Feeling This Way in the Afternoon

Tuesday we woke to the first fake climate change snow of the season. While she was walking our dog, Julie stepped in drifts up to her knees. The schools were closed.

The plows are out. Shovelers are out. People are searching the garage for where they stored the car window scrapers and brushes. Our two-year-old Spinone loves snow, shoves her face in it, chomps on it, and stares at us, nose-coated.

I sometimes worry about turning these posts into an “advice column.” I hope that I’ve refrained. After all, as my mom used to say to me several times a week, “How can someone so smart in school be soooo dumb??”

Well, here’s an idea: Last night we went to dinner–oh my what a deeeelicious meal it was, complete with gumbo–at the home of cherished family. Frank offered one “rule”: No talk about 45. The result: A conversation as it’s meant to be–warm, interesting, familial in terms of news, funny, engaging, uniting.

We’ve all been encouraged to take a break from the news. Our health in so many ways needs that.

How about adding to that wisdom taking a break from talking about 45 and all that is leeched to him. Wait a little bit for the feeling of withdrawal. Then join the human and humane world: Ask after the kids, say what you’ve been up to lately. Go ahead, talk about the weather.

Feeling This Way in the Afternoon

November’s burnished landscape
lends an invitation to sit, a blanket
across our knees that once bent and

knelt to plant a hundred bulbs, pull
a thousand weeds. Now this month’s
brown cold is welcome. Within

the calm, there is no guilt-stalked
need, no frayed thought that we
had better take advantage of the long

day’s light. Oh, the dog still needs
her walk. And there are dishes.
But we can listen to the morning,

watch the slow breathing of the cat,
look for this year’s yearlings crossing
through the trees behind the house. Still

we know we are an inconvenience
in the world, that it gives itself up
to give us room. When evening creates

its slow merging, we will believe again,
our breath alchemizing oxygen into gratitude.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

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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


18 thoughts on “Feeling This Way in the Afternoon

  1. Jack, I’m delighted in this ‘turn away’ to other topics. This post was so refreshing. I drank it up like a thirsty puppy on a hot Fourth of July. Quite lovely in fact. Keep on in this wonderful new direction. Please. For here lies our joy-the perfect soil for contentment.

    Thank you dear poet friend. S XO

    A Traditional Foods Enthusiast

  2. Good morning, Jack, I loved this poem! You have the gift of careful observation of things typically taken for granted – a sorely needed gift for our world. Your mother’s words cracked me up. When in seminary, Greek was my nemesis. I tried so hard. I really did! I can still see my Greek prof, Jim Cook, looking at me with bewilderment in his eyes, saying the same words to me. I guess we’re all both smart and dumb in different spheres. Reflecting on your conversation with Sal a few weeks ago, it’s so clear that everybody’s getting over something. To me, wounds to the spirit are the most grievous. I’m grateful for the healing work you and Sal have done/are doing in yourselves, and therefore, can offer to others. Such acts of sacrificial love are desperately needed; acts that open the window for the Spirit to come in and heal wounded spirits. Shalom, Mary Van Andel

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Oh my, Mary, your lyrical voice brings calm and comfort into
      the world, into the heart.
      I was so grateful for what you brought to everyone that night
      when Sal and I did our spiritual jazz event!
      And thanks for the laugh featuring you and dear Jim. Believe it or not,
      my mother did teach me the Greek alphabet. However, I can only sing it! : )
      My thanks for you!

  3. I sense you are in a better space already. So many good things around us every day if we can just not let the negatives fill our minds and hearts. Two of those good things are my good fortune of being mentored by your father and Ron Galbreath. I’ll be there on the 23rd. Hope to see you.

    • How wonderful to hear this, David! Thanks so much.
      Dad thanks you—humbly!
      Alas, I can’t be there on the 23rd. I’m still in the
      neck brace, confined at least till into January, but
      likely longer. Have a touchingly wonderful time!

  4. Thank you for this post–we all do need breaks from 45! I LOVE this poem, Jack, and in particular, these lines,


    we know we are an inconvenience
    in the world, that it gives itself up
    to give us room.”

    • Oh my thank you. I saw you on the street the other day in Holland, but before
      I could hobble my way to catch up, you disappeared.
      Thank you so much for telling me this, Deb. No way to know if something
      matters unless told. I admit, too, to wondering how in the world those
      lines showed up. I’m so moved that they touched you. Oh how I hope
      that you are doing okay, well, good as can be . . .

  5. I had to chuckle when I read this—as I, too, am encouraging people to talk about the weather. Number 5 on the top ten things we can do to reduce the affects of climate change is to talk about. After all, we’re living it with these major and frequent rain/snow events and damaging winds. If we talk about it, maybe we’ll make climate change solutions a priority. I know that’s not what you were talking about, but it did make me smile.

    Thanks for your posts each week! And for all you do for others. Mary


  6. I’m lagging far behind, Jack. It’s politics this time, a movement for the European Union, I am engaged in. I will try to catch up in the course of the weekend. But let me briefly say this: You give me rare moments of sudden That-comes-as-close-as-possible-to-the-way-it-is—whatever it is. A phrase sometimes or a sentence that works like a revolving door into another mode of being. I love you for that, I really do, and I am grateful to you.

    • And you have become a permanent resident in my heart, Reinhard.
      What overwhelming work you are doing. If there is any way I
      can be supportive, I want to be. Don’t hesitate.
      Blessings, hopes, days dappled with goodness

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