Readers of this blog include members of several of the world's major faiths and many others of no faith at all. I am not a member of any religious group, though I was brought up in the Christian tradition. I now consider most religion to be myth, but I say that in no way to belittle the faith of anyone - I consider most mythology to be full of very real lessons and values which have had great import to people down through the ages, and continue to be important today.
At a time of year when many of us are observing holidays, Holy Days, and perhaps idly wishing peace to our fellow humans, let me reflect for a minute on the so-called followers of Christ. First off, how can they possibly advocate going to war, no matter what the justification? What purported teaching of Christ allows revenge? And when, exactly, did God become the property of the right-wing?
"Blessed are the peacemakers", Jesus is supposed to have said. "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."... "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good for them that hate you."... "forgive men their trespasses"..."Be wise as serpents," he is supposed to have said,"and harmless as doves." Is anybody picking up on a theme here?
I, frankly, don't know if the Christian religion has any more merit than the Santa Claus myth, but Virginia, if you choose to believe in Christ, hadn't you better listen to his words?
Peace be with you, all of you - believers, unbelievers, seekers and suckers - if you think there's a God, I think there are a bunch of 'em.
New friends in Buenos Aires taught me a proverb which I hadn't heard before -
En la vida, debes hocer tres cosas:
- Tener un hijo
- Plantar un arbol
- Escribir un libro
In your life, you must do three things:
- Raise a child
- Plant a tree
- Write a book
I like it, probably because it's the only "To Do" list which I've ever completed. Well, I suppose it's true that I only helped a bit in raising children and the book is a very slim volume of poetry, but there were lots of trees.
Thanks to the mothers and the motherless. Thanks to the Ho Chunk and the Crow. Thanks to the poultry, thanks to the yam, thanks to the farmer and the fisher. Thanks to the one who does. Thanks to the well-wisher.
Thanks to the fathers and the prodigal sons. Thanks to the bird and the bee. Thanks to mechanics, thanks to cows. Thanks to the comic and the rain-cloud and the sun and the humble and the proud.
Thanks to the painters and the crimson paint; thanks to the poets and the words. Thanks for the paper. Thanks for the pen. Thanks for erasers and time. Thanks for rivers flowing. Thanks for strength to climb.
We've reached the second anniversary of the Arem Arvinson Log, and by coincidence (sheer or shear?) this is post #222. Forgive my moment of self-congratulation, but I guess I'm fairly happy with the blog as a body of work. If you're a newcomer, a serious blog addict, or otherwise totally without a life of your own, have a look through the archives.
Thank you all for dropping by, and thanks especially to those who've given me a link from their own blog. Stop in whenever you're in the neighborhood.
It's not so bad when I think in terms of a poemor a drawing, but when I allow myself to begin to think of a book - a book of poems and drawings - any pretense of good housekeeping just goes to hell. Tables and desks piled too high for anything more, the floor a few layers thick, I wade through piles of paper, roll in words and images and daydreams, surface occasionally for food and drink (oh, yes, more drink please) and then slide back beneath the surface, where I can hold my breath for a very long time.
(and I'm pretty sure I was, a couple of days ago,) I've got to tell you of a wonderful experience I had recently. The Canon SD230 digital, which had served so well, was overcome by some supernatural sort of glitch which rendered it more or less a pain in the ass. Since it was three or four years out of warranty, I decided to call Canon, just to find out which current model might accept the same periferal gear I had purchased for the old camera. I clenched my jaw and prepared for the endless horror of talking to machines and waiting for hours which I was sure would follow. WRONG! Within moments, I was talking to Johanna, a real, live human who was totally competent, caring, and courteous. We talked about new cameras that might fill the bill and then Johanna asked about the nature of the problem I was having. I explained, and also explained that my warranty was long gone. Well, she said, I'm going to send you shipping labels and all you'll have to do is pack the camera, and shipping will be paid to our service center, where they'll either fix your camera or make you a very good deal on a replacement. That sounded good, but not as good as the result - within ten days, I received a refurbished SD630 (!), a much newer and much improved camera, at absolutely no cost to me!
To receive terrific service from an electronics company in an electronic age is not something I can take for granted, and I must certainly recommend to my friends, that if they are in the market for any sort of device that Canon makes, they should look no farther. Incidentally, mine is not a unique experience, as I told this story to a friend who, almost word for word, had the same story to tell about Canon.
Sunlight, thick as syrup and golden flowing on sweet afternoon of saxophone serenade but bass, the note of discord beneath and chill, the shadow where he stands as she leaves, again. Wind where music was and shrill, now the thinning light as metal on slate. Tin whistle shrill.
The camera should be held Quite low, I think, To make me appear taller and to hide baldness. The lens should be of the type Which makes one look slim and muscular. Also, I believe, A rather soft focus would be good. I’ll need the kind of lighting Which adds a great deal of dignity and youthful vitality. If I am to speak, The microphone must be attached To some sort of apparatus That renders the voice lower and more mellow.
I will, With proper planning and rehearsal, Be very candid and spontaneous.
