755. Beyond work

755. Juniper Berries.jpg

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I watched the 2016 film Paterson for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Paterson the film is about Paterson the man who lives in Paterson the village. Paterson the man, played by Adam Driver, is in his late 20s or early 30s and drives a city bus. He is married to Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, who is passionate about many things, including home decorating, learning to play guitar, and baking and selling cupcakes at a weekend community market. Paterson does more than drive a bus; he also writes poems.

He writes poems in his head as he walks to work each morning. Before he drives his bus out of the garage, he writes down the lines that came to him during that morning’s walk in the notebook he always carries with him. At lunch, while he eats his sandwich and drinks coffee from his thermos, he again takes out his notebook and adds the lines that came to him while he drove. At home, he goes down to his basement office—a desk and some shelves in an unfinished basement—and adds a few more lines. His wife begs him to read some of his poems to her, and he keeps promising he will but never does. She begs him to send his work out to some magazines. Instead, he just keeps writing, line by line.

The world around him seems to give him signs that what he’s doing matters, although the signs are not profound or recognizable to anyone else. No readers show up cheering his work, and no agents or publishers suddenly appear. He has no social media account that magically gains followers. The signs are more along the lines of “I see you.”

As he writes line by line in his head and in his notebook, he has a steadiness about him and an inner drive, not toward success, which is usually how the word ‘drive’ is used today, but a drive to keep putting the words together until they fit, and the final click unlocks some inner release and the eyes widen and the soul opens.

I wish this film had been around while I was writing Finding Livelihood. It probably would have made its way into one of the chapters. While the film features a man writing poetry while he also drives a bus, the broader implication can be a fill-in-the-blank sort of prospect for any of the rest of us. What else are you about beside your work or alongside your work? In what ways do you seek the opening of eyes and soul to what is beyond your work?


[photo: taken of the juniper berries on the table at the American Swedish Institute while I drank my coffee last week.]

700. Joy in the morning

Joy in the morning.jpg

I wrote the following little poem in response to the story of the chronically sick man healed by Jesus at the pool of Bethesda, from the fifth chapter of the gospel of John. I wrote it several years ago, but finding it this morning in my papers gave me a surge of encouragement and energy. Maybe it will for you as well.

Repeat as Needed

Water stirring;
Grace entering;
Life calling;
Will assenting;
Hope rising;
Change coming;
Self standing;


[Photo: taken of a little weed that caught my eye while on a walk.]

675. Christian Wiman on reading and writing

Christian Wiman on reading and writing.jpg

Last Thursday, I skipped my coffee break, skipped my lunch, and left my desk midafternoon to go hear Christian Wiman speak and read at an event at the University of Minnesota sponsored by MacLaurinCSF, a Christian study center. Wiman, in case you don't know, is a "highly acclaimed" poet, former editor of Poetry Magazine, author of multiple books, including My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, a book of prose about his "return to God" while fighting cancer. Currently, he teaches at Yale Divinity School.

Wiman was warm and generous in his reading and comments to the handful of us seated in the lecture room. It is always noteworthy when a public figure is warm and generous to a smaller than expected audience. The poems he read were the kind that made you want to push a pause button after each so you could let it sink in for awhile. My favorite poem he read was “My Stop is Grand,” in which he reflected on his times riding the Chicago El – which I rode so many times over four years of my life – to work. The El shot through “a hell of ratty alleys” and after emerging:

screechingly peacocked
a grace of sparks
              so far out and above
the fast curve that jostled
and fastened us
               into a single shock of—
I will not call it love

You can read the whole poem here at the Poetry Foundation.

I wanted to tell about that poem because I wanted to share with you that image of the peacocking sparks, turning a mundane dreary ride to work experienced by separate individuals into a corporate epiphany. I loved that.

I also want to tell you two other things he said in passing, one related to reading and the other to writing, and when I say related to writing, I also mean related to living. Those of you who've read this blog long enough have figured out that I think what's good for writing is good for living and visa versa.

About reading: Wiman said that he used to read for what he could get out of a book, but the older he gets the more he finds himself reading for relationship. Reading is a way to find out what other people in his life are thinking and what they like, and it provides opportunity to talk about things with other people. (Note: none of this reportage is direct quote but only my paraphrase.) Reading as relational - I want to remember that.

About writing (aka living): Wiman said that most of his poems are the result of an event percolating inside him for about 10 years before he starts to write. I take that as a reminder to be patient with all things, to take the long view, to let things take their time to accrue meaning, particularly those things that have that shimmer around them that says "pay attention."


[Photo: taken of the paper covering I glued on this composition notebook in which I wrote this blog post - and so many others - before posting. This post took the notebook's last page so time for a new notebook. To give credit for the design: CanvasCorp.]