Holiday for Rebels


A Blue Ridge Mountain Present

I love this season.   A few tenacious colors still clinging to bare trees, the flurry of feathered flight, the calm hours between storms, the energetic storms themselves, the bright crescent moon in a clear night’s sky, tipping toward planets and stars, a quiet forest walk with bubbling waterfalls.

A season of light–a different kind of light, tinted, shaded, filtered light.  You’re not always sure what you’re seeing, or sensing. I like that, usually.

For most American folk, this season is all about an Event:  Opening Presents.

For traditional folk, this season is all about One Present:  Baby Jesus.

For Nature-loving folk like me, this season is simply about Being Present to delight in the Natural Presents the earth has to give away right now.

Natural freethought is also giving out peculiar presents now.  You never can guess where the wise words will come from and how their meanings can change, evolve, and stir to reflection or decisive action.

My wife urged me to read her copy of The American Revolution, published by the National Park Service.  An excellent presentation of the hard truths underlying our National Myths.

(compare this to how we conveniently cover the uncomfortable truths hidden beneath the ornaments, packaging and sweetness of our Religious Myths)

Here’s one odd bit of truth-telling from none other than President Dwight Eisenhower who spoke these words during the McCarthy hearings in 1954 (the same year the Supreme Court desegregated public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education).  You might ask yourself how his words apply to today, to America, to faith, to Christmas and to our lives.

“Here in America, we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionaries and rebels–men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine.  As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.  Without exhaustive debate–even heated debate–of ideas and programs, free government would weaken and wither.  But if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that every individual, or party, that takes issue with our own convictions is necessarily wicked or treasonous–then indeed we are approaching the end of freedom’s road.  We must unitedly and intelligently support the principles of Americanism.”

I keep returning to this quote lately.  It makes me think the principles of Americanism are very similar to the principles of Humanism.  And, it makes me think that this is also a Season for Infidels, Revolutionaries and Rebels (you know, like the poor baby in the cow dish?).  A natural birth of ideas crying for. . . .





I know I’m not pretty. . .but tell me again why millions of us have to die for you?

Our first T-Day Season in Western North Carolina. . .it’s cold and smoky but beautiful.  No regrets leaving the Left Coast for these mountains.  Nature’s creative artistry is a good distraction from the mind-numbing down-dumbing politics that gives me a permanent case of head-shaking.  My natural unbelief is being dragged even further into the land of WTF nonsense.  It’s. . .unbelievable!

As I said, the natural distractions help, a little, and the wild things are really the best attractions.  We see gorgeous fat wild turkeys roaming our hills and I wonder, once again and again, why we humans are such killers, especially in the name of faith and family.

Ok, before you can accuse me of putting a downer on the “holydays”. . .all I ask is that we all give a gobble up for the Turkeys (and all the other fowl things we stuff down) this consumer season.

Maybe, Thank a Turkey instead of. . .

Well, you get my point.

Happy Season!

Climbing the Christmas Tree

Continuing my tradition, on my 60th!

Part of this tradition is a good, exhilarating walk in the natural beauty that’s so much more refreshing and renewing and relaxing than all the “stuff” that people say we “have” to do to celebrate the season.

(photos of the Christmas Baby in the tree by my wife, the Christmas Carol)

Scatter the Herd. . .Here Comes Christmas!

Oh my goodness!  This is exactly as I remember it!

Oh my goodness! This is exactly as I remember it!

I grew up thinking that all the happy and peaceful animals gathered around the manger in a beautiful, star-lit evening scene of joy and ahhh, soothed by harp-strumming angels hovering overhead.

Nice bedtime story.  Makes a sweet lullaby.

Then, we grow up.  Don’t we?

(well, at least all the animals and fairies scatter when we scramble in for Presents!)

Oddly, the Church rushes forward to Crucify the Little Swaddler and the animals are eaten (so is HE). . . to “Celebrate Life!”

Here’s something I posted last “holiday season” on Beyond God

Speaking of Annual Fairytales, once again we are blessed with the Great Annual Christian Lie called the “War on Christmas”–I recommend this excellent piece at Exactly My Thinking

New Seasons and New Reasons


My old cabin on the island

“Nature looks ahead, and makes ready for the new season in the midst of the old. . .  The present season is always the mother of the next.”

~John Burroughs, Ways of Nature

The wonderful refreshing rains have returned to our thirsty land.  The pasturelands are greening; the streams are flowing and lakes are filling.  Snow is falling in the mountains that await the February cabin trip by the icy rivers.


Snowshoe paradise

I am always grateful for the change of seasons, when the months of contrasts arrive in their annual visit colorfully clothed in dark and light, cold and warm, silence and song, death and life.

When the first sky-waterfalls begin, the sound holds my attention, even when it’s mostly the water pouring down the spouts at night.  There’s a calming and a reassuring sense that the birds, the coyotes, the insects and the land are breathing relief at the taste of liquid life.



My Christmas birthday has changed over the years.  More accurately, it changes every year.  Last year Carol and I surprised our friends Todd and Judy in the City, arriving at their annual morning brunch to a houseful of hugs and good cheer.

Christmas kisses

Christmas kisses

Leaving the festivities we got stuck in terrible touristy traffic.  I was missing my treeclimb, so we got out of the holiday headache and walked Golden Gate Park for a bit where I found a short olive to “climb.”


