The Flatness of the Prairie: Summer Sunset Monday, Jun 29 2015 

Over the years in this blog space, a topic I revisit from time to time is the allure of the flat topography that characterizes the coastal and inland prairies of South Louisiana.  This photo I borrowed from a friend’s Facebook post re-inspired my captivation with the romantic flatness of the prairie where flatness has nothing to do with featureless.

Prairie sunset

In other prairie views I’ve commented on over the years, the land features spreading away to the horizon provide the visual interest.  But our regional Gulf Coast summer sunset, offering stunning and contrasting hues of pink and yellow and orange, adds a vertical aspect to the prairie’s flatness.   Because the descending dusk reduces the land features  to unappealing silhouettes, the real interest rises upward from the horizon where the colorful evening shades bid the Cajun prairie earth bonsoir to another summer day.

A Summer Song: New Zion Saturday, Jun 27 2015 

I composed this piece from ideas drawn from a poetry workshop exercise that former Louisiana Poet Laureate Daryl Bourque gave at his Marais Bouleur family place near Church Point, La., in 2009. I visited Dr. Bourque’s place for an Acadiana Writing Project summer institute field trip. This turned out to be one of the favorite pieces in my portfolio. I read it at my Dad’s funeral on the hallowed grounds of that same church. I know I posted it before, but good stuff merits a re-post. .

If I am anyone owes much to where I’ve been

If I am anyone
Owes much to where I’ve been.
So be still a while.
Listen.
“Every head bowed, every eye closed.”
And hear the summer song 50 years ago,
After cow milkin’s done.

Sense the fragrance of sturdy folk–
Scrubbed with well water,
Groomed with Wild Root and talcum powder,
As they head over to the church house,
A neat frame building dressed in white asbestos slate.

The summer song from sturdy voices
Drifts across the pasture
From windows flung open wide
To hot July:
“Jesus saves, Jesus saves!”

If I am anyone
Owes much to where I’ve been.

At the corner of happy and holy: Genesis 2 and Walgreens Monday, Jun 22 2015 

At the corner of happy and holy.

At the corner of happy and holy.

I took the pastor’s sermon on marriage to heart Sunday afternoon. Preaching a sermon on Genesis 2 and the purpose men and women were created for one another in the idyllic beginning, he advanced a compelling assertion of the side-by-side equality of man and woman in matrimony, the notion that each owes to act selflessly in the regard for and consideration of the other. The point was well-made, and a charge ensued as an admonition: Within the next 72 hours, each married partner in the congregation should offer some truly sacrificial act of giving to the other as a living and personal illustration of the message.

Mission accomplished! On the way home from Laffy that afternoon I asked Sarah if she’d Iike to stop at Walgreens. She knows I loathe stopping at Walgreens on the way home, because like most men, once I set the course for home, I’m headed for the house. The destination becomes a matter of mission and determination. But she, like most women, usually wants to stop and smell  roses along the way . . . well, not so much roses as cosmetics and beauty aids and all the other frilly stuff at Walgreens.

So in my mind, by offering to stop without her asking, I’m off the hook for upholding my end of the sermonic obligation. And I even refrained from rolling my eyes or moaning when she accepted the offer to stop. And I never fidgeted or paced or acted impatiently the whole time we were in the store. Someone try to tell me that’s not agape love!

OK, Sarah, for my obligation, CHECK. The ball’s in your court for your selfless act toward me—-48 or so hours left and the clock is ticking.

The Deep Dark Shade of Summer Wednesday, Jun 17 2015 

My creative impulse was nagged the last few weeks by a deep shady spot that I pass regularly on campus—-one of those cool, inviting spots where someone can escape the brutal heat and humidity. I gave in to that creative impulse the last couple of days. So far, this is what I came up with.

The “place” of the poem.

The Deep Dark Shade of Summer
Composed June 2015 on the campus of LSUE

The deep dark shade of summer
broods in shadows
cast by sprawling boughs,
a shady rest and retreat
where leafy branches
arrest the summer sun,
the rude summer sun
whose tropical glare
strains in vain
to invade the sanctum
of shade’s cooling space.

When long June days swelter and pant,
we flee to such shade.
Deep shade,
dark shade,
the deep dark shade of summer
where dark-cooled, dappled earth
mocks mid-morning sun
and all its sultry ways.
Cool beneath an Oaken canopy,
the deep dark shade of summer
outshines the sun.

