May 22 — summer days and weeks

Thursday May 22 —> July 30

1)         Part One:  May 22:   ”Remember sun screen” —   Pine Ridge, SD is about 3400 ft above sea level,  sun shines more directly here than in Motown at 300 ft elevation.   In most years, about a week after commencement and Eastern Market Flower days, I pack for a week on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.  It sits in western South Dakota; you can see the profile of The Black Hills 70 miles off to the north and west;  you can stand still near wild Badland formations, created mostly by wind.  Improbably with desert-like terrain,  you can also stand still to listen to meadowlarks, and frogs, in marshy water holes 100 yards across.   It’s because I lived here a long time that this particular beauty melts my soul and refreshes my spirit.

So do conversations with soul friends of 40 years or more.  I come to Pine Ridge to renew the origins of my adulthood in this place of beauty and laughter and grief.  It slows my steps and my breathing.  And reminds me that the normal work year has ended and summer has begun.  There’s  still plenty of work time but the pace is different.   For you too, I hope.


2)         Part Two: July 30:    About 3:00 am on July 30 I will pull off highway 35 in Upper Michigan at Fox Point Park.  The park is mostly beach and shore grass and pines, 30 miles north of my home town, Marinette Wisconsin.  I will have said goodbye to my sister Mary and eased into a long drive around the top of Lake Michigan, the first 4 hours in pre-dawn stillness.   No one is there at Fox Point at 3:00 am.  I walk to the beach, and breath a little.   I pray the Lakota Prayer of the Six Directions, a very small human next to this vast lake of my childhood.   I’ll drive around the north shore, into the sunrise, then over the Mac Bridge and head south toward Detroit and home.    The prayer in the dark of night and all this water opens me to stillness.   It marks the end of summer and a turn toward a new work year.

This is pretty autobiographical for a workday post.  I write this way today by way of announcing that the work day poetry list will take a summer break too, offering me time for gardening, baseball, and nordic trac and for reading some poetry.

See you Monday August 4. Work day posts will begin for the coming year.

Have a blest summer.


john sj

p.s.       a recording of the song of the Western Meadowlark



Fog Basin, Dakota Badlands

my shiprock


Lake Michigan western shore

purple flowers, Lake Michigan 2009

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15,000 trees

Saturday  May 17  15,000 trees on the east side

A UofD grad Mike Nagy  (1988 Electrical Engineering) was visiting  his old college neighborhood and we drove over to the East Side looking for the blocks where the (John) Hantz tree farm was taking shape with the labors of c. 1000 volunteers working the 20 acre farm (check Belvidere and Geothe, south of Mack and east of Van Dyke).   I had tried to find it a couple weeks ago when my sister was in town but did not succeed.  Today with gps help we found the gathering of volunteers, some media coverage,  and lots of trees on block after block.

Still another surprise in the rebirth of our city.

Have a good Sunday.   May the Tigers keep winning!


john sj

one of the thousand vols


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Gratitude Journal Responses

May 16th, 2014

On May 6th, I asked members of the listserv to share how they feel and express gratitude. I have compiled the responses (all of them thoughtful and moving reflections) below.

And, since I am a Victorianist and poetry professor at a Jesuit university, this is one of my favorite praise poems, by Victorian Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

13. Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
Praise him.


Mary Tobacco:

I feel gratitude mixed with awe sometimes. I am thankful that the women in my life taught me about love, God, prayer, and faith. I express my gratitude by giving things away. I have always really loved playing basketball and have always felt thankful to have such a gift in my life so when I started winning jackets as a young player I gave them away. I still do.

Mark Benvenuto:

It reminded me that one of the exercises I use is something I picked up down south, when I was one of the rare Catholics in the land of the much more expressive Baptists.

Someone in a cadet prayer group taught us to remember “A.C.T.S.” each day: adoration – acknowledge the greatness of God when compared to yourself; confession – ask forgiveness for your sins; thanksgiving – for all that you have, be it physical, mental, or spiritual; and solicitation – ask the Lord for what you want and need.

