Love at the Met

I had been sorry I’d not reserved better seats to hear Andrea Bocelli perform a program called Three Centuries of Love at the Metropolitan Opera on February 10, 2019.  But as the experience unfolded, I found ecstasy in our lofty perch.  Seated in the Family Circle not far from the opera house’s gold ceiling, my friend and I sent our eyes and emotions out over the entire scene, the chandeliers like constellations, the balconies and box seats filled with admirers of our beloved Andrea, and the stage, the site of the glories to come.

The view from our seats: The audience begins to arrive.

My friend and I had left southeastern Pennsylvania at nine in the morning, crossed the bridge into New Jersey, and then followed the turnpike to Manhattan.  The morning was clear and still, although snow was forecast for late evening.  Near the Newark Airport, we witnessed the New York skyline rise on the horizon like a near miracle.  Choosing the George Washington Bridge instead of a more efficient but somewhat terrifying tunnel, we nevertheless reached the city before noon.

The night before, I’d consulted maps and online directions, checked repeatedly that the concert tickets hadn’t somehow jumped out of my purse, figured out what to wear—and been unable to fall asleep for half the night.  But from the moment my little blue car’s tires touched Manhattan pavement, excited energy made any lack of sleep irrelevant.

A few runners and bikers followed the path between the Henry Hudson Parkway and the river.  A taxi driver honked when I didn’t turn a corner from 79th Street fast enough to suit him.  Two dozen fat pigeons had lined up side by side on a railing, perhaps to watch the funny humans pass by in their vehicles and on foot.  Pedestrians swarmed across the street with no apparent notice of the cars and buses that needed to stop to let them cross.

My friend read aloud the directions to the parking garage that I had copied from the Internet.  Everyone we encountered was helpful: “No it’s not this entrance to the parking garage; it’s around the corner on Amsterdam.”  “No it’s not this Amsterdam entrance to the garage; it’s the next one.”  “No it’s not this barcode on your parking reservation; it’s this one—that’s why the gate wouldn’t open.”  We might as well have had a siren on the car announcing, “Visitors from out of town.”

But we visitors had a day we will remember all the rest of our still, we hope, many years to come.

After a quick browse through the Met Opera Shop, we searched for and found our chosen lunch spot—Indie Food and Wine.  The route there took us outside, down some steps, around a corner, and inside the Film Society of Lincoln Center, across from the Juilliard School.  Our sandwiches on ciabatta were large, inexpensive, and delicious.

Back up the outdoor steps we trudged (my friend was amazed by how many steps she added over the course of the day to her Fitbit total).  This time our visit to the Met Opera Shop was more thorough and included buying souvenir programs destined to receive Andrea’s autograph after the concert.  For most of the remaining two hours before we could find our seats, we sat on a marble bench inside the Met’s front entrance and people watched.

A few long-gowned, spike-heeled young women were among the early arrivals.  A see-through, calf-length skirt in gold lace got mixed reviews.  By the time we had a bigger sample to observe, outfits ranged from ready to dig in the garden to ready to greet the Queen.  By three, the hard-core fans were steadily arriving.  We, Andrea’s worldwide massively devoted following, tend to be middle aged and older, although with some exceptions.  In addition to watching the well-dressed young people in the lobby, we noticed the two glamorous, Spanish-speaking young women directly in front of our seats in the Family Circle; they seemed to be rapt listeners during the concert.

Waiting on our marble bench for the opera-house doors to open at four, I kept an eye out for Bocelli fans from Texas whom I’ve known online for years.  We never found each other, but I spotted two other online friends, friends I’d first met at Andrea’s 2011 Metropolitan Opera recital, when my then-93-year-old mother was also in attendance.  During Sunday’s concert, I felt my music-loving parents’ presence, sharing joy in the magnificent sounds.

About the time the lobby became nearly impassably thronged, the doors to the opera house opened, and we found our way up red-carpeted steps, then up an elevator, and then up more steps to our perch.  We had indeed reached heaven, as we would know when the concert began at five.

Just before concert time

The exceptional Metropolitan Opera Orchestra took the stage.  The concertmaster played the tuning note for the other musicians.  Conductor Eugene Kohn entered to applause; he is well known and admired by Bocelli fans.  The orchestra opened the concert with the ballet music “Navarraise,” from Massanet’s Le cid.  The forceful beat and accelerating rhythm fed my state of near levitation as I anticipated who would come next.

The conductor left his podium and returned with Andrea; we, the audience, greeted our hero.  He opened with an aria from Le cid that I don’t think I’d ever heard him perform: “Ah, tout est bien fini . . . Ô, souverain,” an aria rich with melancholy and courage.  As Andrea’s unamplified voice floated through the large opera house to surround us in our aerie, I felt my spirit expand into the rich, pure perfection of his singing.  Throughout the concert, Andrea’s voice was as thoroughly magnificent as I have ever known it to be—and I have loved every note I have heard him sing for the more than two decades I’ve been listening to his recordings and performances.

Next was “La mia letizia infondere,” from I Lombardi, an aria familiar to all longtime Bocelli fans.  During the concert, Andrea was at times joined onstage by Aida Garifullina, later by Isabel Leonard.  Nadine Sierra and Andrea ended the first half with “M’odi . . . Sulla tomba che rinserra,” from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor: very little can surpass the beauty of that lilting, tragic melody.  Before Lucia, Andrea and Aida Garifullina had sung a thrilling, emotion-filled “È il sol dell’anima . . . Addio, addio,” from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and then Andrea had performed “Pour mon âme,” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment.  Each of that aria’s nine high C’s was strong and rich, filled with resonance, accuracy, and loveliness.  How, I wondered, can I absorb and seal into memory the blissfulness of every note, the impossible blessing of being in this place of fantasy listening to the voice that moves me more than all other voices in this world?

