Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

The Smiley Face Flag

“Passing the flag to a new generation” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 19, 2013). It hung from the house like a beacon. Unlike most flags on the block, however, it paid no tribute to country or ancestral motherland. Rather, it honored a state of being: the simple, yellow, smiley face flag, broadcasting its message of […]

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Walking in the Air

They flew through the night sky, sitting side by side and row by row. Save for a few overhead spotlights shining down on crossword puzzles, the cabin was dark. The muffled hum of the engines outside lulled the travelers to sleep. The child would not join them. Sugarplums could wait. The boy looked around in […]

The History of the Universe in Eight Words (A Meditation on Eternity)

Once upon a time after time stood still.

Building a fire in the snow

The night is silent save for the compression of snow as my shoes slog through the yard. God mutes the world with snowfall, and suddenly the slightest sound we make is an intrusion on that peace. The snow below talks with each step I take just as the snow above begins to its place. I […]

Life lessons for the superhero apprentice: Lessons 1-6

A repost, a refresher, and a revival – with more superhero lessons to follow soonish… At 4 years old, my son has just one problem in life, and it plagues him night after night. Lying in bed, a never-ending debate runs through his mind over which superhero he should be when he gets big. Batman, […]

Thanksgiving and the Quieting Season

“Quiet Time” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (November 22, 2012). Stepping out into the cold November night, I shut the door behind me and listen. Inside, muted voices laugh and reminisce; children holler; an uncle plays “Heart and Soul” on the piano. Outside, however, all is still save the winter wind. Trees sway, a honking goose […]

The Deserter

I look left, then right, and left again. The road is clear and, pushing pedal toward the floor, I pull onto the winding road. As I accelerate into the turn, a hawk merges with me, flying a few yards both above and ahead of my vehicle. For half a mile we keep pace with one […]

On Eagle’s Wings

“A place not yet touched by 9/11″ in the Philadelphia Inquirer. When the mood strikes and both the calendar and skies are clear, my children and I venture to the nearby Brandywine Valley Airport to catch a glimpse of the airplanes and helicopters in flight. Watching these planes, my mind travels back to my own childhood, a […]

Small Talk: A Play in One Act

MAN How was your day? GIRL Good. MAN Now was it a good day or a great day? GIRL Great. MAN                     (MAN scoops GIRL up and holds her in his arms.) When someone asks you how your day was – and it was a great day – tell them that. Okay? GIRL Okay. MAN […]

The Parable of the Smile

To the casual observer she appeared quite normal. She met the required features of a little girl, which is to say she was cute as a button through and through. Fine hair, an adorably distinct nose, and eyes that smiled for the world. Any parent would be blessed to have such a child, which is […]

The red light

Driving along the highway, my eyes lay on the road before me – the cars, the turn signals, and the race to wherever home may be. “Hey, Dad!” calls the four-year-old voice from the back of the car. “Look at that sunset – it looks just like a red light!” I turn to my right and see the […]

Black-eyed Susan and the sun

The sun beat down on the growing cluster of black-eyed Susan as each flower below stretched skyward, a sea of yellow and black hoping to touch the fiery heaven above. Like looking into a kaleidoscope when gazed at too intently and too long, the colors danced in circles in my mind’s eye. The yellow and […]

Living in the moment

The four-year-old boy looks up from his bowl of cereal and declares: “I love being four.” He lifts spoon to mouth, and goes back to work.

The Beachcomber

Just after dawn, with the sun still low on the horizon, a lone woman searches the shoreline. Her outstretched arms clutch a metal detector as its base moves side to side over the sand. Slowly, she systematically scours the sand for the flotsam and jetsam of long gone beachgoers. Soon they would be back, with […]

Life lessons for the superhero apprentice

“Superhero in Training” in Main Line Today (August 2010). At 4 years old, my son has just one problem in life, and it plagues him night after night. Lying in bed, a never-ending debate runs through his mind over which superhero he should be when he gets big. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk. Even […]

There’s an app for that

Man looks down in his hands and taps on his toy, checking the weather and reporting his findings. God already created an app for that, I think to myself. And I look toward the sky…

