Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

 

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The Mourners

by William H. Ogilvie

When all the light and life are sped
Of flowing tails and manes
And flashing stars, and forelocks spread,
and foam-flecks on the reins.

I like to think from every land
And far beyond the wave
A crowd of ghosts will come and stand
In grief around the grave.


 

A friend of mine died Friday morning.  He had been in the hospice program through Methodist Hospital for the past 11 months.   He died with his daughter holding his hand, telling him it was okay to let go.  I was assigned to Jim  as a hospice volunteer but I can honestly say we became friends in the past year.  Jim had lived a big life.  He had a family.  He had been a successful venture capitalist, a entrepreneur, involved in starting up a number of new businesses, saving failing ones and generally having a good time putting deals together.  He had worked and travled in Mexico and the Phillipines and was well traveled.  He had all the trappings of what successful business men have, a big house on Lake Minnetonka, boats, a cabin up north, nice cars, plenty of money to spend.   And he was an alcoholic.

Jim was very up front about his disease.  He had been sober for seventeen years when I met him and it was besides his children and grand children the thing he was most proud that he had accomplished in his life, though he was not boastful about it.  Jim taught me a lot about what it takes to make a commitment to sobriety.  The most profound thing he shared was;

“the biggest mistake that people make who want to stop drinking is they think they will be happier if they quit.  And so they come to A. A. for a while and they discover they are just as miserable as before.   If you really want to stop drinking you have to address the underlying issues that drove the drinking in the first place.  You have to find your serenity.   If you can do that, you can quit drinking for good.”

What made Jim an amazing person was his positive attitude and his focus on connection to others.  When I met Jim he was on oxygen 24/7.   He couldn’t drive anymore and yet he found a way to get to his local A. A. meeting over the noon hour every day.  He sponsored countless men and women over the years and was constantly patiently encouraging others.   Jim had loyal friends because he was such a loyal friend.

Jim and I mostly talked when I visited and usually we laughed a lot.  Jim shared the foibles that happen in life and the good stuff too.  Jim had a interest in horse racing and would bet races all over the world from his living room connected through his lap top.  Some weeks he was up, some weeks he was down, but he always had fun.

Jim is a success story of how our communities are supposed to work.  The hospice program gave Jim dignity.  It allowed him to remain in his apartment and receive outstanding care tailored to his needs that actually improved his health and quality of life for his remaining year.   Jim got stronger while in hospice and up until the last month lived with minimal pain and with good support from his nurse and social services.  Jim would tell me, “I can’t believe all the things I have access too, life is good.”

Jim served in the Marine corps, but he never spoke about his military service.  We didn’t talk politics, I am not even sure how old hew was.  We didn’t talk about his illness and we didn’t talk about death.   Jim and I just talked about our lives, funny things that happened and played cribbage.   And from those conversations I watched a man who truly was at peace with all that happened in his life and learned the secret to that happiness – find your serenity.   And if you haven’t found it yet, figure out what you need to change, and change it.

I shall miss our conversations.  I will miss your laugh and your smile.  Thanks for the lessons on humility and serenity.  God Bless you Jim.


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

After A Thousand Victories

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Minnesota Twins 2019 Central Division Champions

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Babe Ruth

Sonnet 25
Let Those Who Are In Favour With Their Stars

by William Shakespeare

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.


If you are not a baseball fan, then you have missed a stellar year.  It’s not too late, the play-offs start next week and its going to be a post season with high caliber baseball.   Never can I remember so many good teams battling until the final game for both a play-off birth and for home field advantage.  There are several dominant teams who are expected to win, the Dodgers in the National League and the Houston Astros and Yankees in the American League.  But the hottest teams in baseball right now are potential wild card teams; the Milwaukee Brewers, gamely rallying after their superstar Christian Yelich went down for the season with a knee injury and Rays, A/s and Indians who all have played fantastic down the stretch, though only two of them will make the wildcard game.

However it is the Minnesota Twins who most surprised me this year.   They are on pace to win 100 games for only the second time in their club history.  They have won with a rag tag assortment of starting pitchers, cast offs by and large and rehab projects, along with a lineup that has hit a startling 301 home runs as of Thursday.   The faithful Twins fans hoped they would do better than last year, but I don’t think anyone thought that they would be as good and as entertaining as they have been.   Will this team win it all and bring home a world series championship to Minnesota?  My heart says I hope so, but my head says they don’t have enough starting pitching and are prone to too many errors fielding for this team to make a deep run in the playoffs.  They will likely play the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs and the Yankees have won a staggering 13 straight post season games against the Twins.  But streaks eventually end and sometimes the underdog rises up and does the impossible, win.

Congrats to this 2019 team and best of luck in the post season.  Regardless if they win or lose, its been a fun year being a fan and I can’t wait to see what this team with a little more pitching might accomplish in 2020.

 

And Yet We Guessed It Not

gardening-shoes

At Length

by Emily Dickinson

Her final summer was it
And yet we guessed it not,
If tenderer industriousness
Pervaded her, we thought

A further force of life
Developed from within,
When Death lit all the shortness up,
and made the hurry plain.

