Monday, July 10, 2017

The Great Blueberry Harvest of 2017--a Poem

Blueberry Harvest

Spectacular this year
Every bush heavy laden with blueberries
Every hue of blue, light blue, sky blue, navy,
Blue-black, midnight blue,

If you’re blue, try eating these berries,

Luscious, puffed-up by early summer rains,
Sweet (and tart!) and so delicious that I salivate
At the very sight!

I pick them—or rather, they practically fall off the bush, unbidden,
Into my jar. The big ones don’t make it, though—
I pop them into my mouth as quick as a blue heron
Spears a blue gill.

These berries are going to marry my breakfast cereal,
Drop into pancake batter,
Mix with yogurt,
Avalanche over shortcake,

And stain my blue blue tongue!

Bob Coughlin / July 10, 2017

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Birthday Poem

Birthday Poem for Linda Rose

Can you imagine this?

We get to celebrate you and your birthday
In High Summer
When the day lilies line the lanes of Geauga County,
And the blue chicory sing out the joy of being alive,
Daisies and black-eyed Susans add their pop to the landscape,
Peace Rose rises,
And Lake Erie sparkles and glows in July sun . . .

And we sing thanks for your sweet life
And constant gifts of kindness and goodness

To your children,
Your grandchildren (who love you to the moon and back),
Your friends and family,
To the hungry, homeless, and lonely,

And to me, lucky dog, so amazed by your constant love and care . . . 

O Linda,
We celebrate your birthday 

and your blessèd life!

                                                Bob Coughlin / July 7, 2017

To see the poems I read at the July 8, 2017 Poetry in the Park program,
click here.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chapin Forest and the Beautiful Metro Parks of Northeast Ohio

I've been "training" for a 14-mile (28 miles round trip) hike into Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness. Since I am 69 years old, such a long trip into the Wilderness is a serious matter. I have to be physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. To get ready I've been doing long hikes in Metroparks all around the East Side of Cleveland--the Cleveland Metroparks, the Lake County Metroparks, and the Geauga County Metroparks. I love all these park systems. The Cleveland system is the biggest and oldest, and it is magnificent. I've been hiking the North Chagrin Reservation, an awesome assemblage of forests, meadows, streams, ponds, and picnic areas. And I've been going into this huge park since I was a little kid growing up in Euclid. I love Squire's Castle, Strawberry Lane, Forest Lane, Sunset Pond, and all the trails and the wonderful diverse woods and ravines in North Chagrin. I hiked seven miles there yesterday, a great day.

Earlier this week I hiked the length of Chapin Forest in Kirtland, Ohio.

Besides a rich woods of sugar maple, beech, black cherry, red oak, and myriad other trees and shrubs, Chapin has some unusual geological features. It has caves and ledges, and a lot of rock called Sharon Conglomerate, a sandstone filled with luckystones (rounded milky quartz stones). The luckystones are one of the characteristic features of our Lake Erie beaches--they are found in Cuyahoga, Lake, and Ashtabula Counties (and probably on beaches in Pennsylvania and New York)--and nowhere else that I know of. As a toddler in Willoughby, Ohio, we would collect luckystones, put them under our pillows at night, and trick the tooth fairy. This always worked--as long as we told my Grampa about the plan.

Here is a photo I took of Sharon Conglomerate:

Another wonderful feature of Chapin Forest is Gildersleve Mountain, a high hill in the Forest that looks north to Lake Erie, rising 593 feet above the Big Lake, 6.7 miles to the north. Part of the hill has been quarried, so there is a precipitous drop-off at the top. By the way, very few people know the name "Gildersleve Mountain." It is part of local lore and it needs to be preserved. Here is a view of the lake from Gildersleve. My cell phone camera cannot do it justice. On a clear day you can see 18 miles to the skyscrapers in downtown Cleveland. An odd thing is that it looks like the entire area is a forest, when it is really a large, densely populated city. It brings to mind the old nickname of Cleveland: the "Forest City."

About 1.5 miles from Gildersleve is another historic quarry, where the stone for the Kirtland Mormon Temple was quarried in the early 1830s. Part of that is now a pond. And just north of the pond you can see an area where huge blocks of stone were quarried.:

The forest in this park is full of huge trees and I ran across a stump about 4-feet in diameter, the remains of an old red oak:

There are many huge trees in this forest, but some of them are dying, especially the white ash; they are being annihilated by the emerald ash borer. The ash trees are facing the same devastation that has met the American Chestnut and the American Elm. I have seen some small chestnut trees and many elm trees in local woods. Some elm trees have survived, but there has been a huge die off since my childhood. Will any ash trees somehow demonstrate immunity to the emerald ash borer? Time will tell.

Almost every day I walk in a different park. I love them all, but Chapin is near the top of the list.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

New Poem--about My Hawthorn Trees


There must be a hundred thousand blossoms
Festooning my Washington Hawthorne trees,

And ten thousand bees buzzing around the blossoms,
A low rumbling buzz you can hear 50 feet away.

I planted these trees for the birds, food for the winter,
The red berries, beautiful to my eye—

And nutritious for the hungry birds of winter,
The sparrows, finches, chickadees, cardinals.

The birds will have their turn, but first the bees!
Pollinating, stirring the powder of life, fertilizing,

Co-creating with the sun, the rain, the tree,
And the Hand of God.

These trees please my eye, but not the nose,
The scent which seduces bees, repels me,


To the human eye or nose,
Creation is not always pretty!

Bob Coughlin / June 13, 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day--Thank You for Your Service, of All Kinds

There were different kinds of service, sacrifice, and even martyrdom. We shouldn't forget the less obvious ones this Memorial Day.

