The Sacred Art of Self-decoration

July 27, 2018

“I learned about the sacred art of self decoration with the monarch butterflies perched atop my head, lightning bugs as my night jewelry, and emerald-green frogs as bracelets.”

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

 

Grace-note this week: My sister gave me a gardenia–the permanent kind!  Creamy white, with leaves of dark green. There’s a pin on the back, to attach it to one’s person.  To thank her, I took a selfie with my computer. I call it “duded up to go preach.”  And yes I know the gardenia seems to be poised for escape.  Pin-placement is an art, and mine needs to be refined!

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So I got to the place of preaching, began my homily, looked up after Paragraph 2, and there sat my son, who had slipped in.  On his lap, my enchanting granddaughter, six months old. She comported herself well for the remainder of my talk. Well, she wriggled a lot, but kept silence.  When I sat down I took this animated bundle of heaven into my lap.  First thing she found: the gardenia!  Already, an eye for beauty!  She fingered it carefully. As a sign of her reverence she refrained from seizing it and putting it in her mouth.

 

Yesterday I went to her house to keep her for the afternoon. Her regular sitter had bought her some small “jelly” sandals.  Clear, sparkly.  Adorning the toes: white flowers. White goes with everything!

“In Victorian times flowers were used to convey messages between people.  When a person was unable to outright express their feelings of love for another, it was and still is a  common practice to say it with flowers…Gardenias are given to convey “you’re lovely”. Used in this way, the gardenia is a flower that can be given to lovers, friends, and family. It’s a way of telling them how lovely they are. And because the color of the gardenia is white, it also signifies purity. This flower is a wonderful addition to a wedding bouquet as it fits any color theme and it also brings the message of love and purity. Other commonly associated meanings are: trust, hope, clarity, dreams, intuition, renewal, alignment, friendship, innocence, protection, self-reflection, trust.”

Explorer Preview

Dear Class,

 

In this week’s lesson we will move forward ten centuries, from  David, who wore the crown of Israel, to Jesus of Nazareth, who refused a crown (John 6:15).   The assigned Gospel reading is John 6:1-21.  Try to read it before class.  Reminder: Our lessons are now archived on my website everlastingarms.net. They are pretty much ‘bare bones’ without the conversation of our class-time, but they are there for your reference.

 

 

Last Sunday we talked about King David’s idea to build a ‘house’ in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant.  After all, he himself had a brand new ‘palace of cedar.’ So he thought it only fitting that the Presence of God embodied in the Ark should have a better place to live than a tent!  Through the prophet Nathan, God indicated to David that He doesn’t need a house to live in.  But He would build a house for David–a dynasty–and He would let one of David’s sons build Him a physical place to dwell.  Our class voiced the idea that since God is everywhere, we should not say that God is only in one particular box, that is, the Ark of the Covenant. Or, to be more accurate, in the empty space on top of the box, between the angels, hovering over the mercy seat!

 

For me, the meditation below sheds some light.  Rohr seems to be saying God is indeed everywhere, AND God is in a box.  Both! Only instead of an Ark, Richard is talking about the bread and wine of communion.  Ah, a little closer to home!  Rohr seems to be saying we humans need  tangible reminders of the Presence of God. Something physical, to chew on!  Be it box or bread, it’s a gift for us, to help us remember that God is everywhere, in every breath, in every cell of our body, in every food that gives us strength.  God is in all of these! Rohr says, and I believe this, that the church (and not just the Catholic church) needs to do better at helping people know they themselves are invited to be transformed, that they can claim the very mindset and power of Jesus.

 

How to help our people? We need to be more intentional about teaching and practicing the ‘proven disciplines,’ especially contemplation.  Action and contemplation–a Divine Dance. So…as part of your practice this week, I invite you to spend some time in silence with the three images above.  They are just images, but they are also doorways to Sacred Presence.

 

As to the bread and wine, remember that our church offers them every Wednesday night at our Refresh service. 6 – 6:30 pm, Dishman Chapel.  I’ll be giving the meditation at this week’s service.  That is, tomorrow.  Pray for me as I prepare, and come if you can.

