What is the Story?

What is the story that I want to tell, to write about here on the pages of this blog? Do I have the courage to tell that story and all that comes with the telling? So much is locked up in memory, various pictures, feelings, textures, that engages all of the senses making up that story. I have struggled trying to tell my story and not get bogged down in the telling. There is so much that needs to be sifted and examined for truth, not only truth of the story itself but the truth of how that story has made me who I am and continues to remake me each day. There is that deeper story of love and loss, of success and failure, of being a child and passing into the adult life. Memories hang along the rafters, I look above me and I don’t know which one to choose, which one do I dare to open. I write to find myself in these memories, that child waking up from a nightmare, that teen being bullied, a young soldier in a foreign land, a newly minted husband unsure of himself while trying to be strong, a dad now responsible for another human life, a priest seeking to discover where God is leading, now I sit here retired, picking through those various pieces of my life and trying to put it together. It is a great jig-saw puzzle, thousands of pieces all scattered along the table and I am looking at it all utterly daunted by the undertaking. Like with any jig-saw, it is best to start with the borders, get the edge right before moving on into the interior. Yet, even the border is hard to define, the borders of life are not static but dynamic, they’re ebb and flow through the mind, clear one minute and haze the next. Nothing is solid in memory, and so like some explorer crossing a vast ocean I must make my own way, with little or no navigation aids. What is that story? What makes mine worth the telling? Fear robs me of that courage I need to tell what I know and what I feel, yet, I can’t let that fear hold me back. Maybe, just maybe, it is in those moments of fear that I will find who I truly am and that in and by itself might just be the story I need to tell.

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The Retirement Journey, So Far.

I sit here reflecting on what retirement has meant so far as the third month slowly passes. I sit and write, I also read but I’m still on a journey, towards what, I’m not sure. These moments in life where we sit between what was and what might be are good times to take stock of what is important and what is not. Usually, when I’ve transitioned from one life event into another, I would allow the darker aspects to take root and depression would be planted. This time, I’m in a different place and although there is uncertainty, I don’t feel any anxiety or urgency just to do something. There is a certain freedom that comes when you don’t feel rushed into making a decision that may or may not be the best for that moment. Strangely, I’m okay living in this in between time. I don’t need certainty what I need is time to pray, write and reflect. Priesthood, mine in particular, had it’s moments of good and not so good which has shaped who I am. Now I have the opportunity to examine this shape, like a sculptor who examines his work once he’s chiseled away a bit of the granite. Carefully the artist takes their time to ensure that not too much is chiseled away too quickly, they also must follow the granites veins, look for what the stone is saying to them. I can examine my own life thus far in the same way, not going at it with a sledge, but carefully chiseling away at it, following the natural flow that presents itself as I work at the larger piece. There is plenty of rock to work with, it’s just knowing where to start and how much to begin working on. Writing, like any art, takes time as well as talent. Well, time I have, it’s talent that is suspect. It’s easy to read books on writing, it’s easy to get lost in the authors words of wisdom, but the real test is comes in actually writing something. Parker Palmer, author of many books filled with wisdom, said, and I paraphrase here, that writers just need to put out their stuff for all to read and see to get some idea if they have anything of worth.

