can hurt the torso
done too much
as the seasons turn
so do we
all we had were some restaurant matches,
rubber bands, and a candlestick
scattered there in the kitchen drawer,
with batteries and some ink-free pens --
the careless riches that marked our wealth
at the heart of our sunrise estate.
all we had were some boy scout patches,
some off-brands, a quick cure for sick,
pattern tiles on the kitchen floor,
and holiday cards from family and friends:
for nights we were rocking, for days of health,
with that broken lock on the gate.
but there is no light that memory casts
that cures all the aches, all the sorrows and fasts
of a time of much, but with little to trade
to put poverty into retrograde
all we had were some joys in snatches,
band-aids and cream for each new pinprick,
some stubbed down pencils with which to keep score
of our very few dollars and even less sense
that lives just get smaller when lived by stealth
and that, too, applies to the great
each day, a little older; each end, a crossing over
The picture above is of a rock bridge in a park nearby where I used to take my kids, and I now occasionally take my grandkids. Bridges fascinate me, in all their varieties.
If you’ve ever tried to build a bridge out of Legos, you realize pretty quickly that bridges constructed in that manner do not want to stand up, they want to collapse. The amount of engineering that goes into bridges that last hundreds of years has always been remarkable.
Stone bridges and covered wooden bridges are particularly wonderful. I’ve used probably 100 different bridge photos in these posts over the years.
For much of human history, when you hit a reasonably long, deep, or wide body of water, you’d reached the end of your journey. There was no practical way to go further. Bridges turn “ends” into “new beginnings”. They are natural markers on journeys.
As this is the last of 30 NanoPoblano days for 2023, it is traditional to mark the occasion with expressions of relief, gratitude, regret, and any one of countless other emotions writing and posting more often for a month might bring up. I’m grateful to everyone who reads this blog, and I am equally grateful for the chance to share some of your lives through your blogs this last month.
November 30th can be a river to stop at, or a bridge to keep going. Not sure which I’ll do, but it’s good to know that bridges are an option.
It is a late November evening, and I am off work tomorrow. My wife is in the next room watching a Christmas movie, and I am beginning to unwind after a long day. I am seated at the computer in the study, and I’ve been browsing social media, when I get a direct message.
Oh, hey. Long time no hear. How are you doing?
I am in Pensacola, and I thought I remembered you went to school here
Yeah, I did, many years ago. What brings you there?
A professional conference. There are around a thousand of us here
A thousand librarians. Sounds like a party
Lol. You could say that. I mean, no one else would, but you could
Have you heard from any of the old crew recently?
I actually saw Jean and Charles not too long ago. She’s gotten really healthy recently, which is great
How has she done that?
Diet and exercise
What about you? How are you feeling?
Right now, I’m about three glasses of wine into the evening here in my hotel room, so I am feeling pretty good
Are you staying beachside?
No. I am way up on the north part of bay, where all the trees are. I have a question
Okay, go ahead
Do you ever think about our time together? Do you ever wonder if things could have turned out differently?
Yeah, I have
Why do you think things turned out like they did? Looking back, I’m still not sure
I don’t know, I guess… it just didn’t feel right at the time. When it did for me, it didn’t for you; when it did for you, it didn’t for me, is kind of how I remember it
Yeah, that aligns with my memory
What has you thinking about that now? It has been a LONG time
Wine, I guess. And being where you used to live when we were first dating
Are you still with Oliver?
No. It came down to me not being able to compete with his mom, so I ended it last year
Wow. That can’t have been easy
Nothing about relationships is easy, whether it is ending them or having them. How is your wife doing?
Pretty well. I don’t know if you heard she was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. But things seem better now.
Where is she in her therapy?
At whatever part it is where you watch Hallmark Christmas Movies.
Ah — the anodyne part. Please tell here I said hi and that I hope she’s feeling better
Well, I’m going to get back to drinking and living the fast-paced, glamorous life a traveling librarian
Take care of yourself, friend. It was great to hear from you.
I hate feelings. I realize we couldn’t live life without them, but they are a decided inconvenience.
I had several people direct message me about yesterday’s post, saying (a) it was late; and (b) that I’m wrong in asserting that there is no secret to eternal youth, because there is. After reading and considering all of their carefully reasoned arguments, I can only respond with
… sorry it was late.
in dreams the roads are longer and night and day are one we rustle then like leaves across some distant overrun where sound turns into silence and silence into haze in dreams the roads seem endless just like these latter days
I love sleeping, but I’m not that fond of dreaming. Dreams are unreliable friends; they bring up subjects we’d rather they didn’t, stay too long, and come back at the worst possible times.
Sleep is like getting a massage; dreams are like someone operating a jackhammer just outside your door.
come ride the hillside of barely knowing, come slide along on the nescience; all is so free where the winds are blowing random accessible ignorance. come see vapors that turn to shadows that we can claim to mean "it's our turn" -- come ride the hillside of barely knowing, where we can find, but can never learn
One of the best things about writing poetry is that it doesn’t really have to make sense, at least not in the same way sentences are supposed to. Last time I checked, emotions don’t really make any sense, either; ideally, poetry conveys those nonsensical (or irrational) emotions. It can, of course, do a million other things; and people will have their preferences as to what they like in poetry.
Sometimes, it helps to read online prose discourse as though it were poetry. When you stop trying to make sense of the welter of human emotions, it can make life a lot easier.
And then one can produce their own posts on time. So sorry about yesterday.
Years go by, And words entwine: So we must accept Our own Decline
Acceptance of the limitations that come with aging is not a particularly easy skill to master; however, life tends to leave us with few other choices. One of those few is “raging and storming”, which, while entertaining, has limited value in actually changing anything.
I myself prefer “bitching and moaning”, which is equally useless.
