October 4

WHEN WE HEAR FROM GOD

I awoke this morning set on committing to pay another $6.99 a month to GoDaddy to help promote my web site, “watchingforgod.com.”  But as I headed for the computer, I seemed to hear something like, “You don’t have to do this; you can support other bloggers who are doing something similar to what you love and believe in.”  I feel like I have been set free.  When I teach my workshop on blogging, I’ll be able to teach folks how to get started on the journey.  But the truth is, the author of a blog needs help to promote their web site.  Some individuals have followers anyway (such as the pastor of a church), and they get the thing going.  Others have a good idea but need to get it out there, and that takes advertising one way or another.  The field of online marketing, I have found, is a big business.

For myself, this “word” I’ve received is part of my own personal memoir and “watching for God” and I’ll be adding it to this blog as record that on October 4, 2016, I was set free from the business of promoting my own effort.  I have already remembered one person involved in helping people write their memoir who also teaches for Nashville Community Education, Deborah Wilbrink.  Her site is perfectmemoirs.com.  It’s beautiful.  She’ll also be teaching a workshop at the Annual Conference of Carnegie Writers in Huntsville, where I’ll be teaching on blogging.  There are others that I’ll be following and sharing from time to time.

For now, I’m going to take a walk.  The air is crisp and made for walking.

September 28

THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD AND THE DAM THAT WAS IN PERFECT CONDITION

Travel to our hometown allowed me to visit with my sister The Johnstown Flood Museum.  I was thankful to hear more of the story and tried to write about it.

 

In Western Pennsylvania the Little Conemaugh

becomes the Conemaugh River which is a main tributary

of the Allegheny which like the Monongahela receives

overflow rainfall from the Allegheny Mountains.

 

From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, passengers in 1840

were transported down interlocking canals and soon a dam was built

to supply water for the canal for visitors going back and forth

between Johnstown and Pittsburgh to the west

 

to hold the water from the mountain streams

to feed the canal when the rivers were low in summer.

That Memorial Day in the last week of May, 1889

the dam, they said, was in perfect condition.

 

Industrial barons and their families traveled

from Pittsburgh to Johnstown to hotel and cottages

that had been built up above the reservoir at

what they named the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club.

 

Fishing, boating and swimming were enjoyed by those members

who demanded privacy from the people who lived below;

they raced their sailboats and walked along the water

and the dam, they said, was in perfect condition.

 

One man sent his engineer to inspect the lake and its stability

and he wrote a report to the founder of the Hunting and Fishing

Club who insisted: “You and your people are in no danger;

the dam is in perfect condition.”

 

On the evening of Memorial Day, 1889, the rain began to fall in

downpours—cloudbursts thundered all through the mountains.

Families began to visit friends on high ground while others

refusing to believe the warnings scoffed at such foolishness.

 

Offices in Johnstown closed; some children played in the streets

while others moved to attics and watched the water rise.

Visitors to town from Kansas laughed at the talk of flood which

they could not imagine; they had plans after all to attend a wedding.

 

As a small crowd of workmen watched from above

suddenly twenty million tons of water burst through at its

weakest place tossing the nearest houses in the air like toys

then dashed them to splinters against the bluff.

 

Down the valley for fourteen miles the water raged

taking with it the houses and cattle and people who lived below

until it reached the bottom of the valley and smashed into

Johnstown killing almost three thousand people in a few hours.

 

Some were saved to tell the story of the dam that

flooded that valley:  babies flying through windows–alive;

the man who floated past his home three times, calling

to his wife not to spend too much on his funeral

 

only to return a third time and be deposited like Jonah

back on land to tell the story of the day he survived that

great body of water that came crashing down the valley

breaking out of the dam that was in perfect condition.

September 15

WHERE I’M FROM (with thanks to George Ella Lyon)

Many students in the U.S. are familiar with a delightful poem by Kentucky poet George Ella Lyon because she has allowed a template of hers to be copied online.  I just returned from a visit to my hometown where I visited the Johnstown Flood Museum, so maybe this is why I’m thinking again of where I’m from.

I am from a tee-totaler and a flag waver

I am from a drummer boy from Boston

            and a Pennsylvania farm girl

            salty tears lonely.

I am from pen pals and he proposed before they met

            and a match made with postage stamps.

I am from he always wanted two little girls and a white picket fence

            and she wished he’d not spend so much on flowers.

I am from a disabled vet with a broken body

            and Jesus is the Great Physician.

I am from “You’re not any better but you’re just as good”  

   and “Don’t play with fire or you’ll get burned.”

I’m from a two-bedroom house on Sunday Street and

            the Johnstown Flood which happened again. 

I am from steel mills and a city bus

            and Saturday rides to the downtown library.

I am from a writer-dreamer with no place to write

and the girl who was told “You don’t need college, you’re just a woman.” 

I am from both – the dreamer and the disappointed farm girl

who struggled to give me safety and opportunity.

 

August 20

DIVORCE, DEPRESSION AND DANCE

For the last two days, I have been frustrated.  I have tried and tried without success to sell people on the idea of poetry therapy.  However, I think that Christian women have been doing this ever since the first woman came into her own papyrus and quill.  There was even (oh, the thrill of it) the rumor going around in the first century that Priscilla wrote The Letter to the Hebrews!  Oh, my, that rumor was squelched quickly.  But never mind, the women kept on writing.  (You can do the history for yourself.)

As I walked out of divorce court in 1992 I had a stone in my heart. My son and I walked down the street together, saw a book store and ambled in. Down close to the floor a title stood out to me:  May I Have This Dance?   It was written by a nun, Joyce Rupp.  She begins with a poem:   “But just when the old heap of bones seems most dry and deserted, a strong Breath of Life stirs among my dead.   Someone named God comes to my fragments and asks, with twinkling eye:  ‘May I have this dance?’” I bought the book and wrote for the next decade all over the front page reminding God of His question.

I write two or three pages every morning as part of a dual commitment—to read the Psalms recommended in a Bible study I’ve joined and write my prayer, but also to write as part of an artist’s challenge.   This morning I came to the journal with my frustration at the back of my mind and began to write.  Then I looked at Psalm 5 and 6 and slowly began to realize that God has already heard my heart’s desire.  For some time, I have longed to have a reunion with my best friend from childhood and my cousin who live in the same state.  Just a few weeks ago, my sweet sister called to say she wanted to visit our cousin and after a few conversations, realized that she had enough airline travel to fly us both to see our friends.  We’re going! This is a wonderful blessing.  So the lesson for me is–let God be God.  Trust God not only to open doors and close them, but do it with perfect timing. God is still inviting me to the dance.  (And that is poetry therapy.)

August 11

#Too late quotes

Dear friends, do you know an older person who has lived a rich, interesting or challenging life?  I’ve talked to many people lately who say they regret not sitting down with that person and asking them to tell their stories.  One of my own grandchildren in his teens told me that he didn’t know I had lived in another country, not to mention what I did there!

I want to encourage you to call them and set up a time for such a talk.  My web site has a helpful book you can download very inexpensively to help you get started on this adventure.   Or write your own story.  Don’t wait for someone to ask you.

If you do, please share your story.  Let’s get a story library started in our families and churches and communities.  We can’t assume the next generation will know what we’ve done, or learned or lived unless we tell them.  (That’s what my son told me.)

Sincerely,

Carol (poetryforthejourney.com)