Today, I especially remember my cousin Tommy Fitzpatrick [Tommy Fitzpatrick on the Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall], who was killed in Vietnam on April 18, 1969, just over 48 years ago. Tommy grew up with us in Euclid, Ohio, went to St. William's with us, then on to St. Joseph High School and Euclid High School, where he graduated in 1967. Less than two years after high school graduation, Tommy was killed in Vietnam, a devastating loss to his family, friends, and community. Tommy was the second St. William's boy killed in Vietnam, along with Raymond "Buddy" Chasser. Buddy's mother was a Horkan, a shirttail cousin of my mother.

And today I also remember Steve Shields [Steve Shields, on the virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall], my Notre Dame and Innsbruck Program classmate. Steve was in ROTC at Notre Dame, graduating in 1970. Two years later, on June 20, 1972, the helicopter he was piloting was shot down in Vietnam, and Steve was killed. I went to the funeral in Philadelphia and the burial at West Point. Steve was mourned by hundreds of people, family, friends, and classmates. Steve was just 23 years old.

There were so many other huge sacrifices. I think about my father in World War II, 20 years old, a Signalman in the Navy, at war in the South Pacific, aboard a small wooden ship called a "Subchaser." My father-in-law, Art Sanders, also in the Navy in the South Pacific, an 18-year-old machinist. My many uncles who served in the war. At least three of them came back with serious PTSD, a condition that had no name back then. They were haunted the rest of their short lives, self-medicating their anxiety and depression with alcohol.

Not all the heroes were war heroes. Some were anti-war heroes; others played roles in the background, either supporting the war effort or the anti-war effort.

In 1970 I had to decide if I would fight in Vietnam. I read, thought, and prayed about this issue and finally decided that I would not. I felt at the time I had three or four options: I would go to Canada (or try to); I would go underground (again, I had no idea if that were even possible); I would go to jail; or I would try to take the legal path and apply for Conscientious Objector status. So in the summer of 1970, I applied for CO status. I also took my draft physical, along with hundreds of other young men, in a basement area of Erieview Tower in Cleveland. That summer I submitted my CO application and later had a kind of trial or hearing before the draft board. They eventually, to my astonishment, granted me CO status. I would next have to do two years of Alternate Service. During these 6 months of uncertainty, I was working with Gene Killeen and many other wonderful people at Terminal Parking, at West 6th and Superior. In late January of 1971, I said goodbye to Gene and my work friends, said goodbye to my family, and moved to Cincinnati to try to find an acceptable Alternate Service position. That summer, I finally located such a job, in the Health Education Department of the 12th Street Clinic. There I worked under Dr. Joseph Alter, who I heard had also been a CO many years earlier. I worked with Charles Couch, Becky Meyers RN, June Mealey, Dale White, and many other wonderful people at the clinic. My pay was $2.50 per hour. My job was located in the Cincinnati ghetto of Over-the-Rhine, but I didn't consider it dangerous. I did some service for the neighborhood and my country. My sacrifice was not like Tommy's or Buddy's or Steve's. But I played a role.

When I moved to Cincinnati I met a group of dedicated people called "Peacemakers." They were pacifists, and many of them had spent time in jail for not participating in war efforts and for refusing to pay war taxes. Their sacrifices were huge. I'm thinking of people like Maurice McCrackin, Ernest Bromley, Marion Bromley, Dan Bromley, Wally Nelson, Juanita Nelson, Chuck Matthei, Kenny Przybylski, Richard Gale, Chris Cotter, Peggy Scherer . . .  gee, so many other incredible,  dedicated people who said no to war and yes to peacemaking.

For all of the people mentioned, the warriors and the peacemakers, the Conscientious Objectors and conscious participators, I say, "thank you for your service."

And PS, thanks to Tim Musser for his service as a Conscientious Objector!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Just Paid My War Taxes--Mea Culpa!

Paying My War Taxes

Today I filed my federal war taxes. I am almost ashamed to admit it. Many friends of mine risked their freedom, their careers, their homes—really, almost everything, by refusing to pay war taxes. Many of them went to jail for this. Others had to live below the taxable poverty line, in other words, very simply, with an extremely low income threshold. I’m thinking of people like Chuck Matthei, Marion and Ernest Bromly, Juanita and Wally Nelson., the Berrigan’s, Phil and Dan, Dorothy Day, Ammon Hennacy (The One-Man Revolution), Maurice McCrackin. Many folks in the Peacemaker Movement and the Catholic Worker Movement. Many Quakers and Mennonites. I appreciate their enormous sacrifices.
Chuck Matthei
I am not against all taxation. I am happy to pay my taxes and share my resources for many things having to do with the health, welfare, and cultural resources of our country. I am also happy to share my resources with those in need outside my country, the poor, needy, refugees, the hungry.

Wally and Juanita Nelson, Ernest and Marion Bromley, Maurice McCrackin

But I strongly object to the use of my taxes for war and for imperialism. Our tax dollars have done so much damage in the world. And lately, the sabers have been rattling again—at people and groups in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, China, and many other places. And most ominously of all, in North Korea, where “all options are on the table.” Well one of those options is the use of nuclear weapons. If it comes to that, then the future of the world, the entire future of civilization, is put at great risk. The world could essentially end. All our own hopes and our hopes for our families, friends, children, and grandchildren could be dashed—incinerated.
Ammon Hennacy (right)

Can we trust our leaders not to use these weapons of destruction—in fact, weapons of mass destruction. We have them at the ready. They could be launched at any minute.

Dan Berrigan and Thomas Merton