Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies


For this month we are reading Brian Doyles Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies. We will meet next on Thursday, March 1, 8:30 pm. Here is the summary from Amazon:

In this spirited collection of essays, Brian Doyle employs his wit, wisdom, and gusto for life as he shares with readers his thoughts on Jesus, the Mass, Birds, Bees, and so much more. What would be a good alternative name for Jesus? What does a honeybee at Mass have to tell us about Christ? What is, after all, the real point of saying prayers when someone is suffering?

Through the good and the bad, the serious and the hilarious, Doyle finds just the right story and just the right words to help us better understand life and love—and to help us see our faith in a whole new light.

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Patrick Madden Thursday night

Just a reminder that we are meeting this coming Thursday evening at 8:30 to discuss the book, Sublime Physick by Patrick Madden. He is a professor in the English Department at Brigham Young University. Bring something good to eat as well. And by the way, I just got word that Pat will be coming to join us on Thursday evening, so come with your questions. It should be good (and I can’t take any credit for him coming).


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Patrick Madden: Sublime Physick


We are reading Sublime Physick, a collection of essays by Patrick Madden. We will meet again on January 18, 8:30 pm. Here is the Amazon summary:

A follow-up to Patrick Madden’s award-winning debut, this introspective and exuberant collection of essays is wide-ranging and wild, following bifurcating paths of thought to surprising connections. In Sublime Physick, Madden seeks what is common and ennobling among seemingly disparate, even divisive, subjects, ruminating on midlife, time, family, forgiveness, loss, originality, a Canadian rock band, and much more, discerning the ways in which the natural world (fisica) transcends and joins the realm of ideas (sublime) through the application of a meditative mind.
In twelve essays that straddle the classical and the contemporary, Madden transmutes the ruder world into a finer one, articulating with subtle humor and playfulness how science and experience abut and intersect with spirituality and everyday life.

For teachers who’d like to adopt this book for their classes, Madden has provided a number of helpful teaching resources, including a 40-minute lecture on his writing process and writing prompts for each of the book’s essays.

And a little about the author:
Patrick Madden is an associate professor at Brigham Young University. His first collection of essays, Quotidiana (Nebraska, 2010), won awards from the Association for Mormon Letters and ForeWord magazine and was a finalist for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award. His essays have appeared in a variety of periodicals as well as in The Best Creative Nonfiction and The Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. He is coeditor (with David Lazar) of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays. Visit Madden’s website http://www.quotidana.org.
Here is a link to some of his essays on his website.
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November 30 Poems

This is the last of the daily posts of poetry. I hope you enjoyed them. Until next year.

Sometimes I feel drawn to them,

not really them, but where they

lay quietly, patiently, in that cold place.

Are they calling to me?

Is that their voices I hear

in the treetops?

It’s been so long, I hardly

remember how their

voices sound, and all I have

are old photographs to remind

me what they looked like.

I’m glad for that, and the stories,

but for another, he doesn’t

even have memories,

they were washed clean

when he was still little,

when they went away

and left him alone.

So it’s been a long month of late night poem writing. I think this one explains what those late nights have been doing to me 🙂 Anja

My left eye twitches involuntarily
so foreign to see the eyelid on my face
a part connected to my bodily surface
move of it’s own accord

not even asking the brain
for permission. The muscle
that controls opening and closing
jerks in defiance of wakefulness.

But the muscles cannot override the lid
down toward the dark pools
below. They can only exert a tremor
willing the eye to dip

behind the eyelid, a physical sunset
that won’t take place until
long after my side of the earth
has rolled over in it’s bed of sky.


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November 29 Poems

Nebraska never seemed like much to me,

but when we pulled into North Platte

on a summer evening in ’95 I smiled;

I could smell the mountains.

It seemed like a boundary of sorts,

the humid Midwest trailing behind us,

and the dry mountain air of the West

stretched out before us us, waiting.

Dusk. It was quiet as we pulled into

the motel parking lot. The sun

was setting orange out across

the plains stretching into Colorado.