 

Eucharist- Richard Rohr

Real Presence
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

All my life as a Catholic, I have held the orthodox belief that the “Real Presence” of Christ is communicated in the bread and wine of the sacred meal (rather shockingly taught by Jesus in John 6:35-58). This is not a magical idea, but simply the mystery of incarnation taken to its logical conclusion—from creation itself, uniquely to Jesus’ body, to the human Body of Christ that we all are, and then to the very elements from the earth and human hands like bread and wine to serve as food for the journey. Why believe the universal Presence is “Real” if it is not also real in one concrete ordinary spot? (We are meant to struggle with this realization, as we see in John 6:60-66.)

The very notion of presence is inherently and necessarily relational and also somehow embodied. Note that Jesus did not say “Think about this,” “Prove this,” “Look at this,” “Carry this around,” and, surely not, “Argue about this.” He just said, “Eat this . . . and drink all of you” (Matthew 26:26-27). As Augustine (354-430) would preach later, the message is that you are what you eat and drink! [1]

We spent much of our history arguing about the “how” and the “if” and who could do what Catholics called the “transubstantiation” of the bread and wine instead of simply learning how to be present. We made the Eucharist into a magic act to be believed instead of a personal transformation to be experienced. We changed bread more than people, it seems to me. We emphasized the priest as the “transformer” instead of the people as the transformed. We made “Real Presence” into a doctrine (which has its very good meaning!), but we seldom taught people how to be really present (which is contemplation). When you are really present, you will experience the Real Presence for yourself.

The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence through our available presence. In the Eucharist, we move beyond mere words or rational thought and go to that place where we don’t talk about the Mystery; we begin to chew on it.

We must move our knowing to the bodily, cellular, participative, and unitive level. Then we keep eating and drinking the Mystery until one day it dawns on us, in an undefended moment, “My God, I really am what I eat!” Henceforth we can trust and allow what has been true since the first moment of our existence: We are the very Body of Christ. We have dignity and power flowing through us in our naked existence—and everybody else does too, even though most of us do not know it. This is enough to guide and empower our entire faith journey. If Christians did not already have Eucharist as our central ritual, we would have to create something very similar.

References:
[1] Augustine’s message to the newly baptized, Estote quod videtis, et accipite quod estis, is often translated as “Be what you see, and receive what you are.” See Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 272, available at http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/augustine_sermon_272_eucharist.htm.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publications: 2016), 298-299

 

Tears in My Ears

Refresh Worship Service

Trinity United Methodist Church / Beaumont, Texas

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Tears in My Ears”

Phoebe Hambright Dishman, Lay Speaker

 

Psalm 30:5b

 

         Weeping may endure for a night,

         But joy cometh in the morning.

 

Listen to Psalm 30, to the voice of the people,

three thousand years ago:

 

The people say: We have gone into a place of terrible trouble.

We do not say what the trouble was.

We do indicate it was overwhelming.

But here’s the good news: Trouble has been powerfully overcome.

All thanks and praise to the One who saved us.

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

A thousand years later, Jesus said,

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

To remember the grief makes keen the resurrection,

where new life begins, as sure as sunrise.

All praise the power of the Eternal One, who breathes new life.

 

To feel and understand these things requires experience, and maturity.

 

Observe a six-month old baby. She hasn’t been here long.

Her present moment is not very big.

 

Six months, an enchanting age. My granddaughter says,

‘You ask me who I am? I am Happy. Oh wait: I am Furious.’

 

Sadly, many folks get stuck right there, at six months old,

for the rest of their lives: ‘I am Happy. I am Furious.’

No. You are not these things.

You are a person. You are my darling Amelia.

 

Other persons make it to about the second grade.

Fewer still make it to adolescence and decide that’s as big as their present moment needs to be. Rarest of all, some keep developing.

It may not be fun to grow and keep growing then grow some more.

But it’s essential. I’m afraid our survival as a species depends on the will and courage of the rare to expand the present moment.

