To Parker J. Palmer

You are an elder

or so I’ve read

a sage

filled with wisdom

for the age

a voice of reason

in unreasonable times

I read your books

and wonder

if I will ever achieve

that place of honor

of being an elder

filled with wisdom

whose words

are quoted

by the likes of ones

like me

who strive to write

with the same passion

and depth

or will I fade

into the twilight

a mere shadow

of who I once was

whose words are dust

that blow away

in an autumn breeze

never to return

lost forever to time.

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My Journey in Words

In the past few weeks my life has changed. First, I retired, second, I’ve moved. Now I’m trying to figure out what shape my life will take, so I offer this small piece of reflection. It’s not perfect, nor is it finished but it is where I am at the moment.

July 11, 2018

Thanks, once again to Parker Palmer I have another mystery to unravel in my attempt at the writers life. Here he quotes Henry David Thoreau:

My life has been the poem I would have writ

But I could not both live and utter it

Now what do I do with that? What is the poem I would have writ had I the time to writ what it is that needed to be writ? For me this is the struggle, to find something that grabs at me instead of these various, meteoric thoughts that fly by quickly only too burn up in the atmosphere of my thoughts. I write, to put it mildly, trash even as I long to make sense of where I am in this world. Being deeply troubled by what I read and see, how does my small voice fit in the the greater narrative? Palmer seems to have found his voice, a voice that has been honed and worked on and re-honed to what it is today. Richard Rohr, (another spiritual author I need to read) writing about Palmer and his new book writes that “Our entire culture is in need of true elders, and you can’t be one until you have arrived there — chronologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Here’s a man who has arrived, with another book that’s a generous gift to all of us.” I am far from being anywhere near from being a true elder. I might be there chronologically, but the other two criteria are woefully deficient and need a good boost, a shot of spiritual and intellectual energy. I’m not too old to not have the desire to continue in my quest and even as the days grow shorter, I don’t feel desperate or anxious to get to that mythical somewhere. Maybe, for me, the struggle is the vocation, the purpose of my writing. The honest struggle of not paying enough attention when I was younger and now finding myself in the slow lane trying to catch-up. Now I’m back to the question, what is the poem I would have writ? What are the paradoxes that surround my life and where do they fit in with what I am trying to be as a writer, as a priest, now retired from the dailyness of being out there, yet still craving that need for contact? Now that’s a paradox, a both/and that will keep any shrink in business if one ever dares to try an unravel my inner workings. Today was a day of thoughts, not really journal material, or is it? After all what is a journal other than a place to vomit the crap that is floating on the interior and exposing it all to the light of day. It ain’t pretty and sometimes it smells, but that is the only way to come to understand who I am at this time in my life. I think that the only person that really gets me is Jane, the poor girl has had to deal with my ups and downs for the past 45 years and now she’s stuck with me on a daily basis as we negotiate being retired together.

Journal Entry, June 26, 2018

We say goodbye to our house today. We say goodbye to the place where we lived, love, laughed, and cried, a place where we welcomed the newest of our family and where we watched the passage of time. Now, we go towards a new beginning, a new home where we will once again begin to create memories, where we will live, love, laugh and cry. It is part of being alive of being able to move forward and not be stuck in the past, not being afraid of the future instead embracing the present and living life to the fullest. Sure, we’re now retired and it will be different. We aren’t the richest folks in terms of money but we are rich in love, a love that opens up to us new avenues to explore, new adventures to behold. We are now entering a time of growth, of truly knowing that our lives are temporal and that we will age and slow down, but that doesn’t mean we will stop. I read an excerpt from Parker Palmers newest book, On the Brink of Everything, (a book I need to get and read) says this:

“We have no choice about death. But we do have choices to make about how we hold the inevitable — choices made difficult by a culture that celebrates youth, disparages old age, and discourages us from facing into our mortality. The laws of nature that dictate the sunset dictate our demise. But how we travel the arc between our own sunrise and sundown is ours to choose: Will it be denial, defiance, or collaboration?”

