Saturday, May 14, 2016

Life Beyond the Grave?


Is there life beyond the grave? Isn't this one of the most important questions a person can ask? Ed Pacht's poem explores this and asks another important question: "When I am beyond the grave, have I left the ongoing story of this life? Is there more to my story in the here and now?"

Ed writes, "I am in many ways an expression of the earthly lives of my Yankee Puritan and German Lutheran ancestors, and though they have presumably entered eternal life, their earthly story simply has not ended."

The End
The end:
“…lived happily ever after,”
but did they?
Was that the end?
Does ‘ever after’ ever end?
Ah, yes, perhaps it does.

The end:
obituary:
the final end,
or is it?
Does life cease?
Is the story then complete?
Or is there more to tell?
Do the living still go on?
Is there a tale beyond the grave?
Infinity never stops,
never stops,
never ends.
The end:
a name upon a stone,
and dates,
perhaps a line of text,
in a quiet place where others lie.
Is it the end?
Is this all there is to say?

Or does a tale begin,
a quest,
a search for what has gone before?
What brought this person to this place?
What joys and pains are in this tale?
What of this life still now goes on?
What of the works this one has done,
the progeny that have been left behind,
the thoughts that he or she then thought,
or the beauty of the place we see?

Ah, has this story now been ended,
or has it only just begun?
Beginning, middle, ending of a tale,
not so clearly separate as we thought,
but this brings this poem to completion,
and now this truly is the end,
or is it?

ed pacht
11 May 2016

Related reading: Stories Don't Hold Still


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stories Don't Hold Still



I found the following essay by Ed Pacht to be thought provoking. When it comes to story endings, some people prefer to be left hanging because this allows the mind to explore the possibilities. As Ed Pacht reminds us, "Stories don't hold still..."

Often the novel's ending disappoints because it seems disconnected from what came before, or what came before has not been sufficiently explored by the author.

The task of  Biblical Anthropology is to pull back the veil of time and track antecedents, like the ancestors of Abraham.  Who were they?  Where did they live, what did they believe? Such investigation usually reveals that there is a connection between what those people believed about the end and the New Testament writings about the end. The New Testament writers make it clear that even that story doesn't hold still.

There is His glorious appearing, the final judgment, a marriage feast, and an eternal kingdom of peace. Sorrow will be no more and every tear will be wiped away. And that is only the beginning.-- Alice C. Linsley

Ed explains that, "The essay came from having read a review of a story I haven’t read which begins with the words, “The End.” What is the end? What is the beginning? Just exactly what it the now? Yes, the Bible and Christian tradition take a linear view of time, but this has to be seen in the light of One who created time itself and stands entirely outside of it."


The End

The end. Is that any way to begin a story? Shouldn’t a story have a beginning and a middle before it gets to the end? That’s what you and I have always been taught. It’s what we’ve always believed. It’s the way life is, or is it?

Well, there is always a beginning, but we don’t always know how the story begins. In fact, when we think we know the beginning, there’s always another beginning further back, and another before that one, all the way back to the beginning of everything that is; and even that is not the real beginning, for the infinity from which everything came has no beginning at all. Furthermore, if we do think we know the beginning of something, that may be all that we will ever know, and, so far as we can see, this beginning is the end of the tale.

So, it seems as though, whatever story we are telling, we’re really jumping into the middle of it, no matter where we start; and, you know, trying too hard to start at the beginning can get us so bogged down that we never manage to tell our story at all. And when we have begun our tale in the middle of the action, well, this is like life, isn’t that the way it is? We seldom really know how things started, and can’t really know how they’ll turn out, but here we are, right in the middle, where the action is really happening. We are taught, probably rightly, that a good work of fiction ties up loose ends and comes to a conclusion, but that really isn’t how life works at all, and sometimes a tale just has to leave the reader hanging in the middle of events.

Which brings us back to where we started: the end. Well, yes, every story will have an end. The writer or teller will eventually stop. Will it be an obvious ending? Will the ends be tied up and the plot resolved? Perhaps so, but life is not like that. There’s always more, and rarely do we understand the implications of what has gone on, rarely do we know where it will lead; and often what we see as the end of the tale may be all that we will ever see, the whole story in itself, so far as we can know it, or it may indeed be the very beginning of the tale we hear, leading us to look back to the middle and even the beginning of it all.

