Monday, January 08, 2007

The Book Just Loved Me

by Janet Grace Riehl

For my birthday that came a few months after my sister died in a car crash, I carried out a relaxed retreat at King’s House in Illinois. During these two days, I stayed in a little suite usually reserved for bishops and the Pope. I rested, read, walked, relaxed, wrote, prayed for guidance-and ate good food in a tiny dining room all to myself.

I came to a strong sense that the world is charged with meaning, and that is a poem. Not could be, but is. The only trick is to tease out the meaning. This insight and sense of purpose gave me a vision of helpful work I could do. When I returned to my father and mother’s home, I began to assemble poems for a book about our family history and bereavement. As I worked on the book I felt unparalleled freedom in my writing.

Still in Illinois-staying in an upstairs bedroom in my parents’ house-the book began in earnest. I propped myself up in bed and scribbled in my journal-what became, in the end, my published poet’s diary. I’d start a regular journal entry and discover a poem within it. Then, as more thoughts and words tumbled on the page, I discovered more poems cuddling together in innocent profusion. I cocked one ear towards my inner voices and the other for sounds of my parents stirring. When I heard them on the move, I dropped my knitting and rushed downstairs.

During the day as I cared for my mother and listened to my father talk, I jotted notes and assignments to myself. As I wrote I didn’t seek suggestions or comments from others. I wrote from and for an intimate place within myself. I shared some initial drafts with trusted writing friends via email and received encouraging listen-backs telling me to keep going.

Sightlines has been a blessing from start to finish. It began blessed in retreat. It showered blessings on me and my family-especially my father. My strongest aim is to retain everything I do with Sightlines as a source of happiness for all who come in contact with this book.

Blessing #1: The Book Project kept me somewhat sane, though bedeviled, for the 13 months of its writing and production.

Blessing #2: The Book Project was something of my own-something I owned and had creative control over-during a period in which there was nothing else in my life I could control.

Blessings # 3 & 4: The Book Project was portable and allowed me to keep my creative flow going, despite all disruptions and unpredictable circumstances.

Blessing #5: The Book Project attracted friends. Whenever I needed something-really needed it-a good-hearted friend was there to give it.

Blessing # 6: The book filled my heart with gratitude and gladness.

Blessing #7: The book was all about love: what I’d loved and lost; what I loved and recovered. Now that the book is out, the love just seems to expand and my heart just fills to bursting with Wild Book Happiness.

Blessing #8: The book blessed my father and myself with a stronger, closer, more mature and completed relationship.

Blessing #9: The book blessed us because I was able to include my father in the book and in my presentations as he tells jokes and plays music.

Blessing #10: The book blessed us because my father was nuts in love with the book.

Blessing #11: The book blessed us while Mother lay dying last May because visits to see us and visits to see friends were focused around delivering copies of the book, discussing it, and reading from it. Pop had favorites he asked me to read.

Blessing #12: The book blessed me when I came home to California after Mother died. The book blessed me, and gave me a direction with no room to mope.

Blessing #13: The book showered me with more positive reader response than I could have dreamed.

Blessing #14: The book loves me each time I write a new author reading around themes in the book. These readings and talks give me a chance to hear back from my wisdom self.

Not only do I love my book, but my book loves me back. It’s the most fully requited love relationship I’ve ever had in my life. The book just loves me!

Janet Riehl will be Yvonne Perry’s guest on Writers in the Sky podcast January 12. Be sure to listen online at To contact Janet you may phone her at (217) 370-6876 or email her at Her website is

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