Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Telegram (STOP) Attention People of the United States (STOP)

Promising Life © Rita Bourland 2009
Attention people of the United States (STOP) Hostage Situation at Marinette High School in Marinette, Wisconsin (STOP)  15 year old student holding classmates and teacher in classroom (STOP)  Has gun (STOP) Shot has been fired (STOP) 
Do something (STOP)

What are we missing?

How are we failing our youth?

What do they need?

Please tell us what you need;
tell us now before you feel the need
to harm another
who’s done no harm
to you.

Are you sad,

And where’d you get that gun?
15 this time;
too young to own
a gun,
too young
to end your life.

Please tell us what you need;
tell us now before you feel the need
to harm another
who’s done no harm
to you.

They might feel just like you.

Tell them,
tell me,
tell someone,
how you feel.

Put down the gun,

Accept a hug,

Just please
put down 
the gun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mark Twain Still Speaks to Us

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel 
in which it is stored than to anything on 
which it is poured.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

In recognition of the release of Mark Twain’s autobiography (100 years after his death), I thought I would write about one of his many thought-provoking quotes.  He was a man of carefully chosen words: sometimes audacious, often political and usually humorous.  He never failed to stir discussion with what he had to say.  By stipulating in his will that his autobiography not be released for 100 years, he is still stirring discussion.

Words are powerful, provocative and the stuff of humanity.  They connect us, divide us and console us.  Mark Twain was a master of words.

The quote about anger stirred some deep feelings in me.  I have been angry before and have felt acid coursing through my veins.  The anger might have been stirred because I felt wronged or I perceived an injustice in the world; in either case, it ate away in a corrosive, unhealthy way.  Leaving the anger to fester made me feel sick, dissatisfied and in emotional limbo. 

But what are we to do with anger?  Pouring it out through confrontation presents the opportunity to harm others, so that is not necessarily the best option.   If we see injustice in the world, it is certainly appropriate and indeed essential to turn that anger into positive proactive energy

But to truly get ride of anger, de-stressing is the best choice.  Just let it go - take a walk, take a bath, take a nap, and know with some cosmic certainly that all things will balance out in the end.  

Putting it in my own words,  Anger is a tricky beast, best tamed by those with proper experience, possibly in the area of lion taming. 

Lion Taming

You can roar with raw anger,
Throw a tough punch,
Seethe through clenched teeth,
Fume, seethe and fuss,

You can kick a tin can,
Frown and complain,
Curse to the heavens,
Find others to blame,

But all of that strife
Won’t do any good,
In fact you might find
You’re in a bad mood,

Just let it all go,
Breathe deeply, count sheep,
It’s not worth your time
Haulin' troubles so deep,

Don’t harm your own vessel,
Twain said way back then,
Just smile and whistle
Then set off again,

Sayin’ Peace and Amen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks (poetry)

Giving Thanks

The earth grows so cold
As winter draws near,
The flowers and plants will soon disappear,

The days are too short,
The sun hides from sight,
And shadows turn quickly to darkness and night,

But thankfulness comes
In the midst of these hours,
I dream of rebirth and precious spring flowers,

I dream of the life
So precious and true,
The life that God’s given to me and to you,

I thank God for you,
 I thank God for me,
And thank Him for all of the goodness I see.