Stories don’t hold still for the pattern we want to put on them. They develop a life of their own and our efforts to force them where they don’t want to go can make them wooden or confused.

ed pacht
11 May 2016


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Writers' Groups in Kentucky


Berea
Berea Writers' Circle

Edmonton
The Edmonton Kentucky Red Writers meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm at the Edmonton Kentucky Chamber of Commerce office.

Frankfort
The Capital City Writers Roundtable meets monthly in Frankfort. For information contact Jerry Deaton jdeaton@me.com

Harrodsburg
Writers Bloc 40330, meets on the third Monday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 at the Mercer County Public Library meeting room. Address: 109 W Lexington St, Harrodsburg, KY 40330 For more information, email brightmyer@hotmail.com

Lexington
3rd Letter Writers, a Christian writers group, meets at Northeast Christian Church in Lexington every 3rd Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The address is 990 Star Shoot Parkway, Lexington, KY 40509.

Eagle Creek Writers' Group

Lexington Fiction Writers' Group meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month at noon at the Beaumont Branch of the Lexington Public Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

Tate's Creek Writers' Group meets the first Thursday of each month from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Tates Creek branch of the Lexington Public Library. The Tates Creek library is located at 3628 Walden Drive in Lexington KY. Call 859.231.5580 for more information.

Louisville
The Stuffed Owl Louisville Fiction Group

The Vault (Science Fiction)

Louisville Christian Writers

Dreambuilding meets every first and third Wednesday, noon until 1:00 at the Carnegie Center. Contact Katerina Stoykova-Klemer at katerina.klemer@gmail.com

Women Who Write meets the first Thursday each month 6:30-8:30 pm at the Highland Library Branch in Mid City Mall, 1250 Bardstown Road, Louisville. For information call 502.541.4670.

Green River Writers

Owensboro
Owensboro Writers' Group meets the third Saturday of each month at the Daviess County Public Library from 11:00 – 1:00. The Daviess County Public Library is located at 2020 Frederica Street, Owensboro, KY 42301. Contact Theresa Jewel Pinkston at t.j.pinkston.2007@gmail.com


Paintsville
Paintsville Main Street Writer’s Group meets on the 4th Thursday of each month beginning at 6:30 pm at the Johnson County Library. For information call 606.789.4355.

Radcliff
The Written Word Writer's Group meets on second and fourth Mondays at 6:00 pm, at the Hardin County Public Library Branch in Radcliff, KY.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Hand of God



Kristy Robinson Horine is a Kentucky writer: journalist by trade, creative by heart. She makes her life in Paris with her husband, Eric, and four children – Hanson, Anna, Emy, and Sadie. Her professional and creative work has been published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The piece that follows was written by Kristy for the edification of the writers in the 3rd Letter Writers, a Christian group that meets at Northeast Christian Church in Lexington, KY every 3rd Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Address: 990 Star Shoot Parkway, Lexington, KY 40509


 
Main Street Bounty
 
I don’t start to cringe until the third time she tells me.

“That girl of yours is all growed up,” she says. “It’s hard to believe how growed up she is. Almost didn’t know her face. What do you think about that?”

“She sure has grown,” I say as I shake my head in a gesture I hope looks like sympathetic disbelief.

I wait for the next sentence and I know it will be about the pastor search, about how much she likes this interim pastor man whose name she can’t quite put at the front of her brain.

Then, again, she’ll tell me that girl of mine is all growed up.

I don’t cringe because of the grammar.

I’ve known Miss Aleen for years. Her speech is just a part of who she is. It never bothered me when she taught my children oh-so-long-ago in Sunday School. It doesn’t bother me now, at this all-women fellowship. Even though I don’t attend their church any longer, I’ve followed Miss Aleen’s decline through a series of prayer requests from my mom.

What makes me cringe is the evidence of decline. 

It’s that repetition that I remember from my Meme and Great-Grandma Ledford.

It’s the moment of lucidity and panic in her eyes as she realizes she’s repeated her words.

It’s the fading of lucidity and panic into the comfortable over and over and over again.

And, still, I sit and I wait for the cycle again because that’s what writers sometimes do.

We wait.

And, we listen.

And, sometimes, we see the hand of God.