Seven years in the Midwest and now we

were going back to the mountains,

to that wonderful, dry, mountain air.

I could feel the pull of those mountains

to the West as I walked barefoot

through the grass with a toddler

in my arms. The evening breeze

bent the grass and I closed my eyes

and breathed deeply, content.

We were going home, at least

to a place we would call home.


The decoys were packed
The pond left behind
The sled pulled behind
The man and his children
On foot when the flock
Of swan appeared. With
The twelve gauge cradled
In his arms he looked up
Anticipated their trajectory
Heard them hoot as they flew
Into range. The children cheered
Shoot! A swan dropped
From the air. As he fell,
His heart pumped for the last
Time, giving him one extra surge
Of lingering life. He locked
His wings and began to glide
Away from his shooter.
The man and his children ran
To catch the falling swan.
The littlest child was almost left
Behind, her little legs pumping.
The swan swooped down
Onto another man’s land.
The man and his children
Forced to surrender the swan
To a private property, another man’s
Table, their mouths salted
With the taste of bitter success.


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November 28 Poems

The music took me

when he said,

you’ve got to listen to this,

then proceeded to tell me

how and when it was recorded

and why it was so good.

So I put the disc into a boom box

on the shelf in my bedroom

and listened, and I was carried away

by that tenor saxophone,

warm and breathy, and

the deft rhythm section,

and since that time,

decades ago,

I can’t get enough.


A cloud in the morning hovered
Against the silhouette of black
Mountain. Sunrise light
Captured, illuminated the cloud
Lit it like a flash of lightning, stained
The sky, called me outside.
The back yard was drowning
In a 365 degree view of cloud waves
Caught by the sunrise. It came

To remind me to say hello
To the Earth, to remind me of a man
Who told me he says hello as he leaves
His house every morning to the tree
He planted when he was a boy.
He acknowledges the shrubs, he has
A conversation with Mount Olympus.
He told me the Mountain is part
Of the Earth and the Earth has a spirit

Like ours. He told me the mountain
Makes you feel something in return
A pin prick beginning deep inside
Your chest growing as it pushes outward
You feel something in return. I stood
Outside in my slippers thinking
About the lure outside, ripples of clouds
In the still blue morning ocean. I didn’t
Say a word, couldn’t see the mountain

Black shadowed giant. This morning
The sky greeted me. My eyes heard
As loud as a foghorn, the sun rolling
Across a sea of condensed water vapor.


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November 27 Poems

When I feel myself sinking

I reach for a pen,

open this notebook

and explore the niches

of my mind,

where all kinds of things

lay scattered about.

Sometimes I surprise myself

at what I find,

but usually I’m familiar

with the dark halls inside

that I wander frequently.

When I do encounter something

it’s usually just the same old stuff,

maybe camouflaged a bit,

so I’ll wiggle it out of some

chink or crack in the wall,

and examine it,

only to find that it’s just

another fragment of my

broken life.

Sometimes it’s jagged and sharp—

the hard, new things I deal with,

and other times it’s smooth

and worn—the things I deal

with over and over again.

I want to throw those worn

bits far from me, and the

jagged, sharp bits I stuff

back into the crack and

hope they stay there.


People are like trees
Their bark, firm rugged
Immovable stubborn.
Their trunk, like a breathing stone
Holds so still while it reaches
Beneath the ground. Their leaves
Weeping willows sweep
The neck of the earth
The blow dryer force wind moves
Through their vines, a wild
Hanging coif. Some have pine
Needles, pointy and prickly
Each branch laden with a family
Of green Porcupines, their outer
Protection against the wind.
Some have pinecones,
Extensions of their solid base, hard
As their bark. Every tree
Is a different person. Their face
A different creation of God.
So many characters, infinite
Faces emerging from the same mold,
So many trees blown in opposite ways,
All reaching below the surface, digging
For life water, sucking fresh or rotten
It doesn’t matter they devour
Any stored provision wherever they stand.


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