Watching for Salmon
December 1, 2021

The Humber River was surely known by other names among the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples who lived in the area long before settlers named it after a river in England.

Now a bustling city has grown up around it. It flows beneath a stone bridge near The Old Mill and under Dundas, Bloor, the subway line and the Gardner’s Expressway.   The soil along its banks continues to thrusts up a little green life.  Ducks, geese and heron still call it home.  The sun still insists on photosynthesis and we are drawn, by unnamed longings, to the grassy banks of the waters that will eventually flow to the Atlantic.

And a few salmon, driven by their own DNA-desire to spawn new life, still make their way up its rushing current from Lake Ontario.  Fewer salmon leap up into the cool autumn air, over the low concrete damns, than once churned the water red.  These days, we might be blessed by a surprising splash and flash of light reflected off a fish’s crimson back, if we are watching.

Like a thief in the night—they are there and then gone. You couldn’t pick them out of a police line up down town.  Still, having caught a glimpse, one is left with a sudden sense of aliveness.

Most of us never see the salmon at all.  We are too busy, preoccupied with Christmas preparations, or an angry conversation, or the heart-ache that brought us down to walk along the river in the first place.  Then something flashes on the periphery of our vision of the world.  And our spirit vibrates with the good news that there are mysteries beneath the dark waters of this life.

Sometimes, families and friends come with lawn chairs, blankets and thermoses of hot chocolate.  They situate themselves in familiar pews along the banks of the river.  When the smooth surface of the water breaks twice—once by the appearing and once by the disappearing–they release their breath together.  Their gasp is a hymn of praise, for the surprise and the beauty of the moment.  They stop to smile at one another, and passersby, wanting to share the joy.

Others come alone.  They pedal derelict bicycles with rattling handle-bar-baskets.  They wear hats, pin-cushioned with lures, and rubber waders up to the chests of their plaid shirts.  For them it is not enough to stand on the shore, patiently awaiting a mere Christmas glimpse of the mystery that sleeps below the waters of their hopes.

They read the river, wade into it. They trouble it with flies made of feathers, and long whipping casts.  They cajole what lies below to rise up.

If they catch a salmon, they cradle it in their hands, touch its beauty.  Then, having been blessed, they lower it back into the depths from whence it came.  Grateful.

A few take the fish home to feast it into their bodies, driven by the mortal hunger for something real, and beautiful.

This Advent I’ve been remembering those salmon and the people watching the salmon along the Humber.  Advent is a busy season, too busy sometimes to glimpse the flashing wonder of a God who came, and persists in coming, to surprise us.  We gather at the edge of the Gospel full of wonder; to hear the outrageous prophets who wade into the waters, dissatisfied with mere glimpses, or artificial substitutes. Their longings, and God’s promises, are too powerful to resist.

Advent is the season when we reckon again with a God who startles us with small and vulnerable births.  God’s Spirit continues to break the surface of mystery, continues to dwell among us.  If we catch a glimpse of that, truly, cradle it in our hands, take it into our bodies, we are blessed.


With Deep Regret: A Letter to Mary
November 23, 2021

Dear Mary,

I intended to address this letter to “My Dearest, Beloved Mary,” but feared that at this point you would welcome only the barest of salutations from me. Maybe you have already torn these words and the papyrus upon which they are written into a thousand shreds and scattered them with the excrement that flows in the gutter. Who would blame you? I have been a fool. Worse than that, I have been an arrogant fool.

I have much more to write about you and me…but first I want to convey my deep relief and joy at the news that you are well and there with your cousin, Elizabeth, and her fine husband, the priest, Zechariah. The morning after you left, your father came to my house in a rage. He demanded to know where you were and what I had done with you. You won’t believe this, but he even broke my nose with a wooden bowl. Each time I touch it, I feel its thick pain. It makes me think of you. I’m glad he broke it!

Your mother came next, screaming like an eagle. Your father and I were rolling around in the red dust like a couple of synagogue boys. She grabbed your father by the ear, pointed an ominous finger at me, and ordered us inside the house. Quite a crowd had gathered. I’m sure that before I wiped the blood off my face, Mrs. Zebedee’s tongue had gone wagging like a dog’s tail around the village telling everyone what had happened.

Your mother told me that when they woke up that morning you were gone from your mat. I said that you had probably gone to the hills for the day. After all, since you were a little girl, that is exactly where you went whenever you were angry—to watch the spiders, you’d say. But my heart began to sink as I sensed that this was different. They said you were crying when you got home the night before and demanded to know what we had talked about.