 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

 

We gather here tonight as present moment practitioners of a sacred tradition called Christianity. For me, a better name might be the Way of the Wound. The Way of the Wound. This I got from Richard Rohr.

I think such a re-naming might bring us closer to the heart of Christ.

The heart of the Christ, I believe, is to extend a hand of blessing

to the woundedness of all who breathe.

 

Jesus said, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:20)

 

All who breathe will suffer. When suffering comes,

the rejoicing help the sorrowing.

The strong help the weak.

The wise help the confused.

And oh how quickly those roles can reverse.

We need to be poised and prepared.

 

And so we practice the proven disciplines.

Believing ‘the right things’ is not enough.

 

My teaching partner told me more than once

that we humans need to restore our conscience

to its proper place in our lives.

He said that conscience is the art

of feeling every single thing we feel at the same time,

surviving the shock of that,

and moving forward in a loving, constructive way.

This is the sacred work, the personal responsibility a person owes

for the privilege of being alive.

 

To work with such a person—what can I say?

He went on to name my particular part of the work.

Your particular part, he said to me, is to re-enchant the world.

To bring color, and light, and song. The world is hungry for these.

 

Thank you, partner. Like Jesus, you make it hard to settle for less

than a life of cosmic significance!

 

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy cometh in the morning.

 

I am called Phoebe Ruth.

Phoebe is Greek for the reflected brilliance of the moon.

Ruth means mercy. Mercy, I believe,

comes from the time we spend on the dark side of the moon.

In the ice-cold shadow of suffering.

 

I saw in the paper there’s a healing art called singing bowls.

The vibrations of these large glass bowls can bring us back

from the dark side of the moon.

The thing is, someone who cares has to arrange the bowls,

and make them sing. Without the skill and energy of this person,

the bowls just sit there.

 

I get that. Being a roving prayer reporter, I had to go see.

 

I was not the only one. We were stacked in the room like proverbial cordwood. Which speaks to the need.

 

The ceiling was high, but floor space limited. My yoga mat had the dubious privilege of being right beside the bowl practitioner,

her largest bowl two feet from my left ear.

 

So we sank into silence, on mats and chairs and a sofa,

and the bowls began to sing, courtesy of mallets covered in leather,

run around their rims.

 

The music of the spheres, I am here to tell you, is very, very loud.

 

At first I felt annoyed, as in, I wish I had my $25 back.

 

Then I thought of the prophet Isaiah:

Morning by morning, You awaken my ear to listen.

You awaken my ear to listen, as one who learns. As one who learns. And I was obedient. I did not close my ears, nor did I turn aside.

 

If Isaiah can pay that kind of attention, so can I.

 

Then a thrumming started in my body, in my bones,

and I thought of the prophet Jeremiah,

how his bones burned with the word of the Lord,

nor did he run from the burning. So who am I to run?

Besides, I know how to be still. It’s a discipline I’ve worked at.

I can do this.

 

These lofty thoughts came and went.

My stomach began to growl for its supper.

I wondered if my car out back had been broken into yet.

 

All in all, I was grateful for whatever brought me here,

for space in my life to be stretched out on my back in a strange place, not knowing a soul, for one sacred hour, with nothing to do but listen.

To listen, perchance to heal.

 

The music went on. The musician’s name was Ann. Ann said in the article that brought me here that when she practices this healing art, she perceives the energy in each person in the room, and matches her music to that. Now here she was, very close to me, bending gracefully over her bowls.

 

I have no clue what faith tradition Ann springs from. But the Jewish tradition has a term: tikkun olam. Tikkun olam—repairing the world. For Ann, her repair kit is her bowls.

Pretty soon I went quite still in all my parts.

I felt no particular emotion.

Then came the tears. They leaked out of my eyes, ran down my face, made pools in my ears.

 

I just let it be.

 

No particular emotion, just the sound of the bowls, the silence of tears.

Tears spilling out of my ears, and down my shoulders, to the ground.

 

When the hour ended, I felt empty, and without words.

Perhaps that was the idea. A beautiful bowl, full of empty!

A present moment, expanded.

 

The post-session chatter began, about how wonderful it all was.

