Because of You by Christina Knowles

1524025_10202288016035929_699231179_oI’ve always looked up to you

It was so easy to do

My life is so wrapped up with you

You stayed home with me

When I was sick, you comforted me tenderly

You kept me quiet on Christmas mornings

With stories of Santa and gentle warnings

I remember late night stories on your bed

To Adventure Land you led

To a world of imagination

Your words an invitation

I read everything you gave me

A new world opened gaily

Science fiction, fantasy

Suspense, a genre tapestry

I always looked up to you

My life was so wrapped up in you

I listened to you play your flute

In your room, music took root

You gave me records that I still have

Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Chopin

You introduced to me to culture I never would’ve had

It’s because of you, I’m who I am

You took to me to buy my first good skates

You listened all about my first dates

Listened to my teenage angst

Put up with all my juvenile pranks

You let me come and stay with you

Just what I needed; I guess you knew

It was so easy to do

Looking up to you

You bought my prom dress so I wouldn’t miss the event

Then you managed to get Mom’s consent

Always on my side it seems

You supported all my dreams

Tutored me, and never disdained

The hours, the concepts explained

You co-signed for my first credit

Trusted me, I’m forever indebted

When I went away, you took care of my dog

Every week, you read my blog

You went with me to Star Trek club meetings

Conventions, outings, and club proceedings

My entire life is intertwined with you

I am who I am because of you

All through our lives we’ve had such good times

Remember when we went to Disney and stood in those lines?

We screamed all the way down Splash Mountain

Took our picture in front of the fountain

Universal Studios was such a blast

That trip went way too fast

A Hawaiian luau, taking in the show

An earthquake, a flood, just Hollywood though

We haven’t taken a trip like that in a while

Now days, it’s more our style

Dinner and a movie on Friday nights

It’s still one of my favorite rites

It’s no wonder I look up to you

My life is so infused with you

The holidays we always share together

Thanksgiving at my house, no matter the weather

Christmas at yours, and candlelight service

The Living Christmas tree and your performance

Playing the bells on Christmas Eve

Christmas dinner, and after— a movie

Sometimes A Christmas Carol

Or we’d see The Nutcracker Ballet

In our finest apparel

A Christmas Story once again we’d replay

Our traditions are so special to me

Sisters, but friends, especially

My life is so wrapped up with you

It’s easy to look up to you

A chemist, a musician, an intellect to admire

An older sister, a height to aspire

A friend and a confidant

You went way beyond

What a sister should be

What a friend could see

I’ll always look up to you

It’s so easy to do

Because my life is wrapped up with you

And I am who I am because of you—Christina Knowles

Advertisements

The Business of Dying by Christina Knowles

seidoryu       As an atheist, I shudder at the thought of a chaplain at my bedside when it’s my time to die. However, today I was privileged to listen to a truly profound and helpful chaplain guide someone close to me on “the business of dying.”

Shortly after being informed that she had very little time left, the chaplain arrived, and instead of a long dissertation on theology, endless prayers, or reading cliché bible verses, he merely accepted her word that she was confidant of her eternal life and moved on to the harder part, the present.

At first, I was concerned. He seemed pushy and inconsiderate. When he asked her what she was feeling, and she replied, “It is what it is,” he pushed, aggressively.

He led her through each possible emotion, explored them, talked about them, and acknowledged their validity. He said it was okay to grieve your own life, the disappointment, the lost time, the things that you will never be able to do, time with loved ones stolen. He asked about fear, not fear of the afterlife, but fear of the actual dying and fear about leaving loved ones behind. He validated all emotions someone might feel and empathized.

Next, he asked her what she wanted. He said she didn’t have to answer now, and that it didn’t have to be one big thing, but that she should think about that every morning when she wakes up and ask, “What do I want today?” He explained that he meant real things, good things like asking for a hug or asking to have a conversation about a memory or about what someone means to her. He encouraged her to go deep inside herself everyday to really get in touch with her heart’s desire. He said to not let these things go by undone. If she needs to say something to someone or just relive a memory with someone, ask for it. If she needed closure, to fix a relationship, or address a regret, she should have that conversation.