One stamp at a time

“The Great Letter Revival Movement” in the Harrisburg Patriot-News (July 3, 2010). An unspoken, hopeful moment in my day, and I daresay in most people’s, occurs with the simple act of reaching into the mailbox. Somewhere deep in our subconscious is a deep longing for a pleasant surprise to begin or end the day — […]

Easter morn

Looking out the kitchen window on Easter morning, I discover four cardinals perched in the branches of the ornamental dogwood tree. Though spring has arrived, the tree still holds onto its winter dress – woody branches and nothing more. Its buds, leaves and blooms have not yet begun to take form. The four birds dance […]

The litterer

My daughter is a litterer. Coming home from work at night, or taking out the trash, or while picking up fallen branches in the yard, every so often I’ll discover a piece of bright construction paper perched in a bush or laying on the lawn. I smile each time I see one, for I know […]

Harry

I am sitting, reading. My four-year-old son is likewise sitting, playing. He glances up and looks at the man on the cover, reflections of whose life are held within. “Why did Harry Kalas die, Dad?” he asks. I fumble over my reply, “Well, he was a little bit old… and it was time for him […]

The parable of the koala bear

The three-year-old boy lay in bed with his baby brother, making him laugh with assorted smiles, funny faces, and noises. To add to the entertainment, he picked up a furry koala bear and raised it in front of his brother. The infant’s smile immediately vanished, and he began to cry at the sight of the […]

Heaven on earth

If there is ground in heaven, I believe it must be covered with a thick layer of fallen pine needles. If there is music in heaven, I believe it must be the wind brushing against the land as spirits travel through the sky. If there is an aroma in heaven, I believe it must be […]

For the Love of the Ball

Fathers, sons, and lessons learned… “For the Love of the Ball” (Main Line Today, October 2009)  Early on in my eldest son’s life, Michael decided he wanted to be a ballplayer when he grew up. Signs of his intended vocation came from the start. Instead of sleeping with a furry teddy bear at night, my […]

Cicada killers

The wasp glided by my legs, slow and low like a giant airliner that somehow takes flight despite its enormous size. Likewise, the wasp seemed to defy gravity, for it carried in its legs a motionless cicada nearly twice its size. Paralyzed by the hunter’s stinger somewhere high above, the cicada floated toward the ground […]

"Let it be."

A friend wrote to me today: “Life is only too busy if we let it be.” It was a shared sentiment. Too often the busyness of life prevents us from getting down to the business of life. That is to say, living. Days and weeks pass by, weeks turn into months, and pretty soon years […]

"…and there was light."

As I climb out of bed in the dark of night, electrons dance across the static-laden sheets in a crinkling display of blue light. A moment later and I peer out the bathroom window. Fireflies are busy taking ownership of the night with their random, silent display of flickering lights. I look skyward and see not […]

The snake

The woman’s voice was frantic as she called across the yard to me. I hurried over to her with uncertainly in my steps, not sure what lay in store for me. Having moved into our house just weeks before, I had met the neighbor just once. Our second meeting, and a call of distress. When I […]

Nativity

Big sister and big brother, ages 5 and 3 respectively, walked down the corridor of the maternity wing. Tucked behind the glass window where the nurses cared for the newborns, their younger brother, all of three hours old, awaited their arrival. When they reached the glass window, the two tip-toed and used the window ledge to pull […]

Flight to heaven

She died two years to the day after her husband. They spent their later years within earshot of the ocean, and called the beach their home. After the funeral, again two years to the day after her husband, family likewise gathered within earshot of the ocean. I stepped out onto the deck on the brisk […]

Sunday morning

The boy sat there in his high-chair eating breakfast. Between spoonfuls of cereal, he looked up and declared: “It sure is a good day for having a great day.” I laughed at his words, but at the same time realized how simplistically profound they were. His sentiment unknowingly implies a choice we are all called to make […]

Antiphon of the goose

Sister Moon and the stars shone above, while Brother Fire danced his playful dance below. I sat in the glow of both, their light warming both body and soul. Alone. Time literally flew by while the world wobbled on its axis, Sister Earth spinning and circling Brother Sun. Wood burned, embers grew brighter, and the […]

