Sunday, November 9, 2014

No Empty Chairs

©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

In this life, some men stand so tall
that others rise up, too.
We look to their example, reaching
for their point of view.

We know, through them, the Savior's love
and see in them His grace.
Joe Barton was this kind of man.
The sun shone from his face.

He looked on us with gentle eyes,
clear windows of compassion.
His smile was bright and blessed with light
none but the Lord could fashion.

His countenance held warmth and wisdom;
laughter marked it well.
Joe was and is the best of us;
his story's ours to tell.

And we will tell it gladly, even
as we say good-bye, 
sustained by sacred knowledge that
he lives and loves on high.

And humbled as we understand
another needs him more.
Their sweet reunion heals our hearts,
reminds us what's in store.

For one day we will meet again
when earthly work is done,
and there will be no empty chairs.
The victory will be won.

For Joseph Henry Barton, in love and memory.

My brother-in-law Joe with his sweetheart, Mary... 



 more recently...

for time and all eternity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Wrong with the World

Lately I find myself almost unwilling to turn on the news. When I overcome this aversion and flip it on anyway, I often end up wishing I had not. Negativity reigns, and one story after another delivers enough bad joss to leave me asking myself two questions: (1) What's wrong with the world? and (2) When on earth is it going to get back on track? Even worse, the list of "wrong" things is growing so fast that I am increasingly convinced the answer to question #2 may be "Never."

No wonder my blood pressure is on the rise! Ebola, ISIS, health care crisis, Congress run amok, war, lame duck (getting lamer all the time)…and no immigration reform or budget balancing in sight. What's a concerned citizen to do?

Well, one thing we should not do (though the prospect sorely tempts me at times) is throw up our hands in dismay and surrender to the prevailing tide. As Americans, we still have a voice, and we need to use it. With elections in sight, we should speak our minds by voting our conscience. This means knowing enough about the candidates and issues to ensure that we have a conscience to vote! Knee-jerk voting along party lines can no longer suffice; we must analyze each person and proposition closely in order to make the best possible judgments––informed judgmentsand not just informed by a biased news station or celebrity, but by our own research. When no candidate or proposal satisfies, we can identify and support the lesser of two evils, using the next two or four years to keep track of how frequently he or she represents us well and how frequently we are let down. If we are let down too often, we react by letting our representatives down when the next election rolls around.

Of course, it's not ideal when the field of candidates makes us want to run full speed in the other direction. Election reform is definitely called for, reform that makes it possible for people to be elected to public office without having to sell their souls to the highest bidder or pretend to be someone they're not in order to get financing. Some civility in campaigning would be nice too, so that decent and relatively "normal" people might actually be willing to step up to the plate and lend us their talents. Equally appealing, what if opponents quit trying to label and villainize each other (because we, the citizens, refused to be distracted by that) and focused on the issues at hand? What if we did the same?

Enough said. I know there's no magic bullet; there rarely is. But I also know that hard times are probably here to stay. If we don't rise to the challenge, we will keep falling––and failing to live up to our legacy as a nation. We are better than this. We have to be. So when we ask ourselves "What's wrong with the world?", let's make sure we are more of the solution and less of the problem. And let's remind ourselves that it all begins with one person…You. Me. (us)

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Victory: Overcoming the World

Victory: Overcoming the World
©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

We come to earth with full intent,
prepared to meet the call.

We cannot know what lies ahead,
but we have pledged our all.

The journey's long and treacherous,
with thorns to hedge our way.

The trail will twist and turn us,
push us forward and delay.

Our stumbles, we will call mistakes;
our summits, sweet success.

We'll know the sting of misery,
the surge of happiness.

We'll rise and fall and rise again
until we find our place.

But no man ever walks alone,
secured by heaven's grace.

In this world and beyond this world,
the Light is ours to see.

The path goes on, and we are born
to claim the victory.

How blessed we are for life and love
the Savior freely gives.

What peace and consolation come
from knowing that He lives.

For all of us belong to Him,
no matter where we roam.

And He stands waiting, open-armed,
to welcome us back home.

"Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, 
and you are of them that my Father hath given me." (D&C 50:41)

For Taggart, in love and memory.

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Monday, October 13, 2014


Self Portrait, Vivian Maier

©2014, Susan Noyes Anderson

Just when I think that I can see
all of the angles that are me,
another flashes into view
and makes me question what I knew.