August 10 Journal Reflection on Writing

All around us there are the sounds of construction. Hammers pounding away as workers put down shingles on a new roof, the beep-beep of construction trucks backing up to unload all that goes into building a house, pipes and frames and HVAC equipment, while in the almost completed homes the sounds of saws buzzing away, windows being put in and in some cases the finishing touches. Across from us are several large digs, the soil that once covered the land now in piles along the huge hole, where some have had cement poured into what will soon become the base frame. It’s a busy place, from early morning till late afternoon, the workers trudge to and fro doing their assigned jobs so that one day someone will be able to have a new home. We moved into our house a month and a half ago, brand new with more room than we ever had before. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full, albeit, unfinished basement. Our master bedroom has this nice space, the one I’m writing in right now, an extra little sitting area where I can retreat to and allow my thoughts to flow. We have a sunroom, that will be nice once the cold winds of winter arrive and we will no longer be able to sit on the deck, then there’s that, a deck. The deck is positioned perfectly, in the late afternoon with the sun setting into the west, the deck is shaded and pleasant to sit out on while in the morning with the sun rising in the east, our porch is the one shaded, there we can enjoy our morning cup of coffee. Yes, we do have a porch, I know isn’t that awesome but we’ve never had one before. Walk-in closets, a first floor laundry room, a full two car garage although we only have one car. I was thinking, if I could only have had this back up in Massachusetts I may not have moved, but we didn’t and in fact to have a house with all of this would have cost us way more than what we are making and so, here we are living in Smyrna Delaware. It’s really not so bad although we do miss a few things like decent shopping stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s, and we definitely miss fresh, Atlantic fish, Cod, Haddock and the occasional Swordfish, all of which are hard to come by down here. There is also, how do I put this, slowness to this part of the state, a slowness in everything that is done. To drive means being behind a slower driver who may or may not signal his/her intentions. In the grocery stores you encounter them in the aisles, browsing ever so slowly, examining each package before putting it in their cart or putting it back on the shelf. Now, with so many retiring here one would think, “hey, they are old and old folks are slow,” but surprise, even the young folks are slow if not slower. There are times when I feel that I am in a tortoise vs. hare race and I’m the hare, just trying to get what I need, then get out of the store. Okay, I know I sound frustrated, but that is the way with those of us who grew up in more metropolitan areas. Growing up with traffic, with noise with the congestion that comes with it, is the cross I bear as I try to get used to this slower, measured pace. Maybe there is a lesson, one that I need to learn as a budding writer, slow down, take your time, allow your mind to wander and just write. Write with no agenda, write with no end point or even a well developed theme, just write. Maybe later, maybe in what I’ve just written there is something that will take root and grow into an essay or a story or even a poem. Sometimes I feel that I’m trying to hard to catch up and that is actually holding me back from just writing. I want the words to be perfect, I want what I say to mean something, not just to me but to someone who is reading this, now, yes you, the occasional blog browser who does a daily random search and lands on my piece to read. Maybe it’s shit, maybe it’s okay, but maybe it offers something beyond the words, hope. That if you to are a beginning writer, an older writer who feels that life and opportunity have left you behind, then maybe this missive will give you some hope and courage to write anyway. I am far from perfect, my grammar sucks, if it weren’t for spell check then I would be doomed but still I write, my imagination isn’t dead. As I look out at those workers, as they go about building these homes I am reminded that even the best of them had to learn their trade, they had to make mistakes and try again, but that is the way of life. As writers, and yes I’m addressing all of you who blog, write poetry, essay’s, fiction, nonfiction whatever, just keep at it, make mistakes, but keep at it because now more than ever we need more writers, we need deep thinkers who are willing to go into those places where few dare to tread, to mine for words of healing, words of substance. So, what are you waiting for, write.

Spring of ‘72

In the spring of ‘72

we sat on the porch

of the old farmhouse,

in the warm sunlight

as the lilacs bloomed

their scent drifting

on a gentle breeze

talking

about the future

children, maybe

a nice house

a life lived together

both promising

we would grow old

together

our hearts bound

by a lifetime of love,

now we are old

sitting on the porch

gazing into a future

still filled with promise

of the love we share

as the sun sets slowly

on these closing days

Apologies

I apologize,

for all the poor poetry

that I write,

breaching every rule

telling

not showing,

the weak reflections

and cliches

to mask my languor

as a writer and poet.

I should read

more of your poems

that are manna

feeding the psyche,

bridging the chasm

between worlds

in need of words

that soothe and soften

the harshness

of anger and deceit.

Will I Ever Know?

Will I ever know what it means to be a writer,

will I ever compose that one great love poem

or guide a reader into a realm they’ve never seen,

or am I doomed to just sit here in the darkened space

struggling with finding those elusive words

that just won’t come no matter how much I call

sitting outside of my vision taunting me as I write.

So, I sit here alone surrounded by the wisdom

of writers who have struggled in their own right

and the ghosts of so many who have long since gone

who wrote those now classic works that live still today.

Will I ever know what it means, really, really means.

My Confession

I was young

I truly believed

that we were right

things were black and white

we flew Old Glory

basking in it’s power

our patriotism was boundless

feeding our desire to do right

but in the mud and blood

the cries of children

who did no wrong

still haunt my dreams

and I’m not so I sure anymore

of being right or wrong

as voices in the streets

scream at one another

each holding Old Glory

claiming their truth

to be the only truth

and I no longer am young

belief is an illusion

being right is not a badge

that one wears proudly

as black and white

merge into patterns of gray

where we all truly live.