Salvation in Their Arms

The following is a story about Jesus and Mary and Joseph, as well as two obscure, but important biblical characters, who are an integral part of the entire Christmas story: Simeon and the prophetess Anna. This beautiful part of the tale was first told by those who witnessed it from a “bird’s eye view:” the Temple birds, who then passed it down, unchanged, to their descendants for over two thousand years. The story is true.

I have heard that if you visit Jerusalem in the present day, and walk through the ruins where the Temple of King Herod the Great once stood, you can still hear the birds that live there now repeat this story, each in their own tongue. I tell it to you now, translated from the words and lyrical notes, as told to me by a kind and obliging sparrow, as it had been told to her.

–Paula Tohline Calhoun




An obliging sparrow

The Temple in Jerusalem, built on the highest elevation of the city, was a place to study and worship God, and make all the sacrifices to the Creator of us all that are prescribed in the Law. It was a beautiful place, built of purest white marble, gold, and precious bronze, that sparkled in the sunlight, and could be seen from great distances.  This Temple was built by King Herod the Great, who increased the foundation, size, and majesty of Solomon’s Temple that had been ravaged and looted many years before.  Herod spent several years and enormous amounts of money, and used hundreds if not thousands of skilled tradesmen and slaves to build and enhance it, because he wanted Rome to recognize his power, wealth, and authority over Judea. Still, it was the Temple of God, and the Jewish people treated it as such, as did many people of other faiths, out of respect for the God of the Jewish people. Yes, the Temple was a majestic structure, and seemed always to be busy, most especially on High Holy days and other festival times. People came from far and near to worship, pray, learn, and also to pay taxes, tithes, and offerings, as well as engage in tasks not so holy.

There were the assigned daily priests and Levites attending to their duties, who would come and go each day, but there were also a certain number of devoted and devout men and women who lived on the Temple grounds, day and night, by personal choice. Each busied themselves with the upkeep of the many courts of the Temple, wherever they were allowed by their laws to be. Because of their devotion to God, they were never idle, and spent their time in prayer and fasting and whatever they felt called to do in God’s service.

In addition to all the people, there were many other creatures. There was the constant coming and going of the sacrificial animals and birds, as well as the uncaged wild birds who lived out their days nesting in the rafters, and flying in and out around the Temple buildings, going about their daily lives, from one generation to the next. Those wild ones are my ancestors.

The birds were accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the people. They knew some of them thought they were pests, and some enjoyed their company. They had learned, however, that as a rule, humans of either type should be given a wide berth, and so they tried to stay safely out of reach. Despite their precautions, still every season it seemed at least one feathered family or two lost their nests, and sometimes the eggs, from an overzealous human who decided to “clean out the pests once and for all.” However, even the birds understood that some rules had exceptions, and there were two special people who were part of daily life at the Temple who were beloved and respected by all, human and animal. Their names were Anna and Simeon.

Anna was a widow of many years of age, known to be a prophetess. She had lost her husband after only seven years of marriage, and from that time forward she lived her life in the Temple, fasting, praying, and praising God. She was a very kind and generous woman, giving most of what she had to the poor or needy, and she always shared some of her meals with us. She had a beautiful voice, and we birds loved to be near the Women’s Court during services of worship. No one could sing the Psalms as beautifully as she. Her father, named Phanuel, had been a devout man, and unlike many girls’ fathers, had seen that she received an education. She was one of the very few women who was able to follow the order of worship each day. During the services, she always stood at a place close to the railing, over which she could observe the men worshiping in the Court of the Israelites and the Court of the Priests.

Also frequently in the Temple was a kind gentleman named Simeon. He was much revered by the members of the local congregation of men who worshipped daily. It had been said for many years that he was highly favored by God. Through the Holy Spirit, he was promised that he would not die until his eyes had seen the salvation and consolation of Israel. Most of the other men assumed he was waiting to see the downfall of Rome, perhaps brought about by a new and mighty military king for their people. Simeon wisely kept his counsel. He did not feel it was his place to say how God would keep his promise. He only knew that God would, and so he kept himself ready to behold God’s miracle whenever and however it happened.

One of the places in the Temple where both Simeon and Anna spent some of their time was at the gate through which new mothers would come after the sacrificial rite of cleansing, and through which both parents would bring their children to be blessed. Parents of their first-born son were required by law to present that son at 40 days of age to be consecrated and redeemed with a sacrificial offering, because all first-born males belong first to God. The sacrificial offering varied according to the means of the parents, and ranged from a yearling lamb to two turtledoves. Both Anna and Simeon were childless, but their love for children kept them close to these rites. They believed in a future for their people, and wanted to be near to watch the generations as they were presented.