Every note from the orchestra and from the guest performers was exquisite.  Every note from Andrea was celestial.  His voice never dipped below perfection.  In the second half, he performed arias from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, first a solo—“L’amour . . . Ah, lêve-toi soleil”—and then an extended duet with Aida Garifullina, “Va, je t’ai pardonné . . . Nuit d’hyménée.”  Andrea was in character for every aria, filling the opera house with emotion carried on the blissful, soul-filling quality of every note.  He showed no evidence of nervousness.  Here he was singing for 3,800 in one of the world’s most famous venues—and I’d been nervous simply anticipating the car trip to see him.

The second half included “Il faut nous séparer,” from Massanet’s Werther, sung with Isabel Leonard; “Recondita armonia,” from Puccini’s Tosca—wonderful, too, as an old favorite for Bocelli fans—and finally “O soave fanciulla,” with Isabel Leonard, from my favorite opera, Puccini’s La Bohème.  When Andrea soared high at the end, he did so with all the finesse and elegance of every note that had come before.

Andrea’s two encores continued the delight of the main part of the program.  First he and Aida Garifullina sang the ethereal “Ave Maria Pietas,” from his new recording, .  And then the encore I had hoped would come arrived: “Au fond du temple saint,” from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles.  Because bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni was profiled in the printed program but did not appear on stage during the listed arias, I think many of us suspected we would get to hear the much-loved duet that, in fact, closed the concert.

The performers again acknowledged the applause.  Andrea applauded the orchestra.  He was presented with yellow roses.  Walking toward backstage, our dear tenor waved his characteristic farewell to us.  The applause finally faded.

The crush of people at the bottom of the red-carpeted stairs made any forward motion impossible for a few long minutes.  Those of us who wanted Andrea’s autograph were told to move to the left.  The challenge was simply to avoid losing ground.  Eventually some of us were ushered into a line outside to wait until the autograph line inside advanced enough to make room for us to join it.  Andrea would be signing autographs in a room beyond the grand staircase.

Looking at night into the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, by Paul Masck – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, from Wikimedia Commons.

We shivered as the employee who was organizing the line inside studiously avoided our gestures and pleas to be allowed back into the warmth.  But finally the door reopened to us.  The concert had ended about 7:20; about 8:40, Andrea, Veronica, and their sweet daughter, Virginia, came into our view.  I thought Andrea by then looked exhausted, and he must have been, but he kept on signing souvenir programs and copies of .  None of the many hundreds of us in line went away disappointed.  Veronica helped position the programs and CDs for Andrea to sign.  Little Virginia greeted us with a smile and said, “Thank you for coming,” in perfect English.  Not yet in water, the yellow roses languished on the table.

After returning to our car, my friend and I found our way out of the parking garage, up Amsterdam Avenue to 79th Street, over to the Henry Hudson Parkway, and across the George Washington Bridge.  Eventually we grabbed our ticket at the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike, cruised along in reasonably light traffic back past the Newark Airport, and congratulated ourselves on the continuing good weather, with the temperature a reassuring three degrees above freezing.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Trenton, we stopped for snacks and gasoline.  It was exactly 11 p.m. and just a few moments after we’d rejoined the turnpike when the snow began and the temperature immediately dropped six degrees.

But our guardian angels worked overtime and kept us from harm.  Salt trucks formed a battalion along the turnpike, turning the wet highway into the Dead Sea and sandblasting the car as we passed.  The Commodore Barry Bridge, too, was merely wet rather than snow covered.  Only when we reached Pennsylvania Route 322, a few miles from home, did we find a snow-covered roadway.  I could sense a lack of traction, but a slow speed—and a few giggles at ourselves for traveling through snow at midnight after an adventure-filled day—brought us safely home.  My friend got out of the car at her building.  I parked and then walked to my building through the swirling snowy night.

Inside, for the next three hours I was too filled with memories of all we had seen and heard to sleep.

Learning from Mary

A dove stood peace in a tree by the lot where I’d parked my car,
And a partner dove held watch and comfort
Over the place where I met my friend.

And now we are visiting the beautiful convent,
Learning from Mary in our elder years,
Opening to God’s invitation to give, to do, to become.

Last Sunday I was welcomed to the Church,
The church of my new parish—
Where I thought I could never belong, fit in—
In a ceremony that once was oil to my water,
A little-known language, customs,
And ways of seeing Creation.

I, we, one can worship everywhere;
The congregation has shown me welcome;
And so I join a community of kind people
With whom I share love and the wish
To give love, kindness, hope,
To one another and the world.

And we sing hymns!
The music holds Creation;
Our notes link spirits and minds
Around the room,
Across time
To the beginning of the world,
To the beginning of my world,
When it and I were whole
And still becoming.

I have walked away from the Quaker meeting
That once joined hands, song, and ministry with the three of us
And other loved souls
With whom we gathered eagerly
Each Sunday
And special days between.

I’ve lost the sense of oneness with those
Who gather in the old meetinghouse
That remains full of memories
But no longer of belonging.

I feel that belonging here,
Among the Franciscan sisters,
Among the dear parishioners
In the church once foreign
That is now the place I sing hymns
And join hands in greeting.

I do not need to deny or distance
Who I have been and am
To enter a new spiritual home
As I go on seeking.

The Church, the church, the history,
Even the creeds, doctrines, and rituals,
Give a setting for building on what is within.

They can be an invitation,
A set of possibilities,
A place for new becoming
Rather than demanding
What and how to be.

The Rite of Welcoming embraced
My heart, my spirit and emotions
Filling with astonishment
For such extravagant concern for me—
One who is inclined, unless performing,
To escape disturbing.

After my more than sixty years in Quakerism,
After the deep gifts of spirit, wisdom, and leading
My parents gave our Meeting,
My leaving was met with little notice;
Can I be wrong to walk into newfound warmth?

Sitting on the sofa one afternoon,
Reading and relishing the day,
I felt a hand on my shoulder;
Sweet Mother sings to me at night,
And both my dear ones knock
To say, “We are still at home together”;
Settings change, but not the essence of souls.

And the great blue heron points her toes in flight;
The Moon waxes and wanes
Even in a sky of absent stars;
New friends link arms
With friends who have gone on,
And love glows in the center,
Expanding like sunrise
To enfold us all.