I have used it for decades now because it is so easy to remember. And yes, the ‘thanksgiving’ portion has changed a lot over that span of time, but has become quite a list of gratitude items. From thanks for the end of a great semester, back through the years to thanks at getting the job here after the post-doc, back to the thanks as the worries of grad school were overcome, back even to thanks at being alive at the end of another day stationed right up on a now-vanished Soviet border, watching them watching us. ACTS still works well.

Maureen Anthony:

It may be over-used, but I truly find happiness in wanting what I already have. That is the key to happiness.

Sister Sarah Foster:

One of my favorites is a simple song I learned several years ago:

May we always remember where we come from.
May we see the whole in every part.
May God’s Blessings pour down on everyone
And love shine from our hearts.

Ann Greene:

The children’s service in my church uses this rubric: prayers of thanking and prayers of asking. It’s pretty amazing the sense of gratitude expressed by kids in the prayers of thanking.

Judith Hetsler-Parr:

Recommended an incredible TED Talk on the topic of gratitude:

Jean Gash:

I do not get out of bed in the morning until I think about the things and people in my life that I am blessed with. By the time I greet the day happiness is mine.

Mary Burke (a longtime friend of John Staudenmaier):

Gratitude is a commitment before it is a feeling.

John Staudenmaier:

A saying that helps me: “Gratitude is a commitment before it is a feeling”

A prayer
Give me a grateful heart to live from
Attentive to savor the blessings received
Playful to expect your surprises
Trusting, to commit myself to Your commitment to me.

A principle
Ignatius suggests that every day I consider the inner “movements” of that day but that before I consider, I begin with gratitude for my life as it is now (not as it may become in my future).

Karl Ericson:

Gratitude is the antidote to my fear that I’ll never have enough, that I’ll never get my way, that I’ll be overlooked, or taken advantage of. Gratitude is essential in my daily work to step outside of my ego, my self-centered delusions & recognize that I’m provided for, cared for, valued, and that in this moment I am whole!

Lori Glenn:

I am sharing how I find gratitude, happiness and joy about the work I do with student nurses.
My approach is based on being a midwife, which translates to being a professor in many unexpected parallels. At each phase of development I reflect back as to how far they have come and anticipate the joy the student/mother will experience in the end. We as midwives and professors guide this development by allowing it to occur, but providing the right tools to support them and the knowledge to make it meaningful. We are there when it is hard and they feel vulnerable, and we step back when they begin to soar on their own.

Here are the parallels of being a midwife and professor:

For the developing nurse and the gestating mother:
The time frame is similar–about a year
Student nurse: 13 1/2 months for the new nurse
Mother: 12 months for gestation and postpartum adjustment to parenthood
In the beginning, both
are scared and excited.
ask a lot of questions.
are full of self-doubt.
suffer with low levels of confidence.
are afraid of the process of school/pregnancy they are seeking.
In the middle, as both become accustomed to the demands of the program/pregnancy they
are more comfortable, at ease and calm.
seek their own answers to questions.
become more confident.
have far less fear.
begin taking in the role of nurse/mother.
Towards the end, with increased demands, requiring significant adaptation they both
are impatient for completion.
suffer with mental and physical discomforts.
have a return of fear, for the new role and responsibilities of nurse/mother.
And with the finale, either taking the NCLEX to become an RN, or laboring to become the mother, they
have great pain.
work extremely hard .
have immeasurable joy.

The Second Degree Option Accelerated Nursing program in which I teach is demanding. Students are not only put through a rigorous curriculum with very high expectations, but they also have a lot at stake financially and personally. It is at times difficult to find joy and happiness among all the angst, even though I know the demands we place them barely prepares them for the work of nursing.

Constantly reminding myself that their development will result in great joy in both successfully passing NCLEX and taking on the work of nursing brings me satisfaction and happiness in the work. Seeing them at Transitions Ceremony and Commencement is gratifying, and being notified of successful NCLEX scores and job securement provides me with the opportunity to share their joy.

