Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Poem by Notre Dame's Frank O'Malley

Here's a Christmas season poem by Frank O'Malley, who was a famous professor at the University of Notre Dame from the 1930's to the 1970's:

Let the Christbrand Burst!

Let the Christbrand burst!
Let the Christbrand blazon!
Dartle whitely under the hearth-fire,
Unwind the wind, turn the thunderer,
And never, never thinning,
Forfend fear.
Flare up smartly, fix, flex, bless, inspire,
Instar the time, sear the sorcerer,
And never, never sparing,
Save all year.

Let the Christbrand Burst!
Let the Christbrand blazon!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Are the Mansfield House People Now? (#4)

In this blog entry, I will talk about the members of and frequent visitors to the Mansfield House, and where they are now.

Greg Haas lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his wife Dorothy;
John Luginbill, as far as I know, is in Cincinnati;
Joan Levy is a nurse or nursing prof, who lived for many years in Florida--not sure if she is still there;
Kenny Przybylski is deceased, dying circa 1987;
Jack Shereda, like Kenny a former Franciscan brother, is also deceased (circa 1990);
Caroline Bromley died in a freakish automobile accident, probably around 1980;
Bonnie Tompkins--don't know where Bonnie is, but probably in Cincinnati;
Peggy Scherer--last I heard she worked for the non-profit Heifer International;
Anne Weinkam is a nurse in Cincinnati. Anne's sister Clare Weinkam lives with her husband, Manuel Susarret, in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati; Paul Weinkam, their brother, died some years ago of cancer;
Henry Scott, a nurse, lives with his wife Gina in Baltimore;
Mary Alice Shepherd Milnes lives near Elkins with her husband Gerry Milnes. They are renowned in American folk music circles.
Joel Stevens was in a serious bicycle accident years back and suffered a head injury; I think he's still in Cincinnati;
Dan Bromley, as far as I know, lives north of Cincinnati;
Dick Crowley lives near Boston;
Richard Gale--not sure!
Denny Ryan--I believe he works at the University of Cincinnati.
Chris Cotter, and his wife Linda, live in Urbana, Ohio. Chris is a physical therapist.
Andy Meyer became a physician, a radiologist I believe. For some reason I think he lived in North Carolina.

These were (and are!) wonderful, principled, intelligent, talented people, who have contributed much to the world!

A Secret Life (poem by Steven Dunn)

A Secret Life

by Stephen Dunn

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don't say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you've just made love
and feel you'd rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you're brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that's unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you'd most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it's like a small fire
in a clearing, it's what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It's why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who'll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.#

I guess the immolation (partly self-immolation) of Tiger Woods has made me think of Stephen Dunn's poem. What also comes to mind are lines from Wendell Berry's great poem "Manifesto: The Madfarmer Liberation Front"--

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.#

[For the entire poem, see Wendell Berry's 1973 book, The Country of Marriage.]

Privacy and freedom of imagination are essential for living a life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cincinnati's Mansfield House in Over-the-Rhine (#3)

The Mansfield House was, loosely defined, an intentional community. I guess "anarchists" (and many of these folks were anarchists, but not in the common sense of this term) don't form rigid intentional communities! What held this community together? Well, the community membership was dynamic, with people constantly moving in and out, but they did share many values: a dedication to nonviolence (in the Gandhian and Martin Luther King Jr. sense); opposition to the Vietnam War; and a dedication to living simply. I imagine many members felt marginalized in the normal American world, so there were psychological similarities in many of the Mansfield House's community members. Many came from a religious background. A number of the members were affiliated with the Friends, the Quakers (Dan Bromley, Caroline Bromley, possibly John Luginbill); others found the Mennonites to be friends in spirit; a number of people came out of the Catholic tradition (Peggy Scherer, Greg Haas, Kenny Przybylski, Jack Shereda, Anne Weinkam). One, Joan Levy, was a secular Jew. I didn't know if some others, like Bonnie Tompkins, were brought up in a religious tradition. Some of these people continued to practice their religion; others didn't.

Many people stayed in the Mansfield House for days, or weeks, or even longer, but probably wouldn't have been considered long-time members of the community. Others came over mostly during the day and just occasionally stayed there over night. Among these people would be Joel Stevens, Henry Scott, Mary Alice Shepherd, Chris Cotter, myself, Dick Crowley, Denny Ryan, Clare Weinkam, Paul Weinkam, and possibly Jim Tarbell. There were many others that don't immediately come to mind.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mansfield House in Over-the-Rhine (#2)

I'm not sure who established the Mansfield House Community in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine. My guess is that the founders were Greg Haas (currently living in Bloomington, Indiana) and John Luginbill (still in Cincinnati, I think). The impulse to establish this community probably came from the Gano, Ohio-based Peacemakers and the movement against the Vietnam War. Also connected to the Peacemakers was the war-tax resistance and draft resistance movements. As you might expect, people drawn to these positions, which could involve prison, were a bit unusual--to say the least! Indeed, most of them were the brightest, most courageous, most-principled people I've ever known.

Other people in on the Mansfield House included Caroline Bromley, Dan Bromley, Bonnie Tompkins, Kenny Przybylski, Jack Shereda, Andy Meyer, and many others I will mention in this blog entry or in another entry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Holy Anniversary--Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin

Today marks the sixth anniversary of my Mother's death. I thank God for the lucky blessing of having her as my mother. She still guides my life and informs everything I do. I'm sure Denny, Mary Ellen, Kevin, and Jimmy can say the same thing.