Namaste

Originally written 12/15/18; revised 1/29/19

Goodbye Goody Two-Shoes

“Of course I know who I am,” we say.  “Of course I know what I think and believe.”  But do we really know ourselves, especially why we do what we do and feel as we feel?  Can we fully articulate our core beliefs?  And how effectively are we able to live our beliefs and the values that flow from them?

Several years ago, I was a leader for a spiritual-life discussion group at the Quaker meeting in which I had spent most of my life.  We were a group of ten or so who enjoyed wrestling with spiritual questions, such as, “Does prayer work?” and “What does it mean to serve others?”  One Sunday morning, I asked, “What do you believe about God?  And who was Jesus: what is the core of his message to us?”

Wilmington (De.) Meetinghouse, pencil sketch by Mason Hayek, from Growing to 80

Everyone had surprising difficulty in articulating his or her beliefs.  I had a similar challenge in a discussion with the deacon who is leading the process through which I am converting to Catholicism, specifically to Franciscan Catholicism.  The deacon asked me to describe Jesus according to my understanding.  My picture of Jesus (and God) is still incomplete in my mind’s eye and understanding.

Everyday Spirituality

Some parts of the picture are filled in in detail:  I believe that what Jesus asks of us, what makes us good people, is our love, kindness, and caring for all of God’s creatures and creation, and above all for our neighbors nearby and around the globe:

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?  And Jesus answered him. . . . thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31, King James Version)

However thoroughly I am ever able to clarify my beliefs, Jesus’s commandments to love God and to love my neighbor give me plenty to work on for the rest of my life.  For instance, how can I simplify my life in ways that will help to protect God’s creation?  And as Jesus taught, loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength includes loving every neighbor, everyone everywhere.  Each is a creation of God, is loved by God, and has the light of God within, no matter how obscured or shining.

How can I speak up on behalf of neighbors from around the world who are suffering from injustice and the thoughtless and cruel acts of the powerful and greedy?  And how can I respond in ways that will not merely inflame my near neighbors who think differently from me, inflame without changing minds and actions?  Above all, how can I better share my beliefs through the way I live my life and not only through the words I speak and write?

A Test on Practicing What I Preach

Last weekend, a friend with whom I disagree politically forwarded an e-mail expressing her political position while disparaging mine.  I was included in her distribution list of ten people.  I felt I couldn’t ignore the message, which opened with a request “asking everyone to forward this e-mail to a minimum of 20 people, and to ask each of those to do likewise.”  The message was supporting a national figure who is not loving to many of our neighbors near and far around the globe.  I’d also felt the message was not loving to near neighbors like me: it closed, in part (and in all caps), “No wonder they’re [“they,” meaning folks like me] fighting everything he tries!”

For anyone forwarding on the message, my name might be coming along for the ride, perhaps suggesting that I was in sympathy with the views expressed.  I stated my disagreement—clearly but, I hoped, not angrily—in a “reply all.”  My friend responded in a phone message, and later repeated, that she had not noticed the political tone of the forwarded message’s opening and closing and was only passing along some ideas that looked interesting.  A visit, a hug, and a bit of further misunderstanding followed.  As part of the follow-up, I stayed awake virtually all one night worrying about what I’d done and whether or not I’d been rash, unfair, hurtful: in my response, had I been loving to my neighbor close at hand?

Cover of the 1888 edition of Goody Two-Shoes, by an anonymous author, U.S. public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Goody Two-Shoes: Not So Good After All

Regardless of whether or not my e-mail response was fair, respectfully worded, and appropriate, I see another problem behind the uproar: Most of the time, people think I’m an elderly child, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Goody Two-Shoes—and I have been good-naturedly called the latter by the friend with whom I had the differences I’ve just described.  After months or years of my oh-so-cheery-and-sweet persona, I meet a line in the sand, and I make a stand, shocking everyone. If I were clear, direct, and mutually respectful in all of my interactions all of the time, I would be less likely to be viewed, when I do take a stand, as Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde.  I am unintentionally engaging in false advertising, a sort of unpremeditated bait and switch.

If I weren’t Ms. Goody Two-Shoes most of the time, if I always spoke up kindly but firmly, if I never brooked nonsense—whether expressed unthinkingly or designed to poke me—I might never have been sent the e-mail that offended me, and if I had, I could have responded with a simple, “I disagree.”  (The good news is that all involved in the political e-mail kerfuffle and its aftermath were together a few days later, and the friendships remain intact.)

Alfred Adler (1870-1937), unknown photographer, U.S. public domain, from the Ann Ronan Picture Library, copied from Wikimedia Commons.

Alfred Adler: A Treasure Trove of Insight

My responsibility to know myself includes understanding why I do what I do, behave as I do.  I have just finished reading The Courage to Be Disliked, by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, which presents the fundamental tenets of Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology as a conversation between a philosopher and a young man.  Alfred Adler was a contemporary of Freud but broke with him.  In his approach, Freud looked for the reasons, the history, that explained subsequent behavior, attitudes, and emotions.  In contrast, when Adler looked at behavior, attitudes, and emotions, he found the reasons for them in the individual’s current goals rather than in that person’s past.  Adler’s Individual Psychology also stresses that it is not what happens to us that determines our wellbeing but our views about what happens to us, the meaning that we have attached to the facts of our lives.

My parents, Mason and Doris Hayek, had a deep interest and did extensive study in Adlerian psychology, and I, too, have found merit in Adler’s principles and those of his followers.  I find The Courage to Be Disliked to be not only a helpful quick refresher for Adler’s notable views[1] but also, and above all, a magnifying glass helping me to understand myself and the problems I have encountered periodically over the years—including last weekend—in feeling pushed over the line at the limit of my acceptance.  The Courage to Be Disliked reminds me to ask, “What is my goal in being a people-pleasing perfectionist?”  The book also helps me to understand, “When I feel personally attacked, what are the dynamics involved, and how can I best diffuse the situation?”

