My Girl’s Father Always Changed the Station

As I mentioned last time, let’s assume the context for this project from this post forward.

The other day I had an idea for a distraction. As many of you know, our daughter is a visual artist. When we moved to our new home, we had to store a gallery’s haul of artworks in the mechanical room. The mechanical room?? That didn’t feel right.

One of our bedrooms in our little condo is made into a kind of make-do library, books sorted by category on free-standing metal shelves. Nothing on the walls. Those old-timey library cards available for those wanting to check out a novel, non-fiction, a knitting book. There are books on how to lay tile, how to draw or paint or carve or garden or cook Czech.

So I carried out the paintings and hung them salon-style, covering the walls, making sure with my elegant eye and sense of balanced hues to place one piece next to, above, below, across the room from another so that nothing stole the “exhibit,” each setting off the other for the eye’s delight.

What’s it take? Hammer. Nails. Alignment. Hold the painting up high and marking where the nail goes. Note pencil is across the room. Get pencil. Place finger on mark. Notice hammer is across room. Secure hammer. Repeat. Note box of nails is across room. Get box of nails. Recognize I am in a Laurel and Hardy film and say out loud, “Well, NOW we’re getting somewhere!” For fifty artworks, this scenario occurs twenty-one times. Wake in the morning with every muscle screaming, “What the hell have you done to me?!?”

But it’s so cool. Julie loves it. And I was distracted, laughingly, happily distracted. And what I did mattered. The history of our lives recorded in art is holding the history of our lives recorded in books.

And just in time for our 39th Valentine’s Day, another of those holidays that is either a joy or a sorrow–

My Girl’s Father Always Changed the Station

“Not in this car, not
while I’m the driver,”
he would shout and slap
the dash, then jam
his middle finger
on the center button.
The point would leap
across the dial, leaving
the long wail of
Janis Joplin in its wake.
We’d sit back, sigh, let
our fingers lace, look out
the window, watch the farms
pass, the men plowing,
the cows lying still
against the acceptance of the sky.
Hearing a Pirates game, the news,
some orchestra, we would dream
of Janis, still singing
and a back seat
where we could listen
and learn to love alone.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in Between, Dawn Valley Press

Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast.  And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise…  Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently.  I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.
We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.

On Valentines Day at The Bookman In Grand Haven there will be a heart-fun reading with Greg Rappleye, Jane Bach, D.R. James, and moi. Hope you can make it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

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


15 thoughts on “My Girl’s Father Always Changed the Station

  1. Jack, I barked and howled over your exercise hanging art. Wooo-weee! And this poem is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read.

    I rest my case.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Love everything about this blog today–the setup, the Laurel and Hardy reference (which fits every picture I’ve hung), the powerful poem. Thank you, my friend. Mark

  3. Love this – all of it, Jack! Three times I have gone to Michael’s – artwork in hand- and framed and matted and preserved an old etching for display in our book room in the basement of the new condo! And I just found another one that needs to be included… and now that the book room and office areas are starting to shape up, we can take care of the bedroom and kitchen! Miss you sharing your wonderful thoughts! All these files surrounding me as I prepare to move/discard? them – I don’t know how you two did it so smoothly!

    Blessings always,


    Sent from my iPhone


  4. I’m familiar with hanging art in exactly this same way. Love ones history in art hanging in a gallery right along side your library! Thank you for sharing…youve created the picture with your words. -Teresa

    • oh is that ever good to hear, Teresa, that it worked,
      that you could see it!
      Thank you a million bent nails for telling me.
      And for being so good to Meridith.

    • Carol, you don’t need to be happy. That’s too hard to sustain. You just have to never ever overlook moments of joy throughout your day.

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