Author Archives: ccorleyjd365

A box filled with memories

Here is the wreath which my sister Joyce made from the grapevines in Mother’s back yard, the year that Mom succumbed to cancer.  Dad hacked down the plants as summer waned.  I wept, but Joyce charged outside and salvaged what she could.  I thought I had lost the wreath in the many moves; the mad house-cleaning before each marriage; the weary packing as love died; the wild dash to cram everything in boxes before the house sale.  The bow hangs a little crooked and I’ve had to replace the garland.  But it’s still in good shape.  Hard to believe, after 34 years.

The writing on my wooden star has faded and there’s something in my eye so I can’t quite focus the camera.  I think Grandmother Corley had this ornament made for me.  My brother Frank has one, too; but none of the other kids.  We hung them last, right before the tinsel, because they were special.  We stood in the darkened living room watching the tree lights shimmer and waiting for signs of snow.  Mother always made sure we had plenty of presents, even in the years when we barely had food.  I remember once how she fell to the kitchen floor and wept in a puddle of milk and shards from the shattered bottle.  I don’t know how she did it.  She was my hero.

When I told my friends that I was going to have a child, they called me crazy.  Somebody — I won’t say who — said I should give him to a real family, with a father and a mother and a suburban house near a good school.  I turned away and hugged my growing belly.  I would love him all I could, as long as I could, with every ounce of faith that I could muster.  I look back on those early days and wonder what I was thinking.  How could I make such a monumental mistake as to think that I had something to offer a helpless infant?  But I did do one thing right.  I found a village, and I raised him there. A cluster of people who leaned into our little house when I couldn’t muster the energy to do what needed to be done.  And once more my sister Joyce came to the rescue, giving him dinosaur sheets, and Batman pajamas, and Baby’s First Everything.  I touch the little angel which hung from our first Christmas tree in that funny apartment in Fayetteville.  I knew nothing of child-rearing.   But I never looked back, I never regretted my decision.  With a heart full of unreasonable hope, I reached for his impossibly small hand and wished on the evening star that Santa would find him wherever he roamed.

I kept a small selection of ornaments from home when I moved.  I sent some to my son in Chicago.  I’m not sure if he kept them.  Maybe he hasn’t unpacked any of the stuff which I foisted on him after I sold his childhood home and moved to California.  I ran not from him but from the mess I had made of my life.  The price he paid for my two decades of bumbling cannot be measured in gold.   Now I lift the baubles from their tissue and slip them onto the branches of the tiny tree which my son got for me.  He had it delivered to my tiny house just days after I arrived.  I drove to San Francisco to meet him at the airport.  He bugged the park office for any signs of packages.  When the tree finally arrived, we slid it from its box with eager hands.  It took just a few minutes to decorate, to dangle the smallest ornaments from the tree and hang others from the railing.  I had gotten a banjo for him.   I gave it to him that night, two days before Christmas.  He deserved it.  He’s tolerated so much.  He gave me his blessing when I told him what I planned.  The greatest gift.  He trusted me.  He let me leave, despite the fact that some would say that my time had passed.

There isn’t room on the miniature tree for the dove he made  in kindergarten, or the photos of Caitlin and Chris Taggart.  I tack a piece of jute on the wall.  A little heart plays Silent Night, tinny and tender.    I sit and gaze at the tree for a long time.  I close my eyes.  For just a moment, the kiss of winter air seems to touch my cheeks.  But then I realize that tears have begun to fall.

It’s the twelfth day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

A Winter Night

My window-pane is starred with frost,
The world is bitter cold to-night,
The moon is cruel, and the wind
Is like a two-edged sword to smite.
 
God pity all the homeless ones,
The beggars pacing to and fro,
God pity all the poor to-night
Who walk the lamp-lit streets of snow.
 

My room is like a bit of June,
Warm and close-curtained fold on fold,
But somewhere, like a homeless child,
My heart is crying in the cold.

Signs

The crows warn of the coming storm.  I stand on my porch and listen to their cries.  They soar in pairs, or singly, or all of a sudden in a great rush across the meadow.  Branches bend under their weight.  A smattering of leaves floats around me.  I shiver in the rising wind.

