Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our Lady of the Last Festival

Our Lady of the Last Festival

Bless us Lady. Be with us one more time.
Come to us in your pink-pearl sunrise
With your yellow smile
And blue-sky eyes.
We are grateful for all that you are.

May your gentle spirit
Ripple over the surface of the lake.
Shine down upon us,
Your billowing robes
Shielding us from the blistering sun.

Lead us through fields of Encore,
Past the Underground stage and skateboard ramp,
Into the Imaginarium of Artrageous
Weaving labyrinths of prayer
Out into Flickerings of Creation Station.

We look for you
In shaved ice and that black bean veggie burrito.
Beneath the garish glow of the Pasta Palace
With the buskers and smokers,
You can be found.

Each a part of each other.
Body surfing at Five Iron Frenzy
And head-banging to P.O.D.
When the Crossing finishes with a jig,
Circle dance with us.

Your heart is a flaming sunset,
Streaking gold and red,
Bursts of fireworks above Main Stage,
Showering us with bits of light and fireflies.
We’ll remember you long into the night.

Our Lady of Cornerstone
In joy and lamentation
In song and sermon
In storm and mud
In the dust and heat
In the long grass and cool woods
Down by the footbridge
Down by the dock
Across the lake
At the cross
Be with us one last time.

In the name of the Father and Son
Daughter, Cousin, Friend and
Friend of friends, Holy
Spirit, birds and bees,
All that has breath:
Come celebrate.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The power of a simple cookie

Where the ordinary ceases to be ordinary

Anyone writing memoir is familiar with the passage from Proust where his memory is suddenly inflamed by madeleines, a French cookie.
And so madeleines have become an icon, memory wrapped up in the human senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. We understand that most of what we recall is channeled through at least one or two of these.

So what are these madeleines which evoked the Master of Memoir?

A visitor the other day from France was in the kitchen making us a treat—a butter cookie. There are plenty of ways to mess up a butter cookie, but the ingredients are fairly basic: butter, sugar, flour. You can flavor with almond, lemon, or vanilla. I picked up the recipe, written in French, and suddenly was inflamed: madeleines!

The taste was far less exciting than the mere thought—yet I savored them for days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I was choking on every breath

New work up and loaded at FreeRange Nonfiction.

A story that breaks all the rules (because it's fiction, and because, even though we titled it, I untitled it)

Today's Special: http://freerangenonfiction.com/?page_id=3860

Monday, May 21, 2012

Now is all there is

Now is all there is.
We never once thought it would change.
There would always be dusty roads and distances to cover
And egg water and mildewed hay bales and volleyballs hitting us in the head.
There would always be long lines, too many people, and heat
That descended like a sweat fog covering the land like a pestilence,
Or like a brick of congealed gummi bears left out too long.
Every year there was summer and there was Cornerstone,
We lived all year planning, scheduling, debating,
Coming up with a theme,
making T-shirts, producing press kits, ordering doughnuts,
And yet we were never ready.
Never prepared with enough golf pencils at registration, never enough volunteers, never enough
This and that and so we made Wally-runs. Back and forth, there and back.
And always we added on, just one more thing to the list
Or stopped for a DeeQue, or brought back coffee or a water gun
Because there was always so much cash floating around; we could never run out.
The lines at the front gate stretched for miles,
Down Murphy’s black top all the way to route 9.
The state police had to come in and direct traffic.
We had to have three entrances to handle all the cars,
We banned driving on the grounds because of all the people.
One year 22,000 came.
The queues at the shower were so long, people bathed in the lake.
James’ only job was stocking the portojohns which were emptied around the clock.
It was faster to walk than take a golf cart. We thought it would always be like this.
Children got sick, threw up, wet their sleeping bags.
Storms came and swamped the fields and almost brought down Main Stage.
One year the exhibition tent was rent in two and everyone pitched in to pick up.
We came to expect the unexpected.
That one life-changing show
Where the Holy Spirit fell and the band played
On and on and on and no one went home and
The sun came up and all that was left was the story
Of how awesome it had been.
Bride trashed the hall—where are those guys now?
Are they still Christians? Are they still singing?
Or have they entered politics, a divide almost as wide as secular and saved.
Remember when Steve Taylor jumped off the stage at Grayslake
And broke his leg and Mark Heard played his last concert
And then called for an ambulance.
Remember when Kerry Livgren sang “Dust in the Wind” and a breeze
Rippled the Cornerstone banner above him.
We thought it’d always be this way.
That no matter what: we could fix it, collect our collective energies,
Throw the massive weight of a Jesus People nation at obstacles.
Remember when we all had long hair, before we went New Wave,
Before we grayed, before we had no hair.
Our Jesus People boys would work an entire festival
And then hold a softball tournament afterwards,
Playing against each other.
Today we barely have enough players or interest to fill a team roster.
We never thought it would end.
Even as others came and went,
We always thought we’d be here,
And that it would go on and on and on.
But people gave up sleeping on the ground,
They no longer can walk those long distances.
The heat kills them, really.
We no longer stage dive at the show, or body surf;
We can’t dance. Or forgot how.
Our kids (the reason we first came) grew up.
They can’t make it back because of work, student loans.
Or they stopped listening to Christian music.
What is Christian music?
What is a Christian band?
Hardly anyone makes that distinction anymore.
Why should they?
So despite the deaths (they have another festival to attend),
The divorces, the disappointments,
The foreclosures, the lack of jobs, the job changes,
Retirement. Because there is a Rock that
Rolls, because a rolling stone gathers no moss
(except Ami Moss will be there with the Unfortunate),
But most of all
Because one last time—
It is about now.
Now is all we have.

