Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection


A new Pendle Hill pamphlet, Robert Griswold’s Marking the Quaker Path: Seven Key Words Plus One, has sparked some fresh thinking on my end.

I’ve previously posted on the ongoing series from the press at the Quaker retreat and study center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and often advise newcomers to Meeting to peruse its display rack in our library for titles that might best touch their interests, whether theological, historical, peace and social justice action, or simple daily living.

What I like about Griswold’s volume is the way he identifies some basic terms that are also found in other religious traditions while noting ways we Friends have come to apply our own unique understandings.

I’m sensing that each of his eight words (OK, one is a phrase) would be a fertile topic for group discussion, and not just among Friends.

His list:

  • Condition
  • Experience
  • Covenant
  • Discipline
  • Discernment
  • Authority
  • The Beloved Community
  • Submission


I won’t try to define them here, but each one can be stimulating, even controversial, as we look at the fullness of their implications in contemporary life. It’s also instructive to think of words he hasn’t focused on, starting with Belief, Worship, Prayer, and the like.

To learn more about his pamphlet and more, visit the Pendle Hill website.


As I said at the time …

Hey, I do “write normal” – at the newspaper office! In my poems and fiction I push the language to new frontiers, make it fly through dimensions I don’t dare explore in the daily press. Keep my insanity, too. Next dance?

Yeah, that long gray wet spell last month was a sample of Seattle – where the damn gray drizzle holds forth, pretty much unbroken, for six to eight months. Count your blessings, as they say. Or your Starbucks.

Would you say simply I miss the taste of Dungeness crab?


Olympus 1

For more on my related poems and fiction, click here.

St Helens 1


To date, all of the Republican challenges to Hillary Clinton’s activities have amounted to nothing other than the squandering of millions of taxpayers’ money.  Over the years, in fact, it’s often appeared the worst they can come up with is to accuse her of minor-league shenanigans of a routinely Republican sort.

Even after their witch hunts and kangaroo courts, though, that hasn’t stopped them from counting to howl for renewed investigations.

Still, there’s always a lingering nervously that something might still blow up along the way, and that leads to a fresh bit of speculation.

What if she withdrew from the race?

Left Tim Kaine as the party’s presidential nominee and, try this one on, Bernie Sanders running in the veep spot.

Kaine has none of the negatives Hillary carries, so the entire dynamic of the campaign would shift. Bernie would inject fresh enthusiasm into the race and deflate Jill Stein’s Green Party, as well.

Believe me, Donald Trump’s camp would be left spinning trying to adjust to the changes.


Think, too, down the pike and whether a Kaine presidency could erode the anticipated disrespect and outright contempt a Hillary Clinton White House would face as the far right-wing continues its hostility to the Obama legacy. The racist and sexist cards couldn’t be played, for certain. It would be curious to see just what the haters would be left with.


if you stopped trying to convert politicians
and instead started proselytizing the public
we might see change
in the radical dimensions of the Gospel


That’s what Woodpecker said.


You may have guessed my reaction to those bumper stickers calling Obama the worst president in American history.

Folks who have no memory of what the poor guy inherited.

OK, his biggest mistake was thinking he could reason with two-year-olds. The ones who go “No! No! No!” with no solution in sight. Imagine the rage if they were drivers on the Interstate, the ones with their brakes locked.

The mistake of thinking them men of good will rather than ill will.

The ones who have comprised the majority of the worst House of Representatives in memory, if not American history. And then their cohorts took over the Senate.

Put the blame where it belongs, especially when they won’t clean up their own mess. How about a clean sweep?


In his inflated claims to self-worth, Donald J. Trump likes to include a category of “goodwill,” meaning, well, nothing tangible. While he puts his value at $10 billion, more realistic voices put it at no more than $4 billion, and that’s assuming he’s not leveraged in debt to the hilt. After watching one after another of his enterprises go kaput – from airlines to casinos to steaks and vodka (oh, another Russian connection? gee whiz!) – he’s turned increasingly to name value alone. Many of those buildings with his name attached, it turns out, aren’t owned by him at all. The real owners just rent his name in exchange for, oh, well, something. How much longer can this game continue? Well, until the name and its sterling impression are deflated.