Eternal rest grant unto Margaret Ann, O Lord!

And let perpetual light shine upon her. Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Mansfield House, in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine (#1)

I moved to Cincinnati in late January of 1971. I had been on the phone with my Notre Dame/Innsbruck friend, Chris Cotter, when he said, "Why don't you come down to Cincinnati?" I said, OK, be there soon!"

I had been working for $2.50/hour at Terminal Parking, the parking garage run by Gene Killeeen and his family at West 6th and Superior in Cleveland. I loved the Killeen's, and believe it or not, enjoyed my job. I'm pretty sure we had the best-educated car parkers in the history of the world. At one time, besides Gene (Notre Dame, 1956), we had Earl Hurd (Notre Dame, 1970), me (Notre Dame, 1970), and several other well-educated members of the Killeen family, as well as my Euclid friend Bill Heiss( St. Joseph's, 1966) working there. But I knew that parking cars was not going to be my career. And it was a very tough job working outside that cold and snowy winter of 1970-71. So I decided just like that to make the move. Within days I was in my raggedy old Ford Econoline van, driving down to Chris Cotter's house in Cincinnati .

For a very short time I stayed with the Cotter family in the Western Hills area of
Cincinnati. Then one day Chris and I went down to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and found out that we could sublet Anne Weinkam and Peggy Scherer's apartment on the third floor of 225 Orchard Street. The timing was just downright lucky because Anne and Peggy were ready to leave for a very long roadtrip and they needed subletters. And another astonishing piece of luck was that the Orchard Street house was about 150 feet from the Mansfield House, a raggedy old house at the end of Mansfield Street, just off Sycamore and near Liberty, a hundred yards from the old Cutter Junior High School (which later became the famous School for the Creative and Performing Arts). The Mansfield House was one of the most interesting community experiments in the history of Cincinnati--and Chris and I were nextdoor neighbors! [More on the Mansfield House coming in another blog entry.]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Blow Up Your TV"

"Blow up your TV

Throw away your paper

Go to the country,

Build yourself a home

Plant a little garden,

Eat a lot of peaches

Try and find Jesus on your own"

Thus goes the chorus of John Prine's song "Spanish Pipedream." This past week we sort of blew up our tv. What we did was this: we got rid of our cable TV.

The first day without television was eye-opening. I hardly knew what to do. I ended up reading a bit of Barbara Kingsolver's new novel, The Lacuna. Then I played my guitar and later my Irish whistle. Later I went to the piano and pounded out the few songs that I know. And then back to the whistle and the guitar. At some point I turned on the radio, NPR in Cleveland, 90.3 FM.

I started thinking what life in Geauga County, Ohio was like before television, which probably arrived here in the late 1940's (though reception was probably not good this far from Cleveland). And then I wondered about life before radio; that must have arrived in the 1920's. And electricity, which gradually came in the late 1800's and early 1900's. And the automobile, which probably didn't get here in any great numbers until the 1910's and later. Widespread telephones probably spread to Geauga in the 1900's to the 1920's.

An odd thought occurred to me. Right now, in 2009, we have thousands of people in Geauga County who live without most of the above--the Middlefield Amish (the second or third largest Amish community in the world). Now the Amish have very strict rules and mostly follow them faithfully (though like Catholics, they find creative ways to get around the rules). So you will see Amish people in their horse-drawn buggies--getting Big Mac meals at the drive-through window at McDonalds. Or Amish boys in Middlefield on cell phones.

Anyway, that first day without television was interesting.

New Poem Based on a Powerful Dream

Death Dream

The old woman in my dream said,
“O help me! My shoulder hurts so bad!”
I started massaging the painful cramp
Then hurried to get her a drink of water.

She headed straight for the bed, crying,
“Don’t leave me alone now.
Don’t leave me alone!”

And a crowd of women quickly gathered around her,
Laid her down on the bed . . .
And she quickly breathed her last

In the presence of family, friends, and kind strangers

Who began to weep
As the spirit slowly left the body.

I couldn’t get close to the woman,
Still surrounded by the keening crowd—yet I felt
That I played my part, however small.

This woman was Grandma Hoffman,
Gramma Coughlin, and my own mother—
All at the same time,
The weird logic of dreams.

I wept and felt comfort,
Again, all in the same moment,
Having been in the presence of something


Robert M. Coughlin
November 30, 2009

Miracle of the Internet

The other night I got a phone call from Dick Crowley, a fellow I met in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati some 38 years ago! I last saw Dick, briefly, at a memorial service for Buddy Gray in Cincinnati's Washington Park (not sure when that was--I'm guessing some 13 years ago). I know Rev. Maurice McCrackin was still alive then, at the service in his wheel chair.

I had posted a blog entry wondering about Dick Crowley's whereabouts and just like that, an old friend of his, Bonnie Neumeier, responded to my post; and days later, Dick called me on the phone.

The internet, and the accompanying search engines, are amazing human inventions. I think of them as time machines.

[I just found a Wikipedia entry on Buddy Gray; indeed, it was 13 years ago that Buddy was murdered, November 15, 1996. The entry is at this link:]