This is not how the day began. I was full of a grudge. It mostly had to do with the fact that I did something that I didn’t want to do because it was that something that was good and right and it would make my husband happy.

Normally, I like making my husband happy. It means I don’t feel guilty. The air is clearer at home. I don’t have to do extra sweet things to make up for my orneriness.

But that morning, I just didn’t want to. Dad-gum-it!

Eric’s company has an annual health fair. Employees and spouses go through different stations where healthy people check - and record - our weight and height and figure up those initials I am convinced are from Satan: the BMI.

Another station takes and records blood pressure. (It’s right after the weigh station. I reckon they want as close to real-life diastolic and systolic as they possibly can get, since they don’t have a separate room where we interact with our teenage children …)

Yet another station stabs a finger, squeezes blood onto a strip and - Presto! - instant numbers that indicate internal processes.

The final station sits us down with another healthy person who explains our numbers and gives us brightly colored papers with tips on how to be better with our numbers.

I had already planned on going to the one in Paris at the end of the month because I figured I could probably lose a few ounces by then. But Eric wanted me to go to the one at his office in Lexington. At the beginning of the month. That morning.

So I went, but I made sure pretty much everyone in the house knew of my displeasure. I didn’t want to drive to Lexington. It makes my palms sweat. I didn’t want to park in Lexington. It makes my palms sweat-ier. I didn’t want to weigh in earlier than I had anticipated. It makes me want to purchase gray sweat pants and think bad thoughts about really skinny people. I didn’t want to be so close to him because we could compare our internal processes numbers and my insides might fall short somehow and then I would feel all broken, unworthy, unlovable. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is fall-out from another-lifetime-abuse, even in a Christian’s mind).

All I really wanted was coffee.

Accurate internal process numbers required fasting. From coffee.

We stood in line to go through the stations for about an hour and a half.

An hour and a half.

With a toddler.

On no coffee.

That’s just not nice.

But it was a good and right thing because after the health fair we got free toothbrushes and a weird square of something edible and a mini bottle of water where the plastic crinkled when we drank it. And it was a good and right thing because we saved money on our health insurance by going. And it was a good and right thing because Eric got to show his coworkers how much his sweet and only Sadie had grown. 

Psalm 13: 5-6 says:

“But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

Indeed.

After the health fair, we trekked upstairs. We were on a mission to visit Jane.

Jane is a cancer survivor. She wears denim skirts or dresses and piles her hair on her head in graceful loops that make me pray for protection against jealousy. Her cancer check-up dates are on our calendars and we pray and follow up with her. She walks sweetly with Jesus in word and in deed and visiting her is a good and right thing.

After we chat and she coos over Sadie, Eric points out this picture on a desk.

It’s Main Street in Lexington and it appears to be from sometime in the 50s or 60s. It’s from before my time but it makes me have this strange yearning. It’s beautiful and we drink it in with our eyes and tell the stories of it with our mouths.

The old KU building. Baker’s Shoes. Lerner Shops. McCrorys. The Phoenix Hotel. Stewart’s.

When Jane was young, she worked at the shoe store after school.

Standing there, high in the KU building, with one eye on Sade, I wanted to be there on Main Street. I wanted to know what it was like to have the traffic go both ways though not as fast nor as crowded as today, and have men in suits and hats pass me on the wide sidewalk and open doors like I know gentlemen can and nod, and have my own self clothed in a dress and hat and gloves and nylons and sensible black pumps.

But my need for coffee calls from the deep within place and we hold Jane and promise prayers for May 10 and instruct our Sadie to say “Thank you for having us” and to blow a little kiss. Jane catches it and puts it on her cheek. 

The Lord has dealt bountifully with me.

I don’t think about the BMI. I don’t think about how my menu and my budget will need to change yet again to accommodate these beautiful and somewhat saggy and creaky bodies God has given us. I don’t think about having to drive in Lexington. I don’t think about being broken.

As we sit near the window of A Cup Of Common Wealth and try to encourage Sadie to eat the scone and not crush it, all I think about is how rich I am and how generous God has been to open His cornucopia of numbers and travel and people and mercy and pour it out on us.

I, in my stubborn, human way, might have missed all this.

This is what flashes in my mind when Miss Aleen begins our fourth cycle of talk.