Photo © 2010 Rita Bourland

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hallelujah Handel

Hallelujah Handel

July 13, 1742, in Dublin, Ireland, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) performed his recently completed Messiah as one of a subscription series of six concerts with the Messiah being the final concert.  He had written the composition in London, but chose to perform it for the first time before a Dublin audience.
 Sunday afternoon, I saw the entire work performed at the Ohio Theater in Columbus, Ohio with a complement of 64 chorus members, the orchestra, five soloists and a large, appreciative audience.  I was left breathless by the beauty and complexity of this inspirational composition.
 After 268 years, performances of the Messiah are still considered an annual tradition in many communities and portions of it are sung by churches, high schools and symphony choruses all over the world, with the Hallelujah chorus being the most oft performed.
 The following was written in the program notes from Sunday’s performance:
 The capital of English-dominated Ireland had a fairly rich artistic scene at the time, with considerable local talent complemented by artists coming from London.  Handel found a grateful and receptive audience there, packing a “Great Music Hall” on Fishamble Street that was not nearly large enough for an event of this magnitude.  The most prominent members of Dublin society were there among a crowd of about 700 people.  The Dublin Journal which had called the work “the finest Composition of Music that ever was heard” after the public dress rehearsal wrote after the official premiere:
“Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crouded Audience.  The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear.” (Misspellings seen here were the correct usage of those words at the time it was written.)
After reading this 1742 review, I thought to myself that it would be quite rare to read such a rapturous review of anything today.  Yes, there are amazing new composers at work as we speak and brave new works being performed all around the globe, but at that time and in that place there was nothing to compare and scarce words to capture the essence of what had been seen and heard.
 Most everyone has heard the Hallelujah chorus or possibly sung it with a choir.  It never fails to stir.  The Philadelphia Opera Company recently enlisted the help of local church choirs to stage a flash mob performance of the chorus at a mall that just happened to have a permanently installed pipe organ.  I will have a link to that at the bottom.
But there are so many remarkable pieces within the Messiah with incredible lyrics and sumptuous music. The words are drawn from both the Old and New Testament and were compiled by Charles Jennens for Handel.  I’m going to take a little liberty with Handel’s work and try to capture some of the layered meaning of his pieces in poetic form. 

 Hallelujah, Handel

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
O, Prince of Peace,
Wonderful Counsellor,
Bring comfort to thy people,
Exalt every valley,
Bring your good tidings to Zion,
For your people live in darkness
And await the day of your coming,

But behold,
A child is born,
And the angel said unto them,
“Glory to God, Rejoice Greatly,
For he shall feed his flock;
Come unto him
To ease thy burden.”

But the Lamb of God
He was despised,
He hath borne our grief,
For we sheep have gone astray,
But through his stripes and crucifixion we are healed,
We need no longer rage as nations,
For he dwelleth in Heaven,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

I know now that my Redeemer liveth,
For the trumpet will sound
Smiting death’s dark sting,
For God is for us,

So,Thanks be to God
Worthy is the Lamb
That was slain for man.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

And thank you to Handel for this masterpiece that can still raise humanity to a higher level each time his work is performed.  Here is the Philadelphia Opera Company with their flash mob performance of the Hallelujah Chorus. I wish you peace.   

Friday, November 19, 2010

Come Ride with Me - Bicycling in Ohio

It was 45° and clear at 11:00 a.m. today – perfect for a late November bicycle ride.  I put on my wool socks, bike shorts, insulated tights, Under Armour shirt, Under Armour sweatshirt, wind breaker, ear warmers, bicycle helmet, bicycle shoes and finally some very warm gloves - I was ready to go. 
My favorite ride is along the Olentangy (Olen-tan-gee) Bike Trail which parallels the Olentangy River.  From my neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, I can go north up to Worthington Hills or go south past Ohio State University and end up in downtown Columbus.  Either way is fun, but today I headed north.  I have to ride for a couple of miles before I get to the overpass (over state route 315) and then I drop down to the bike trail.  After that, it’s a lovely ride, with tranquil woods, an occasional deer sighting, and on a day like today, relative solitude.  The colder it gets, the fewer brave souls there are on the trail. 
I took the ride by myself, so you will see my bicycle in every shot but not many shots of me.  I did meet some nice folks who agreed to take my picture at a couple of junctures. 
So, come with me and take in the sights I enjoyed on my ride today.  I’m hoping to transport you to the woods and allow your mind to absorb the peace and calm I felt as I traversed the path.  I wish you could have been along for the ride, but maybe a virtual ride will suffice.  I wish you peace.