Are we what we read, I wonder? Probably not - no more than we are what we eat, or what we drive, or what we wear. I suppose those of us who try to write may be a little more of what we read than your average bear or Bears fan, but I think we need to be careful to live it, rather than just read about it, if we're going to tell stories that anybody wants to hear.
I came across the term "vastly unread" lately, in an article by someone I respect immensely, who suggested that the term would apply to you if you have not read a particular author. I take his point, but also that of the Clean Old Man who tells Ringo to put down his "boook" and get out and live life. Parts of life are not found in the pages of books, no matter how well written, and the best of writers, I think, don't JUST read.
Don't misunderstand me - read all you can - but do it when the sky is dark, the stars aren't out, and the bars are closed.
Are our heads just lovely jugs to hold the words we've read until it comes time to pour them back out? Did Conrad just READ about going to sea?
Tell me a story - but don't tell me somebody else's.
There are a few new connections over in the "links" area of the screen that I'd like to bring to your attention:
Norb Blei's Poetry Dispatch, which has long been available by email, is now being archived and brought to you by the mysterious Monsieur K., to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Merci ! This site will be one of the best poetry resources available.
John Brzezinski - Photographer, is just that - and a damned good one. John also runs the blog "OKO".
Julie Eger, is just starting her web site, and it's looking very good. Julie is a friend, excellent writer and poet, great spirit - I congratulate her on this new effort.
And, not a new link, but if you care at all about what is happening in the world and/or good writing, please have a look at the September 6th entry at Baghdad Burning.
He'd have been 100 years old today, 29 September 2007, this prize-fighter/pacifist cowboy/carpenter. He was a good father. He was a good man. He's in a good place.
Perhaps fittingly, his death in 1999 gave birth to the writing portion of my life, when, the night before his funeral, I wrote this eulogy and spoke it at the service the next day:
A Short Eulogy For Arvin Murre
There's an old Shaker hymn that says " 'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free, 'tis a gift to come down where you ought to be..." I don't know if Dad ever heard that song, but it could have been written about him, because he was richly blessed with those three gifts.
To be simple: We've turned that idea around so it almost sounds like an insult. But Dad was wonderfully simple. He never wanted for more than he had; more stuff, more clutter. He showed us that it was a gift to have simple desires.
To be free: Anyone who ever heard Dad walking across the farmyard at five in the morning, whistling a tune of his own, knew that he was as free as the birds, who whistle their own tunes.
To come down where you ought to be... What do you think that means? I think, for Dad, it meant coming down next to Mom; next to Laura, the love of his life. He's with her now...free again and at home with the one he loves.
Dad never put much stock in words... "Words are but a breeze"...he told us. So what can we learn from a man who never said much? Let's think of what we never heard him say... We never heard him say " I hate so and so, or that group of people, or that race of people...or that religion." So maybe we can learn something about tolerance; maybe even love.
We never heard him brag. Although he was a great craftsman, and we know he was proud of his work, he never bragged about anything; just let his work speak for itself. So maybe we can learn something about humility.
We never heard him say "Oh, I couldn't do that” or “You can't do that."... He always found a way to do what needed to be done. So maybe we can learn something about self-confidence.
But, his greatest lesson can only be learned by following his example... and I'm speaking now to the men...he taught us what it means to be a father...and what it means to be a man. So, Thank You, Dad... for the things you said...and for the things you never had to say. Thank You for your Life.
All of these years blown away like calendar pages in a black and white movie I saw once when I was little, kind of hokey, I mean – the years and blowing around like that – and me in the wind all the time and my fragile shelter leaning to leeward and me leaning with it like a strawhouse pig with The Tabernacle Choir of Wolves huffing at the door, an empty fridge, and thinking, sticks, I could have built with sticks, been a nine to five pig with a long commute, gone to a straw house for a 2 wk. smmr. rntl., been a regular boar, dreaming of brick.
Many of you younger readers won't remember this, but there was a time, shortly after the Beatles* left the side of Baba Ram Dass**, when he was visited by Bebe Rebozo***, who was in something of a quandary.
"Baba", said Bebe, "I have lost my way. I am clearly not a Beatle, but if I were, what advice would you have for me?"
"Bebe", said Baba, " I will tell you what I would tell you if you were not just you, but a Beatle, too: Bebe, you must simply BE Bebe!"
"But Baba," babbled Bebe, "I have forgotten how to just BE Bebe, and what's more, I don't know if I even want to be Bebe, Baba."
"To be Bebe, or not to be Bebe;" rebutted Baba,"that is the . . . (to be continued)
Suppose for a minute we are brothers, you and I. Suppose our mother has been attacked by a terrible disease. In the course of fighting the illness, our mother has become addicted to the drug which was prescribed to cure her. Now imagine that one of us feels that the medicine is doing her more harm than the disease and is struggling to get her off of the drug, while the other is convinced that she will surely die if she stops taking her medication, and fights to keep her taking it. Can we say that one of us loves his mother more?
