Monday, September 27, 2010

Poem: A Taste That Lingers

A Taste That Lingers

I love Fall,
the crisp, windy, 
kaleidoscope of it,
the canvas of painted
the smell of air
so sweet
you might pause
to savor it like
a cup of exotic tea,
or a sip of
fine wine
made from grapes
ripened in the chill air
on a day just like
this day,

or maybe 
it's the crunch of leaves
that conjures up thoughts of a crackling fire
built in the middle of a field,
with children gathered 'round,
and marshmallows roasted
to softened perfection,

or maybe 
it's the crisp apple
just picked from a tree
laden with fruit
 that tastes like Fall;
a taste that lingers
long after the last bite,
and stays in your memory
long past your youth,

a taste that brings you back to the days of Fall,
when all was good and all was right with the world,

back to now when all is possible,
and life is clear 
and perfect 
and crisp
with possibility.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Poem: Just Answer With Truth

  Just Answer With Truth
How did your day go?
How was your week?
I really would like to know.

I know it’s polite
To say
How are you?
It’s kind of like saying hello.

But I’m asking you now,

How are you?

You can tell me the truth
If life hasn’t been kind,
You can say it out loud
If you’re not feeling fine,

Why aren’t we
Honest when asked
How are you?

It’s okay to share
Our joy and our sorrow,
And fine to divulge
A tough time in our lives.

As humans we live
The same kinds of lives, 
Some ups and some downs,
Some good and some bad,

The next time
You’re asked,
Just answer with truth,
What harm can be done
By being more honest?

Try it today,
You’ll see what I mean,

I’m asking you now,

How are you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Empty Nester Angst

 Empty Nester Angst

I’m having an identity crisis.  Who am I, I cry in the night?  What is my future, what am I to do, where am I to go, who am I to serve?  These questions arise at odd times and leave me with an unsettling angst. 
For the first 28 years of my life I was a child, a student, a worker and eventually a wife.  I had my share of angst during those years as well, but generally had a path and a clear identity that was not yet defined by children.
Everything changed when we had our first son.  It changed a little more when we had our second and even further with our third.  I had found my life; I had found my calling.  Being a mom felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.  I never dreamt of corporate life or escaping housewifedom.  I loved raising my sons and found joy in the everydayness of our lives.  I somehow thought we would always be together.  That didn’t happen.
We traveled a lot with our kids – nothing exotic, but we did hit some national parks and did lots of bicycling and hiking – natural things.  The boys liked what we did and now as adults still like it and have become very independent; taking off on their own adventures.  One son has done a solo bicycle trip across the country.  They do couch surfing, stealth camping, etc.; the kinds of things I try not to think too much about lest I create another layer of angst for myself. 
Our guys love life, love to explore and love home, they just aren’t here very much and there’s the rub.  I miss them.  I liked all the activity that used to happen around here.  I liked their friends stopping by.  I liked ordering pizza for 20 kids at 10 p.m. on a Friday night.  I liked going to football games and cheering on their high school.  I liked talking to our boys about girlfriends, movies, politics and some of life’s bigger philosophical issues.  I liked hearing our oldest son play the trumpet and the younger two strum on their guitars.  I liked a lot of things about being a mom.
So, what am I to do?  I need to feel purposeful.  I need to feel needed and I need to make a difference.  I feel it with every cell in my body.  There are choices in every direction, but which is the right one? 
There is an emptiness that needs to be filled and I can’t expect my children to fill that need and I can’t expect my husband to fill it either.  He and I are a team and do many things together, but we also need our own life experiences.  So, there you have it.  My angst is real, but it doesn’t need to define me.  There is plenty of life left to live and plenty out there worth doing.  I need to rid myself of this infernal angst and open the door to new opportunities, new life experiences and a new attitude.  Life awaits; angst can wait. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You Would do the Same Thing for Me, Right?