Sleeping moon

Looking skyward, the crescent moon stood out in the winter eve, its light reflecting off the snowy ground. Something seemed amiss, however. When one pictures the crescent moon, the image that inevitably comes to mind is a lunar sliver pointing left or right in the sky. Tonight, however, the moon was on its back, as […]

Red fox

Our eyes met at the same time, both of us intruders in one another’s lives. I looked out the window, sleep still in my eyes, and froze. Likewise, his gaze caught mine. Frozen, he looked in at me from the backyard, a nocturnal creature caught staying out late. We both stared at each other – […]

Visitors

It was a bad day for the worms. Frozen for weeks, the snow-covered ground thawed in one of those misleading warm February days that hint at spring. Mud replaced the snow, and the worms had nowhere to hide. Just before dusk, the birdfeeder freshly filled, the robins came calling. Well over a hundred red-breasted birds descended upon the lawn […]

Divine shadows

In the brightness of a snowy moonlit night, the shadow of the towering tree is cast upon the earth. Barren branches reach in every direction, and their shadows dance on the snow in their distorted way. I gaze out at the snowy canvas and envy the moon. Like God, it casts its light from the […]

Floating in a moonlit sky

Christmas day and a cold one at that. Toys and newly opened presents filled his grandparent’s home, but my son stumbled upon an old bottle of bubbles and was intent on breathing life into the soapy liquid. “That’s a summertime game,” I tried to explain, more out of selfishness than anything else. I was quite […]

Sacramental snowfall

The heavens open up above today and the first snowfall of the year arrives. The children face the heavens and capture the falling flakes in their mouths, tasting heaven. The coolness drops on one’s tongue, vanishing all too quickly. It leaves you thirsting for more, the million specs of snow just a hint of heaven. […]

Rebirth

Days dot the year when I strive for rebirth. New Years Day. Ash Wednesday. My birthday. Easter. In the heart of each day I hear a voice calling for rebirth . . . a rebirth from harmful habits, to follow my dreams, to be a better person, friend, husband, father. Yet the day comes and […]

Advent

Driving in the car, my four-year-old daughter gazes out the window in the backseat. Excitment for the arrival of Christmas is building with each passing day, and Molly has been vigilant in keeping track.  “Is it 15 days until Christmas, Dad?” “Yes,” I assure her. To which she responds with matter of fact wisdom: “It scares me how quickly […]

Do unto others

Thanksgiving morning came too early for me. I had gone to sleep much too late the night before, but my two-year-old son was ready to start the day at 6:30 A.M. So much for sleeping in. A few hours later I lay on the couch with Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the television. I had my […]

Wings

It was a grey November afternoon, the air cold but not too cold, the sky dark but not too dark. I sat in my car at the traffic light and a flock of starlings caught my attention. Simultaneously, hundreds of them ascended from a barren tree on the side of the road, black dots starting […]

Wawa

The local convenience stores have all installed fancy touch screen computers that allow customers to place their order without even uttering a word. Late at night, I am the only person standing in front of the deli and its technological testimony to efficiency. The young man behind the counter stands there silently, waiting for my […]

Autumn’s martyrs

Fiery leaves signal the dawn of all middles, a waning bell curve between the activity of summer and the dormancy of winter. Autumn – the midpoint of all that lives and all that dies. I stand in the sun’s light and feel the warmth of summer months in the midst of fall. Stepping aside, however, […]

Walking

My children and I were on an evening walk in the neighborhood, their watchful eyes taking in all there was to see – basketball nets in driveways, a bunny rabbit or groundhog scurrying across a lawn, kids playing street hockey. A few blocks from home, we turned south onto a dead-end street that leads toward […]

Parable of the rocks

The rocks have stood there virtually unchanged for 20,000 years, giving visitors a present-day glimpse of a long-ago past. It’s known as Boulder Field, and its nearly 17 acres of sandstone and rock is an awe-inspiring site to anyone visiting Hickory Run State Park in the Pennsylvania Poconos. Tis a humbling experience to stand before […]

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