Individual Psychology (and Scripture) Applied to Me

Following Freud’s approach, knowing that I was bullied in school can suggest why I’ve adopted people-pleasing and perfectionism as life strategies, but it is, as Adler posits, recognizing the current goals I have for these behaviors that will let me change both my goals and my life.  I can’t change the past, but I can change what I think and do now.  Changing takes courage, as The Courage to Be Disliked stresses, but the results can be worth the risk.  In my Goody Two-Shoes persona, I am trying to avoid criticism; I genuinely want to be nice to others, but I also want to be judged as nice, as a good girl, as smart and talented, as above reproach.

Here are more serviceable goals for me:

  1. Rather than seeing myself as the perpetual child in a world of grownups, practice mutual respect: loving my neighbor as myself.
  2. Speak up consistently—using the principles of love, kindness, and mutual respect—on behalf of justice, peace, the Earth’s wellbeing, and the wellbeing and value of all human beings.
  3. Avoid what Adler calls “power struggles,” even when I feel I’ve been intentionally provoked.
  4. Have the courage to be true to my values and convictions regardless of whether I am applauded or rejected for my words and actions.
  5. Have the courage to be seen as flawed.
  6. Focus on others and my love for them, rather than on their opinions of me.
  7. Understand that others’ opinions of me are their business and not under my control.
  8. Recognize that my value doesn’t depend on others’ opinions of me.
  9. See myself as, and actually be, courageous, strong, loving, and kind.

I think that a person who has these goals will be someone who not only has greater peace of mind than I have now but also is a more useful, effective citizen of the world than I have been so far in my life.  At the same time, living these goals will help me do a better job than I’ve done in living Jesus’s teachings.  I’ll no doubt continue to make many mistakes, and I certainly have lots to learn, but I am mustering the courage required to change for what I think is the better for all concerned.  My friends may not notice many obvious alterations, but I’ll know the difference, and others won’t have to wonder when the next surprise Winnie-cyclone of ire and indignation will be blowing onto shore.

Goody Two-Shoes signing out.


[1] A much more in-depth, scholarly (but readable) presentation of Adler’s Individual Psychology is the Primer of Adlerian Psychology, by Harold Mosak and Michael Maniacci.  The book is expensive to buy, even used, so if you are interested in it, you may want to try getting it through a library.

Your Story in Verse

The distinction between poetry and prose is not as fuzzy as it might seem, in spite of the prevalence of contemporary poems that neither rhyme nor have a fixed rhythm (meter).  Compared to prose, poetry is typically more focused on

  • The significance and impact of individual moments, singled-out slices of time
  • Images appealing to the senses
  • The essence of an experience
  • The connotations of words (their emotional overtones)
  • The sound of words
  • The rhythm of language (even without a formal meter)

Many poems of the past and present do rhyme and have a fixed structure, of course, and these qualities can have a powerful impact on the reader.  But whether you choose to write a formal poem or free verse, poetry can be an effective way of sharing your memoir—a single story or an entire book.

One of the best-known recent memoirs written in verse is Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson.  Brown Girl Dreaming earned the 2014 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, but the book also appeals to adult readers.  If you think you might want to write a short or long memoir in verse, I recommend reading Brown Girl Dreaming to get an idea of the possibilities open to you.  Another approach to memoir through poetry is Ekaterinoslav: One Family’s Passage to America: A Memoir in Verse, by Jane Yolen.  As you will see by looking into these books and others (try Googling “memoirs in verse”), the possibilities range from writing an extended, coherent narrative that reads like a novel to writing individual short poems that, together, reveal the author’s experiences.

Telling stories in verse is an honored tradition.  Shakespeare, for instance, often wrote his plays in blank verse—unrhymed iambic pentameter.  (He added rhyme for various desired effects, such as closing a scene with a memorable rhymed couplet [two lines of poetry].) In iambic pentameter, every line has five “feet” of iambs, which each include two syllables, the first unstressed (short) and the second stressed (long).  As you will note, Shakespeare sometimes varies the pattern, often to create emphasis.  Here, with the stressed syllables in bold capital letters, are Juliet’s most famous words from Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2):

Watercolor by John Massey Wright (1777-1866) of Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection, copied from Wikimedia Commons

WHAT’S in a NAME? THAT which we CALL a ROSE
By ANy OTHer WORD would SMELL as SWEET;
So ROmeo WOULD, were HE not ROmeo CALL’D,
ReTAIN that DEAR perFECtion WHICH he OWES
WithOUT that TItle. ROmeo, DOFF thy NAME,
And FOR that NAME which IS no PART of THEE
Take ALL mySELF.

You can see that each line (except the last) has five stressed syllables.  Iambic pentameter is a meter that readily matches the natural cadences in English.  Shakespeare built on those natural cadences to make his words even more powerful than they might otherwise have been.

You can do the same, whether through adopting a formal pattern such as iambic pentameter or through simply paying close attention to the sound of your words and the way they work together.  And you don’t need to know the poetic terms to use poetic techniques.  Read your writing aloud and tinker with it until you like the way it sounds.


Moving from literary heights to everyday efforts, I’ll share a memoir poem that I wrote.  While I make no claims about the poem’s merits, I’ll insert notes in italics pointing out poetic techniques (also indicated by bold type within the poem) that you may want to try.

How I Got Lost
(We lose ourselves in different ways.)

Parallel wording helps readers link thoughts:

Until I was seven,
I was happy to be as I was,
To live as I did,

By considering the rhythm of the words as they’re chosen (here a slow line followed by a flowing line), writers help direct readers’ attention:

Giving and receiving love
In a life made entirely of blessings.


Of course snags came from time to time—
Limitations on going to Sally and Sheila’s,
Mean boys who scared me
(But Mother always chased them away),
Sally’s haircuts for my dolls,
The need for subtraction when I preferred addition—
Yet once past,
Obstacles stayed past,

Here a rapidly moving—anapestic (short-short-long)—line helps, I hope, to conclude the stanza in a way that is satisfying to readers:

Ne-ver TOUCH-ing my SPIR-it and JOY.


