Thursday, April 14, 2016

An Introduction to Poet and Songwriter Malcom Guite

The written word waits quietly for us and I so appreciate the "friends" I have made solely through the immense window of their words page after page.  I met a new friend of words - Malcom Guite- this last month whose words sing plenty right off the page...and yet he is so generous as to also publish an audio file of his reading his and other poetry on his blog as well.

The other reader of our household has been leaving his paperback Penguin classic The Portable Dante 
in that room where one is sometimes wont to sit and so I had just been dabbling in a bit of Dante's  "Inferno"  before I came upon Malcom Guite's verse, Dante and the Companioned Journey 2: through the Gate.

 In his introduction Mr. Guite  explains, "So Dante begins again, accompanied by Virgil and they come to the very gate of Hell, with its famous inscription ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’! "
But they don’t abandon hope, and that is the whole point. It is hope that leads and draws them on, hope inspired by love. 

This poem is from his collection  The Singing Bowl  published by Canterbury Press and is also available on Amazon 

You can read more of the poet's introduction to the poem on his blog. Here is the poem and then below, a file of Malcom Guite  reading the poem to you.

Through the Gate
Begin the song exactly where you are
For where you are contains where you have been
And holds the vision of your final sphere

And do not fear the memory of sin;
There is a light that heals, and, where it falls,
Transfigures and redeems the darkest stain

Into translucent colour. Loose the veils
And draw the curtains back, unbar the doors,
Of that dread threshold where your spirit fails,

The hopeless gate that holds in all the  fears
That haunt your shadowed city, fling it wide
And open to the light that finds and fares

Through the dark pathways  where you run and  hide,
through all the alleys of your riddled heart,
As pierced and open as His wounded side.

Open the map to Him and make a start,
And down the dizzy spirals, through the dark
His light will go before you, let Him chart

And name and heal. Expose the hidden ache
To him, the stinging fires and smoke that blind
Your judgement, carry you away, the mirk

And muted gloom in which you cannot find
The love that you once thought worth dying for.
Call Him to all you cannot call to mind

He comes to harrow Hell and now to your
Well guarded fortress let His love descend.
The icy ego at your frozen core

Can hear His call at last. Will you respond?
You can hear Malcolm Guite  read  this  poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button.
Audio Player

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Free Milk of Human Kindness ...from Silicon Valley to Rwanda

Friendship is certainly boosted by proximity, but over my lifetime there have been a number of people who I have been destined to respect and love and yet not get to have anywhere near my neighborhood.  Such are my friends Roger and Faith Shaw.

Visiting with Roger and Faith in 2007
When we lived in Carmel on the cliffside estate, our employer had us host a fundraiser for visiting Rwandan cyclists who spoke every manner of smile but very little English.   Faith, who at that time lived in San Jose, was hired to translate their Kinyarwanda so the guys could tell their stories to the  invited guests.

Faith and I had one of those instant bonds; we found that we spoke the same language indeed.  Over the next few years my husband and I had some very dear encounters with Faith and her husband, Roger. For a time we lived close enough to visit each others homes.

While time and distance came between us, for Roger and Faith left California and moved to Rwanda, my appreciation of who my friends are and what they are doing continues to grow.

