The Crank Collector

I’ve a wonderfully warm-hearted, well-read yoga instructor, Ami. On Monday Ami suggested that if any of us were planning to make New Year’s resolutions, that we consider changing the word to intentions. As I sat there cross-legged, palms up, the wisdom of that arrived immediately.

When with Ami, we smile as over and again she says, “Your intention is to stretch your right leg as far across the left held straight as you can.”

A resolution is a decision one must stand by. Once broken, you have to admit failure in one way or another. “I resolve to go to the gym three times a week” often leads to “I can’t right now. I have to go to the gym.”

An intention leaves room for the welcoming of change. “Yeah, I know. I intended to go to the gym today. Then my neighbor came over, needed to talk.”

Resolve!!! There’s something harsh, unbending, non-fluid, demanding, set in concrete, must be OBEYED, If-I-don’t-I’ve-failed about it. Also something I’m-sorry-but-that’s-just-the-way-it-is about it.

“Intend.” It feels kinder, forgiving, fluid, even softer.

To solve? or To tend.

And no, I emphatically do not believe that all good intentions pave the path to Hell. In fact, I believe that resolutions more often do. The old “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Can’t change it now.”

“Resolved” is not benign.

Last week I mentioned the terrible, destructive injustice done to four beloved music teachers at Hope College, where I taught for 37 years. From the beginning it was obvious that those out to destroy the joyful and life-giving intentions of these four were most emphatically resolved to do them in.

What’s left now? Well, thousands of students are enjoying enriched lives given to them by these four. But, though their good work lives on, this wreckage can’t be healed, fixed, re-solved. And the bitterness is spreading, rapidly.

These four teachers worked with their students with loving intention, the intention being the enrichment of each student’s days. One does not demand that a student be resolved to master Bach, Baez, or Ellington. That leads only to failure or stagnation. These dynamic and encouraging teachers’ intention was to time and time again enable each student to be with and grow with whatever music they were studying, each time new and renewed.

The Crank Collector

I’d love to rust.
Just sit there
turning into air.
I put cranks
on anything. See
how I put one on
that lawn deer.
I wasn’t sure where
to fasten it. When I
found this old stuffed
chair, I had to put
a crank on it. I
thought this stump
should have one.
And that one,
on the rowboat, I first
put on our bed. I find
cranks everywhere.
They just turn up,
in the woods for instance,
behind a garage. I found
one once in a cemetery.
The one on the side of
the house, I found
digging in my garden,
planting some spurge.
There are a couple
thousand kinds of spurge.
That crank there’s
a double handle. You
can swing it arm over
arm. This one, I painted
green before I stuck it
into that window box.
And I took that one from
my grandmother’s attic.
I thought she’d like it
fastened to her Bible.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

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13 thoughts on “The Crank Collector

  1. I thought the poem was “The Cranky Collector” and was going to be about you and your baseball cards, books, and other assorted detritus. ☺ Jeff

    Jeff Munroe Executive Vice President

    ph 616.392.8555 x111 101 East 13th Street, Holland MI 49423-3622 [image: WTS_logo_email.png]

  2. I don’t recall you saying anything about the music teachers last week at all so I went back to look and still didn’t see anything. But as a music minor who studied under two of the professors during my time at Hope I am angry and hurt by what has done to them. I don’t understand what happened, but I feel like Nykerk has long had a history of destroying that which is good and wholesome. Back in my time (class of ‘02) I remember Dr. Lewis leaving because he didn’t feel welcome there. My sister (‘04) started a music major and had (still has) abounding talent who left half a credit short of a music minor because of how the program treated music and those studying it. I remember them telling me I wasn’t allowed to hold a recital that I wanted to do because I wasn’t good enough, even though I was a better musician than some of the music majors who were required to have a recital as part of their curriculum. And I remember my bass teacher being so enraged over this that he almost quit. The next year I had others approach me about that same bass teacher — the only one I felt cared about me and my own talent and was the only one to nurture me at the level I was able to perform — trying to get me to tell tales about him being drunk and inappropriate so they could find a reason to fire him. (That year he did miss several lessons with me and I don’t know what was going on with him, but I did know that despite that, he was the only teacher who allowed me to blossom.) All that to say that there is something deeply rooted in that department that is evil and destructive and it deeply saddens me to see it still continues. Dr. Richmond was one of the most amazing choral conductors I’ve had the pleasure to work with, and his wife was a pleasure to work with as well. It seems like Nykerk is bent on its own self-destruction and doesn’t mind how many students and faculty it takes with it.

