Friday, September 30, 2016

A soft rain

After Hebrews 11:7 and Genesis 6:5-22

A soft rain
tasted by dry ground
welcome for the life
it promises and brings

a little harder now
a good rain, solid
quenching the dryness of the land

more rain then
wary eyes glance toward skies
wondering, waiting
its passing

rain unstopping
creeks rising, rivers
shaking off their banks

soon the running
to the fool in the boat
finding doors shut
gangways pulled up
hearing the cacophony
of animal sounds within

clinging to the tops of trees
water still rising
violence answering

the first creaks
as the boat shifts
from its platform
the groaning and cries
the drowning
the calls, the shouts
the cries pleading upon
ears hurting

stop help open please
sodden voice begging

the boat shifts again
breaks loose, floats
as the rain hardens,
skies falling

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Louise Penny’s “A Trick of the Light”

Clara Morrow, who lives with her husband Peter in the Quebec village of Three Pines near the border with Vermont, is now experiencing what she has always for – her own show of her paintings. Peter is also an artist, and officially supporting Clara but also expressing an ambivalence – you can call it jealousy.

The show is in Montreal, at the Contemporary Art Museum, and it is followed by a rather large party in the village square of Three Pines. Both the exhibition launch and the party are packed with gallery owners, artists, critics, friends and even enemies. In the art world, friends and enemies can be the same people.

The Morrow home fronts the square, and a discovery is made in the garden – the body of a dead woman. She is wearing bright party red, obviously a guest, and yet at first no one recognizes her. Her neck had been broken, neatly snapped.

The victim turns out to be a former art critic for a Montreal newspaper, an artist, a recovering alcoholic, and Clara’s childhood and college friend. As it turns out, most of the guests knew her. And more than a few had a motive for killing her – horrible press reviews that destroyed early careers and vicious personal attacks are only some of the reasons why she might have been killed. Clara herself has to be considered a suspect, for what happened in the past.

The death and the art world that provides its context is the heart of Louise Penny’s seventh Inspector Armand Gamache mystery, A Trick of the Light.

Louise Penny
And it wouldn’t be a Louise Penny if the murder was the only action. Penny layers her stories, providing a richness to the characters and settings that make the stories come alive. In this seventh mystery, published in 2011, Gamache and his chief lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir are both still recovering from the attack on the Quebec Surete police that formed a considerable part of the story in Bury Your Dead. Gamache knows that someone in the Surete released the video of the shootings of police to attempt to force him to retire. Beauvoir is struggling with a possible addiction to oxycontin pain pills and the realization that he has fallen in love with Gamanche’s married daughter, Annie.

It is a wonderful brew of passion and suspense that Penny concocts. A Trick of the Light is another wonderful story.


Top photograph: The Montreal Contemporary Art Museum.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Richard and Leona Bergstrom's "Third Calling"

I can speak from experience. Planning for your retirement is work. In fact, we’d been planning for several years before I actually retired from the 9-to-5 corporate life. The financial aspects are critical, and we gave that a considerable amount of focus, helped greatly by our financial advisor.

But, as I learned, there’s more than the financial considerations.

I thought I had planned what I would be doing on the other important things as well. I would be working as part of the online staff for The High Calling and Tweetspeak Poetry. I would be doing freelance and contract work. I would be writing. And we would spend a month on vacation in England.

Here, the record has so far been mixed. We did spend a month in England, and survived bad colds. My work with Tweetspeak Poetry continued, and still does. The High Calling shut down. Freelance work, particularly work with one firm, did a major trajectory upward earlier this year, and then did a major trajectory downward. I liked the work, but I also like getting paid for the work I do.

I wish I had had Richard and Leona Bergstrom’s Third Calling: What are you doing the rest of your life two years ago.

The Bergstroms lead a Christian ministry called Re-Ignite, a faith-based organization aimed squarely at the Baby Boom generation who want to serve God and make a difference in the world. Through retreats, seminars, consulting, coaching, and a blog, Re-Ignite helps Baby Boomers do exactly that.

The name “Third Calling” comes from the third of three stages of life. The first stage or calling is the young adult stage – launching a career, marriage, establishing a family. The second stage or calling is the years of middle age – peak career years, getting children through high school and into college. The third calling is the retirement period – empty nest (with adult children sometimes coming back hoe), career transformation, possibly caring for an aging parent.

It’s significant that the Bergstroms refer to these three periods as “callings,” because, for Christians, that’s what they are – the specific actions and activities God has called us to do. They focus on the third period; for many if not most of us, it can be just as confusing as the earlier callings.

Third Calling offers a step-by-step process for understanding what this period of life is about, and what you can be doing. Retirement may be an American cultural concept, but it is not a concept found in the Bible.

Leona and Richard Bergstrom
What you will find is a discussion about knowing your purpose, pursuing your dreams, understanding your values, exploring new worlds, and navigating both deep and shallow waters. Doing this is work – the book does include practical exercises, but they are not something that can be dashed off in a spare 20 minutes. This period of your life is just as important as the earlier ones, and just as much work is going to be involved.

And while it is written from a Christian perspective, it can be helpful to anyone embarking upon this third major period of life.

As I mentioned, I wish I had had Third Calling two years ago as part of my retirement planning. But I do have it now. And now comes the work – the welcome work.

Photograph by Kevin Phillips via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Help Us Celebrate National Poetry Day UK on Oct. 6!

This week, I’m completing an online course, “William Wordsworth: Poetry, People, and Place.” Offered by Lancaster University in partnership with the Wordsworth Trust, the course has submersed me in Wordsworth’s poetry for the past three weeks. I’ve analyzed several of his poems; listened to academic experts; learned about manuscripts and how it was only in the Romantic period that writers and poets began to hold on to the various drafts; written short essays for critique by other participants; assembled and reassembled poems; and studied how the geography of the Lake District influenced Wordsworth.

If I extrapolate from the number of comments, I would guess that up to a thousand of us are taking this course, and from all over the world. Wordsworth in particular and British poetry in general has a sizeable fan base. And it’s no surprise that poetry is vitally important in Britain.

Next week – Thursday, Oct. 6 to be precise – Britain celebrates National Poetry Day UK, and Tweetspeak Poetry is joining with the Forward Arts Foundation to participate. The foundation is an organization that celebrates excellence in poetry and works to widen poetry’s audience, and National Poetry Day is one of its official initiatives. It also sponsors the annual Forward Poetry Prizes. The theme of this year’s poetry day celebration is “Messages.”

Poetry is indeed serious business in Britain. London Transport even posts poems on the Underground, or Tube.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.