 --this is dedicated to: you know who you are, but to name a few
Jeff, C. the Kirks, the Wrights, Dan Michaels

Steve Taylor and Some Band perform at Cornerstone Festival 1994

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Take action! Today is the call-in day for state budget cuts!

I volunteer at Cornerstone Community Outreach a homeless shelter in Chicago. I do two programs there with both the men and the women. If planned budget cuts go through there is the possibility we will love at least 58 beds from the shelter. At this point we serve at any given time 500 people daily through the shelters we staff and Leland Building, a next-step program. We house, feed, and provide clothes and other necessities in order to assist families, men, and women to get back on their feet.

Here is a link to CCO Life where you can view a really sad video about what it is like to be a homeless school student.

Please call these reps before 5pm today!

You could simply say, “Please don’t cut homeless shelters out of the Illinois budget!” The reps know the issues and you don’t have to talk forever or sound like you know all about it. If you get voice mail leave a message. Cuts ARE happening we need to let them know that the poorest of the poor shouldn’t be losing services.  

Rep. Greg Harris
Phone:(217) 782-3835

Sen. Heather Steans
Phone:(217) 782-8492

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Memory: a controlled lie

The politics of memory
we can choose our past
reconstruct it so as to
change our future.
The way we feel/is
the way we remember:
ebb and flow, running
like the tides, cutting
new channels, erasing
what once was.
Lacking a record,
we simply make

Monday, May 7, 2012

Antiques on the Bluff

Got up at 6 a.m. Sunday (5 central time!) to ride my bike to Antiques on the Bluff in St. Joe to help Jan and Mark set up. They had things pretty well in hand. The event was huge. And the nice thing is the rain held off.

Mark and Jan go to quite a few of these shows and know many of the other dealers. It is a guild of sorts.

Anyway, Mark told me they know of one woman who gives her pieces a made-up provenance. She’ll tell her customers, Oh I got that piece out of an old barn.

While this isn’t exactly true it isn’t exactly a lie. It most likely did come from a barn and since it is an antique it, of course, came from an old barn.

It would be false advertising to claim it came out of Napoleon’s barn.

The point is: Customers want a story. Yes, they are buying an old pulley, but they know it is more than that; they are buying history.

As a writer and memoirist, I know this as well. We can get caught up with how something actually happened and miss the story—or we can lose the exact details and tell a fun story.

Now if you buy this—then I have a pulley for you that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Contrast of Two Retreats

My Starry Night sojourn in New Mexico last year early spring was one of sunny days. The mornings started off cool, but once the sun peeked over Turtleback Mountain the earth warmed up. By noon it could be 77° or thereabouts. Then came the wind and the whirling dust.

