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.


It’s a “blog hop” … let’s get hopping!


I was nominated by Daniela Elza (or I may have invited myself by answering Daniela’s call on Facebook for writers who blog… and I do) to participate in a global blog hop that has its roots in Young Adult Fiction. Daniela and I share similar geographies, she in Vancouver and I in Kelowna, both writing from spectacular British Columbia. I had the opportunity to attend one of Daniela’s poetry readings in Kelowna a couple of years ago and purchased her compelling book of poetry, The Weight of Dew.


Daniela Elza is a talented, widely published and awarded Canadian poet who keeps a blog called “Strange Places.” You can read Daniela’s answers to our four vital blog hop questions about writing HERE. Thank you for allowing me to jump on board with you, Daniela. This is fun!

Now a wee bit about me. My writing genre is poetry, although I write non-fiction and technical pieces occasionally. I was born in Northern Ireland and have roots in rural Ontario farm life. A sensibility toward land stewardship and the arts led me to a degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph in 1987. I find myself revisiting themes of land, spirit and human narrative often in my poetry. Photography, gardening and cooking are other creative pursuits I enjoy, and family life with husband, three young adult children and a dog keep me from getting too serious about things.


On to my blog hop answers now;

1. What am I working on:

This month is heavy with poetry readings and performances so my current work involves creating lists of what I will read, then editing and more editing and reading the poems aloud until they roll off the tongue. Earlier in the month I participated in a short poem a day exercise with a friend and poetry mentor, Heidi Garnett. We met and worked through several draft poems together and discussed how they could be made better. Great fun and stretching for me! I am working on a collaborative poem to performing at a music and arts festival this summer. And I get out regularly with another photographer and shoot photos. I see better that way. The details of things.


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre:

I believe in the process of discovery and unearthing one’s voice, and the more I lean into this, the more I see my poetry is primarily different because of my voice, but also in message, theme and musicality. I tend toward lyrical poetry but I am also attracted to the avant guard, the idea of words/typeography as artistic objects on the page, although I have not yet pursued this past thought. I’m always learning, and hungry to learn and apply new ideas to my work. I enjoy writing workshops, lectures, conferences, and just finished taking a fantastic Brit. Lit Survey course at Okanagan College.

LA in bookstore photo

3. Why do I write what I do:

I find writing poetry is like an archeological process, one digs away and does the hard work of digging sometimes for days with nothing to show, but suddenly, there it is, a corner of some compelling artifact peeking out. So you continue to dig, but in that particular area, carefully, gently, and something more is exposed, something meaningful discovered and brought into the light. Poetry is about digging away and stockpiling all the extras that aren’t really needed, or maybe again but later, and polishing the little itsy bit worth keeping. I love the sparseness of it, although I’m still learning what this looks like. The scariest part for me is taking apart at draft poem that I thought was going somewhere and turning it on it’s head. My mentor suggests this and it makes me quake but I know she’s usually right.

4. How does my writing process work:

The above metaphor explains it well, but I find I have to make space for it. For a couple of years now I’ve created a daily space of 3 or 4 hours each morning. Then I go to work, putting in the dedicated time of writing, editing, submitting, promoting, and also getting out into the community with my work. If I have a project with a particular theme, I just start writing things down. Sometimes in a journal, sometimes on my laptop. I think on it a lot. I chew and chew. Even when my writing time is up I am in the head space of writing, leaving myself notes on my cell phone that I return to later. I am a little lost to regular life sometimes. A bit of a dreamer. And I read poetry almost every day. It’s the last thing I read before I go to bed. I read lots of different poets that come across my path. And I live my life with my family. I watch what’s going on around me. Absolutely everything can become fodder for future poetry.

My three nominees to continue this blog hop are Robert Rife, Kathie Thomas and James Bell.

Robert Rife and I go way back, back to this side of the border. Rob is, among his many talents, a lyric poet of great sensitivity and grace:

Rob Rife photo

Calgary native, Robert Alan Rife, works as the Director of Music and Arts at Yakima Covenant Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), poet and, writer here, here, and here. His life and art are dedicated to discovering those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation – who we are becoming. Rob’s blogs primarily at Innerwoven.

Kathie Thomas is a high energy and big hearted writing friend from Australia who has published several books. Kathie and I met online through a writer’s community and have since met in person when she did a Canadian Tour:

Kathie photo

My name is Kathie Thomas and I live in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, 50kms east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Surrounded by natural bushland and rainforest and visits by native bird life and wildlife – who could blame me for wanting to live here? And it’s here that I run my full time business as a Virtual Assistant. Not only that, but I provide VA training and web design and hosting services as well. Why did I start working from home? So I could bring up my 5 daughters. They are all now grown up but I continue to work at home because I love it.  My blog can be found at

James Bell lives just a few mountain ranges over on the B.C. coast and we have only met virtually, though he knows my family well over many years. Jim has fallen head-over-heels in love with my country of birth, Northern Ireland, which has become his writing focus of late:

Jim Bell photo

Jim finds inspiration in many areas of his life: the education and tutoring of youth, literature, family, God and of course Ireland. He was born of Scottish descent, is a true Canadian (Brantford, Ontario), but when he married into his Northern Irish family, his focus changed. He has visited Ireland some 25 times with some stays as long as 2 months, and during those periods, his love for Irish authors grew. Jim lives with his wife, Esther now that his two daughters have married, both to men of Irish descent! His recent book, “A Year in Eire” is available here through his new blog! This blog hop will be Jim’s first post!

images-13Thank you for coming by. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little bit about my three writer friends and me. In two weeks time you can visit Rob, Kathie and Jim at their blogs to discover their insights into the writing life and see what three writers they highlight, and so on, and so on, every two weeks while we keep hopping along. And of course, you can go back to Daniela’s blog and work your way down other rabbit trails of writers. Everyone knows how things that hop get prolific very quickly! Just go with it.

