Backyard Pastor


I remember the day they moved in next door

With their children, their dog and the cat

The neighbourhood came to life again

And there's nothing wrong with that

He moved his family to our town

To be close to his community 

A pastor living in the midst of his Church

Now that's the best place to be

We tried to do the neighbourly thing 

And welcome them to our block

We were greeted with a house of smiles

The moment, on their door, that we knocked

Over the years, we have enjoyed the life

That flowed from our neighbour's yard

The children's laughter and even their fights

To not appreciate both would be hard

On Sunday's we would watch them leave

To church, and wave them well

But to church is not our place to go

In our yard is where we dwell 

And yet over all the years

We never felt judged by him for our choice

He became our backyard pastor

With a different kind of voice

Often we chat over the fence

Of topics much like a supper stew

Life, God and vegetables

We talk like neighbours do

He told me once that winter was hard

And not because of the snow and the cold

"I don't get to visit as much with my neighbours"

Now there is a heart of gold

We walked into him the other day

And his smile had faded some

But there was joy still flowing from his face

Like through all the years had done

A diagnosis of cancer

News that no one wants to hear

What will become of our backyard pastor

Our hearts began to fear

But in that moment I remembered

That the moment is what we have

We must live in each moment

And let that make us glad

Tomorrow is never guaranteed

Life gives us only today

To admire the beauty of the sunflowers

That grow along the way

In that moment our backyard pastor

Told us that we were special, too

When the moment is all you have

Sharing your heart is what you do

We've never called him "Pastor"

Though to others he's a reverend 

A neighbour has no title

So we just call him friend

It would be our earnest prayer

That his time on earth be filled

With joy, with love, with gratitude

As the Creator has already willed

So a warm and hearty "Thank you" 

To our neighbour, we want to send

For amazing years as our backyard pastor

But mostly as our friend

© Ruby Neumann

Poet's note:  written September 30, 2020 
For Keith, our backyard pastor, neighbour and friend.  Last night, on July 15, 2021... he died .  I changed nothing in the poem from when I wrote it last fall.   

The photo is a picture I took this morning of our gardens.  Only a chainlink fence and my bunny fence separate our home grown produce.  I will miss our conversations over that fence.  

The Song of the Unknown Bird

There is a most beautiful song 

That sweeps its way to our ears

It comes in our bedroom window

And seems to lift our weighty fears

We know not where the song comes from

We have never seen the bird before

We have scoured the tree tops in search of it

But it evades us all the more

This morning we just listened

It is the most beautiful song around

And let go of the need to find the bird

That just does not want to be found

Maybe it's okay to embrace the mystery

And let the song make its way to our soul

The colour of the feathers, the shape of it's beak

Are details we really don't need to know

Then the search for the bird is a waste of time

Something to be released

When it's the song that really matters

And it's the song that gives us peace

Oh, Unknown Bird, stay hidden from sight

Amid the leafy throng

As long as we can still listen

To your most beautiful song

© Ruby Neumann

Poet's Note: Written July 11, 2021. 

We have the window open in our bedroom and my husband's favourite bird is singing.  We don't know what kind of bird it is, we have never seen it.  But it has the most beautiful song.  We have tried to search the tree tops to see if we can discover what the bird looks like, but we have come out empty handed every time.  So this morning we just laid in bed and listened to the song.  We didn't rush to the window to see if we could get a look.  We just listened.  

I told my husband.  "Maybe we can just embrace the mystery".  Why do I have to know the bird?  Will the colour of the feathers and the size of the beak make any difference on the beauty of the song?  Maybe it is an ugly bird by human standards, I have noticed that the most beautiful birds, like the blue jay and the magpie are not the best singers.  Maybe this beautiful songbird is not the best looking.  Maybe that is why it hides in the trees.  It knows that it's song is what it has to offer.  

Maybe one day we will meet the bird, but today, it's identity remains a secret.  And maybe I can be okay with that.  It's anonymity doesn't take away from the beauty of the song.  

