Our lives are built of moments in time and space. And just as one moment of your life doesn’t define you, so one poem doesn’t define a poet.
Some moments of my life I wouldn’t want anyone to remember. Some moments beg interpretation. But not every moment of life warrants being grappled with or immortalized in a poem.
Some of my poems come out of my humanness / humanity; some come from the living workings out of faith; some come out of my searching, listening, and questioning; some poems come out of the sensations of a moment in time.
Some moments that inspire poems are microcosms of creation’s cosmic array, snapshots of life’s bigger pictures. Some poetic moments are unique flashes or epiphanies that I wish could be repeated but will likely never come again, at least not quite the same. These moments can change us if we allow them to, if we open our hearts to receive what they have to give. I think that is true, to some extent, of poetry as well.
I don’t sit down to make lines and rhymes, but to use words, rhythms, and metaphors to paint pictures of life’s moments of observing, noticing, being present to someone or something in a new way … of seeing a sometimes-startling new depth or aspect or facet of a fleeting, evocative, life-giving moment.
Poems come to the poet out of living moments that, penciled on paper, morph into verses of word art that can bring meaning to the reader’s own moments.
Many pets were found with burnt feet and singed whiskers like this kitty.
Watching reports of the disastrous Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, California (our old hometown), last week, our first thoughts were for the people and their homes. Then I began to wonder about the pets, livestock, and wildlife of the area.
My sister went to bed unsuspecting, then a few hours later woke with a neighbor pounding on her door and yelling “fire.” The neighbor later told her they had pounded and yelled a long time. Her dog’s barking finally woke her. She hadn’t heard the police earlier who drove through the neighborhood with a bull horn telling everyone to get out now!
I thank God her dog barked and woke her up.
A friend was living alone in a house on the edge of the city. From her back bedroom, she didn’t hear the first responders ring her doorbell, and they assumed no one was home. What finally woke her was an annoying sound of scratching on the wood siding of the house outside her bedroom. She got up and looked out the window and saw racoons desperately trying to find shelter to get away from … fire! Fire just outside! The barn had already burned. She got out just in time but lost everything.
Did God encourage those raccoons to scratch there and wake her up?
Another friend lived high on a mountain road above Santa Rosa on a ranch where my son used to go exploring with friends when he was a boy. From his high vantage point this friend could see the fire moving closer. He chose to stay up there, alone, and worked hard through the night and day to save his home and some nearby structures as well. As he worked at the edge of the fire in the darkness, he says he felt wild animals brushing against him as they fled the burning areas. But he didn’t stop and neither did they.
The Forestry Department urged people, who lived near, but not in, the wildfire areas, to bring their domestic animals indoors at night and let the wild ones pass through. “Please put out buckets of water for them—they are scared, exhausted, and have also lost their homes—they need to refuel,” came the request.
Many people had to flee within minutes and had no time to find their cats. One woman said she was surprised that “leaving my cat was almost the thing that hit me the hardest.”
Some dogs panicked and ran and their owners had to evacuate and flee the flames without them. One report said someone tried to get their horses into a trailer but the frightened horses refused; so the people had to leave their horses.
Online, evacuees posted such announcements as: “We are looking for two donkeys that we had to leave. Do you know their whereabouts?” “Lost Dog: While her family was evacuating, she jumped out of their truck. They love this dog so much and are devastated.” “54 horses in dire need of transportation off a ranch.” “Cat found hiding under car. Whiskers burnt but she’s okay.” “Our husky slipped out of her collar while we were evacuating and ran off. Heartbroken.”
The re-uniting of people and animals brought mutual comfort and joy.
One person had left buckets of water out for the deer and birds that came by her front yard. When she was allowed to return briefly to her home she found a dozen turkey vultures and other birds resting on her lawn together. They didn’t even move when she went up to her door. They looked exhausted, she said.
All this reminds me of the stories of animals left behind in World War II Europe when Holocaust victims were forced from their homes. Jewish people had to leave behind beloved family pets to fend for themselves in hostile and harsh environments. Susan Bulanda collected many of the stories from men and women who were children during the Holocaust. The stories are told in the book Faithful Friends.
They tell how their dogs and cats suffered also, and how they provided comfort and courage, an emotional connection to happier times, and the encouragement to never give up hope.
As a publisher, I love to hear stories of how our titles have found their way into every corner of the world and into the hands of readers. I occasionally hear from authors with stories like the following.
“Last night in the Shelter an ultra-orthodox [Jewish] man — with a long beard and dressed in black — about our age checked in and wanted to talk to John and me about the Israel Trail. He was not in the usual age category of hikers who stay at our shelter, and it is unusual to find an ultra-orthodox walking the Trail. He’s from England, and turns out he already read Walk The Land in English and even quoted bits of it. Now he plans to walk the Trail for a few days and had some specific questions about water, sleeping, etc. After talking for about 45 minutes, John asked him what he thought about the spiritual parts of the book. He answered diplomatically that we had our differences. But it was an interesting conversation and contact.”
“An old friend back in high school found me on Facebook and we got together for coffee. She told me that she was attending a women’s conference in Texas a couple of years ago and Scandalon was offered as one of the books to buy. She bought it and then realized that it was me who wrote it. As it turns out, she told me that her parents didn’t allow her to attend church back in high school, but she came to my dad’s church once with her next-door neighbor. As a result of that service she became a Christian. A few years later, she married a pastor and has been a pastor’s wife for decades.
“The second story is from one of my former students in southern China, Muti. Muti wrote me recently and told me he was walking along a street in Hong Kong, and on a shelf outside a bookstore was Scandalon. He talked with the bookstore owner and she told him she liked the book because of the stories about China. So, of course, he bought a copy.”
Whether they find their way to Texas, Hong Kong, England, or Israel – What a joy and privilege to publish these books.
Larry’s workshop at Colorado Christian Writers Conference yesterday was titled, “The Business Side.” A motivated group of men and women engaged in hands-on learning about setting up a writing or publishing business, including how-tos for tracking sales, invoicing, managing inventory, taxes, choosing accounting software, and much more.
He was definitely wearing Cladach’s BUSINESS EXECUTIVE hat!
What could be more awe-inspiring than the birth of a new life? From the time I knew my daughter was expecting her third child until a few days ago— all during the nine-month gestation period— we prayed and dreamed and worked and waited and prepared and planned.
Cladach’s publisher, Catherine, with newborn grandchild.
There were many details, many concerns, many uncertainties during those nine months. Complications arose. We waited, prayed, hoped. We had to be patient with the process and trust in God’s timing and ability to overcome the obstacles.
This is the third time I have been present at the birth of a baby and there is nothing to compare to the expectancy, intensity, and thrill. One can almost hear the flutter of angel wings and the tinkle of heavenly bells ringing as the Creator gives breath to this new life. . . .
But birthing a book can come close. We dream and conceive, we learn to be patient through the gestation period as we write and wait, write and listen, write and pray, write and then rewrite, edit and polish.
Writers submit queries and proposals and manuscripts, then wait and wait some more.
Publishers agree, then prepare to attend the birth and catch the baby, wrap it in a bright cover and hold it up in presentation to the world.
We — both author and publisher — will feel as proud as new parents and full of wonder at the creation of this new thing. We’ll have high hopes for this book baby, that it will thrive, that others will love and celebrate it with us, and that it will develop a growing circle of influence to make the world a better place; that it will help God’s kingdom come, his will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.