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.

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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.

Measure of My Life

What is the measure of one’s life?

In the still moments where alone I sit

writing out the words that play

along the horizon of my mind

darting to and fro

seemingly solid at once

then becoming ghosts the next

whispers that speak in the dark

that have no meaning

as I try to grasp what to do

my writing is weak

my poetry is nonsense

but the words taunt

they jump about,

just out of reach

the feelings are raw

how do I measure my life,

by what I do,

or what I don’t do?

Is it worth the effort

or the critique of a thousand voices

that all yell and scream.

Life is measured in the seconds and minutes

in the hours of the day

in the seasons as they change

in watching the summer fade

and falls colors drop away

as winter winds blow them around

down empty streets

where lovers clasp each other tightly

holding themselves against the cold

of their own feelings and doubts.

What is the measure of my own life?

What will I leave behind to be read

and thought about?

Release

Let it go

it is all past

there is nothing to be done

you can’t change anything

the future is unknown

nothing to be done

it will happen

you can’t worry

fate is inexorable

a twisted vine

the past, present, future

intertwine

we carry all three

in our hearts

a part of the whole

what happened made you

what will happen will grow you

The Train Home

Train wheels clatter

passing cities and towns,

fields and meadows

through the clutter of broken buildings

garishly painted by graffiti artists

past rolling hills

at one time family farms

white sand beaches

with ocean views

waves crashing on shore

white mist veiling the scene

people walk the sandy strip

some alone staring down

others hold hands,

children skip and play

life passes as we cling to one another

conversations overheard

a mother talking about her son

softly cries as she whispers

buzzing, beeping cell phones

sending and receiving

secretive messages

thumbs fly across mini screens

replying as fast as they are received

a young child sleeps

secure that her mother’s love will not abandon

on this train,

some get off

others get on

life on this train won’t stop

on the wall

JESUS

in bright colors

the promise of the rainbow

on a train heading home.

Thrift Shop Volunteers

They do not materialize

with gossamer wings

no ethereal,

other worldly light

surrounds their bodies

they make no grand predictions

to young virgins

or calm the fears of shepherds

out in the darkened fields

instead they are just there,

every day,

with no expectations

helping forgotten people

listening to the stories

no one else will listen to

holding a hand

when needed

being a light of hope

in a world gone dark

doing this for no wage

or any praise

they minister in the wilderness

giving comfort to all

then go home in the evening

their light still shining

in the hearts of those they touched.

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