MACHINE - MAP - NATURE - PICTURE - RANDOM - WORD

July 15, 2020

… cheated on a test

… gone on a blind date

… sung karaoke in a bar or any other public place

… escaped a burning building

… flipped someone the bird

… run a marathon

… told anyone, Yes, you do look fat in those pants

… eaten anything when it was still alive

… said Let’s go sky-diving

… given a hoot about what I never have ever done

June 15, 2020

     William Gibson’s play, “The Miracle Worker,” dramatizes the relationship between Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Faced with the challenge to communicate with her deaf, dumb, and blind pupil, Annie struggles to find the key to unlock language for Helen. The climactic moment occurs when water is pumped from a well into Helen’s hands as Annie spells the word water in sign language onto that same hand. A memory from infancy when Helen understood water to be “wa-wa” suddenly springs to her consciousness and the door to communication thrillingly opens for her.

     While thinking about this scene, which was based on a true event, it occurred to me that water serves as a conduit to language in my own life, specifically, novel writing.

     I have found few activities as conducive to reflection and creativity as swimming laps in a pool. While my body is suspended, arms and legs automatically pushing and pulling water, my mind is fre...

May 15, 2020

     Whenever May appears in all its filigreed beauty—tree branches lined with tender leaves, landscapes dotted with blooming flowers—I imagine myself dancing around, extolling the pleasures of the lusty month of May like Vanessa Redgrave as Guinevere in “Camelot” (alas, without her great hair). The world has come alive again, anything is possible. And in all the hidden corners of the natural world, the birds and bees and critters are going about the business of propagating their species. To quote a line from “Bambi,” everyone is “twitter-pated.” (Now, of course, the word “twitter” evokes the social media platform. Comments there, however, are seldom of the Disney variety).

     To me, one of the joys of this season is bird-watching. I’m not an obsessive lister, though I am proud of my modest list which includes a cedar waxwing and a Cape May warbler spotted outside their migratory range. It was as if they had gotten on the wrong subway an...

April 15, 2020

     The poet T. S. Eliot wrote that April is “the cruelest month.” I prefer to regard it by its other designation: National Poetry Month. Instead of reading this blog, go find a book of poems and dive in. Read one, or ten, or more, and don’t stop until your heart is full and your soul soars.

    

Here’s one to start, composed by an anonymous voyager of the seas long, long ago.

O western wind, when wilt thou blow?

The small rain down can rain.

Christ that my love were in my arms

And I in my bed again.

March 15, 2020

     March marks a time of transition from winter to spring, death to life, lion to lamb. Transitions, however, are never as straightforward as we might wish, as anyone who has ever experienced a late March blizzard will attest. Change is more a series of one step forward, two behind. Small, incremental differences which build up messily, incoherently, relentlessly like an Impressionist painting. (And sometimes Abstract Expressionist, like Jackson Pollock). Step back from the canvas after awhile, though, and an entirely new vision of the world emerges.

     Impatience for change is natural and invigorating. More lasting, effective results, however, come from patience, from standing back occasionally to see the whole, the place of something in the larger scheme of things. The grass that grows quickly from new seedlings (because we cannot bear a bare lawn for long) cannot weather the stresses of summer heat. Better to use the slow-growing va...

February 15, 2020

     One of the more intriguing titles in my library is Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” I read it years ago and don’t recall if I came away any wiser on the subject of this fundamental human emotion. In any case, as his title suggests, love is a topic of perennial interest, dominating our thoughts, conversations, emotional life, and artistic expression.

     Romance novels, of course, revolve around amorous relationships. Music lyrics often chart the progress of love, to say nothing of poetry. Cinema is replete with screenplays about love in its many guises and permutations. And while I’ll never forget love scenes in books, their visual representation on screen, especially if accompanied by the perfect soundtrack, make an indelible impression.

     Here are a few of the love scenes from films I have found unforgettable, cinematic moments that get me in the gut every time....

January 15, 2020

     The start of a new year is traditionally a time of resolution to live better, to be better. A tall order since it is, for many people, a season of grim weather and short, dismal days. Who can follow-through on a resolution not to curse when the car is buried in three feet of snow and the option to stay home is not possible? By March, vice nudges virtue out of the way so that, come December 31, you’re vowing once again to buckle down and improve your life.

     Whenever I see the number 1 on my phone’s calendar, indicating a new month, I feel a swell of promise, see the prospect of a fresh start. I’ve been offered another chance to make up for the previous month’s setbacks. So I follow through. And my life is incrementally improved. I’ve achieved quite a few goals with this monthly reboot. It works. It’s practical.

     It’s also b-o-r-i-n-g.

     To counter this virtuous living, I offer a tongue-in-cheek monthly plan...

December 15, 2019

     Memories are the gems of life’s jewelry. Real or rhinestone, they are precious just the same. Some shine brilliantly through the years, others dull and decay. Brought out to wear or locked away, they nevertheless persist. Holidays are often the settings for these jewels, Christmas being the most splendid, weighted as it is with cultural meaning and expectations. The ritual of family coming together, the hope for the perfect gift to give or receive, can’t help but make it memorable.

     Born a week before Christmas, I must designate my first one as momentous if not particularly memorable. The next few years are a blur too, though photos of me smiling beneath a tinsel-covered tree suggest I was having a merry Christmas indeed. The year I received a huge stack of books, though, is my first truly indelible Christmas memory. My own books. That I didn’t have to return to the library. To this day I still own the original copies of David Cop...

November 15, 2019

     It goes without saying I am grateful for all the loving people in my life. In the interest of not taking anything for granted, though, I remind myself to be thankful for …

     The healthy spring of my legs out of bed every morning, my feet on a warm floor.

     My eyes that see, my lungs that breathe clean air.

     The water that runs freely through the pipes for me to drink and shower beneath.

     Refrigeration. The food in the refrigerator. The electricity that runs it.

     Having a plan for my day and the means to carry it out.

     The town infrastructure that picks up my trash, keeps the library open, cleans the streets.

     The countless, invisible people who go to work every day, despite illness, worries, and troubles, to support the occupations that keep this old world turning.

     The natural rhythms of my body telling me it’s time to eat, exert, sleep....

October 15, 2019

      Coyote sightings were recently reported along the biking/hiking trail in my neighborhood. Coyotes—an animal I associate with the Wild West, lonesome prairie towns, and the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. I took note of the precautions issued by the police department: don’t approach them, make loud noises to scare the off. I also did a thorough Internet search to better inform myself. Armed with facts and a whistle from Wal-Mart, I ventured onto the trail, determined not to be afraid.

      And discovered I was.

      And discovered, to my delight, I was glad to be afraid, not only out of respect for the wild animal whose path I might cross, but because the emotion of fear brought me back to my childhood.

      Years ago, I read Annie Dillard’s splendid memoir, “An American Childhood.” Among the passages that struck a chord with me were those in which she described her free, unsupervised wanderings through resident...

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