I told them I had called off our wedding—and why. I was so shocked and hurt when you told me that you were pregnant, Mary. My heart turned to ice. And I felt insulted when you said that you believed that it was God’s will that this child, who is not mine, would change the world, liberate the people, care for the poor. It was as if you, an ignorant peasant girl, (I know this isn’t true but that’s what I was thinking) were calling me, a man, a religious elder, and your husband-to-be, a fool. My pride opened my mouth. I even convinced myself that I was doing the noble thing. Quietly calling off our engagement seemed to be the kind thing, the honorable thing. After all, everyone knows that I do “the right thing” to a fault. I would face the ridicule from the likes of Mrs. Zebedee, even from my own friends, but they would also say, “Isn’t he kind when he could have had her stoned to death?”

I was there when they stoned Deborah, Jacob’s wife. I still have nightmares. It was there, when Deborah was stoned, that I first realized that you were special among women and girls, and that I loved you. How old were you, 10 or 11 years? You must have sneaked out of the house—a pattern for you it seems. By the time your mother arrived at the stoning, you were screaming and tearing at the robes of the elders who were throwing the rocks. I was hoping that your mother would drag you away before…well, before Deborah died. So, I felt noble and honorable, sparing myself that horror.

I am glad your parents came. They told me of their shame too. They told me what they had always said to you about girls who got pregnant before they were married. People say things like that, Mary. They don’t really mean it. Not about people they love. Your father sobbed. “Cast the first stone? How could I say such a thing to my little girl?” Those are his exact words.

I was 12 years old when you were born and I watched you grow up. When your father and I agreed that you would be my wife, it was the happiest day of my life. I know—and you were right to say it—we men treat women like cows or donkeys, the way we wheel and deal over you. But, I don’t mean I felt happy in the same way I would be if I had made a good bargain with an animal. I mean I felt the deep joy of the completion of something I had always dreamed would come to pass. You helped me understand what the Torah means when it says that God saw the first human’s loneliness and said, “It is not right that this one should be alone,” and from a rib fashioned the one who would complete him. You, Mary, complete me.

So, when you told me that you were pregnant, I felt as though my whole life, my dream, everything had been ripped from my hands in an instant. I was angry. I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand completely, but I’m willing to try.

You see, the truth is that I really am the sort of man who does the right thing, not because of what the neighbours will say, but because that’s how I am. When one of my customers overpays me, even a coin or two, I return it. If I find something that doesn’t belong to me, I could no more keep it than turn water into wine. That’s just how I am. I think that it is doing the little things right that leads us to God. It’s like practice for when the big thing comes along.

The big thing, Mary, is to step through whatever gate God opens to us. You and this child are the Creator’s gate for me. What else could account for this love that feels like drunkenness, but which helps me see the world more clearly, more beautifully, than ever before? Our love, this child, will lead us to both joy and suffering. Love always does. To deny that love, however, would lead to emptiness and to death.

Mary, please come home! Give my regards to Elizabeth and to Zechariah and wish them well with their own surprising birth, but please come home. Already I am under pressure to leave for Bethlehem in order to fulfill my census obligations. I would very much like to make that journey, and all journeys from now on, with you. Together we will find the way.

With all my love, Joseph.

David Giuliano,

First published in Gathering, Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, 2004–2005. Reproduced here with permission of the author. Please credit the author.


March 18, 2021

Light a Fire Against the Night

Gather up what is been broken
Bring what is wounded
Bring the long winter
and the impossibility of spring.
Bring hearts cracked open
by sadness, by defeat, even guilt.
Bring your whispered prayers
your raging souls,
your pain-filled memories
and your dreams stolen.
Bring your doubt and anger too.
Bring the lie, bring the lie
about the finality of death.
Bring it all, bring it all, bring it all.
Together we will carry it, like kindling.
Stack it high, brittle stick on stick
and rub those bones together,
to light a fire against the night.

p141 The Undertaking of Billy Buffone

The undertaking of billy buffone_final front (1)

Fact to Fiction, What Lies Between

I’ve been writing creative non-fiction for thirty-five years. This is about how I ended up writing a novel.

When I arrived on the north shore of Lake Superior thirty years ago, the town of Marathon was reeling from the revelation that a pedophile had preyed on boys here for twenty-five years. He was an esteemed citizen—reeve, teacher, scouter—who had fooled most, but not all, of his colleagues, friends and neighbours. Quite a few people knew, or suspected, including the police. Most of them looked the other way. After a quarter of a century, what had lurked in the dark had been brought into the light. He was charged with 53 counts, pleaded down to 10, and sentenced to two-years less a day. When I arrived as the green United Church minister, a concerted effort was underway to burry the ugly past in a deep grave. “He really didn’t hurt anyone.” “Let it go, the past is the past.” “You can’t change history.” “That’s all over, now.” The collateral damage, however, moaned in our midst like a ghost.

In an effort to bring healing, and to acknowledge the survivors still in town—the ones who had packed up their trauma and gone looking for geographical cures—I tried to write about it. The facts were raw and shameful and, in the end, the facts were not mine to share.