The chaplain told her that part of the business of dying was to celebrate the life she’s lived. He said to reflect on her life’s accomplishments, things she was particularly proud of, things she enjoyed, and things that she did right. He told her she lived a life that deserved acknowledgement.

He ended his counsel by asking her if she wanted anything else from him. She asked him to pray with her. He laughingly responded, “Is that what you want, or do you think that’s what I want to hear?” She said she did want it, and his prayer was beautiful, specifically saying that she was in control of her life and how she lived it to her last breath.

He was brilliant and profound, comforting and respectful. I thought, This is what a chaplain should do. So many times, I’ve heard the well-meaning pastor spout clichés and seemed more concerned with reinforcing religious beliefs than dealing with real emotions and concrete issues. I always cringed at the shallow recitation of the typical platitudes. Finally, a chaplain who knows what to say to the dying, what they need to know in their last days, what not to forget in the days to come. The compassionate and practical advice I heard today cut through all the nonsense of avoidance. People don’t need vapid dictums when they face the end of their lives; they need something real, something meaningful and honest to go about the business of dying. –Christina Knowles

photo via seidoryu.com

Signs of Life, A Memoir in Poems

I have always wanted to write my memoirs, the story of how I got from there to here. Perhaps, I just need to explain it to myself or to those I love. Perhaps, I need to leave a legacy for those who knew me after I’m gone. At any rate, I find that whenever I try to express my deepest feelings and my most profound experiences, I do it through poetry, so here it is, my memoir in poems.

This collection of eighty-one poems is a series of reflections of moments throughout a life lived. Some are joyful, some tragic, but all are heartfelt and real.

“Christina Knowles is a poet who is not afraid of delving into the inner world of symbolism, emotion, and dream imagery. Signs of Life is a revealing journey into the soul, a look at the inner self to which we can all relate.”

Available in paperback and Kindle Edition on Amazon.com. 

img_1216

 

Stop the World by Christina Knowles

“Stop the World”

Earth orbit

You still my world and stop the turn

Of this manic swirl

Mesmerized and taciturn

Rescued from the tilt and whirl

The distractions of a life filled

To excess with nothingness

All at once is stilled

a quiet catalyst to reassess

the curious calm of standing still

You still my world and stop the turn

A gentle discovery of a pearl

Reflectively, I adjourn

From the spinning of the world

–Christina Knowles

Photo via all4desktop.com

“Dozens of Days and a Thousand Smiles” by Christina Knowles

24 in colorado (1)Dozens of days in my memory play

I can’t help but smile

Rewinding the slow serenity of those days

Reflecting on each fleeting mile

Each ephemeral year that goes by

The collected hours, passed time

The unfortunate distance we multiply

That priorities realign

Separated by a thousand small details

As time seems to stretch before us without end

We can’t quite make out all it entails

And what lies around each future bend

But I remember those days when

We could just sit for awhile

Sipping coffee or talking and then

Fishing on a still mountain lake

Camping at Eleven Mile

Swapping stories in the break

While time stretched before us without end

The wind blowing through my hair

Speeding through turns

On the back of your bike, unaware

Of time slipping by, unconcerned

I remember driving cross-country in the snow

Holding our breath through the pass

A little CCR on the stereo

Rubbing the frost from the glass

As time stretched before us without end

Just watching westerns on a lazy Saturday afternoon

Nothing but time to spend

I never realized life would move on so soon

I remember when you taught me to drive

And how to work on cars, to prep and to sand

Working together, talking and laughing comprised

Our minutes and hours, a lifetime spanned

Leaving me with a thousand smiles

Memories to tend

Images of dozens of days and a million miles

As time stretches behind us without end

–Christina Knowles

 

 

 

 

 

“Distant Trains” by Christina Knowles

Train tracks

“Distant Trains”

Though miles apart, the same blood runs through our veins

On different tracks, we wave, riding gracious trains

A big brother and a little sister, two branches on the family tree

Through time and space, you linger in my memory

Images of you from childhood wane

Faded pictures lovingly explain

A Christmas wish book and a Santa story

A moment in time, but not transitory

Because no matter the miles, our blood is the same

Idolized, a big brother contains

The wisdom and sweetness of reverie

Looking up to a you, a brotherly apogee

Distant the miles, but our blood is the same

We took separate paths, but love remains

Older, you spent your life far from me

Pursuing your dreams separately

Though through the miles, our blood remains

But on different tracks, we wave, riding distant trains

We smile wistfully

Sharing a memory

At times, we gather to reminisce, too often in pain

Through time and distance, love is the chain

In sorrow, we pull together as family

In joy, we share transiently

Because the same blood runs through our veins

And we’re never gone so long as to constrain

The feelings between you and me

Two branches on the family tree

Though miles apart, blood sustains

And on different tracks, riding distant trains

We smile and wave wistfully

Sharing the same sweet memories–Christina Knowles

Photo via Pinterest

Alive by Christina Knowles

Signs of Life“Alive”

I am alive

Once merely lingering, undeniably,

Through the journey I have thrived

Pain dwells in me

Eight swords still mark the space

But blinded I am bound

To this time and place

I am alive

The searing burn inside

Recognizes the offense

An ache that won’t subside

But still I am alive

The recompense is joy

Laughter that resides

Deep down, a place I thought destroyed

It’s true; I am alive

Excitement of uncertain futures

The Wheel of Fortune turns

Rumors in the cards discerned

Afflicted by the Sword

With dreams that have yet to die

Yes, I am alive

An unlikely state from past mistakes

The Hanged Man now is loved

A Lover, he becomes

Beholden, he succumbs

Driven to survive

Indeed, I am alive

Drifting down a nameless road

The signs of life abound

A Fool’s errand, I know

All around me, a presage

I am a life compelled

A glimmer, just a vestige

The hidden hazards of the Moon

In the Sun dispelled

Still Death, a knight, rides close

Morose, I journey forward

Simply because I am alive

A portent of the end of days

But days till then I’ll spend

With Justice, who sits on her throne

Her sword alone is raised

This is the company I keep

The path I have embraced

While still I am alive

Further down the quiet road

I stride in hopes to find

A way to lift the load

To fix the broken kind

The chaos in the sky

Death about to die

I’ll doctor it the best I can

And breathe into it life

For all around the signs are there

And I am still Alive—Christina Knowles (2016)

Photo: Signs of Life by Christina Knowles. Copyright 2016.

“Morning Light” by Christina Knowles

  “Morning Light” 

morning light

As light dances across the room we share,

You smile your love on me

Gently waking us to one more day spent together

How many we have, I wonder

Burying my head in your shoulder

I try not to think of a day

When I may wake alone

But you breathe hope on me

And gaze at me with your clear blue love

I don’t like knowing that you own my heart

That you could hurt me irrevocably

Pushing away the fear

Because I know you feel the same

So I will live in this moment

As light dances across the room we share

Christina Knowles (2006)

Photo via Pinterest

Life-Lessons from The Shawshank Redemption by Christina Knowles

The-Shawshank-Redemption1            In 1982, while still in high school, I first read Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” in a short story collection called Different Seasons and have been hooked on King ever since. Then came the movie version: Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, two of my favorite actors. It has been my favorite movie since the first time I saw it in 1994. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been? A movie about hope, friendship, and the indomitable human spirit, it’s still the highest rated movie of all time according to the IMBD. If you haven’t seen the movie, you need to stop reading and watch it now. Get ready to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