Whirring pedals,
Shifting gears
Wind in my ears,

Runner passing by,
Breathing in, breathing out,
One quick step, one step more,
Cold wind on her cheeks,

Antrim Lake so calm today,
Crisp air, vacant pier,
No one fishing,
No picnics on shore,
Just my bike and me passing by,

A few chin ups?
Maybe not,
Craggy tree along the shore,
The river flows
Slow and serene,
Does it know that winter’s coming?

 Worthington Hills all the way north,
A Cup of Joe to warm my toes
Before I head home;
Nine more miles to go,

 Freedom comes in simple ways,
A space of time
From all that fills our day,
Just roll along and let it go,

An awesome rock
Cracked asunder,

Leaves underfoot,
A rustic bridge,
Beckoning - pause,
pause and ponder,

The overpass takes me home again,
Away from silence,
Away from woods and water,
From trees and other wonders,

The flow of cars
The sound of wheels
Noises shrill
Say city, big city

 But I can go
Most any day 
That other place,
That other space,
Where quiet 
My name.

You can come too
Will you join me?

Photography © Rita Bourland 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Poem - Inside the Gate

 Inside the Gate

Lean an elbow 
on my gate,
Chat awhile
About your day,
Or better yet
Swing it wide,
Come inside,
Make sure you
Latch the gate,

Clicking into place
It says:
We’re safe inside this space;
Safe to talk of
Who we are,
Where we’ve been,
What we’ve learned
Of life
The gate,

Safe to cry, to sigh,
To tell a tale of
Love and lies,
Of truth and daring
Days gone by,
Or maybe tales
Of what might be
If dreams could just
Come true,

We sip our tea
Inside the gate,
And wait
For what?

For days like this to
Last and last,
For friendship true
To never pass,
And garden gates
To keep us safe,
At least this day,

But that’s enough

For now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Poem - How Could We Know?

Rita & Mike - Wedding Day 1977

How Could We Know?

I lost the tickets,
We drank some beer
Outside the show,
We didn’t go
Because of me,
But that’s okay
You said to me,

I broke my foot,
You signed my cast,
We watched old
On the couch
‘Til I could walk again,

I wrecked the car,
An awful mess,
Are you okay?
Was all you said,
It made me glad
That you weren’t mad,

In the dark,
You brought a light,

Sick in bed,
You made me tea,

Cried all night,
You dried my tears,

I got depressed,
You were sad,
Every day
We just laid low
‘Til I was whole again,

So, thank you dear,
And thanks again,
For being there,
Being here,
 Loving me,

In sickness,
In health,
For better,
For worse,
And all that stuff
We said
So long ago,

How could we know
The words would mean
So much?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poem - Anticipation

June 2010

I’ll open the door
And there you’ll be,
Arriving from your life,
Coming home
For Thanksgiving,

We’ll hug,
I’ll say,
How was the drive?
Much traffic?
Glad you’re here,

You’ll say,
Good to be home,
Glad to be out of the car,

And then we’ll stop
And smile again,

Each son,
Arriving home
For Thanksgiving,
All three
Will be
Filled with stories
Of other places,
Other people,
A full life,

This is their home
Where they grew into young men,
Formed ideas,
Dreamed big,
And then departed
For school,
And life beyond,

When they were small,
I thought
 We’d be together
Always and forever,
But that was silly
Of me,

After all,
They must follow
The arc of their life
Wherever it leads,

I’m just glad
It sometimes
Leads them

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How I Got My Hipster Cred

I'm 57 years old, love James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, but I like to pay attention to new artists.  I read a great review of an album called She and Him (2010), so I went out and bought it.  Zooey Deschanel wrote all but two of the songs and sings all of them.  She performs with M. Ward and special guest singers Tilly and the Wall and Mike Coykendall.  They have an upbeat, infectious sound that I find myself humming at odd moments.  Zooey's music makes me happy.  

Me and You is a fantastic song with the refrain,

You've got to be kind to yourself
   You've got to be kind to yourself.  

