In Memorium, for the Family and Friends of Clemile Suire Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Composed on the South Louisiana Prairie
October 22, 2014

The Cajun prairie
with golden waves spreading away

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

The Cajun Prairie receives its own, but the earthen grave is not the end!

beyond reach

received one of its own this day.

Dazzling blue hemisphere,
cloudless, bright and windswept,
arched overhead as a crystal dome
from whence angels sang and danced
a happy soul’s homeward flight.

Those left behind
gathered at the graveside,
remembering a life of

service
fidelity
steadfastness
devotion to right matters

and the good times that attend life well lived.
After the priest’s hopeful amen,
the soldiers’ stirring rite,
the piper’s soulful strain of Amazing Grace,
those left behind attended one another
with much tender embrace,
holding one another close
as this mortal creed must,
because in such hours,
we know we need
oh so much
one another.

And as we cling to one another,
even more,
we cling to the glorious hope of faith
that dulls sorrow’s sharp edge:

“Just a few more weary days, and then . . .”
Yes, AND THEN!!

Gumbo Weather Wednesday, Oct 15 2014 

We are enjoying our first really strong cool snap of the season this mid-week, so yesterday Sarah enacted the perennial Cajun tradition of making gumbo to go along with the colder weather. Gumbo was a common meal of the common country Cajun throughout the cold-weather months, because its preparation on a hot stove for hours and hours helped keep the house warm, just as its steamy juiciness warmed the inward parts of the Cajun’s tummy as well as his soul. It’s one of those dishes that has more than culinary value, since its preparation in South Louisiana so often relates to celebration of all kinds of things, beginning with celebrating the first north wind’s relief from summer and continuing to celebrate throughout the colder months with weddings, holidays, and birthdays. I don’t know of any other regional dish in America that has such rich social and communal tradition associated with it.

The Cajun traditions were foreign to me, growing up in the un-Cajun side of South Louisiana. We only ate gumbo ever’ so often. And the only kind of gumbo Mama made was seafood gumbo. Because seafood ingredients can be exotic (and expensive!), gumbo cookin’ was really a special event. I doubt if we had it more than once or twice a year, and I don’t remember associating gumbo with cold weather. Gumbo-cooking, in fact, usually coincided with our catching a few Lake Pontchartrain crabs on a family outing–not enough to boil for the whole family, but enough to add some flavor to a roux, ergo Mama got out the gumbo pot, bought some oysters and shrimp, and fired up the stove.

Later I married into the Cajun culture and came to the Cajun’s distinctly cultural understanding of gumbo. Cajuns do fix seafood gumbo, but the real staple (and I DO mean staple!) for the prairie Cajuns is chicken and sausage gumbo. Those earthy ingredients, of course, correspond to the dietary constraints of the more inland-dwelling Cajuns who, in the old days, didn’t have shrimp, crabs, and oysters as did the bayou-dwelling Cajuns farther south and east. But they had chickens and they had hogs, and they had spices to make any dish exotic, and they knew how to put it all together. The result: the rich, sensuous flavor of chicken and sausage gumbo is hardly diminished by the humility of its ingredients.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Allons manger du gumbo, mes amis.

Composing more and writing less: The irony of the technological age Thursday, Oct 9 2014 

This was my grandfather's mode of composition.

This was my grandfather’s mode of composition.

I ran across a writing exercise I did in a writing group sometime in the early 1990’s. One of the questions asked about my preference for a writing place. Here’s what I wrote those decades ago:

“I like to write in a quiet, comfortable place holding my work on a tablet or in a notebook. The sofa in the living room is fine because I can prop my feet on the coffee table in a semi-reclined position, using my knees as a desk-top.”

Whoa! What a different meaning desk-top had then compared to now! And sitting on the sofa, writing on a notebook with a pen? I haven’t composed that way in 20 years. In fact, I could never duplicate the penmanship-award-winning calligraphy that characterized my graceful handwriting style in college years, simply because those pen-gripping muscles of writing control have atrophied from non-use.

I still write, certainly, but for probably 20 years now, my preferred tool for invention and composition has been the computer keyboard. I sit before a monitor, at a desk. Maybe some would argue that it’s not really writing, but it’s certainly composing!

