May Theme and Poem: “Prize”

We have been choosing a theme every month for our Giants & Pilgrims “Almanac”. We’re hoping the pages we’re posting each around these themes enliven your season, enrich your days and bring focus to where you’re at in the month. It’s been doing that for Betony and I.

May’s theme is “prize”. For us, it always feels like May is a big push of business before the season of summer hits. It’s good to know what you’re racing for; keeping your mind on the prize… Here’s a poem fleshing out those ideas in broad, not-too-obvious ways.

PRIZE

May is a finish line

The last push for the work in the fields,
tired hands planting the final seeds

So the school year has closure
the wedding planning is about done

the spring season brings
projects to an end
and people look to summer traveling

Because go, go, go is best followed with

rest

and a sense of completion,
a Voice that says job well done,
and permission to breathe deeply

Disappointment or “Missing the Northern Lights”

Picture by Betony Coons at Reykjavik Art Museum.

Betony and my first day in Reykjavik, Iceland was a long and incredible one. We arrived in the country at 6 AM with no sleep on the red-eye and saw amazing sights all day.

By nightfall we were shot. We asked the college students staying at our Air B & B, “Please, PLEASE, wake us if you see the northern lights! We’re in room 6!” as they occupied the hot tub out back.

The northern lights showed up. They got drunk and never woke us.

It was the only time the northern lights were visible the rest of our stay.

Here’s the thing about disappointment. It stays with you. The rest of the trip was unreal and wondrous. I’ve shown pictures in a previous post and you can see it. The time was fulfilling and centering for Betony and my marriage. I hate it, but this disappointment of missing the northern lights has stayed with me. I’m still working on shaking it. It is not a tragedy at all, by any means. It’s just a disappointment; it’s just hopes and dreams not turning out the way you’d really wanted it.

For me, I’d traveled half-way across the world with a longing for this wonder (ever since I was little). It’s one of the reasons we chose the destination. And I can’t get this out of my head: as I sleep and they are dancing in the sky outside my bedroom. And I am asleep. And they are right outside…

What a terrible story I’m telling myself. How ungrateful I sound. What a strange thing that in the midst of the special experiences of the whole trip, this stays with me like a splinter, tarnishing the memories.

The rest of the week I stayed up each night, listening to music and walking through our landscape; waiting, watching. I kept hoping the sky would clear and the aurora would show.

Why has it been such a lasting sting?

As I’ve processed it with Betony, it began to be this strange “mid-life crisis metaphor” for me. The meaning was quite despairing: I’ve missed the northern lights. I will never see them before I die. And I will never get to such and such place with my music before I die. And I will never have such and such experience with my wife before I die. And so on. It wasn’t really about missing the aurora borealis. It was about getting older and all the things I’d never do, achieve, experience. ALL the disappointments.

Again, what a terrible story I’m telling myself.

So what do you do when these types of disappointments occur? How do you move on; let go? The miracles of a Resurrection Sunday have happened and they resonate within your memory. Yet you still can’t let go of the shock and pain of Good Friday. People are telling you get over it, move on.

And you try, but there’s this wound. And anytime anyone mentions it a deep sadness is triggered and a sick feeling in your stomach appears.

And so,

I’m continuing to focus on the wondrous and miraculous I’ve experienced; the Sunday mornings. And I’m continuing to fight against the larger despair of the “mid-life crisis metaphor” meanings. I want to leave them and head towards hope and the truth of the great moments I’ve had. I’m being intentional, reading through journals, reclaiming memories.

Somewhere within me I know if I don’t keep heading towards Sunday it’ll effect my ability to hope. How many of you know just what I’m talking about? I’m worried it’ll embitter me towards future adventures, making me callused, not trusting to dream.

But for now let me be honest in this post that sits deep in Good Friday, at the risk of sounding quite ungrateful, and say,
“It’s certainly not easy.”

 

 

 

April Poetic Intro: BRIGHT

Our April theme appears here late, after a wondrous trip to Iceland. The Almanac this month hits on several themes: April Fool’s (we’re including some comedy here this month), Spring, and the celebration of Easter. This poem paints the themes in a esoteric fashion.

BRIGHT

April is a smile
a spark
an epiphany
a new dawn
These days are given to
the pranksters
the believers
the early risers
Bright mornings, bright ideas, bright souls
Because with every rain there’s a clearing
And a new sun to enjoy

 

“Why We are going to Iceland” or The Table, the Synagogue, and the Pilgrimage

In the past few weeks as we tell people we are going to Iceland for our 10 year anniversary we get two reactions. The first is the usual excitement over a big trip. The second is confusion settling in.

“Why in the world would you want to go to Iceland?”

It’s a great question. And my answer is fairly unrefined and open. But I wanted to share it here.

It’s not about Iceland.

The place and trip really is secondary in our minds.

Really, Betony asked me if there was any place significant and meaningful I wanted to go for this big 10 year marker. I couldn’t think of anyplace. I gave a half-thought answer, “I’ve always wanted to try and see the northern lights”. That’s all it took. She started looking up Iceland travels and seeing how stark and beautiful the country is.

No, it’s not about Iceland. This trip is first about the importance of having a marker, a large gesture, to celebrate and recognize this point in our relationship.

Because I’d honestly be just as happy to have a week-long jaunt in Denver with my wife. But I completely recognize this: It’s important to tell a great story. And it’s important to have a grander gesture for the grander moments in our lives.

For example, I didn’t want to go to my college graduation. My parents made me and I’m so happy I have the memory of that weekend with them.

