Old Monk by Mary Lou Kownacki

Journal Entry 237

Mon, 2021-04-05 07:23

Here is the poem for April 5. To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am posting a short poem, a question and prompt every other day during the month, starting on Easter Monday. Mostly they will be poems by my daily companions, the ancient Japanese and Chinese poets. I will do the prompt myself, either in prose or poetry, and invite you to join.

April 5, 2021

Only a memory!
A neighbor’s tasty rice cakes
At our gate as before

Journal Entry 237

Tue, 2021-03-30 11:05

I got to hear one of my top three Gospel stories twice this week, once on Palm Sunday and again on Monday of Holy Week. It’s the story of the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with perfume and is chastised by the apostles because the money used on the nard could have been given to the poor. Jesus, however, sides with the woman. Since the event gets tied in with passion narrative, the church explains Jesus’ approval by saying the woman was prophesying his death and anointing him in advance. That’s not why I like the story.

Journal Entry 236

Thu, 2021-03-04 16:44

I finished my daily conversation with Issa—I read one of his haiku in the book, The Spring of My Life, and then wrote a response-- and decided to have the next confab with Richard Wright, one of the pioneer literary voices for black Americans. He’s known for his groundbreaking books, of course, --Native Son, Black Boy--but also has a book of published haiku. In the year-and-a-half before he died at the age of 52, Wright began an almost obsessive writing of haiku, composing 4,000 of them in that period.

Journal Entry 235

Wed, 2021-02-10 10:51

My writing is mostly fueled by what I read. Now I find my life-long reading lust is in freefall. For most of my adult life, I prided myself on starting the morning by reading sections from four books—spirituality, writing, poetry, memoir---but no longer. Even my novel reading has dropped drastically. Magazines pile up. I’ve attributed it to a normal malaise following my cancer diagnosis and put it on the back burner to simmer until I figure it out.

Journal Entry 234

Thu, 2020-12-31 16:52

Maybe I wrote too much about dying and death because every time I picked up a pen in the past few months it seemed futile. Not that anything dire happened. The surgery they had planned for my liver cancer couldn’t be done—blood vessels were too close to my heart--but the doctor went to Plan B and removed all the large tumors there before gluing me back up. Now, it’s a matter of targeting with chemo the smaller tumors—two much simpler procedures. And this hope from the doctor: “I think I can give you at least two more years.”

Journal Entry 233

Sat, 2020-10-17 15:05

Ah well, I’ve had to make the decision of my life, literally. My options for ocular melanoma that has metastasized to the liver and failed to respond to the test drug are: a risky treatment that injects chemo into my liver or let nature take its course.

I was convinced that I would opt for the latter and been preparing for three to six more months on this lovely earth.

Journal Entry 232

Tue, 2020-09-15 09:42

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I always want the bad news first to get it out of the way so I can enjoy the good news. So, here’s the bad news. The clinical test drug that I’m on to try to arrest the growth of the eye cancer that has metastasized to my liver is not working. The good news is that I’m still alive and playing pretty good golf.

They are keeping me on the test drug for another six weeks to see if it reverses itself… but it’s a long shot. So, I’m taking baby steps to walk into whatever door opens.

Journal Entry 231

Wed, 2020-08-12 09:59

In between going to Pittsburgh for treatment once a week, community meetings, organizing the Benedictine Sisters 2nd Annual Golf Tournament, showing up for daily work, and trying to play a bit of golf, I’ve let my journal and this blog lag. Sorry about that. Rest assured I am alive and kicking…so far.

Journal Entry 231

Mon, 2020-06-29 13:22

A kind of malaise has taken over. I suppose it’s my cancer diagnosis and the weekly trips to the cancer hospital in Pittsburgh for my clinical test procedure. The first three overnight stays were not pleasant as far as side-effects go, but that has settled down and I am not experiencing any physical pain or discomfort—just some tiredness and inner malaise. And, of course, there’s my brother’s death. My personal writing has suffered as a result and I’m not journaling much.

Journal Entry 230

Mon, 2020-05-25 19:45

It was a Memorial Day like no other. Normally I would have attended my brother Joe’s annual picnic. Every year he and my sister-in-law Michele came from California to spend the summer at their cottage and this holiday picnic for family and at least a dozen of my friends began the good times. But not this year.

Journal Entry 229

Wed, 2020-05-13 09:09

I’m grateful for my Irish friends but some of the stuff they tell me spooks me out. Like the one about a bird flying into your window means death is on its way. A couple weeks ago when the crabapple tree outside my study window was filled with white blossoms, I heard a bird hit my window once, twice, three times…. until I ran and closed the shade. It happened again the next day when I was preparing my morning coffee. I repeated my ritual believing, I guess, that by drawing the shade I was preventing death from arriving.

Journal Entry 228

Sun, 2020-04-26 12:13

During the “stay at home” pandemic, I’ve spent hours reading through journals that date from 1976 to 2020. Here are some random selections and updates as I read.

Journal Entry 227

Sun, 2020-04-12 16:47

Only nature continues to celebrate as if there is no pandemic. The tulips, daffodils, hyacinths arrive on time in the backyard garden. My inner-city street is awash with white blossoms from flowering cherry, crab apple, and pear trees. Nature lives its life when we cannot. And it will continue its cycle long after we are not. Very humbling to realize we are not the center of anything.

Journal Entry 226

Fri, 2020-04-03 09:08

All the sisters in the community were asked to bring “a memento, gift, quote, prayer, etc. that represents your own monastic life and explain its significance to the group.” This invitation was in preparation for a recent Lenten faith sharing at the monastery. Those of us who live in the city and were following the “stay at home” injunction during the pandemic, joined from a distance.

I brought a quote (surprise!) to represent what I think it’s all about. The quote is by the Cistercian monk Andre Louf: