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I am in the midst of a week’s study leave. As usual, I didn’t really clear my desk before this “break from usual responsibilities,” much less write the reflection and eulogy I will need for Sunday, so it is far from a week of pure study. But I am managing to spend most of my time immersed in two topics.

One is death and grief. My first book of the week was Irvin Yalom’s Staring Into the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death. By pure chance, the reading for my women’s group was an excerpt on different ways of incorporating past losses into our lives, from On Living, a memoir by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan. Tuesday, I was browsing the natural history section of a bookstore and stumbled upon H is for Hawk, which thanks to a review, I knew was not only natural history but very much about the author’s process of mourning her father’s death. It is now on the pile. The next day, I was browsing the DVD section on a rare trip to San Francisco’s Main Library, and remembered that I’ve been looking for the first season of Six Feet Under for a while. They have it! I’ve watched two episodes, and the people who told me it’s a really good look at death and grief are right.

The other area of immersion is African American history and fiction, a long-term remediation project to fill the gaps in my education and better equip myself to fight white supremacy. I’ve read Bud Not Buddy, a children’s chapter book by Christopher Paul Curtis. I’m also reading March by Geraldine Brooks, with the grain of salt I keep on hand for books about the black experience by white people, especially fiction, but so far, so good: it’s teaching me some things about the Civil War years that I didn’t know, and I’ve been nibbling at this book since December so I really want to finish it. Next up is Ida: A Sword Among Lions, an intimidatingly thick biography of Ida Wells by Paula Giddings–many thanks to Mariame Kaba for the recommendation.

Here’s a problem I have EVERY time I cancel a print job: it doesn’t cancel. Usually it then gets stuck and won’t let me print anything else; sometimes it just ignores me and after wasting ink on what might be dozens of pages, I’m good to go. Digging into the print spooler usually, though not always, resolves the problem.

I have two questions:

  1. Is this a Windows problem, a Word problem, an HP printer problem, or an Amy problem?
  2. How do I make it stop happening?

If I were a poet, then I could probably make a poem of this story:

Some poems of Derek Walcott, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, appear on the website Poem Hunter.

Someone comments on one of them, “This is a good poem Derek, keep it up”

But I’m not much of a poet. I do appreciate good poetry, though, as well as ironic, deeply clueless comments, so hearing of his death sent me to Poem Hunter to look up some of his poems. I have read one now and then, but that’s the extent of my familiarity with his work. The very first one listed was so fitting for the service I’ve been planning for Sunday that I want to excerpt it for our centering words. It must be one of his best-known, because I’ve read it before.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

I was also very moved by “R.T.S.L. (1917-1977).”

On poking around on the internet, I discovered that Walcott lost a position at Oxford when charges of past sexual harassment (which he had not disputed) were pointed out. Good. I don’t think someone who has used his position at a previous university to try to coerce students into sex should be hired by another university. And we can still love his poetry and admire whatever in him enabled him to write it. Last Sunday, speaking about issues of history and morality raised by the debates about renaming buildings that honor people we no longer consider worthy of such an honor, I made the uncontroversial pronouncement that there are no saints. The prospect of using, in the service, the lovely words of someone who abused people so badly is where that rubber meets the road.

I’m using the three-part approach to Lent that I’ve used before:

  1. give something up that drains my spirit: Facebook
  2. add something positive that feeds my spirit: draw every day, preferably before breakfast
  3. give to an organization that’s doing good in the world: the Coalition on Homelessness, since my daughter has recently asked people to donate to them in honor of her birthday (which also fell during Lent).

Do you have a Lenten practice this year? I’d love to hear about it!  (And if you’re seeing this when it posts automatically to Facebook: if you respond there, I won’t see what you wrote until after Easter . . . )

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