Kissed by the Creator

Spring's newest roses

Unfolding in their colourful array

Is a kiss from the Creator

The hare that finds shelter 

'neath my wedding trees

Is a kiss from the Creator

The willow trees that bend and sway

In the storms and wind

Is a kiss from the creator

The magpie that swoops down on my deck

With its feathers of beauty

Is a kiss from the Creator

The raindrops, lightning, dark thunder clouds

The snow, the frost, the icicles 

Are a kiss from the Creator

The food I plant each spring in my garden

The flowers that come back every year

Are a kiss from the Creator

The children playing in the yard across the street

The townsfolk that walk by my house

Are a kiss from the Creator

When I look into the night 

Or all around me in the day

I am kissed by the Creator

The stars, the trees, the flowers

The waters, the rocks, the animals

All are kisses from the Creator 

A kiss is an intimate expression of Love

A kiss is a reminder of loyalty

A kiss is connection

I was given a story once, an introduction

But in nature, in life, is an intimacy not found in the introduction

It is through nature, through life that I am kissed by the Creator

© Ruby Neumann

Poet's Note:  

"Jesus Loves me this I know… For the Bible tells me so."  This is a well known children's song.  But the words have lost meaning to me.  A book, even the bible, cannot convince me of love anymore.  It is the introduction, but doesn't hold me for much longer than that.  I am asked to believe in my head that "Jesus Loves me" or "God Loves Me".  But the head is not the residing place of Love. The Heart is not the resting place of knowledge.  I cannot be convinced from an debate, story or lecture that I am loved.  I can only be loved and in that act of loving will I discover I am loved.  

So how does The Creator Love?  I used to think it just was.  I couldn't explain it and didn't feel it necessary to paint a picture.  But over the last years, Love has become real, tangible, visual, interactive, effective… love has become more than a story; love has become Love. 

I may be a step or two away from being an atheist, but what keeps me from that declaration are the flowers in my garden or my cats or the birds in my crabapple tree or the weather, or the people in my life.  I can't paint a picture of the Creator.  I can't define gender, character, purpose, or plan.  But I can tell you when I get kissed.  And in that kissing, I am feeling loved.  


Fallen Trusses

Are you one more person I need to protect 

One more person from whom to hide

The real and the authentic

Me inside

Is the only thing you like about me

The only thing that we agree on

Or can you find a morsel of grace

To understand my song

If what I embrace in my thoughts and my mind

Is something you can't hug today

Do I just listen to when your passion speaks up

Or is there room for me to say

To say, to share of my discoveries

To explore the unknown with you

To maybe uncover together

What could be true

Is my need to hide just a feeling of fear

And thus denying your place as my friend

Is believing different, being different

Going to be the end

Maybe if I had been different when we met

You wouldn't have attracted yourself to me

Or maybe there was something else in me

That didn't threaten your identity

It has been a lonely world for me

To doubt what I believed

But it will be much lonelier

To doubt your love for me

I want to believe that I can be loved

For who I'm becoming to be

But more than that, I want you to know

That I'm okay with me

I'm okay with the journey I'm on

I'm just a bit insecure

Are you one more person I need to protect

I just need to be sure

I don't need to change you

Your passion is a beautiful thing

But I'm wondering if together

There may be a song that we still can sing

© Ruby Neumann

Poet's Note: Written March 26, 2021. I wrote this poem in the hot tub this morning.  I was finally able to paint in verse that which has been plaguing me for years.  As I have journeyed out from the house I spent most of my life dwelling in, I have felt a deep need to protect people in my life from what I envision is a collapsing house.  Am I protecting them or their house?  Is that house, a place in which I found comfort for many years, something I need to protect?  I don't think so anymore, but I feel like in order to keep my relationships, I need to protect.  So if I don't need to protect the house, am I needing to protect the people within the house.  And if that is the feeling, what does that say of their strength,  that they need me to hold up the trusses of their structure.  I can't do that when I have chosen not to dwell in the house.  

I need to let them as dwellers uphold their own house.  If the house is strong enough to stand, they will continue to dwell inside, but when they find that they can't hold up the trusses, they can then decide if dwelling in the house is a wise thing to do.   

