In memory of those who stopped along their way

As 2017 closes, I’ve been thinking of all those who stopped along their way and reached out to me. Those outside of family who made an impact of me.

Of those teachers who gave me a little extra. My fourth-grade-speech teacher, Mrs. Hennis, who saw potential in me when no one else did. Mrs. Duke who sold me on the Greeks. The conservative Mr. Norton who believed that democracy required honest debate and that no one side had all the answers. Mr. Hickman, who gave me a chance to read books that stretched my imagination.

Of my high school friends, David Ruhlman, Dave Dupuy, Bobbie Ann Ward, Warren Walter, who came to my rescue when I needed it most. Of Kay Hines who taught me what it meant to be gay. Of Wendell and Ruth Rieck who were the very image of hospitality. Of Ray Armstrong and Mary Ellen Barret whose lives were examples of faith and wisdom.  And of George Rieck, the best of friends.

These are folks that cared for me enough to touch my life in a special way. I’m sure each of you have someones who stopped for you. For just a few moments, close your eyes and remember them as you listen to Greg Lake’s “Footprints in the Snow”:

10 Resolutions I’m Making For the New Year

Here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful New Year. Party like it’s 1999 but don’t drive while drinking. Remember there are a lot of amateur drunks on the highway. Better yet, stay home and invite your friends over. Let them face the amateurs. Isn’t that what friends are for? Anyway here is my list of New Year’s Resolutions.

1.Remind people that I am not dead yet. But Elvis is.

2.Start a Bucket List, and make sure the bucket ain’t leaking.

3.Turn on the light at 3 a.m., so I don’t break another toe stumbling around in the dark.

4.Quit throwing the alarm clock across the room. Alarm clocks are like hearts. They break easily.

5.Give up dancing. I have no rhythm. At all.

6.Quit imagining I am a bullfighter. Those bulls have horns, and they hurt.

7.Don’t play with guns. I will shoot my eye out. Ouch!

8.Next Halloween I shall not go as a pumpkin. At least, not without cleaning out the insides.

9.Betting on the horses is no retirement plan.

10.Gotta give up singing “In-a-gadda-da-vida” in the shower. The shower is getting sick of my singing.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: The Great Courses

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is The Great Courses and The Great Courses Plus:

I already hear some of you saying, “You’ve sold out, Uncle Bardie.” Well, I am here to tell you that I have not sold out. The Great Courses is not giving Uncle Bardie any moolah to sell the Great Courses. The thing is I love these guys.

Are you a learn-a-holic?  If you’re like me, you have so much curiosity it could kill fifty cats. So I want to give a shout-out for the Great Courses. These days you can get a college edumacation without taking a test, doing homework or even leaving your house.

The Great Courses offer college level classes taught by master teachers. And the courses are inexpensive too. (I bought them on sale when I was buying them.) The Great Courses can either be streamed to your computer or they will send the DVDs. Recently I joined The Great Courses Plus which allows me to stream hundreds of courses for an affordable subscription fee.

Been planning on doing some historical research. The Great Courses have you covered. Want to get to know Shakespeare? There’s several courses on him as well. Want to learn Spanish or French? Great Courses have that too. There’s courses on writing, on art and on music. Plus hundreds of other courses on science, math, travel, photography, cooking. If you have super-smart kids who want to get a step up on college, I can’t think of a better thing to do.

With me, it was a course on how to publish a book by Jane Friedman that got me started. Then I bought a course on art and Japan and British history. I have viewed courses on creative nonfiction and writing great fiction, the secret history of words and the art of storytelling. And for research I have watched several courses on the history of Israel and Christianity, the Tudor and Stewart dynasty, and Victorian Britain. Recently I purchased their Screenwriting 101.

You can see that I am hooked. So if you’ve been meaning to begin whetting that curiosity of yours, 2018 is the time for you. Join me in the joy of being a learn-a-holic.

haiku for the day: another cat’s tail (oops, I mean tale)

My cat, Little Bear, likes to play. But her idea of play is not mine. I do all the work and she watches. I throw the ball and she watches where it goes. Then expects me to go and get it. I’ve done it so much I think she’s got me trained. From time to time, I dangle a long shoe string over her. She goes crazy after it. Before I know it, she has pulled it out of my hand. Then Little Bear does a Garfield with a “I don’t want to play now.”

playing with the cat
her tail snaps to attention
the end of playtime

Near 500 words: The Mother of All Living

–from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

One of the most moving statues, for me, is “The Penitent Magdalene” by the Italian artist Donatello. With it, we get the figure of Mary Magdalene after years of wandering in the desert. It’s a statue that I love.

After spending some time gazing at pictures of it, I began to think of Eve. The Genesis story doesn’t give us much after she and Adam left the Garden of Eden. All we know is that Eve had three children.

One, Cain, murdered his younger brother, Abel. After Cain was banished to only God-knows-where, Eve and Adam had a third son. His name was Seth.

It seems to me that something is missing from that story. What was it like to leave the comfort and security of the Garden of Eden and spend their years wandering in a world that was so large and people-less? I began to imagine those two wandering souls and their regret for losing Eden. How they must have felt being cut off from God. The depth of their homesickness. Especially Eve, who gets the brunt of the blame for their banishment.

As I thought about the story, I remembered Psalm 137. This particular Psalm was written while the Jews were exiled in Babylon. It begins, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” The Psalmist was speaking for anyone who has been forced from their homeland and cannot return.It’s the story of the African slaves. It’s the story of the Jewish, the Armenian and the Irish diaspora. It’s the story of the Syrian refugees and refugees everywhere.

So I wrote this poem.

“My heart is breaking,” 
Eve told the Earth. 
Then Eve scribbled the words
with the ink of her tears

into the dirt upon the Earth’s back. 
“My son murdered my son, 
and the murderer is a ghost 
haunting the valleys 
and the mountains.” 

Eve sat by a tree 
mourning her first born, 
mourning her second child, 
the blues in her eyes shedding  
seven hundred seventy-seven tears each day  
‘tween the sunrise and the moon. 
“Tree, my heart is bleeding,” 
she sang, her grief rising 
like smoke up to the ears of God. 

Eve went down  
to the church by the river Cry. 
She lit a votive candle 
and prayed the rosary 
one hundred and fifty times 
for the souls of her sons,

one whose life was taken away, 
one who took the life
and a third,
a new beginning.