One day, Anna and Simeon were both in the Temple, near the Beautiful Gate that opens from the Court of the Women. For some time, all of Judea had been buzzing and excited about an unusually large star that shone in the heavens both by night and by day. Even the birds knew that something extraordinary was in the making or perhaps had already come to pass, but I don’t believe that any of them knew what that was.  Word was that Herod was particularly interested. He feared that perhaps it meant doom for him. Anyway, on this particular day, something wonderful appeared about to happen, something that each in his or her way would never forget, and that will continue to be talked of and sung about until the end of time.

Many of the birds made it a point always to be near either Anna or Simeon. This was not just at meal times!  Any time spent with them was peaceful, and they felt safe in their company.  Suddenly, those nearest Simeon started to make sounds that drew the attention of Anna and all who heard and understood, either human or bird or beast. Simeon became very excited, and approached with awe a middle-aged man and a young woman, carrying their infant. When my forebears saw the objects of Simeon’s attention, they too knew something special was happening.  The parents, apparently of modest means, had offered a pair of turtledoves to the priest as the redemptive sacrifice for their son. The priest took the birds and carried them away to the rough stone altar. This was so hard to witness. The poor small feathered beings trembled in the rough grip of the priest. They struggled slightly, making shrill sounds that were recognized as fearful cries for rescue. Those who had seen such things many times before, did their best to call back to them their own songs of comfort. It was all they could do except be witnesses. Then, all of a sudden, the doves stopped struggling and silenced their cries, and turned their heads toward the door where the family was standing. It seemed that every bit of bustle and noise in the entire Temple ceased. Silence settled over everybody and everything. What was happening? Even the priests slaughtering the animals stopped briefly in their work, because the bellowing, baa-ing, and squawking of the frightened animals had quieted.


The Holy Family

All were focused on the entrance to the court where sacrifices were performed. The little boy-child being ransomed from God was lying swaddled in his mother’s arms, and his father stood next to them in a protective posture. The baby was not squirming or crying, and seemed completely calm, and yet alert to everything around him. All of the birds, including the doves caught in the priest’s hands, were acutely aware of something else:  the sun seemed to have suddenly emerged from a cloud, because everything within the impromptu tableau was limned in light. For a few seconds the infant’s and the doves’ eyes shimmered in that holy light. The baby smiled at them, and with that smile the doves, already stilled, were at peace and calmly yielded to the knife pulled swiftly and skillfully across their necks. The Temple noise erupted again, and most went back to their own businesses.


A sacrifice of two turtledoves

It was then that attention returned to Simeon and Anna. After the priest had sprinkled the birds’ blood upon the altar, and handed their bodies over to be burned, he approached the parents and sprinkled some of the blood upon them. The mother then lifted up her child to give to the priest for a blessing. No sooner had the priest held the infant than Simeon rushed forward and took the child into his own arms. There were tears in his eyes and on his face as he started to speak, and most everyone there who heard him remembers what he said. The child’s parents listened in stunned silence as he spoke:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” *

He kissed the child, and handed him back to his mother. He then spoke a blessing over the family, and turning his face, for a moment, from the child’s eyes, to the mother’s, he spoke these words:

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” **


Simeon blesses the infant Jesus

None of the birds understood the meaning of his words to the mother, but could see that they stirred up great feelings within her, and she held the child all the closer, and the father hugged them both to him. The anxiety on their faces was almost immediately dispelled, because suddenly we heard the soaring beautiful voice of Anna singing out, for all to hear, her praise of the Most High God. Her anthem of praise was heard by everyone in the Temple, and the hearts of many there turned to her words of joy and thanksgiving. Anna moved closer to the couple, and as she sang, she took the child in her arms, and kissed him. Then, after handing him back, she continued her thrilling song:

“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all peoples.” ***


Anna sings praise to God

Anna had heard all that Simeon had said, and she, too, was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of God.  She announced to everyone that God’s promised salvation had come in this child. It was evident even to the birds that all of which Simeon and Anna spoke and sang was true. There was something about that child, and his parents that radiated joy for the whole world. All the birds began to sing God’s praise along with Anna, and we watched her and Simeon, as they followed after the family, and saw them through to the gates that led out of the Temple.

