Beyond the shore, above deep waters . . . Sunday, Jun 29 2008 

The story behind the piece: Sarah took this picture on vacation last week. She saw the symbol and found it captivating. I couldn’t resist putting words to it. This is a draft . . .

Beyond the shore, above deep waters . . .
By David Pulling
June 2008
Composed along the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Beyond the shore
above deep waters
a lone thundercloud.
A thick, angry form rising through instability
but then suddenly
ceasing heavenward,
spreading out in harmless wisps
by gentle winds.

A cross-like symbol stands above,
Glistens below,
Reflecting on the emerald sea.

This scene–
not accidental,
meant for me
to see
and respond
with grateful hands uplifted.

Vacation: The Natural State of Man Friday, Jun 27 2008 

Sun has set on the ’08 Florida vacation.  We arrived back home this afternoon right before supper time.  In retrospect, I’m convinced that vacation, not work, should be the natural state of man.

Come to think of it, that idea is even biblical, since before Adam and Eve goofed things up in the Garden, their lives were pretty much perpetual vacation.  That’s what God intended!

But alas.  The Garden was too good to be true.  At least that’s the way it looks on this side of the fall.

On arrive en Floride… Tuesday, Jun 24 2008 

After an eventless drive across the coast from Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama, we arrived. The photo shows the view from our third floor balcony.  No jellyfish, but the seaweed and the green alga in the water are fairly copious.  We enjoyed the splash late this evening anyway.  It’s dreamy to sit out here and hear the surf after dark. The moon is hidden tonight, so I can’t see beyond the beach. . . . I can only hear the surf. 

And it’s poetry!

On v’aller en Floride . . . Monday, Jun 23 2008 

Yep, we leave Tuesday morning for three days along the Emerald Coast of Florida, specifically Fort Walton Beach.  Let’s see how three or four days of freedom from the land-locked routine in Eunice serves us.  Speaking for me personally, it’s time to hit the road!

Payton and Friends Sunday, Jun 22 2008 

I haven’t written much creatively lately, the result of teaching a comp. class during summer school with a full-time administrative job. So, to freshen up the blog, how about a photo essay on the subject of Payton Elizabeth Pulling, my granddaughter? Payton the laughing girl; Payton with the Patriarch, PaPaw Pulling; Payton with her Mommie Bear; and Payton cutting up with “Tant’Ann.”

If some readers would take my posting of these pictures a self-serving act of  infliction on this blog’s readership, so be it. I stand guilty (and unabashed) as charged!

I Write, Simply Write: Three Years Ago Tuesday, Jun 17 2008 

I looked back in my journal from three years ago and remembered I was at Sunrise Springs, New Mexico, for a National Writing Project Professional Writing Retreat.    Sunrise Springs is an oasis in the high desert a few miles outside of Santa Fe, an enchanting green spot surrounded by brown, sage brush-covered hills with purple mountains not far beyond the view.   While I did some serious writing there on an article that turned out to be a clunker (at least in my estimation), I enjoyed playing with this little memorial to the occasion.  The picture of the patio here was one of the vantage points for my pre-writing.

I Write, Simply Write
Composed At Sunrise Springs, New Mexico
June 2005

Out here on the veranda overlooking Sunrise Springs
I’ll just write for me …
But I don’t know what.
I don’t know what because not a sorrow
Disturbs my peace.
My soul is fat,
Blessed beyond measure
Because this heart
Feels no hurt that God cannot heal,
Weighs no grief that hope cannot bear,
Knows no longing that love cannot satisfy.

So be it sufficient
To write about idle things, like . . .

Shimmering aspen leaves touched by sunswept breeze.
Glistening trinkets splashing in fountains,
Dancing on ponds,
And ripples scurrying shoreward
Beneath over aching boughs of willow and cotton wood
Under a cloudless canopy
Of blue mountain sky
As I write,
Simply write.
Thank you, Lord, to be so blessed.

Stony Griefs Thursday, Jun 12 2008 

The story behind the piece: This one came from a 1998 Writing Project event; I can’t remember the details, except it was on a Saturday. Right before one of the writing sessions, a friend had told me of about an acquaintance, a minister, whose wife was paralyzed and whose daughter was killed in a car accident. That’s all I could think about when they turned us loose to pre-write, and this piece came from that exercise. I recall our pre-writing involved walking the Sacred Heart grounds and finding some objects to bring back in our pockets. I picked up a rock or two from the driveway. The rocks plus the burden of the minister’s tragedy just related evoked what you read below. I got this piece published in an online Little Magazine a year or two after I wrote it, but I can’t even remember the name of the publication or the URL. So I lost publication out there somewhere in CyberSpace . . . until now!

Stony Griefs
Composed at Sacred Heart, Grand Coteau, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana
By David L. Pulling
February 1998

Where is my child, my precious child?
Have the ruthless jaws of untimely death devoured her,
And snatched away the bright promise of youth?