I hope you will watch an unsophisticated but fascinating video of Roger, learning about his larger neighborhood and showing why he wants to give milk to Mwendo neighbor children, but before you do, from their web page  in Rwanda, here is a bit of Faith's background:
First and foremost, she herself was a refugee separated from her parents after fleeing Rwanda's first genocide. She was taken in by another family, but was shamelessly exploited. They told her that her parents were dead, that there was no hope and they forced her into servitude.
A year later, Mrs. Hindley, an English missionary rescued Faith and hid her under blankets in the footwell of a vehicle and drove her to freedom. Mrs. Hindley re-united Faith with her parents. Later, growing up as a refugee in Uganda with very little money in the family, an unknown sponsor paid her school fees. 
Faith eventually attended Makere University. One evening, outside her college dorm, she discovered an abandoned baby crying in the trash. She took him to hospital and made plans to adopt him. Unfortunately, despite Faith's efforts, the little boy died a few days later. 
Sometime after graduating, Amin's soldiers arrested Faith on trumped-up charges and held her in a cell where she was certain to be raped that very evening. However, a man who described himself as a friend of her father's saw her in jail and somehow negotiated her immediate release. Neither Faith nor her father ever identified the man.   
Faith left Uganda and moved to Kenya and took a job as a teacher. Later she won a scholarship for post-graduate education for refugees. She moved to England to become a student again. It was here that she met and married her husband, Roger. They had two daughters, Zoe & Murika, and later the family relocated to the USA. In 1994, they watched Rwanda's second genocide unfold on the TV news. It was a horrifying event resulting in the murder of 800,000 people. The aftermath was heart breaking. Among many awful tragedies, thousands of children were left without anyone to care for them. This painful reality weighed heavily on the hearts of Faith & Roger and they recalled how someone had helped Faith when she had been a child in need. They couldn't quite reconcile their comfortable family life in California with the suffering of so many abandoned children in Rwanda.
In 2000 Faith visited her homeland and saw children in need in the aftermath of war.
In 2003,  Roger and Faith bought a four bedroom house in Ruhengeri.
They hired a nanny - Judith, and a cook - Gatzinzi, and they accepted the first four orphans, Ruzindana, Anne, Mutoni & Alice. Faith's dad did a great job of running the home and being a role model for the children and staff to look up to. Sadly for all of us, he passed away in 2006. 
In 2006 they incorporated and children kept coming...if the cook
didn't find another orphan, one of the children did.  Faith sold her paintings and jewelry she made to support the children and her church helped too. She would fly back and forth from their home in San Jose, California where Roger was still working in Silicon Valley... but it wasn't the vision they had.  They wanted the children to  live as a  family and they decided together to give up their work and home in California to become  Mom and Dad to an ever growing family in Rwanda.

In 2012 they relocated the rescue home to Bugesera. The website has wonderful pictures of the home they built there and the children who are growing up. It isn't accurate to call the Ishimwe rescue home an orphanage, for the children who live there are sons and daughters.  Faith and Roger have eighteen children!

 In the years since,  Roger has built a fish farm, a whole other story in itself, to help the area be more self sustaining.   Faith started Pioneer School, a place where the Ishimwe children can learn amongst other children of the community, broadening their sense of belonging and purpose.  The Ishimwe children learn at home to grow their food, and raise animals. At school they study reading, writing, arithmetic, computers, music and art and they are learning how knowledge, work and cooperation can call forth abundance enough to share.

Which brings us again to  Roger's latest hope and his video.  The children at Pioneer School all get a big fresh glass of milk each day from the cows at the Ishimwe home.  Roger wants to bring free milk to the neighboring school and several homes where the children are not able to attend school.

After watching Roger's video, I  remembered an advertising slogan from an American bread company of the 1950's, "build strong bodies twelve ways."  We can laugh now at white Wonder Bread with its 12 added nutrients, but Roger's milk will build strong bodies and it is also likely to kindle love and good purpose in the grateful recipients.

And to think of the promise that is attached to giving even a cup of cold water to a little one.

hoping the best for you,

Some people have asked if they can donate...yes, that would be lovely!
  If you click on the video link that is in the story and I will provide it again HERE you will see to the right of the video picture is a donate button through an organization that Roger chose called Generosity.   They do not charge a fee to either side, but they do make a space to give Generosity a donation as well, if you so choose.  This site requires a credit card.

I gave my donation via PAYPAL to the Ishimwe website  with a note to specify that this particular donation was for MILK MONEY  for ROGER,  You simply click on the button to make a single donation and the option for PAYPAL will come directly up as well as other choices.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Over the Threshold...When Does One Grow Up?

"Girl child", a very free verse poem that I wrote last century and then left buried in one of my many notebooks, surfaced in my mind today because of a friend who is generating conversation on that notorious platform called Facebook with this question:
 "How does one know when one has crossed the threshold into adulthood? An act, a thought, a rite of passage, an event, a milestone...Thoughts?"  
My poem was in response to a similar query in a writing workshop I took to meet continuing education units that the state required of my profession.  The workshop leader shared a prompt and set a time limit and participants scribbled away. After the set ten or twenty minutes of writing we were free to share or not what one's heart and pen had produced. 

