Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Night Before Christmas

Reading "The Night Before Christmas" to Colin. December 24, 2013
Carolan, with her travel piggy bank.

White Christmas this year.

Colin talking to his new brother, who will be born soon!
Brian, Colin, Linda, Carolan

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beloved Christmas Poem by Frank O'Malley


By Frank O’Malley

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.

(Frank O’Malley was a beloved English Professor at the University of Notre Dame)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Mary"--Great Song by Patty Griffin

by Patty Griffin
Mary, you’re covered in roses, you’re covered in ashes, you’re covered in rain.
You’re covered in babies, you’re covered in slashes
You’re covered in wilderness, you’re covered in stains.
You cast aside the sheet, you cast aside the shroud
Of another man, who served the world proud.
You greet another son, you lose another one
On some sunny day and always you stay, Mary.
Jesus says, “Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer,”
Flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind
and starts cleaning up the place.

Mary, she moves behind me, she leaves her fingerprints everywhere;
Everytime the snow drifts, everytime the sand shifts, even when the night lifts, she’s always there.
Jesus said, “Mother I couldn’t stay another day longer,”
Flies right by and leaves a kiss upon her face
While the angels are singing his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place.

Mary you’re covered in roses, you’re covered in ruin, you’re covered in secrets
You're covered in treetops, you’re covered in birds
who can sing a million songs without any words.
You cast aside the sheets, you cast aside the shroud
of another man, who served the world proud.
You greet another son, you lose another one on some sunny day
and always you’ll stay,

Mary, Mary, Mary.

A performance with Patty Griffin and Natalie Manes:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poem for Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice’s fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


                        Robert M. Coughlin

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Playing My Banjo for My Grandson Colin

Kids always love the banjo. But Colin seems a bit more interested in his toy horse.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gorgeous Music at St. Mary's in Painesville!

Today Mary Ann Ratchko-Gamez played an ancient tune ("Creator of the Stars of Night") on her whistle at 9 o'clock mass. The tune is from the 9th century chant "Conditor Alme Siderum." Mary Ann also played "O Come O Come Emmanuel" on whistle. Nobody plays the Irish whistle better than Mary Ann Ratchko. St. Mary's, this little church in Painesville, Ohio, with Mary Ann on flute and whistle and Francesco Binda on piano, has some of the greatest liturgical music in Greater Cleveland.

Today we lit a candle for my mother, Margaret Ann, who died 10 years ago today. Her beautiful spirit is alive in our hearts!

A line in today's gospel from St. Matthew, chapter 3, verse 9:

Don't think to yourselves, "We have

Abraham for our father," for I tell
you that God is able to raise up
children to Abraham from these stones.

My family knows this to be true. We were the discarded, the riffraff of Ireland, barely surviving the Great Famine. We believe that the Lord can raise up these stones and know that "the stone the builder rejected has become the cornerstone." This is the truth for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the outcast, the riffraff, the rejected. It has happened over and over in human history.

Here is a youtube version of this beautiful advent chant (alas, without the whistle):

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Tree at Manners Tree Farm, New Lyme, Ohio

Linda by Manners' Barn.
Eddie starting to cut down the pretty blue spruce.
Me finishing the job.
Julia and Colin waiting for the horse cart to take us back to the lodge.
Colin and me getting toasted by the hot fire in the lodge.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Carolan and Megan's Book Available on Amazon

The children's book my daughter Carolan Coughlin and her cousin Megan Hartfelder wrote is now available on Amazon for the bargain price of $8.99. Here's a link to Amazon and the book:

The authors' biographies are very nice:

About the Author: Carolan Coughlin is currently working as an outdoor professional for Montana Conservation Corps in beautiful Northwest Montana. She grew up in Ohio with a passion for reading, writing, and exploring the wonders of the outdoors. Her explorations have taken her across the US, through Central America, Europe, and New Zealand, and she feels lucky for all the great writing material these trips have given her. She wrote this book while living remotely in the Bob Marshall wilderness for three months. Forevermore, she will dream of the days she lived in her tent in the wilderness. In the meantime, you can find her searching out new adventures and scribbling out letters to her loving family. About the Illustrator Megan Hartfelder is a children’s book illustrator and landscape painter. Born and raised in Ohio, Megan was very fortunate to spend summers with her family in Germany where she acquired a love for travel. After earning degrees in Art Education, Painting, and a Master’s degree in Illustration, she lived and traveled throughout Europe, South America and the United States. She is also an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys running, cycling, hiking, and camping. Her experiences in new places are an inspiration for her illustrations and fine art. She now lives with her husband in Southern California. You can see more of her work at

Reading a Poem with Grace Butcher in Painesville

Last night we had our monthly poetry reading at "Your Vine or Mine" micro winery in Painesville, Ohio. Grace Butcher, the extraordinary Chardon-area poet and athlete, was the featured reader. For her last reading of the evening, she asked me to be "the Voice of God" in her poem. Well, it doesn't come off exactly as the voice of God, but it was fun!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Colin visits Santa

Colin is comfortable with fat guys with beards!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Sweet Baby James"--Great Song for the 1st of December

I always think about this beautiful tune on the 1st of December. The song includes the lines "The First of December was covered with snow / So were the turnpikes from Stockbridge to Boston /And the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting / With ten miles behind me and 10, 000 more to go."

I would think of these lines when I was hitchhiking around America 40 years ago, just starting out on a journey. And now I think, for James Taylor and the likes of me, that it's 10,000 miles behind me and 10 miles left to go. It's been a great trip. And that's life. And I am grateful.

Postscript: This song, and James Taylor in general, make me think of the Gerrity brothers, Marty and Mike, who brought the Sweet Baby James album to Notre Dame and introduced us to this great artist.