    • Anne,
      I deeply appreciate your writing this.
      Your voice needs to be heard. I hope you will call it out loud and clear!
      Your message supports what we know–that what has happened to the four
      has the potential of spreading to any department. Students (the reason for a college)
      have been deprived of those who most enrich and nourish them. Brad, Jennifer, Rob, and
      Brian will have to endure the damage from this injustice, a damage that in all
      likelihood will be a lasting anguish. And if this can happen to four of the most
      beloved teachers, the faculty at large can’t help but wonder “Am I next?”

  3. I realize that you can’t give the whole story about the music professor’s kerfuffle in a blog post; where can I go to find out more details? There wasn’t really a lot of information in the recent issue of the Hope Alumni magazine, either. Thank you for your postings; I’ve always enjoyed knowing you (in the bits and pieces over the years) and reading your work. Thank you.

    P.J. Coldren ’75

    • Thanks so much for your kind response, P.J. It helps me keep at it!

      Knowing you, remembering you well, I know you would be appalled at what’s happened.
      And the college won’t say a thing. There are and were those in the music
      department who were opposed to what these four were bringing to the
      department, from creating a dynamic jazz program to introducing multi-ethnic
      and multi-cultural music ensembles. They were also progressives
      socially, politically, etc. How the questionable charges were taken
      seriously by the administration and board of Trustees hasn’t been revealed. When
      stalwarts such as Peter Schakel and Bill Reynolds along with former president
      Bultman and former provost Nyenbuis find the place no longer safe and vehemently
      dispute the charges, it make sense to assume this is vicious. I really don’t know who
      you could learn more from. Doc Hemenway? Michelle Bombe has been very involved.

      I have decided to turn my back on the place to the point of discouraging anyone
      from attending, from applying to teach, from contributing in any way.

      Of course I acknowledge these are cherished and trustworthy friends.

      Wishing you all that can be good,
      Jack

  4. I am sick to hear about the music teachers. But heartened by your message about intentions rather than resolutions. And delighted with your surprise ending to the Crank Collector. Another great Thursday read! Mary

    >

  5. What the hell happened? I still can’t get the straight story on this. Who are the four? I heard that it was more like a dozen music faculty who were fired or furloughed or just fucked. But I’m so far out of the loop I really don’t know anything more than that… WTF?????

    >

    • No one knows what happened other than a split in the department and then charges disputed, disproved by
      even stalwarts such as Reynolds, Schakel, Nyenhuis, Bultman.
      Michelle Bombe was very involved. She might offer information.
      the four: Coyle, Brad Richmond, Jennifer Wolfe, Rob Hodson.
      It’s absolutely vicious and the place is certainly not a safe to work at.

  6. “I can’t right now. I have to go to the gym.” That’s the most hilarious line I’ve read in a long time. I’m still laughing and it’s 10 pm. I’m going to giggle about that for a very long time.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Oh does that make me happy, that you are still laughing about that line.
      I sure did when it showed up!!! : )
      Thanks a million giggles for telling me!!

  7. I too tried to get more info but found nothing. I am dismayed to hear Hope has become a less safe place than it was, since during my tenure I discovered how easy it was to cause a president’s blood pressure to rise and feel most unwelcome. On a return visit a couple years after I’d left, Mr. Van Wylen literally stopped me on the steps to DeWitt and demanded I tell him why I was back on campus. I’m sure the gentlemen he was with were as surprised as I was. The vitriol in his voice was obvious but I smile and said something about going to see a show as I passed by. Hmmm…such a sad turn.
    Complete enjoyed your poem and literally saw the crank collector. He should be in a children’s book that adults love to read and set aside just so they can read it again to their grandchildren.

    • Ugh. That stuff is like Velcro, how it sticks to your psyche.
      I would remind those proselytizers that I knew most everything
      about Jesus, had four majors, one of which was religion, but to them I had it all
      wrong. Hilarious and scary. I would try to tell ’em “I’m a heretic for Jesus.”
      That didn’t help.

      What a great idea, the children’s book. I’ve always wanted to work on a book
      with artist daughter Meridith. Thanks soooooooo much.
      Whew.
      Oh, you can Google The Holland Sentinel for a response from students and
      an article.
      Hugs

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