Pressing on to higher ground Thursday, Jun 11 2015 

Churches and university campuses almost universally feature iconic steeples, obelisks, and/or bell towers. Since both institutions’ professed aim is the pursuit of truth, the symbolism of the pointed objects obviously points above, a response to what I believe is man’s instinctive response to the search for a higher power (i.e., obviously, God).

The secular university, of course, in its humanism, cowers from that assertion; the church, however, embraces it. How attractive, then, the concept of the Christian institution wherein the pursuit of truth proceeds from the interaction of faith and reason?

That concept is expressed in the mission statement of St. Edmund Catholic School where I’ll be working this coming academic year as a high school teacher of rhetoric and poetics. From college to high  school? Is that a professional demotion? No, for in the pursuit for truth allied with faith and reason resides the highest order of

Symbols of truth points upward!

Symbols of truth point to the heavens!

academic freedom.  To borrow the words of a hymn writer,  I’m promoted to a “higher plane than I have found; Lord, lead me on to higher ground!”

Humble Rewards of Teaching: The “F” Word Friday, Jun 5 2015 

Yes, the “F” word for teaching: FUN! A couple of days ago I signed a contract to teach high school English at St. Edmund Catholic School this fall. That will be my post-retirement fling. And yes, I do mean fling.

As this retirement plan has been unfolding, I have known for months that I would not stop working. I wanted to find another job, a next-phase for my career. My criteria for a new position were three-fold: Less stress, fewer work hours, and equal to/greater than income. The opportunity that materialized meets and exceeds all three criteria—-It’s PERFECT.

The euphoria and excitement that settled over me for the next couple of days after signing the contract produced an epiphany. I remarked to Sarah yesterday that I had just realized that I haven’t had happy thoughts about going to work for more than ten years. Week after week, month after month, year after year for all that time—-a grind, tedium, obligation, years endured but not enjoyed.

The

The “F” word for teaching is “f-u-n.”

What does that sad obervation tell me about my work these past years in higher education administration? It tells me that it’s time to retire! The joy in my present work died several budget-cuts and GRAD Act failures ago. Of course, I never stopped doing the work all these years, but I can’t recall a day in the past ten years when I woke up excited about going to the office. In fact, my waking on many of those days was met with gut-souring dread.

So teaching, just plain old teaching, seems to be the God-given answer. After meeting with the principal and some co-workers, and receiving the most warm and enthusiastic welcome and reception from the St. Edmund community these past few days, I’m elated at this return to the purity and simplicity of my vocational calling—-to teach, simply teach, and have fun doing it.

I should have known: The past five or six years that I’ve taught a MWF 11:00-11:50 composition class across the hall from my office has born witness. Even though I was teaching as an added duty with no extra compensation, the only three hours of the work week that I could count on being fun, rewarding, or otherwise happy, were those 3 hours of escape from the office, spent before an audience of students. The rest of the work week in and around the office was work—-something I did because it was my job, what I had to do to make a living.

So now with the end of my present job in sight 7 weeks from now, followed shortly thereafter by the happy beginning of the next phase, I echo the words of the Negro spiritual that Dr. King quoted in his famous speech: “Free at last, free at last! Praise God Almighty, I’m free at last!”

The Queen of Rocky Mountain “Daze” Monday, Jun 1 2015 

When we left the sultry Gulf Coast, late-May climate for Colorado last week, I wasn’t thinking about spring. We were way past spring down south; in my mind, we were on to summer.

But when we got to the Rockies, especially in the lower elevations of the front range for our hiking trip along Devil’s Backbone, spring had a thing going on.

The verdant, grassy meadows below the jagged crests of the heights spread away across rolling valleys below. The fragrance of thousands of blooming plants—-from prickly-pear cacti to sage brush—-drifted delicately in sunny breeze all along the twisting, winding trail. The sensory sensations were subtle, never overpowering; but the airy fragrance was pervasive, fascinating, as the tone and tenor of varied aromas and combinations of aromas waxed and waned along the trail, depending on the species of flora and fauna nearest by.

Devil's Backbone's jagged spines stand as craggy sentinels watching over the valleys of the front range.

Devil’s Backbone’s jagged spines stand as craggy sentinels watching over the valleys of the front range.

The weather was perfect, too. Morning low 48/afternoon high 72, sunny, just breezy enough to dry the sweat brought on by the hike’s exertion.

Of all the spring days I’ve known, I believe this one was the queen of them all. The “r-o-c-k” in “Rocky Mountains” surely applies to the season.