Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wholesale Massacre of Trees in Northeast Ohio--Who Will Speak for the Trees?

Who Will Speak for the Trees?

This spring the massacres began in the remnant woods
all over the Cat Nation--

in Willowick north of Lakeshore Boulevard,
in Concord, on both sides of Route 44,
in any small woods in Mentor that was seen as a “buildable lot.”

They bring in gigantic machinery that saws, plucks, or bulldozes over
everything, from 130 foot tall red oaks and tulip poplars,
to  the spicebush, witch hazel, and ironwood of the understory,
and all the wildflowers getting ready to bloom,
trillium, trout lily, everything--

All gone in a day--what took a hundred years to grow.

Who will speak for the trees? For their value in our lives?
For their usefulness beyond a few bucks?
For their sheer beauty and rights as living beings?

Who will defend them, fight for them?

[Bob Coughlin /  April 23, 2015]

Friday, April 24, 2015

Retirement Dinner

Last night the English Department faculty at Lakeland Community College, where I have worked for the past 27 years, had a retirement dinner for me and my colleagues Micki Ling and Deb Shearer. All but two people were able to make it. Even two of our beloved retirees, Phil Skerry and Larry Needham, came! These are all very bright people--most of them have doctorates. A few are brilliant poets and fiction writers. I have been so lucky to work with them and to work at Lakeland all these years.

Micki, David, Larry, Phil, Patrick, Meryl, Jamie on left. Sue, Tobin, Deb, me, Linda, Joanna, and Angie on right.

Larry, Sue (reading my poem "Harry Man"), and Phil.

Linda, me, and Deb.

Phil, telling one of his stories. To his right, Patrick and Meryl.

Patrick, Meryl, Larry.

Angie and Joanna.

Phil, Patrick, Meryl.

Micki, David, Larry. I have worked with Micki for 27 years. She has been our union president for 10 of those years.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Poem for a Snowy Day in Late April

April in Ohio

By Denise Levertov

Each day
the cardinals call and call in the rain,
each cadence scarlet
among leafless buckeye.
and passionately
the redbuds that can’t wait
like other blossoms, to flower
from fingertip twigs,
break forth.
as Eve from Adam’s
cage of ribs,
straight from amazed treetrunks.

Lumps of snow
are melting in tulip-cups. 

Denise Levertov wrote this in Cincinnati, around 1974. She had been a visiting prof at the University of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, I didn't see her or meet her at the time, even though I lived very close to campus in my $40/month apartment. Around 1975, Sarah Cotterill, a wonderful poet and friend, showed me this poem, and it has been important to me ever since.
So last evening as I drove through Chardon Township in a near blizzard, and this morning, as I awoke to a dusting of snow on my deck, I thought of this poem, of the great poet Denise Levertov, and of my old friend Sarah Cotterill.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One of My All-Time Favorite Poems

pangwins dansing in the

wotr     with sweet sun shin

shinyn on it   and butiful

butrflis     dansing in the ear

and a wodrful wind flooing

with a ror          and me

woching it all

[Carolan R. Coughlin, early 1990s]

What I love, besides the wonderful invented (and unashamed) spelling of a child, is the sensual description--employing sight (butrflis  dansing in the ear), sound ("ror"), and touch (the heat of the "sweet sun shin shinyn on it" and the feel of the "woderful wind flooing"). Yes, that is haiku-like sense description and imagery.

The clincher for me, though, is the end: "and me / woching it all." That is what a poet does. The poet is both an actor and an observer. So in a way, this is a meta-poem, written by a little kid, a poem about poetry and about being a poet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our Community Responds to a Crisis--a Flood in the Karpos/Soup Kitchen Facilities at St. Mary's Painesville

About one week ago, Kathy Philipps was at John Carroll University, where she teaches Theology. She got an urgent call saying that a pipe broke in an old facility above the Karpos supply room at St. Mary's in Painesville, Ohio. The Karpos Ministry, co-founded by Kathy Philipps and Greg Stovicek, feeds the homeless and hungry at St. Mary's every Wednesday and Thursday. It has done this for almost 6 years now, often feeding 100-150 per day. This has been done in perfect spring and summer weather and in the bitterest of cold rain storms, blizzards, and below zero weather.

The broken pipe was on an upper level, an unused part of the Fr. Hanso Center. But the water seeped through the ceiling, causing thousands of dollars of damage to the building, all the food preparation supplies, equipment, and machines, and to much of the food.