It was just a few short days after this event that we were foraging for food in the Court of the Gentiles. We were surprised to see Simeon and Anna in conversation with one another. It was not the custom of the Jews for a man to speak in public with a woman. But probably Anna’s advanced age and the fact that they both had spotless reputations accounted for the lack of notice by the people milling about the court. Their presence together did not seem to be prearranged. It appeared to be a happy coincidence for them. The birds drew closer so they could hear what was being said as they pecked at the bits of bread that Anna was kindly sharing.

Their conversation sounded rather formal at first. Yet it was evident that their awesome joy over what they had recently shared had not faded in the least. Simeon held up his hands, and with eyes shining, he looked on them in wonder, and said, “Of all people we are surely most blessed! We have held in our own arms God’s promise to the world. Did you see the child’s eyes? Did you notice how he took everything and everyone in?”

Anna answered him with identical excitement. “How could anyone who witnessed such a thing not have noticed? And how could anyone who noticed not shout praise to our Creator? Hardly a moment has passed since we witnessed that family’s Presentation rite that I have not thought of it. It is almost as though I can still feel the weight of that blessed infant in my arms! Glory and great thanksgiving be to God that we were so privileged.” Simeon listened to her as she spoke, and it looked as though the special light that had enveloped them and the family at the ceremony was still shining in them both. They stood for a few moments in silence before going their separate ways.

Later, over the days and weeks that followed, we heard a lot of gossip, among the Jews and Gentiles alike, of the curious and unusual events that were taking place in and around Jerusalem. King Herod was devoting a lot of time and resources in learning details of the visit of three wealthy learned men from the East. It seems that they had been following the strange star that was the number one topic throughout all of Judea. Herod seemed to see the star as an ominous threat to his reign, but most people and the birds saw only a large, bright, and beautiful star. After it was gone, the likes of it were not seen again.

The evening after witnessing Anna and Simeon’s conversation, I was told that the birds gathered in the rafters in family groups, and all were discussing those two, and the family with the baby boy, and the two turtledoves that were sacrificed. For the rest of their lives they would talk with wonder about the happenings in and around the Temple on those momentous days. Perhaps I haven’t emphasized enough the one word that was at the center of all the chatter and gossip. The birds all realized early on that there was something that tied all the stories together. That word is “Light.” There was the wondrous Light of the special star, there was the Light surrounding the family, the Light in the mother’s eyes, and the father’s, the Light around the hands of the priest as he held those poor frightened birds, and most miraculous of all, the Light beaming from the infant directly toward the doves. The way the birds so willingly relaxed in the glow, and were no longer afraid, made the entire act of sacrifice much easier for all of us to bear. And then, of course came Simeon and Anna. The Light shone around them both as they prayed and sang, rejoiced and gave thanks.

And that Light stayed with them for the rest of their days. At the center of every moment there was, as Simeon had said, and Anna declared, “a Light to the Gentiles, and glory for Israel.” They shone with it, they shared it, they passed it on to others. Such portent it held! such Peace, such Joy! It is something all creation is honored and privileged to share, even now, so many generations later: The Light that came for the whole world, the promised Light of Salvation, and they had held Him in their arms.


*Luke 2:29-32

** Luke 2:34-35

*** Psalms 96:1-3

(All scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version, ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America)


“Salvation in Their Arms,” a story by Paula Tohline Calhoun, ©2017

All rights reserved

Illustrations by Ashley M. Calhoun, ©2017

All rights reserved


Joseph and Baby Jesus




I shall click my heels together

as many times as needed

to make last week disappear

or my absence be unheeded!


I took the chance to engage myself

with things besides my blogging

Besides my ‘puter refused to work

so I sent it back for some flogging.


Turns out the keyboard was DOA

So it was kindly replaced.

I don’t know what was done to the old

but its life, for me, has been erased.


So just pretend it’s last week now,

and you have traveled back in time

for just a few brief moments to learn

why this page was lacking new rhyme!



I’ll see you Friday, God willing, with something brand new. Until then, I continue to wish you enough. . .


For a favorite poet

Friday got away from me before I could get a post up, so, here it is, a day late. This poem was written for a favorite poet of mine. Actually, I have many favorite female poets, and it is hard to mention just one, so think of your own favorite as you read this brevity of mine.


Upon the virgin paper
you have decanted your words,
released at last to breathe–
exhaling the air of distinction–
each syllable swirls around
my maidenly tongue
awaking my thoughts to
the possibilities inherent in
fresh paper and educated ink.


I wish for you all enough. . .

Anyone for dessert?