I also grew to love my neighbours, and to understand, as Malcom Gladwell explains in Talking to Strangers, that most human beings are—by nature and necessity—hardwired to trust one another. My neighbours were just doing what people naturally do: assuming the best. The story needed telling, but I didn’t want to hurt them. Nor did I want them to hurt me.

So, I turned to fiction. Moved to a fictional town, one like our town. James Joyce said “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin, I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.” I hoped to get to the universal heart of trauma by getting to the particular heart of my home town.

There the story stalled, languishing untouched, in the proverbial bottom desk drawer for years.

Only now, after it is finally written, can I look back and see why it took so long. First, I had to learn how to write fiction. Second, I had to confront some inner demons, lurking deeper than the bottom drawer of my desk. I needed to visit the basement where my gremlins of judgement and fears of failure nattered.

In a radio interview, I once heard Margaret Attwood talk about going to cocktail parties. She said, inevitably, a brain surgeon will come over and tell her that he plans to write novels when he retires. Attwood said she likes to reply that she plans to take up brain surgery when she retires from writing novels.

I felt like the brain surgeon, an imposter, incompetent, lacking the “gift” for fiction. Good fiction.  The fear of writing badly was paralyzing. I had to keep telling myself, “This novel is just an exercise. I’m just practicing. I’m learning to write fiction. Relax, enjoy the ride.”

I am an overly educated man, who has given his life to serious pursuits—spiritually, the meaning of life, changing myself and the world for the better. I was trained and rewarded for intellectual clarity. Creative narrative had its place in my writing, as a tool or a metaphor with which to communicate an important truth.

Those basement gremlins taunted me: “Writing fiction is self indulgent, frivolous and narcistic. A fine hobby, but only truly great and gifted people write good fiction.” Yet, the truth is; I love fiction. I am often moved and transformed by it. My dirty little secret: I enjoy Haruki Murakami’s capacity to make me believe impossible things, more than I do Eckhart Tolle’s capacity to do the same.

My journey from fact to fiction—across the murky territory of lies between the two—required quite a few trips, below the bottom drawer, down into the basement. The Undertaking of Billy Buffone will be published by Latitude 46 in April.


Lamentation 19 – Sunday November 22, 2020

I want to wet your shirt
with my tears
like an inconsolable child,
rest my head
upon your chest
rest my head
upon your heart
and weep.

Weep for truth
integrity, and
nobility, all gone,
lost to lies.
Weep for wisdom,
courage and curiosity,
infected with conspiracies
manufactured by deceit
and by fear.

Cry out all day
and all the night, for
human kindness, for
compassion, for justice,
traded for open carry
threats of violence
to imagination,
for dreams downsized
by intimidation.

Rail—in vain, let’s
be honest—against
unmasked rights
without account-ability,
against waving
flags of freedom
without response-ability.
For the obscenity of wealth—
tallied in numbers
beyond comprehension—
that blames poverty
on lack of ambition.

Weighed down by
weakness, to save the
world, or my own soul.
So, I rest my head
upon your chest,
rest my head
upon your heart,
and wet your shirt
with inconsolable tears,
for a moment.


My apologies for the time between blogs – busy with other writing these days. Let me offer instead a children’s story I wrote a few years ago.

Dinky the Donkey – November 12, 2020

Everybody knows about Joseph and Mary and the Angel and shepherds and the heavenly host singing “Hallelujah and glory to God in the highest!”  What about the donkey?  What about Dinky!  Go ahead laugh, Dinky was used to it.

Dinky was a rinky, tinky Donkey.  Dinky was afraid all the time.  He was especially afraid of – now this part is a bit embarrassing – mice.  When Dinky saw a mouse he saw fangs, flaring red eyes and powerful haunches coiled to lunge at his throat.

Dinky lived in a shed beside his master Jacob’s house.  There were mice everywhere.  Sometimes Jacob would sneak up and shout in Dinky’s ear, “MOUSE!” Dinky would jump four feet in the air and spin on one hoof.  Jacob would roar with laughter.

One day, Jacob loaded two baskets filled with figs on Dinky’s back. They walked to the market.   The sun was shining.  People were buying and selling things.  They were laughing and talking.

Children patted Dinky’s soft grey nose.  A man, with kind brown eyes and a wild beard, chuckled, “Aren’t you a fine stallion”.  The man gave Dinky a handful of sweet oats.

Dinky imagined himself as a mighty stallion, his thundering hooves as he pulled a beautiful chariot.  Bursting past all the other horses.  People scrambling out of his way.  Dinky the mighty warrior.

Then he saw the mouse scurrying between some clay pots on a blanket.  Fangs as long as your arm and about to lunge at him.

Dinky jumped four feet in the air, spun on a hoof and shouted “MOUSE!” but it came out “HEE HAW”. No one understood.  He started to run and kick and kept screaming, “MOUSE! MOUSE!” “Heehaw, Heehaw”.