We wondered at our blindness,
When nothing was to see
But her Carrara guide-post
At our stupidity.

When duller than our dullness,
The busy darling lay,
So busy was she finishing,
So leisurely, were we!


 

I Like A Good Poem, One With Lots of Fighting

I have recently had lots of activity on Fourteenlines. It is from people looking for Roger McGough’s poem Vow. So I am reblogging it to make it easier for people to find.

Fourteen Lines

Mcgough Roger McGough

A Good Poem

by Roger McGough (1937 – )

I like a good poem
one with lots of fighting
in it. Blood, and the
clanging of armour. Poems

against Scotland are good,
and poems that defeat
the French with crossbows.
I don’t like poems that

aren’t about anything.
Sonnets are wet and
a waste of time.
Also poems that don’t

know how to rhyme.
If I was a poem
I’d play football and
get picked for England.


Vow

by Roger McGough

I vow to honour the commitment made this day
Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
For once incomplete, we now are whole.

I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
Things seem to go from bad to worse,
They also go from bad to better.

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Either We Hear You Or We Don’t Survive

 

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Hildegard Von Bingen

“She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans…. But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”
Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

by Malcolm Guite

A feather on the breath of God at play,
You saw the play of God in all creation.
You drew eternal light into each day,
And every living breath was inspiration.
You made a play with every virtue playing,
Made music for each sister-soul to sing,
Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,
And heard the Word of God in everything.
Mother from mother earth and Magistra,
Your song revealed God’s hidden gift to us;
The verdant fire, his holy harbinger
The greening glory of viriditas.
‘Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive’
Either we hear you, or we don’t survive.

One I Would Have Died To Save

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On The Death of Anne Bronte

by Emily Bronte

There’s little joy in life for me,
      And little terror in the grave;
I ‘ve lived the parting hour to see

  .    .Of one I would have died to save

Calmly to watch the failing breath,
.   .Wishing each sigh might be the last;
Longing to see the shade of death
  .   .O’er those belovèd features cast.

The cloud, the stillness that must part
      The darling of my life from me;
And then to thank God from my heart,

  .   .To thank Him well and fervently;

Although I knew that we had lost
.  .The hope and glory of our life;
And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,
.   .Must bear alone the weary strife.

 

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To My Sister
(Excerpt)

by William Wordsworth

One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.

Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.

And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
We’ll frame the measure of our souls:
They shall be tuned to love.

Then come, my Sister! come, I pray,
With speed put on your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness.

That It Will Never Come Again

halloween 1966

Masks off
Halloween 1966

That It Will Never Come Again

by Emily Dickinson

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
Believing what we don’t believe
Does not exhilarate.

That if it be, it be at best
An ablative estate —
This instigates an appetite
Precisely opposite.


I grew up surrounded by girl cousins and two sisters.  I was younger than all of them and all were better athletes.   I spent my entire childhood trying to keep up, whether it was in school and academics or back packing, climbing mountains, skiing, running, playing softball, climbing trees, swimming or tennis, I knew that women were not my equal, they were better. Having grown up thinking this group of women were invincible, its shocking that one of us is gone, a sudden, unexpected death.   It doesn’t fit into the way the world works.  In your mid 50’s we become accustomed to dealing with death; the death of parents, aunts and uncles, but not a first cousin so close in age.  It is a clarion call of how fragile life can be and how to not waste time on trivial squabbles. Instead focus on what is important in our families, love.

Darla was the youngest of the Fritch girls and closest to me in age, sympathetic to both the fun and challenges of two older sisters.  When we were young, she always kept an eye on me and made me feel special when we visited. As married adults, our families went on many ski strips together, my two kids and her two kids close in age. We shared winter vacations where we all crashed together in one cabin, cooked together, played games, went swimming and enjoyed the wonderful playful exhaustion that only comes from a day of downhill skiing.

Darla lived a good life.  She raised two fine sons with a loving husband, contributed to her community, was an excellent professor and mentor to her students.  She was fit and smart and took care of her body.  She enjoyed her life with joy right up until the end, having just come back from a back packing trip in the Big Horns in Wyoming.

Life isn’t supposed to end when we are having this much fun. Isn’t that the hope for everyone of us?  That regardless of our age, our loved ones will say, it was too soon. Darla’s death leaves an impossible void to fill, so unique is her beautiful life and warmth of personality.  Her legacy is as wide as her smile.  Her life and memory are a blessing to all who had the good fortune to know and love her, we shall miss you dearly.

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Darla Baumgarten (1960 – 2019)


Grief Dies

by Henry Timrod

Grief dies like joy; the tears upon my cheek
Will disappear like dew. Dear God! I know
Thy kindly Providence hath made it so,
And thank thee for the law. I am too weak
To make a friend of Sorrow, or to wear,
With that dark angel ever by my side
(Though to thy heaven there be no better guide),
A front of manly calm. Yet, for I hear
How woe hath cleansed, how grief can deify,
So weak a thing it seems that grief should die,
And love and friendship with it, I could pray,
That if it might not gloom upon my brow,
Nor weigh upon my arm as it doth now,
No grief of mine should ever pass away.