The call went out to the many Karpos volunteers and even to the homeless and hungry people Karpos feeds. These folks rallied and worked together to get the Karpos Ministry going again. It was an absolutely remarkable effort, sometimes involving 15-20 people. Many worked 9-10 hours a day for several days to get things back together. It was an example of the "Beloved Community," spoken of by Martin Luther King Jr. Rich and poor, privileged and homeless, all working side by side. Really, it was a kind of miracle.

It would be impossible to name all the helpers, but some that come to mind: Kathy Philipps, Kathy Flora, Linda Coughlin, Cheryl Rice, Brian Rice, Ken Fitzsimmons, Chuck Hillier, Bea, Don, Kelly, Dan Philipps, Pam--many, many others. A remarkable effort! Thank You so much!

The clean-up

Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful--for Sunday, April 26, 2015

Here are the petitions I worked up for next Sunday, April 26. As usual, I try to find a couple of striking and important lines from the scheduled readings. Then I look about my city and the world and see what is going on. I thought it particularly important to pray for the endangered Christian communities in Africa and the Middle East. And I also wanted to pray for the migrants trying to escape the murder, mayhem, and poverty of North Africa and the Middle East--those risking their lives to sail across the Mediterranean Sea toward Italy and the European continent. So many have drowned this past week--hundreds and hundreds.

I also wanted to remember the children preparing for First Communion and for the neglected people in our own community. I want St. Mary's to be a "front-porch Church," meeting and understanding the people and problems right around us.

Here they are:

Prayer of the Faithful for April 26, 2015. Fourth Sunday of Easter

Celebrant: As we continue our celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.

·         Like the Psalmist, let us sing, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his kindness and mercy endure forever.”
We pray to the Lord.

·         In thanksgiving for Jesus, who said, “I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We pray to the Lord.

·         For the protection of endangered Christians in Africa and the Middle East. We pray to the Lord.

·         For the safety of migrants fleeing violence, death, and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. We pray to the Lord.

·         That we might do our utmost to prevent abuse of children during this Child Abuse Prevention Month.   We pray to the Lord.

·         For those preparing for their First Holy Communion. We pray to the Lord.

·         That we might be a “front porch Church,” reaching out to our lonely and suffering friends and neighbors, that they might take hope from our Lord’s own suffering and Resurrection. We pray to the Lord.

·         and for those for whom this mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [...allow for silence...]. We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Father, today and throughout the Easter season, we have confidence that you will hear and respond to our sincere prayers, for they are asked in the name of your Risen Son, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Indian Point Park--in Leroy Township, Ohio

Indian Point is a beautiful and very interesting Metropark in Leroy Township, about 5 miles south of Painesville, Ohio. It is on a  triangular ridge, high above the confluence of Paine Creek and the Grand River. This was the site of an Indian Fort that dates back over 2000 years.

The fort area has built-up palisades that presumably were fortifications

A long stairway takes you from the fort are down to the creek-river confluence

Blooms of a silver maple along the Grand River

This is the confluence. A fisherman here was after steelhead trout

Me on a strange white sycamore

Looking up toward the hilltop fort from Paine Creek

The stairs as seen from the top

Gigantic hemlock and white pine around the fort area. Some are 150 feet tall and probably 200+ years old.

Looking from the hilltop across the swollen Grand River
Indian Point is adjacent to Paine Falls Metropark and Hell Hollow Metropark. Hell Hollow is called a wilderness (by a rather loose definiton of the term "wilderness"). All in all, this is an amazing natural area that protects the Grand River watershed. Besides the great natural beauty here, there is important cultural and historic dimensions to this area.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Early Christians Were Communists--or Communalists!?

The earliest Christian community members, who almost certainly saw themselves as Jews, seem to have lived as communists (or maybe "communalists" is a better term). Here is an amazing reading that will be used this coming Sunday, April 12th, in Catholic churches and other churches using the same readings schedule. It's from the Acts of the Apostles.

To me, this is a rebuke to our modern American approach to life. Of course, not everyone can live this way. But we should try to do it to the extent possible.

Take that, Adam Smith and your obscene "Invisible Hand"!

Reading 1ACTS 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Remembering April 4, 1968--When Martin Luther King Was Murdered

The day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, April 5, 1968, I was riding in a truck across the island of Crete. I was hitchhiking with a girl we met on the ferry boat sailing from Athens to Iraklion, a guitar, and my buddy Brian Wilson. Having a guitar was a great way to hitchhike--it offered instant entree. Having two guys, a girl, and a guitar--that was a little tougher.

On the ferryboat Brian and I met an American girl--I think we were the only Americans aboard that trip. Turned out this girl was from Eastlake, Ohio. I knew of her father's clothing store at E.222nd Street in Euclid. I even knew one of her cousins.