He smashed jars, squashed oranges, did the fandango and flung the figs.  He did his best donkey kicks and ran in circles.

Jacob screamed at Dinky to stop and cracked his whip.  Dinky accidently kicked Jacob in the tummy.  Jacob doubled over, fell to the ground and wheezed through clenched teeth: “Donkey meat for sale.”

The man with the kind brown eyes whispered, “It’s OK boy, come here, come here.”  Dinky hid his eyes under the man’s arm.

Jacob was fuming furious.  He headed for Dinky with the whip.  “Come here you crazy jack-ass.  I’ll teach you!”

Jacob raised the whip and the kind man said, “Hello sir.  Did I hear you say this fine beast is for sale?”

Jacob hid the whip behind his back and said, “Why yes, he is. I call him, uh ‘Delicious’.  Have you ever had donkey burgers? Tastes like chicken.”

“My name is Joseph” said the man, “How much do want you want for this beautiful beast?”  Jacob set a very high price, but Joseph just said, “A bargain for such a fine steed.  Done.”

Joseph gave Dinky handful of oats and said “I have a special job for you.”

It was a strange and difficult carrying Mary all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  It was strange because in those days women didn’t get to ride on donkeys. They had to walk.  It was difficult because Mary was pregnant and pretty big.

Dinky didn’t mind.  He felt proud and strong.  He liked listening to Joseph and Mary’s voices when they stopped for the night.  “Why us? Why would God choose us?” they wondered. “We aren’t anyone important.”

Mary took Joseph’s hands in hers and said “Because, God cares about the poor and the hungry and the fearful. The little ones.”  Dinky didn’t understand.

When they reached Bethlehem they were exhausted.  People from all over the world were there to pay their taxes.  Joseph went from Inn to Inn but couldn’t find a place to stay.  Finally, an Inn Keeper said, “I’ve got no rooms left, but the straw in the stable is dry.  You can sleep there.”

“STABLE!” thought Dinky.  “That means MICE! No! No! No! Not the stable! ” The Inn Keeper was already leading the way with a lantern.  Dinky would have to be a brave Donkey.

The stable wasn’t that bad.  The other animals were friendly.  The pigs wanted to hear about Dinky’s adventure.   The chickens clucked he must be very brave and strong to make such a long journey.  Dinky said, “I’ve been mistaken for a stallion before.”

After they settled into the stable the baby was born.  Two women who lived nearby came to help.  Dinky had never seen anything so scary and beautiful as the birth of a baby. Joseph and Mary seemed scared and happy.  He felt that way too.

The two women wrapped the baby boy in some clean cloths.  They laid him in a manger, but couldn’t resist picking him up.  They passed the baby and took turns whispering ancient songs in his tiny, soft ear.  They called him Jesus.  Mary smiled, “This is the one the Angel told me about.”  Dinky wondered what it was like to talk to an angel.

Some shepherds came.  They stood at the door scuffing the dirt with their sandals, looking down at their rough hands.  Joseph said, “Come in, friends.”  They burst through the door and fell down on their knees in front of Mary and the baby.  They took their hats off and elbowed one another to say something.

Finally, the smallest shepherd spoke up.  “We, uh, saw an angel eh?  Well, not just one.  A whole herd of them …or flock maybe?  They sang to us, us!  Up there in the hills.  And told us to come into town and find youse guys so we could be the first to meet the new king.”

“We know.  We’re glad you came.” said Mary.  “Please sit down.”  They took turns holding the baby.  The shepherds had held plenty new born lambs before. They knew how to be gentle.  They talked about how wonderful it would be when this child grew up and changed the world.  Mary looked worried.

“A King?” Dinky thought.  “That’s boy’s a king? In a bed of hay, wrapped in rags, and surrounded by a bunch of yahoos from the hills? Nice guys but hardly a royal court.  Joseph and Mary, aren’t what you’d call royalty either.  And me!  I’m not a stallion.  I’m a dinky donkey, afraid of mice.  A king would ride a mighty black stallion from Arabia not a donkey who would taste like chicken.”

“Diiiinky” a voice sang, “Be not afraid.  Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.  For unto you is born a new king, a new kind of king, who will love the small ones, care for the weak and the ones others reject. One day, this child will ride like a king, into the city of Jerusalem and on that day, you, Dinky, will be the mighty steed he rides.”

“Are you an angel?” whispered Dinky.

“Yes.” said the voice.  Dinky had never seen an angel.  He looked up toward the sky from where the voice came.  There sitting on a rafter was a mouse.  “I’m a tiny little angel,” smiled the mouse and twitched her whiskers.


Out Looking for Poetry – June 16, 2020

I went out walking, looking for a poem. First, I baked four dozen molasses ginger cookies—I’m kind of famous for them. I portioned the cookies into packages for delivery to our friends. Doing something nice for people you love can sometimes lead to poetry.

