Saturday, November 18, 2023
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey—
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter—
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover—
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
Our cat, Gabby, died a couple of weeks ago.
We didn’t name Gabby. She came with that name, and I never thought it suited her. I thought she should have a stronger, more unique name. T.S. Eliot comes to mind. She certainly would engage in some sort of rapt contemplation of thought. Maybe even about her name.
I think Gabby had at least a few other names that we only guessed at.
Nick called her Crazy Cavewoman Bat-Killer from time to time. She earned this name for the murderous, merciless killings about which we bragged (mice and bats primarily).
Certainly, she was Dumpster Diver, too, for her veracious appetite and demand for any human scraps we would share with her. She even dug into our trash for meat wrappers, cat food cans, and certainly anything that smelled like fish.
She was Snuggler, too, because of how she would sleep on my head, hogging the pillow, so I fell asleep with her warm body smushed next to my face. Funny, after I fell asleep, she would get up and wander off to sleep in the kitchen almost as if she just wanted to make sure I had gotten to sleep.
She was Little Puppers. She would meet us at the door whenever she heard us coming, talking and demanding food and tripping us, almost like a little puppy who was so glad we were home.
She was Reading Companion. I would sit in my favorite green chair, and within minutes, she would snuggle next to me. Even now as I write, I sit to one side of the chair, leaving space for her to join me.
If you are not a cat person or a pet person, I expect you not to understand. We anthropomorphize our animals and sometimes treat them better than people.
But I miss my little, Cavewoman, Bat-killer, Dumpster Diver, Puppers, and whatever her Ineffable Name is—the name that was much more dignified and wilder than Gabby.
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Saturday, July 1, 2023
Desire Will Take Me Over A Mountain: Whatever you can give
In the high desert I swam rivers of brine, sand, and sheen; the burn was unforgiving and blinding; the path of uprooted stones that cracked bones and scraped flesh led me recklessly between stabbing, dry thorns of Time.
One thought settled beyond where the sun goes to set
One thought to renew at dawn a tempest to catch;
I long for you -- a taste of you, but whatever you can give, Man;
Above the timberline I failed a hundred times, to move; instead, I sublimed to the vacuum of primigenial you; my breath the permafrost I must cross to fall, to tumble over the other side at breakneck speed.
Failing to grasp what’s obvious to me
these events of our past on this rotating thing;
I wish for clarity -- a reasoned transaction with you; yet, whatever you may give, Man;
I carried some hope and sure; I'd admit it's unsteady in my head
either you hand me some rope to settle this thought; or laid it down in your bed;
When I reach for your hand -- or fall into your scorn; whatever you might give, Man;
Spirits stumble and slip
A river of hurt
The Gift is to Know a Moment When Living in the Moment: Just Before the Firestorm
Just before the firestorm came -- and you can smell it and sense it’s nearing -- the highland still died and still lived as it had always done before my primate foot had settled on the ancient and new clays in the moraine. Yet, the talent of the hominid is not only to mark, deliberate and judge a moment, but to reserve it and all the philosophical axons to physical memory for reflection-- to stimulate the moment again... and whether it hurts them in the long run or renews the spirit daily. A moment captured before a big fire could touch a valley some weeks later is an attempt to contextualize reality from sky to stone to smoke to bone to shoe prints on a worn, rocky, and rooted elk-horse-homo sapiens sapiens trail.
The moment moves like the elk and bends like the grass and, yes; flows away from the river and against the wind like the entirety of an afternoon on Earth. And it makes sense to those that can be made aware. Though the human memory will generalize it or fade it across time the quantifications and the intensity of a moment and its colors, the brain of a man will have successfully metamorphosed its data into raw emotions of knowing: knowing, knowing, knowing what beauty, significance, and the pending end of that moment -- and all these things at once: the burnt smoke remnants of life that hovered above us and then some miles away made brown the dusk of nurturing light that feed the green at our knees as it leaves us behind our multi-dimensional mountainscape.
stretched us and quantified us in increments of altitude as we
hiked, rested, drank, listened, smelled, exhaled, observed
while we climbed ever so carefully with each step carried along with
the flow of time to bring us, give us, measure us, as we tie ourselves to a day.
in just ten hours in the mountains: Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Haiyaha Lake; and more
where time is expended as the Universe prefers: as if an illusion, but as real as it could ever be;
as the flow of these precious moments is forever the chilled dew of sunrise… the dry smoldering sunfall... the desire to do it all over again if blessed with the breath.
