The Turning Year

Another week with the crass commentator.


While he goes on, and on, l hope you can take a look at something heartening that’s right there with you.

Our UCC Pastor Sal has encouraged us to jot down five things before bed that we are grateful for. I thought, “Oh no, not more self-help!”

But what I discovered in doing it was that each thing I wrote down, and I emphasize wrote down, came back to me, and I spent time with it before turning in to sleep.

Here’s one I can write down each evening this month: October. I’m grateful for October.

We live in Michigan where there are four seasons. Well, I should say that there is summer, winter, fall, and two weeks of spring.

Here in October we get to live within — all explanations aside — an alchemy of leaves transforming the array of green hues into a quiet bounty of reds, yellows, golds and siennas of every mysterious nuance of hue, a canopy of color.

Way back when in my freshman English class I wrote “Fall’s multi-colored etchings tumbled to the ground.” When my journal was returned, my professor had written in the margin, “I take it the leaves fell.”

Before my prose turns purple, I shall, well, hope I learned.

The Turning Year

Sometimes when the dog is asleep,
and the whole world seems quietly
poised between green and brown,
when everything is lascivious with
leaves—the ground, the porch floor,
the holly bushes, even a few last trees–
you can see a glimpse of the way
the clapboard house was set within
this woods, almost see them nailing
the sills under the windows and
carrying in the kindling. The air
sifts across your forehead, and you
look up, hearing the chill jabber
of the chickadees, the quick
scattering of chipmunks,
the windswept scrim of clouds,
and in the anonymous distance,
the disappearance of the sound
of children or was it a car? There
is no need for a letter in the mail,
no thought of putting away
the pots of yellowed impatiens.
Just this little time and
perhaps, a little more.

–Jack Ridl

From Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

“The Jack and Sal Show” is sold out for Thursday night. We are amazed, honored, humbled, and scared to death. Hope to see you there.

This Saturday Kathy McGookey and Lisa Lenzo will be reading with more friends at The Public Pool Art Space in Hamtramck. Follow the link for details, please!


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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

20 thoughts on “The Turning Year

  1. We’re hosting a couple from southern India here for a conference at Calvin. They gape at the red leaves, yellow leaves and ask, “Does this happen every year?” I tell them, “Yes, no matter what.” Tonight I’ll write down “Guests like poems and poems like guests, opening my eyes.” Thank you again, Jack.

    • All yours. And so joyously heartrending to see dear wonderful you
      and Bets in the photo of the march.

      It’s such a delight when someone tells me they responded to
      a specific within a poem. THAAAAAAANK you!
      Hugs and leaves

  2. Ah yes, October in New Wilmington. October is my favorite month as well. Alas, now it is because the daily highs start dropping out of the nineties. Hope your neck is dong better.

    • That brought me a Blaine-wry-alternative-take laugh. THANKS!!!

      And thanks for the well wishes. The brace keeps my chin up. Ha. Ha.

      Love and good things in the days for you guys

    • I am laughing over your laughing.

      That guy was the most influential prof for me. One day in the
      novels class, he sensed we’d not read Dickens’ Hard Times.
      (He brought only the novel to class and told us he wanted
      nothing from the library in our papers. ie no criticism stuff.)
      He asked a couple discussion questions about the novel. No
      response. He stood from behind his table and with dignity and
      very quietly said, “I shall return when you all have learned
      to respect Mr. Dickens.”

      Later in the year I was in his office. He said that he was glad
      to be retiring. I asked why. He pointed to the bottom two shelves
      of his book cases where all the criticism was. Then pointed to
      all the other shelves, stocked with his beloved novels, and said,
      “Those things on the bottom shelve will soon take the place of
      all what’s on the other shelves.”

      With care always, terrific Teacher Tony

  3. Jack,

    Good morning FRIDAY….

    Just wanted to say “thank you” for last night.

    I thought the “Slam-Poetry” competition was a hit. Particularly in round three where you ripped off the neck brace and body slammed Pastor Sal to the floor. The judges loved that move and I think it was the reason it was unanimous decision that you were the “Winner”…. Personally I think Sal was off because he wasn’t wearing his usual singlet and his wrists weren’t taped properly. (Gregg his manager needs to be called out on this. He should have had all that covered! Unlike your manager, Julie, who showed up ready to rumble!)

    I’m sure Sal is going to call for a “REMATCH”…..Losers always want that second chance! So whether its “The Battle of the Belt”…or…””March Madness at the Holland Mall” I look forward to another round to see WHO is really the champ…

    Cheers and thanks again,



    • Good morning, Saturday!

      OMG! I had to wait till today to reply because Julie and I have finally
      stopped laughing long enough to take out the laundry before we picture
      this and start again.

      Sal has already called for a rematch. I firmly replied yes but only if
      my take is two offertory platters. Next time I’m gonna wear a cassock
      and hold that Tibetan bell in my left hand while with my right alone
      I take down that little bugger. Then you and one and all will
      know “WHO is really the champ …”

  4. Our son literally flew into Idaho for a short visit from Michigan on Wednesday night. The wind has taken down a lot of our leaves but the ground is taking its turn being the show. He says our two falls compare!! Love receiving your poems like the one today. This little time…
    The comment of New Wilmington also stirred good memories. Thanks, Jack.

  5. “Just this little time/ and perhaps, a little more.” I am grateful for this once a week moment, an offertory of new seeing and hearing and tempo. Your continuous contribution to the sanity of my world–without ego or assumption–is such a rare gift, Jack. Thank you. Thanks, too, for posting your dialogue and audience talk back with pastor Sal.

    • This helps me soooo much, dear Meg. I never thought I’d be still doing the posts.
      Without response such as you offer here, I have no idea if I’d be still at it.
      PS. Alas, the time with Sal and me is looooong. Likely best watched in pieces~! : )

      • I could not stop watching–loved the “I told Julie…” and glad you went ahead. Do post the rematch–please!

      • WOW!! I know I worry too much about attention, but when I find
        out that the attention was on something that mattered, well,
        thank you, Meg, for that assurance. Thank you so very much.

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