So much depends on light and lens.
Great captures fade to try-agains;
and shutter speed, while in my hands,
falls short of what my heart demands.

I thought I had a good eye. Strange,
to watch the composition change
without my knowledge or intent,
by happenstance or accident.

Despite my heartiest denials,
no matter how I twist the dials,
control eludes me and the frame
finds parts of me I cannot name.

I miss the days when I felt sure
of ISO and aperture.
Exposure offers ways to see,
but is it friend or enemy?


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Susan's Season

Autumn in Madeira - Jacek Yerka

Susan's Season
©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson
Fall is a cozy season, made
to match my patchwork house.
What better spot for cider hot,
doughnuts for man
and holes for mouse?

Fall is a spicy season, round
as pumpkins, brisk as tea.
Red-orange leaves tumble from trees,
crunch crunch and crumble,
all for me.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014


©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

Moths are drawn to light
and so am I,
wings awave against
the darkened sky.
Free to fly yet 
bound by naked need,
anchored to a source
I can't concede.

Moths delight in light
and so do I,
seeking shining answers
to my Why.


(I fear, sometimes, to meet
their tragic end
and pray the light I choose
is proven friend.)

PS. For those who are interested in family topics, I am guest posting here
today on the subject of how to help our children become friends.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

On Parenting: Walking the line

On Parenting: Walking the Line
©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

Of late, my life is hard at best,
and best is hard to find.
I lay down, but I get no rest
with so much on my mind.

My body's always out of sorts;
my brain is stuck in worry.
I do the things I have to do
but flatly, in a hurry.

I'm eating more than I should eat
and exercising less.
Anxiety and consternation 
crowd my happiness.

The things I fret and fret about
are not in my control.
I know if I would let them go,
then I would feel more whole.

I need to give them to the Lord,
just trust Him and be still;
but it is hard to watch and wait
until I know His will.

That's parenthood: To care so much
yet have so little "juice."
Adult children need struggles. 
Face the facts, and cut them loose.

But don't forget to walk that fine line.
Keep the rope on hand.
Supporting is a parent's role
(at times). You understand?

It's no small feat to be a mom
who gets the balance right,
who listens lovingly by day
and still sleeps well at night...

The one who keeps a boundary, but
knows when to cross it, too.
God's training me again, right now.
(I still have work to do!)


It does help quite a bit to see
the Lord knows what He's doing.
I feel Him with me every hour:
supporting, not rescuing.

{Apparently, He's got this parenting 
of adults thing down pat.}


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Oy vey

Oy Vey
c2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

Oh no. Dear me. I'm out of sorts,
sick of the smoldering temp reports.
Each visit to my mom is sweet,
but still I cannot bear the heat.
111 in the shade,
the stuff of which Hades is made.
No soft wind ruffling my hair.
No desert breezes in the air.
In fact, no air to breathe at all.
It's gone till further notice, y'all.
Evaporated, so they say,
till further notice. Oy vey.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

A Nod to Starry Night

Starry Night by Alex Ruiz...a tribute to The Starry Night by Van Gogh

Nod to Starry Night
©2014 Susan Noyes Anderson

In the mind or in the meadow,
we must find our starry night.
From the green hills to the ghetto,
we are moved to set things right.

Through the bars that block our windows,
past the cells our souls create,
we contest the way the wind blows,
brushing off the hands of fate.

Man is weak and prone to stumble.
Let the daylight count the cost.
But the moon will never tumble,
and the stars shall not be lost.

Sailing on a ship of crystal
or a van Gogh-ing to hell,
wrap that starry night around you
and believe that all is well.


The Starry Night was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in June of 1889. It is based on a view from the east window of his room at Saint-Remy-de-Provence, a mental institution. "Through the iron-barred window," he wrote to his brother, "I can see an enclosed square of wheat...above which, in the morning, I watch the sun rise in all its glory." In the end, however, Van Gogh opted for what he called a "night study" of the scene, one which he deemed a failure. "Once again," he wrote his friend Emile Bernard, "I have allowed myself to be led astray into reaching for stars that are too big..." Of course, time has proven Mr. Van Gogh to be considerabaly more successful in his efforts than he imagined. (Perhaps the stars are never too big for our reaching.)