The roar fills the air, whistling and rushing.  I cannot see the river but I know its cast against the shore has deepened.  The masts of the boats in the marina sway.  Hulls bump against the dock.  Again a shudder runs through me.  It could be a train that I hear, sounding forlorn and steady through the afternoon air.  But no trains pass this way.  It is, it can only be, the winter wind.

A little critter scurries across my paving stone walk.  A lizard, perhaps; I’ve heard talk of mice in our fields but I have never seen one this close.  I pull the deck chairs closer to the rail and roll the rug against the base of the porch.  I lean the umbrella against the house. I have no storage for the trappings of summer.  My feeble efforts mean little when the Delta gale blows, but I can do no more.

Clouds gather across the sun.  The wide expanse of blue fades to grey.  I go into the house and think about a cup of tea.   Night draws near.  I gather my sweater around my shoulders and close the door.

It’s the fifth day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

There’s a Certain Slant of Light by Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

 

Friends:  While I certainly intend to continue on my #journeytojoy, and my quest to attain #MyYearWithoutComplaining, this blog nears the end of its sixth year.  I feel that it will soon morph into some new iteration.  Please be patient if the entries become more sporadic, more intense, or — God forbid — more maudlin.  My thanks to each person who reads:  for their loyalty, or, in the least, for their time.   Your comments, your caring, your concern, and your sharing make any effort involved in the creation of this blog completely worthwhile.  Thank you. 

Happy Holidays.  Be well, be joyful, be at peace.

F everyone’s I: The photos in this gallery were shot, as you see them (unretouched, unmanipulated, unedited) with my trusty but quite rudimentary Canon Powershot while standing on the porch of Angel’s Haven at Park Delta Bay, in the California Delta, Isleton, California, on 06 December 2019.

Marking time

The crows have returned.  I heard them first through an open window yesterday morning.  The determined caws sounded across the meadow, call and return.  I paused in my morning ablutions and thought, Two years since I first heard that winter cry.

As I left my house, a clutch of them rose from the roadway, arcing away over the field.  Soon the snow geese will descend into that space which will be flooded for the safe harbor of these perennial visitors.  We slow down  to marvel, raising our lenses for the chance of a perfect shot.  The geese lift as one each morning to roam far in search of food, gracefully returning  in the dying light of the setting sun.

I come and go as they do.  I understand the pattern of country life.  I can most easily drive the levee roads after the sun clears the horizon.  I scurry home before the dimness fades and I can no longer discern the treacherous curves of the river bank.  

In this morning’s gloom, I strain to see the outline of the willow tree behind my house.  Grey forms shift.  Long branches sway beneath the weight of the gathered crows.  The owl who nests in the ancient oak gives one last hoot as she settles.  I stretch stiff muscles and peer at the kettle.  Steam rises.  I pour the water over coffee grounds and stand in the kitchen watching it slowly drip into the carafe.  

Two years this month since I brought myself here, to this isolated and wondrous place.

Coffee in hand, I walk over to the radio, press play, and stand at the window listening to the news of this momentous hour.

It’s the fifth day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

‘Tis the season

I  love a good day at the thrift store.  I’ve been engaging in significant self-editing but the stroll through the aisle still affords the twin thrills of hunt and discovery.  Yesterday, a specific purpose drew me to Goodwill.  I needed frames for two pieces of art that I purchased from Delta artists Char Hall and Isabel Dresler. I felt a little shabby buying second-hand frames, since they own a frame shop in Walnut Grove but there you go.  I told them in advance what I intended to do, and they sold me the pieces anyway so I guess I got their permission, however grudgingly offered it secretly might have been.

I fought with the door coming into the store.  Such small efforts often confound me.  Those doors weigh more than I do sometimes.  A departing customer jumped forward to help, then grinned as I thanked him more profusely than perhaps he thought warranted.  But we do so little for each other in the world; I tend to over-compensate to encourage the trend.