The first package went to Luis, who in exchange, shared a secret about his new business enterprise. I’m sworn to secrecy. I suspect I’m not alone in the secrecy. Luis is pretty excited.

Then to Sloan and John and their baby Clark’s home. Matthew—Luis’s ten-year-old son—answered the door. “Are you babysitting?” I asked.

“No but I’m sort of practicing,” he explained. “Like training.”

“Well, it’s good then, that your shirt and socks match.” They were both bright orange. “Prospective employers will see that you are a serious guy.”

Matthew looked at his socks, pulled out the front of his shirt and then—eyes wide—said, “I didn’t even realize!” A beatific smile shone on his face, like he had witnessed a miracle. He scooped up the cookies from the porch—set there in deference to physical distancing—and hurried off to tell Sloan and Clark about the amazing synchronicity of his matching orange shirt and socks.

Next door, Selina, our minister, answered my knock, with a ukulele slung around her neck. She claimed to be struggling with worship preparation for Sunday, but to mind it is a sin, not smile in the presence of  a ukulele playing minister and molasses and ginger cookies.

Then, I loped along a street that traces a wooded hill. Houses line one side and a forest the other. There I heard the unmistakable sound of a bear, crashing down the hill directly toward me. Twigs snapping. Branches breaking. Growing louder by the second. I scanned my options for escape—fenced yards, easy to climb trees.

From the underbrush, came crashing out onto the street… a dachshund, aka a wiener dog. Our friend Valerie emerged hot on its heels. She scooped the dog up in her arms. “I’m going to strangle this dog! It out of the harness and I’ve been chasing it through the woods!”

“I thought you were a bear!”  It was relief a see a dachshund

“He does nip,” she warned me.

The rest of our conversation was spoken in the language the absurd joy of life. “It’s funny that it’s you, who ran into,” she said.

“Well, you know Valerie, sometime our little inner dog leads us to places where there are no paths, they know we are lost, we just have to chase them for a while in our inner woods. We must listen to our inner wiener dogs!” We headed off in opposite directions, laughing.

In spite intending it as a joke, I found myself contemplating my inner wiener dog. Where was it leading me?

Then there was the sound of the tap dancing. I kid you not. To say there is not a lot of tap dancing going on in our tiny town, would be an exaggeration. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have said there is none.

Inside the pedestrian culvert, running beneath the CP Rails, a girl was—yes—tap dancing. Like an apparition. I cannot say much to you about her appearance because my eyes were mesmerized by her tapping patent leather shoes. She danced in the culvert on a portable square of wood flooring.

I watched, listened, awhile, my jaw slack with wonder, then I asked, “Is it okay if I pass by.” Six-feet of physical separation in a pedestrian culvert is not possible.

“Of course,” she smiled. (Right, now I remember, she had a lovely smile and long straight hair).

“I’ve never seen anyone tap dancing,” I said, “in a culvert.”

“I love the acoustics,” she said, and unleashed a flurry of rhythmic feet for our listening pleasure.

There really is poetry everywhere: in cookies, new work, babies, socks magically matching shirts, preachers and their ukuleles, wiener dogs losing us in the woods, and a girl tap dancing in a culvert. Sometimes we just need to go out looking for it. It’s Good to Be Here.


Fragaria Vesca – June 11, 2020

How many times
Have I walked past
The wild strawberries,
Pushing up between
Last year’s dry-brown
Leaves, and this year’s
Green graces?

How many times
Have I failed to rest,
The coming and the
Going of my feet,
To breathe the scent of
Spring, clinging to their
Tender-white petals?

How many times
I forget, to sit the
Earth, in summer,
And taste the sweet-red,
Warm blessing in my mouth—
A universe of tiny seeds
Upon my tongue.

More times than I
Can know. But comes a
Breath, long enough to
Learn a Latin name—
Fragaria Vesca—to hear
Forgiveness, by all the wild
Strawberries missed.

Me edit

Turning Sixty

May 16, 2020

“What do you want for your birthday?” A reasonable question to ask a guy who, on Saturday, will have ridden this blue planet, sixty times, around the sun. Pearl, my beloved, asked it of me walking along the shore of Lake Superior.

I like gifts. A lot. So, I contemplated her question for about fifty-yards. “I just realized,” surprising myself, “I really do already have everything I need or want—except for a Triumph Bonneville 120.” Pearl laughed.  The Bonneville ship sailed a long time ago.

“What about a celebration?” Pearl asked. “Sixty is a big year.”

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

I thought about it. I’ve lived three-quarters of my life, assuming I make it to eighty years. Given family genetics, a Y chromosome, and a few run-ins with the cancer, I’ve probably got another twenty left on the clock. How to mark this gradual tipping from middle to old age? From builder to elder?