He is so right, it all comes down to the choices we make, about the roads we will travel and the places we will see. I know that I am way behind in the things that give me pleasure, behind in the reading and writing of poetry, behind in the reading and writing of essay’s that touch upon my own very human condition. I am behind in my own learning and in my own place in this world. I will never catch up, that is a fantasy, one that can lead to despair, but I can enter into a new relationship with poets I admire, writers who challenge me and my own faith journey as I age. If, as Palmer says, it’s a choice between denial, defiance or collaboration, then I will choose, collaboration which means that I will need to be attentive to the world about me, listen to natures natural rhythms, break down the barriers that hold me back and distort my view.

I am on the brink, I stand at that point where the sun and horizon meet, and where the sky is on the verge of changing. It is a place where I see the possibilities and where I am called to explore the depths of my being. It is my thin place, my secret garden, the wardrobe through which I am being beckoned to enter. God, speaks in the silence of my heart and I am now beginning to listen to that voice in a new place, not the voice that called a youth at one time but a voice that now calls me as I approach this new chapter in my life.

A Novice Writers Blog

Cycling gives me time to think, if only I could figure out a way to get those thoughts down on a page then I would be golden. As it is, a thought is fleeting, there for but a brief moment the lost to the myriad of other thoughts that blaze across the screen, that is my mind. One though did stick and I need to journal a bit about it and this thought has to do with my blog. Yes, I have a blog on WordPress, I’ve used it to write some of my musings, poetry and an essay or two, but really haven’t caught on to the blogging concept. Good blogs have something that grabs peoples attention. There is something in the way a blogger writes that is engaging, informative and needed by those who subscribe and read the blog daily. Readers offer comments, many are helpful, some complimentary while there are the few who are negative if not down right mean. My blog has not caught on fire, even though I have over 200 followers, my blog is missing that “it” factor, the thing that makes it interesting, a blog that people want to read. So I thought, why not make my blog about writing from my novice perspective. A blog about trying to overcome all of the obstacles that stand in the way of my writing. I could use it to vent on a shitty day of writing, or ask for some advice on a piece I’m working on, or just tell about a possible project I’m attempting. Maybe someone will read it, maybe someone, another novice writer, would find it helpful. I can’t say that it will bring me fame and fortune as a writer but it does get me out there in a way that is accessible for most folks. Whatever I do, it will be raw, filled with mistakes and poor grammar. It truly will be a shitty first draft and maybe that’s not so bad because it’s from those shitty first drafts that I learn from, and hopefully will help others learn. Throwing oneself out there can be a two edged sword but that is the nature of the beast. Writing without any kind of critique is just a lot of words on a sheet that mean nothing, writing that is exposed is writing that has potential, we just never know what that potential is until we hit the publish button. So, here I go, I’m going to now take what I’ve written, copy and paste it into my blog, and then see what happens.

So it Begins

As I approach another change in my life’s story, I begun to reflect on how I have arrived to the place I am now. It’s one of life’s great mysteries, how the choices we make, the challenges we face and the decisions that got us to where we are, have impacted our lives and the lives of those whom we have come to know. It’s a mystery because in the moment we don’t fully understand that a simple yes or no can have that kind of impact. In fact, in the moment, we seldom truly think about what might happen but only think of the initial gratification we get in making the decision we have made. When we were young, just beginning our conscious life, everything we did or did not do was filled with drama. Coming to the realization that we are, as Shakespeare once said, all actors on the great stage, had the twofold effect of us trying to improvise our lines or surrendering ourselves to the script that has already been written for us. I would tend to be cautious about our script already being written for us and that we are merely players on the grand stage, it’s a bit too Calvinistic, a bit too cut and dried. It makes us puppets and that our actions are not our fault (a built in excuse for making bad decisions), but merely our following what has been predestined for us to say and do. On the other hand, I believe that we are the captains of our own ships, that we set the course, and head blindly into the consequences of our own thought process. We hope beyond hope, that what we decide and what we do will turn out for the best and when it does or doesn’t we only have ourselves to look to for either admonishment or astonishment.

