Tag Archives: hope

Labour Day

upIt was, I recall, one of only two days a year the mill shut down.
To celebrate their right, the unions would parade wearing caps
of folded newsprint and then host games and races at the local
ball-field, “Come one, come all.” Later, there’d be a boiled dinner,
a dollar a plate. If you knew the who, there was always a case of beer
hidden somewhere, which explained the over loud jocularity.

But it had been a dying practice even before I left. And now
the baseball diamond is gone, the bleachers torn down and the park
that replaced it goes unused. The mill is shut down too, a victim
of much wanting more: the unions, the company, the town. In fact,
I hear they’re going to tear down the empty buildings and rehabilitate
the land, make it like all of it—none of it—was ever there.

Perhaps if they do I’ll walk down to where it was by the river—it always
was a pretty river—because I’ll be one of the last to remember:
the log booms and the spring jams, the sulfur mounds, the chip piles,
the railroad, the loud machines…the men with their wicker baskets
hurrying to beat the whistle. What I didn’t know then…

Maybe, as I stand there, I’ll pick up a rock and skip it across
the water and yell, Hey salmon, it’s your turn again, good luck!
Just don’t forget to give thanks, always give thanks, you have
to give thanks for what you’ve got.
 And remember, much wants more—
that’s the simple why of the world—much wants more, every time.

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I was speaking to my father last year on Labour Day (note the British spelling) and about how it had been a very special day in my little town of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada when I was growing up. The local industry was a newsprint factory (the paper for the New York Times was, for example, made exclusively there) and the right to form unions had been a long, bitter and necessary battle to fight and win. Men were proud of their unions and proud of the prosperity it had bought.

And now? In the modern world, management has won. Labour Day is just an end of summer vacation day where the name, the rights and the history of it are no longer appreciated. My point is not to comment on the status of modern labor rights, but to lament the loss with the past, however good and bad it was.

Thank you for reading Labour Day. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph in the public domain; notes and poem © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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Soulfullness

IMG_0727The tiny of quantum holds us together,
while the huge of relativity pulls us apart.
The taut in-between is pure chaos,
and that surely is ours and ours alone,
our ‘I’ versus our ‘us’. Choose wisely.

From dawn’s touch to dusk’s demise,
tiny grows to huge as vivid turns to gloom
in the day/night mapping of each hope.
We are, at best, always on the tipping point,
drawn by strange attractors buried deep
in the bone and in our past and future.
And though they have pulled us together,
they have split us and broken us repeatedly,
until we can barely stand it,
and just when we need us the most.
They say, in balance, to ‘live in the moment,’
but to be honest, sometimes I think
we have enough just to live in the scale.
Choose wisely.

swril2

In the 20th century there were three great scientific breakthroughs that are both staggeringly profound and utterly beautiful: 1) the development of quantum mechanics, the study of the fundamental, subatomic particles that all creation is made of, 2) general relativity, Einstein’s geometric understanding of gravity in the space-time continuum, and, 3) chaos theory, the study of dynamic systems that are highly effected by initial conditions and which, while determined by those conditions, are yet not predictable over time.

The noteworthy point of these three theories is that the first deals with the infinitely small and the second with the infinitely large, scales of size which we can imagine but not experience. It is the third concept, chaos, that we can perceive and study on the human scale. We are surrounded by chaotic systems, the weather and the climate being the most obvious examples. But chaos hits even closer to home: chaotic driven processes build and operate our entire body, as indeed, they do for all nature. Chaotic systems seem random, but often are not; most tend to move toward centralized states referred to as ‘strange attractors.’

If you are as intrigued by this concept as I am, a very good book for the general public (no math needed) is Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. I recommend it highly.

Anyway, back to the poem. As I was thinking of all this, I got to wondering how chaos could be conceived of in our emotional and spiritual lives…

Thank you for reading Soulfullness. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at a farm stand in Pennsylvania.To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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For Phil’s dad

IMG_2490

Sitting in the chair
Replacing death with hope
A chemo I.V.

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Phil Wilke is a dear friend of mine from when I lived in Kansas. And while, sadly, my move to New England has put much mileage between us, no distance has grown to separate us…he is still as dear to me now as he was then.

Phil is wonderfully intelligent, wise, kind, generous and one of the funniest people I have ever met. It was with great sadness that I learned from him recently that his father was ill with cancer. (In fact, I wrote The long wait after hearing about it.)

Although Phil is a journalist and a great prose writer, he has used the terseness of haiku to express himself during the difficult times his family is facing. I am honored to share one of these haiku  with you. I hope you like it and I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. Poem © 2014 by Phil Wilke; all rights reserved. Oddly enough—for me, anyway—it is used by permission of the author.

