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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

483 Open windows and doors and receive whomsoever is sent. For every ending, there is a beginning

Day 483 Monday July 12th, 2021

Open the windows and the doors and receive whomsoever is sent.” For every ending, there is a new beginning.

Announcement: A Photo Book for Bill Borman

JoAnn Consiglieri is offering to make a photo book with pictures taken at Bill’s Party. If you took photos and want to share them this is your opportunity!

Please Email your photos to JoAnn at:

Or Upload them to a drive we're all sharing for Bill's photos.

Here's the link:

JoAnn will have them copied into a photo book for our dear friend and brother Bill Boorman!


We came to our land at Starcross many decades ago. The first thing that greeted us was a giant Live Oak on the corner of Annapolis and Soda Springs roads. It was a good three stories tall and stood through all kinds of weather and social changes. It was a beloved symbol of peaceful stability for us and others passing by. In the summer, when we had some of our common prayer services outside, we frequently gathered where the oak loomed like a giant religious sculpture at the end of a row of olive trees.

Then the day came when we were told by arborists that the tree could no longer sustain life, and that one or more of its giant limbs was likely to fall and injure a person or an animal. The responsible and prudent thing to do was to begin the difficult task of cutting down this great tree. Like many things in life, when you're getting on in years, it was a decision that brought with it many echoes of things past.

When a friend died recently, the person informing me of the bad news ended our telephone conversation with the words, “it's over.” Even in my shock and sadness, I knew there was something wrong with what he said. Nonetheless, it is hard not to close up at times like these. We have all had those experiences. But my life, or your life, is not just about me or you.

Many years ago, in 1977 to be exact, when I was so young that the idea of my friends dying was just an abstraction, I wrote, “You are running in a relay. This is the moment you have been chosen to hold the torch. You cannot refuse to run. Whatever you do is part of your page in the story of life.” Now, I know I should have added one more sentence: “The day will come when you pass the torch, but the story continues.”

Nevertheless, where do we find the emotional strength to open up rather than to close in? One of my favorite Shaker sayings is, “Open the windows and the doors and receive whomsoever is sent.” For every ending, there is a new beginning. The friend who wrote the words at the beginning of this reflection personified this.

Liz Bugental (1926 - 2009) was a Catholic nun and teacher. She had her doctorate in Theater Arts and was chairman of that department at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. The nuns in her order were progressive and, as one of their students put it, “in pursuit of a more humanistic version of Catholic life.” This included exchanging traditional habits for modern dress, performing liturgies without priests, standing in solidarity with minority groups, and taking a position against war. None of that sat well with the local ultra-conservative and autocratic bishop.

In 1960, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre banished them from the Los Angeles archdiocese. The college closed. Liz married Jim Bugental, a renowned psychologist and author. In addition to her life as a wife and mother, she became an accomplished psychotherapist, teacher, and poet in the Bay Area. Everyone grew older. Jim suffered a stroke which erased much of his memory. It was very difficult for both of them, except at those times when Jim would say to her, “But, I still have you.”

Jim died in 2008. Liz in 2009, but not before she wrote this:

… if given a choice, most of us would embrace the chance to walk that last slow victory lap around the arena of our lives, wrapped in the banner of our years, scattering along the way whatever small wisdom, comfort, and appreciation we may have to offer.

The task of cutting down the old oak will be a sad but ceremonious one. Many First Peoples, even when desperate, would not hunt without first recognizing and respecting their relationship to the animal they would kill. I rather feel the same way about this towering oak. Taking anything concerning the end of life seriously has the effect of prolonging that life so it is never truly “over.” So before giving the final word, I remembered the tree and held the "banner of its years."

I remembered the flocks of birds which nestled in its top; the mistletoe the children gathered each year from its lower limbs; the heroic stances it took against violent winter winds; the shade it produced in summer; the mountain lion that slept on one of its branches for a few days each year; the mating heron couples that would gather at its base; and the many people who leaned against its trunk, privately confided in it, and walked on into life.

The wood from the tree was used to heat our home the next winter and became the materials for one of our friend's art projects. Like Liz and so many of our departed loved ones, the tree made contributions which live on beyond it. I would like to continue the rest of my life-journey with some mindfulness of this tree with whom I have shared this sacred land. For me, it has been a reminder of what a monk should be.

Just a few hundred feet from where my beloved tree once stood, agents of an enormous multinational wine conglomerate will be cutting down over a thousand redwoods and firs in order to plant a vineyard which they hope will produce premium wines for those well-off enough to buy them.

I’m not anti-wine, but I find chainsaws and bulldozers to be unceremonious agents of change, particularly when they are used to clear the way for profits, and when there are so few prayerful moments in advance of the destruction. But the end of life is sometimes less than ideal.

Well, I can’t stop them from cutting down the trees — but they can’t stop me from saying a quick prayer for each one!

Brother Toby

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