Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There But For Fortune

Photo by Rita Bourland - 2o12

There But For Fortune

Tom (name changed) used to arrive at my future husband’s apartment at odd hours of the day or night.  Mike had befriended him at a coffee shop on campus.  It was 1974.  

Tom was a brilliant young man who liked to talk about big issues:  the meaning of life, the state of the cosmos, and occasionally our college basketball team.  But sometimes he wouldn’t talk at all.  He would just sit and stare into space and would be unreachable for minutes or possibly hours.  There were occasions when I would stop by to visit Mike and find Tom sitting on the couch with Mike not at home. We might chat a bit or have no conversation at all.  But because Mike felt safe with Tom dropping by, I felt safe as well. 

Word was that Tom lived somewhere on campus with his dad who was a visiting professor. 

We lost touch with Tom after a couple of years.  He was from somewhere out east and Mike remembers that he headed home after graduation.  With no cell phones, facebook, or texting, the connection was lost pretty quickly.

We’ve been married 35 years and Tom’s name comes up from time to time.  “Wonder what happened to him?  Hope he’s okay.”

I Googled his name tonight and was saddened to find an obituary.  He died in 1999 at the age of 49 and the obituary made note of a diagnosis of schizophrenia that had been made in his early 20s.  In high school he had been president of his class, point guard for the basketball team and a member of national honor society.  He had also been voted ‘most likely to succeed’.   The last sentence of the obituary was, “There but for fortune go you and I.”

I had been thinking about Tom because of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  Mike and I were so young in 1974 and mental illness was not an oft discussed topic like it is today, but I think we both knew that Tom was suffering from something profoundly difficult.  Mike had provided him a safe haven and we both tried to offer him a friendship that was devoid of judgment.  It certainly didn’t save him from schizophrenia but it did offer him acceptance in a world that was most likely becoming increasingly difficult to manage.  

So, what are we to do for all the troubled souls walking this earth?  

There has to be a safety net: psychologists, psychiatrists, beds on psychiatric units, residential space, good medicines at reasonable prices and a lessening of the stigma associated with mental illness.  There are so many Toms in the world who want and need our help.  Let’s do better by them, because it's the right thing to do, and because there but for fortune go you and I.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Precious Child - Poem for Newtown, CT

Precious Children 

Precious children,

fragile rosebuds
kissed by the dew,
opening slowly
to the promised sun,

lives just begun,

tender roots
brought early strength,

like outstretched arms,
sought the world’s

precious children,
fragile rosebuds
kissed by the dew,

we mourn the loss of you.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families in Newtown, CT 
 who suffered such a tragic loss on December 14, 2012.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Poem - Whence Cometh

 Candle photo - Rita Bourland
Whence Cometh

I sit in a church pew alone with my thoughts,

Votive candles flicker,
casting shadows
Across the floor and walls,

I close my eyes soaking up the silence,
Reveling in the solitude,

Whence cometh the peace
I find in this place,

No priest is present to shape my thoughts,
Discern my prayers,

Whence cometh the ache in my heart,
The yearning for some unknown

If God be present in this space,
Then let him rest in me,

Let him spend this Advent
Moving hearts and minds,

Let him be the flickering light inside each man,
Let him be our peace this Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Poem: So it Seems

December 2010 - Rita Bourland

 So it Seems

The snow-dusted walk
erases what went before,

no trace is left, 

just pureness and light,

a canvas void of color
with no other
artist waiting in the wings,

so it seems this moment
speaks of what can be,

like Christmas,
with quiet midnight steps
entering homes
under twinkling skies,

only pureness and light
bringing just the right gift
so it seems.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

More Wonder!

To the Best of our Knowledge, a production of Wisconsin Public Radio, aired a fascinating program this afternoon called:  More Wonder!   I listened intently, realizing the message tied in perfectly with my desire to find my misplaced Christmas spirit.  An astronomer was interviewed, as well as a sound installation artist named Janet Cardiff, who creates awe-inspiring settings with cascading, ethereal sounds. 

It turns out we might all be running a bit low on wonder.  What is innately found in children is often slowly but surely stomped out by years of schooling, work and responsibilities.   Slowing down to notice, listen, and absorb a bit of wonder becomes increasingly difficult. 

My middle son is a musician who just produced his first solo album.  I am in awe of his accomplishment.  When I listen to his music, I sit very quietly, absorbing the nuance of the words, the notes and the overall sound - I feel a hopefulness wash over me.  It feels like what I am seeking.  With 24 days to go, I will take that as a hopeful sign that I still might find my Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Something Lost - Join me on my quest to find Christmas

Photo by Rita Bourland 2012

Something Lost
 Over the next 25 days
I’m going to try to find
 My Christmas spirit, 

I lost it somewhere,

There are plenty of things to blame:
Ugly politics,
Fiscal cliffs,
Black Friday,
Swine flu (yes, I really had it),

But then I realized there’s really no one to blame
For something I lost except me,

I don’t want to be one of those people
Who has to find a scapegoat
For everything that goes wrong in my life, 

 I’m just saying that I am currently
Unmoved by sparkling lights,
Puppy dogs with red ribbons ‘round their necks,
 And sweet young children with lists written to Santa, 

Such a sad state of affairs
 For a normally optimistic,
Christmas loving person,

Over the next 25 days you are welcome
To take the journey with me
And try to find that spark again,
The reason for the season,

If we’re lucky, we’ll find it together,

See you tomorrow.