I visited the cemetery, where I sometimes go looking for wisdom. There is no wisdom quite like that of the dead and the dying. And, in a graveyard, it’s easy to maintain six feet of physical distancing. Wandering among the marble stones I asked, “What would you do differently, dear ones?” Each and every one of them told me the same thing: celebrate life more. Maybe it just was me talking in my head.

I want a celebration of life. I’m not talking about my funeral 1.0. When I’m dead, I don’t want a cheerful, “David wouldn’t want tears,” Celebration of Life. When I die, I want weeping, wailing, shrieking, gnashing of teeth, beating of chests and tearing of robes. I want people to be sad that I’m gone. If not one person can muster a howl at my demise, hire someone to do it. Sing In the Quiet Curve of Evening and Jesus, You have Come to the Lakeshore. Sing In the Bulb There is a Flower, if you must, but sing it like you’re not so damn certain! Then again, I’ll be dead. Do what you want.

Loitering among the graves, however, I fantasized a ceremony where the great cloud of witnesses—that’s you—circled this, my deteriorating body. I am supine, naked as the day I was born and wrapped my Star Blanket. One gnarly foot, with its thickening toenails, immodestly poking out at the bottom. And you? You are dancing wildly, jubilant and lifting my body, rocking me above your heads, all the while shouting wonderful things about me. Come to think of it, it would make a nice funeral ritual, too.

Of course, in these days of the plague, such gatherings are verboten, and—manifest outside of my imagination—are logistically challenging and embarrassingly awkward.  Besides, I’m am slightly more curious about what you are celebrating about your life, than what you are celebrating about mine.

So, this is what I want for my birthday: to hear what you are celebrating in these days of global pandemic. Tell me about the small things that become grand: finding yeast at the grocery store, not knowing what day it is, driveway visits with neighbours, finding a bag of cinnamon buns hanging on your door knob, bird songs, duck eggs, something green pressing up from the soil, the grace of giving and of receiving—each an exchange of gratitude. Your degree of present suffering may make it more difficult to celebrate but it would lift my spirits, and perhaps yours, to raise your blessings above our heads. Tell it in words, or photos, video or song. Remind us how, in spite of it all, it is Good to be Here.

Tell us what you are celebrating here, or in the comments on Face Book


Painting by Martin Howard ‘Wasabe’ From the 2017 Lost and Found Exhibition

May 13, 2020

Parables for the Pandemic

A woman could find no yeast
She searched and searched
Day and night
Store and store
Until she found a jar.
She paid, with
Lost coins
From her purse.
She baked bread until
All the yeast was gone.
Then rising with joy,
She bagged the bread
And gave it away, with
A note to say:
“Rejoice with me,
For I had no yeast and
Found generosity instead.”

A writer lost a word.
He had hundreds
of perfectly good words,
But one was missing.
He searched his mind,
He searched internet
He asked his wife
If she’d seen his word.
One had wandered.
He found Old words
New. Words
Like mercy, grace
And gratitude.
He called friends
and neighbors,
on the phone
“Rejoice with me,
I found some words
I thought were gone.”

A woman—successful,
Important, elegant
and powerful.
A Leader and a builder.
Alone, at home, she
Lost herself.
She searched the
Faces on her Zoom,
She counted her degrees,
Her pay and prizes.
She found herself,
In the mirror.
Alone and loved
Beyond all she’d done.
She smiled.
“Rejoice with me.
This daughter of mine
Was dead
And is alive;
She was lost
Now is found!”


The fear and suffering of God on a cross persists in the flesh
Broadview Magazine, April 10, 2020

“They killed Jesus? Why did they do that? They are bad people! He didn’t do anything bad. It’s not fair!” Our three-year-old son ranted in this fashion the whole walk home from his first Good Friday worship service. The sidewalk—lined with filthy snow, grit and melting dog turds—the drizzle falling from a clay-coloured sky, the barren trees and the moaning wind all seemed to agree.

Our son, for the first time, realized that baby Jesus, who became a man of the marginalized and a healer, was murdered. He was furious and inconsolable in his despair over the injustice of Jesus’ crucifixion. I held his hand. I told him Jesus’ friends probably felt the same way. I didn’t mention Easter. Tears ran down his cheeks.

Only the most courageous among us truly surrender ourselves to the Good Friday story. We prefer to put Jesus in the tomb, like bread into a toaster, confident he will pop back up on Easter morning. No worries. Friday’s grisly scene will soon be transformed into pastels, tulips, painted eggs, bunnies and sunrises.

What if we had only a charismatic, donkey riding, peasant revolutionary who was publicly tortured and put to death by a powerfully militarized occupying empire?

In Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Nightabout his survival in a German concentration camp—he describes being forced to witness the slow, agonizing death of a young boy, hanged for collaborating against the Nazis:  

Behind me, I heard… a man asking: “Where is God now?”