But by second grade,
The boys who had been my first-grade pals
No longer played with girls,
And I found that most of our class’ girls
Did not want to play with me.


Now I know what happened,
But I was bewildered then.


We were a nice family—
Mother and Daddy and I—

Alliteration (repeated consonant sounds) can add emphasis:

A comfortably fortunate family
Living in a pretty home
With a yard filled with flowers and my swing set,
Wearing Wanamaker clothes,
Eating Mother’s delicious cooking
After welcoming Daddy home at five.
Santa brought my bike;
Kind Dr. Wagner made house calls;
Ballet lessons had begun when I was four,
Years after I first heard stories and poems
On Mother’s and Daddy’s lap.
We sang at the piano in our living room
And drove to Kentucky to Nannie’s house.


Although most of the poem is unrhymed, the addition of rhyme calls attention to these lines:

Nothing was missing that I could see,
But many of my classmates’ parents
Saw gaps in my pedigree.

Daddy was a DuPont chemist with a PhD,
But the parents of popular Hannah and her court
Envisioned their daughters’ debutante balls

I’ve added more alliteration and another rhyme for emphasis:

Filled with DuPont family familiars,
A future not to be lost:
Tolerating plebeian playmates like me
Could bring too great a cost.
Jane Austen’s world of fiercely rigid social rules
On where to visit and whom to frequent
Had survived 150 years
And crossed the ocean to land in our school.


Hannah and her circle knew:
I was one of the not-our-kind,
And so she critiqued

A repeated phrase structure and another rhyme have, once again, been added for emphasis:

My plaid dresses and buckle shoes,
My classroom questions,
My answers,
My broad-jumping proficiency
And dodgeball deficiencies.
In third grade, she nominated me for class president:
The gesture was a taunt,
Not an affirmation.


By my second grade, Mother and Daddy and I
Had moved to an even lovelier home

A little more alliteration and the use of “and” in place of a comma link the images and improve the line’s rhythm and flow:

With woods and rocks and paths for playing
And neighboring children who played with me,
But being me
No longer felt sufficient.


If Hannah and her friends
Did not like me,
I would work to change;
If not popular, I would be smart,
Even as smart as the boys in arithmetic.
With vigilance,
I might evade censure,
Anticipate every judgment
And match what others
Appeared to prefer.


And in that way
I met the years ahead:
Elementary school and junior high,
High school and college
And every job in my career.


Shorter lines call attention to themselves:

And so I lived,
Even with the love I knew at home
And all my opportunities,
Many realized.


Wherever I found myself,
I could endure the expectations
Only so long,
The barely attainable demands
Required of me,
Or so my fear believed;
The risk was too terrible
For me to test my truth:

Long words can likewise add weight to a line:

Because I am mysteriously but irredeemably flawed,
Matching others’ mix of weaknesses and strengths
Will never be enough
To win acceptance
And sufficiency.


Readers notice and are pulled in by patterns (here and in the closing stanza):

I always tried again:
A new job,
A new romance,
A new plan for finding meaning,
A new spot on the Earth that seemed to promise
Satisfaction and, finally, peace.


I will try again now,
Though, this time,
I pray,
Not in my usual, ever-since-Hannah way.


She was a child and did not understand;
I was a child and did not understand.
Now I am nearly old
But never too old to renew
The Winnie I was
When loving and being loved,
Enthusiasm, courage, and resilience
Were fully enough for anyone,

And finally, as in Juliet’s famous what’s-in-a-name speech, I end with a short, emphatic line:

Even me.

For comparison, here are two paragraphs from my essay “Our First Little White House” that cover some of the same territory as the early stanzas of my poem above.  The poem looks at how my idyllic childhood went awry over the span of my years, beginning in second grade.  In contrast, the essay narrows the focus to examine the joys of my early years within my family.  For both pieces, I hope, the form supports my purpose.

For all of us little girls and boys, our mothers were at home, ironing our clean and well-made clothes, driving the carpool to kindergarten, and protecting us from the bullies. My mother invented games for long, rainy afternoons and read me stories and poetry—about Reddy Fox and the West Winds, and about the elephant whose trunk got tangled in the telephone. To celebrate my birthday, she gathered a dozen neighborhood children to join in eating a cake she had decorated with gumdrops.

In our community, the fathers, too, were exactly the fathers we would have desired. My father pulled me on the sled; repaired my wooden dog that wouldn’t stay upright on its wheels; built me a jungle gym, a marvel where I could do gymnastics; and took me to the ballet.


Will writing poetry—writing free or formal verse—release your creativity and help you to tell your story?  If the approach interests you, why not give it a try?


Next: So where do I go from here?

Boundaries

The voice in the essay may be that of my literal guides or may be the Inner Light that shines inside each of us.

Kentucky Stone Fence, drawing by Mason Hayek

You say your boundaries are too porous. If you would strengthen your boundaries appropriately, you will ask yourself why you are erecting barriers between you and others of God’s creatures. It is not really barriers, or boundaries, that you seek. It is a stronger sense of self.

            And how to achieve that stronger sense of self? The way is by knowing your values and needs, as well as those of others. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is fair, but the only way to judge is by looking inside yourself and asking, “Am I trying to give more than I have to give at this particular time?” If the situation is an emergency, you do all you can and more. But most situations are not emergencies, and you have time to think and plan: how will you renew yourself sufficiently so that your soul and body are able to flourish and grow, along with those of the person you are trying to help?

Brandywine State Park, Wilmington, Delaware, drawing by Mason Hayek

            It is not much good to help another and harm or destroy yourself. God wants all of his creatures. You are not more important than the next, and not less important. Give all you can but not more than you can without draining your reserves and denying your gifts to the world, for we all have gifts, every creature, heavenly and on Earth; we are responsible for saving and healing ourselves, as well as others. We don’t rob Peter to pay Paul.

