His voice made me halt abruptly as I walked my dog down a country road. I was listening to a new podcast on my phone. It was a most comforting, soft Irishman’s voice, the kind you know the speaker has depth, an old soul worth a listen with total commitment. That voice was that of Pádraig Ó Tuama, the host of the podcast “Poetry Unbound”, part of the On Being Project He was introducing himself and the podcast. Then he began to read the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin. Not only was I was utterly transfixed by the way he read the poem, his interpretation that followed illuminated this piece in a way that I never could have in my own reading.
I came late to poetry, the reading and writing of it. To be honest there are few poets and poems I really love. I have been guilty of quick reading, passing over an author’s words like speeding down a road without noticing the scenery. But with Padraig’s reading and interpretations, I am finding new love in unlikely poems. He pays attention deeply to what the author is saying in each line and then makes the poem come alive to the listener. After his guidance, he reads the piece again so you can fully appreciate the poem’s magic.
Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
These are dark times-, especially in the U.S.A. If you listen to the news enough you would think that there are no more good people left on planet Earth. I refuse to believe that- even though the media showcases all the crooked politicians and sex offenders of the world at the expense of everyone else. Sensational sells.
I only have so much real estate in my brain for the negative. In order to function and remain positive, I have made a conscious choice to monitor what feeds into my psyche on a regular basis. Rather than start my morning with the news I turn on upbeat Irish music and then switch to podcasts that showcase people making a difference- the “helpers”. My favorites are “The Good Life Project” and “On Being with Krista Tippett”. (Then the Moth Radio Hour provides me with plenty of inspiration.) If you are new to podcasts, give them a try. I don’t even use earbuds when listening. The speaker on my smartphone is adequate.
It is important to me that my art expresses beauty or brings a smile. There is no way I can achieve that when a dark cloud is spewing from my radio as I work. Trust me, I remain informed but not at the expense of hope. Like Mr. Roger’s mother said, I will continue to “look for the helpers” and give them my attention rather than further empower those that would rather have us discouraged.