The Slightest Shift Toward Sweet

I am in the self-pitying phase of novovirus.  That is to say, I survived the first hellish day of too sick to raise my head, the second day of creeping about trying to keep down saltines and ginger ale, the third day of succeeding a little where day two failed, and now on day four I’m puttering about more productively, but with sinking spells.  During the sinking spells I think, “So. Welcome to sixty-five. Your best days are clearly behind you.  Your illness has hardly registered on the busy world. All is sludge, nothing is interesting….”  And so it was in this state of acedia that I languished in my easy chair and gazed listlessly upon my beloved backyard. The brilliant cardinal did not elate me.  The swaggering white-winged dove did not anger me. I shrugged at blue jay antics. Even a glimpse of gorgeous, aka brown thrasher, brought no joy. The pineapple guavas are blooming…so what?  Then I noticed a feast going on. Did you know that catbirds and mockingbirds adore pineapple guava petals?


The petals are thick and sweet and my mimids are swooping on them, ripping into them, devouring them with gusto.  Which roused a shred of something in me.  Glorious good news, my friends:  a shred of something sweet is all it takes to shift the game. I had an inspiration. After checking the internet to make sure I wasn’t about to poison myself, I eased out there and picked me a mess of petals and steeped them in my Lady Gray tea. Five minutes later, I eschewed my usual packet of sweetener.  Didn’t need it.

I won’t say this cup of hot tea fixed me, but here I am, writing to you!  It is Eastertide, after all, and the promise is new life, joy in the morning, all those good sweet things. For you churchly folk, a wee poem about Eastertide.  I wrote it on Day Three of novovirus.  Not bad for a sick church lady.  Well, yes, it’s pretty bad!


The name of the recently photographed black hole is Powehi (poh-veh-hee).

This is a word from a Hawaiian chant.

It means “the adorned fathomless dark creation.”

Why do I bring this to you? Because it’s extraordinary.

Human beings at their best have come together for the sake of a vision. 

They collaborated to bring together not just the day language of science,

but also the night language of reverence.

We can all find a way to practice that. For instance:


A historical chairman would be remiss

Without a systematic list

Of the traditional seasons we hold dear

The circling of the sacred year


Take for instance Eastertide

For seven Sundays we abide

Easter Sunday plus six more

Holy Spirit goes before

Leading us lest we get lost

On our way to Pentecost


For seven Sundays we review

What it means to me and you

That Jesus the anointed is alive

And in Christ’s name we ever strive

By goodness appointed and elated

By warmth and intellect animated

Anointed appointed and deeply stirred

To change ourselves for the sake of the world


Naming the seasons is not required

But who among us could ever get tired

Of church adorned in jubilation

That points to fathomless dark creation

White for hope and gold for light

The blessed day the sacred night


So as the mystery keeps its turning

Let us keep singing, let us keep learning

Let us keep praying, deep and wide

Happy happy Eastertide



Into the Woods

Palm Sunday in Smith Oaks Sanctuary

Phoebe H. Dishman

April 14, 2019


In Sunday school I taught rather tiredly something about

full-bodied worship and stones crying out.

Silver on black I had painted an actual stone

we passed from hand to hand

to absorb the cool weight,

ancient and alive,

more than capable of sound,

for those with ears to hear.

Then came afternoon.

First step into the woods with my friends

I could feel my mind let go or at least shift to

watching for the weightless, that is to say,


Dappled shadow scent of honeysuckle spangle of wildflowers

group of strangers coalescing

around four professional guides.

So many seekers we divided into two groups.

(Deep in the afternoon the two groups crossed and we were told

to keep moving, with no hybridizing – a birding joke ahaha.)

One afternoon of holy inquiry no super-abundance of answers.

But sufficient.

Oh the brilliant scarlet tanager

the blinding orange of a Baltimore oriole

the splendor of a rose-breasted grosbeak

the cryptic yellow-bellied sapsucker, who blended so neatly,

appearing as a mere lump on the side of an oak,

ah but betrayed by her bright eye!

One woman murmured to her spouse

that she would certainly like to see one of those ‘alleged’ catbirds

and I wanted to help her, wanted to help her see

one of those black-capped beauties who sing to me

every morning in my own backyard.

But as I told her they are notorious skulkers.


We all saw or at least I hope we did

a yellow-billed cuckoo who was kind enough to display his

snowy breast and his unmistakable tail spots white on black

fairly close rather than torment us elusively as his kind are inclined to do.