            Remember the Parable of the Talents, and think of those as literal talents, your talents. They are not to be buried under arduous work or sacrifice that robs them of their value and gloss. Build your talents to serve and serve through your talents, not by denying them and burying them in the burden of every day. Your kindness and love are talents, too, and giving them helps them to grow unless you are giving more than your body and mind can afford from their store of energy and time. This is the way the Lord wants you to reason—not that you must give and give and give so that there is little left in you and you are half destroyed from fatigue and exhaustion of your nerves and patience.

            We your guides are with you and will help you to understand if you are not doing your share. Generally that is not a problem with you, but we know that it worries you. You think you are not being fair, not doing your part, not helping enough. When you are exhausted or have not released your creativity through valued outlets, say so and do so, rather than plowing ahead. This is the way the Lord wishes for you to do so that you help others and respect yourself at the same time.

My parents following their inspiration

            Ask in prayer if you are uncertain, or come back to your journal and write, for that will free you and sort out your mind so that your spirit is unencumbered—so that you are able to give without pain and receive from God your talents and their multiplying on your behalf and that of others. You are not a slave. No human being was made to be a slave, literally or figuratively, and do not enslave yourself through your own misunderstanding of who you are and what you must do to give to others balm for their needs, their worries, and their suffering.

            We are with you. We care. We are not telling you to be selfish, and being selfish is not your nature even though all people are selfish from time to time. But we are telling you that treating yourself right according to your gifts and your physical limitations and possibilities is not selfishness. The adage of paying yourself first is appropriate, if we may return to the money metaphor. More accurately, we would say to be sure to pay yourself as you are giving to others—not in the sense of payback or bribe but in the sense of adding to your fund of energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and inspiration. This is our recommendation, and it has stood the test of the ages.

            So try, even if the advice does not seem easy to follow. Actually it is easier than you think, and the guidelines are here. If you are too tired physically and/or spiritually, and if your creative outlets have not been followed sufficiently to stem your frustration and sense of self-denial, you need to “pay” yourself before continuing unless a true emergency situation exists for another. And even then you must return to yourself as quickly as you can—to renew yourself for your sake, God’s sake, and that of others. You will give far more from a base of fulfillment and physical wellbeing than you ever can from an empty vessel of self.

            We speak truth, and we will help you to follow it if you turn to us with your doubts. We leave this subject now but can return to it when the need arises, after you have given these principles your full attention and effort. Blessings to you and to all of God’s creatures. We love you. Love both yourself and others.

Namaste

The Night Sky

Taurus, including Hyades and Pleiades, by Daddy
Constellation Taurus, including the Hyades and Pleiades, photo by Mason Hayek

The Moon still rises,
Majestic and comforting;
Sometimes a planet shines
In the otherwise empty dark.

But we have stepped away from the Universe,
From Orion and Cassiopeia,
The Big Dipper,
The North Star;
We have fallen into shadows
Along the Milky Way.

Let us bathe in the Light
We continue to see
And so rekindle our own;
Shining together
We illuminate the night,
Revealing galaxies
Far into God’s Creation.

Beyond Anapests and Heroic Couplets: How to Like Poetry

800px-SamuelTaylorColeridge
Portrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), Peter Vandyke [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The annoying poetry professor begins, “All right, pupils: listen up!  What rhythm do we have here in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘Kubla Khan’?”

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:[1]

“I’ll beat on the desk to show you.  The pattern of unstressed (short) and stressed (long) syllables goes short long, short long, short long, short long—‘In Xan-a-du did Ku-bla Khan.’  So what we have—if you are paying attention—is iambic tetrameter, four poetic feet of iambs.  How are you [asks the annoying professor] going to appreciate poetry if you don’t know an iamb from a dactyl or an anapest from a trochee?”

Hold everything, Professor: Stop right there!  Probably you were trained by pedants much like yourself, but the way to read a poem is not to rip it to shreds.  A poem is not a code to be cracked.  The way to read poetry is simply to enjoy yourself, as I am about to explain.

Come to know a poem gradually.  Begin with an overall sense of its subject and tone.  Read the poem all the way through, aloud or silently. Visualize the images—the words that paint pictures or arouse your other senses.  Absorb the tone and mood.

Here is a well-known short poem by Emily Dickinson:[2]

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.

Emily Dickinson
Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson taken about 1848, unknown author [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

It might take reading the poem a few times to figure out fully what Emily Dickinson is saying here, but the sense comes through immediately that she is speaking of hope as a bird that sings in spite of the storms and buffeting of life.  Also immediately evident is her conversational tone, which is enhanced by the punctuation slowing the presentation of her thoughts.  (Early editors “corrected”—i.e., damaged—Emily Dickinson’s poems by making her punctuation more traditional.  Thomas H. Johnson’s edition of Emily Dickinson’s work restores the poems as she wrote them.)

NPG Ax27807; Matthew Arnold by Elliott & Fry, published by  Bickers & Son
Matthew Arnold, Elliott & Fry, about 1883 [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes getting a general impression of a poem—simply sinking into its sounds and the mood it creates—is enough.  If the poem inspires a second look, move on to such details as characters and situations and develop a clearer sense of the theme, the central idea the poem is expressing.  The speaker in Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach,” for instance, is standing at a window overlooking the English Channel: “Come to the window, sweet is the night air!” he says to his companion.  For the rest of the poem, the speaker talks about the view before him and the thoughts the scene inspires.  For him, love is the only peace available in a world full of uncertainty and sorrow:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain:[3]

If you want to dig still further into your poem, the next step is to take a look at its rhythm, rhyme, and word choice.  By noticing these, you will better understand why the poem affects you as it does.

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Portrait of Alfred Noyes, Alexander Bassano, 1922 [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Look to see if there is a consistent rhythmic pattern, such as the alternating unstressed and stressed syllables in the professor’s lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.”  Another fairly common pattern is the galloping rhythm used in Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman.”  You will see that the rhythm is well chosen to support the mood and meaning of the poem:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
               Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.[4]

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Title page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, quarto published by Thomas Thorpe, London, 1609 [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Rhyme is a feature present in most poetry written before the mid 20th century, as well as in some contemporary works.  In William Shakespeare’s “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds,” Sonnet 116,[5] the first four lines discuss what love is not, and the next four lines explain what love is.  (A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that follows established rules for its rhythm and rhyme.)  The rhyme scheme in Sonnet 116 supports the poem’s content:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments: love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.