On July 17th, I read some of my poetry to a small but wonderful group in Appleton, Wisconsin, and then began wending my way Northward on my faithful Harley-Davidson, Rozinante, a good little horse.
It has taken me a while to begin to understand my journey, and since it was not planned, I cannot say it did or did not meet my expectations. My route took me near the home of a friend I had not seen for over 40 years, and with some trepidation, I stopped to visit her. I don't know what I was worried about, since we had a good visit - talked very little of old times - but more about who we are now. Very interesting. I knew that her brothers, with whom I had been close, were buried somewhere nearby, in a Native American cemetery, and she gave me directions to it, so I could pay my respects on my way through. I bought some tobacco to sprinkle on their graves, which I did in my own not-so-knowledgeable but heartfelt ceremony.
Onward to True North, as best we in the Lower 48 can understand it, the Keweenaw peninsula of Michigan. The U.P. of the U.P. A good visit with friends Jikiwe, (potter extraordinaire, co-editor of the magnificent Cliffs "Soundings", and leader of the Vertin Gallery, one of the best I've seen anywhere, and to find it this far off the beat is simply amazing), and Splake, (Graybeard Cliffs Dancer, Chairman of the Bards, Editor-in-Chief, Angler-in-Chief, and poet's poet), lots of talk of spirits, good and evil, copper country history, then and now, mountain lions, tiger trout.
A visit to the fabled Cliffs - rocky spine of rock-ribbed peninsula, and site of the beginning of the Great Copper Boom of the Keweenaw, site of abandoned mining operations, site of spirits' homes, spirits pulled from Mother Earth and still at the surface. Spirits palpable to any but the inert. And, site of Splake's Poet-Tree, to which he guides kindred souls, and to which he attaches poems and other prayers for the winds and weathers to distribute as necessary.
I took the above picture of Splake at The Cliffs and had thought to take pictures of the poet-tree and other strange and wonderful stuff, but my camera ceased its workings, probably because of some electronic glitch, but possibly because of phenomena which would rather not be photographed. Without any pre-communication on the subject, Splake sprinkled tobacco around the tree before we left. Hmmm. Interesting, but not surprising.
Back at the gallery, I told Jikiwe of my intended, and arcane, plan to travel to Marquette via a little-known route of backroads and pack-trails. Well, he said, if you're going that way, I believe you should stop at a very old and traditional native cemetery that's almost right on the way. I did. Now, the purpose of my journey was coming a little more clear. A sandy knoll. A grove of ancient pines. Spirit houses on most of the graves. If you can go to this place and not be aware of spirits, you are deader than the inhabitants. Camera again refusing to try to record any of this, I leaned one hand on a towering pine, from the top of which, I SWEAR, a rattling noise and vibration emanated. I removed my hand, and the noise stopped. Put my hand back on the tree and the noise and vibration began again. I didn't lean on any more trees, but sprinkled tobacco on most of the graves, prayed to every deity I'm on speaking terms with, and pointed Rozinante up the trail.
I really don't care - BABY IT'S HOT OUTSIDE we'll turn up the air - BABY IT'S HOT OUTSIDE the climate has been - BEEN HOPING THE TEMPS WOULD DROP so very nice - I'LL HOLD YOUR HANDS, I'LL PUT THEM ON ICE Al Gore has started to worry - I'M PRAYING FOR A SNOW FLURRY Ralph Nader is pacing the floor - LISTEN TO HILLARY ROAR I'm gonna learn to like curry - THANK GOODNESS THAT YOU'RE NOT FURRY well maybe just one gas tank more - CRAWL IN THE FRIDGE AND I'LL POUR
we won't go out there - BABY IT'S HOT OUTSIDE we won't need underwear - BABY IT'S HOT OUTSIDE I wish I knew how - THE SIDEWALK IS MELTING NOW to break this spell - I'LL DRAW A BATH, YOU'RE STARTING TO SMELL I oughta say no, no, no sir - WE WON'T EVEN NEED TO KEEP THE TOASTER at least I won't drive fifty-five - WHAT'S THE POINT IN STAYING ALIVE I really don't care - BABY DON'T BURN UP OOOH, BUT IT'S HOT OUTSIDE
All writing, art, and photography on this site are the work and property of Ralph Murre, unless otherwise noted. And yes, Arem Arvinson is just a figment of my imagination, so I think I can speak for him. Anyone using any of this work without our permission is gonna piss us off. We'll be flattered, sure, but mostly just pissed off.
Ralph Murre is the author of "Crude Red Boat" and "The Price of Gravity, both books of poetry; author and illustrator of "Psalms", a book of poetry and art, co-author, (with Sharon Auberle)of "Wind Where Music Was", a book of poems of experience, and he is editor/publisher of several books of prose, poetry, photography, and drawings from Little Eagle Press, which he founded. Ordering information for these books is available from
firstname.lastname@example.org , as is information regarding this site.
NOTE WELL: (c) ALL CONTENT OF THIS SITE, BOTH VERBAL AND VISUAL, IS THE COPYRIGHT PROPERTY OF RALPH MURRE, UNLESS OTHERWISE CREDITED.