Paula Kosin | On Losing a Teacher, Losing a Friend Norbert Blei (1935-2013)

13 12 2014
Norbert-Blei

Stories at birth, before birth, every moment of our lives to the end. We breathe telling tales. And then what happened? The story ends? The story never ends. We are immortal. We are myth. We remember. — Norbert Blei (August 23, 1935 – April 23, 2013)

Your coop in the woods,
so like you,
stacked floor to ceiling
precious books
unfinished manuscripts
correspondence from friends
a million compelling projects.
You had a bucket list
decades long,
driven by intense urgency.
So many things to do,
to learn to write to teach
and, always, to challenge.
So many conversations to savor,
seasons to welcome,
seasons to weather
in your beloved Door.
You used to wish me:
Nazdar! Be well!
Now I pledge to you:
Na shledanou!
Until we see each other again.

I knew Norb through his articles in the Chicago Tribune during the late 60’s and early 70’s. I was in high school and college, and this man’s writing made that kind of impact on me. I had always wondered what happened to him, since his byline disappeared from the paper. (Of course, that’s when he moved up to Door County.) In 2003, in preparation for my first trip to the Door, I eventually came to The Clearing’s website. Scanning the list of classes, I clicked on Writing Workshop — and there was Norb! I immediately emailed him, asking if he was available to meet with me to discuss my possibility of attending his class that next summer. That weekend we met over a beer, and talked of both his class and of “the old neighborhood.” You see, my grandparents and parents – and large extended family – are from Cicero, Illinois, the ethnic Czech/Bohemian/Polish culture so beautifully captured in Norb’s Tribune articles and book, Neighborhood. Since then, I have had the opportunity to be in several of his classes and a couple of weekend workshops up on Washington Island. I knew from the minute I saw his picture on that Clearing website, I had been given a second chance. And I took it.

To leave this world with a perpetually unfinished long list of things you still want to do — and no unfinished business with the people in your life…well, I think that’s the way to go. — Paula Kosin

 


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6 responses

13 12 2014
gbusha

Thanks Klaus, and to Paula for this sensitive, touching tribute to Norb. GB

13 12 2014
jackiella

Thanks Paula for the memories of Norb, class, and The Coop. Thanks Klaus for putting up on these pieces.

13 12 2014
jackiella

Klaus, I meant putting up these pieces on the blog.

13 12 2014
Klaus

😉

13 12 2014
Jude Genereaux

Paula, who always arrived at Norb’s workshop with enthusiasm, focus and a car packed with houska! kolachki! and poppy seed coffee cake!! direct from Vesicky’s. What a treat ~ both your arrival and your friendship. Thanks once again, for these memories. “The absence of his presence is everywhere.” Edna St. Vincent Millay.

15 12 2014
Paula

The bakery… a little taste of the old neighborhood for Norb, a way to stay connected. It was my joy to see him light up when he opened the box.

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