When we got off the ferry boat in Iraklion, we hitched a ride on a tiny motor scooter (well one of us did) and then got to the main road that crossed the island. Our destination was Matala, the tiniest of villages, on the southern coast of the island. Hitchhiking was tough because there was almost no traffic. Almost no one owned a car. We finally got a ride in a dump truck. The Eastlake girl and I (and the guitar) got in the front seat with the driver. Brian wanted to ride up on the load of gravel--a dangerous and uncomfortable position for him. While we were driving, we tried to communicate with the driver, but it was difficult. We only knew a few phrases of Greek, and he knew just a little English. He did know some German, so between these three languages he told us of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Still, I could hardly believe what I heard, and it would be hours more before King's murder was confirmed for us.

On that trip across Crete, we stopped at an archaeological site (very famous, very important, unbeknownst to us) called Phaistos.

Image of Phaistos, found in Wikipedia

We spent some time looking around the site, and then proceeded to the long walk to the village of Matala. On the way there, a man saw Brian carrying his guitar and invited us into his house. He wanted to show us his bouzouki, a spectacular instrument that must have cost the equivalent of weeks of work. We got to meet his entire family, and we took this beautiful photo with his three children. What a blessing to be invited into this home!

Matala, Crete family--circa April 5, 1968 (this might have been closer to Pitsidia than Matala)
From here we walked to Matala. There was a dusty road, with absolutely no traffic. I'm guessing we walked a couple of hours, finally arriving at the tiny village on a blue cove on the Mediterranean Sea. Either side of the cove was lined with cliffs, and in the cliffs were carved-out  caves--which, we assumed, were once used for burials. We found an empty cave and lived in it for a week.

A view of one of Matala's cliffs, with caves. []

A year or two later Joni Mitchell came to Matala. She wrote a beautiful song about the village and the "Mermaid Cafe" and the local wine and a boy named "Carey." I'll try to find a Youtube version of that:

So that was the day we learned Martin Luther King died. While in Crete, we had no news, no telephone, nothing, So we didn't have any sense of how America exploded after the assassination.

Postscript. I had a couple more memories of that visit to Matala and Crete I thought I'd mention. When Brian Wilson and I were walking to Matala, we passed through a little village where we saw people dining outside. I noticed they were eating escargot--snails. That was the first time in my life I saw people eating that! I'm guessing this was the village of Pitsidia. Maybe that's the town where we met the Greek family seen in the photo above.

Here's another strange memory. As we were hitchhiking back to Iraklion, an army convoy drove by us, then stopped and told us to get into the troop truck. We got in, with our guitar and backpacks. About 20 soldiers sat stiffly inside the truck, not speaking to us. Then, a few minutes later, someone in charge, maybe a sergeant or an officer, ordered us to get out of the truck. We had no idea what was going on. I do remember seeing the soldiers' weapons during this incident, but I wasn't really afraid. About a week later, in the Northern Italian (German-speaking) town of Bolzano, I was searched by an Italian federal policeman, a "carabinieri," with his machine gun pointed at me. Again, that ended without an actual arrest and with no violence.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Prayer of the Faithful for Easter 2015

Below are the Petitions/Prayer of the Faithful that I prepared for St. Mary's Painesville for Easter:

Prayer of the Faithful for April 5, 2015. Easter Sunday. Resurrection of the Lord

Celebrant: As we celebrate the Eucharist on this Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord, let us, dear sisters and brothers, approach the one God to voice all our needs.

·  In thanksgiving that we too can sing out, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” We pray to the Lord.

·  In thanksgiving that we, “the stones the builder rejected,” will become the cornerstones of the Kingdom of God on earth, the New Jerusalem. We pray to the Lord.

·  In thanksgiving for those who received the sacraments of initiation in the Church: Jessica, Maria-Virginia, Diane, Barry, Melodie-Anne, Javier, Yoselin, and Sandra. We pray to the Lord.

·  That we might rise like Jesus and be renewed in our energy to build a peaceful and just world. We pray to the Lord.

·  For the Catholic Church, that it might rise and be renewed like the Risen Christ. We pray to the Lord.

·  For all our suffering friends and neighbors enduring sickness, poverty, family problems, mental illness, and other trials--that they might take hope from our Lord’s own suffering and Resurrection. We pray to the Lord.

·  and for those for whom this mass is offered [name them]. We pray to the Lord.

