February 2017

My mind matches this understated land.
Outdoors the penciled tree, the wind-carved drift,
Indoors the constant fire, the careful thrift
Are facts that I accept and understand.

Having lived here the years that are my best,
I call it home. I am content to stay.
I have no bird’s desire to fly away.
I envy neither north, east, south, nor west.

My outer world and inner make a pair.
But would the two be always of a kind?
Another latitude, another mind?
Or would I be New England anywhere?

“New England Mind,” by Robert Francis 

I was happy, recently, to rediscover my Collected Poems of Amherst poet Robert Francis (1901 – 1987), a gift from Greg Hayes several years ago. I’m grateful to Greg, and to Paul Jacobs for mentioning Francis to me at a recent social hour.

Tonight is a good night for reading poetry – outside is a mix of snow and sleet, the kind cautioned against in travel advisories and redundant municipal messages. The child in me loves what the weather pundits call a wintry mix, although I have lost my delight in sliding on the treacherous stretches of untreated sidewalk it leaves behind. My friend Linda was the champion slider. I coveted her hand-me-down boots, with soles worn bare of treads.

“Would I be New England anywhere?” Like Robert Francis, I call New England home, and am content to stay. And I am blessed, because I can.

When I submitted this note to our editor, the first refugees sponsored by Catholic Charities of Greater Springfield were expected to arrive in Northampton as early as the end of January. They are brothers origi nally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who have been living as refugees in Burundi. Both the DRC and Burundi have ongoing histories of violence, oppression, and civil war. These are issues that don’t get much press, and are worthy of our attention. I am grateful to all of you who have expressed interest and a willingness to help. We need to wait, and hope that they will come when the ban is lifted. In the meantime, we can learn about and lend a hand in support of refugees already here, and in support of immigrants who are living in fear. Because we are blessed to live here. And because we can.

I am grateful to be your minister.

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