Yesterday, I was running an errand and made a quick stop in an office supply store to buy some ink cartridges for our printer.  As I was paying, I struck up a conversation with the cashier - a young man in his late 20's.  I asked him how his day was going. He smiled and said it was going okay even though he was working from 8:00 - 10:00.  "You mean from 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.?"  I asked.  
He said, "Yes."
He was working a double shift to cover for a coworker whose dad was having surgery that day - a very serious surgery.  He went on to say that the man was having his jaw removed due to the spread of cancer in his body.  "How incredibly sad," I said.  "So, you're working a double shift so your coworker can be with his dad today?"
"That's right," he said. "But you would do the same thing for a friend, wouldn't you?"
I agreed that I would.
I went on to say to him, "You know that every time you extend a kindness in life it makes a difference.  What you are doing today for your friend is a very generous act and it's making a difference to him and his family.  You'll always be glad that you did this today."
He then paused, looked at me and said, "You would do the same thing for me, right?"
I replied, "Absolutely."
We smiled and I left the store with my purchases.
As I walked to my car I contemplated his final question.  Would I do the same thing for him?  I didn't even know him.  But the more I thought about it, I concluded that I probably would try.  If the circumstances were such that I was asked by a stranger to do a good deed and it was within my power to extend that deed, I would do my level best to follow through, at least I hope so.  His challenging question has hung with me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Poem: Precious Moments

1985 - Evansville, Indiana
 Precious Moments

Take a book,
A lap,
Small children,
Cozy and clean
After an evening bath,
Add a mother,
Who loves to
Hold her children close,
Who loves to read
To them,
Who loves the sweetness
Of their tender love,
Who loves the precious moments,
The priceless moments
And you will find
Goodness and truth,
Kindness and hope,
Take a book,
Take it now,
And hold a child close,
There is nothing more precious,

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poem: Have you Ever Loved a Tree?

I read an article in the New York Times on Friday that detailed the devastating loss of thousands of trees caused by a quick but violent storm.  Manhattan and the Bronx were relatively untouched but Brooklyn, Queens, and other boroughs were hit hard.  The article had quotes from several individuals who spoke lovingly and mournfully of the trees that were lost in the storm.  One of the trees, an immense Scarlet Oak was well over 100 years old.   A man was quoted as saying, “When you touched the tree, you felt like you were touching a part of the 19th century.”  There were so many tender words for the lost trees, so much sorrow for trees that had been taken for granted the day before - so hard for so many to accept their absence from the landscape.
I remember a book I used to read to the kids called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  It was a beautiful story about a boy and a tree and how they played together during the boy’s youth, but as the young man aged he needed things from the tree like its apples and then its branches and ultimately its trunk to sail away to far off shores.  At the end, the man and the tree stump are both old, sitting together and sharing their closeness once again….and the tree is happy.  

Have you ever loved a tree?

I loved a tree once,
Its willowy branches
Swaying in the wind,
Thrashing ‘neath a storm,
Bending but not breaking,
Always standing firm;
I loved that tree.

In summer I could sit
In its branches
And whisper secrets to my friend,
Or dream of far off lands,
Or maybe read a book;
It was that kind of friend,
The tree that I loved.

Even in winter
I loved that tree,
With the frosty snow
Lining its branches
In luminous shades of white;
It cast an eerie shadow in the snow,
But it didn’t scare me,
Because I loved that tree,
And knew that spring would come,

And when it did,
It sprang with life,
Spreading its branches wide,
Making space for nesting birds,
For sprouting leaves,
And for one little girl
Who loved to be
In the arms of her favorite tree.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poem: A Barn Will Rise


Members of the Friends of Ohio Barns and the Timber Framers Guild will arrive at Sunny 95 Park in Columbus, Ohio on September 17th.  They will be in encampment here, and their work will culminate in an old-fashioned barn-raising on Sunday, September 26th.  The timber framers will incorporate the beams from a barn that used to be located on a property on Lane Road.  It was believed to be about 100 years old.  The new structure (The Amelita Mirolo Barn) will be used for community events and private rentals but will have the look and feel of an old-time barn. 
In the 18th and 19th centuries in rural North America, the barn was often the first structure built by a family who settled in a new area.  It was essential for storing hay and housing horses and cattle.  All the area farmers and family members would come together to have a barn-raising to get the structure up quickly for the new family.  
I thought it would be nice to tie my display case posting in with what is going on in the park this week.  So, here’s a poem to honor this type of community activity that has almost vanished from society except in some Amish and Old Order Mennonite Communities.

