Sunday, March 30, 2014

Amazing


Impossible

to describe
the splendor that is you
when words like love and pride
have withered in your light
and outgrown their useful measure,

when words no longer come close
to saying what need be said,

it’s beyond all that now.

In truth,
I can make no claim
for the person you’ve become,
you were always 
destined for greatness
no matter what,
and you have proven me right
every day of your life.

The only word 
left for you is

amazing.


for kelly on her 30th birthday



Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014

The Messenger


3:162:  and the heavens
called forth unto him 
a messenger
so that he may know
the heights and depths
of love and suffering
in fullest capacity,
their great chasm 
forever bound
with the raw nerve 
of life's bleeding pulse.


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014

There Will Be Suffering


I told her the story 
of my pain,
complained profoundly
and with great enthusiasm
like venting would solve something
(it won't),
I insisted she know
it wasn't as simple
as all that,

she was only half-listening,
it was not what she wanted to hear
as she had other things in mind
that would solve 
my pain and hers,
but she did say
"of course there will be suffering,
but every junior novice Buddha knows 
that it is the turning 
of suffering into beauty
that is the key",

once I heard that
I was the one half-listening
to her story and plans
and was not interested 
in the other things 
she had to say or offer,
I selfishly took what I needed,

turn suffering into beauty

and that's why she was there,
to deliver the message
I needed to hear:

question not the suffering,
produce more beauty.


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Life Well Lived

Embrace each day
as an empty page
in the book of your life
with you as the author,

lift up your heart
in gratitude of all we are given
as you turn your focus inward
where true power lives,

let longing and sorrow
last only a few pages
then replace it with self reflection
to know the path forward,

let not the fear of loss
keep you from experiencing
love's great reward,

forgive those who harm you
give thanks for those who love you
for both teach the lessons 
you need to know,

head up
slow down
listen
learn
and the story will unfold before you,

do this
and yours will be 
the story worth reading,
the one they can't put down
full of lively characters
grand heroes and great battles
the plot thick with triumphs and defeats,

do this
and you'll have them shouting
Author! Author!
at your final curtain
as headlines proclaim

"A Life Well Lived."


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gary


     On a beautiful spring day Jack The Dog and I took our morning walk on the path in our park that runs next to the grammar school playground. Being a bit late in our morning schedule allowed us to witness something we had never seen in our previous walks by the school; the boys - 4th or 5th grade, my guess - in an organized run around the permitter of the school playground and baseball field. 
     
     Our park path and the chain link fence allowed us to observe the fresh pink faces and various smiles fading to winces on these young lads, and as they paraded by us I found myself curious as to which boys were leading the pack and which were following behind. I felt good when I saw the last runner was not that far behind the leader, that is until I realized he was not the last runner, and that the last runner was a good quarter lap behind the pack. 

     He wasn’t fat, but he did carry more weight than most of the runners we had seen. My quick observation told me he wasn’t loafing or noncommittal; he would run with arms swinging and feet plopping hard against the ground for a dozen paces or so and then slow to a walk, his head bowing in shame to stare at the feet and legs that were failing him, but he kept moving forward with an I-wont-quit pace. His body language told me “My heart’s not in this, but I’m trying.”

     I was instantly fascinated.

     Realizing that the good folks in charge of these young runners might become alarmed at the site of a strange bearded man with sunglasses hovering outside the perimeter fence of a grammar school, I tried not to stare at the running event and keep my dog-walking duties in motion, but now I was transfixed by our last place runner. I was relating to him, projecting my troubles and sufferings on him, and I suddenly wanted nothing more than for our runner to just finish the race.

     A few more minutes of Jack and I reducing our walk to a meander - ridiculously slow even for us - and we we able to witness the pack of young runners pass our last place hero. My mind was racing with questions: how many laps were they doing?, which one were they on?, was our runner tired because this was the last of many laps we hadn't seen?, and right then, a young smiling bright faced runner looked at me and proudly shouted, “We’re running the mile!” “How many laps?” I asked. “3”, he screamed between gasps for air and then was gone, which meant our last place runner had tired after just the first half-lap. I was rooting for him even more now. I wanted to cry for him, my parental instincts kicking into full throttle. I wanted to yell to our last place runner and encourage him not to quit, and tell him Jack and I were proud that he never stopped moving forward and he never gave up.

     Our morning walk finally lead us away from the school yard fence and our view of The Great Race. I was heart-broken for our last place runner. As Jack and I made our usual large circle through the park, I was wondering what message The Universe was sending by giving me this vision, today of all days, when suddenly something made me look up and I realized that from our place across the long ball field I could still see the playground….and one lone runner still running. Jack and I were at the spot where we turn to head for home when I looked at him and said, “this way” and pointed towards the school yard. I had to go back to see the finish.