*SPOILER ALERT* If you’ve never seen it, you might want to stop here. Anyway, there are some minor differences between the story and the movie. In the story Red is an Irish guy with graying red hair, there are a few different wardens during Andy’s incarceration, and the last one is forced to retire instead of getting busted and committing suicide. Tommy, who had new evidence of Andy’s innocence, was bribed with minimum-security prison instead of getting shot, and Brooks played a slightly more minor role in the story than in the movie. Also, the story ends with Red getting ready to go meet Andy instead of arriving in Mexico. However, minor differences aside, Darabont held closely to King’s original story and was true to the integrity of the characters. Even many of the lines from the movie are dialogue taken directly from the story. This story is so poignant, so profound, and so universal that I don’t know anyone who sees it without feeling like he just got schooled on life and how to live it. The basic premise is that prison is a metaphor for life and, no matter what life gives us, how we handle it makes all the difference. But there are so many life-lessons in this movie that it’s worth taking a closer look at them.

One of the first things I get from this movie is that life is just not fair. Just get used to it, bad things happen to good people all the time. Not only did Andy’s wife cheat on him, but he is blamed for her murder as well as for her boyfriend’s. He got two consecutive life sentences, and he didn’t do anything. Life’s not fair, but Andy did not let even that ruin his life because not only can suffering be endured, you never know when things will suddenly turn around. Time is going to pass anyway. Will it be good time or bad?

                  Andy went through some serious suffering at the hands of the “sisters” in prison, as well as at the hands of the guards and the warden. But Andy doesn’t let anything in that he doesn’t want in. We see that the body can be broken, but not the spirit. No one can take away what is inside you. The human spirit cannot be contained within the walls of any prison if you don’t let it. We have control over our inner life, and no one can affect us in any significant way unless we let them.

Andy always had hope, which is the main theme of the movie, but not only did he have it, he shared it with everyone around him. Hope is essential to human endurance. A lot of long-term prisoners at Shawshank didn’t have a lot of hope. Red said hope was a dangerous thing, but Andy didn’t see it that way. He thought losing hope was more dangerous. Hope kept him going when he didn’t think he had the strength, and hope led to action. He was willing to take the biggest risks because of hope. Andy also gave hope to Red, who might have ended up like Brooks if not for him.

Brooks had become institutionalized. The thing that struck me about Brooks was how we can so gradually get used to the way things are, even if they’re terrible, that we become immobile from fear of change. When Brooks was released after serving over thirty years in prison, he couldn’t take it on the outside. He lost hope because he let fear paralyze him.

Red didn’t want to become like Brooks. He learned to take risks from Andy. What did he have to lose? When Andy had had enough, when he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, he took a risk, and it paid off. There was no point in playing it safe because time was passing rapidly, and if you just play it safe, you’re just waiting to die. Andy said, “Get busy living or get busy dying,” and taking risks is part of living. Time is going to pass either way, so we may as well spend it living. He successfully taught this lesson to Red because when the time came, Red was willing to take a risk to jump parole and take a bus to join Andy and start living rather than ending up like Brooks.

But before Andy ever took this biggest risk, he planned ahead and used his skills that he already possessed. Before Andy went to prison, he set up an account under a pseudonym with some money in it. He hid a fake passport and ID under a rock in the middle of a field under an old oak tree—just in case. It was there waiting for him when he needed it. When he was in prison, he used his skills with accounting and his knowledge of tax law to become a valued and necessary person in the prison. Eventually his skills led him to successfully escape. He was also educated and intelligent. His cleverness led to his freedom, but along the way he shared his knowledge with others and showed them how important knowledge and ingenuity is to survival. He had self-worth and persistence as well. No one could make Andy feel like he was worthless or take away his belief in himself. He endured, knowing he deserved better, and set about to make it happen. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, as the saying goes, and Andy wrote letters every week to the prison board until they funded his new prison library.