Ice Cream Forever


I think of wintery December streets
in the middle of Moscow, windy,
snow-packed. Snow falling, drifting,
deep.  But not empty of life. Even
as night falls, people are lining up
for one more thing before heading
home. Before warmth, there must be
ice cream! Ice cream that stays cold,
unmelted atop the cone, until
the tongue takes over and, half-warmed
the rarefied, blissful sweetness slips
down one’s throat, making everything
that is cold seem warmer and bright.

Rich with cream, vanilla bean, and
suspended through it all, countless
chocolatey bits of cookie, softened
just so by the frozen milky comfort
around them. Oh! Such bliss, may
it never be relegated to summer
alone. Such coldness must be
challenged, not just by the melting
heat of the sun, but by the cold
slap of winter winds. Their fury
means nothing when met with
ice cream. The flavor of happy,
the joy of defiance. Ice cream is
so much more than its name.

The sum of its parts is perfection,
the parts of its sum, simplicity.
Rich, thick, yet yielding to anticipation of
delighted lips, or silver spoon.
Sweet, not cloying; cold, not biting
unless greedily gobbled, becoming
the mother of all headaches, but
even then I ask for more, remembering
the inrush of the silken sugared memory
that returns as the pounding dwindles.

Ice cream:  separate, holy, heaven-blessed,
its appeal never fades, whatever the season,
but in winter, a bold and singular joy.


I think I will go scoop some out right now. Not a lot, just enough. . .

The Zugzwang

OK, so what on earth is a zugzwang? If you take the time to read my story, all will be revealed. I hope you enjoy this bit of fiction!


Funny how certain events will bring other ones to mind. Events in your life that on first blush, seem to have no relationship to each other, but the more the memory intrudes, the more you realize how closely related they are. Such a remembrance has recently taken residence in my mind.

When I was a little girl, one of my best friends was a boy named Mike Collins. He was a wonderful friend, and his being a boy, and my being a girl seemed not to interfere with our enjoyment of one another. Sometimes it even helped. We filled our play with make-believe, and often re-enacted or created new scenes mimicking our favorite television programs. Having a representative of both genders made our plays much more real to us, especially when it came to wedding scenes. I specifically remember pinning a bath towel to my hair to serve as a wedding veil when we played a marriage scene from “The Edge of Night.” It was only years later that I stopped to think how odd it was that two eight-year-olds would have even the slightest idea what “The Edge of Night” was, let alone be familiar with a television soap opera.

The memory of that wedding scene came suddenly, unbidden, to my mind as I stood by the new grave of our dearly loved companion, guardian, and friend, our dog Elvira. The air was redolent with the rich scents of morning, scents heightened by the moisture in the air lingering from recent rains.

I was startled at the remembrance of Mike intruding on my meditation  of Elvira. It was hard to fathom the connection, but I felt compelled to find it, and began to try to bridge the gaps that eroded my memory. The smells in the air helped to refresh my mind, and a specific scene from my life started to coalesce. It wasn’t the “wedding,” or my dog’s burial, it was Mike, and something else. I had loved them both, yes, but it was more than that– and then I knew.

The sight and scent of freshly turned dirt at my feet had somehow transported me to a place from my childhood. It was the property that surrounded the church building where my family, and Mike’s were members. The two of us were outside playing while our mothers were in the fellowship hall setting up for the Wednesday evening potluck dinner. Our church was located in a large clump of piney woods and other than the parking lot and driveway, was completely undeveloped. Recent rain had not yet been absorbed by the already overly sodden ground, and there were a number of muddy pools scattered over the adjoining acreage. To most eight-year-old children, this seemed like an open invitation to fun. We were exactly like most eight-year olds.

“I know what we can do!” Mike exclaimed as he ran to the first standing pool. “I have some twine in my pocket. Let’s go catch some crawdaddies!”

“OK!” I shouted as I ran to catch up. I stopped short and called out, “Whadda we use for bait?”

“I dunno. Why don’t you see if there is anything in the church kitchen? While you get it, I’ll look for some crawdad holes.”

“All right,” I answered and hurried back to the building where our mothers were busy. It occurred to me that our planned activity might not be what our moms had in mind for us to do when they gave us permission to play outside, as long as we “didn’t get all dirty, or make a mess.” So, after seeing our mothers busy in the fellowship hall, I quietly slipped into the kitchen and began to look for something Mike and I could use for bait. My eyes fell upon a loaf of sliced bread, newly opened. I grabbed the heel of the loaf, stuffed it into my skirt pocket, and calmly exited the building, then ran to Mike. I gave him the bread slice, and he tore off a piece, then rolled it between his thumb and index finger to create a ball of gluey dough.