A prize for me was a wood thrush of chestnut brown

his dark-freckled breast and pot belly full of joy as he sang his rolling song.


And then, and then my friends, two hours in,

Deet heavier than honey suckle necks tired from looking up

the agony of de-feet upon the venerable we heard the glad cry:

fork-tailed flycatcher! Oh rare Tyrannus savana

oh black-capped beauty he led us a merry chase then lit at last

in full sun, high and clear for all to see.

He displayed his snowy front.

Then he turned to show his slate-colored back.

He exercised his wondrous tail.

He casually snapped at a fly and missed.

Such cries of wonder such snapping of cameras and all of us

the dour the guarded the friendly the chatty were one,

in awe.


A Holy Conversation

Historical Committee Report to Church Council

April 2, 2019

Phoebe H. Dishman, Chair


Today’s Adventure:

History in the Making


I tried to write a poem about history –

the Methodist church and John Wesley.

But the hour has come and I must flee –

granddaughter’s waiting, yessirree!


She’s reclining on my lap, so confidingly

and she’s drinking her bottle, happy as can be

when a voice outside from a great tall tree –

haw haw haw haw haw, says he.


Well, Amelia Rose Dishman, sittin on my knee

from her place in the house Mr. Crow can’t see.

But something in his voice sets her free:

Haw haw haw haw haw, says she.


That’s right, granddaughter! Listen to me:

You’ve added crow to your ornithology.

Corvus brachyrhynchos, wouldn’t you agree?

Or maybe ossifragus.  Haw haw, says she.


Sixty-five years and I thought I’d never see

ears so sharp and a wit so free

in one so young who knows just how to be

a part of the plan so mutually.


Fifteen months, sittin on my knee –

Amelia’s take on theology.

And I never heard a hymn by Charles Wesley

that struck my ear more delightfully.


I would add a few verses of history –

the Methodist church and John Wesley.

But my time is up and I must flee –

Humbly yours,



“The Crow-talker”, a portrait by her maternal grandmother, and named by me

Saturday Soundings

Evangeline West

Beaumont, Texas

March 30, 2019


Still slap-dark and I’m working at my desk, waiting out of the corner of my ear for the robin to start up with his “low whistled phrases of liquid quality” and the catbird his “rambling, halting warble,” with a “mew” or two thrown in to earn his name.  Later will come the clarion cardinal, the raucous jay.  Oh, and the “piercing, thin high whistle” of the broad-winged hawk. Finally spotted one yesterday – a juvenile.


Speaking of juveniles, my granddaughter is walking.  And climbing. Here we go!   One of her favorite things to murmur is “eieio.”  She’s still perfecting the “o.”


She’s also gardening:


Grace Note for Late March

Evangeline West

Beaumont, Texas

March 28, 2019


I call this tiny fellow a “lit-up lemon drop.”

He’s really a male American goldfinch, Carduelis tristis,in full breeding plumage.

He’s been hanging around the bird feeder some days now, in all his glory.

Goldfinches winter here.

They visit our southeast Texas feeders all through the colder months,

in their unisex coats of gray.

By late February there are touches of yellow, in male and female alike.

March brings a little more yellow for the males.

Then they are all gone north, to their nesting zone.

To see a male radiantly outfitted like this is rare.

Whatever is making him linger, I’m grateful.

His black forehead is fitting.

He’s a serious fellow, intent on bulking up for the journey north,

which surely will be soon.

I don’t like how the cardinals bully him.

If he minds he doesn’t show it.

He just gives way, then returns to his feeding.

The only thing that seems to make him cringe is the raucous cry of the jay.

A jay will get your attention, that’s for sure.


Too Many Carrots

March 19, 2019

I kept Amelia this morning. One activity is a given –  reading.  She continues to enjoy Women Who Changed the World.  I like it too but my emerging favorite is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (sp?)


I read some poems to her from my friend Jim Blackburn’s new book Hill Country Birds and Waters.  He’s working to choose a few of the poems for reading aloud to some groups later this spring.  I’m thinking his audiences will be adults.  But I would say a toddler’s opinion is worth plenty. So I let Jim know Amelia’s clear favorite: “the White-eyed Vireo.”


One thing I discovered is not Amelia’s favorite:  cooked carrots.  This she made clear by dropping them on the floor.  A little woman of firm opinions.