Composition without writing?

Composition without writing?

I still use a pen and paper for the grocery list or for doodling on an agenda handout during a boring meeting, but if what I’m writing counts, I have to commit it to the screen so I can really “see” what I said.

Poetic License Tuesday, Oct 7 2014 

I can’t remember if I ever posted this piece or not. It comes from an activity in the 2013 Word Up youth writers camp where I stole a few minutes of office time to sit down with the young writers.

Poetic License
July-October 2013
(From a Word Up! youth writing camp pre-write)

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

Freedom of mind, freedom of verse!

I write; therefore I am
liberated,
unenslaved to form or convention,
dogma or creed:
I can write
blank verse,
free verse,
open form,
closed.
Sonnet or doggerel,
Stanzas or not:
For free words flow in fragrant streams of Logos,
Truth inspired,
the Measure of Meaning
ushered from the Source of invention,
spilling through canyons of eternity.

The Flatness of the Prairie: A poetic expression Monday, Sep 29 2014 

Off and on over the years, I’ve posted photos and short pieces about the enchantment of the South Louisiana prairie flatness. I found some pre-writing notes for an unfinished poetic expression from a couple of years ago and decided to bring it to some closure as a finished piece, or at least start the process. This is the result, which may or may not end up being the final version.

How far can you see on the prairie?

How far can you see on the prairie?

The Flatness of the Prairie

At random points of travel along the way,
epiphanies of place dawn
across the South Louisiana prairie:
Flatness stuns.
Sight absorbs an expanse
of fields: flooded, fallow,
nurturing crops in season,
all spreading away to the end of sight
and the beginning of imagination,
disrupted here and there
by a treeline
that marks the course of some bayou or coulee
or
a farmstead with homes and buildings
or
batteries of creaking oil wells heaving mechanical booms
up and down, up and down
or
a herd of grazing cows at pasture
tended by flocks of snow-white egrets,
who amicably strut and peck the seedy grass
among their gentle pasture mates.
Praise be to the author of this prairie!
Flat but not featureless,
a land form rich and vast,
spawning poems of earth and place.

The After-lunch Administrative Meeting and the Hidden Agenda Wednesday, Sep 24 2014 

The main agenda on the left, the hidden agenda on the right, photographed and posted online during the meeting.

The main agenda on the left, the hidden agenda on the right, photographed and posted online during the meeting.

I have known boring meetings: ponderous, overdrawn, and dreary spells of tedious reports, chewing on dry bones of pointless deliberation, and sitting for hours on butt-numbing chairs in cramped conference rooms where the room’s inviting window to sunlit outdoors cruelly taunts the spirit with the view of freedom so visible yet so forbidden by that thin sheet of windowpane that separates the reality within from the allure without.

Fortunately, in this era, technology has come to the aid of endurance. Smartphones, tablets, and social media add the capacity for diversion as long as the use is subtle and discreet. Truth be known, I’ve posted some rich (and humorous or poignant or sarcastic or a combination of all 3) Face Book updates from such meetings in the last several years. For me, this multimedia outlet provides a hidden agenda, a means for rounding off the blunt edges of the meeting’s main agenda with a creative foray into imagination and fancy.

I admit to this hidden agenda with a clear conscience, by the way, lest one should question my work ethic or devotion to task-at-hand. In reality, the hidden agenda makes me more productive, because these momentary retreats from tedium sharpen and focus the mind for clearer concentration on matters at hand. Thus, may this mind never waste for want of invigorating respite.

Anniversary of Rita: We will remember! Wednesday, Sep 24 2014 

David Pulling:

Today is the memorable anniversary of Hurricane Rita in 2005. Thank God nothing that dreadful has come this way since.

Originally posted on Inventio!:

From my 2005 journal, Hurricane Rita came poking about around this date . . .

September 25, 2005

Rita’s aftermath, day 1, a chronology:

6:00 or so—I wake up and can’t see the clock or feel the ceiling fan—the lights are out!  Why, now that the storm is over?

8:30 or so—We drip coffee on the debris-strewn patio.  To that point, the highlight of the day.  Glen offers me to plug the refridge into hiis generator—assuming we’re in for the long haul, I take him up, gratefully.