I wasn’t sure yet what I thought, so I said nothing.

I began preparing to ease inconspicuously toward the door.

 

Then a man, evidently a regular, spoke from his clear plastic pool float. With good cheer he said that when Ann played the bowls this night,

he saw more color than he ever had before.

This stopped me in my tracks. Metaphorically speaking,

I crept back from the dark edge of the campfire, into the light.

 

I myself had seen no colors. But I work with colors.

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Ann replied to the man that she felt the need for color in this room,

on this particular night,

and she had worked with the bowls

to send out as much color as the bowls had in them. Then she turned and looked keenly at me, so silent and pale and listening.

She looked, and then she wrapped me in her arms.

 

She also told us we might be feeling the after-effects of our energy work for two or three days.

 

All I know is that keeping baby Amelia the next afternoon was calm and bright. It usually is. But today was a deeper kind of calm.

I didn’t need to be any particular thing for my granddaughter. Just be. And let her be what she will.

 

I decided we would spend our last half-hour on the front porch.

As soon as Amelia realized where we were headed,

she wriggled with delight.

Her present moment is expanding, and that’s a fact.

 

 

We sat a spell on the front porch,

deliciousness of baby in my lap,

watching the neighborhood:

 

Blue car.

Red robin.

Green dragonfly.

Evil housefly.

Mail truck.

 

Her downy little head swiveled this way and that.

 

From time to time she looked down at my hands around her middle.

New hands, examining the grandmother.

 

As if that wasn’t heaven enough,

she suddenly arched backward,

to see if I was still there.

When she saw that I was indeed still there,

she graced me with a huge upside down grin.

 

Amelia Rose.

Amelia means hard working.

Rose means beauty, charm, and joy.

At six months old, Amelia Rose is already that,

and poised to be so much more.

 

I sense a practitioner taking up her sacred work.

 

The deepest pains may linger through the night,

But joy greets the soul with the smile of morning.

 

Jesus said, “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

 

Amen.

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Are You Weary, Are You Heavy-hearted?

July 23, 2018

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–firstborn, and his maternal grandparents, 1982

 

Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted?

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.

Are you grieving over joys departed?

Tell it to Jesus, alone.

–Edmund S. Lorenz, 1876

 

As I mature I see more and more the necessity of telling my suffering, intentionally and completely, to the right ear.  I am so grateful for those friends and loved ones who have held me and listened.  Hopefully I am growing in compassion and usefulness to others.  Or at least in my capacity to bear witness to how things are, that is, of a nature to die:

 

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From that firm foundation, we can sing of life, ever-renewed.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto me and rest.

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down

thy head upon my breast.

 

I came to Jesus as I was: weary, and worn, and sad.

I found in him a resting place.

And he has made me glad.

–Horatius Bonar, 1846

Faithful Lover, by Hafiz

 

The moon came to me last night
With a sweet question.

She said,
“The sun has been my faithful lover
For millions of years.
Whenever I offer my body to him
Brilliant light pours from his heart.

Thousands then notice my happiness
And delight in pointing
Toward my beauty.

Hafiz,
Is it true that our destiny
Is to turn into Light
Itself?”

And I replied,
Dear moon,
Now that your love is maturing,
We need to sit together
Close like this more often
So I might instruct you
How to become
Who you
Are!

~ Hafiz, Daniel James Ladinsky ~

Irony

July 20, 2018

 

I’ve worked for two days to put into words my first experience of a Singing Bowl Meditation. Such an evening deserved to be described.  So I did.

 

And then I went stumbling around unfamiliar territory–Facebook–to find out when the next Singing Bowl meditation would be.  In this quest, I was unsuccessful.  But then, I found a picture. Oh wait, who’s the gal in glasses with the dark red Snuggli in her lap? That would be me!  Evidently there was a stealth-photographer in the room.  Read what you will from the image.  For my word-account, see next Wednesday’s posting.

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Deliver Me from Phusio

July 18, 2018

 

I’m struggling today with a half-remembered question: So, who retired and made YOU the boss? Or, who died and made YOU the queen?

