Friday, January 27, 2017

Poetry Friday: Mending Wall

Mending Wall
by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Here's today's roundup.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Poetry Friday: How Long Does it Take?

Almost a year ago, I read this post where Margaret linked us to "How Long Peace Takes," by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Margaret and her students had written poems inspired by Nye's idea.  Margaret's was called "How Long Healing Takes."  The day I read the post, I decided to write a poem on the same idea, and this past week, I finally did.  I started out thinking about healing in general, but given the time of year and the place my mind had been, I ended up writing about the Haiti earthquake.  I feel as though I should apologize for writing about it so much, but since not everyone is in my head all the time the way I am, maybe it doesn't seem as frequent a topic to you as it does to me.

There are two of us in my writing group who were here in Haiti when the earthquake happened in 2010.  This week we talked about it.  She reported having a difficult, painful anniversary.  This year it all seemed a little more distant to me, as though healing might finally be coming to my heart.

How Long Healing Takes in Port-au-Prince

As long as fault lines.

As long as a crack stretches on a concrete wall.

As long as the date January 12th
And the time 4:53
Make your stomach hurt,
And then a little more.

As long as rain falls on unmarked graves.

As long as a row of tents fades in the sun.

As long as the flamboyant tree is bare of red blossoms,
And then until it blooms again,
But maybe not this year or next or the next.

As long as someone remembers before and during and after.

As long as the earth moves every day somewhere,
Even if it isn’t here.

And longer
If it’s here again.


Healing takes as long as it takes, and I hope that whatever wounds you're experiencing now or healing from, you'll have hope today.  A good place to start is Violet's roundup today, where she has some very hopeful words, plus links to everybody else's Poetry Friday offerings.   

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.