And I heard a voice within me answer him: “Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows….”

We’re Easter people. We hurry from cross to empty tomb—the show stopper, the orchestra swelling, trumpets and timpani sounding, proclamations of the end of injustice and suffering, the victory of life over death.

Can we be honest? Death and suffering have not been defeated.

The resurrection—like Donald Trump on the return to normal after COVID-19—is aspirational. It is described poetically, with metaphors and symbols—the curving neck of fiddleheads, crocuses sprouting in the snow, the song of a sparrow in a blossoming cherry tree, the restoration of relationships, an ineffable inner awakening—all true, beautiful and full of promise.

Good Friday, on the other hand, is as literal as a grave. The fear, despair, injustice, violence and suffering of God on a cross persists in the flesh.

On this Good Friday of the plague, where is God? God is weeping in Italy and Spain, perishing in a Bobcaygeon nursing home, laying down her or his life for friends and strangers at the hospital and the grocery store, suffocating for lack of a respirator, sleeping cheek to jowl in a homeless shelter, deprived of a final kiss, alone, bracing as the pandemic stalks Africa. Suffering and death abound.

This week, a little girl came to the food bank with her mother. Stressed, tired and laid off from her minimum-wage job, Mom accepted the grocery card and picked 10 items from the pantry shelf. Her daughter rummaged through a basket of hotel toiletries. “She wants one of those hotel shampoos,” her mother sighed, “to wash her hair. I use soap.” But the shampoos were all gone. Only hand lotions were left in the basket.

“Where is God,” I wanted to cry, “when a frightened little girl cannot have 30 lousy millilitres of shampoo to wash her hair?”

And I heard Good Friday answer: “Where is God? Here She is—searching in a basket for shampoo.”


Photo from the Aida refugee camp, in Bethlehem, a memorial to children killed in conflict with Israel in 2014. (Photo: James Walker)

December 22, 2019 – For Babies Born in Bethlehem
O Life and Love,
revealed to us
a fragile infant,
a vulnerable child,
dependent on
our caring.
I lift in my heart
the infant being
born this night
in the city of your birth,
Bethlehem, the city of David,
for the child born into a city,
a life, under occupation.
By birth in Bethlehem alone,
a baby denied freedom
of movement, water,
proper schools,
safe places to play,
human rights and dignity.
Children, robbed of hope,
fueled like David, by faith,
they load their slingshots
with five smooth and
multicolored marbles,
aimed at giants, who
respond with tear gas, stun
grenades, rubber bullets,
and jail without justice.
For the children, ignored
by tourists who come to kneel,
to kiss the place of your birth,
then pass easily, in ignorance,
through check points
these babies, born
in Bethlehem,
will never freely pass.
You came, an infant, a baby
a child, a declaration of
liberty for the captive,
a promise of food
for the aching belly
and for parched lips
that justice will
roll down like waters,
and righteousness, like
an ever-flowing stream
spilling out over the arid
soil and hearts of the land.
I pray that babies born
in Bethlehem this night
will someday know,
will someday be,
the fulfillment
of your promises,
O Prince of Peace.


Bearing Witness: Canadian pilgrims learn difficult truths about life in Israel and the West Bank

These Canadian pilgrims learned difficult truths about life in Israel and the West BankBy David Giuliano 


December 15, 2019 – Good to Be Here, Cleaning the Bathroom

Last week, I went skiing and snowshoeing through the woods, where the sunshine cast long purple spruce tree shadows and there were lynx and fox tracks to follow. There was crisp winter air to draw into my lungs and expel—warm with sigh—glad to be alive, caught up in the mystery and healing of creation. On days like those, it is easy to remember that, “It is good to be here.”

Cleaning the bathroom? Not so much. My standards aren’t exceptionally high when it comes to the spit ‘n’ polish or the antibacterial attributes of our bathroom, but from time to time it’s got to get done. I put the mats and the waste basket out in the hall for shaking and emptying later. I clear the counter of hand lotion, razors, contact lens containers and solutions. I put the soap dish in the drawer and flip the shower curtain over the rod, readied for a full on bathtub scrub.

We try to stick with environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. None of the tile cleaners that, in the television commercials, send forth happy little spinning, foaming brushes that leave everything covered in digitized sparkles.  At our house, there is a lot of vinegar, baking soda, eco-friendly soap and a lot of elbow grease involved. I sometimes covet those little smiling brushes that do all the work.

I shake baking soda and sunlight soap into the toilet and bathtub and spray the shower tiles and mirror with vinegar.

Admittedly, there is satisfaction in the fresh shine on the mirror and chrome taps, and in scouring the clot of dried toothpaste from the counter. The toilet. I’m not squeamish about toilets. A brief stint in the military right out of high school disabused me of any reluctance about diving—metaphorically—right in. It would be nice to have something industrial with which to blast the hard water stains streaking down into the bowl. The tub is fun—there’s a lot tidal swishing of water involved. Then the dreaded tiles which, in spite my best efforts, inevitably lead to soapy water running down my raised arm from the rag into my armpit.