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–stunned disbelief, 1972

Who made YOU so important?  Who made YOU superior to others?

 

In other words, someone, in someone else’s opinion, has grown too big for his or her britches, and needs a bit of deflating. Someone’s got an irritating case of hubris. Remember that word from high school English class?

 

I remember hubris, but not very precisely. Seems various flawed heroes had it.  For your sake and mine I visit the dictionary.  Word-nerd report: Hubris means ‘overweening pride or self-confidence.’ Great.  Now I have to look up overweening! For all our sakes, I press on. Overweening means ‘arrogant, presumptuous, exaggerated, immoderate.’

 

Okay, so now I’m going to lay another word on you.  Phusio.  What???  It’s Greek, and it means inflated, puffed up with air. (It literally means bellows–good visual!) The first time I heard this word, I experienced a sharp pang of recognition, and I made a wee prayer:

 

 When too full of pride I grow

Deliver me from phusio.

 

One might think the ‘opposite’ of phusio is humility. It’s not. The opposite of phusio is deflation.  Think helium balloon on the ground, its glory departed. Think torn bellows, no longer useful for tending fires.  Humility is what you work on AFTER someone or some circumstance has punctured your pride.  Humility is the better way of being you build AFTER your house has collapsed. I have found this to be a lifelong cycle!

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-POTUS, for ten inflated seconds

John Philip Newell writes this:

 

Jesus … taught the strength of humility, of being close to the humus, close to the Ground from which we and all things come. The humblest, says Jesus, are “the greatest” (Matthew 18:4). Not that following Jesus’ path of humility is straightforward. Constantly there is tension—the tension of discerning how to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, how to honor the heart of another nation as we honor our own homeland, how to revere the truths of another wisdom tradition as we cherish our own inheritance, how to protect the life of other species as we guard the sanctity of our own life-form. Jesus knew such tension. He was tempted to use his wisdom and his power of presence to serve himself, to lift himself up over others. But to the tempter, he says, “Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10). Away with the falseness of believing that I can love myself and demean others.

I am pleased to think it’s still okay for a shy girl to fly her flag once a year, ever mindful of the march of time I see in the mirror. I don’t feel it takes away from anyone else.   Humility: not taking up too much space, nor too little.

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Host of Butterflies

July 17, 2018

 

Once I taught a class on the Psalms. When my class discovered not all the Psalms are expressions of praise and thanksgiving, some were surprised. You mean a psalm can be a howl of outrage? Why yes, my dears, it can. You mean we can come to God with all our feelings, not just our ‘acceptable’ feelings? Why yes, my dears, we can. Perhaps we churchly people should put less energy into respectability and more into honest angry weeping in the arms of the One who understands. Then and only then… ‘hallelujah anyway!’  Light, properly shadowed.

 

Having aired that, I offer a psalm of deep gratitude for being alive:

 

A Host of Butterflies

 

In a flower bed, at the foot of a crape myrtle,

stands a shrub with an interesting name: Duranta repens.

Sky-flower.

This dazzling creature is dressed, at the moment, in rich green.

And she is graced with masses of the most exquisite flowers—

deep purple, edged in white.

The brightness of her beauty draws me close.

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I’m not the only one.

 

As I approach, what should I see on Duranta but a host of butterflies.

Five monarchs, regal in orange and black,

wings opening and closing in ecstasy.

Two clouded sulphurs, radiant in yellow.

And several small, unidentified Lepidoptera: brown, with touches of red.

 

How close can I get without disturbing them?

Soon I’m practically standing in Duranta.

All around me the exuberant nectar-feasting continues.

I can hear the rustle of their wings.

 

Well, this is almost too much joy.

Feeling I’ve trespassed on holy ground,

I step back onto the grass,

from whence I continue to drink in this gorgeous picture,

all the cares and concerns in my heart and mind

warmed and softened

under God’s good sunshine.

 

Yes, it’s almost too much miracle.   So I retreat another step.

 

O, Love that will not let me go …

 

Two of the monarchs detach from the feast, flutter to me,

spiral down my body and back up again,

brushing my skin and my clothes with their wings.