When I am praying for the patience to continue to expect the best of students, I will miraculously receive an email or visit from a graduate who has become a professional, caring nurse. They express gratitude for the rigor of the program and advise us not to falter in this path. They also thank us for the attention we gave to their emotional needs. This is when I feel most grateful, for I know out their is a UDM graduate who will some day care for myself or a loved one when I am in need.

As far as gratitude being a midwife…this is not difficult to do! And this part of my life enhances gratitude for everything in my life.

My initial post:

The “new science” of happiness, it would seem, confirms many of the things we have known all along. Help other people. Don’t worry too much about the past. Be grateful.

Gratitude does not come to us naturally. One of the tasks of any parent is to cultivate gratitude in our children, to help them recognize the blessings they have been given.

Perhaps this is why saying grace before a meal is one of the oldest and most universal human rituals. In the Quaker tradition in which I was raised, grace is given in silence. Growing up we also said the traditional Moravian grace (a rhyming couplet): “Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be, and bless these gifts bestowed by thee.” I am afraid my brothers and I often recited it so quickly that it had little meaning beyond familiar sounds.

Now that I am a parent, my family has what we call “Gratitude Journal.” My four-year old calls names and we say what we are grateful for in our lives or our day. She always goes last: “I am grateful for everything in the whole entire world!”

One of my favorite examples of grace is from J. S. Woodsworth, a pioneer of social democracy in Canada:

“We are thankful for these and all the good things of life. We recognize that they are a part of our common heritage and come to us through the efforts of our brothers and sisters the world over. What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all. To this end, may we take our share in the world’s work and the world’s struggles.”

I would be grateful to hear how other people on this list feel and express gratitude. Please reply to me individually and I will collect responses to post on the listserv blog.


Mary-Catherine Harrison, Ph.D.


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May 15 – Nurse as Miracle Worker

Thursday  May 15  —  Nurse as Miracle Worker

The patient wounded in their narrow beds
Welcome me and smile as I go by
Down the long wooden buildings where they lie
Wan weary rows of helpless haggard heads —
Mysterious burning eyes that seem to gaze
From a great distance, gaze but do not know
Why they are glad to see me come and go.
Sometimes with feeble hands as in a daze
They beckon me, poor things that vaguely grope
Out of great darkness toward a distant light;
And from the unknown woman dressed in white
Seem in some strange way to gather hope —
They do not know that in this shadowed place
It is your light they see upon my face.

Mary Bordon  (Sometime during World War I?)


In today’s Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor introduced me to Mary Bordan, a flamboyant millionaire heiress who, dissatisfied with the standard of care for wounded soldiers, used her money to create a mobile field hospital that moved along the hell-hole death traps called battle lines during World War One.  A messy, high profile life as an elegant Parisian Salon hostess, Keillor tells us that  ”She is best remembered for The Forbidden Zone (1929), a memoir of her work as a nurse on the front lines.”    Flamboyant or not, Bordan recognized a nurse’s central grace:  to follow wounded and desparate people into the heart of their fears and pain, knowing that damaged people “seem in some strange way to gather hope”  from fearless, competent companionship.  This bold conviction continues to live at the heart of nursing education in the 21st century — “no good science, no competence   ;;;   no fearless tenderness, no miracle of healing.”

Perhaps Bordan’s poem caught my attention because, during a wonderful half-day retreat yesterday, as we talked about many UDM commitments, nursing caught our attention during one discussion.    A memorable quote from a CHP faculty member:  “I interviewed a young woman and asked her to tell me what nurses do.  She could not describe what nurses do.  I suggested, that if she wants to become a nurse she should first get a nurse’s aide job in a hospital for a while and then come back and tell me what she’s learned.” (well, almost a quote, not verbatim).  When we teach students to find the heart of the profession they study, any discipline, we open the world to them.  I am proud to work in a university with a great nursing school named after the Founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley.

