which I feel myself, destroyed, sinking. Every time returning, I want, need, to run, escape, get away, how could life do this to me. After two months, neighborhoods still piled high with storm refuse. Block after block of once tall majestic fragrant pine trees broken down, entire forests, in the same direction, mostly fallen south signaling horrific wind from the north, the downside of the storm, my god, holy christ, what can it possibly be like on the other, east, side of the eye wall, the worst of it.

This must be how someone feels whose loved one was struck and killed by an anonymous hit and run driver: rage, devastating grief, whom to hate, whom to want to kill, and knowing the feeling will never go away because no one and nothing comes back from death to life as it was. The anger and frustration are nearly unbearable. If for every loss there’s a gain, where’s the upside? 

As a matter of fact, I lived the gain yesterday morning, walking into and through Holy Nativity Episcopal Church filled with children. Teachers waving, "Hi, Father Tom!" Children in every inch of space, having school, here sitting on the floor, smiling, happy, innocent and loved beyond imagining as they listen to their teacher; there standing for the pledge of allegiance and singing the patriotic song; 

coming into the room and slowly making way through our staff meeting to the bathroom. It was for the moment like being with Julie Andrews walking on the mountaintop singing “The Hills Are Alive” with the sound of music. 

Just for the moment, and then back out into the war zone of piled debris, ruined homes, devastated neighborhoods, miles and miles and miles of snapped off trees. Living in and into cataclysm. Thinking in Esther Perel’s terms, will this destroy me before I can regain my balance … Finding myself in a story or article. I don’t know. But Perel is right, life is found in gathering with others in community. For me, at this one and only church.


pic: HNES class of children, out of the hurricane-damaged Bill Lloyd Building of Cove School, standing for the pledge and singing the song, in Battin Hall of HNEC, the room that once was the church sanctuary, where I was married and where my children were baptized

Monday, December 10, 2018

door's worn sill

The phone is turned off so as to silence the robocalls that come whether folks are asleep or awake, and with six people here ranging in age from three to infinity, someone is always asleep. But of course I forget to turn it back on, so it's off permanently. If you ring and I don't answer, it's not because I don't want to talk to you, leaving a message is a good option. Other possibilities are that your name will register, in which case I will call you back once whether or not you leave a message in my voicemail; and if you don't answer I will, unless your box is full, leave a message in your voicemail, which puts the ball in your court, doesn't it. Do bear in mind that Uncle Bubba's hearing no longer works well on the telephone.

Slept late this morning, to bed early, soon as Ray Britany Lilly arrived back "home" here in Walton County from their Disney vacation, therefore surprised self by sleeping until 4:10. For sake of the elderly stomach, sometimes, as this day, my mug has about half-inch of milk before coffee is added. And then, also in honor of the elder-gut, my slice of ww bread folded over has a smear of regular peanut butter instead of my most favored no-suger natural chunky pb with salt on buttered bread.

For several reasons, this morning we are to drive into PC. Maybe going to staff meeting at the church will help return some sense of the normalcy that has been absent these two months today October 10 to December 10. And I'm going by our regular plumbers to inquire about a change in a 7H bathroom as long as and while it's all torn up anyway. In the Cove, I may check on the school 

Grief is long: our beautiful, innocent town has been murdered, feelings are not just grief but anger, rage, fury in the extreme. Which is not abating, quite the contrary, stirs anew as soon as we cross the bridge into the midst of it. Anyone who thinks Panama City Bay County natives are stretching too long our desolation can gardenia well trade places with any one of us, and welcome to it. Comes to mind Revelation 8:7 where a third of the earth is destroyed, except that this was our whole earth; more, our heaven. Maybe you had to be born and raised here and, if you careered away as I did, 1957 to 1998, forty biblical years of longing and waiting to return forever and it doesn't matter which heaven you retire to, though in fact PC is number one on your preference for duty card.

