NaPoMo poetry party.6

Rob @ the church

Robert Rife is the reason I’m hosting this daily poetry party for the month of April. Rob invited me to participate in his NaPoMo blog, and in that I recognized how much I was missing creative community. So, here we are. Thanks, my friend.

Rob lives and works in Yakima, Washington. He is Canadian born, with the soul of a Celt. I’ve known Rob for decades as a talented singer-songwriter, poet, essayist, and I am drawn as he is to the Christian contemplative way. The standout memory I have is of Rob and his wife Rae’s visit one Canada Day not long ago, when Rob serenaded our captivated family and friends as the sun set over Lake Okanagan:


(Unfortunately I’m unable to play this video without upgrading my blog platform…but imagine how hauntingly beautiful this experience was, and then multiply by 10.)

It’s just great having you here, Rob, and I’m excited for those joining us to catch a glimpse of your talent and heart. Thanks so much for being willing to stop by. As per usual, we’re circling around three questions that touch on how we are coping these days.

1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Rob: We must always see silence and solitude as gifts. That is especially so during those times when they’re “imposed.” Oddly, I am less adept now at utilizing this shared solitude, a gift of abundance, as when I stole it from a busy schedule!

2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
We are busily trying to prepare a house for the market (such as it is). But, it is becoming an oasis for creativity once again. And art is life. And life steeps art, which itself, is an act of gratitude.

3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Rob: I arose to draw breath. The rest? Pure gift.

You can get to know Rob better at his blogs and Also, his music (so much more than bagpipes) is available on iTunes under Robert Alan Rife and streamable on Spotify.

This has been a great little visit, Rob, and I wish you peace and healthy days ahead. We’ll leave now with your journeying poem:

Look Now, the Bless-ed Road

Look now, the bless-ed road rises to meet
feet, weary, uncertain, but sure
of steps yet untaken that, parting, greet
a step, one step, from that step. Intentions pure
where hinted there, evidences of worn
and bent, slow and plodding with care,
the stone-way moss with feet, unshorn.
It now draws this one from here to there
and back, or not? Perhaps to see once more
the trace of place and diligence where
friend not seen for to strength restore.
Beyond this hill, that rock, another vale,
to part from us the sure, the safe, the soft
and bring once more the promise of tale,
of song, of new and now and hope aloft.
As turns the way from risk to gift,
she bids one turn and, unflinching, faces
the way unmarked by mark-ed feet, swift
to lead not ahead or behind, but grace -
the name of he who draws, and we who strain
the path we sought,
and found again.


Hey Rob, “Lang may yer lum reek!”

It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share my space here at Buddy Breathing. But I should be more intentional about that. Because there are so many people out there who are smart, talented and interesting.

Case in point, I’ve known Rob Rife and his wife Rae for many years. Rob used to lead worship at our church, and we’d joke about being some of the few members of the congregation that actually ‘got’ the tin whistle and the bagpipes… our mutual heritage being British, while the majority of our congregation were Germanic in origin. We’d joke in a decidedly British way, share our love of UK sitcoms and Monty Python, and once Rae and I wrote a short skit in which we played the part of two middle aged British women who referred to one another as ‘Hen’.

And Rob and Rae’s two boys bear the same names as our boys… their “Graeme and Calum” to our “Graeme and Malcolm.” No we didn’t plan that! And while they don’t have a daughter as we do, they named their bunny… yes, indeed… they named her “Clare,” completing their family unit with an unusual reflection of our own daughter “Claire!” Did you do that on purpose, Rob? Well, did you?

Anyway, Rob often made me cry during Worship service… something about the sound of those two instruments I mentioned, and the decidedly Celtic flair of the music he led, that echoed within me deeply. So you can imagine how utterly sad we became when Rob and Rae told us they were moving away.

Yet our lives continue to intersect, sometimes at peculiar times… like the time we happened upon one another while on vacation at the Oregon Coast… me seeing Rae in a parking lot while we were driving past leading to us having a gut wrenching funny lunch at a local restaurant. Good times always!

So, I am honoured, and I am smiling, as I introduce you to my friend Rob Rife. Some of you may already know him, and some will meet him now for the first time. He’s talented, deep, and funny as all heck. And he has agreed to share some of his writing here at Buddy Breathing. I’ll be posting several of his works over the next while.

Thank you Rob. Thank you so much.

And for those who are wondering… “Lang may yer lum reek!” means “Long may your chimney smoke!” (it’s a Brit. thing!)

Silence of the Fall

by Rob Rife

It is surprising just how many toxins build up in our spirits when we neglect regular periods for silence, solitude and spiritual refreshment. What an affront to our self-referentialism to discover that the world has gotten along famously without our invaluable contributions! Nevertheless, it remains an immensely challenging undertaking to willingly disengage for a few days in order to re-engage the deeper things – God and those archetypal realities of our meager existence.

My house stands in need of significant repair, my wife deserves my attention, my sons need a father and my employer needs me to make the trains run on time.To retreat from our responsibilities requires our brazen intention to be vulnerable before God with no guarantee of visible returns on the investment of time.

Be that as it may, I took three days last week in Ocean Shores to enjoy silence, contemplation, reading, writing and sleep; not necessarily in that order! It’s enlightening how a good, long drive is always like Drano to a clogged soul or foggy mind. I guess that’s why there are so many good road trip stories. Few things are so fast acting in ironing smooth the unsightly spiritual wrinkles that beset us.

And, for me, there is absolutely no better time to do so than the fall. Everything feels different in the fall. There is a hesitancy about the passing hours that seems somehow not so…insistent. The world is not so in-your-face cheery and the sunlight’s less gaudy rays lie slanted on blushing trees, caressing the sadder sky in reassuring gestures that although winter is crouched and ready, she too, must pass like autumn before her.

Pursuing silence in the fall has always offered far more treasures for mystics like me. I am reminded of a line from a Chris de Burgh song, “there’s nothing quite like an out of season holiday town in the rain.” Amen to that. Take away the touristy stores full of shiny, campy bobbles attractive only to our covetous need for yet more worthless shit and we’re given permission to exhale.

Our need for silence mirrors Jesus’ similar need. It’s instructive to see the unabashed willingness of Jesus to turn his back on the madding crowd and escape to the hills under cover of night to meet his Father. He understood his own personal rhythms well and could thus obtain maximum benefit from such times of solitude. From there he changed the world. It is just that self-awareness for which I yearn. In such times an unseen door opens that invites us to see what God sees – and what God sees is remarkable…

Robert grew up in Calgary, Alberta but is presently the Minister of Worship and Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a master’s student, self-proclaimed book nerd, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes-go figure), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet and liturgist. He defines himself as “small-‘c’-catholic-post-evangelical-small-‘r’-reformed-Celtic-contemplative-with-issues.” Robert’s debut CD is entitled “be that as it may”, an eclectic collection of Celtic flavoured folk-rock. He went grey at 30, hates spiders his right ear is bigger than his left. Greatest achievement to date: a 22-year marriage to wife, Rae and 2 boys, Calum and Graeme.