Archives for October 2012

The Work Awaits, Part Two

Almost exactly two years ago, I made my Good Letters debut with a post titled “The Work Awaits,” in which I wrote about my vocational insecurities and obstacles, and how living out my life as a writer hasn’t felt the way I expected it to.

This sequel is long in coming, and it’s my last post as a regular contributor.

The two years that have marked my tenure here happened to coincide with one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’ve used this space to work through many of the puzzles I found myself facing at midlife.

I’ve written about my father, depression, diabetes, not being a mother, Jazzercise, John Mayer, and Peanut M&Ms. Mostly I’ve wondered: Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing, in the way I’m meant to be doing it?

And also: Is this all there is? [Read more…]

To Live by the Light of Fiction

“In the end, a story is never going to make a damn bit of difference to the dead.” —The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon

When I’m gone, son, tell me the story of the day you collided with the opponent’s keeper, his knee to your temple, and collapsed, face down, on the pitch until the EMS crew rolled you off the field on a gurney.

Tell me the story of how, during the month you waited to play again, you tried to rally the flagging team and inspire them to turn around their season.

Tell me the story of the coach who failed to recognize your talents and dedication—as player and leader—so I can rally to your defense—if the dead can come to the defense of a good son. [Read more…]

Sleeping in Slave Quarters at Sweet Briar College

From my office window I can see the pale yellow plantation house, its sharply pitched roof peeking from behind a huge conifer, its two Italianate cupolas, one at either end of the house.

Since 1901, Sweet Briar House has been the home of the president of Sweet Briar College, a small women’s college in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, a bucolic place of towering trees and beautiful architecture, but also a place that was once home to nearly one hundred slaves.

Nearly all traces of this history are gone, except for possibly the most telling trace: a small log slave cabin thirty paces from the president’s home. [Read more…]

Elections Plus Economics, a Losing Equation

It’s time again. We’re just days from that sacred quadrennial ritual, wherein we profess outrage at the subversive vision propagated by the coven of elites running the other party, and agree with our comrades that despite his failings, our own party’s candidate is a far cry from the conniving, pandering, crypto-fascist, pathological liar leading the mob of ingrates and plutocrats on the other side.

I’ve been doing a lot of late-night driving on backcountry roads, the kind that severs a man’s connection from polite society, and opens his mind to possibilities civilized people are expected to abjure, like zombie apocalypses, or mind-controlling thought rays from outer space, or a torrid affair between Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow.

The only way to ward off the visions of such horrors is with voices, and so I scroll through AM stations and amuse myself by imagining how many of the sentences belted out by sports announcers are applicable to presidential campaigns. [Read more…]

Something Like Jasmine Meditates on Mortality

Living with leukemia, I naturally meditate often on our human mortality. No, often is the wrong word: the meditation is a constant undercurrent of my consciousness.

We are all mortal, of course; yet (of course) we live most of our lives trying to distract ourselves from this undeniable, unpleasant fact. The gift of a life-threatening illness is that it trumps the desire for distraction.

Advancing age can bring this same gift. Murray Bodo, now in his mid-seventies, wraps the gift in perfectly crafted poems offered to us in his new collection, Something Like Jasmine.

Fr. Murray Bodo  is a Franciscan priest and author of acclaimed books on St. Francis. He has been Image Artist of the Month and a chaplain at the Glen Workshop.

All of his writing—poetry and prose—exudes Franciscan joy. So even the opening poem of Something Like Jasmine imagines his own inevitable death in playful terms:

Like the movies of your childhood
when you didn’t want them to end
even if you knew the ending,

you see your life and try to keep
the reel from running out because
you know it’s not just a movie… [Read more…]