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In Rwanda, colline is French for hill

red

The collines rolled on to the horizon, green drifting into dark,
verdant into resigned and all of it into the red quivering sunset.
And me there thinking it back literally for as long
as we have measured it: up eye, down eye, see-us-all bloody eye,
never-stop-rising eye, blind to it all; the victims begging,
their wide eyes screaming, the yelling, the weeping,
the hoarse men grunting, excited to be on the hunt.

Thus it has gone and thus it goes still, repeating ever so,
their echoes floating up and down the valleys below—
les pauvres, the ones we sit and watch go home
to the cool, cool dark—the loam of them drifting off into green,
resigned into verdant, and all of it under the crimson sun,
literally for as long as it has watched us.

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My home in Rwanda (I was there as a Bahá’í to teach my religion) looked to the west over the collines (pronounced cull-LEANs) directly into the most spectacular sunsets. Beyond this, the poem ties together a number of other thoughts and memories of Africa:

• it’s beauty. The vista of rolling, green treed hills fading into black at the horizon was stunning.

• Rwanda is close to the equator but in the highlands of Africa. The sun at that latitude often seemed to be a big, red eye burning into the horizon as it set.

• Africa is the birthplace of humanity. We do not know the exact region where homo sapiens first evolved, but it was probably close to Rwanda, in Central Africa. In any case, it is in Africa where we, as a species, first developed the concept of, and started measuring, time.

• it would be comforting to think that the 1994 Rwandan genocide was an isolated event. Sadly it is not, and not just in Rwanda but throughout the entire continent. Tribal dominance and warfare have been and is, in Africa, just as unrelenting as every other form of political violence has been, and is, throughout the rest of the world. What makes it so disheartening in Rwanda is not only that it happened in 1994, and before that in the early 1960s, and is still happening today north of Rwanda, in Uganda, and over the western border in the Congo.  Moreover, the very personal nature of this kind of violence typifies African conflicts: up front and personal, usually machete, and often, neighbor to neighbor.

May we all look forward to a day soon to come when the cries of those poor victims of violence—nos pauvres—will no longer be heard anywhere in this sad, beleaguered world, nor will anyone be put to rest in the dark, loamy soil earlier then the time when God calls them.

Thank you for reading In Rwanda, colline is French for hill. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Eastern Point Beach in Groton, Connecticut. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © 2013 by John Etheridge; photograph © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Dignity

Blown by the chill wind, the blossoms were thick
in the air, the white petals flying and whirling,
building into soft and delicate snow-like drifts.
Along the street, the residents looked out,
knowing it would be their job to dig their way clear,
harumphing over the unnecessary why of it.

On her way home, she trudged through the drifts,
her face frozen, tears in her eyes,
her scarf whipping anchorless behind her
as she desperately tried to hold onto
that last shred of spring she had left.

 

swril2

All springs of all types—physical, mental, moral and spiritual—abide with new life and hope. But still, much can be asked and hurt at such delicate moments…

The photograph is entitled Courage and was taken in my home town, Putnam, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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At a cafe, watching

Have a seat

She plays, as all little girls do
when allowed to be themselves,
(by themselves, for themselves)
with an intense ferocity of will
that allows no entrance to her
fantastical: crayons to paper
with a non-stop dialog
of the ways, whys and whos
of her world.

She is my daughter. What’s more,
her sisters are my daughters
and her brothers my sons.
Her cousins, friends and schoolmates—
they too are my daughters and sons.
And all I want to tell them
is that I’m sorry, that I never meant
for it to be this way, that I had hoped
for better when I started.
But the fantastical—as real
as it is—admits no one,
and especially not us unbelievers.
So I pay my bill and leave,
not saying, of course, a word.

swril2

She was a darling child, caught up in her play so completely that it was fascinating just to watch her, her mother off to the side talking with friends. I thought, “There is great hope—despite our worst—yet for this world.”

Thank you for reading At a cafe, watching. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Have a seat and was taken in New York City on the steps of the Manhattan library. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Self-portrait

That's me in the spotlight

Strong walls and empty halls,
rubber bands and hooks, softness;
brick and mortar, blood and bone,
eye and ear and mouth.
There is a left here, but no right
and every up has its down:
a grip, a hold, a lunge, a fall,
tumult in the night.

Smile and tear, laugh and bark,
tomorrow—there’s always tomorrow—
wait and see, hope and more,
little patience and little else.
Me looking at me looking at you
looking at me,
while the heat builds all the greater
from the forgotten whence
to the unknowable hence, on. On.

swril2

Thank you for reading Self-portrait, and please forgive me if you think it pure hubris. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled That’s me in the spotlight and was taken at my home in Putnam, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Thank you for reading Self-portrait. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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