Whereas here at Blueberry View, I have never been on a wetter retreat. It has rained every day except for the day I arrived. Thank goodness because I had boxed my bike and tucked it into the bay of the bus. When I got off in Benton Harbor Sunday afternoon I pulled it out, reassembled the bike, put on the panniers I’d packed, and rode up here to Blueberry.

Last night a thick fog rolled in, obscuring the blueberry fields surrounding me. Even the ever-present drone of the trucks on the highway was muffled.

This a.m. it was misting.

I am here to attest: Creative energy can be wrung from rain.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Soon, Soon

So settling in here at Blueberry View—almost wrote Blueberry Hill, like the song—I’m retreating and recouping. In fact a Blueberry fairy brought me some just baked whole wheat bread and a spring flower on my front steps.

Many of you already know but for those just now joining us, I lost both my mother and father this past winter. Routine smoothed over the grief, as well as just being with people, but I knew sooner or later I would have to go through a process, a time of examining and reexamining.

I’ve been going through a book I bought at this year’s AWP called God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith. I brought it with me on the retreat and have been spending time with it each morning. The book encompasses all beliefs—even one I’ve never heard of before Quaganism, which is about pagan Quakers. It is amazing what I can lift off the page. After the chapter on Wicca and Zen, I fell into thinking about Dad. The two are not related. And wrote this in my morning journal.

Between Wednesday and Friday
there was Thursday.

On Wednesday I found you alert
jovial even, you knew who I was
--yet you didn’t know me.
The preacher came to chat,
he read scriptures with you
and then prayed, then goodbye,
though he didn’t say goodbye
just, Next week, Harold.

On Friday you were in and out,
mostly out. You never opened your eyes.
My sister administered the morphine
in dosages meant to keep you under.
Your heart was wheezing
and your breath came in sputters.
The only moments of near consciousness
were when we turned you
and you cried out No!

By Saturday you were hanging on,
the breathing irregular, yet measured.
People came and went from your bedside.
I doubt you knew they were there
Or if you did you didn’t wake up.
Your life was now inside you,
and even that was ebbing away.

By Sunday there was no pulling you back.
You were slowly slipping
even though we spoke to you,
whispered your name,
you were gone. Waiting
until the last . . . heart . . . beat.
Then you exhaled a long, slow puff of air
and it was over.

But what about Thursday?
You had a terrible night.
You started out in bed,
only sleeping a few hours,
and then demanded to go out to the living room.
We got you up and transferred to the wheelchair.
Nancy asked, Do you want anything?
The TV on, you said.
So there we were at 2 a.m. scanning the channels for golf or basketball.
I warmed up blankets in the dryer and draped
them over you. Yet there was nothing
we could do to make you comfortable.
I was so tired I couldn’t stay awake. I told them
I was only going to nap, but I did not get up when you called.
I pretended to sleep, all the while wondering,
How much longer can this go on?
By Friday I had my answer.

Only a matter of time.

* * *

And now to those waiting for me on the opposite shore (Mike and Grace)
I float my message across to you,
Soon, soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blueberry View

Sorry blog readers—all three of you—I have been out of touch, though anything but slacking off. I’ve been hard at work while on an artist residency revising an OLD ms, a YA novel.
Funny. Things you think will be hard have turned out with a modicum of effort to be easy, while the stuff I thought was going to be easy is turning into road blocks. Still, 10 chapters down. I may be hitting one of those bumps this afternoon.

Blueberry View is awesome. My view is literally row upon row of rust-colored blueberry bushes. Not so blue in the spring. I feel like I’m at a bed and breakfast—sweating words.

Something I wrote this a.m. after spending time with a bit of reading:

 New Evangelical

Until I entered a cathedral
I did not understand space.

Until I sang an 18th century hymn
I did not feel the notes in my mouth soar.

Until I had walked in cloister gardens
I was not healed of all my unrest.

Until I visited the stations of the cross
The path to death was to be feared.

Until I heard chanting in Latin
Language was just a tool and words were arrows, Stone Age, useful for the hunt.

Until I lit candles
I sat in darkness; the warmth entered inside of me and shone forth in a place called the heart, but we were really pointing to our stomachs.

When I read the old prayers
I cried: to think I am this person.