The Collection

How do you read? I don’t mean sentence by sentence. (Smart aleck.) Nor do I mean that you attempt to out speed-read Evelyn Wood!

Maybe you read one book at a time, can’t put it down. Or maybe once you start a book and find yourself uninterested in it, you feel obligated to finish it. Perhaps you finish the book club book one hour before the meeting.

I have two reading habits: One is that I like to open a book most anywhere just to feel its world again. Maybe I want to be around the bogs of Thomas Hardy or the world I know little of that is Toni Morrison’s or James Welch’s.

I also read several books at a time. right now seven. One of them is The Long River of Song by the heartbreaking and joy-filled Brian Doyle. Here’s a passage that means a lot to me, maybe to you as well as we go through these days. Doyle writes…

Wait. First this–

I imagine you have heard it said, “How can one write about flowers at a time like this?” Or “I understand you love to knit. Don’t you feel you should be out there doing something about . . .” Or “What good is your painting going to do?”

I recall William Stafford being accosted by an audience member who shouted out, “NONE of your poems are political poems!” Stafford quietly responded, “Actually all of my poems are political poems.”

So, back to Brian Doyle —

He is talking with a monk.

“I asked him why he was a monk. How can you think what you do matters in the long scheme of things?” The monk said, “Walking helps greatly, I find. Also birds. We have a resident heron here who has been a great help to me. You could spend a whole life contemplating birds and never come to the end of the amazing things they do. There are many swallows here. They have the loveliest gentle chitter with which they speak to each other in the air. . .  I want to be a monk because I think that would be a very good use of me.”

The Collection

That’s when it started, during a storm
when I started thinking about
collecting the drops. And from there
it just took off into all this other stuff: light
on the underside of leaves, what the rust
peels away, the space between notes.
My brother tells me I’m wasting my time. I
tell my brother he’s right and that I’m saving
that too. Wednesday, I got up earlier than
ever and forgot what time it was and wrote
that down. I try to get out each evening
and sweep it up. When I was a kid I
remember loving plus-signs and the way
all the other kids ran off the ball field
between innings. These jars are filled
with air I collected from between
people’s toes. These boxes are filled
with the last sounds of bird songs.
I have to wait and time those just right.
these are harder to get: the holes in the
air that the birds make when they quit
singing and fly away. Over here,
these are the hardest to get. I have
just a few. These boxes. They hold
what happens just after someone leaves.

–Jack Ridl

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.

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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.

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

22 thoughts on “The Collection

  1. Jack, I am reading three books right now, one of them ‘One Long River of Song’! It is a haven from daily news, a reminder of joy. So are your weekly posts! Thank you. xo


    • Isn’t that a glory of a book?! I’m so glad you ‘n I
      are reading it together! Oh that essay about his last ride with his brother.
      And I printed out the one about God as the postal worker and gave it to
      two of ours who are just like that.

  2. A dispatch from grandma duty, where I am very busy watching my baby sleep: “the way all the other kids ran off the ballfield between innings.” What a picture! I am smiling, and it reminded me of the picture book “Frederick,” and between the two and the sleeping baby I will smile all day. Many thanks.❤

    • Ohhhhh Frederick. How we love Frederick! And to be set beside him
      with that line, well, what an uplifting comment. Much thanks,
      Magical Grandma~~!!!

  3. In these old peanut butter jars I keep the soul smiles resulting from reading one of your poems. Thanks Jack. That was a good one.

    • Oh that is joy. My heart is dancing happy, Louis.
      What an incredibly kind kind kind thing to say to
      this old guy. My thanks are in each snowflake.

  4. Loved this week’s poem, Jack!
    It stirred some wonderful collection memories. I have a small bottle of air from Puget Sound on the bookcase in my bedroom near a dream catcher.

    • You do? That is the best1 Thank dear you for telling me that. I
      will always see it and that will bring a spark of joy!
      Thank ye! Hi Mike!!

  5. This is so truly delightful, Jack!!! I, too, have pondered and rejoiced in the fullness that follows the fade of sound, and the space that fills after a bird has cut its way through the air in flight! What a joy to share in your wondering! I will treasure this poem! Landscapes feels much too far away. I hope you are feeling better and that healing is underway. Blessings to you and Julie!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thank ye, dear Landscaper! Of course you do those things. It’s all
      throughout your book, your poems.So much is there in so-called
      negative space, something you deeply know and understand.
      Blessings back to you.

  6. I enjoyed this post for so many reasons.

    Sandra Hansen International, Environmental Artist Dealing with plastics and toxins in water (423) 276-0065 ________________________________

    • I am so glad, Gayle, to know that you feel Brian would be glad,
      and that someone–you–with your sensibility “love this.”
      Your goodness floats to all of us.

    • Linda, that meant soooooo much at DUCC when you told me about
      the posts meaning this much to you. Please know how much that
      means to me, how it keeps me going.

  7. I am so grateful for receiving and being able to read your weekly gift of writings.
    Thank you, ❤️🌹❤️

    Always forward, ever upward,


  8. Dear Jack,

    Your posts with your poems, and the recent podcast, all feel like a string of lifelines in these frightening, dark and drifting times. Your words, are warm, bright candles. Deepest thanks.


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