After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Jack will post today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Two anecdotes that in one way or another encapsulate our experiences during this inexplicable time:

After our Douglas UCC church service, we have a Zoom coffee hour. Remembering 9/11 was brought up and Pastor Sal gave a thoughtful and poignant response to the lives lost, some 3,000, and talked about Father Mychal, with whom Sal worked when he was a Christian Brother. You may have seen the iconographic photograph of the fireman carrying Father Mychal, the first official victim taken from the Towers. Father Mychal was priest to New York fire fighters.

I then brought up the nearly 200,000 people who have died because 45 refused to take proper early action against the virus. There are no dramatic photos of each of those people, just someone who passed away, likely in a hospital bed.

My comment aroused the fire of a lone Republican in defense of 45, who we all know is not at all even a Republican, but a despot. Well, that was interesting. I have never heard “Blessed are the liars and the billionaires for they shall inherit the earth.”

However, they are giving it their best shot.

To balance that unexpected experience, I have to tell you a rescue story. Julie is mothering two kittens she discovered behind the air conditioner at the same DUCC church, They are now about five or six weeks old and it is very difficult to stop watching them. They’re inseparable, curl all around one another when they sleep, eat out of the same bowl, although Jennifer tends to surreptitiously nudge Molly over in order to gobble more kitten repast. Of course Julie has created a kittens’ amusement park complete with towers to climb, boxes to hide within, a three-storey sleeping quarters and multiple stuffed everything that can be unstuffed and batted and carried by a kitten. Ya gotta smile, no matter where you are in the house you can hear them squeaking at each other. It’s a sound like no other.

So perhaps those two anecdotes in one way or another represent the lives most of us are leading. Anguish at its peak. Joy at its peak. I don’t know how we’re doing it, but we all are.

As we say in DUCC, “Namaste.” I hope you stay well, and if you are ill, may you recover to join us as we try to wander our way through these times like no others we have known.

After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Our cat lies across the stove’s front burners,
right leg hanging over the oven door. He
is looking into the pantry where his bowl
sits full on the counter. His smaller dish,
the one for his splash of cream, sits empty.
Say yes to wanting to be this cat. Say
yes to wanting to lie across the left-over
warmth, letting it rise into your soft belly,
spreading into every twitch of whisker, twist
of fur and cell, through the mobius strip
of your bloodstream. You won’t know
you will die. You won’t know the mice
do not exist for you. If a lap is empty and
warm, you will land on it, feel an unsteady
hand along your back, fingers scratching
behind your ear. You will purr.

–Jack Ridl

First published in North American Review.
Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State
University Press)

J.R. Solonche has released not one but two new collections this year already: For All I Know and Piano Music. “In lines full of mischief or romance, gaiety or grief, he is the poet of the everyday, spent on Earth or in an imaginary heaven.”—Judith Farr, author of The Passion of Emily Dickinson

Where are the books? 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.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

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

13 thoughts on “After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

  1. Loved the story today. Who doesn’t want a kitten story. Dying to know who was the republican at Zoom meeting.

    Have had the scopes yet? Max


    • The scopes showed all clear. Dr. Zink said that I won’t have to have another. That’s
      how old I am.

      The kittens are a riot and a joy!!

      We’ll have a guessing game next time we’re together as to who it was who bit my head off


  2. Years ago when I was still in Holland, we lived in a house with an old, poorly insulated dishwasher that heated the counter above it. When it was running it was our cat’s favorite resting spot. When it was not running, he’d sit atop it and glare at me with demanding eyes. He knew nothing of water or energy conservation, just the yearning for radiant warmth.

  3. Sir Jack,

    Another walk-off homer. Dogs are loyal, trusting, lifelong friends. But cats get us.  Thank you for the kind words last week. I am grateful for people such as you for encouraging me. And annoyed that you keep doing so. I could quit this racket and just play dominos. No I couldn’t. A couple of notes about Virgil “Fire” Trucks, the pitcher I mentioned last week. As reported, he was 5-19 for a horrible Tigers’ team in 1952. Three of his five wins were shutouts, two of them no-hitters. He also pitched a one-hitter but the drama was muted because Eddie Yost led off the game with a single. Trucks won both no-hitters 1-0. The first one was a challenge. He walked only one batter but he hit two and his teammates made three errors behind him. Heading into the bottom of the ninth the game was knotted at zeroes. With two outs Vic Wertz socked a walk-off home run to win the game.  Trucks’ second no-hitter was against the Yankees. He walked only one in that contest but his defense contributed a pair of miscues to force extra pitches. The win came against Bill Miller a lefty from your neck of the woods…Minersville, Pennsylvania. Miller had a few sips of coffee in the bigs before checking out at age 27. Virgil was 5-15 after his win against the New Yorkers. It was the last game he would win in 1952. Trucks was traded to the St. Louis Browns in 1953 for a pair of cleats and a Moose Dropo Bowman card. He spent part of that season with the Browns but most of it with the Chicago White Sox. He ended up with 20 wins and followed that up with 19 in 1954. He closed his career at the age of 41 with 177 victories. Trucks had one other shining moment in baseball. He spent part of the early ’40s in the military but was released late in 1945. Major League baseball waived the roster requirement for Trucks and a couple of others. He got to pitch in the World Series and won a game for the Tigers on their way to a Series victory. Small fact: The Tigers won four American League pennants and two World Championships between 1934-45. The Yankees won seven pennants, the Browns one. Hank Greenberg was the only Tiger to have played on all four. I wrote a poem for my wife featuring a cat. Yours is much better but I thought you might like to see that we picked up on some of the same ideas.

    Be better (be best doesn’t work for me), St. Gluten

    Cat Music

    for Victoria

    December 25,1997


    One must 

    make time

    for things 

    that matter:


    the scent

    of morning

    light filling

    the eyes

    the taste 

    of fresh food

    a place to rest.


    We can learn

    from those who create 

    their own rhythm


    greater understanding

    of life

    the need for contact

    where to find warmth 

    the value of contentment.

    • Amen to your cat poem.

      I have Virgil in a Bowman’s television card.

      This year’s Pirates, unless they win 2 of their final 7, will end up
      with the worst winning percentage in the history of the game.

      Whose record will they break? In what year was that reCord set? What rookie on that team
      went on to win a league batting title?


  4. A good one, Jack; gives perception a twist that makes you think and rethink and then smile. I like occasions like these, especially when they are finely crafted. In return: Have a fine sunlit September weekend together with your loved ones.

    • To hear “Finely crafted” is a joy any writer dreams of hearing. I am thrilled.

      And it turned out to be a glorious weekend here. We savored every second masked or on proper occasion, unmasked.

      My deepest thanks.



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