Just reflecting on the emotion of the poem, the image of falling trusses came to me.  I know that calling the poem "Falling Trusses" may distract the reader from the pain in me as someone who feels that she has to hide her real journey from people she loves in order to preserve the relationships.  The pain is real, the pain is not for the house, it is for the people in the house.  I can't bring them out, they must either stay and hold up their structure or walk out on their own accord.  I just don't know if I can tell them that I have left my building.  I don't know if I can show them the faulty construction that led to the collapse.  I guess it is why I hide.   But are the relationships real if that is how I perceive them? (And am I really hiding if I post poems like this on the internet?  I guess it is the indirect approach… but so far it's not working) 

I long for the authentic.  I long for people to love me and like me regardless of my world view and my perspective on life.  I long for myself not to fear honesty.   I long for the day that I don't judge my friends and family based on their institution's creeds.  I long for Love to find a way.  

John's Gift

How do I remember 

The man than brings these tears

The man we both once worked for

For so many wondrous years

Let me soak in the memories 

That still linger in my mind

For my boss of over five years

And the gifts I gave him in that time

I was into building model cars

So I made one especially for John

After his '74 Silver Trans Am

It was a gift that couldn’t go wrong 

He had the model in his office on display

He was as proud as he could be

But one day he brought it to me in pieces

His face betraying all his grief 

The cleaning lady had knocked it over 

“Can you fix it?” he wanted to know

Like a child going to his daddy

How could I say no

I fixed that car, and over the years

I gave him other gifts that made him smile

A poem I can’t find in my archives 

And a lot of peanuts come to mind

But I must tell you of the greater gift

And it’s what John gave to me

Something much more precious 

From my time with his company 

I know that had he not hired you

And had he not hired me

We never would have connected 

We would not be this family 

So who gave the better gift

He did -  that is so true

I gave him peanuts, a poem and a plastic car

But he gave me you

© Ruby Neumann

Poet's Note: (Written March 8, 2021) I wrote this poem in the aftermath of the passing of my former employer.  It was at a company in Calgary where I worked for five and half years, that I met my husband.  This poem is for my husband in honour of his long time friend, mentor and colleague… John.  

The Label of "NON"

I don’t need your labels

I have my own

But you seem to like to label me

Thus the reason for this poem 

And what is worse than a label 

Defining who you think I am

Is that ugly label of “NON”

Because I don’t belong to your clan

Because I don’t subscribe to your club

You give me the label of “NON”

It may be easier for you and your group 

But for me, it’s very wrong 

To give me this label for who I’m not

Keeps you from knowing who I might be

I am so much more than just that one

That doesn’t follow your belief

The label “Non” dismisses me

Is that what you wanted to do

Are you the standard for my identity

Are you the holder of what is true

Are you really that confident 

That you hold all that's wrong or right

That you and your tribe are clean

That you divide the day and night

Maybe for a moment

You can imagine that we are one

One heart, one soul, one humanity

And the need for labelling is done

Close your eyes and ears for that moment

And reach out to me with your love

Embrace me with your courage

And that just might be enough

Maybe you'll find us not so strange

Maybe you'll get to know

The me beyond your labels

Now that's good seed to sow

It doesn't stop at your heart

It takes courage to right a wrong

To encourage others to love beyond

That label known as "NON" 

Love is that courage, that embrace

Love is the only way

Love has the power to make us one

And we must start today

Ask your neighbour who they are

And stop the labels of who they're not

Let's be the ones to make the change

Because the ignorance has to stop

Let's be the chorus in this world

To sing a different song

To honour our sisters and brothers

And get rid of the label of "NON" 

© Ruby Neumann

Poets Note: Written February 16, 2021

I am tired of hearing people defined by this label.  I used to do it, but it was very ignorant of me.  To think I was the standard of another person's identity, was grossly irreverent of me.  This poem is not a slam on clubs, clans or tribes.  Those have purpose for most people.  But having a club, clan or tribe, doesn't require that we look with disdain, even ignorant disdain on someone else that does not belong to our club, clan or tribe.  I've been told we all have the same blood that runs through our veins.  Maybe it's time that we all embrace the same Love for each other. 

This poem is going out to anyone who uses the label of "NON", and to anyone who has felt the sting of being categorized as a "NON".  

(Definition of Ignorant:  lacking knowledge or awareness)