The Velveteen Rabbit is turning 100 this year. Thinking of this jettisoned me back to raising children, my own and as a childcare provider. This was a favorite read. Each time we journeyed through the story together my throat caught, tears brimmed the corners of my eyes, the message of the ravages of being loved a memory-provoking act.
My rabbit was not velvet. He was green piling, floppy eared, a squeaker in a yellow belly, feet of pink, and a plastic face set in a permanent yawn. His puffy cheeks are dirt stained now. His closed eyelids still blue, but his whiskers are nearly rubbed off. Bunny Rabbit, (my name for him) is 63 years old this year. He is frayed material, blackened ear fur, and not too cuddly anymore.
No matter. As I pulled him out of the steamer trunk amid other childhood memories, a flood of stories came back to me. He became my anchor during a tonsillectomy when I was two years old. He stayed with me when a mirage of monsters swam in my dreams. He patiently waited for my return after the shame of putting away childhood things, entering adulthood, and having children of my own. No other child will love him in quite the same way as me. To the unschooled eye, he might be relegated to the trash.
Can you relate? What's your story of a lovey from long ago?
Be the Gateway
Writers seek an audience, hoping to reach countless individuals. But what if our words are meant to be heard by just one person in any given moment? What if our words change just one person's life? Is it worth it?
Manuel Iris, Poet Laureate Emeritus of Cincinnati, gave a reading recently from his new collection, The Parting Present, by Dos Madres Press. Find it in local bookstores or ask them to order it for you.
He introduced a poem entitled Witness by talking about the one emotion he thought he'd never have when it came to his wife while she was pregnant, that of envy. He realized then that he would never be able to carry their child in his body. Feel the seed grow, know the flutterings within. It was as if that message was meant only for me. It changed me, proved to me that if we reach just one person with our words then we have done good.
We are all in stages of growth and part of mine is to understand that there is an audience out there who wants to hear my words. That was true when I was a featured poet at https://roeblingpointbooksandcoffee.com/ at the onset of National Poetry Month. While I don't consider myself a poet, I harvested older works and sprinkled in some new material. As I listened to the other poets, it became clear how much our words matter.
Toward the end of April, I had the great good pleasure of attending an evening with National Poet Laureate, Jo Harjo and Kentucky Poet Laureate, Crystal Wilkinson. The evening did not disappoint. Their words, like a salve, washed over me, gave me knew purpose and understanding of otherness.
I'm something of a Crystal Wilkinson groupie. She was my first writing workshop facilitator. She helped me to understand both the power and the work it takes to craft your message properly. Since then, the journey through my writing has wound around animosity, anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, you name it; to finally come to a place of love, acceptance, and forgiveness, for the characters that take up my pages.
Crystal's latest book Perfect Black, published by University Press of Kentucky which also can be found in independent bookstores, is a beautiful expression of Black-ness in Appalachia. I am not Black nor African American nor Appalachian. I am white, German, English. And yet, pieces of our lives intersect in this beautiful compilation of poems. Home is in the piece entitled: Meditation on Grief: Things We Carry, Things We Remember.
Impact is the word that bubbles to the surface and confirms again that sharing our words, no matter how ancient they can be, gives voice to the layers of cultural experiences we have in common. In this way, we cultivate compassion and a love that supersedes anything.
And Speaking of Words that Matter
After my brother's death from Covid in November last year, I wanted to connect with the nurse who helped to usher him from this world to the next. I tracked him down and sent a letter to communicate my gratitude. A friend mentioned that this may have broader impact and encouraged me to seek publication. Here is the link to Humans of the World. A big thank you to them for publishing this Letter to a Nurse. https://www.howblog.org/post/letter-to-a-nurse
Dreams of Rosemary
At the entrance to San Damiano, just outside the ancient walls of Assisi, is an astounding rosemary bush. At the market, garden stores, or wherever I see the spindly branches with spikey leave, I gather a branch in my hands to brush the scent on my hand. It's then that I find myself amid a grove of olive trees, walking that path to the place were Saint Clare spent much of her life. As the scent lingers, images of roadside harvests of wild asparagus, fields of mustard, the liquids jewel of a good wine, fill my head and my heart.
I miss Italy, the food, the wine, the people.
Restrictions are lifting and with that comes hope. As part of a pilgrimage team, I'm excited to once again be preparing writing prompts, afternoon journaling sessions, and presentations on the life of Clare of Assisi for a return to a much beloved place. Along with Franciscan friar John Quigley and Marc Greenburg, I invite you to consider going with us. You don't have to be Catholic. It is as much about your own spirituality as it is about Church history, medieval history.
Program details are here: https://fatherjohnquigley.com/pilgrimages/