And I’d have been happy to elope with a couple friends. I’m so glad our wedding was a spectacular affair with friend and family surrounding us.

In my life I want to make sure and do this. I want to take the time, energy, finances and celebrate things right. When we do this it creates alters and markers in our minds of the important event. It creates a place we can return to that is large and grand in our memories. It’s a bright past that propels us forward when we need the reminder.

The writer Phyllis Tickle writes and talks about the rhythms of family. It’s in our rhythms that our values are passed to our children and we live out what we believe. She points out three major rhythms, putting it this way:

The Table: it’s where we daily gather together, pray, break bread, share stories
The Synagogue: is where we weekly lean on each other, encounter God, talk about the most important things
The Pilgrimage: is the great trip to Jerusalem, done yearly or only a few times in a lifetime, the unifying event

As I process taking this trip to Iceland with my wife, I’m thinking of it as a Pilgrimage.

It’s something you only once in a lifetime. It’s to celebrate this woman I love so deeply. It’s to create bright memories that I can return to when the path forward gets difficult.

That’s my answer. That’s why we’re going to Iceland.

 

 

 

 

POEM by Spoken Word Artist Dale Fredrickson

New Growth

Through winter nights,

I brave barren heart;

slowing down finding myself in shadows,

shedding all parts within me past spent,

sitting in silence mounded by sorrows.

 

Frozen dirt stubborn,

I yearn for spring’s mysterious garden;

It’s secrets breaking through frosty harden.

 

Snowdrifts melting —

the gardener within me begins again:

 

God lives on the edges of spring’s daylight.

warming frozen dirt, breathing new life,

cultivating daring dreams, fresh insight,

building trellises where community thrives.

Dirt softens spring pushes through —

I burst with renewed joy and delight,

flourishing gardens growing within heart,

fresh gripping roots of purpose for this life,

found in this hope, sowing seeds now my part

A Collection of St. Patricks Day Blessings and Toasts

Here’s to your health!
You make age curious,
Time furious, and all of us envious.

The health of the salmon to you:
a long life, a full heart and a wet mouth!

-Irish

To your good health, old friend,
may you live for a thousand years,
and I be there to count them.

-Robert Smith Surtees

Success attend St. Patrick’s fist,
For he’s a saint so clever;
Oh! he give the snakes and toads a twist,
He banished them forever.

Who’d care to be a bee and sip
Sweet honey from the flower’s lip
When he might be a fly and steer
Head first into a can of beer?

Ale’s a strong wrestler,
Flings all it hath met;
And makes the ground slippery,
Though it not be wet.

Here’s a health to the future;
A sigh for the past;
We can love and remember,
And hope to the last,
And for all the base lies
That the almanacs hold
While there’s love in the heart,
We can never grow old.

May you enter heaven late.

Come in the evening, or come in the morning,
Come when you are looked for, or come without warning,
A thousand welcomes you will find here before you,
And the oftener you come here the more I’ll adore you.

-Irish

Here’s to Dan Cupid, the little squirt,
He’s lost his pants, he’s lost his shirt,
He’s lost most everything but his aim,
Which shows that love is a losing game.

Here’s to fertility-
the toast of agriculture and the bane of love.

I drink to your charm, your beauty and your brains-
which gives you a rough idea of how hard up I am for a drink.

-Groucho Marx

I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow.

Say it with flowers
Say it with eats,
Say it with kisses,
Say it with sweets,
Say it with jewelry,
Say it with drink,
But always be careful
Not to say it with ink.

The love you give away is the only love you keep.

-Elbert Hubbard

Eat, drink and be merry
for tomorrow you diet.

May you always have red-eye gravy with your ham,
hush puppies with your catfish,
and the good sense not to argue with your wife.

-Toast From Tennessee, quoted by Timothy Noah in the New Republic

To Mom’s cooking:
May my wife never find out how bad it really was.

To soup: May it be seen and not heard.

Great Reviews for the Album “Almanac No. 1”

There are some online reviews available now for our first album, Almanac No. 1. Take a gander and how people are responding. It’s been extremely encouraging.

From Quip Magazine out of Toronto:
http://www.quipmag.com/giants-pilgrims-release-almanac-no-1/

Storyacious.com contacted us to do a feature on “Shimmer No Waves”. They bring story-lovers and storytellers together to celebrate the art, science and skills of storytelling through diverse media.
http://storyacious.com/music-monday-shimmer-waves/

And finally the northern Colorado music publication, the Bandwagon, reviewed us. Jed Murphy, one of Greeley’s best writers, took on the album:
http://www.bandwagmag.com/2014/03/album-review-giants-and-pilgrims-almanac-no-1/

If you haven’t yet heard the album, bring your critical ears here:
giantsandpilgrims.bandcamp.com

February Almanac Poetic Intro

Welcome to the month of February and to our online Almanac. It’s good to navigate these pages together for the good life.

For our Giants & Pilgrims February Almanac theme we chose the word “Send”. Most of the pages deal in this theme: the way we communicate to each other, the letters and notes we give, how love and care is something easy to feel, but hard to say. We felt this would be so appropriate to talk about within this month!

Here’s a poem written to expound upon these ideas. Encouraging the gathering of our words to go out to those who need to hear them.

February is a written letter
Words forming at the tip of our tongue
about to be spoken

 We believe in this edge 
of winter
Bending towards the promise 
of spring

 And so we dare to 
Tell, share, say, send
this love so easily felt;
so hard to put into words

 Against the fear we intend
to send it anyways