This practiced bit of play routine had been performed countless times, and my job to find a small twig around which to shape the bait-bread was quickly done. Mike took the twig and tied his length of string around it. “Have you found a good hole to try?” I asked Mike, and he answered by grabbing my hand and saying, “I think we should check over this way!”

There was a fairly big clearing in which were a number of deeper pools. Mike pulled me toward one of them, which had a felled tree spanning over a part of it. I pulled my hand from his as he attempted to lead me up on the trunk. “What’s the matter?” he asked. For as long as I could remember, my big brothers had instilled in me a deep fear of snakes, most especially cotton mouth water moccasins. According to them, those snakes lurked in every stand of water just waiting to bite me with their poisonous fangs. “You’d be dead before we could slice your skin and suck out the poison,” they had solemnly told me.  I never considered that they could have been exaggerating, either about the dangers of snake bite, or the prevalence of water moccasins. After all, both my brothers were Boy Scouts!

“There might be snakes in there!” I said, and saw a ripple of anxiety cross his face before Mike masked it with a tremulous show of macho bravado. “Nah! There’s no snakes here. And besides, we’re not going wading. We’re going across the water on this old tree,” he bragged, and grabbed my hand again to lead me across. “But Mike, the tree don’t go all the way across!” “”Yeah, but looks to me like there’s just a little ways to jump at the end. If we don’t go across this way, the path around this pool is so muddy we would get our shoes all caked up. This way is cleaner, and I bet there’s a big mess of crawdads over on that side!” and Mike’s tone of voice convinced me this was so.

The lower part of the tree trunk was fairly broad and my own confidence began to build as I gingerly followed my friend across the stretch of dark muddy water. Our trek was going well until it came time to jump. The distance from here to there might as well have been a mile. I saw no possible way I could manage a jump over such a lengthy span of muddy, dark, snake-filled water. And judging by the sudden halting of Mike’s pace, he didn’t either. “Well, aren’t you gonna jump?” I asked, in hopes he would tell me that my imagination had enlarged the size of the gulf. “Uh, maybe we, er, you better not try it. I’ll take you back and we can find another way,” he said, and as he turned to face me his face blanched white. Blocking our way off the other end of the log there now stood a pole cat. At that point, it did not seem to be aware of our presence, but we knew we couldn’t be too careful. In fact, we probably couldn’t be careful enough. The stink of a startled pole cat was not something we wanted to reckon with. Let alone the disapproval (to put it mildly) of our mothers.

Mike enjoined me not to move, which was no problem for me. I wasn’t going anywhere. The level of the sun’s rays had evidently surprised this basically nocturnal animal. Evening had already settled in around his burrow, and he was not expecting the sun to hinder him in his evening food forage. Blinded by the sun, he had as yet failed to notice us, his companions on the log bridge. We had no intentions of cueing him in to our presence, at least not on purpose.

With a squeak of a whisper, I asked Mike, “What are we gonna do?” He was clearly as worried and frightened as I was as he croaked back, “I dunno! I think maybe your gonna have to jump over to the bank like we were gonna do.” I realized, as the sun was setting, that our “playtime” was rapidly running down, and we would soon be expected back at the church, and spic ‘n’ span to boot. Well, at least spic…

I had recently heard my brothers playing a game of chess, and became acquainted with a word new to me, “zugzwang.” They took the word quite seriously, even though I giggled every time I heard it. The boys said it meant being forced to make a move, even though you know a move in any direction would spell harm, or a disastrous checkmate. It dawned on me, even at that tender age, that I and Mike were now facing our very own zugzwang, and the boys were right: it wasn’t at all funny! We faced certain punishment whatever we chose to do, and that dang skunk wasn’t going anywhere except closer to us.

Slowly, I turned to Mike and said, “Let’s try the jump. Maybe the worst that’ll happen is we get wet. Maybe there aren’t any snakes. Besides, I think I’d rather get snake bit than be sprayed by a pole cat.” After briefly pondering our choices, Mike agreed, and we quietly and carefully started back over the log bridge.

With rising hope, I was silently praying that I had exaggerated the width of the gap between log and dry ground. On closer inspection, it appeared I had way underestimated the size. This was no gap, it was an ocean, a ravine, chasm! There was no way on God’s green earth we were going to avoid trouble. Staring at that enormous expanse of water, I knew that at the very least, my mother’s hand print on my backside was in my foreseeable future. Maybe snake bite wouldn’t be so bad after all.  If I managed to live through it, they’d probably let me sit down, anyway. Spanking disallowed that for a while.

