The Crank Collector

I’ve a wonderfully warm-hearted, well-read yoga instructor, Ami. On Monday Ami suggested that if any of us were planning to make New Year’s resolutions, that we consider changing the word to intentions. As I sat there cross-legged, palms up, the wisdom of that arrived immediately.

When with Ami, we smile as over and again she says, “Your intention is to stretch your right leg as far across the left held straight as you can.”

A resolution is a decision one must stand by. Once broken, you have to admit failure in one way or another. “I resolve to go to the gym three times a week” often leads to “I can’t right now. I have to go to the gym.”

An intention leaves room for the welcoming of change. “Yeah, I know. I intended to go to the gym today. Then my neighbor came over, needed to talk.”

Resolve!!! There’s something harsh, unbending, non-fluid, demanding, set in concrete, must be OBEYED, If-I-don’t-I’ve-failed about it. Also something I’m-sorry-but-that’s-just-the-way-it-is about it.

“Intend.” It feels kinder, forgiving, fluid, even softer.

To solve? or To tend.

And no, I emphatically do not believe that all good intentions pave the path to Hell. In fact, I believe that resolutions more often do. The old “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Can’t change it now.”

“Resolved” is not benign.

Last week I mentioned the terrible, destructive injustice done to four beloved music teachers at Hope College, where I taught for 37 years. From the beginning it was obvious that those out to destroy the joyful and life-giving intentions of these four were most emphatically resolved to do them in.

What’s left now? Well, thousands of students are enjoying enriched lives given to them by these four. But, though their good work lives on, this wreckage can’t be healed, fixed, re-solved. And the bitterness is spreading, rapidly.

These four teachers worked with their students with loving intention, the intention being the enrichment of each student’s days. One does not demand that a student be resolved to master Bach, Baez, or Ellington. That leads only to failure or stagnation. These dynamic and encouraging teachers’ intention was to time and time again enable each student to be with and grow with whatever music they were studying, each time new and renewed.

The Crank Collector

I’d love to rust.
Just sit there
turning into air.
I put cranks
on anything. See
how I put one on
that lawn deer.
I wasn’t sure where
to fasten it. When I
found this old stuffed
chair, I had to put
a crank on it. I
thought this stump
should have one.
And that one,
on the rowboat, I first
put on our bed. I find
cranks everywhere.
They just turn up,
in the woods for instance,
behind a garage. I found
one once in a cemetery.
The one on the side of
the house, I found
digging in my garden,
planting some spurge.
There are a couple
thousand kinds of spurge.
That crank there’s
a double handle. You
can swing it arm over
arm. This one, I painted
green before I stuck it
into that window box.
And I took that one from
my grandmother’s attic.
I thought she’d like it
fastened to her Bible.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

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