The Writer’s Litany

February 7, 2016–Years ago I came across this litany, credited to Source Unknown.

If you want a thought that’s happy

Boil it down

Make it short and crisp and snappy

Boil it down

When your brain its coin has minted

Down the page your pen has sprinted

 If you want your effort printed

Boil it down

Skim it well, then skim the skimmings

Boil it down

When you’re sure ‘twould be a sin to

Cut another sentence into

Send it on and we’ll begin to

Boil it down

There’s a member of a writing class I led in the early 1980s, who, when we see each other, predictably will greet me with “Boil it down. Boil it down.” Right on, Daniel!

I’ve been boiling down a to-do list, getting ready for winter in the Duchy of Cornwall, UK. Bags are largely packed. Documents are in hand. Arrangements made. The question that deserves further boiling down is, why spend an extended time in Cornwall in winter?

This will be our sixth longer term stay in St Ives/Carbis Bay, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall.  Some of the answer has to do with travel as broadening the meaning of home.

At a New Year’s Eve dinner we attended with four other people, we reflected on “@2015 comings and goings that broadened my sense of home.” In one sense, home means a fixed address, I said, adding, home is also known by a terrible lack of a fixed address, as in homeless, refugee, slave.

In April last year we attended a day of lectures on modern day slavery in Truro, Cornwall. An estimated 35 million people in 2014 were slaves, we heard. Human trafficking and unpaid workers make up a big share of these distressed peoples. One million people fled from Syria, Pakistan and other Mediterranean area countries to Europe last year. Some did not make it, going down in capsizing boats. Google Modern Day Slavery.

I think of home as physical shelter. Home as an identifiable community. Home as a spiritual center. Home as a place where one actually lives and builds a life in emotional and sensual as well as rational or practical ways. Home as a place like no other. To build a house is one thing. To build a home is another, whether at a fixed address or, like Jesus, on your back.

I thank God for a fixed address, as well as the sense of being a stranger and pilgrim on earth. I thank God for the journey between and among “homes” at various places and life stages. In Cornwall we’ve come to use the Cornish expression, “home from home.” We love the landscape, the footpaths, the people at church we’ve gotten to know, and yes, the food. Yes, the food.

So, boiled down, give me “broadened,” give me “home.” Give me joy, hope, peace, kindness and love for all that lies ahead in 2016. May family, friends and multiple communities help me boil down the ever-changing reality of a good and blessed home.

Peace and joy–John

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