Thursday, January 12, 2017

Poetry Friday: Memento Mori

I'm writing this post on Thursday night, January 12th, the seventh anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti.  The poem I'm sharing today is one I wrote in the fall and read to my writing group.  One of the other members said that although he wasn't in Haiti on that day, he has read so many earthquake accounts that he feels he was.  Like me, he is a writing teacher.  I, too, have read countless earthquake stories.  I never assign them as a topic, but I do encourage kids to write about what happened to them if they feel ready to.  Each time someone entrusts an earthquake story to me, I accept it as an honor, a holy moment. 

Even though it has been seven years, some things haven't faded.  (If you want to read what I wrote at the time, you can find many posts in my archives.)  This poem is about those ordinary days, not anniversaries, when suddenly I am visited by vivid earthquake memories.  

Memento Mori

Sometimes when I sit in my living room
My mind superimposes an image on what my eyes see,
The giant bookcase on the ground,
Sent there by the shaking of the earth
The rocking chair where I nursed my son, crushed,
Books scattered all over the floor.

And sometimes when I worship in the chapel at school
I see us in there on the night of the earthquake
Trying to sing and pray, but frightened by aftershocks,
Bodies thrumming with adrenaline in the cold evening air.

And sometimes there are kids playing hard on the soccer field
And I suddenly see people huddled on the ground,
Spending the night under the sky instead of under a concrete roof
Since so many concrete roofs have crushed so many bodies
Only hours before.

In the middle of life we are in death,
And sometimes I know it with all my being,
Conscious of how fragile that chair, that chapel, that roof,
Aware of the skull beneath the skin,
From dust we came and to dust we shall return.


Here's the roundup.

Seven Years Ago

This day seven years ago was a completely normal one, until 4:53 in the afternoon, when everything changed.   I had left my classroom that afternoon to walk home, with my lesson plans on my desk for the next day, and it was six months before I taught again.  The earth shook, and many died - even seven years later, nobody knows exactly how many.

I never knew before seven years ago how common earthquakes are.  They happen all the time.  The earth is not solid, not stable; it can move, and everything you counted on can be different in a moment.  I can't look away from earthquake stories.  And I can't read one without remembering that night on the soccer field, those terrifying aftershocks, those hours and days filled with fear, grief, and adrenaline.

This day, January 12th, will always be full of emotion.  We mourn for those who were lost.  We remember.  We will never forget.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Poetry Friday: Roots

On New Year's Eve, we all shared our words for the year.  Mine is ROOTED.  My daughter immediately went in search of the Hopkins book, and read me this poem.

She is a big Hopkins fan, even using Gerard's photo as her profile picture, and a big reason for that is the way he expresses depression, frustration, futility.   In this poem, nothing that he tries is successful.  He looks around and it's spring; everything else is blooming.  The birds are hard at work at their nests. But he's stuck in a sterile, monastic existence, with nothing to show for it.   He doesn't know what to do about it, except pour it out on paper, and then that last line: "Send my roots rain."

I'm hoping, and praying, for rain this year, too.

'Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend'
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Justus quidem tu es, Domine, si disputem tecum; verumtamen
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c. 

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?
    Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build – but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

It's also Epiphany today, so here's a bonus poem, one with more hope:  "Where the Map Begins" at Painted Prayerbook.

Linda has the roundup today, this first one of 2017.

Monday, January 02, 2017

My Photography Project for 2017

In 2016, I did photo-a-day challenges in Lent and Advent, and I found that responding to those prompts each day was an experience I enjoyed.  I went looking for a way to continue the photo-a-day habit, because it makes me feel rooted and grounded in my everyday life, finding things that are beautiful and meaningful in what I see around me all the time.  I discovered Capture Your 365, and at least for now, those are the prompts I'll be following.

I'm posting my photos on Facebook, but I may share some here, too.  I decided that if there's a photo I've already taken in the past, I can use it if it fits with the prompt; it doesn't have to be one I took in the past 24 hours.  (For my Lent and Advent challenges, I even used some photos I didn't take - with attribution, of course - but I haven't 100% decided whether that's going to be OK for CY365.)  However, part of the assignment I've set myself is that I must take at least one photo every day of the year. 