 A Barn Will Rise

The call went out
loud and clear,
Ringing through the night,

Bring your mallets,
Bring your saws,
Bring your brawn
And grit,

We will build
A barn,

We’ll raise it
Tall and strong,

It will stand
The test of time,
The test of wind and rain,

It will stand
Of that we’re sure;
We know it to a man,

So, bring your mallets,
Bring your saws,
Bring your brawn
And grit,

We need the will
Of many men,
Their strength
And power

To work the land,
And work the wood,
Until the task is

When we’re done
And walk away,
We know that we'll
Stand tall,

As will the building
Left behind
Forever strong and true,

So, bring your mallets,
Bring your saws,
Bring your brawn
And grit,

A barn will rise,
Of that we’re sure,
Come watch us

as we work,

With many men
Who work as one,
There’s nothing we
Can’t do.

Old wood being honed for new structure by timber framers

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Poem: Vandalism

Our yard is very near a path that circles the park behind our house.  I recently installed a display case that houses an ever-changing assortment of original poems and essays.  It is a place where people can pause during their walk and read a brief, positive musing about life.  Last night, the display case was vandalized.  My initial reaction was one of sadness and anger.
After my husband and I assessed the damage, we realized we only needed to replace the Plexiglas top and we would be back in business. The case was built by my nephew and son and they did a marvelous job of making it both beautiful and sturdy, but Plexiglas can’t withstand a rock attack.  

What were you thinking
When you took that rock
And scratched
And scratched
Until the damage was done?

Were you sad,
By something in life
That was too big for a kid
To handle?

I know what’s it’s like to be a kid
With problems too big;
With nowhere to turn.
It’s mighty lonely sometimes,
But breaking things
Won’t help;
It will just push the pain a little deeper,
Make it all hurt a little more.

We’ll probably never meet
Unless it’s a chance encounter,
And even then I won’t known
That you’re the one
Who took the rock and
Scratched and scratched
Until the damage was done.

I think you’re a good kid
Who just hurt real bad the other night.

Next time,
Kick a rock,
Or run a block,
But please leave the
Display alone
For others to enjoy,

It’s the right thing to do
The only thing to do.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Poem: Just Like That

Rita Bourland © 2010 "Macaws Along the Scioto River"
“Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
US author & physician (1809 - 1894)

My brain sometimes gets in a rut,
Unwilling to break new ground:
A curve in the road,
An uncharted path,
Seems foreign,

In youth, I tried every new thing,
Climbing rocks,
Climbing trees,
Taking risks.

I’m not sure when the change
Came to pass.

Why the worry
About change,
Why the worry about risk?

Nothing ventured
Means nothing is gained;
New ideas
Bring delight,
New adventures
Bring flight,
From the same old,
Same old,
Every day.

So tomorrow I’ll try something new,
And maybe the day after that,
And before too much time
I’ll be back to my youth,

My brain will
have formed a new path.

Just like that.

(This photo may seemingly not fit this post, but I tried something new today.  I took a walk along a path by the river and came upon a man sitting on a park bench with his two pet macaws.  They could say hello and peek-a-boo.  He has a special room in his house for them - they do not live in cages - he just mops up the floor each day.   So, I think this fits the tenor of what I speak of in my poem.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Poem: Suspended Motion

© Philip Bourland - 2010
Suspended Motion
With the right camera,
The right film speed,
And the right eye,
Something small,
Something spectacular, 
might be captured.

Time stands still
For the briefest of moments,
While the camera
Opens its aperture
Just long enough to bring in the light,
Bring in the vision,
Of a hummingbird in flight.