People are burned out by wildfires. Others also are destroyed by violent storms from the sea. Worst, worse than the wiles of Father Nature are those desolated by the hateful and hating incivilities of the human evil of war. But I, we, aren't there, we are here, and caught by surprise. Don't ever jump out and shout "SURPRISE!" at me and start singing "Happy birthday to you," or you will ignite, trigger my 2018!

So, what's good today? Life. That a brand new house is under construction in a PCB community to replace Malinda's house. That reportedly we won't necessarily be out of 7H until next summer as I expected but might possibly return sooner. But still dealing with feelings that must be like those of Americans of Japanese ancestry, many even native-born American citizens, who were rounded up and shipped away to internment camps during WorldWarTwo: devastated; not wanted, don't belong here after all. Who can't see it, who doesn't understand, surely wasn't born and raised here. Lorrie Morgan again

Can't you see it, don't you understand?
Well, I guess you had to be there
Yeah, you really had to be there
Some things you just can't explain
It's just not the same
I guess you had to be there

Pic: door to my first grade classroom where, as Whittier remembered, 

The charcoal frescos on its wall; 
   Its door’s worn sill, betraying 
The feet that, creeping slow to school, 
   Went storming out to playing! 


Pic: north end door to Cove School, now the Bill Lloyd Building, where I started first grade in September 1941

Song, Lorrie Morgan, "I guess you had to be there"

Poem, J G Whittier, "In School Days"

Sunday, December 9, 2018

muse of madness

Besides all the people in my life, what do I love most?! One, which happens almost every morning, is, having gone to bed with the sun, waking up in the darkest earliest, turning on the coffee, breaking off a square of dark chocolate, and reading or writing (no math), alone in the long before dawn pitch black, sitting under a lap blanket in the December chill.

Like now: the street is wet from overnight rain that must be over for the moment as I see no raindrops splashing in the puddles outside my hurrication home window here in South Walton County; quiet until a car passes by on US98, picking up speed to make it before the traffic light turns yellow. Cool but not cold, only chilly because of the dampness, 64°F a good temperature for a predawn December morning on the Florida Gulf Coast; and I love, and have loved since moving to Apalachicola in 1984 and waking up before dawn with the roosters crowing all over town, being up early like this. Early, dark, alone for a think, to contemplate, maybe to remember. 

Remembering, what about my life would I change if I could? At this age nobody wants to look back and see bits and pieces, much less long periods, of Time wasted, because you can't get it back, it's gone; some value of used, misused, invested, wasted, loved, remembered, regretted, cherished; but little forgotten. A problem, two, with thinking what to change about one's past Time, is that One it's impossible anyway so one is wasting more Time going down that trail; and Two, if one could and did go back in Time to relive and change past events, one's present would be different: at this point in Time I wouldn't change a thing except to have - - who was that imbecile televangelist who claimed to have prayed a hurricane away - - I'd have him pray Hurricane Michael straight to hell and gone before ever starting to circle. But then, what might have happened in that revised meanTime, that one would never wish on any one? So, speaking for nobody but myself, maybe, and having no option anyway, I'll stick with Time as I've lived it. 

No, there's one thing I would change in my Time. No, in fact I can think of two. Three come to think of it. What the hell, there's another one, so four. No wait, that too. Okay, it's probably best that we can't go back and change our personal past, that the best we can do is try to make amends, either by apologizing or, seeing that they're all long years dead, by doing what these days is, for some reason, oddly called "paying it forward," as in

Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and
are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to
lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and
walking from henceforth in his holy ways ... 

While intending to lead a new life, there are things I've done that I should have left undone that I do NOT truly and earnestly repent but that I'd certainly never do again if for no other reason than that I'm no longer that stupid. Also, I can't, I can't anyway. But for what it's worth, apologies into the ether to those I hurt in this life who no longer Are. How many times? Every Time the priest says the liturgical invitation to liturgical confession leading to unexamined liturgical absolution. Every damn Time.

Early: my favorite Time of day and life.