Minds, love, finds, remove.  And now the next four lines use different rhymes:

Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Mark, shaken, bark, taken.  Lines nine through twelve continue the established pattern (rhyme scheme) with new rhymes and further establish the qualities that mark genuine love:

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Even if you don’t realize how a poet is using rhyme, the patterns can have a strong subliminal effect.  Such is especially true for the sonnet’s rhyming closing couplet—two lines—which create a satisfying summary comment on the entire poem:

If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Finally, vivid and well-chosen words are essential to a poem.  They should evoke sharp images and appeal to your senses.  Particularly take note of a poet’s inventive comparisons.  For example, “Her Legs,” by English Renaissance poet Robert Herrick, creates a pleasingly silly picture because of an unexpected comparison.  This is the entire poem:

Fain would I kiss my Julia’s dainty leg,
Which is as white and hairless as an egg.[6]

In her poem “A Work of Artifice,”[7] contemporary poet Marge Piercy makes the point that many women live constricted lives.  The poem compares a woman and a bonsai tree.  Shakespeare’s “Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds” compares steadfast love to the North Star.

 

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Draft by Samuel Taylor Coleridge of his poem “Kubla Khan” [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

As you can see, poetry is not about obscure language and singsong meter.  It’s not about figuring out that “Kubla Khan” goes da dah, da dah, da dah, da dah.  It’s about experiencing the magic, mood, and meaning created by lines such as these:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

If technical terms and analysis interest you: great!  I like them, too.  Recognizing and understanding poetic techniques can help reveal the soul of a poem.  But if the literary terms and tools overwhelm you,  why not simply enjoy poetry on your own terms?

Reading contemporary poets, as well as the poetic heros and heroines of the past, is thrilling.  Browse the poetry section of a bookstore to see whose work appeals to you.  You can also get leads by searching online for “best contemporary poetry”; here’s a link to one useful site.  If you don’t enjoy a particular poem or poet, go on to another one.  The world is filled with so much incredible poetry that it would be a shame to get stuck wading through poems you don’t like for whatever reason.  Try Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Wislawa Szymborska, Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, Richard Wilbur, and hundreds more.  Jump in and discover new poetic heroines and heros.


[1] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kubla Khan,” first published 1816.

[2] Emily Dickinson, Poem 254, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H. Johnson (Boston: Little, Brown, 1960).  This and other Emily Dickinson poems are also available on several online sites, including https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/hope-thing-feathers-254.

[3] Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach,” first published 1867.

[4] Alfred Noyes, “The Highwayman,” first published 1906.

[5] William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 116,” first published 1609.

[6] Robert Herrick (1591-1674), “Her Legs.”

[7] Marge Piercy, “A Work of Artifice,” 1999.

Backyard Being

The backyard is both a place and a state of being. The front yard is partly for the neighbors. In the front yard, the grass must be cut and the crabgrass kept to a minimum. Even if the homeowners think dandelions are pretty, the neighbors will expect the flowers to be mowed before they turn to seed. Children may play in the front yard from time to time, and company is greeted there, but the real living takes place in the backyard.

In our first little white house, where we lived until I was six, I loved our backyard. Mother planted wide beds of flowers along both sides, and my parents grew vegetables—I liked the green peppers best. My wading pool sat partway down the yard. One day I took my life-sized doll, Susie, swimming with me; doing so made her seem like a real girl, and I wanted Susie to share my fun.

When I was four, I came home from a playmate’s late one afternoon to find my father brushing forest-green paint on a wooden jungle gym he had just finished building. A long ladder with smooth round rungs was suspended between shorter vertical ladders. I couldn’t believe this magnificent structure was meant for me. On it, I could hang upside down and then flip over to land on my feet. I could travel hand over hand down the long horizontal ladder. I could swing over to the bars on the swing set. I was fearless on the jungle gym, and my parents trusted me to stay alive.

At the far end of our backyard, where the area known as “the mud” began, other neighborhood children and I wandered and explored, stopping to look up when the occasional airplane passed overhead. One afternoon, accompanied by Inky the spaniel, we children set off on a turtle hunt. “Inky is going to find us a turtle!” I called to my mother. Against the odds, Inky came through for us. After she helped us take off our muddy shoes, Mother found a box for the turtle and lettuce for his lunch.

The backyard of our second little white house did not include a jungle gym, which I was sad to leave behind, but half of our new backyard was wooded. Wild plants, dry leaves, and boulders surrounded hundred-foot-tall trees. When I was in the woods, it screened out all memory of bullying classmates and teachers who piled on the homework.

The woods behind our house, drawing by Mason Hayek

The branches of an ironwood tree bent down to meet the top of a tall granite rock, and in the space between, my friends and I played house. A flat rock by the largest oak created a porch, as we called it, for sitting a moment and deciding Native Americans had worn the nearby path. Around us grew blueberry bushes, spring beauties, dog-toothed violets, and jacks-in-the-pulpit. Tadpoles lived in the small pools of water left from the spring rains. On the June morning when summer vacation began, the woods greeted me with still-fresh, light-green leaves. Sunlight illuminated the last of the mist from the cool overnight air.

In front of the woods, on the backyard lawn, my friends and I played croquet and softball, sat on another of the yard’s boulders to converse with our dolls, held handstand and cartwheel contests, and swung on the swings. Unlike some parents, mine didn’t mind that our feet wore away the grass. I liked to swing high and then jump to the ground. The neighborhood girls shared some traits with my classmates—as in, “We’re in a club, and you have to pay five cents to join.”—but in our backyard, I never felt second-rate or thought about needing to be different than I was.