The rarest of gifts:
with their uncanny speed,
Their luminosity,
Their delicacy.
Their compact strength.

They will be leaving soon,
These one ounce wonders,
But they will return next spring,
Bringing their magic
Back to the garden,
Where we can watch
But never truly catch
The exquisite,
Expansive arc
Of their elusive, high-speed lives.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Perfect Blend Girl - A Short Story

  The Perfect Blend Girl

     The first time Dan saw the poetry, he had just spilled his coffee on the sports section of the paper.  As he tried dabbing the mess, to no avail, he noticed the tiny handwritten poem.  Right under a photo of another accused steroid-user he read:

Forgive me, oh please,
I’m down on my knees;
I’m sorry you caught me for sure.
I wish I could quit,
I’d like to repent;
I’m certain there isn’t a cure.

     Dan smiled at the truth of the poem and then gathered the sodden mess of paper and tossed it into the recycling bin.
     Dan frequented The Perfect Blend Coffee Shop almost daily.  Located on High Street, it was positioned right across the street from Ohio State where Dan was studying architecture.  He didn’t run across a lot of poetry, unless you counted the poetry he saw in a perfectly designed building.

    The next day he decided to, once again, grab the window seat at the Blend and flip through the paper lying on the table.  He smiled as his reward appeared.  A photo of a smiling politician making promises about campaign spending reform was graced with another handwritten poem with biting insight:

His smile so keen,
His teeth, oh so white,
The question remains,
Does he feel our plight?

     That is the question for sure, thought Dan.  He realized he was starting to have an inner dialogue with the Perfect Blend Girl.  Girl?  Who said it’s a girl? he thought.  He was clearly spending too much time hunched over his architectural drawings.  
    And so the pattern continued, with one exception – Dan started rising a little earlier each day in the hope of finding his poet.  He was almost always rewarded with a poem, but never with the object of his growing desire.  He started tearing out the poems each day and tucking them in his jeans pocket.
    The Perfect Blend opened at 6:00 a.m. and usually had a few customers waiting for the doors to open.  On June 8th, Dan was the first in line.  He and several of his classmates hadn’t slept while putting the finishing touches on their final presentations for the quarter.  He needed a jolt of coffee to get him through the rest of his morning.  He settled into a booth and leaned back, resting his head and closing his eyes.  The aroma of coffee and the bustle of the shop were soothing to his senses.  When he opened his eyes, he glanced around the room at the early morning customers.  And then he looked at the table by the window.  A young woman wearing jeans, a Dave Matthews Band t-shirt and a funky frilly scarf was bent over the newspaper with a silver pen clutched in her left hand.

It was Susan all along.

    He picked up his mug, walked over to the table and said, “Hey Susan, can I join you?"
    Susan smiled and greeted him with a tired but friendly, “Hi there.”  She put her pen down on the paper, looked at him again and said, “What a long night.”
    Dan wasn’t thinking about his presentation anymore.  It was Susan all along, he thought.  She had been hunched over a table in the architecture building for two years, just like him, and they’d never gotten to know each other.  “So, what are you writing?” he asked.
    She smiled shyly and said, “It’s just some silly poetry.  I’m sure nobody reads it.”

This story is currently in the outside display case.  
It was originally posted on Feb. 23, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Poem: We Cannot Do Everything

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
Knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a 

sense of liberation in knowing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
Oscar Romero – former Archbishop of San Salvador (1917-1980)

We cannot do everything.
Is that the point?

We choose,
We lead,
We better the world
By what we do,

But choose wisely,
Do it well
Whatever you do,

Liberate yourself
From perfection,

Do things that matter,

Plant a seed,
Let others reap the fruit,
Express your humanity,
Give of yourself
Then let it grow,

Don’t worry
So much
About everything,
Just care about

Have faith
In the good you do,
In the kindness
You extend,

Your life is a blessing
To someone,
Your life is a blessing
To you

We cannot do everything
Just something that feeds 
a soul.