For UDM’s McAuley Health Center over on the East Side, see:

Have a blest day


john sj

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May 14 – on the East Side

Wednesday May 14 – urban farming & young energy

I’m cheating a little.   I got up early to prepare for today’s Half-Day Mission Retreat with a great mix of UDM people (1 dean, 1 associate vp,  5 faculty members,  1 coach, several more administrators, several recently hired staff members, and 3 trustees ).   Then I opened the Detroit News on-line to revel a little in the Tiger’s 9th inning come from behind win over the Baltimore O’s and I stopped at this column on the front page: “Michigan Urban Farming Initiative.”  It’s another interesting urban farm that looks to be thriving and growing over on the East Side (7432 Brush, near East Grand Blvd).  12,000 lbs of fresh organic veggies last year, more on the way as more city lots are added.

No. Not the second coming of Jesus descent upon the earth all in one piece.  Not even a UDM project, though our Law School’s one day conference, “Going to Seed: Urban Agriculture in Distressed Cities” (March 7), brought a powerful mix of experts from across the US to explore the legal dimensions of one of Detroit’s growing faces of urban change; over 1500 farms in the city, so I hear.  And that is a UDM farming project.   But Columnist by Marney Rich Keenan tells a good story that might tell you about a piece of the city’s life worth attention.

Yes, I’m also cheating on the rule that these posts should require about 2 minutes of your time.  I’d guess this might take 3.  But we’re right in the middle of summer planting time.  So . . .   here’s the column and a lead picture.

Have a good day.

john st sj


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May 13 – “From here I can go anywhere I choose”

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 street music at Eastern Market

A couple Saturdays ago on the corner of Winder and Russell, kitty corner from Shed 2, by Rockies, the drummer wasn’t there. Pretty astonishing since he has become a fixture for quite a while. Agile and slender, instantly recognizable, he filled the street with breath-taking cadences. He was fun too, noticing you notice him, without missing a beat. He’ll be back I am sure. Well, pretty sure anyway. Since I don’t even know his name, certainty would be presumptious for a passerby like myself. Street music is like that, it shapes lives, puts a lift in a walker’s step, but you don’t own it.

The other day I came across a poetry website — This week’s poems from “A Year of Being Here”
( You can sign up on a daily or a weekly basis. I decided on weekly. This is my first browsing venture. Wendy Cope rewarded me with her contemplation of a young man on the street playing his flute.

Have a blest day.

john sj

p.s. I hope the cherry trees pop their blossom today but even without them, over by Briggs, campus looks fine.


New Season

No coats today. Buds bulge on chestnut trees,
and on the doorstep of a big, old house
a young man stands and plays his flute.

I watch the silver notes fly up
and circle in blue sky above the traffic,
travelling where they will.

And suddenly this paving stone
midway between my front door and the bus stop
is a starting point.

From here I can go anywhere I choose.

Wendy Cope in Serious Concerns (1992)


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May 12 – a silence

Monday May 12 — A silence in which another voice may speak

Commencement days. Lots of immediate work to dress campus at its best (missed, though, on the laggard cherry trees alongside Briggs). Lots of logistic work to get graduates and faculty+admins dressed for the solemnity; get the music right, get hospitality ready for speakers and 50 year alums.

In Dentistry many graduates are hooded by one or two or three of their kin who are already dentists; In Law three faculty have the hooding down to a rhythm. Even so, one tall grad knelt down as if to help the hooders reach over the top of his head, only to take an engagement ring out of his pocket and hold it out to the woman, one of those hooding, he asked to marry him. Saturday’s Baccalaureate Mass packed the Gesu Church. At the main campus commencement, The University first hooded Gerry Stockhausen, sj our immediate past president. His address was laced with wisdom and corney jokes. No one who had shared time with him at UDM was surprised. One UDM trustee, Brian Cloyd from Steelcase in Grand Rapids, told me how moved he was by the diversity of the main campus students as they walked to receive their diplomas. The whole human fabric, it seemed, showed itself; all of us were invited to pay attention to the beauty that we are.

Today’s post has a name for this kind of paying attention; Mary Oliver calls it “Praying.”