“It’s now or never. I’ll try it first,” and Mike took a mighty leap. He made it. All the way over, and with just the smallest splat of mud on the top of his shoes and the cuff of his jeans. “I might get out of this alive,” I thought, took one more glance back at the ever nearing skunk, crossed my fingers and jumped.

Though I likely spent only a second or two at most in the air, I was aloft for an eternity, my own life unthreading like a spool of film before my eyes, various scenes of my mischief being highlighted in technicolor. Keeping my eyes on the prize of dry ground, I waited for the sound of the slap of my shoes on the earth.

What I heard was not as important as what I felt. My right foot was soaking wet, all the way up to my ankle. A cry of dismay escaped my lips when I caught my first glance of submerged foot. My left foot had managed to strike dry ground, but the other foot pulled me off balance. I shouted to Mike for help before I fell into the muddy pool, but he had his eye on the skunk, which was steadily advancing on our position, its tail raised ominously in the air. My Daddy had always told me they were more afraid of people than we are of them. Didn’t seem like this skunk got that memo.

While trying to catch my balance, the act of checking the skunk’s progress made me lose whatever chance I might have had of remaining upright. With a grandiose scream, I fell into the muddy hole, bottom first. There would be no hiding this from my Mom. There would be no hiding this from anybody, because my scream startled the skunk, which suddenly turned tail and sent a mist of his special defense cologne in our general direction. I knew it was coming when I saw the peculiar shake of its tail, so I shouted at Mike to help me get up. He leaned over, trying to keep his feet dry, to offer his hand. I latched on and ended up pulling him toward me. We both hit the mud, I was all in again, and Mike was as wet on his front as I was on the back. The odor of skunk was nauseating and inescapable as we both scrambled to get up and away before we were hit with the pungent scent.

As we ran away from the scene of disaster we both took a quick look to see if Gigantor the Monster Skunk was chasing after us. To our surprise, he sat at the edge of the log bridge. Turns out he didn’t want to risk snake bite either. After enlarging the distance between us and the creature, we stopped and began the process of damage assessment. Our worst fears had been realized. We were goners.

“All I can smell is pole cat!” Mike moaned. “Do you think he hit us with his stuff?” I was pretty sure we had escaped a direct hit, but the amount of time we had spent in the general area of the assault had been enough for the smell to permeate our clothes and skin. We knew we were in for it, and began to formulate the story we would relate when we got back to the church.

As fate would have it, we realized that the path back to the church was almost completely dry on this side of the pool, and if we had taken the time to plot our course earlier, we could easily have avoided the trouble. That did not make us feel any better. Our pace slowed dramatically as we neared the church building. We both decided it was best to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court. Mike opened the door and we both squared our shoulders and walked inside.

Though a bit early for the meal, there was still a sizable crowd of folks gathered in the large multipurpose room, clustered together in small groups, discussing whatever is was grownups discussed. We had not yet spotted our mothers when we noticed several of the people sticking their noses in the air, seeking the source of the rapidly building smell wafting toward them. Eventually, all of them, including our mothers, who had come in from the kitchen, were quietly staring at Mike and me. It wasn’t quiet for long.

Simultaneously our mothers shouted our names, and ran toward us across the rapidly widening space between the crowd and us. Mrs. Collins ran to the door and my Mom pushed both of us out of it, then let it slam shut behind them. I had started to cry, which had sometimes been a useful tool for escaping serious punishment (especially when employed with my father). I even heard some sniffling from Mike, as the reality of our situation sank in.

“We are both very interested to know what happened to you, but first things first. We have to get you out of those clothes immediately!” my Mom barked at us. Mrs. Collins then asked my Mom if we had anything for us to put on. Mom said she didn’t, but I could practically see the light bulb pop on over her head as she snapped her fingers, turned, and ran back into the church building. She called back over her shoulder that she would be back right away.

When she returned, less than a minute later, she was holding in her arms two large rolls of white paper used at the church to cover the tables for our potluck dinners. She handed one to Mike’s Mom, and then motioned for me to follow her around to another side of the building. There she stripped me down to my underwear and then proceeded to wrap me in paper, my arms pinned to my sides. Poking a hole with her fingers she managed to make enough room for me to put my arms through, freeing them and making me feel less like a sausage.