Best for the journey,


Sunday Soliloquy

I am graced again today by my friend Robert Rife, and his ‘modern parable of redemption’. Enjoy.

And, if you missed Rob’s last guest posting here at Buddy Breathing, click here.

“The Woman At the Mart

(John 4:1-26)

by Robert Rife

Today, she wasn’t sitting in her usual place by the window slurping down Budweisers and waiting for “callers”.  No, today was Wednesday.  It was her day to go “to the burbs” and see how the other half lived.  She liked to shop in those big, fancy grocery stores with all those pretty people that would never frequent her regular haunts.  She had a whiskey voice, painted her make-up on with brush and roller and donned leather and spandex like a uniform – the requirements of her station.  It was rare for anyone to ever talk to her when she went there.  Indeed, it was more common to endure the leering gestures of young ne’er-do-wells on a dare. Or maybe the GAP outfitted hard-bodies who only ever looked at her through their peripheral vision long enough to make her feel the sting of their unspoken judgments.

Today was different.

His appearance was that of anyone she might have met during any other visit to this bastion of pretension, role-playing, and economic benefit.  He wore no brand names that she could see and, for the most part, was indistinguishable from his rather astonished group of buddies, she counted 12, who pretended to be shopping nearby.  He politely asked her for the time.  She rolled her eyes and told him she never wore a watch.  Her instinctive reaction was that this guy was merely sizing her up like every other guy she’d ever met.  But something told her to stay and talk with him.  His eyes bespoke a certain gentleness and, contrary to the norm, never left hers.

“Funny, all this food around and so many hungry souls,” he said.

“Yeah, I watch the news.  You’re not one of them ‘bleedin’ heart’ types who gets sucked in by the skinny, little African kids on TV, are ya?”

“Well, actually I was speaking in a more…metaphorical sense.  I mean, people keep coming back again and again to this place, filling carts to overflowing with that which can never ultimately satisfy.”

“People gotta eat, don’t they?”

“Sure.  But it’s what they don’t eat that keeps them hungry.”

She couldn’t decide whether she was annoyed enough at his rather enigmatic statements or if she was intrigued enough to hang around for more.  She decided to take the plunge.

“What do you mean?  Eatin’s simple enough.  Ya eat, ya get hungry, ya buy more food.”

“True enough, but I can give you whole storage bins of food that will keep you going forever.”

“OK, count me in.  Where do I sign up?”

“Go get your husband and we’ll chat some more.”

She gazed at him incredulously.

“Yeah right.  Take a good look, pal.  Do you really think I’m the marrying type?”

“Well, who was that guy who dumped you in the alley last week after he pretended to have good intentions?  You’re lucky to be alive.”


“Uuuh… how’d you know about that?”

“You’d be surprised what I know about you.”

Normally a statement so bold and presumptuous would have frightened her to death.  Instead she stood mesmerized with curiousity.

“Come on”, he said, “let’s grab a coffee…got lots more to tell you.”

I wonder how many “women at the Mart” we, and Christ by association, pass by every day.  How many such folks, who are branded as social losers whether spoken or implied, show up at our door each week?  How do such people find Jesus through our language, postures, and “guise” of faith?

Picture the following: the second generation drug user, who has never been inside any church building, who not only doesn’t own a Bible but has never even seen one; the angry youth with self-imposed atheism and hatred of the establishment, especially religious, who stumbles upon us by sheer “accident” looking for the very answers she neither wants nor understands; the desperately bedraggled single Mom who, by incredible force of will against her body’s weary protests, pulls all three of her unimpressed children out of bed on Sunday morning to head to the church she has driven by dozens of times but who, today, inexplicably feels the need to attend; the fifty-one year old executive, let go by a boss half his age through “corporate down-sizing”, forced with the decision to take a 50% cut in pay or face entirely changing the only career he has ever known.  All that in a marketplace environment which worships “young and fresh”, disdaining whatever experience he has painstakingly accumulated over his 30 year career; the 15 year old pastor’s daughter whose quest for attention and a “cool” testimony becomes pregnant casting her family’s reputation and ministry into disrepute and chaos; the High School drop out whose body bruises never have enough time to heal until more appear at the hands of an alcoholic father; the drug addicted mother whose “street time” is only interrupted long enough for her to disappear for days at a time to some crack house where her personal esteem can disappear even more….

Such are the ones to whom Jesus says, “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.  Such are the ones who “once…were alienated from God…but now [are] reconciled…by Christ’s physical body through death….”  Such are the ones about whom Jesus says, “your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”  Such are the ones we are called to seek and serve.  As disciples of Christ, what should we do in preparation for such a lofty and costly call?

Whatever it takes.