774. Everything Far Becomes Near: A New Poetry Chapbook by a Dear Friend

Ann Conway, a writer currently living in Pittsburgh, has been my dear friend for more than 15 years. We first met in a writing workshop in Santa Fe, both of us trying to navigate a working life and a writing life. She has recently released a chapbook of poetry, Everything Far Becomes Near (Finch & Fellow). Here is one poem, among many between the book’s covers, that stunned me into silence, quickening my spirit.

Hearing Test

Once I dreaded you,
all I could not hear,
the long pauses indicating failure.
But inside the grey padded booth,
I am amphibious,
My chambered heart thudding
as I listen to a symphony of sonar:
small beeps
far away trumpets and bumps
some imagined, most not.
I listen as hard to what I hear
as I did when a child at Scarborough Beach,
lying with ear to sand
that I knew was full of sea water,
all I loved and dreaded most.
In a world muted between beach and breeze,
I heard a whale call miles beyond the undertow.
I sensed his questing eye,
his barnacled heft
a citizen of the maplessness
where I have always longed to live,
in the country without test
that of Ysma’el, meaning
”God harkens, listens.”

Conway-EverythingFarBecomesNear.jpeg

773. Lifted Faces and Flashing Eyes

773. CreekWalkway.jpeg

From the blog archives (February 11, 2016), a post about the human spirit:


I’ve been reading a book by Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility. Trueblood, a Quaker theologian, wrote the book in the late 1940s in response to the prevalent sense of futility in society around him despite the end of World War II. In many ways he could have been writing today.

This paragraph jumped off the page at me:

“Joy has gone out of much of our lives. Millions go through the motions as though they were waiting for a catastrophe. What we miss, almost everywhere, is the uplifted face and the flashing eye. Men [and women] cannot live well either in poverty or abundance unless they see some meaning and purpose in life, which alone can be thrilling.”

Trueblood goes on to describe societal ways in which the human spirit can be renewed. While some of his suggestions and ideas are a bit dated, this key – and timeless– theme emerges: the need for communities to be a place of renewal for each other.

In a chapter called “The Habit of Adventure.” he wrote:

“Here then is our clue. The method which succeeded before must be tried again and we must not be dismayed by its amazing simplicity. The best chance for the renewal of the human spirit in the twentieth [read: twenty-first] century, as in the first, lies in the formation of genuinely redemptive societies in the midst of ordinary society. Such fellowships could provide a sense of meaning for the members within the societies and, at the same time, maintain an infectious influence on the entire culture outside.”

Through my little blog and my little books, I’m trying, in a small way, to offer this to you. A space of community and camaraderie in which we lift our faces and not only open our eyes, but flash them, as Trueblood wrote. I like that image of emanating light. It’s my hope, and assumption, you have other real-time spaces in your life for this renewal: churches, family, friends, book groups, special interest groups, and so on. There are also opportunities for such spaces online, and I hope you’re finding what you need wherever you can. Please consider letting me know how I can do better at providing such a space. Also consider letting me know where else you find community and and camaraderie that encourages you to lift your face and flash your eyes - if I get enough response to this I may include them in a subsequent newsletter or blog post.

Thank you for taking the time to read. As always, I appreciate it so very much.

~~~

[Photo: taken of a new walkway along a nearby creek. I love how the sun is flashing off the metal coils.]

772. A Sign Pointing the Way [to the Beach]

772. BeachSign.jpg

One afternoon this past week I got up from my desk to take a walk. I walked down a street I'd never been before and something caught my eye and delivered joy. In the corner of a yard, just along the sidewalk, but nearly hidden by garden overgrowth, was a small metal sign that said "BEACH." The letters were cut-outs, which made the sign particularly hard to see given that the foliage behind it showed through (see the banner photo). My guess is many have walked right past it as I would have also if some unknown something hadn't caused me to look in the exact right place and in the exact right way. Above the word was a figure that appeared to be in motion, ready to leap from a board (diving or surf?) or simply from the sand into the water. Under the word was an arrow pointing the way.

I wondered about the arrow given as there was no beach across the street or on the next street over. It struck me first as wishful thinking, but then I thought some more and indeed there is a beach in the direction of the arrow if you go down a few blocks then find your way either to a walking path or the road alongside a lake and wind around a bit before coming to a rather small parking area and follow another path down to a nearly hidden beach.

The sign in the yard had a hint of something to be found. A sign of something good in the direction it pointed. A spark of joy, a promise, a silent companion on the road.

Keep your eyes open!

~~~

[Photo: taken of the BEACH sign. A spark of joy, yes?]