Saturday, December 8, 2018


My +Time blogs are never, or almost never but never is my intent, connected from day to day. But I find on going back and rereading yesterday's post, that I didn't finish my thought, and it doesn't at all say what I meant to say. What happened? Before I resume it and make my point to myself, because the blogposts are generally about me for me, what happened? A couple of things, or a few; not several, but more than one or two.

First, I had started the blog not yesterday but the day before, writing late in the morning because of something bothersome I'd noticed about myself and decided to muse on to see if I could work through it. But while thinking and writing, I realized that what I was really thinking about was our remarkable Festival of Lessons and Carols; so I stopped and went to that. So yesterday's blogpost was started day before yesterday but not finished before I released it. 

Second, I don't think I've said this to many people, but life is a unique double challenge these days: together with the post-hurricane stress that everyone in Bay County is feeling and having to evacuate our storm-damaged homes like so many folks, we are looking after daughter Malinda, who has had three brain surgeries, one in May to stop a ruptured aneurysm that nearly killed her, one in June to finish that repair, the final on October 9 the day before Hurricane Michael came ashore, to stop a second aneurysm before it also could burst. The evening of that third surgery, she suffered a stroke that we caught in process, but that has left her with short term memory loss that causes odd behavior. The neurosurgeon tells us that it was minor and any effect should completely clear away in 12 to 18 months, but cautions us that Malinda is extremely fragile at this time, that she needs calmness and consistency in life, that her confusion is exacerbated by the strangeness and constant change of life and daily living that we are experiencing after Hurricane Michael. Malinda's house in StAndrews was destroyed by the storm and a new house is being constructed at PanamaCityBeach; she cannot adjust to that fact and that we are temporarily living in a series of resort condos, current across the Phillips Inlet bridge in Walton County; so every day, even several times a day, she goes in her room, packs her things and heads out the door saying she's going home or "Next Door". She keeps asking for her car keys even though the ruptured brain aneurysm last May left her basically blind in her right eye, she's no longer driving, and has given her car to Ray. She forgets that. She is forty years a smoker but the condos we've stayed in are strictly No Smoking inside or grounds, and, unable to remember that, she becomes aggressive in looking for cigarettes and a match or lighter. Numerous other things, manifestations, like forgetting that we are "hurricane refugees" and insisting that this is not her home, that her home is Next Door, so going to the next condo and knocking or ringing the bell thinking that's her home. We keep chairs and tables piled in front of the door night and day, to block the exit so she cannot leave without making noise and alerting us, because she doesn't remember her way back and if she goes out one of us must lovingly go along. 

Many of these things are explainable, for example That for thirty years she lived in her house Next Door to our Old Place where the rest of our family lived. That she is used to being on her own, independent thought and action. That she smoked at will. That she always had a car and came and went on her own. All that's still there, only the short term memory is damaged. 

Why am I writing these things? Because it's all having to be dealt with, off and on through almost every day, different things happening, including interrupting whatever we are doing in our own lives at the moment to respond lovingly. The uncertainty and stress of combined hurrication and care-taking is unending. A beloved daughter, and we are attending lovingly night and day hoping for those 12 to 18 months that the neurosurgeon says this will likely take to work through. 

So that's what happened, "life as it is now" happened day before yesterday as I sat typing a blogpost that didn't get finished and that yesterday I simply picked up, added something to remember Pearl Harbor, and pressed Blogger's orange "Publish" button. Not a poor me whine, it started out as a bit of self analysis regarding my online browsing real estate for sale in the Maine village where my ancestor Andreas W√§ller immigrated from Germany with his wife and children in the eighteenth century, thinking to move there, a place that appeals to my mind, instead of dealing with what Panama City and Bay County, in Hurricane Michael's three or four hour visit of unspeakable violence, were reduced to that cannot be undone in my lifetime, and never again what was in any event. Here's where I stopped, my blog writing was interrupted day before yesterday: "With a lifelong aversion to being where I’m not wanted, I leave, have left. Moved on. Never changed, simply moved on. This time I have other people to consider; how major or even decisive a factor is that?" 