Now we humans love secrets, and we seek them everywhere. Many of us think there is a secret to never getting old, never being in decline, never having to deal with new limitations. And we look for the secret. And we spend hours of time and as much money as we can muster chasing the secret. Which turns out to be a chimera.
Chasing after impossible to achieve things is a bit of a hobby with me. And I hear it is good to have hobbies as you age. So learning to accept aging by refusing to accept aging seems to be my current path.
Well, it isn’t the last self-contradictory cycle I’ll find myself in, I’m sure.
joy breeds habits; habits, addictions -- there I am
I do not drink alcohol. I more than make it up on soft drinks.
I loved them from the first time I tasted one. I basically like them all. Even though I pretty much stick to the diet versions, these days, I like basically every brand. I do heavily favor ones with caffeine, however.
I don’t drink coffee, either. Or milk. I drink fruit juice maybe twice a year.
I will, however, drink tea. I like tea equally well, but, unlike soft drinks, there is a lot of tea sold out there I do not like. The kind I like is more trouble to buy (and more expensive) — or more trouble to make, which I just don’t ever do. So I end up drinking either soft drinks, energy drinks (which to me are just extra-caffeinated soft drinks) or water.
Water comes in a distant third. I of course know it ought to be a distant first.
In wondering why it is I knowingly do something that I am aware is suboptimal, healthwise, I find myself going through a series of excuses. But at the bottom of all of those is “because I want to”.
That I am addicted to caffeine is evident. I have gotten off it (for as long as 18 months, as an older adult) and the transition period was not particularly fun. At that time, I used heavy exercise to get my heart going fast enough to duplicate the effects of caffeine in my body; which would be much more difficult to do at the age I am now.
Difficult, but not impossible.
I’ve seldom been able to use the positive aspects of my personality (like willpower) to make positive changes in my life; as it turns out, the negative aspects of my personality (like being a creature of habit) have been much more useful in achieving healthier results. So I would have to make a habit out of water consumption and avoiding caffeine, just as I did 12 years ago.
But I don’t know that I will. I mean, I also ought to eat healthier, exercise more, find more constructive ways to deal with stress, be more understanding of my fellow human beings, do more for others, care less what other people think, and finish a book once in a while.
I don’t know that I will effectively do any of those things, either.
The term “wrong” is used ambiguously in everyday conversation; for that reason, people equivocate between the wrong of ingesting too much caffeine and the wrong of (say) stealing. In between those might be any number of other “wrongs” that turn out to either be a big deal, or not, depending on one’s perspective.
Just as a trivial example, I know a guy who screams online daily about the immorality of certain NCAA football rule violations, but who has no problem parking in handicapped parking spots he isn’t entitled to. He definitely thinks the former of those two things is a bigger deal than the latter; I might think the opposite. From such sources do many of the ongoing disputes of humanity arise, although, not in this case, as I have never brought the subject up with him — nor do I plan to.
I do not feel like I am in any position to deal in moral judgments; I am too flawed. I tend to fall back on what I will call “effective judgments”, which don’t deal as much with good/bad dichotomies as better/worse ones.
Like, it would be better to have a purpose to these essays than not. But having one doesn’t make the essay “good”, just better.
Better than what, I’ll leave up to you.
in memory, you're still alive, and I'm still young, and we're still free; in recollections deep and high, there's still a you to be with me along the shore, beside the sea, it's not a veil, it's verity -- there's summer actuality, in memory, in memory
The photo affixed to the top of this post is upside down. It gives it an odd, unsettling quality, I think.
It took me a minute to figure out what was wrong with it. I flipped the photo, and it suddenly just looks like an ordinary photo. But I show it here the way the photographer intended.
Much of what we present to the world or are presented with, daily, is upside down. We may realize that something seems off with it, but can’t put our finger on what it is.
I think this sort of “upside-downness” characterizes most of my own memories. That’s because a bare recording of the facts or events changes almost completely when perspective is skewed, and mine pretty much always was, and is.
I realize, looking back, that my ability to understand why other people behaved as they did was severely limited at the time, and is scarcely better now. I might think today, that my parents did things with us like take us to the beach because they loved us. At the time, I just thought, “well, this is a things that’s happening” — if I thought anything at all.
The fact that memories are upside down doesn’t make them inaccurate. It just means others need to take care in using them, because they may not be what they appear at first.
when you become a piece of furniture, the known, predictable is your full mark; your loved ones all can say what you'll say next, as personhood, itself, flees out the door to then be chased by you, along with dreams of other feelings -- other thirsts and dares -- to where you are not patronized or viewed as something boring and ridiculous but rather as a lover, or a friend, or as a mystery, something alive; not static, in a warehouse in the dark, someone no longer seen, but simply there
She didn’t know why he had left her, but I did. She criticized him constantly, carped at him, belittled him.
On the odd occasions he would fight back, she would say he was insecure. “Insecure” is a word used by people to dismiss other people’s feelings.
Having said that I understood why he left, it was harder watching the choices he made afterwards. He was with a series of women who used him for his money, and he said he was okay with that. “At least these relationships are honest. No one would ever want me for me, no one ever has, so… they get what they want, I get what I want, it’s all good.”
But it is not all good. Do you think the woman you’re with now would stay by you if you were sick?
Why do you think you are unlovable?
Ask my ex-wife. I gave her the best I had, and you see where that got me.
Yeah, she treated you like a piece of furniture. But that was her, not you.
Yeah, well, you’re married to one of the three good women in the world, so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.
Oh, I understand. I was married before, remember?
Look, I know you don’t believe what I’m about to say, but: almost nobody really loves anybody. Romantically, that is. People love their kids; people love their dogs. But partners? That’s all just biology, and once it wears off, there is nothing but residual dislike left over.
Yeah, you’re right, I don’t believe what you just said.