Outdoor dinner at Aunt Ruth’s, with my grandmother and my Cousin Shirley

Every summer, we visited our relatives in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. The backyard I most loved there was behind Aunt Ruth and Uncle Larry’s big white house on College Street. We ate dinner outdoors on long tables: a big family eating late in the evening after Aunt Ruth’s lengthy preparations—green beans cooked for hours with country ham, corn on the cob, huge pieces of lemon-meringue pie. Two-year-old Kelly toddled toward the side of the property, to be brought back and then start off again. Mark, a year older, called me “Cussin Winnie” and wanted me to play with him. No one rushed away. Nannie and Aunt Winnie had only to walk next door to be home.

Aunt Ruth

One evening, my cousin Shirley and Shirley’s husband, Duffy, danced for us all: Mother and Daddy and me, Nannie and Aunt Winnie, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Larry, Cousin Carol, and Mark and Kelly—their sister, Ruthie, was not yet born. The Landrums were there, too; Aunt Winnie managed the Landrum Insurance office. The layers of Shirley’s party skirt swirled as she and Duffy waltzed to the music from the record player. Afterwards, Aunt Winnie and Mr. Landrum performed a comic routine. She stood in back and extended her arms in front of him; he kept his arms hidden. As Mr. Landrum told a story, Aunt Winnie spread her arms wide to emphasize the dramatic points and wiped his eyes at the sad parts. Her dainty arms made an incongruous contrast to her boss’ tall frame. Daddy told his story about the hoarse ice-cream waitress. “Do you have laryngitis?” asks the customer. “No,” the waitress replies, “just chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.”

The world in which summer evenings brought time to climb on the jungle gym, backyard games of Mother May I? and Harrodsburg family suppers has long since spun away. Present life includes more front yards than backyards. But in my mind, I see my dear ones gathered on the tranquil, broad, green lawn of Aunt Ruth and Uncle Larry’s backyard, from which no one will be forced to leave, torn away from the pleasure and affection. Shirley dances; Nannie gives her saucy commentary; Mother tells a funny story; and Daddy soaks up the textures of the layered trees against a brilliant sky.

Writing Your Memoir: Telling by Showing

Pictures can be profoundly evocative and so may have an important role in telling your story.  They will ignite your own memories, capture your readers’ imagination, and add to your readers’ knowledge and understanding.

Photographs carefully ordered and presented with explanatory captions could, by themselves, create a meaningful memoir.  And if you have artistic skills, you might tell your story in part or wholly through drawings and paintings.  More often, photographs and artwork are a captivating adjunct to a story told in words.

In his memoir Growing to 80, my father, Mason Hayek, makes extensive use of his drawings to help communicate his history.  In some sections, the drawings carry most of the weight.  More often, my father’s drawings, as well as photographs, supplement his prose and poetry.

Examples from Growing to 80 may give ideas of how you can use artwork and photographs to tell your story.

This drawing of my father’s boyhood home and his caption introduce us to his parents and to the setting for his childhood:

Daddy's boyhood homeThe drawing here shows our house, 317 Superior Street (formerly Yankee Street), St. Paul. Mother and Dad bought a cottage at this address shortly after their marriage, in 1904. Dad then enlarged the house in 1922 to that shown here, using his skill in carpentry and bringing much of the material for the alteration on his bicycle.

Including photographs such as this one, which is of my father’s parents, also adds interest and depth to the memoir—and helps to ensure the photos’ preservation even if the originals are eventually lost:

Frank Hayek and Eugenia Lydon HayekFrank Hayek and Eugenia Lydon Hayek

 

In addition to photographs of people and places, the chapters about my father’s Minnesota boyhood include pictures of artifacts such as school documents, a letter to Santa that my father wrote when he was seven, and cards that he made for his mother:

Daddy's Perfect-Attendance Certificate, Monroe Jr. High

Daddy's Letter to Santa, 1927

Daddy's Card for His Mother 4

In my father’s memoir, drawings help him convey some of the experiences he had while visiting the Kentucky village where my mother, Doris Lynn Burgess Hayek, lived until she was a young adult:

Doris’s friends from Paint Lick and nearby towns have remained her lifelong friends. I’m grateful that I have been accepted as a friend by Doris’s friends, and I feel bonds to them. Among these friends was Elizabeth Coy, who is now gone. Below is my pen-and-ink drawing of her home, located in Richmond, Kentucky.

Coy Home

My father introduces a section called “Northern Scenes” this way:

During parts of the years when Winnie was in camp in Maine, Doris and I vacationed at “David’s Folly,” a salt-water farm that had been converted to an inn by Minerva Cutler. The enjoyable times in David’s Folly were augmented by drives to Blue Hill, Stonington, and Castine and by walks to nearby woods and the beautiful coves, inlets of Penobscot Bay. Enchanting scenes were everywhere, subjects for drawing. Then during the years that Winnie lived in Maine and Massachusetts, Doris and I visited her many times, and we three enjoyed the scenery of the New England states.

Then he shares numerous drawings, such as this one:

CovePenobscot Bay cove, West Brooksville, Maine

The section also has this photograph:

Daddy at the CoveMason Hayek sitting by Penobscot Bay

My father’s prose and poetry are captivating in themselves, but his drawings and photographs add dimensions that cannot easily be communicated in words.

What visual elements are available to you to help you tell your story?

 

Next: Your story in verse

Evening Mass, All Saints’ Day

Meeting view
Sunday Window, quick sketch by Mason Hayek

The church tonight was and was not my church;
I am making my home there,
Even as corners and entire rooms
Remain unknown,
Not yet my dwelling place.
A kind acquaintance greeted me
In my now-familiar pew
Before the organ told of time for quiet
And the small procession gathered.
I knew the crucifix rose
In the dark beyond the window;
Jesus as he lived inspires me,
As failingly as I follow,
More than Jesus as he died.
The priest spoke to us of speaking up
For right as we understand,
Of nurturing the saint within.
I loved singing the hymns:
Hymns and a sermon, a homily,
These are church enough for me,
Along with friends,
Who are my sanctuary.