Believe me, more and more Trump is an elusive “brand,” based as much on his television-show posturing as anything. Successful businessman? Not as the stories of his failures, shady practices, and legal cases mount up. More and more, the question is what or who’s behind the cutout cardboard figure.

In the old days, we would have said this was nothing more than “image,” presumed status, or even a mirage in the distance. As the details pile up, a different portrait emerges. Call it showman or huckster, if you wish. It’s anything but a successful businessman whose word was good as gold. Quite the contrary.

As his bid for the White House encounters one disaster after another, and all of his brashness is returned in full measure, there’s reason to ask just where he’s heading. Where is his escape?

Or, more accurately, can he somehow salvage his brand?

I’m rather dubious. If his base turns out to be aging white males on the losing end of the spectrum, I doubt it. I just don’t see advertisers lining up for that. He’s the wrong demographic for most products. Hell, from what I’ve read, even Rush Limbaugh’s in trouble there.

One thing I’ll assume. Trump won’t believe his low ratings there any more than he trusts the polling surveys now or ballot tallies in November.

What would you do in his place?


Airplanes & bees buzz
hummingbirds & vultures
even raven’s warning:

By late summer afternoons,
apples sunburn. Everything swims
in a suffocating liquid until

something above the ridges slips
& our faces are slapped by alternating
baked & chilled blasts that settle as cool evening.

Mammals whisk
once again through cheat grass.
Rattlesnake listens.

Wind, carry pollen. Wind,
carry seed. Wind, carry
song of crickets.

Wind chimes clatter
(it’s not the wind I hear speaking):

“not wind but the force behind wind
“not leaves but the force behind leaves
“not sun but the force behind sun”

Tornadoes or blizzards,
hats sprint away,
trash barrels somersault.

You learn, if you’re lucky,
how Chinook melts,
how Walla Walla freezes.

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015
Poem originally appeared in Opus Literary Review


Harvest in the orchard country of the Pacific Northwest comes as a remarkable sequence of crops. Apricots, cherries, plums, peaches, pears, apples golden or red – each in waves of ripening. Each picked, amassed into bins, and trucked off to warehouses for packing, storage, or shipping.

It can be overwhelming, even before considering the impact of long-term drought or overnight frost.

That’s all in the background of my Northwest Passion novels, including Peel with its focus on Kate as she peels down the core of her existence. As for her husband?

Their Eden, as they’re finding, remains far from home.

Does that leave plenty of room for a Serpent? Or just a worm?

Kate, holding the paring knife, must answer.

Peel 1

This was the original cover, before redesign. Which do you prefer?


For your own copy, click here.


How can I listen to a presidential nominee who more and more looks and sounds constipated?

Or is it more simply his stony, dark heart?

Either way, I wish he’d come clean. This is getting exhausting.


At the helm, trying to steer by the compass
– current pushes toward one way,
the wind in the other –

the hull, tenses and would twist about.

“Don’t worry, you won’t blow over.
When we tip far enough, the sails will empty.
Besides, there’s nothing you can do about a blast
that would dump us.”

“Sounds like you speak from experience.”

“Yeah, that’s how I lost my boat.”

– that sinking feeling, at my fingers.


Myrtle’s “good thing we didn’t have anything
we’d be ashamed of,” after the tornado
ripped through Winona.

One of her husband’s shoes was identified
a hundred miles away, in another state
in the following weeks. Who knows about its companion.

Harold, who had dashed over and pulled Howard
from under the water-filled upright piano,
pointed to the splintered trees still standing
during my first visit, a few years later.


Churned by the remains of a hurricane
far out at sea, twenty-foot breakers
with white tufts blown back from their crests
slam into rocky Maine shore
where Winslow Homer immortalized such scenes.

“It’s calmed down a lot from yesterday,
but it’s still quite a show,” a passer-by says.


Each of these told with slight smiles.

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015


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