Stories, and Essays, and Prose (Oh My)

30 Days of writing prose, day 30.

I made it.

{Whew.}

I’ve written both stories and essays during this last 4 weeks and 2 days. I go to the gym many mornings, and while I’m there, ideas for poems start lining up in my head, but I’ve had to push them aside.

Not, now. Be patient. I’m going to need all of you pretty soon.

My favorite essayist, in terms of the amount of time I spent reading his essays, was the famed science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov. In his essays, he wrote mostly on actual scientific subjects, but he also wrote on a wide variety of other topics, and I always found him engaging, informative, and entertaining. He also made writing essays look easy.

It is not easy, for the record.

In the world of short stories, I’m not sure who my favorite practitioner has been; it may very well be Sherwood Anderson, since both the Winesburg, Ohio collection and the short stories in Death In The Woods and Other Stories are among the most memorable ones I ever read. I don’t know that people read Sherwood Anderson much anymore, but he was brilliant, in my view.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was another author whose short stories I really liked; I can’t figure out if people really read him these days (other than Gatsby) or just make up quotes and attribute them to him. “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”, “The Ice Palace”, and “The Diamond as Big As The Ritz” being the most memorable of his stories to me, but several others also standing out in my memory.

My life being what it is, reading time is hard to come by. In recent years, except for reading books written by fellow bloggers*, I am much more likely to use Audiobooks. But I have bought some books of essays and short stories there, so I am continuing to explore new (to me) authors, albeit slowly.

I have thought, now that I am going back to poetry, about doing some spoken word poetry, but I despise the sound of my own voice.

Truly. Despise.

But, starting tomorrow, it’s back to poetry for me.

Thank heaven.


* Like this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one

Listen

Listen.

Hear the ocean breathing.

Sync your own breathing up to it.

This is what it is to be alive. What comes, goes; what comes into being, passes away. Life is ebb, then flow, then ebb again.

All life. Yours and mine, and everyone else’s.

Time is the ocean we all live in, and time, too, breathes. It’s only our constant scurrying and clamor that keeps us from hearing it. Like crowds on the beach on a summer day, focused on suntan lotion and bodies in swimsuits, we miss out on what we could be hearing, or seeing.

But when you get the chance…

Listen.

Hear time’s breathing, and sync your own breathing up to it, because this is what it is to be alive. There’s ebb, there’s flow, and the quiet person has access to a wisdom that the noisy person never has.

So, listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three and A Half A Strawberries Should Do It

I recently was adding up the number of things I know about food, arriving eventually at the figure “zero”. I am, therefore, a stranger in a strange land when it comes to why cooks do the things they do.

For instance, garnishes mystify me. Why parsley is ever on a plate is beyond my ability to comprehend. I’m also not sure why the chef at the B&B that served us the breakfast pictured above ever ended his internal monologue with, “… and, three and a half a strawberries should do it. Perfect.”

I don’t get it.

I mean, If like I strawberries at all, I want a whole number of them. Using fractional strawberries is just baffling.

Now, SOME of you (and you know who you are) are thinking, “I’ve seen photos of you, Owen. One thing you obviously know about food is WHERE CONSUMABLE FORMS OF IT ARE LOCATED. So, that’s more than zero things.”

That would be fair. I do eat. However, more than one person has told me in real life that I seem to frequently prefer “bad” to “good” food, indicating some sort of negative knowledge on my part. For instance, I might prefer a prepackaged, preservative-laden apple turnover to a freshly baked one. Or the local brand factory-produced potato chips to store-cooked ones that are made onsite.

I am assured, therefore, that while I obviously miss very few meals (and seem to have a few extra ones thrown in there) that my knowledge of the difference in good and bad when it comes to cooking is so faulty as to count against me.

(Notice that I am not even talking about the health-conducive properties of food here, which I also know nothing about, but which the Beautiful One knows a great deal about, as she attempts to steer me around things like apple turnovers and potato chips.)

One of my best and oldest friends has spent his whole life in the food business, as a waiter, chef, manager, general manager, and even restaurant owner, starting all of that in his mid-teens. He loves feeding people, loves the artistry of it. I have enjoyed meals that he has prepared or overseen for 40 years, but I haven’t really learned anything about it.

But I’m glad that there are people, like him, who do know about it. Everything good in this world is kept alive by those who love it enough to learn everything about it they can. Whether it is cooking or music, carpentry or sign painting, the world is a better place for people who DO care.

And who understand that extra half of a strawberry.

 

 

 

 

 

Complimentary Medicine

I read in a book that words of affirmation are a way of showing love. So now I walk around all day aggressively shouting, “OK, SURE, RIGHT!”

People don’t seem to find it all that affectionate.

I think “words of affirmation” are what used to be called compliments. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with compliments. It reminds me of a cheer my old high school cheerleading squad used to do:

WHAT DO YOU WANT?
COMPLIMENTS!
BUT WHO DOESN’T WANT ‘EM?
INTROVERTS!

In the dating world, boys will often attempt to impress girls using either compliments or flattery. Compliments and flattery are similar, as they involve employing the exact same words to convey the exact same praise — only with flattery, the person who said the words didn’t actually mean them, which turns out to be problematic.

In short, compliments are good, flattery is bad, and good luck, girls (or boys), in telling them apart.

I remember when I first tried using a carefully prepared compliment as part of the dating ritual. It was homecoming dance my senior year in high school.

Me (standing at door while beautiful girl in elegant gown comes into view): I… wow. I totally forgot what I had prepared to say.

Her: Now, that’s a compliment.

Sometimes, incompetence works in your favor.