9:30 or 20—The lights come on!

9:45—I go by the church with Autumn and Zach to see if anybody showed up for church—they didn’t.  We walk back home sightseeing the damage.  Lights are out mainly in the southwest quadrant of town, except for Hill St.

Noon—I start watching the Saints, running in and out during commercials to bring stowed patio stuff from the…

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Last “Daze” of Summer Monday, Sep 22 2014 

After days and weeks of Deep South sweat, sultry dew points, and summer’s reign of sweaty oppression, a wind from the north!

The dog days’ back is broken in lightening air as autumn breezes in to South Louisiana, right on cue for the end of summer and the start of fall. Not often do the calendar and the weather conditions coincide so perfectly, especially along the Gulf Coast where most years, summer loosens its stifling grip almost imperceptibly: We have little fall until late October/early November, right before the season turns to winter.

Today is sweet!

Marley the Dog wonders, "What fresh scent rides on the fresh'ning breeze?"

Marley the Dog wonders, “What fresh scent rides on the fresh’ning breeze?”

Healing for Dollars? Wednesday, Sep 17 2014 

What does the Roman church of Martin Luther’s day have to do with the televangelical church of today? The love of $$$$$!

The message: "Give, and you will be blessed.  Don't give, and you won't!"

The message: “Give, and you will be blessed. Don’t give, and you won’t!”

I heard it Tuesday while listening to Sonlife radio on a business trip. The televangelical media outreach of the Jimmy Swaggart organization was on the air doing a fundraiser. Here’s a simulated transcript of the proceedings I heard on air:

Commentator 1: “Here’s $100 from Gene in Indiana, with a request for prayer for recovery from a difficult knee replacement surgery.”
Commentator 2: “And here’s $50 from a donor who wishes to be anonymous, requesting prayer for a son’s troubled marriage.”
Commentator 1: “And look at this one: $500 from Marvette in Baton Rouge! She asks for prayer for her husband’s heart condition.”
Commentator 2: “That’s marvelous, _____. And I have here a donation of $75 from Louis in Houston, asking for prayer for his daughter’s salvation.
Commentator 1: Do we have any donations for $1000? Or $1500? Oh, yes, here’s one from George and Suzette in Battle Creek, Michigan. They ask that we lift up their son who’s unemployed and needs a job.”
Commentator 2: “Let’s pray for these faithful donors, _____. Dear Lord, thank you for raising up these good people who care about your work through the work of this ministry. Be real to them, meet their needs, respond to these requests for which they’ve come before us and You with great faith. Amen, and amen!”

I was shocked that these men so blantantly and shamelessly associated their donors’ material generosity with God’s interest in the donors’ needs. Shameless!

Different from Martin Luther’s criticism of the Roman church fathers of his day for the selling of penance and forgiveness? Not really. It shows the corrupt appropriation of God’s work by self-serving, ambitious men.

Little has changed in the nature of the human beast in 500 years, n’est-ce pas?

Whose Happy Birthday? Monday, Sep 15 2014 

When I turned 50 more years ago than I like to think about, I began to detest birthdays. Attaining the half-century mark was certainly preferable to the grim alternative, but truthfully, I was not deeply stirred by such consolation. The thought of having a birthday from year to year simply lost its luster.

We wish Mama a happy 89th today.  If it's not a happy birthday for her, it sure is for us.

We wish Mama a happy 89th today. If it’s not a happy birthday for her, it sure is for us.

So we came to Mama’s 89th birthday (today) as we gathered to celebrate it over the weekend. She may feel the same way-only-worse as I do about the mounting years, but as I reflect, perspective means everything: I don’t like my own birthday very much, but I sure am happy that Mama had a birthday we can celebrate with her; and I am confident she feels the same way today, personally loathing the yoke of advancing age and the ordinary physical affliction that attends it, but she must find some encouragement, knowing that her family and loved ones find her enduring life an occasion to celebrate.

So let’s me frame this perspective as an encouragement for (hopefully many) years to come: May birthdays in advancing years be “happy” celebrations, if not for me strictly, for my loved ones and friends who really are glad I’m still hanging around.

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