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Portents Say More Winter Days by Peter Menkin
by Peter Menkin  
1/19/2009 / Poetry

I have Ash Wednesday on my mind this night. A solemn service, I note these words from The Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gifts that we are given everlasing life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

On Monday evenings at 5 pm I go to my church in Mill Valley, California USA and there I pray what is called Evening Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer is used in this daily office, as it is for Ash Wednesday
. Many times when I lead the prayers, I begin Monday's with this:

The Lord bless us and keep us. Amen.
The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. Amen.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.

I think of the above prayer for Lent, as I do in all the seasons. But it takes on another dimension for Lent, for God does love us and turns us towards him, sometimes without our knowing or being able to turn ourselves.

This afternoon I began thinking, what poem shall I write. The poem following this brief introduction came to mind and this is how it wrote itself, first draft.

Portents say more Winter days
by Peter Menkin

Cold weather here, California.
Ash Wednesday is coming,
the Groundhog failed to show.
The portents say more winter,
and so in the cold days--
with their rain--I will go
to be marked as Christ's.

This pilgrimage has begun
for me, before the Tuesday
before the Wednesday. Look
and I do for season by season
I follow the poor, chaste Christ.

I continue on my journey.

Peter Menkin

The seasons help me in my own life, and in living the life of faith. Sometimes I find an acquaintance or neighbor who thinks Christmas is the most important, uplifting, cheery and special season of all. I disagree, for I think it is Easter. Nonetheless, my neighbor in this case is missing the "holidays," and the "celebration" since Epiphany follows Christmas. Which is where we still are this night as I write these words.

I have a new cat for Epiphany, and though I am tempted to name her Epiphany for it is in that season I adopted her, her name is Tascha. She is a Russian Blue pet who lived with Mary Dee Rickard in Lincoln, California USA from the age of 5 months when she was originally rescued by Mary Dee.

I adopted her officially from Pedigree Plus Cat Rescue in Northern California and on the day of a heavy rain, the day after the big winter 2007 storm of January 4, 2008, brought her home. I write this to tell you of my new one year old cat, and also to say she is a reminder to me of Epiphany 2007 when I was learning about Christ again, and began more frequent prayers for animals. Animals are God's creatures, and in my Church we have a special day when one may bring ones pet and have him or her blessed.

I hope you like my new poem. And if you'd like to see pictures of Tascha, the Cat, go to and search on my name "Peter Menkin" to see the many snapshots of my new pet. I think you'll like the captions, too.

Here I'll share with you some more of the wonderful and beautiful words of the Ash Wednesday service, as I know it. I've edited this a little for meaning by selecting just this quotation in its entirety.

The celebrant says:
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.

Copyright Peter Menkin

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