Falling Upward

A warm greeting to you, this morning, my friends.

It’s 5:30 AM. I’ve been up for an hour or so now converting some of what I wrote yesterday into another poem. I seem to be doing that lately but it makes sense, getting the general idea down on paper first. So you can see how my mind works, I’ll include the poem at the bottom of this post if I have the space.

I spent a lot of my free time yesterday re-reading portions of Samuel Butler’s translation of The Odyssey. I like the prose translation but that wasn’t the reason I got the book off the shelf. Rather, I was prompted by a chapter in Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward. In it, he uses Homer’s work to illustrate what happens to most of us as we move through life. We experience some kind of crisis that results in a change for the better, moving us from preoccupation with our identity – achieving success, for example – to new, different, concerns as we grow older. I needed to refresh my memory about what happened after Odysseus returns home after a 20 year absence. He and his wife, Penelope, are reunited but then, as Father Rohr points out, Odysseus is compelled to leave again This was the part I needed to review. I was glad I did. i had an absolutely delightful afternoon. There is no end to the drama as Odysseus reasserts control over his estate. His first reconnections with his son, wife and  father, after 20 years, are priceless. It is in his initial conversation with his wife that Odysseus reveals that he has one more thing he must do which involves distant travel. Once done, Odysseus has been promised a long and happy life, ebbing away gently when “full of years and peace of mind”, his people blessing him.

I’ll need to spend more time thinking through what crises in my life have helped me to fall upward. One certainly was my decision, in my fifties, to quit smoking and start running. This switch from one addiction to another, no doubt saved my life. I’m certain I would not be alive now to “ebb away gently” if I hadn’t started running. A second crisis, though late, well beyond the halfway mark, which nevertheless felled me upward, was my wife’s death in 2012 which led to a new, redemptive life which I continue to be excited by. Are there others? Probably not, as I think more about it. I know these two “falls” have been plenty, enough to get me through, enough to complete my journey in gratitude.

On the Edge                                     

Don’t read Billy Collins’ poetry first thing in the morning/.That’s what he did./ He rolled over to the edge of the bed,/planted his bare feet on the carpeted floor and reached over to the bookcase for one of his newer books,

in this case, Billy Collins’’ Aimless Love/,the poems within going off in every direction,/with no end to the subject line/.Every action could become a poem/ and suddenly,/ his legs over the edge of the bed and feet on the floor/ became an earlier time.

He was floating in a wooden rowboat on Buckeye Lake,/ on a summer’s day/ his bare legs over the edge, his feet dangling in the water,/ wondering if a passing bass might be tempted to nibble at his toes.

Again, even earlier, at maybe ten years of age,/ he’s in a remote part of Canada, out in the open water in a rowboat by himself/, looking over the edge at his bait twenty feet below,/watching one fish and then another, come and go/, testing his patience.

He had drifted behind a small island out of his parent’s sight./ Was he even wearing a life jacket?/ And now he’s back in bed, peering over the edge of himself/, looking inward, seeing in the emptiness a pinprick of light/. He waits there, still patient, for the next show to begin.

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