Author Archives: Rich Neal

Life as a shrine to meaning

National Poetry Month, Day 16  //  There’s more than one way to success. One of them is a competitive, triumphal, acquisitive way. Get the better job; win the promotion; drive a more luxurious car; move into a bigger house in a better neighborhood. “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” Then there is […]

Before death comes

National Poetry Month, Day 15  //  It’s a curious paradox. As the number of my days reaches fullness and the number of those to come dwindles, I grow less concerned with preparing for what may come after this life and more concerned with what remains on this side of the divide. The question of the […]

My life has been the poem

National Poetry Month, Day 14 // “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon sang in “Beautiful Boy.” The song was recorded in 1980, but the phrase was a variation of one printed in 1957 in the “Quotable Quotes” column of Reader’s Digest. I don’t know how long before […]

In perfect silence

National Poetry Month, Day 13  //  Seeing past the surface of life to the “something more of the depths” that Robert Frost glimpsed at a well-curb may be an unexpected gift, but it doesn’t very often come out of the blue. Often it’s preceded by nudges as subtle as mere whim, boredom, impatience, or the […]

For once, then, something

National Poetry Month, Day 12  //  Noticing God’s grandeur is always sure to bowl me over, but honestly the experience of it has been rare. Mostly what I see is God’s ordinariness, nothing like the “shining from shook foil” that George Manley Hopkins describes in “God’s Grandeur.” Annie Dillard writes that nature “conceals with a […]

There lives the dearest freshness

National Poetry Month, Day 11  //  We’re well into spring here in Western New York. Even the occasional snow that falls – it has now retreated to the higher elevations – may protest but can’t forestall the shift of seasons. Morning birdsong entering through slightly open bedroom windows is as likely to awaken us as […]

Not ready for stars

National Poetry Month, Day 10  //  Many of the poems that draw me are about journey rather than destination – about the way I move through life, or intend to move, rather than where I hope to arrive. I’ve always been a wanderer, finding home in the journey and relishing Tolkien’s notion that “Not all […]

Restacking for a better load

National Poetry Month, Day 9  //  There are times when there’s nothing to do but stop and start over. I’ve experienced several such times, and I’ve gained so much from the stopping that it has become a staple of my spiritual practice. Emerson advised finishing one day before beginning the next and interposing a solid […]

The journey is our home

National Poetry Month, Day 8  //  There’s a line in an old railroad song, “Isn’t it the going and not the getting there.” Anyone who has ridden on old steam-driven train will appreciate that reaching the destination is an anticlimax; the joy and adventure are in the journey. And in yesterday’s poem, “Ithaca,” Constantine Cavafy […]

On looking for the ocean

It’s a great metaphor for the spiritual journey, that an airliner is off course more than ninety-eight percent of the time. Countless variables are at work making it drift from its intended flight path. The thing is, the pilots are making constant course corrections, small control adjustments that bring the plane to its intended destination. […]