Each step, each word is indelibly carved into the memories and like many others, I carry those memories with me like a Red Cap at the airport, taking them from the curb to the terminal and back again. Some of these memories are heavily weighted with regret and grief, memories of words not said, of love not given, of turning one’s back when, at that moment, they needed your front. It’s funny, at least for myself, that it’s the failures that seem to take front stage. There they are, like a really bad comic, bombing their lines in front of an unforgiving audience who throw rotten tomatoes at you. In many cases I have come to find out that I am both the bad comic and the audience member with an oozing piece of rotten fruit ready to toss. I am both one and the same, I am both in every moment of life the player and the played and yet, I carry on. Why? Why do we carry on, why not blame someone else, after all that seems to be the favorite thing to do today, point a finger and yell loudly. I for one have come to realize that many of my decisions, many of my deeds, I have done willingly and with a huge dose of naïveté. Not an excuse, it just is what it is, all part of being human and living today.

Memoir, is that written account of that kind of life. A life of ups and downs, of digging oneself into a hole and hopefully, climbing back out. Each moment we either leave a piece of ourselves or we gain another piece to carry along. We shed old skins, the skins of jealousy, of anger, of words unsaid and of the pain we to have suffered. It is not about perfection, or even having that unique story because no one is perfect and every story deserves a telling.

I will begin my story, I will tell my tale and I will do it to the best of my own flawed memory. Accuracy is not the point, at least not for me, but honesty is and that is done in telling the story truthfully, without embellishment or false heroics. I will write in private, I will share one day and I will learn anew of a life lived fully.

What I want to Give myself To: A new journey.

We pass through times of transition, of change. It is as natural as breathing and yet, we are still caught unaware when suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the change. Our world is not that stable place we thought it was as everything seems seems fluid catching us in the tidal flow. The old passes away and the new has yet to arrive and in between is transition. It is hard to shed the old skin and equally as hard to enter into the new, so we struggle in this in between time. Reaching out to the umbilical cords of political parties or worse, personalities we turn into a god, that prove to be nothing more than an illusion created by our minds.

One word, one quick thought and the journey takes a turn. Sometimes we don’t realize what happened until years later in a moment of clarity we are granted a brief moment of insight. The wise person understands that those moments are part of who we are and have become, our decisions are ours and the consequences, however they turn out, are ours also. I stand at a moment of change, transition is opening the gates once more and I am compelled to walk through them. The road ahead is dark, there are no signs, no guides, what I do, what I say, what I choose all will have a bearing on my future.

A favorite writer, Parker Palmer, writes this profound statement; “What do I need to let go of and what do I want to GIVE MYSELF TO?” As I age and prepare to move on to a new place I am taking this statement from Palmer as a way to envision my life. People keep asking me what I’m going to do when I retire and I point to my bicycle and say, “that” knowing full well there is more to my life than just cycling. I know I want to write, to let the stories I have accumulated over the years to just pour out onto the pages, I want to become a better poet, to not just see but to observe the world around me. I want to love, not just superficially, but deeply, love not just the people around me but everything that surrounds my world. To stare up into the heavens at night and count the stars, to listen as the birds sing and gather, to watch the trees go through their cycle of growth, the deep greens of summer to the burst of color in the fall.

What do I want to give myself to? Maybe what I want to give myself to is to the life that is all around, to get away from the negative, angry voices and to give myself to the love I share and to the grace that I surely don’t deserve but receive. As I prepare to weigh anchor and depart for a new shore, I take with me many memories and some unnecessary baggage. The next few weeks will be bittersweet, there will be tears, there will be laughter, there will be regrets, there will be joy. I am as ready as I will ever be for this new venture, by God’s grace and the love of my wife and family, I will find new ways to be and find that which I want to give myself to