In the Sun has the refrain: 
"Well alright, 
It's okay, 
We all get the slip sometimes every day 
I'll just keep it to myself in the sun 
In the sun."

She also sings a song that was written in 1952 by Milton Kellem called Gonna Get Along Without You Now.  It's a catchy and fun tune about a woman who has been cut loose from a bad relationship and is moving on with optimism.
My 26 year old son told me this evening that I had no idea how much hipster cred I was earning by buying this album. He was right - I had no idea.  He commented that not many people my age would even know about She and Him.  So, this evening I am basking in the glow of my brief moment in the limelight of hipsterdom.  My cred, or credibility like we adults might say, is for real and I know what is happening out there in the world.  Just ask me what is cool and I will tell you.  Well, actually I probably won't since I have a feeling I am a one horse wonder in the world of hipster cred, but I will unconditionally recommend this album to anyone who cares to listen.  Buy it and you will be glad you did and you might just earn a little hipster cred along the way. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Near Miss on a Hot Summer Afternoon - 1967

 A Near Miss on a Hot Summer Afternoon - 1967

It was 1967 in Southern Indiana.  I was 14 years old and wanted a summer job.  My good friend, Dana, had worked for a couple of years for a tomato farmer.  He had a large field of tomato plants along the floodplain of the Ohio River.  She thought the guy would hire me on for the summer and I was game.  The pay - $1.00/hr.  My folks probably thought it would be good for me to work in the hot sun all day, get my hands dirty and earn a little spending money.  I learned a few things that summer.  I learned how to grade tomatoes and put them in boxes according to their grade (take me to the grocery with you and I will find you a perfect tomato).  I learned which tomatoes were ripe for the picking.  I learned to wear a scarf on my head to keep the sweat out of my eyes and to drink a lot of water – it gets really hot in southern Indiana. 

I also learned how to get out of the way of a moving car.

My guardian angel has a big part in this story.

I had been in the field picking tomatoes for most of the morning.  At lunchtime, John (the owner) drove his station wagon down the lane and picked us all up.  He then headed back to the tent where the grading took place and we had about a half an hour to eat our bagged lunches. 

When he stopped to pick me up, the station wagon was full, so I hopped onto the open tailgate.  John had reached the end of the row, so he had to back the car all the way down the row to get back to the tent.  If you get the picture, I was now at the front end of a moving vehicle.  We hit a big bump on the dirt path and I was pitched off the tailgate.  The car was moving rapidly and I had about a nanosecond to act.  I threw myself into the ditch on the side of the road as the car whizzed past.  It came to a screeching halt as all the girls in the car started screaming, “You ran over Rita.”  They all jumped out and ran back to find me.  I was lying prone in the ditch, unable to move, paralyzed with fear, but also relieved that my life had been spared (let’s hear it for guardian angels and adrenaline).  John got me up, dusted me off and helped me into the car for the ride back to the tent.  He was quite solicitous toward me, kind in a way I had not witnessed before, and encouraged me to take the rest of the day off.  A friend drove me home, I shared the story with my folks and my career as a tomato picker promptly ended. 

In later years, I came to understand the reason John was so solicitous that day.  He was hiring young girls to pick his tomatoes without any workman’s compensation.  I’m sure he wasn’t paying taxes - we were given cash in an envelope each Friday.  If he had run over me that day, he would have been toast.  Of course, I would have been toast as well.  It’s funny, though, I still look back on that job as a good learning experience. 

I went on to earn a degree from Indiana University in Psychology and ironically worked in employment for many years making sure people had the benefits they deserved. 

John lucked out that day and so did I.  I was lucky for a couple of reasons.  I’m alive today to tell the story, and I was able to get an education which allowed me to achieve things beyond being an itinerant field worker.  I would assert that I was also lucky to have a summer experience that gave me a window into a world where millions of people toil every day of their lives. We have a long way to go in this country and around the world to keep individuals safe from moving cars and immovable owners of illegally run companies.  Guardian angels can only do so much.