Queried, "When did you know you had become a woman? "
this is likely only one of my answers,
but that day, it came out, just like this:


I was very clear about being a girl child,
a girl child who could run and climb and dig and build,
a girl child who could sew and color and read and write poems.
A girl child who must come in now
and wash your hands and help
in the kitchen cutting piles 
of even circles of carrots, 
tiny disks of burning color 
while the orange sun sank 
without me 
into the Pacific fog of hill and shore
and the thin blue line of the horizons,
that by their very unattainable distances, 
were always inviting.

Then childhood itself was torn asunder,
or was it rolled up like a rug?
No, the carpet lay on the floor, dirty and now mine to clean. 
No woman in the house 
but this thirteen- year-old girl no longer a child 
with the work of my mother fallen to my limbs. 
How did she make that sauce? 
Do I unplug when the washer overflows? 
Will it electrocute me? 
Run to the neighbors. 
“Oh honey, why doesn’t your father hire a woman to help you?”  

There was no woman that could be hired
to help this girl at her real task.
What could make me a woman? 
Was it shoes with heels 
that made me feel the strength and length of my legs?  
Was it the jobs in the city,
the hunger in men’s eyes?  
The woman was hidden
in the girl child,
but the child fled
and no woman appeared. 

I suppose there were glimpses of her along the way
that a keen eye might have seen,
but she snuck up on me, 
sometime after college. 
When the ardent second childhood waned, 
she emerged;
neither as optimistic nor as angry, 
neither as guileless or as selfish,
not as foolhardy or as frightened. 
What made me a woman?  
When need gave way and 
the force of love 
forged through me
with eyes for others, 
and I forgave.


I didn't mention playing dress-up with my neighbor, but I did that too.

Friday, December 25, 2015

 A Prayer for Christmas Morning   by Henry Van Dyke

The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven,
    and crowns another year with peace and good will.

Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus,
    that we may share in the song of the angels,
    the gladness of the shepherds,
    and the worship of the wisemen.

Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love
     all over the world…

Let kindness come with every gift
     and good desires with every greeting.

Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, 
    and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy
    to be thy children, and the Christmas evening
    bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts,
    forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Morning Prayer

     The cat wanted out and so I saw the sunrise, the eastern sky uniformly orange as if one heavy stroke of a paint laden brush had been applied.  The foothills of Mt. St. Helena were still stubbed  in  muted shades of shadow.

      I returned to my darkened room and lay back on my bed but soon the memory of the color bright sky drug me up to go out and look again.  The morning was now older, I found only a pale  version of that fiery view I had so quickly  taken in.   The colors of light coming wait for no eye.

      I had not, in fact, seen the sunrise, but only the angle of one fractional moment. I had seen no more than a freeze as if captured by a  camera’s lens or a painter’s interpretive palette. I had taken  only one spectral glimpse of a majestic particulate parade that casts its bouncing rays from ever greater height as surely as one’s breath travels to and from the lungs, which breath is sometimes also, sadly, as summarily hailed.  Ah, yes, a new day, sunrise, life….

     I’m reading a memoir that Ivan Doig wrote, This House of Sky.   Speaking of one of his professors he says, “…I was given encouragement and I answered with effort.”    

     Let me answer with my efforts the primal encouragements so readily available with wakening.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

By Design, the Wonders in a Garden

One gardener's dead vines hanging from a tree is a hummingbird's swing set.

Hummingbird on a swing of dead vines in May

I can't get very close and none of my photos have quite captured it, but I see this hummingbird daily from my deck and kitchen window as it swings on dangling dead vines that escaped cleanup and trimming two years ago.  Our tenants had let vines grow crazy on all the fence lines, choking out roses and meandering into the redwoods. We pulled and pulled and got most of them out at both ends..but some were so out of reach.