Where is my mate, my lover?
How she lies, still and helpless.
Will this once supple, sensuous flesh
Never more come warmly to me
In the softness of the night?

Is there a balm in Gilead?
Does faith dare look up to thee?
Does blessed assurance cover me?
Or am I ruled by damned uncertainty?

I stand on holy ground,
Strewn with rocks
Like stony griefs
That bruise my soul.

Lord, may I, like Jacob,
Gather such rocks,
Such stony griefs,
And from the rubble and ruin
All around me
Raise my Beth-el,
A monument to remember
That I am,
by myself,

Why teach? More of the humble rewards . . . Friday, Jun 6 2008 

One of my favorite students of all of the twenty-one years I’ve taught writing sent me the following email two or three years ago at the end of her first course in freshman comp. I was her teacher. Obviously, Jill had a positive experience, for after looking up her grade for the course, she emailed me . . . ,

Mr. Pulling,

My gosh, I am nearly in tears right now. I checked the blackboard grades and I have an A+ on my portfolio…. I guess all that work actually paid off. I want to let you know that I appreciate you teaching me in English 1001. I think you are an excellent teacher, for the simple fact that you have prepared me for many great opportunities in my future. I feel as though I am a stronger writer now because this class was so thorough with the different patterns of development. I will continue to use the Longman Reader, as well as the Harbrace Handbook. I believe they are very good references, and definitely worth keeping. I hope that you continue to help others in their learning adventures as well.

Jill xxxx

Jill took her English 1002 sequel course with me again the next semester with the same grade result. She was one of those chronic teacher-pleasers, bless her heart. She would have memorized the encyclopedia had I assigned it. She poured all of herself into her work (with very good results, because she turned into a truly accomplished writer).

I’m particularly gratified that I had the sense to preserve that message from so long ago.  I ran across it, tucked away in my personal writing portfolio this evening, looking for something fresh to blog.

But that note almost three years ago wasn’t the last note I received from Jill.  Just last spring, a couple of months ago, nearing the completion of her bachelor’s degree at UL-Lafayette, she emailed me again.   Here’s that most recent message:

Hi. It’s Jill xxxx. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve last seen you. I hope all is well!!! Although you may not remember me, I remember you and your classes very well. In fact, I miss your class! I am writing to you today to let you know that I am in my last year at UL and I am doing EXCELLENT. I have a few people that I would like to thank for greatly impacting my college career; and you, Mr. Pulling, just so happen to be one of the main ones. Thank you so much for always being so helpful to me and my future. I have saved every single paper and every book from your classes. Believe it or not, even though I am not taking any English classes, these resources continue to help me greatly. In addition, I appreciate you trying to make a “connection” with each and every student, including myself. I realized how important and vital this connection is during my studies of philosophy. You are a wonderful teacher (and mentor), perhaps the best!!! I would love to take more of your classes, simply to undergo another awesome learning experience. If you ever need any help with computer programming, databases, or even help diagnosing minor problems with a network you have, I would be very glad to help. I feel like I owe you.

Have a nice one!
Goodbye Mr. Pulling!

Gosh. Isn’t that awesome? As teachers, we have to hang on to stuff like this. We can’t spend the praise at WalMart or invest it in a mutual fund, but we sure can savor it as a priceless, precious, intangible reward of the craft of teaching.

Thanks, Jill!

The call of the surf: Gulf Coast, here I come! Thursday, Jun 5 2008 

The last week of May a year ago, we spent our vacation week on the Florida Gulf Coast at Navarre Beach.  (The picture to the right shows me last year, contemplating the ocean, etc. etc.  “I Heard God’s Word Along the Sea” from that experience, in fact, is one of the most frequently visited posts on this blog and one of the absolute most favorite things I’ve written.)

I didn’t feel bad about foregoing the beach trip this year in lieu of the NJCAA World Series, even though the venue of Millington, Tennessee, waxes pale as a vacation site alongside  Florida’s Gulf Coast beaches.  But nonetheless, we had the games and the championship and our fellow fans to make the World Series exciting, no matter how humble Millington might seem as a vacation retreat.

So with all that,  I was satisfied with the West Tennessee outing as this season’s vacation until last week, almost immediately after we returned from Millington.  The oldest child started bugging us to go to Florida with his famiily for a few days later this month.  At first I resisted, but he was persistent and sincere, so I gave in and agreed to go along for a four-day escape (but still with some reluctance because of feeling guilty about the expense of a second trip).  

Now after a few days, though, I find the idea of the Coast prospering in my thoughts.  The beach, the surf, the family together, four days with THE BABY Payton? 

My, oh, my, how foolish to  say “No!”   This is a carpe diem moment!

So I close my eyes and hear the rolling surf, the imagery growing more and more distinct from day to day as June 24 approaches.   And here is the theme of my prayer:

Lord, hasten that day, causing the tedious hours between to fly by like clouds driven before the restless tempest of wanderlust!