My first photo for 2017; the prompt was "Happy New Year," and I posted the traditional New Year's food here in Haiti, pumpkin soup.  

I think that in Lent and Advent, I'll use prompts similar to those I used this year (from Rethink Church and Alive Magazine), but I haven't decided if I'll double up and still use the CY365 prompts, or not.

So there you have it, my half-baked plan for the year, with more "I haven't decided" statements than definites.  We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

OLW 2017

In 2016, my One Little Word was LOVED.  2016 was a rough year for my family and me, but it was a year with many beautiful moments, anyway.  I knew myself beloved.

This year, I thought about SEE, to remind myself to focus on those beautiful moments.  I thought about HERE, because the best moments are when I am fully present where I am, not the past or the future, and not elsewhere on this planet.  I ended up choosing the word ROOTED, for the way it combines those ideas.

Roots are a complicated concept to a transplant like me.  I've lived in many places around the world, and change is a constant in my life.  People move on; that's just the way it is.  Here's the Bible verse I cling to, and the other reason why I love this year's OLW: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).  My roots are not necessarily in an individual place, from where I could be uprooted in a moment.  My roots are in love.

This year I will seek to be fully present exactly where I am, and I will also sink my roots deeper into God's love and the love of the people in my life.

Last week when we were at the beach, a family walk brought us to the tree in the photos.  My son, having no idea of the word I had been thinking about, commented, "Wow, that is a tree that knows how to adapt itself to its circumstances.  It's just laying down roots everywhere."

I may be uprooted this year from my physical surroundings.  People I count on may disappear from my life.  But I will lay down roots anyway.  In 2017, I will be ROOTED.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I Read in 2016

I had a great reading year.  For one thing, I read a LOT, and for another, I read some wonderful books.  I'll start this post with the last few books I completed this year, and then link you to the other Reading Update posts I did.  (And if I finish any more books today, well then, I'll just add them!)

Book #135 of 2016 was The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters.  This is the story of several relationships (mostly lesbian) in World War II in London.  The interesting twist is that the story moves backwards; the first section is set in 1947, the second in 1944, and the third in 1941.

Book #136 was My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout.  This was a pretty uneventful book, and yet I couldn't put it down.

Book #137 was All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane, by Amy Elizabeth Smith.  This was so much fun, a travel book slash Jane Austen book.  Smith spends a year traveling in Latin America, setting up Jane Austen discussion groups in each country she visits.  Highly entertaining to Jane Austen loving expat like myself.

Book #138 was Do You See What I See?: Exploring the Christmas of Every Day, by Ross Parsley.  This was a quick Christmas read.

Book #139 was Ordinary People, by Judith Guest.  I thought this one was good.  Now I want to see the movie.

I read book #140 at the beach, and it was my first Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie book, and also her first novel, Purple Hibiscus.  This was a gift from my daughter.  Now I'm going to read all her other books as soon as possible.

Book #141 was Writing Day In and Day Out: Living a Practice of Words, by Andi Cumbo-Floyd, a fun read with some useful writing advice included.

Here are the other books I read this year:

Books 1 to 7
Books 8 to 12
Books 13 to 23
Books 24 to 35
Books 36 to 40
Books 41 to 51
Books 52 to 55
Books 56 to 75
Books 76 to 84
Books 85 to 91
Books 92 to 100
Books 101 to 109
Books 110 to 117
Books 118 to 125
Books 126 to 128
Books 129 to 134 (and this post includes three books that I've been rereading this year)

What did you read this year that you particularly enjoyed, and that I should add to my list?  Here's to another year of wonderful books!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Poetry Friday

I've missed three weeks of Poetry Friday, and I really can't miss another one.  I just got back from the beach, where I've been writing, but nothing I'm ready to share.  This poem is really for tomorrow, not today, but the idea of ducking as 2017 heads our way seems prudent. 

Tonight’s December thirty-first,
Something is about to burst.
The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.
Hark, it's midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year!

Ogden Nash

Here's today's roundup.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Poetry Sunday

I'm up in the early hours of Christmas morning, listening to the loud, discordant music in my neighborhood.  It's not a silent night in my part of the world.  Seems like a perfect time to get caught up on the Poetry Friday roundup that I missed again this week!  Merry Christmas to you!