 

Maybe it’s my Black Orchid perfume.

Maybe they think I’m a flower. I don’t know.

But I feel loved. Deeply loved.

As if I’m a cherished part of an unfolding plan…

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-photo by Kate Hambright, May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

More Summer Color

July 15, 2018

 

My grandmother Ruth collected small glass bottles in a rainbow of hues and placed them in the east window of her kitchen. The rising sun set the bottles shimmering, flooding the kitchen with color. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, peach, pink, lilac…

 

This was a long time ago.  I would give much to have a photograph. On the other hand, it could be that memory coupled with emotion is better. What I intuited in Ruth’s kitchen: By the simple act of standing in the sun with its bottle-companions, a wee bit of colored glass can go beyond its functional purpose and set a room ablaze. Thus it moves toward its full potential.

 

Hey, I want to be that! Well, I can keep noticing ‘small’ things, and reach out for glory, and share it however imperfectly with you.

 

Other day at the grocery store I came across a table laden with markdowns. Specifically, “summer décor, 75% off.” I have no need for such. At my age I’m more into simplifying than adorning. But wait! Color caught my eye. There in somewhat organized rows were ribbed glass jars, in various hues. Red. Azure. Gold. Lime. I guess they were meant to hold candles? At any rate they were tricked out for summer with thick rope handles, vaguely suggesting a nautical theme. I was confused by the handles, but clear enough as to the elegance and desirability of the elegant jars. They took me back to a kitchen full of color.  My hand reached out. Drew back at the silliness of acquisition.  Reached out again…

 

$1.87 per jar sealed the deal.  I bought three. De-handled them. And here they are, in my kitchen window.  To reawaken my vision and perhaps yours.

 

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Another colorist is at her work, easing about a small wooded acreage in Hardin County, capturing radiance in the form of insects. Unbelievable what may be accomplished by a vision, and a willingness to work hard at perfecting her skill in achieving it.  Persistence is key:  Unlike my glass jars, which serve where they’re put, these little beauties lead her a merry dance.

 

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Colors of Summer

July 14, 2018

 

Driving to granddaughter’s house early yesterday morning, I saw a chicken, feathered all in black.  She was suavely stepping across the rain-refreshed St. Augustine of someone’s front yard.  In her company were several ebony ‘pullets’ ( is that what we call teenage chickens?) Mind you, we live in the city, so this was unexpected, and fairly exciting. But soon swept out of mind as I took up grandmother duties.  Now it’s circled back, attracted by my theme.  Black is a fine color indeed.

 

‘Black is black / I want my baby back!

Gray is gray / since she went away, oho,

What can I do? / For I-I-I-I-I, I’m feelin’ _______________’

 

To fill in the blank, see one of the best songs of the sixties:

 

Were you able to fill in the blank?  Back to the task at hand: My darling had her six-month shots the afternoon before.  So I was braced for post-shot misery.  To my relief she was in a pleasant, thoughtful mood.  After we removed her sleeping outfit we discussed what her morning costume might be.  She told me it was Casual Friday, and she’d just as soon be free of clothes.  That sounded good to me.  And so, the understatement of a snowy white diaper, pink baby skin, all crowned with auburn, and eyes–have I mentioned this before?– of azure, rimmed in darkest blue.  If one is young enough to carry it off, a good look.  Especially for mid-July on the Gulf Coast.

 

As to front porch time, she was riveted by a red-fronted robin, gray squirrel holding brown nut, occasional cars of various colors. She cannot seem to get enough of these things.  Ah but the best was coming!  We’ve seen a yellow cat before, making its rounds.  And it’s seen us.  This day it passed us on its way to our back yard, with nary a glance when we called it.  But on its way out,  it stopped. It stood at the end of the porch, regarding us with careful green eyes.  Then, oh so casually, it stepped onto the porch.  It meandered its way toward us, up to a pre-set line about six feet away.  Sniffed at a pot. Then turned and eased its regal sunshine back down the porch, across our front yard, across the street to the house which I believe to be its base of operations.