Where was I going day before yesterday but didn't finish? I was figuring out why I am feeling so resistant to staying in a place I once loved, that in its devastation has become so hostile to me that the joy of it is gone. And I was coming to the conclusion that leaving the unpleasant, moving away from it, is part of my life history; but that having other people to consider will stop me this time. I'm sure as hell not moving to Maine by myself, so I need to stop browsing real estate ads. I did find one I like, though.

A little mid-nineteenth century New England cottage, three bedroom, two bath, currently being totally renovated and modernized inside, cash affordable, adorably cute. Across the street from the farmers' market, near the Medomak River, and a few blocks from a lobster cafe.  


Friday, December 7, 2018

Let's remember

From Massalina Bayou, StAndrewsBay & the Gulf of Mexico, to the Atlantic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean, to Conodoguinet Creek & the Susquehanna River, to Apalachicola Bay, back to StABay, to seventeenth floor Gulf front; now third floor a few blocks back, there’s no view of the sea here. I’ve not lived so far from the sea for long years, and before the sea it was creekside. Life goes back more than the Bible’s forty years, paradoxically, into Navy years, since I’ve lived out of sight and sound of water, must have been Ohio or inland Northern Virginia. 

So now, hurrication as the Time of Trial, a test, an Opportunity for an old man: can I be a fish out of water permanently - - that is, as permanent as life can seem at age - - have my Being away from the sea? 

We are scheduled to live here in Building 3, 3rd floor another week, then, so balcony rails can be repaired on this building, move across the swimming pool to a newly repaired building. My hope for that next move, though not earnest, is to be fourth floor with a view over the trees to the sea. But if not no worries as the Opportunity will simply continue.

Examen: in Jesuit living there’s a daily examen of one’s life, its holiness, quality, purpose, living into the Will of God as one perceives it for oneself, examining how one is doing in living one’s objectives. Here in this Time of retreat and trial, I have a private corner chair with a window giving light, for contemplation, examen, muse, write, muse, realize. What.

That happiness, satisfaction, my joy in life, exists where I feel accepted as I am, loved, cared for, respected, wanted. Perhaps needed, but more respected, wanted and accepted as-is. The late Reverend Canon Bryan Green used to say “just as you are, the way you are.” 

That’s not general in life though. How have I responded? How have I dealt with? How have I, versus how might I have or how should I have, responded? Good for hurrication contemplation while feeling lost, to think and observe oneself: how do I Deal With - - that this far along I might want to examine, consider, change - - disagreements, differences, disappointments, absence of my life needs as lightly described above. How? I’ve changed my circumstances, left, quit, resigned, made other arrangements. Run, in some cases I’ve run. With a lifelong aversion to being where I’m not wanted, I leave, have left. Moved on. Never changed, simply moved on. This time I have other people to consider; how major or even decisive a factor is that? In sum and coming up tails, how to respond now, when I do not want to return home, and feel I may never, but to go, run, move on. 

December 7th. Pearl Harbor Day. Let’s remember. That deadly vicious bitterly hated murderous enemies can and may in time become allies, even friends. And vice versa. Maybe mainly vice versa; let's remember.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Were I blogging today it would have to be about last evening's Festival of Lessons and Carols at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Hit by the storm and still reeling, while also serving as hurricane refugee campus for nearby Holy Nativity Episcopal School, HNEC has risen as an outpost of Heaven and a clarion of Christmas 2018, where that most holy and beloved season arrived in musical magic. It was sheer wonder, a place to experience Maranatha, that the Lord has come indeed, and in answer to our cry.

Even though the sight of the chaos will return when we drive back into Panama City on Saturday morning, nothing else spectacular needs to happen in 2018 to still the storm in my heart. It happened last night as we heard the old, old stories and sang our beautiful songs. If you missed it, I'm afraid your healing may take longer than mine.