Vincent van Gogh
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams: The Joy and the Sadness

It's been a long time since I've felt irresistibly compelled to blog about something that's happened in the "real" world. My posting has slowed down considerably since my husband retired, and much of what I share is poetry at this point.

Having said that, today I hope to create some prose that somehow expresses my feelings about the death of Robin Williams. Experiencing such a visceral reaction to the passing of someone I don't even know surprises me, and I want to understand more about why I feel so personally bereaved. Clearly, I am not alone, because everywhere I look––both online and off––people are remembering him, talking about him, mourning him. I am mourning, too.

There was a joy about him, wasn't there? An irrepressibility of spirit that is rarely seen. It showed up in his comedy and in his acting, and it was carried in his eyes...kind eyes...eyes that twinkled both his joy and his suffering, often at the same time. In every close-up, you could see his humanity, his realness, his compassion...and he felt like your uncle, your father, your very close friend. There was a sweetness in his smile, one that transcended acting...or maybe I should say eclipsed it...because you could not look past the sense that he was every bit as kind and loving as he appeared. His unshuttered eyes were one of the remarkable things about him, I believe.

Of course he was funny, beyond funny, perhaps the funniest man we've ever seen; and he could act his pants off. (I smile, knowing Mr. Williams would have been off and running with that idiom.) Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets' Society and Good Morning Vietnam speak for themselves, and I believe Mrs. Doubtfire probably speaks for all of us who hope to find love and belonging in the world, with a few laughs along the way.

And so we are sad for ourselves, because we lost a bright light...a lively and creative mind...a genius of so much more than comedy. And we are sad for his family, who loved him as only those whose lives are personally touched by someone's energy can...up close and personal that his daughter Zelda's quote from Antoine de St.-Exupery's The Little Prince brought tears to my eyes in the reading, as did his birthday tweet to her last month (same link). But there is something more that saddens me, something that touches all of our lives as personally as Robin Williams touched the lives of his family.

Robin Williams was bipolar, which means he not only swung happy, but he swung sad...a sadness every bit as devastating as the humor that he so freely shared with us was elevating. Articles are saying that he "struggled" with depression, but that verb doesn't quite work for me. If my observations (formed by knowing and loving more than one person who is bipolar) mean anything, this remarkable man didn't struggle with depression. He was tormented by it, anguished by it, devastated by it. It terrified him in its unpredictability, in its inability to be reliably affected for the long term by treatment of any kind. Every remission was fickle, every relapse a desperate search for something new that might work, now that what was old had ceased to be effective. Most of the time, he didn't let that stop him. Monday, on one very bad morning, he did.

We are all the losers. The man was beloved, but I am troubled at statements made by strangers who would label him "selfish" for having the audacity to leave them and us bereft, people who clearly have never suffered as Mr. Williams did. Don't get me wrong, I am not a proponent of suicide...and I hope I never have to find out how it feels to love someone who seeks respite in that particular escape. But we can't judge another's pain unless we have walked a, 63 his shoes, nor can we judge that person's inability to withstand the lure of permanent release in one weary, weakened moment when even his valiant spirit failed him.

Here's the thing. Robin Williams, judging from a career observed by many, was what we like to call in my family "a very hard tryer." He pushed himself to excel and achieve again and again, despite being afflicted (through no fault of his own) with the worst sort of burden to bear. I would guess that Sysyphus himself had nothing on Mr. Williams as he stressed and strained to push that boulder of depression up the hill, only to see it roll back down...over and over and over. Every time that stone hit bottom, I can only believe the heart of Robin Williams did, too...and as time passed, that bottom probably started feeling lower, that rock heavier. One of the most harrowing features of depression is its relentlessness...the inexorable nature of it...the entirely based-in-reality fear of never truly escaping it.

Selfishly, I wish Robin Williams had not escaped it. But I take exception to anyone calling him "selfish" for being temporarily overwhelmed by it. Another day, he might have found the strength to start pushing that boulder uphill yet again. Monday, he didn't. But that was one day out of a lifetime. And his courage was and is undeniable.

A final thing, if you'll bear with me. One actress tweeted, "If only Robin had known how many people loved him," her well-meaning inference being that, had he known of this love, he would not have ended his life. My thoughts run a different direction. I believe it is because Mr. Williams knew exactly how many people loved him that he found a way to live with his depression for 63 years. And for that, I thank him.

{I also thank untold others who are doing the same.}

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