A few days later I was able to go just a few feet higher in an oak in a local state park.


This year we’ll be in the coastal hills for “the day,” among the redwoods and fir.  Between now and then I’ll find a “climber” to be my Christmas Tree.

I’m climbing around some new reasons to enjoy the season this year.  The family seems to be smiling more; good people are connecting; my classes are really very fun to teach; I’m re-reading some good books (Steinbeck, Thomas Paine, Burroughs) and many more birds and species are gathering in the fields and ponds.

Home for the holidays

Home for the holidays

I hope this season of natural beauty gives you many presents.  One gift is good enough.  Life itself.

*This little reflection was just published on Patheos:  Climbing (not cutting) a Christmas Tree


Holy Babies!

Happy Holidays!  And, once again, as always, it’s our choice, our decision, what we do with this season.

So, step back, take a deeper than usual breath, try not to be a Big Baby and read the annual Christmas Baby message:

I recently taught a class on World Religions, at least a few of them, with the theme “Rivers of Wisdom.”  Lots of water; some refreshing and clean; some muddy or stagnant or polluted.  But there IS water, there IS wisdom to be found in the ancient rivers.  We may need to test it before sipping.  It seems the wise thing to do.  You never know.

Wisely comparing rivers got me thinking:  while we’re ahhing and awe-ing over the Bethlehem baby in the very un-stable manger, what about the other babies in the history of wisdom?  What about baby Abraham and baby Sarah in Iraq; or baby Moses floating in that reed basket on the Egyptian river; or baby Buddha or baby Krishna of India, baby Confucius of China or baby Muhammad in Arabia?  And all the female babies forgotten in those stories?  What about these infants in the childhood of the human family?  Why pick just one Wee One of Wisdom?

I just read that archaeologists seem to have found a shrine around an ancient tree in Lumbini (Nepal) where Baby Buddha may have been born (can we hear the giggly, gurgling sounds echoing–wakefully–through the centuries?). The crumbling cave where Baby Confucius is thought to have been born on Mount Ni near Qufu in China makes the smelly stable in Bethlehem look like a palace.  There is now a library in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on the site of Baby Muhammad’s birth.  That seems respectable.

The rivers of history have presented us with many Nativities to investigate, commemorate and, if we so choose, celebrate.

What do we do with Baby Religion?  When faith gathers around a child, a “special” or “divine” child, what does this mean for us?  Does it mean we should, as one of those toddlers grew up to say, “become as little children to enter your Daddy’s and Mommy’s house”?  What if faith remains in the nursery, in awe of the sweet, snuggly, cuddly God we just want to squeeze?  “I could just EAT him up!”  And some do.

Then, what happens when the little boogernose grows up to be a respected teacher who says things like, “you must be born again”?  What then?  Starting over isn’t really possible, but seeing Life more simply is.  Could this be part of the meaning?  Not sure.  Babies are fragile, vulnerable, innocent.  Like tiny, wide-eyed wild animals living by instinct, without reason, taking in the big world around them with wonder and fear.  Wonder and fear–integral elements of infant faith.  So many reaching for the great Mom or Dad in the sky, crying for the cosmic parent.  “Our Father Who art watching over and protecting me: ME!” It’s all about ME when you’re a baby.  For crying out loud, we’d love to stay warm and safe in the Great Womb and whine when we can’t get back in.  We’re such whiners, aren’t we?

Like our decisions about the holidays, we have a choice to get caught up with these Mini-Gods in diapers or we can decide on something different.  We can save our sanity (and our savings) or we can shop the spiritual supermarkets looking for supernatural sales. We can ride camels with the Wise (Zoroastrian) Philosophers back to the big scary adult world or stay with the sheep in the dark stables and nurseries nursing our comforting, childlike beliefs.  We can choose to celebrate every birth as “sacred,” every child as a unique gift to the world, or we can continue this age-old silliness of elevating a handful of ancient babes above all others and say the stars shine especially on their little faces.  It’s still our choice.  I think we should choose carefully.  There are no guarantees when we outgrow our cribs, our swaddling cloths and our beloved bedtime stories.

Here’s a thought, a suggestion:  Why not celebrate the wonder and leave the fear?  Sounds like a wonderful idea to me.  Maybe a couple of the Holy Babies would think so too.  It’s a wonder-filled time of year.  Nature puts on quite a show for adults and children alike!

Let’s try to keep some of our childlike fascination and imagination, even as we live as grownups in a world that needs all the balanced wisdom, responsible decisions and reasonable action of adults it can get.

Here’s my Winter Wish for you, for us, for our world:

“Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,

Your waters never drumlie (muddy).” ~Robert Burns


{Oh, and please remember, you really don’t have to kill more conifers or consume more creatures–babies or adults–to enjoy the great natural beauty of this Solstice Season}

{Oh2:  Fun Historical Facts to Discuss around Your Holiday Table:  Baby Abe and Baby Moses were not Jews; Baby Buddha was not Buddhist; Baby Yeshua was not Christian; Baby Muhammad was not Muslim.  Babies (children) are not born believers. And (this fact especially for Europeans and Americans):  none of these Holy Babies had light skin, spoke English or ever read the Bible or went to Church.  Aren’t facts fun!}