     Jack and I slowly walked back towards the school yard, my stare locked on the scene I could not stop watching. I found a bench and table near the school yard fence that would allow us to witness the end of this Herculean effort. I watched as the end-of-recess bell rang and the kids from all the classes rushed to line up for their re-entry into class and slowly make their orderly parade back to their seats. Our runner, a lone figure on the farthest outskirts of the school yard, was still moving, running six paces, walking six paces.

     As other classes of activities took the playground, I identified the P.E. teacher - a man of slim build with whistle, stop watch and clipboard - busying himself with other duties. It seemed he had given up on our last place runner. I was rooting for our runner harder than ever now, I wanted to scream over the fence, “Come on, Buddy, you can do it! I’m proud of you! Keep going!” The little girls who were at the finish line yelling their encouragement to our runner when he completed his first painful lap were gone now. He was on his own, but he was still moving.

     As our runner crossed the finish line with one last burst of running and then walked dejectedly but still with his I-wont-quit pace to his classroom door, I heard an adult voice call out “Gary!” Our runner stopped quickly and raised his head up - his name was Gary and he was receiving instructions from someone I couldn't see. Suddenly Gary took 5 steps back to what would have been the spot to line up for re-entry into his class, stood there for a brief moment receiving further instruction, then moved forward towards the classroom door and stopped. I got up from the table and made my way towards the fence, I didn't care who saw me or what they suspected, I had to see how this played out.

     I could tell by his reactions Gary was not receiving encouragement for completing his run, he was being lectured by the P.E. teacher. I couldn't hear what the teacher was telling him, but I could barely hear Gary say “I WAS running”, then Gary received more instruction, shrugged his shoulders in a “I don’t know” gesture, then took the final instructions from the P.E. teacher and headed off of the playground away from his class and towards the office. I’ll never know for sure, but I think Gary was being punished for his lack of effort. I wanted to jump over the fence and rip out the throat of the P. E. teacher, and then lift Gary up on my shoulders and parade him around the school yard, but in another short moment Gary’ final walk was done as he disappeared behind the office door with the same defiant I-wont-quit pace he displayed on the playground.

     Of course, I have no way of knowing the true intentions and inner-virtues of Gary The Last Place runner; for all I know, Gary’s fame as the laziest kid in the fourth grade might be legendary, or perhaps he’s a budding scofflaw who laughs in the face of authority and was merely going through the motions to produce the minimal effort he thought would get him through this tortuous exercise.

     But that’s not what I saw, because it’s not what I wanted to believe.

     There was no rebellious attitude in a face he could only lift skyward for short bursts before something told him he could run no more, but he never quit moving forward at the best pace he could. I could feel it. He wasn’t picking flowers out there, he was trying. He just didn't have it. And I looked down and there was Jack The Dog peering through the fence. I like to think Jack was watching Gary and commiserating on how it feels to want to run with great leaps and bounds when your legs just don’t have it anymore, but I know he was probably just wondering what the hell I found so fascinating on the other side of the fence.

     And as we made our way home and I tried to make sense of what we had seen I thought to myself, “there it is; never quit moving forward, no matter how badly the race feels, no matter what results you may get from your best effort, no matter what they tell you, no matter how much it hurts, keep moving forward.”


     Thank you Gary, I’m proud of you.


In honor of Bev Slyter and all the great teachers that inspire us to keep moving forward.


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Falling in Slow Motion (Elbows and Egos)


It only takes a quick second or two
to lose one of our daily negotiations with gravity 
and that's when things get interesting,

as the ground rushes towards you and you realize
this moment in time is now beyond your control 
and may not end well,

then something inside you flips a switch
that turns on a magical super-power
that slows time to a crawl
while pushing your thought process into hyper-drive,

and the flood gate of thought bursts open
with waves of "who's going to see me dump it?"
and "too late for a graceful landing?"
and "can I save this $3.50 cup of coffee?",

and your survival voice screams "stop, drop, and roll!" - 
a survival reminder from the 4th grade fire drill
that, if done correctly, might reduce the impact
with that bottom step fast approaching,

and then, as quickly as it started, it's over 
as the waves of thought recede
to reveal fresh bruises 
on elbows and egos.

Come to think of it, 
this power to slow time and speed up thought
must be the same thing that happened 
the first time I saw you,

when time stood still and the crowd noise faded away
and I stared into your eyes and knew exactly what to say
as I willingly surrendered to falling and braced for impact 
with no fear of bruising.

Inspired by the story "Shuffle" by Maurice Tani


Ken Owen   Van Niddy Press   March 2014