I briefly dated a professional actress while I was in college. She liked compliments, particularly (in defiance of stereotype) giving them. This was an interesting type of role reversal, as I was the one trying to figure out if she really liked me or was just feeding me lines…

… then I suddenly remembered I was shallow and was fine with it either way.

I did eventually get over being shallow. Mostly.

Compliments are often things people wish they’d heard from one or more of their parents. My parents were from the generation that didn’t believe in using compliments. They believed in stockpiling them, you know, in case of nuclear war. There’s a whole collection of unspoken, unused compliments in a cellar somewhere in Florida, I’m pretty sure.

I’m always interested in what people choose to compliment others on. Like, I’ll see kids playing, and four people will tell one of the little girls how pretty she is, and I’ll be thinking, “have you seen how fast her reflexes are? She should be in MMA…”

And so I’ll say so.

Much to her parents horror.

I complimented my nephew recently on how good he was at making everyone feel welcome, right after about fifteen people had complimented him on losing weight. His wife complimented me on what a good job I did making sure kids didn’t get too close to the pool.

Now, THAT’s my kind of compliment. I am basically a sheepdog.

Me, keeping toddlers from falling in a pool.

Compliments are fine when used in moderation, but if you experience dizziness or lack of vision after receiving one, see a doctor immediately.  As you can see above, I frequently have lack of vision, but that’s because of the hair in my eyes.

Oh, and by the way, you are by far my favorite reader. And I’m not just saying that.

 

 

 

 

Pretty Much Impossible

It’s pretty much impossible not to love her.


Ok, sure, she comes behind me and opens blinds I’ve been closing. “There’s still light,” she says.

“That’s starlight.”

“Well. Even so.”

“Dear, that’s — kinda crazy.”

“I am a creature of the light.”

“Ok, then, just… close ‘em before you come to bed.”

“How ‘bout I close YOU before I come to bed.”

“I’m not… I don’t even know what that means…”


“Hey, I’m wearing your glasses. Do I look like you?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see.”

“You know, I read on Thought Catalog that men stop really seeing their wives after six years.”

“Only when their wives steal their glasses. And I didn’t know you read Thought Catalog.”

“Well, I am female. Here, get a picture of me, I look exactly like you…”


“Where in Greece exactly is Pelloponesia?”

“Southwestern, I believe.”

“So, from what I gather, Sparta murdered their infants, and Athens molested their male children. But at least those boys could be philosophical about it.”


What are you watching?”

“It’s a Japanese remake of ‘Gone With The Wind’, I believe.”

“A Japanese remake … wait, what?”

“I mean, I think. I don’t actually have the subtitles on, so I’m not sure.”

“How long have you been watching?”

“Oh, about two hours. There’s a girl who bought a dress. And she keeps dreaming about her grandfather, who used to bring her flowers when she was little. And something about a chess board, and some koi.”

“How is that in any way like ‘Gone With The Wind’?”

“Because I slept through half of that, too.”


It’s pretty much impossible not to love her.

So I do.

What Goes Around…

The photo above just looks weird without meme labels on each of the three people.

I get almost every photo I use on the blog from Dreamstime.com. I ran into this one as part of a kind of series, also including

Turnabout. It’ll get your attention.

 

 

 

For Love of Dancing

For those of you keeping track at home (and if you are not at home, why aren’t you) this is day 20 of my 30 day non-poetry writing challenge. – Owen


For as long as she could, she danced: wherever, whenever. Every day.

She didn’t dance because she was the best at it. She didn’t dance for the attention. She danced for love of dancing, for the pure joy of it.

Long before I met, and fell in love with, and married her, she had this other love. Through the ups and downs of childhood, and adolescence, and a turbulent young adulthood, and a failed first marriage, she had this.

Music made her want to dance. Dance made her free. For real joy always comes both from the outside in, and from the inside out.

She was very good at it, and it did garner her a lot of attention. In addition, she got to the point where she could be paid to do it, and to teach it, so she did both.

While she was still a teen, she had been told she had structural deficiencies in her knees – parts weren’t there that should be – and that she probably ought to give up her more athletic pursuits, as one or the other of her knees could give out at any point.

But given the cause, she reasoned, that was ultimately going to happen anyway. So she danced: wherever, whenever.

When I showed up in her life, she had three daughters, and all of them danced as well. The eldest was slim, graceful, and her body expressed itself naturally in dance: but she loved dancing for the attention more than the feeling, and so ultimately fell away. The middle girl loved the creative aspect of dancing, and dreamed of maybe being a choreographer; but other disciplines offered her the same chance for creativity, and so she too fell away.  The youngest danced only because she wanted her mother to be proud of her, so she fell away the soonest.

We have a niece, though, who has continued to dance and to teach dance for love of dancing. Even with a young family, and a busy career: because not to do so is unthinkable for her.

My wife’s knees eventually got to the point where the kind of dancing she loved was not possible anymore. But we can, and do, dance some at wedding receptions; I also often catch her dancing with one or more of our grandchildren in the living room, as the familiar signs joy on her face have me falling in love with her all over again.

“Dancing”, for you, may be some other thing. It may be riding a bicycle, or running, or playing basketball; it may be writing, or going to the movies, or participating in poetry readings; it may be music, or painting, or drawing, or cooking, or surfing, or blogging — but, whatever it is, cherish your joy. Nourish it. Love it while you have it.

For the lessons of love and joy are the same: they’re born, they grow, they will change, and they will ultimately pass away. Part of life is about wringing every bit out of these experiences while we can, then letting them go when we must.

So dance for as long as you can: whenever, wherever.

Every day.