Have a good day.

john sj



It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver


Something to catch my attention
Front sidewalk of Lansing Reilly – July 20, 2008 – 8:31 am

Sidewalk -Far         Sidewalk - Close

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What the Living Do

Friday, May 9th, 2014

This is another of my favorite poems, “What the Living Do.” Marie Howe wrote it after the death of her brother John from AIDS. It captures the experience of the one who is left behind, the everydayness of life, the small moments, the yearning, the slog. And the cherishing.

What the Living Do
Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks
in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

April 1994

You can hear Marie Howe read the poem and talk about her brother and the rest of her large “Catholic lefty” family in her 2011 interview with Terri Gross. She reads the poem towards the beginning of the interview:

Mary-Catherine Harrison, Ph.D.

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No one keeps records of soldiers and slaves

Yesterday I posted about the role that fiction and poetry can play in helping us imagine individuals when we are faced with suffering on a mass scale. Today I want to share a poem by Agha Shahid Ali, “At the Museum,” that to me captures the powerful experience of encountering another person through art. In 1990, Ali wrote about seeing the statue of a servant girl from Harappa. If it is the sculpture I think it is, she is 4,500 years old. She was excavated in 1926 in a house in Pakistan. He would have seen her in the National Museum in India.

What I think is most remarkable is the way that Ali imagines the lived experience beyond her smile. He considers her labor, her ache, the way she must have “had to play woman / to her lord.” He also imagines her sculptor. “No one keeps records / of soldiers and slaves,” but she was cast in bronze and waits, in time, for all of us to see her. And, of course, we see her in Ali’s poem too, and she smiles at us.


At the Museum
Agha Shahid Ali

But in 2500 B.C. Harappa,
who cast in bronze a servant girl?
No one keeps records
of soldiers and slaves.
The sculptor knew this,
polishing the ache
Off her fingers stiff
from washing the walls
and scrubbing the floors,
from stirring the meat
and the crushed asafoetida
in the bitter gourd.
But I’m grateful she smiled
at the sculptor,
as she smiles at me
in bronze,
a child who had to play woman
to her lord
when the warm June rains
came to Harappa.

April 1990



“The Dancing Girl of Mohenjo-Daro,” National Museum, Delhi, India

Mary-Catherine Harrison, Ph.D.

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Lots and lots of dots, in blue water

Much of my research has focused on the emotional and ethical impact of empathy and literature. How do we imagine ourselves in the place of fictional characters and “feel with” their emotions? How can our feelings for fictional characters affect our real-world beliefs and behaviors? My research has focused on cross-class empathy in Victorian literature about poverty. Nineteenth-century novelists and poets, I argue, were at once deeply invested in prompting empathy for the poor and skeptical that they could ever fully succeed.

Two of my favorite quotes about empathy are from contemporary American writers Barbara Kingsolver and Annie Dillard. Both illuminate some of the key obstacles to empathy; together they suggest how literature might work to overcome some of those barriers.

“The power of fiction is to create empathy. It lifts you away from your chair and stuffs you gently down inside someone else’s point of view. It differs dramatically from a newspaper, which imparts information while allowing you to remain rooted in your own perspective. A newspaper could tell you that one hundred people, say, in an airplane, or in Israel, or in Iraq, have died today. And you can think to yourself, “How very sad,” then turn the page and see how the Wildcats fared. But a novel could take just one of those hundred lives and show you exactly how it felt to be that person rising from bed in the morning, watching the desert light on the tile of her doorway and on the curve of her daughter’s cheek. You could taste that person’s breakfast, and love her family, and sort through her worries as your own, and know that a death in that household will be the end of the only life that someone will ever have. As important as yours. As important as mine.”
Barbara Kingsolver, “Jabberwocky”

“On April 30, 1991 – on that one day – 138,000 people drowned in Bangladesh. At dinner I mentioned it to my daughter, who was then seven years old, that is was hard to imagine 138,000 people drowning.
“‘No, it’s easy,’ she said. “‘Lots and lots of dots, in blue water.’”
Annie Dillard, “The Wreck of Time”

Mary-Catherine Harrison, Ph.D.

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