We walked back to where Mike, now similarly packaged, and his Mom were standing. “Our cars are parked next to each other. Tell you what– I’ll spread some of this paper on the car seats of both cars. While I am doing that, why don’t you take these rolls back inside and tell the folks that we’re taking these two home and probably won’t be back,” Mom said calmly, and Mrs. Collins agreed, gathered up the two rolls and hurried back to the church to make her report. Mike and I stood, miserable, awaiting the trip to our homes. Noting the firm set of her lips, and the accompanying silence, I was certain the coming trip would not be pleasant.

“Try not to touch anything in the car,” Mom ordered, and opened the passenger door for me to climb carefully inside. After stuffing my paper-wrapped clothes under the bars of our car’s rooftop luggage rack, she got in behind the wheel, and jamming the key into the ignition, she started the car, turned her face to me and said, simply, “OK, now. Spill.”

As I started to blubber out the whole tale, I noticed a quiver in my Mom’s lips. I could hardly believe it, but it looked like my Mom was starting to laugh. Sure enough, her shoulders shaking, tears running down her face, peals of laughter poured out of her as I explained the whole sorry mess. I was still a little scared, but began to relax, as it appeared that severe punishment was not in the works. As a matter of fact, I found myself warming up to the story and started to embellish it with creative adjectives and adverbs. We arrived at our house as I was finishing up my performance. Mom told me to sit still, then she got out and went around the car to help me do the same. She reminded me to try not to touch anything, and then she ushered me over near the hose in the back yard. She reached down to turn the spigot and helped me unwrap myself before turning the hose on me, full blast.

I threw my arms up to shield myself from the cold water cascading about me; however, after that initial shock abated, I got into the whole experience and eagerly twirled myself around to allow the water to sluice as much of the mud and stink off my body as possible. “Now, inside for a long soak in the tub!” Mom said, and walked with me inside. “We can use some of the bubble bath oil I got last Christmas. Maybe that will at least hide whatever skunk smell might be left on you. But, I am going to have to burn your clothes!” And, as she gazed at me with amusement and love in her eyes, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and happiness. This day did not end at all like I thought it would. I followed my Mom into the house and to the bathroom. After setting me to soak, she started to laugh again, and just before leaving me alone she shook her head and said, “Mud, skunks, and crawdads! Crawdads?”  The sound of her laughter echoed down the hall.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and manage to avoid getting into a zugzwang!  And, as always, I wish you enough. . .

Just For Laughs


My Wilde Irish Prose

Sometimes nights are arduous,
long, drawn-out and endless.
This is one of those dreaded nights,
and I’m wide awake, though senseless.

I have an annoying clock that ticks
reminding me with each second
that if I’ve still the strength to whine
then my mind must still be fecund.

I wonder, though how fecund
my brain could actually be,
if all I end up with is crap
after trying to prove, for all to see

that I can pen amusing rhyme.
But, what I have produced this night
serves only to convince myself
my harshest critics are likely right.

“Brevity is the soul of wit,” say they
without an ounce of pity.
They caution me to quit forthwith,
for I’ve gone well past soulful witty.

All who know my affliction well
will appreciate the irony:
I’ve tried to achieve a tone like Wilde’s
but, alas! sound George, Lord Byron-y.

So whenever my muse of rapier wit
like tonight, takes the chance to flee,
the best I can do, at least for the nonce,
is pray all my readers have pity on me.

I will be posting a short story on Friday. For today, this one poem is enough. . .

The Next Best Thing


Image by Jim Kelly / CC BY 2.0


Recently, Nancy Hatch, of Spirit Lights The Way, posted about the positive effects of visualization. She was so right. Since being restricted from doing so many of the things I once enjoyed, I have found the next best thing to doing is dreaming. A recent dream prompted me to post this poem for you today. My dream was about a dear friend visiting me in order to have some dental surgery done by my dentist. Weird,  I know! It most definitely was not a dream in which I was visualizing anything pleasant for myself or my friend, but for whatever reason, it caused me to recall, upon awaking, one of my favorite dreams of all time.

I love downhill skiing. I am no longer able or allowed to do so. I have discovered the next best thing to skiing, for me, is skiing in my dreams. I wrote about it.

Still I Fly

In my dreams
I fly again, rushing downhill
bracing energizing
cold air slaps color
on my face, and
I look up and out
over eternity of sky
mountains trees.
Parallel blades slice
crisp and sharp
into new powdered ice–
the only sound above the wind.
Time stops, I race through
leaving behind me a curly
blue ribbon the wind carries away.
In my dreams, still,
ageless, singular, free
I fly.

Happy dreaming!  As always, I wish you enough. . .