Self Reliant Like The Cat

iMMoore
Marianne Moore

To Come After a Sonnet
by Marianne Moore

A very awkward sketch, ’tis true:
But since it is a sketch of you,
And because I made it, too
I like it here and there; –do you?

Sonnets Uncorseted
6

by Maxine Kumin

I went to college in the nineteen forties
read Gogol, Stendhal, Zola, Flaubert.
Read Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky
and wrote exams that asked: contrast and compare.

Male novelists, male profs, male tutors, not
a single woman on the faculty
nor was there leaven found among the poets
I read and loved: G.M. Hopkins, A.E.

Housman, Auden, Yeats, only Emily
(not quite decoded or yet in the canon).
Ten years later, I struggled to break in
the almost all-male enclave of poetry.

Here’s a small glimpse in the the hierarchy:
famed Robert Lowell praising Marianne


Silence

by Marianne Moore

My father used to say,
“Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow’s grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard.
Self reliant like the cat —
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse’s limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth —
they sometimes enjoy solitude,
and can be robbed of speech
by speech which has delighted them.
The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence;
not in silence, but restraint.”
Nor was he insincere in saying, “`Make my house your inn’.”
Inns are not residences.

The Song of My Marrow-Bones

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Stanley Kunitz (

 

End with an image and don’t explain!

Stanley Kunitz

The End of Summer

By Stanley Jasspon Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.


This past Sunday was one of those September days that was masquerading as July.  It was hot, muggy, sunny and absolutely perfect, unless you found yourself on the top rungs of a ladder applying stain to siding on the southern and western sides of the house.   Then, it was down right HOT!   I embodied the last line of Hopkins poem below, I was my sweaty self, but worse.

The end of summer is here and fall is clearly visible in the canopy with trees starting to turn and leaves starting to drop.  Mentally if I go through the check list of all the projects I aspired to complete this summer, I would give myself a B+. The problem with house projects is the idea of getting something repaired is never as easy as the reality of actually fixing it.  It’s even more difficult when there are differing opinions on what actually needs to be done or how “easy” it would be to do it.   Ha!  But alas, I will not throw myself into damnation for my failures, like Hopkins seems want to do.  Instead I’ll give myself a pass and realize all those projects will be like a good hound, waiting for me faithfully next year.


Sonnet 45 – The Terrible Sonnets

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I WAKE and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sighs you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyest of spirit a dull dough sours.  I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

 

 

 

Never In Any Joy Of Suffering

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Self Portrait

Self Portrait at 44

by Linda Pastan

How friendly
my failures have become,
how understanding.
Scraping chairs across the room
they sit down next to me
like family almost,
and indeed we have grown
to look alike.
One of them always puts
a log on the fire
and though its wet
and fouls the room
I am warm for awhile,
and drunk with yawning
I sometimes fall asleep
sitting up.


Rilke was Austrian by birth, but traveled extensively in Europe and eventually settled in Switzerland. During his travels he met novelists (Tolstoy, Pasternak) sculptors (Rodin) and painters, often working for some of them or using the artists he met for creative inspiration for his writing.  He died young from Leukemia.  Rilke moved in artistic and intellectual circles for his times.  His writing is deeply mystical and has inspired numerous poets I admire, Pastan, Bly and Lowell are but a short list top of mind.

I recently picked up a book of Rilke’s sonnets translated by Stephen Mitchell.  I recommend it.  Mitchell is a talented translator having tackled projects in addition to poetry on religion and spirituality in Chinese, German and Hebrew.  I am intrigued by Mitchell’s The Gospel According to Jesus: A New Translation and Guide to His Essential Teachings for Believers and Unbelievers (1993), Tao Te Ching (1992) and The Book of Job (1992).  I have at least five different translations of the Tao Te Ching, I would be curious to see Mitchell’s version.

I am always fascinated by self portraits.  Someday I would like to think I will have time to create another self portrait, maybe even one with paint.  To date, the stained glass, lead creation above is the only one I have ever done.  However, the idea of creating a self-portrait in words as a poem is intriguing.  Am I capable of depicting a faithful rendering of myself in words or paint? Interesting to consider.  Have you crafted a self portrait or more than one?   Where does it hang, in your house or someone else’s?


Self-Portrait

by Rainer Maria Rilke

The stamina of an old long-noble race
in the eyebrows’ heavy arches. In the mild
blue eyes the solemn anguish of a child
and here and there humility — not a fool’s
but feminine: the look of one who serves.
The mouth quite ordinary large and straight
composed yet not willing to speak out
when necessary. The forehead still naive
most comfortable in shadows looking down.

This as a whole just hazily foreseen —
never in any joy of suffering
collected for a firm accomplishment;
and yet as though from far off with scattered things
a serious true work was being planned.