Poem: Outside, It Snows

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Outside, It Snows

It is snowing outside.
You are sitting in your favorite diner,
hands wrapped around a cup of coffee,
the warmth seeping into your skin.

It is snowing outside.
It is late in the season
and you have not seen the ground
since October.

This is life where you live,
here in the valleys of Vermont.
Winter is the longest season,
It enters the mind like snow through a cracked window.

You shut your eyes.
The winter has become oppressive.
The sameness seeps life from your soul.
You are as buried as the grass.

You shut your eyes and remember spring.
You know it lives, there below the snow.
You know this. It is the mantra of an old man
who has survived much and knows

nothing remains forever, knows
winter is not the assassin it seems,
merely a sieve for the survivors
and the patient, those unwilling or unable

to wait out winter.

Perhaps your day will come.
Perhaps someday you will lack the will to wait.
But not now. Not today.
You shut your eyes and remember spring.

The colors are real as real.
You can feel the sun. You can feel her hand in yours.
You feel, for a brief time, strong.
It is enough while

outside, it snows.

About this poem. 

I was feeling utterly uninspired this morning, so I scanned through my pictures and chose this one, taken just down the road from my house in West Pawlet, Vermont, and wrote to it.

Oh, and it’s snowing outside.

Tom

 

Poem: A Thousand Small Victories

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A Thousand Small Victories

It is the melancholy season,
the season of loss,
of love remembered and lost,
of parents loved and lost,
of times without the black demons, armed and dangerous,
lost.

The skies go grey.

It is the melancholy season,
Where hunkered inside, you see less
of neighbors and sunshine.

It is too easy to surrender,
to allow numbness its victory
frostbite of the soul.

too easy to surrender,
to join the breathing dead who have gone before you,
stiff and lost.

But not today.
For strength does not come from surrender.
Joy does not rise from surrender.
Surrender has no meaning,

only the battle,
only the thousand small victories become fire,
enough to burn the melancholy away
and give meaning to the loss.

 

Poem: The Old Ways

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The Old Ways

It is the hard way.
The slow way.
The way of sweat and wounds.
An ax to a tree.
A plane to the wood.
Hand drilled into the grain.
A hatchet to carve the pegs.
Weight too heavy for a man to bear,
Trial and error,
until finally, a fit.
A pounding, slow and steady.

Your muscles ache.
Your flesh is cut and splinters dig deep.
The slow way.
The old way.
Other ways work.
There are shortcuts galore.
but none last like this,
far past your lifetime, and two more.

And so you do the work.
The hard way,
Proven and true.
Post and beam with wood fresh and dried, and
smelling of eternity.

About this poem.

About the old ways of building things. About the rebuilding of the soul. The old ways matter because they last.

Tom

Poem: Waiting for the Trumpets

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Waiting for the Trumpets

The sanctuary is dark. Silent.
Empty
save for the light, in the distance, far
but not so far there is no hope.

That is enough.
A place to walk to.
Safe and dangerous both.

There are traps.
There are demons.
There are flagons of poison.

You focus
on the light,
waiting for the trumpets.

About this poem

When I was about ten or twelve I had a recurring dream about walking in a dark attic, certain that there were dangers and things waiting to get me. In the dream, at the end, trumpets blew, and then I would wake up. I never found out what the trumpets meant.

Sometimes, depression feels like that.

Tom

Poem: When the Blues Work Too Well.

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When The Blues Work Too Well

BB King plays on the stereo, slow, bluesy riffs.
The smell of bacon fills the diner.
Outside, rain begins to fall.
A single tear drifts down your cheek for no reason
you can explain.

You sip your coffee, glad
the diner is empty, that you are the first soul here
and the cook is busy.
as the music breaks loose a logjam
of ancient sadness.

It’s always there.
Even when I laugh.  That sadness.
Just under the surface, under the protective coloration
you wear like a fine suit.

Now and then, it leaks.

About this poem

Based on a true story. Most of us have been there, when the sadness leaks out.

The picture was taken in Bennington, Vermont.  Yep, everywhere I go, I find a coffee shop.

Tom

Why I write about depression

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The email came in this morning.

I get a fair number of them. Not just emails in general, but emails about this one particular subject: “Why do you write so much about depression?” Frankly, I get a fair number of emails about why I write so much about a lot of things, but the depression question comes up more than most.

Some argue that it’s so, well, depressing. Others worry that it will stain and harm my reputation professionally and pastorally. Some just get tired of it.

There are a couple of reasons. First, I came to the place a time ago that if I was going to write it was going to be real. And guess what? I fight depression. Every day I fight it and I’ve fought it for at least a decade and a half.  Just getting going in the morning is a battle. One I usually win, but not without effort. So, if I am going to be honest in my writing, depression will be part of it.

That morning battle thing figures in too. I do most of my writing early in the morning and that’s when the battle is in full force. Writing becomes my declaration of war some days. My battle cry of “Not today! Today I will prevail!”. Done sometimes in something close to iambic pentameter.  So sometimes it is just a matter of timing.

But there is something else. There are a bunch of us fighting depression. Estimates and studies say between 10 to 15 percent of us battle the dark little demon. And most of us do it in isolation (I did, for a time.). But isolation is the enemy. We all need to know we are not alone. We need to know we can battle it, and how. We need to be able to lean on each other. That’s how we win.

At least for the day.

If I write about it. Talk about it. Wax poetic about it. Write books about it, then the few hundred people who pop on and read each day get a reminder that they are not the only ones. They get a reminder of how it can be beaten back. How we can have relatively normal lives, even, yes, even, find joy and happiness.

So I write of my victories. To remind readers that victory is there. At other times, I need reminders from others because I am not in a place of victory. And I am grateful for those others who share, teach and preach victory.

We all need reminders that victory is a real thing.

I often say I am the happiest depressed guy you will ever meet. I am. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all. But I am blessed with good work, a wonderful family and wife, a loving and tolerant church, dear friends and interesting, fulfilling things to do.  Am I willing to let depression rob me of those things?

Hell no. (Remember, I am a preacher, so when I use that word – I mean it will all due venom.) And I don’t want anyone else to settle for less either. If I can help, and writing is what I do, so it’s kind of what I have, then I’ll do it.

I don’t know why people suffer. Why this one or why that one. I don’t think suffering gives us purpose unless WE give it purpose. And sharing our stories, particularly our stories of victory, is one way to give our suffering purpose.

I’ve been told from non-depressed people that they appreciate my writing, that it gives them an idea of what we depressed folk fight. It gives them a sense of understanding. If that’s so, that’s worth doing. Understanding is powerful. Understanding promotes help and love and healing.

So that’s it. I’ll still get complainers, I know. That’s OK. I’ll just point them to this post and not have to type it again and again. I’m lazy that way.

Thanks for listening. On to what’s next. Because that’s where the battle is won.

Be well, Travel wisely,

Tom