Triolet & Pantoum


(Photo ©2016 by Paula Tohline Calhoun)

Ladies and Gentlemen, for your entertainment pleasure, introducing. . .Triolet & Pantoum!

Sounds like a great name for a comedy duo, doesn’t it?  Over the last year or so, I have been playing (not necessarily winning, however) with poetic forms of old. After reading them, you might suppose that I have lost my sense of humor, because both are rather sedate, but many of you have known me long enough by now to remember that I generally follow where my muse, Poly, leads me. It is easier than arguing with her.  If you are curious about the two poetic forms  I have employed here, then a link to one of the many sites that explains the intricate rhyming construction, both of meter, and scan, then visit here.

I will close with a super quickie, however, to prove to you all that sometimes my tongue still finds a resting place in my cheek. I hope you enjoy these! And if you do, please tell your friends to stop by! I need a quick shot in my stats!


The Path Between
(A Triolet)

The path between your door and mine
is cobbled with our love alone.
Our sorrows and our joys define
the path between your door and mine.
And like a master vintner’s wine
improves with time, our lives have shown
the path between your door and mine
is cobbled with our love alone.


What Dreams May Come
( A Pantoum)

What can I say about yesterday–
I wish that most had been forgotten.
I have a heavy debt to pay,
something unintentionally begotten.

I wish that most had been forgotten.
I’m trying hard not to recall
something unintentionally begotten:
a bridge to cross before I fall.

I’m trying hard not to recall,
my longing heart is breaking.
A bridge to cross before I fall,
one I wished not to be taking.

My longing heart is breaking
as I face this bridge of sighs.
One I wished not to be taking
where the dreaded memory lies.

As I face this bridge of sighs,
I have a heavy debt to pay
where the dreaded memory lies.
What can I say about yesterday?


To close with a laugh, here is a little ditty that Poly whispered to me in response to the prompt to write, in 35 words or less, on the theme “sipping lust through a straw.”  I used 34 words to create this maxim, that are truly . . .

Words to Live By

Brimful, this cup of lust has no bottom
as long as you live by this platitude:
“Refrain from using your teeth, if you’ve got ’em–
love must be sipped, not chomped and chewed.”


Surely now, until Friday, that is enough. . .

Spring Brevity

Arboreal Ballet

(Photo prompt from Laure Y at


Is that not a beautiful and fascinating photo?  What makes it intriguing for me is that if you viewed the tree from any other angle, you would miss this glorious natural sculpture. Proves once more how important perspective and perceptions are!

Laure Y hosted a contest at All Poetry for entrants to write a brevity piece inspired by this photo, in 10-20 lines, any style.  Surprise!  I chose a short iambic tetrameter rhymer! Guess what I called it?

Arboreal Ballet

There is freedom in the air
redolent spring is everywhere!
Akin to Kilmer’s “Tree”, today,
I lift my arms, not just to pray.
I’ve also donned my bright new green
so birds can build their nests unseen.
Then posed in beauty, statuesque,
one limb stretched out in arabesque–
I joyously receive the gift
that comes with nature’s vernal shift.


Even though, once again, we did not have much of a winter, I am happy to welcome our beautiful spring.I hope your season, wherever you are – northern or southern hemisphere – brings you the abundant blessings of enough. . .

Starting Again

It is a pleasure to be orbiting the blogosphere again.   I have missed sharing with you all, and I do hope that you will stay with me in this new format.  Bear with me as I get this show up and running.  Hopefully over the next few weeks it will “gel,” and be a joy for you to navigate, and easy for me to publish. Widgets will be added gradually, and there will not be a lot of them. I want to follow the basic rules of K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid)!  I expect to eventually be posting on a regular schedule of twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, primarily sharing with you selections of my poetry and short stories. Most of the posts will be brief (believe it or not!), and as always, I welcome your comments and observations. So, away we go. . .


I used to think, in my younger days, “if only I had known,” but that would have robbed my future of some fine revelations!

Old School

Some of life’s blessings
come packaged as heartbreak.
Long after the tear-stained-soaked
wrapping paper has dried,
gathering dust on
the shelves of buried memory,
a burst of clear-eyed insight
has me cleaning up, sorting through
yesterday’s clutter.

Before its relegation to the trash
I swipe the dust off the box,
prodding thoughts of forgotten dreams
to fresh life, to discover beneath
the carefully sealed casing and
well-knotted ribbons, the beautiful gift
of love unrequited.

And I am grateful
that I managed to move on,
and smile indulgently at
this disguised reminder
that first love is seldom best,
except as education.