But He Loved His Dog

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am  on his Facebook Page here, where the video will will be saved for viewing, in case you missed it.

45 is Nero. And he’ll say something along the lines of “Fifty thousand died. Think of how many more would have died if it weren’t for me.”

(And here I promised not to mention him anymore.)

Yesterday Julie and I planted seventeen pots of pansies: purple, black, yellow, maroon, white. The thing about pansies is that they smile. No attempt to “cheer ya up.” Just a little smile. And they take cold, even frost.

I noticed how slowly I was placing each plant into its own carefully dug out hole in the soil. Was I trying to care more this year for the flowers themselves than for “making the place look nice”?  I really don’t know. I know only that this was happening.

What I did realize later was the difference between planting this year from any other year. In the past, gardening was primarily something I loved to do, done in the context of pleasure, no other reason. But this year it felt as if I were doing something good. The pansies were bringing good into a world that desperately needs good, just good for its own good sake. No, it doesn’t change a thing. Or does it?

I hope we will NOT say, “What good will it do — making cookies, knitting a sweater, or keeping a journal, sketching, riding a bike, taking a hike, (See? I CAN rhyme!), curling up and petting your dog or cat, spending Face-time with the person next door, thanking a delivery person or the post office people, the pharmacist, any first responder, listening to music etc.

This is not the good that combats evil. It is the good for which the world came into being.

But He Loved His Dog

Wednesday was trash day so he pulled
the garbage can to the curb. There
was never that much in it. Sometimes
he stood there for a few minutes, looking

down when a car drove by, looking up
at the trees in the yard across the street.
No one really knew if he knew anyone.
He had a dog. It wasn’t much of a dog.

It was an old dog, a mix too mixed
to know what all might be there. He
told someone once, “Oh I suppose
there has to be some beagle, maybe

some German shepherd.” Each noon
he walked the dog down to the corner,
left on Maple Avenue, three blocks
to the park where they would stop and

he would sit on a bench under a beech
that had been hollowing out for years.
The dog lay at his feet, once in a while
lifted its head and sniffed. He never read

or talked except to say, “What do you
think of this day, boy?” and the dog
would wag its tail across the gravel path.
He would sit for most of the afternoon,

then tug on the dog’s leash and they
would walk on through the park, then
back home. He would bring in the mail,
toss it away. When the evening’s light

began drawing its shadow across his porch,
he would turn on the radio, open a window,
and sit outside, with his dog, listening
to the classical music station and the cicadas.

–Jack Ridl

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

The Pandemic may put the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague online, and we will let you know about that.  It had been set for 7pm on April 28 in the store, along with friend and poet Mark Hiskes. When we can return there, I guarantee you will love the place along with its good food and beverages. Many thanks to owner and arts promoter Bryan Uecker.

Jack’s Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” is here for those of you interested in marking the occasion.

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.

There will be an outstanding Writers Conference held at The Grace A. Dow Library in the Dow Gardens in Midland on July 21 and 22. Each date has a 1-4 afternoon workshop and a reading in the evening along with a Q & A. July 21 features Desiree Cooper and John Mauk. July 22 features Anne-Marie Oomen and me. The workshops are capped at 20 people.

Here’s a wonderfully generous gift from documentary film maker/poet John Stanton:

“I wonder if the people you mail your weekly missives to would enjoy free access to a small collection of documentary films? I do not want to assume anything. But I keep thinking that it might give people something to do during all this self-isolation. If you think it is a good idea, feel free to send them out. All anyone has to do to see them is click on the links.”

Wood Sails Dreams (60-min) This was a film festival hit. The idea of boats made of trees and powered by the wind is a small miracle. The people who build and restore these boats are very soulful.

Oral History: Life During the Troubles, Belfast, Northern Ireland (20-min)

The Last Bay Scallop (30-min) The tradition of dredging for bay scallops runs deep in coastal southeast New England. But are the last days of this cottage industry on the horizon?

Memories of the Aud (45-minutes) In the last week before the closing of the Buffalo Auditorium we spoke with people for whom the sports played there gave them a sense of community.

One Man’s Vietnam (8-min) This might be my favorite. Peter Sylvia is a friend of mine, who was drafted a few weeks after he graduated from art college in 1968. As an act of catharsis he painted what he saw, and then simply put the canvasses in his attic. This short film was made the day he took them down from the attic.

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See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

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

4 thoughts on “But He Loved His Dog

  1. It is a wonderful poem, Jack!

    I’ve been walking a lot. Seeing quite a few new faces and dogs, now, in the park and the neighborhood. What an unusual time this is.
    I was reading about the Scottish – American naturalist, John Muir. He once wrote: “One learns that the world though made is yet being made.That this is still the morning of creation. This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere. The dew is never all dried at once. A shower is forever falling. Vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming. On sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”

    • Jim, How good to hear from you.
      Boy. ya have to get outside. Good to hear that you are.
      And isn’t Muir wonderful! I have never really believed in time except as a measurement. Have always thought we live within eternity and time is
      what we use in practical ways within it.
      Often time becomes way too much of a control.
      And it certainly affects education: Math test–one kid needs a half hour; another needs a half day. They could both get the problems right. One gets an A. The other fails.
      Same with essay writing.
      But at the college, no one listened to me, thought I was nuts.

  2. Thinking of you with deep gratefulness for all you share…..here is some music for you on this Good Friday, like no other we’ve known in our lifetime…..hugs and blessings to you and Julie….Love, Ginny

    O Sacred Head Now Wounded


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