Monday, October 21, 2013

An Ugly Poem by Someone Who Can't Sing

Singing off key
With a voice that cracks,
Croaking not warbling,
Grasping for breath,
Losing the melody
(Pretending it's harmony),
Gravelly notes,
And a beat that falters.
In spite of all this
To sing with my soul
Pleases my Father.
That's enough for me
To endure listening to myself.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blueberries and Serenity

I just read an article about a billboard in Michigan. It says, "I'm concerned about the blueberries." See this. The man basically was encouraging people to be sensitive to others' troubles and help them out if possible. In other words: do good deeds--pay it forward. It comes across as very feel-good-about-yourself-by-being-nice. I really don't have any problem with the concept, except that it still bothers me. Why? It's a new godless version of the golden rule. It is basically saying that lots of real problems could be solved if we are just selfless. This is true, but the deception is that the solution is too simple. It forgets that we are sinful. It also forgets that helping people out there is much easier than fixing up the messes we've made with people right here--in our own circle of friends, in our own home, in our own bedroom. It's like the Serenity Prayer without the first word and the second stanza.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Under Observation

A break in the foliage,
A fluttering weed,
Shadows and darkness
And rustling speed--
Something has passed
Like a flighty thought
That escapes my attention
Before it is sought.
A turkey, a chipmunk,
Or maybe a deer--
It shot into the bush
Before I knew it was near.
Safe now and still
In the coolness and shade,
It watches my movements
From its gloomy glade.
The tables are turned--
I wanted to see
To admire and thrill!
But the "it" watches me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Let the Party Begin

There is not a breath of wind. The trees stand perfectly still, silent and thoughtful. The dogwood, ever impatient, has shed its green gown for a red one. They are all like brides, awaiting the celebration--not ready to sport their wedding finery. But that glorious day is coming, and they will parade their colors in heady celebration. The party begins, the wind picks up, and the leaves begin to dance and swirl and fall, till the trees stand naked and exposed for a long and dark wedding night.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cosmos for all Times

Jack and I embarked on a quest a few years ago to get to every Major League Baseball park--there are thirty. With a little effort and a few years gone by, we have made it to ten now. Looking back, and then looking forward to what we have yet to get to, I realize that it has not been the experience I had been expecting. My original thought was that if we did this, I'd get to see all these cities. The ballpark would be a bonus. It has been the opposite, and I am surprised at how satisfying that seems to me.

Each ballpark has its own personality, and the city wraps around it, embracing that personality with its people. Pittsburgh has a stunning skyline view from its park, while Wrigley's Field is like a step back in history. Cincinnati, right on the wide Ohio River, has a Southern flavor with its paddle boat theme. Minneapolis was sleek and modern in a big city with a small town feel--or was it a small city with a big town feel? Each stadium seems familiar with its similarities, and yet unique because of its location, its people, its club history, and its tradition.

Woven through all these parks is a common culture. The shirts and hats. The hotdogs and nachos. The National Anthem and the flag. The seventh inning stretch and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". I feel so American at a ballpark. I feel so united with everyone there. I feel like there can be world peace and healthy rivalry at the same time. Fads come and go at the ballpark--the wave being one on the way out. And hopefully YMCA. But some have a clinging power that will last for decades. Who can't help wanting to holler "Hey-O" like Harry Belafonte? Or anticipate the bugle and call to charge?

Have I mentioned they play baseball there? Known to be a slow-paced game, the ballpark provides distractions and entertainment aplenty. There's the "Fan Cam" panning across the stands putting shots of people on screen for their five seconds of fame. If you dance really well you can stretch that fame into half a minute! Some stadiums now have the "Kiss Cam" which could be embarrassing if that cute guy you're with is your brother! There's the mascots cavorting around the field and varying amounts of organ music. And while you're waiting for the club to change pitchers, you can buy peanuts, beer, cotton candy, pizza, sushi or pretzels. Foot-tall florescent cocktails with foot-long straws to match are consumed along with ice cream sandwiches and fresh squeezed frozen lemonade.

And they play baseball there! We love the players. We love the fans. We love the game. Oh beautiful, for spacious fields, for enthusiastic waves of fans, for purple pennants, and green and blue and yellow, above and about the rim. Baseball, O Baseball. God bless you for all the forgetfulness of troubles you give us, for all the fanhood that unites us, for all the excitement that you thrill us with. Impart to us brotherhood that goes beyond your walls, joy that lifts our spirits, and contentment with your simple pleasures. You are the American pastime, presentime and futuretime--a little cosmos of what is best about us as Americans. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Better Part of Valor

The warm, sunny half of the year is at my back  now, and I look ahead, literally, through a dark window--my own reflection staring back at me. It is time to write again. When the weather is warm and there is yard work to do and sunshine to warm my back, I find I have less to say and more to enjoy. As the days get shorter, I turn to writing to keep my mind in gear. However, I'm finding each year that I have less I want to put down in words. This is not an indication that my mind is shutting down, but more that there is less I want to say out loud.

Words are powerful--some too potent to be spoken and best left to thoughtful reflection. It's discerning which to speak and which to just think about that is difficult. There are questions to consider. Who will hear these words? What effect will it have on them? Is it my business to say words that will change them? How much do I need to say these words, or is just thinking them sufficient?

Some words deserve a cost/benefit analysis. If we ask what we are trying to achieve--an honest appraisal--we may find that our motives are turned too inward. We just want to hurt back, we are selfish, we want attention, we don't care. The most effective communication usually has the listener in mind. How will they hear this? Do they need to hear this? Will hearing this make them a better person? Is this the right time to speak?

Words that are spoken cannot return to being unspoken. Sometimes the better part of valor is silence.