Saturday, June 24, 2023
Our writing group met informally in-person back in May. I intended to write about this because I have a couple of quick thoughts about this fantastic evening.
Food, beer, conversation, and loveliness ensued.
Funny, when we met regularly in-person (pre-Covid, of course), we knew each other better, chatted more, bonded more. Online, we may focus more on the submissions, but I think we lack the comraderie that makes a writing group bond and connect in meaningful and lasting ways.
Tom and I talked a bit about the benefits of meeting online versus meeting in person.
Tom likes the online meetings because we stay more focused and finish on time.
This is certainly true. He has a valid point about this.
I miss the face-to-face interaction. Pre-Covid, we would hold our meetings but chat after. Sometimes for a long time.
We certainly talked about our projects and writing, but we knew bits and pieces about each others' lives, too. In a strange way, we felt like a tighter community back then. The relationships within the group seem stronger and more enduring.
And while I mean no disrespect to the people that have joined the group since Covid, I do not feel the bond that I have with the others.
But meeting in a restaurant, to talk about writing, to see how tall and good looking they are (they are all good looking online, but even more attractive in person), and to share a bit of our lives seems to strengthen the community in ways that Zoom cannot do.
Couple more thoughts on this to come....
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Funny, Covid started two years ago, and although the worst of it has passed, our writing group, like so many other events in life remain in that small electronic box.
The last years I haven't written much. I have plenty of excuses. Lots of them. I pray that these excuses will dwindle in the coming years.
The writing group remains my link to the world of writing. Well, I suppose I have other threads that tether me to this world, but mostly, my memories of this life and the web in this part of my brain sometimes seem to be withering. One of the many excuses I have for not writing is maintaining the plants in my yard--flowers from my grandmother mostly. I am grateful to have these flowers bloom in the Spring. But as they bloom, parts of me seem to wither.
The writing group reminds me that I have a life that many others do not. Often, before I log on for our writing group, I wish for more time to prepare my notes for the writers and want to remember the terms like I once did. Always, after we finish with the little square, electronic session, I shut down my computer, have a quick conversation with Randy, and sigh.
I feel liked. Appreciated. Respected even.
The people in the writing group seem to appreciate my feedback and value what I have to say.
This feeling lifts my heart and warms my soul.
And I remember that a part of me is not a slave to a corporation, a part-time gardener, and all of the other duties that take up my time and turn into the excuses keeping me from writing. Even if I am not actively producing writing, I support other writers in their work and get to talk about writing.
This is something for now. Something pretty good.
I look forward to meeting our small group in person for a Spring gathering. This time brings hope and encouragement to my heart.
Monday, February 13, 2023
I unwrapped the package. It was a lovely Graham Greene first edition--but a title I did not recognize. That in itself is unusual. The only reason I have not read all of Graham Greene's books is because I'm trying to savor them a bit.
But this book is more unusual than that.
The Name of Action is the title, and as I opened the lovely old cover, my husband told me more about this one.
The Name of Action is Graham Greene's second novel. This book, the one in the picture, is a first edition, but this is the only edition Graham Greene printed.
Who knows how many copies are left?
I ashamed to say that I have not read it yet. It is wrapped in bubble wrap on my desk, waiting for me to finish the Taylor Caldwell book I started around Christmas.
This little book makes me smile. As much as I admire Graham Greene, he wrote this book and didn't like it. Even as a young and struggling writer, he wouldn't publish more copies.
I can sympathize with this.
Can't wait to read it.
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Sunday, November 27, 2022
Maybe a couple of years ago in our fiction group, I said something about perfect tense, and Kristen asked me how I knew so much about grammar. I shrugged and said I learned a lot in graduate school.
Funny, I have thought about that brief comment and that pseudo lie in the years that have passed.