Eventually his persistence led to his freedom too. If you chip away at a problem a little at a time, it will yield big results. Andy picked away at the crumbling concrete walls of his cell for years, hiding his work behind a series of pin-up girl posters, smuggling the powdered remains out into the yard on a daily basis. He took his time (he had plenty) and kept up the pressure. Eventually, he had his path to freedom. He never could have gotten away with it if he tried to do it all at once, or had given up because it was taking too long.

Andy always had purpose. Immediately upon arriving at Shawshank, Andy took up hobbies. He collected rocks, carved figurines, built up a great library within the prison, and got a job doctoring the books for the warden. He even tutored a fellow inmate, helping him pass his GED. Keeping busy, whether in prison or in life, makes the difficult times go faster, gives us purpose, and can even be enjoyable.

            He noticed beauty even in prison, and it made his time go easier. He read books, carved beautiful figurines, appreciated his pin-up girls, and let beautiful music take him away from the prison in transcendent bliss. Beauty would be easy to ignore in a place like Shawshank, but Andy let it help him rise above his surroundings.

Andy made friends and took care of them. He helped Tommy get his GED, he was a loyal confidante to Red, he finagled a deal to get beers for his work crew, he brought culture and beauty to the prison, and he offered his help in financial matters to several people at the prison. As a result, Andy was well-liked, respected, made real friends, and put himself in a position to help himself. But the most important thing he did for everyone was to remind them that the human spirit can never be imprisoned. He genuinely cared for others, rejoiced in their successes, and was loyal and kind to those who earned his friendship. He realized that people need to feel free and have dignity and respect. If we have this, we don’t need much else. When Andy got the guard to buy his work crew beer, and they sat on the roof enjoying the suds on a summer afternoon, it was like all of them had been set free for just a little while.

Andy teaches us that sometimes you just have to take a stand for what you believe in. When Andy found an old record album of beautiful opera, he locked himself in the office and broadcasted the beautiful music over the loudspeakers, so that all the inmates could experience a moment of beauty. He knew he would be punished, but it was worth the cost.

Andy shows us that we might have to be willing to go through some shit to get what we need. Andy knew that freedom meant wading and crawling through 500 yards of sewer to get to the other side, so he bucked up and just did it. The lesson here: Suck it up and do what’s necessary.

Next, we learned that transformation is possible. People can change if they learn how. Andy changed a lot of lives, but he probably had the biggest effect on Red. He changed Red’s outlook, and he taught Red not to be institutionalized and to have hope. Red also was rehabilitated. He was a different person than the brash young man who entered Shawshank.

Being honest is another theme. Red sat in front of the parole board time and time again, giving them the stock answers about how he was rehabilitated, not a threat to society, had learned his lesson, and he was always denied release. When Red didn’t care enough anymore to say what he thought they wanted to hear, he was just honest. He talked about the young man he was when he committed his crime, he talked about what he’d learned through the years, about his regrets, and about how he wished he could go back and talk to his younger self. Recognizing his sincerity and his true rehabilitation, the parole board approved his release.

            Another important lesson from Shawshank is not to be bitter. In the end, Andy claims responsibility for driving his wife away, and even feels bad for putting her in the position she was when she was murdered, even though he spent more than twenty years in prison, paying the penalty for a crime of which he was innocent. He wasn’t bitter. Instead of dwelling on others, and things he could not control, he reflected on himself and how he could learn and change, and be a better person.

And finally, we learn that it’s good to take a rest. Andy headed to Mexico to live a better life. He earned it, he deserved it, so he took it. At the end, we are left with the impression that Andy is going to spend the rest of his days living out the hopes and dreams of his long and unjust incarceration. He isn’t going to punish himself, living in fear or anger. He’s going to “get busy living.”

So, I apologize for going on so long on this topic, but this story is so rich with meaning and deeply insightful that I just couldn’t help myself. This is why it’s my personal favorite when it comes to movies, and why I consider King, who has an intuitive understanding of the human condition even in its most degraded state, the Charles Dickens of our era. So, what will it be? Good time or bad? Will you get busy living or get busy dying?—Christina Knowles

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: