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I took the news personally and was dizzy in delight to hear that Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, was named Connecticut’s new poet laureate in June.

Canterbury (CT) Public Library: Ever think I could be as great as Connecticut’s new poet laureate Dick Allen?

In the late 1970s, after getting partially off a rollercoaster ride via the adolescent addiction route, I took a poetry writing class at the University of Bridgeport with Dick Allen.  At the time, I was sandwiched in between a drug-induced past, conveniently whisked away under a shatterproof floorboard of denial, and a future that I did not dare glimpse. 

In his classroom twice a week, I emerged from my dark and solely occupied cocoon.  When Mr. Allen read his poetry, the classroom’s walls boomeranged with intonations and a rhythmic style that could dissect, pluck and reach so far into my soul that the process shook and awakened those parts in me that had been so comfy and so sleepy, wrapped in inertia, for so damn long. Although it took nearly six more years for me to shed fully my Rip Van Winkle-esque existence, the first building blocks in that course of action Mr. Allen’s influence mortared.

In other words, Mr. Allen taught me that in order to experience great poetry, like great life, you have to be alert.  Listen intently.  Peel away the brainy part of the head so that the heart has the room that it requires to breathe fully and, yes, love without restraint.  Love every damn thing down to the wart. 

As I ventured forth to become a travel writer in the 1990s, I approached each newfound milieu with a keen ear, sharp eyes and overzealous appetite that Mr. Allen had first mirrored to me in his classroom.  On my journey, nothing, absolutely nothing, whether a gnawed chicken bone on a supper plate or ladybug on a car’s windshield was mediocre.  My ears heard poetry everywhere. 

On your next day trip, before summer bats her last eyelash, whether you go on a rollercoaster ride or hide away in an alcove at an out-of-the-way library, see, hear, breath poetry.  Get off the jaded road before it is too late to hear poetry for poetry is everywhere…fine tune the hearing.  Afterwards, pick up a book written by the present Connecticut’s poet laureate, go home and read the poetry out loud as if it will be your final voice; then take this same principle on your future travels.

Ferns

By Dick Allen

Almost invisible, but once you look for them
nearly everywhere
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,

ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,

deermice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers

as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,

the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes

you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,

no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing “The Peaceable Kingdom,”
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.

In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.

From Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Collected, Sarabande Books, 1997.

New Canaan, CT, Nature Center Greenhouse

 

 

 

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, MN

 

And in the end,
it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.

— Abraham Lincoln

You can give your dad ties, shirts and robes, but, in the end, what really matters is time spent well.  On home turf together, disruptions abound with ringing telephones and favorite programs on television; let’s not forget that growing chore list.

A day-tripping experience allows the opportunity to unwind, enjoy and rejigger.*  Whether you have a terrific relationship with dad or terrible, or, perhaps, falling somewhere in between, a visit to a museum, a  park or special event takes the focus off dialoging about hot topics and boring chitchat, and instead magnifies the splendor of the fleeting moments.  Growing up, day trips were the farthest thing from my over-worked and over-committed dad’s mind.  However, well into my 40s, from the day the family received his emphysema diagnosis to the day he died, four years later, I made it a point to be one hundred percent “there” for him in the waning years.  “There” meaning deliberately employing an overkill of patience, tolerance and anything to steer away from non-confrontational moods that could have ruined our limited time together. 

What this experience taught me, and what I try to bring forth into my day trips, is to relax and, yes, just enjoy the moment.  How?  Okay, back to dad.  Many times, we would be stationary like at the doctor’s office or waiting for the senior citizen bus.  I would concentrate on his breathing, which was easy to do because he utilized an oxygen tank.  So we would sit.  He would breathe.  I would listen.  In this precise orchestra, without word or gesture, we found each other in a spirit of love, because, as it’s been said before, love is in the moment.

So, here’s an idea for a Father’s Day gift.  Buy a few tickets to the museum.  There are, too, some pretty interesting things to do this holiday like Bullwhips in the Open field at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre park in Minnesota, located near the Walker Art Center.  Regardless of where you go or what you do, just feel your dad next to you; appreciate the wonder of your breath and his breath, think about how they synchronize without any effort at all.  Realize that this is love, naturally and fully, as close as you can build a pathway to heaven on earth.

Happy Father’s Day.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Make a beeline to beauty, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

In the introduction of “Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache,” I end with these words, “TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME…May the road ahead greet you gently at each turn and may you never lose the wonder to travel that extra mile. ”

This was my topic at hand for my next blog.  Before I could sit down and write about it, guess what?  I had to run an errand in Bridgeport, CT, and I decided, yep, you guessed it…to rejigger * and take the long way home; actually, I decided to investigate a little side street that I was on, and, right at the corner, the sight of a brick factory made me regress to being eight years old again. 

Just as I suspected, I espied a tiny Wonder Bread factory outlet across the street.  Pulling into the parking lot, after I strode in, I immediately felt the hovering presence of my dad beside me in his crisp, blue-ironed shirt, car keys jingling in his hand.

Here, in this minuscule place, I recaptured a giant rush of youth; so much of it spent grazing on Twinkies and spongy white bread.  The taste of memory was even sweeter as I remembered my father who, ironically, possessing an oak-tree stature, was a scarce presence in my childhood.

“How long has this store been here?”  I asked the sales clerk at the checkout counter.

“At least 50 years.”

“Wow, I haven’t been here since I was eight,” I explained, recalling how my dad, planting a seed for my adult bargain-hunting penchant, whittled away many weekends taking me to shop here with him.

“I get people in here all the time who say that,” she said with a smile from ear to ear. 

Needless to say, the day trip queen ended up eating a Twinkies while taking another chunk of the day to refuel my memories of my dad, who, I realized, wasn’t so non-existent in my early life after all, as I refueled the car, knowing the extra miles were worth the experience, certainly the wonder of reuniting with the Wonder Bread outlet.

Winding road inspiration: Stewart B. McKinley National Wildlife Refuge, Sheffield Island, Norwalk, CT

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010

Consummate Author! Consummate Journalist! Consummate Motivator!

Through simple secrets to a happier life like day-trip adventures and a gratitude journal by the bedside, I have not only been able to overcome many obstacles in my life, but erase negative and useless thinking…and, yes, learn to relax, rejuvenate, rejigger. *

Rejigger *

* “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

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Day Trip Travel — Experiences Over Things

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