I didn’t mean to lie.
I didn’t have an answer.
Truth is, my love of grammar started long before this.
My story begins when I was in tenth grade. My family had moved to New Jersey when I was in eighth grade, and I struggled in school—but that’s not quite true, either. My older sister was a year ahead of me, and she excelled in everything without trying. I may have been smart, too, but I had different skills and different interests, so I bounced back and forth between the college prep courses that required an A to continue to the next year and the regular courses.
Funny, I would get As in the regular courses without trying which would kick me into the college prep courses. Then, I would get a B in the college preparatory course, and the system bumped back down to the regular course.
This was a typical pattern for me.
I didn’t care much for my grades. I didn’t much care to follow in my sister’s footsteps. I was a gloomy teenager without much hope. But I loved writing and words.
Freshman year I was in the regular English course. I breezed through this with an A.
Sophomore year I was in the accelerated, college preparatory course taught by Ms. Stout. She was particular about being addressed by Ms., and God planned for me to be in this class.
This was years ago. Decades ago.
We sniggered and called it the bible for Ms. Stout’s outside of class.
Ms. Stout was an intense woman with fiery blue eyes. I wouldn’t want her to know that we joked about the LAW book.
But maybe she would have laughed, too.
I think we had a list of about 30 rules outlined in the LAW book, and I think I wrote about this in an earlier blog. These 30 rules were LAWs. According to Ms. Stout, if we broke any of these laws three times in an essay, this would our grade to a C. Any subsequent infracture would drop our grade down.
So, three broken rules would bring us down to a C. Four to a D. Five to an F.
We learned quickly.
I doubt any teacher today could get away with such strict rules, but we learned the rules and how to identify them very quickly.
Most of these rules I have forgotten. The best I learned quickly.
Passive voice was perhaps the most valuable. I recall combing my essays for passive voice on the bus before school, looking for the tell-tale be-verb combinations. I found them quickly and learned to distinguish them well. Once, I questioned her passive voice question, saying it was not a verb phrase, and she agreed with me, raising my grade with a smile. She seemed pleased that I knew the difference between a passive verb phrase and what might have been an adjective phrase.
Passive voice seemed to be the most useful tool. Ironically, I use passive voice steadily in my current, medical job, and this continues to annoy me because the requirements of my job demand the passive.
The other rules were numerous but logical. The only other one I remember clearly is, Avoid “it” and “there” as a subject when they are placeholders without any specific meaning.
Other rules are less impressed on my memory but probably just as marked on my style. Not using “wise” at the end of words was another rule: “Grammar-wise, the class was very fruitful.” This sloppy contraction never seemed useful or helpful except when I needed to avoid it.
Ms. Stout was a funny woman with large blue eyes and dark black hair. That classroom in New Jersey was just a partition off a larger common walkway, and yet I remember Ms. Stout vividly talking of essays and meaning and words. Every word conveyed meaning, she had said. Make every word count and make every word effective.
I made a B in her class and ended up in the regular class the next year.
Funny, when I started in college, diagraming sentences and learning about transformational grammar, I thought of Ms. Stout. The foundations of my grammar probably started earlier, but Ms. Stout solidified some of the excitement and passion for what I learned.
Then, I read tons of Chomsky and Pinker, and I don’t know if I agree with everything that Ms. Stout taught us as a straight rule. I think I learned that grammar is communication and understanding, not just rules and formulation.
But I learned some rules and formulation to understand the expectation and parameters around us is extraordinarily good. The more we understand about language and its patterns and its deviations and its transformations the more we can communicate more effectively.
Or so we think.
Or so I have thought.
Monday, September 5, 2022
As many of you remember (or perhaps you don't as it has been so long since last I posted), I am not made of the same stuff as the younger generations. The stardust and quantum energies that coalesced to form the haunted and ruinous temple that is me are older and more basic than those of the generations that have since been born. Were I to make a real world comparison, I would liken myself to a rotary phone with a ten foot spiral cord that was ever getting tangled to an iPhone 13.