Finally, on my knees—with no thoughts of prayer—I double-rag, backward out the door, while swiping up matted hair balls and errant toenail clippings.

It’s easy in the forest, or by candle light, or beneath the stars; it is more difficult—but not impossible—kneeling in the hallway, having cleaned the bathroom, to remember, “It’s good to be here.”

photo-2019-08-18-8-34-51-pm.jpgDecember 11, 2019 – I woke up to dancing

I woke up—but did not want to get—up 5:30 AM this morning. So I listened to BBC’s Cultural Frontline. Today’s show was called “Rave for a revolution”, about the power of techno-dance culture in the Palestinian struggle for justice.

In August, I traveled to Palestine with a group of young adults from Canada (read more about that in the January issue of Broadview Magazine). In Bethlehem, we were invited by our host to “a little engagement party for my nephew and his fiancée.” This little party turned out to be a feast for five-hundred and, including indoor pyrotechnics. It was the dancing, though, that inspired me.

Bethlehem is part of West Bank, and, for Palestinians, essentially a prison. Yet, in the midst of this constant stress, injustice, restricted movement, and apparent hopelessness, the dancing was positively ecstatic – the bride hoisted on chair, the groom riding the shoulders of various men, a bottle of champagne cracked open with a sword and fountaining over an elegantly dressed mosh pit of the young and the old, all bouncing to the beat of Arabic dance music. I was taken up into this raucous heaven on earth by the unaccountable joy of it. An irrepressible anarchy of joy and hope flowed through the room—joy and hope not grounded in the cruel facts of daily life but in defiance of the powers that seek to crush hope, peace, joy and love in those who dance-anyway.

This morning I lay in bed remembering the mysticism of that night in Bethlehem, and Emma Goldman, who said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And I remembered, it’s good to be here, where dancing is sometimes the most subversive thing you can do.

December 10, 2019

It’s good to be here. The further I travel from my Camino de Cancer, the harder it gets to remember that truth. So, in league with you who daily share your gratitude – like the always inspiring Laura Fouhse– I intend to remind myself each day that is indeed good to be here.

This morning it was -30 something Celsius with the wind chill factored in. I bundled up and went outside to shovel our driveway in that liminal time between night and day. I caught a last glimpse of the full moon and then the sun bleeding into the sky. I breathed the snap of air, felt the snow beneath my feet, and heard my neighbours beginning their days. A school bus roared past, ferrying a load of little miracles off to school. And I remembered, it’s good to be here.

Maybe you, like me, have a difficult time remembering that it is good to be here. Maybe life has taken you to places that aren’t good to be. I welcome your reflections and observations.


Light a Fire Against the Night

Gather up what is broken
Bring what is wounded
Bring the long winter
and the impossibility of spring.
Bring hearts cracked open
by sadness, by defeat, even guilt.
Bring your whispered prayers
your raging souls,
your pain filled memories
and your dreams, stolen.
Bring your doubt and anger too.
Bring the lie, bring the lie
about the finality of death.
Bring it all, bring it all, bring it all.
Together we will carry it, like kindling.
Stack it high, brittle stick on stick
and rub those bones together,
to light a fire against the night.


The Candle Man

In a garage, in an alley-
way in Thunder Bay,
there is an old man
who deals in candles,
on dark December nights.

A little boy, soft
in his brown parka,
peers into an open box
packed and stacked
with unlit, waiting lights.

He drops a mitten
to the floor forgotten, to
the mystery of the waxen sticks,
their cold and ready wicks,
awaiting fire, awaiting flame.

The old magician conjures up
a glass and purple globe,
sets it—like host—into small
upturned and empty hands,
entrusting it to inner lands.

“This one is mine,”
whispers the boy.
“Yes, for your advent,”
says the old man. “Yes,”
says the candle man.

And a garage, in an alley-
way in Thunder Bay,
flares with votive light,
becomes a grand cathedral,
on a dark December night.


Do you wonder why?

Does the birch tree
cry out, when its bark
splits open, unable to
contain one new ring
of growth?

Does the dandelion
Mourn an infant seed,
carried on a warm breath
to waiting fertile soil
yet untold?

Does the green snake
gaze back upon her
discarded skin, longing
for days when she felt
less naked?

Does the still, blue pond
refuse to reflect the sky
because the geese
it hosts discover wings
and fly?

Do you wonder why
every birth, and every dawn
of every day, promises
tears of grief and of gladness
as the way?

4 thoughts on “Posts

  1. David: Your writing skills have impressed me for many years. These stories and poems, along with the promise of a new book, brighten a cloudy Saskatchewan winter day. Thanks!


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