Band Director

This week a miscellany of thoughts…

Thanks to all who sent their care in response to last week’s post. Many emailed me their own debilitating stories of trying to get their insurance firms to do what they claim (pun) they do–care.

You would be shaken to read messages about heart problems, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and on and on having to be proven to the software that those suffering were deserving of coverage.

In the little town where I grew up, the insurance agent, John Vance, would say, “Yes, this is how I make a living, but the reason I do this is because it was the only thing I could think of where I could be of help.” What’s happened to that industry in my time is criminal.

Speaking of. I hold my ninth grade U.S. history teacher fully responsible for not informing us that during the War for Independence our brave soldiers protected our airports from the Redcoats.

“I’m sorry. Sir. I thank you for winning our independence, but that was over a week ago, and even if you are heading home, your musket must fit either in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.”

“Donald, there’s water in the basement!!!”
“What loser built this place?! Wait! I know. Obama did this. I know it. I just know it. Tell Hannity!”

And so on we go in a country where we are supposed to have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of something called happiness. To paraphrase Chloe in The Big Chill, “I’ve never seen people who have those. What do they look like?”

Band Director

He looks over the list of fight songs,
picks out ten for the game tonight, thinks
back to when he played trombone in

this same school. He’d practice
two hours every day. While other
guys were working on their cars,

playing ball, picking up girls, loafing,
he’d be sliding the long arm of his horn,
trying to get away. He got good enough

to go to State, major in music, pick up
an ed degree. Tonight he’ll listen as
the notes get hit, missed, flung into

the gym’s dissonant air. He’ll
pretend it’s perfect, smile, look
over his shoulder at the team,

glance up into the stands.

–Jack Ridl

from Losing Season published by CavanKerry Press

Today I have a poem included among all the writing resisters at the wondrous Writers Resist online magazine. An honor to be included, an honor to be in such a gorgeous magazine. Check them out when you need solace and friends!

On July 25 from 1-4pm, at The Pines in the Dow Gardens in Midland, Jack will lead a workshop on writing personal history. That evening at 7pm he will join Jim Ottaviani for a reading in the MCFTA Founders Room, 1801 W. St. Andrews, Midland. To register for the workshop, email Helen Raica-Klotz at The reading is free.

If you enjoy the annual Reading at The Red Dock, this year’s will take place on August 13 at 6pm. This year I’ll be joined by D.L. James and Mark Hiskes. Come early for music, food and drink, and a good time on the high water harbor!

On August 20 at 7pm, I’ll be reading with Greg Rappleye at The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague. Talk about a place where the atmosphere alone is a joy, let alone the food and beverages.

AND… Kristin Brace’s first book-award-winning collectionToward the Wild Abundance(Michigan State University Press), has been released! Stop here to pick up your copy now! 


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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

12 thoughts on “Band Director

  1. So much that resonates, so much to do. Thank you, Jack, always and ever, for the kindness, insight and inspiration 💕

  2. When I told my son, the pitcher, he’d have to practice multiple hours a day if he was serious about becoming a pro player (He had one great season averaging 13 strike outs a game in seven innings.) he picked up a film camera and hasn’t looked back. I guess he decided if he had do do anything for multiple hours a day it wasn’t going to be throw a ball–too much life out there to explore, imagine, puzzle together, dissect, turn over, look behind, stare down, discover, contemplate, wrestle, absorb. He’s a much better visual poet than he was a pitcher. And you, mentor, friend, sage, continue to gift us with images to delight in, musings to mull over, and pure fresh air to breathe. Thank you.

    • You have composed a brilliant (with its layers of implied meaning) description of what the real reason
      is for the arts: To bring life to life as your marvel of a list does so precisely, so richly. And your
      son is obviously one lucky man to have a mom who gets it.
      I am deeply moved by what you say I mean to you. I will try to believe it: it would be an insult to dismiss
      such out of thinking that’s modesty. My idea of humility is to gulp and accept what you write her and remain
      amaze that somehow I get to be this person. I sure didn’t ask to be. I simply am who I am and feel grateful.
      EVERYONE should read and memorize what you wrote about your son and what his art brings to him and all who
      experience it. Please give him my joy.

  3. Hi Jack, I’m praying you get that insurance issue resolved and, of course, I’m in total agreement about how wrong the system is.

    If you haven’t listened to and watched, Marianne Williamson’s Fourth of July talk in Maine, about our rights and the governments role in those rights, I believe it would be uplifting for you just to hear someone articulate the whole scenario in about 50 minutes. I had tears more than a few times.

    My best to you and Julie in your new condo. I’ve been in mine since October. I love this new life that allows me to have the ability on one side to experience the peace and beauty of water and on the other, the ability to walk to the bank, the post office, get my Scripts, and keep experiencing the joy that comes with having my dog, Allie, known by name and welcomed everywhere.

    Have a beautiful Thursday,

    Love and hugs, Judy Sent from my iPhone


    • Judy,
      Thank you. Your heart full of care is everywhere in this loving message: information that
      matters, our shared joy in our new worlds, our shared love from god’s angels–our dogs,
      and your gift of goodness and and and
      You lifted this heart.

  4. The poem reminds me of my youngest son, Jack, who played trombone in high school. He almost decided on music but then went with science and math. Now he’s a Navy doctor – and I say he’s our doctor as we all paid for his medical degree – also from State. He was home recently with his family, and facing the momentous decision of whether to stay in the Navy or go into practice in the “real” world – whatever that is today. He went to several interviews, met super people, but came home wondering aloud, “Why would I want to work in a system that makes me have a case load of a minimum of 2500 patients, whom the system tells me I must see in 10 minute intervals, on and on, like a conveyor belt in a car plant?” This system is what the insurance industry has set up in the so-called private sector. Well . . .he may decide to stay in the Navy. There is insanity everywhere. I hope you are feeling better. It was so good to get your post today.

    • This is soooooo powerful. Soooooo awful, what’s happened to the physicians who truly care.
      I can’t believe in my lifetime that those suffering are kept from those who CAN help by a system
      that is its own demagogue. What a situation, too, then for a caring parent. What you end up feeling
      for your loved son. To see him having to make such a Kafka-esque decision hurts where there is little
      comfort. At the same time, he is so fortunate to have you.
      Thank you and my care and admiration to your son and to you.

    • Tony, do you know what it means to me to read this? I hope so. Not many
      really understand the moral responsibility and the difficulty of creating
      in language. “so well said” is the deep hope of anyone who risks offering
      to others with words. It’s downright scary. And how often I end up saying
      to myself, “Who do I think I am, doing this??!!??”
      AND–you certainly know the madness of the dictatorship of insurance. Alice
      in wonderland is nothing or everything like it.
      Your thoughtful assurance brings me back each week.
      Thanks in abundance

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