I started reading the newspaper to begin my days in graduate school at Iowa State University–The Des Moines Register. It was an excellent newspaper from an era that now seems as far away and quaint as fading memories of my parents watching Walter Cronkite on a black and white TV.
The news is not black and white these days, as we all well-know; facts go begging and we are awash with options and opinions–it is all so exhausting, conflicted.
A few months ago, weary of it all, I broke a habit and started a new one.
I stopped reading the newspaper in the morning, quit looking at my phone or iPad to start my days, and started reading poetry. This small change of habit has been such a blessing, such a relief, and such a gift, shifting my sense of time and feeding creativity.
Currently, I am reading Jim Harrison’s last collection of poems, Deadman’s Float. Here is favorite poem, which I would be glad to quote for you by heart:
Warbler This year, we have two gorgeous yellow warblers nesting in the honeysuckle bush. The other day I stuck my head in the bush. The nestlings weigh one-twentieth of an ounce, about the size of a honey bee. We stared at each other, startled by our existence. In a month or so, when they reach the size of bumble bees, they'll fly off to Costa Rica, without a map.
Much of pastoring is about poetry, learning to find the lyrical rhythm of our lives together, the beauty of it, ways we are startled by our existence, times we discover our stunning ability to fly like warblers into chartless lands.
Pat Feldman loved birds and flowers and the startling joy of our mutual existence–loved poetry And when we celebrated her life, the church full to capacity with people standing in the aisles, granddaughter Scout and her son Jason shared poems they wrote in her memory.
These poems below are offered in memory of Pat, to be sure, but also to remind us all that in all the news of the world, poetry reveals truth that sustains us.
May God bless you and keep you,
Pr. Craig Jan-McMahon
Be Like You by Scout Feldman When I was young And staring at the multiplication tables that you brought when you came to visit I never imagined I’d want to be like you As I stared at that paper, filled with multiplication, Having no idea how to even add double digit numbers, You told me to multiply by two You told me it was the same thing as adding the number to itself Three times two Three plus three Six Multiplication is replication You taught me to replicate To duplicate To recreate At the time I had no idea how appealing replication could be But more appealing than the replication of numbers Was the replication of your smile I wanted to make people smile the way you did The way you made people laugh I wanted to be like you. Something I never thought I’d do.
Untitled By Jason Feldman Rest: While we mourn the loss of you A collector of things Custodian of friendships - epicurious relationships, toasting to the meaning - literary discussions turned to laughter, over knowledge Celebrations of talent, as if they were her own, knowing she played a part Prayers, with eyes shut so tight and hands clasped so strong Knowing she will hear and provide Keeping us all safe, so precious A woman to whom Cardinals sang in pre- dawn spring Calling for her to awaken- acknowledge life To her: Loons have swooned while discussing a sunset Shimmering on the water before the fire begins to crackle and children's laughter makes the stars brighten Her classroom was a child's refuge - Knowledge, Energy, Growth, Safety New paths to intellect - welcomed and pushed away Old ways still ring true Look me in the eye I care about you Your success is a reflection My Effort My Kindness My Sweat My Tears After years of hope we pause for breath and celebrate Even though in the beginning of this chapter she asked, "Why me?" However, show me no pity. I have lived and loved. Cause in the end we circled around, While she asked, "When will it be over?" She took the time to roll her eyes and gasp Smile, and pray for us. Rest: As we celebrate the memory of you.