Let us pause now and silently offer to the Father our own particular intentions [...allow for silence...]. We pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Father, today on Easter and throughout the Easter season, we have hope that you will be moved to hear and respond to our sincere prayers, for they are asked in the name of your risen Son, and in the power of your Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Living Stations of the Cross--At St. Mary's Painesville

Last evening the Mexican and Central American parishioners of St. Mary's in Painesville put on a Living Stations of the Cross pageant. It was extraordinary--and a little scary. It felt very realistic and helped one to imagine the suffering and death of Jesus. There were about 35 actors in costume, maybe a few more. About 300 people observed in the pews, the majority of them Hispanic. They brought all their children (and must have prepared them ahead of time so that they wouldn't be frightened). Here are a few photos from last night.

Fr. Steve Vallenga, at the pulpit, translated the words into English.

The centurions mocked, spat at, yelled at, and whipped Jesus as he made his way.

Jesus carrying his cross.

The crucifixion scene was stunning.

A Little Snow this April Morning--and a Denise Levertov Poem

April in Ohio
By Denise Levertov
Each day
the cardinals call and call in the rain,
each cadence scarlet
among leafless buckeye.
and passionately
the redbuds that can’t wait
like other blossoms, to flower
from fingertip twigs,
break forth.
as Eve from Adam’s
cage of ribs,
straight from amazed treetrunks.

Lumps of snow
are melting in tulip-cups. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Holy Week Tugs at the Heart Strings

This is Holy Week 2015 and my memory is going crazy, pulling up things from my childhood in Euclid and at St. William's Church. Memory is also calling up my many visits to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Euclid, as well as family trips to Martin, Floyd County, Kentucky and our annual stays at the Dwelling Place Monastery with the Mt. Tabor Benedictine nuns.

An old Gregorian chant heard throughout my childhood keep running through my head: "Parce, Domine! Parce populo tuo. Ne in aeternum, irascaris nobis." In English, "Spare, O Lord! Spare your people. Be not angry with us forever!" I remember so vividly the solemn rituals of Holy Week, the cloaked crucifix and statues (covered with purple linen), the haunting rituals of Good Friday when we remember the Crucifixion, the emptiness of Holy Saturday, the joy of Easter Sunday. On Good Friday the bells rung at the Consecration were replaced with clappers. The psychological impact on me was incredible. I loved the mournful songs and chants, sung and played in minor keys. I loved that there were very few Easter songs. The popular culture couldn't figure out how to exploit Good Friday and Easter Sunday with the shameful orgy of commercialism that has become the Christmas season in America.

As a kid my Dad would take us over to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes--right where Chardon Road (US Rt. 6) meets Euclid Avenue (US Rt. 20), the holiest place in Euclid. We would walk the hillside Stations of the Cross, praying at each of the 14 stations. On Friday we would keep silent from 12 Noon until 3 PM and we always expected Mother Nature to reflect the solemnity of the occasion, with cloudy skies, rain, or snow flurries. I cannot contemplate this season without thinking of Dad, Mom, my sister, and brothers at the Shrine. We took Julia, Carolan, and Emily there as they were growing up. I hope they don't forget it.

I also think of the many years we would travel, in the 1990's and early 2000's, driving from Euclid or Chardon to Floyd County, Kentucky, to see Steve and Sue Sanders and their children. Most of the time we would stay in the guest house of the Dwelling Place Monastery, home of the Mt. Tabor Benedictine nuns. These were among the most liberated Christian nuns on the planet. They finally left the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church and became a freer ecumenical community. Holy Saturday was so special with the sisters (who absolutely loved our visits and planned activities for our girls and their cousins). They would design a beautiful ritual, which began with an outdoor bonfire, and then a candlelit procession into the chapel, set on the mountainside. A place so beautiful (and amid such ugliness and poverty) it would break your heart. The sisters there taught us to pray not just to the patriarchal God we were so familiar with, but also "Sophia," the feminine spirit of God--really, the Holy Spirit. We would laugh and joke about these prayers, but we were praying in a new and radical way--and a truthful way.

I always associate our trips to Mt. Tabor and the Sanders family with the spectacular blooms of spring, in particular the redbud trees, a riot of reds and purples, and the dogwood, with their cream-white and sometimes pinkish blossoms. These trees would limn the creeks and hillsides and announce the Resurrection of nature after a hard winter.

The last time I saw my mother-in-law, Ruth Sanders, was at the Dwelling Place Monastery. It was 2007, weeks before her sudden passing. Ruth Sanders was a force, and she has left her mark on many people, including our children. We miss her so much; may she rest in peace.

I am grateful for all these memories. I have lived them. I was there. I am a witness.

Sisters of Mt. Tabor/Dwelling Place Monastery.
First Floor of the Mt. Tabor Guest House, where we stayed every Easter.