“I sure do like that interim pastor. God sure knowed what He was doing, didn’t He?” she asks me.

“Doesn’t he work downtown?” I ask.

“Why, I think you’re right. Oh I remember downtown,” she says. 

“Do you remember Baker’s Shoes?” I ask.

“Lord, yes! And McCrory’s where we used to pop a balloon to see if we had won anything,” she says and claps her hands together. “I worked back in this building, Perkins, it was. They gave me a little room where I did all their accounting. They sold fancy women’s things, they did. Yes, they did. And I did all their numbers for them.” 

And there we were the two of us, hand in hand, on Main Street in Lexington.

And I almost missed this.

I close my eyes for a few moments as Miss Aleen goes on and on. She is happy and secure and she is there even though she is here with me. My heart whispers gratitude overflowing as I realize that God has given me exactly what I wanted.

A dress and a hat and little gloves and nylons and sensible pumps, and a friend with which to walk.

Her main street bounty is right and good. Together, we see the hand of God and it makes us sing. 
 
 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Words of Wisdom from Charlotte Brontë


Portrait of Charlotte Brontë
by George Richmond

The English novelist and poet Charlotte Brontë (1816 –1855) was a the eldest of the three Brontë sisters who survived into adulthood. She first published her works under the pen name Currer Bell.

What follows is the an excerpt from the Preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre. As with all words of wisdom, Brontë's sentiments expressed here are timeless.

Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.
These things and deeds are diametrically opposed: they are as distinct as is vice from virtue. Men too often confound them: they should not be confounded: appearance should not be mistaken for truth; narrow human doctrines, that only tend to elate and magnify a few, should not be substituted for the world-redeeming creed of Christ. There is - I repeat it - a difference; and it is good, and not a bad action to mark broadly and clearly the line of separation between them.

Excerpt from the Preface to the Second Edition of Jane Eyre and signed:

Currer Bell
December 21st, 1847


Brontë's most famous works:

Jane Eyre (published 1847)
Wuthering Heights (published 1847)
Villette (posthumously published 1853)
The Professor (posthumously published 1857)


Bronte's pens names:

Currer Bell
Ellis Bell
Lord Charles Albert
Florian Wellesley

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Challenges Writing Teachers Face



"A great teacher makes hard things easy." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
 
Well-crafted written communication is one the hardest things to teach. Consider the complexity of the task.
 
Many students are uninterested in learning to write well. They do not consider this a necessary skill for life.
 
Good writing takes time. There is a process of writing and revision. Students are not rewarded by immediate gratification.
 
There is the matter of recognition of good writing which comes through reading well-written material. Many students lack good reading skills. Those who like to read often fail to distinguish mediocre work from truly great literature.
 
There is the problem of distraction so that students have difficulty organizing their thoughts.
 
There is the additional challenge of logical order and sequence of ideas. Students often lack the critical thinking that this requires.
 
Good writing also requires grasp of grammar and syntax. Writing teachers spend a great deal of time teaching and re-teaching grammar.
 
Students tend to stay in their comfort zones when it comes to vocabulary. They do not stretch themselves by employing more sophisticated language unless they are challenged.
 
Teaching students how to write well is no simple task. Writing teachers who can do this should receive special honors. In some cases, the honor comes years later when a former student's work is published in a prestigious magazine. Sometimes, the former student takes the time to write a lovely letter to his writing teacher in which he acknowledges her influence and thanks her.
 
That happened this week for me. Thankful! Very thankful!
 
Alice C. Linsley
 
 
 


Friday, April 1, 2016

The Precious Wood


I found this poem by Ed Pacht very moving and beautiful. It is one of a number of poems he has written that were inspired by the Cocheco River and by Hanson Pines Pubic Park. Ed was walking in the Pines and came across a dead tree. It was hollow and riddled with holes. The shape and image intrigued him and he paused to contemplate it, when he saw motion. It was a grey squirrel poking its head out of various holes and suddenly appearing at the tip of a presumably hollow branch. The image came instantly.

Hiding Place

Ah, the precious wood
to which a sinner flees,
oh, the precious wood
on which the Savior hung,
ah the great salvation
wrought upon that tree,
O my Jesus, hide me,
set this sinner free.

--ed pacht