 The vine remnants used to occasionally irritate me hanging down in my line of sight.

A Fuzzy Zoom

But this little bird has made me love the tangles that hang down, for everyday this bird comes and sits and swings and preens in the shade of the Sequoia tree from which the dead vines hang.  

These photos just can't convey so I just now saved my post and, camera in hand, walked into the kitchen on the chance that my little pal might be again swinging in the breeze. 

The window view

And yes, (s)he is there!

Camera to the glass...see him?

And take off!

Why have I gone to the trouble of posting these admittedly inadequate photos?  I need the reminder and plot it  here in gratitude for the sweet solace this little bird has brought me day after day. Clearly there is the reminder that many times there is purpose that we do not at first and perhaps on this side, ever see.  And then there is just the contrast...the world heats in sorrows and still the birds find a perch where they can have a quiet moment. 

And so should should we. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

In my edge toward dawn...English Creek - A Book's Reflection

Does your neighborhood have any little houses, oh, bigger than a bird house, but smaller than a dog house, that hold free books to borrow and pass around? There are several, depending on my "umph" and the rise of the mercury in the thermometer, that are within walking distance from my house.

Upside down and flat back against the wall, behind the books presenting their spines of titles, a bit of the painting on the cover of this aging Penguin paperback caught my eye. I rearranged the books and pulled out English Creek  by Ivan Doig.  Wallace Stegner's front cover recommendation is fairly emphatic. He uses the word real  three times:  real Montana, real West and Doig is a real writer.
Stegner I know, so  I figured Doig was worth a try; and he is.
Doig's story is set in the summer of 1939 in a fictive Montana region but he describes the terrain with such visual clarity that I could navigate myself up and down the buttes and valleys without a map.

I was still deciding if I would plunge in and commit to read when I met, on page three, a word new to me,"brockled."

"Jick, Set your mouth for it."                                                                                                             Supper and my mother. It is indelible in me that all this began there right at the very outset of June, because I was working over my saddle and lengthening the stirrups again, to account for how much I was growing that year, for the ride up with my father on the counting trip the next morning. I can even safely say what the weather was, one of those brockled late afternoons under the Rockies when the tag ends of storm cling in the mountains and sun is reaching through wherever it can between the cloud piles. Tell me why it is that details like that, saddle stirrups a notch longer or sunshine dabbed around on the foothills some certain way, seem to be the allowance of memory while the bigger points of life hang back.
 Doig had me. Now I was ready for Jick to share the summer when he was not yet fifteen. I was ready to follow him from the light of the brockled afternoon into the family supper.  The rift that manifests at the family table that night is continually set in more far reaching contexts as Doig spins a story both specific and universal through a young observer who is curious enough about human nature, heritage, history and the connections and dislocations in his wider community to open a very broad tale indeed.

You know that feeling when you are nearing the end of a story that you've entered into and you aren't ready for it to end; you know when you read that last page you are going to feel a little bereft?  Well,  that is where I was at when I mentioned to another neighbor, unconnected with the neighborhood book swap houses, how much I was enjoying what I thought was just an obscure little Montana story.   " I love Ivan Doig," she said as she ran off to her den to retrieve three other of his books to lend to me.   I haven't begun any of them yet, but it is a fine feeling knowing more of this author is now readily available to explore.

I'll leave you with the beginning of another passage that resonated with a desire in me.
Where morning is concerned, I am my father all over again. "The day goes downhill after daybreak" was his creed.  I don't suppose there are too many people now who have seen a majority of the dawns of their life, but my father did, and I have. And of my lifetime of early rising I have never known better dawns than those when I rode from English Creek to my haying job on Noon Creek...(page 233)
That is the lead-in to some inspired descriptions wrapped in and around Jick's  deep as usual, thoughts and feelings and then Jick asks. "Is it any wonder each of these haying-time dawns  made me feel remade?"

All right, I 'll admit, while I  have sometimes been getting up in time to watch the sun climb over  Mount St. Helena and her foothills, I as often find my way back to bed to sleep a bit more. Sleep is good for remaking and healing too, but new energy and the dawn are calling.

with best wishes,