Evidence of this sad little truth lies in an incident that occurred some months back when I made a trip to Starbucks. Now, I would like to point out that I do not drink coffee. Coffee and I do not play well together, digestively speaking. However, I do love the smell of coffee and I have tried to drink it on many occasions, but the resulting reactions are unpleasant for myself and everyone around me.
As such, I drink tea. Starbucks is not known for tea.
My family, you see, they drink coffee. They enjoy the fanciful concoctions with names that sound as if they belong in one of my novels. Chocolate flavored coffee or those with flavored creamers seem to delight them the most. And I, being the considerate patriarch, decided one day that I would stop by one of the local Starbucks on my way home just to surprise them with something they enjoyed. I was feeling very proud of myself as I turned into the drive thru lane. I mean, there did seem to be an inordinate number of cars, but it was a Friday just after rush hour so I was still feeling confident in my generosity.
The universe had other ideas.
My turn was soon approaching and I had come within site of the menu board. This is where I should have realized that I was in over my head. Still, undaunted, I stalked the listings like a Hanna Barbera lion in search of my prey. To my compounding confusion, I fond things such as: Cappuccino( I have heard of these from TV and movies), Honey almond milk flat white (ummmm...), Cinnamon Dolce Latte (Sounds...fancy?), Macchiatos (WTF?), Mocha (Chocolate-ish?), Clover Brewed coffees, and these are just the "hot coffee" items!
Steady on, lad. You can do this.
Right then, it's nearly my turn though the person in front of me seems to be ordering for all of the city and the surrounding counties. More time to decipher these hipster (do people still say that?) runes. Hmmm...mocha. I've heard the wife say that before for...ice cream, maybe? No, something to do with desserts. It means coffee flavored chocolate? Well, I suppose it would be the reverse here. Mocha it is then.
The surburban-elite-land yacht finally pulled forward taking the far too tight turn like hippopotamus in a sluice. I slunk forward like the coffee Philistine that i am and prepared to order. The speaker crackled on a woman asked me what I would like to order.
"Two mochas, please" I answered.
"Which kind would you like?" she asked in return.
Which kind? There' s more than one? Bother.
I hurriedly look at the menu trying to see what I had missed. There were really only three options, but my brain latched onto the Frappachino (whatever in God's name that is) menu a glitched. There are at least a dozen varieties of those and so I replied, "Mocha Cookie Crumble."
There was a pause before she replied, "So you want Frappacinos, then?"
Frappaccino? What the hell is that? Oh, bother and damnation! I'm on the wrong menu.
"No, just a mocha please." I said hoping to steer the conversation back to where i thought it should be.
"Sir, which kind would you like?"
At this point, I could feel the judgement from the professional coffee drinkers in line behind me. Their vexation flew forward and piled itself on top my growing anxiety. Steady on, old bean. You can do this.
"Chocolate Cream, then, please"
Another slightly longer pause before she answered. "So you want a cold brew?"
Cold brew? What...oh, for the love of...wrong damn menu again! Wait, was she laughing?
I could feel the heat rising at the back of my neck and in my cheeks. My ancestors were looking down on me and facepalming in despair at my ineptness. But then just as I was to pull out of the line in shame, I found the right part of the menu.
"Ah, ha!" I exclaimed. "Two reserve mochas, please"
There was definitely laughter in the ranks when she answered. "What size would you like? Tall, Venti, or Grande?"
Venti? Grande? I haven't studied Latin in 25 years. What the ever loving f....
At this point, one of the cars behind me honked its horn followed shortly by another.
Frustrated and in a panic, I replied, "Look, I don't know the words to tell you that I want the chocolate flavored coffee in the large cup!"
There was a longish pause after that before the speaker came on again. Laughter tumbled out in digital buckets. She tried to reply but had to cut off her mic. I didn't wait for her to answer. I just pulled forward to the window and then handed my card to the person at the till. I didn't look at them save for a brief moment when they handed me the drinks. I believe I saw pity in her eyes, but I didn't linger long enough to find out for certain.
I am told that I did indeed get the right coffee drinks, though I think my family may have taken pity on the old man and told me what I wanted to hear. I have not returned to that Starbucks or any other as I am certain the tale of tragically unhip old lion has been spread far and wide.