I found suitable frames for three dollars each at two different spots in the sizable Art, Frame, and Mirror section.  I moved through Clothing, of which I need none.  I happened upon a respectable pair of slacks for three dollars on the color-of-the-day fifty-percent off sale.  An orange silk dress tempted me for two or three minutes.  It stayed in my cart until I saw a bag that I couldn’t resist.  I know, I know; I have a bag problem.  But this one seemed special and for $5.99, certainly made the cut.  (I found out later how special it was:  Original retail price, $398.00 at Nenaandco.com.) 

At the counter, the lady asked if I wanted to round up the 23 cents to the nearest dollar.  I told  her, round to the next ten, and she said, but that would be a dollar twenty-three donation.  I nodded.  The gratitude which she expressed rivaled what I had given the guy at the door.  Just desserts in reverse.  I turned to exit, my purchases nestled in the large, flexible basket that I bought for winter boot storage (five bucks) in the cart which I had permission to take from the store (on condition of return to the sidewalk).

I smiled at the tiny woman with her mound of children’s clothes paying at the register next to me.  We had crossed paths several times, excusing ourselves to pass in the narrow aisles.  She wore a wool sweater similar to one which I had years ago, by the ethereal brand Sleeping on Snow.  I couldn’t get beyond her because another customer straddled the narrow passage with her cart while she whisked through a rack of blouses.  Excuse me, I said, probably too low to be easily heard over the Christian Christmas music playing on its endless loop.

Her rapid progress through the merchandise continued unabated.  I tried a louder tone.  Still no response.  The lady in the Sleeping on Snow sweater leaned forward and tapped the other woman on the arm, garnering a swift and angry reaction.  A conversation ensued in a language which I could not understand.  I got the point though:  Conciliatory on the one side, accusatory on the other.  My savior gestured in my direction but the other lady just continued to blast her for the gentle tap.  I leaned forward and said, again, excuse me, adding, I just need to get out of the store.  She didn’t turn her head.  She just kept yelling at the little lady while the cashiers began to congregate and murmur.

Eventually, my champion gathered allies in whatever language they all spoke.  I started to look for alternate routes.  I began to turn my cart around, but the group cajoled me, No, no, come forward, here, let me help, by which time, it became obvious to the lady whose cart blocked mine what they were trying to do.  She adjusted her own cart minutely, and, eventually, I escaped.  I just kept muttering over and over, thank you, I’m sorry, thank you, so sorry, until I got to my car.

Later, at Sprouts, I put a bag of donated food in my cart.  As I paid, the clerk expressed appreciation for my gift.  She transferred the pre-packaged items into a large bin, and bagged my other purchases.  I stood for a while studying all of the food being donated by Sprouts customers.  A memory surfaced.  My brothers and I came home from school one day to find a box of food on our door step.  We dragged it into the living room and called my mother at work.  When she got home, she took the items out one by one, stacking them on the counter.  She stood, silent, shaking her head.  Then she put the food away and started making dinner, as darkness gathered outside our home, in the cold of a Midwest winter night.

It’s the first day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Click HERE for Feeding America to donate or find a food bank near you.  

Happy Holidays.  Be safe. Be warm. Be joyful.

 

An Ode / Litany for a winter evening.

Tonight I sing an ode to forgiveness.

I started with myself, but that proved tricky. I skidded from my reflection in the dusty mirror to memories as long ago and far away as any.

I squatted in a driveway staring at a heart-shaped rock embedded in the concrete. My sister said, “I call that ‘Pretty Rock’ and I claim it.” She gestured to a dull, misshapen splinter on the cracked edge of the gutter. “You can have that one.” We sprawled on the ground, contemplating our treasures, the pretty rock and its ugly sister. A dull ache rose in my breast. I did not understand my longing.

In the hallway late at night, my father swayed from side to side. A stink rose from his body. My mother huddled at the kitchen sink. Someone sobbed at the rear of the house, a jagged wretched noise. My father spoke my name.  I covered my ears with my small hands.

Tonight I sing an ode to forgiveness. While turkeys rest on sideboards all across America, I sit and listen to the owl’s intermittent call. The wind has calmed. Gentle rain barely grazes the ripples of my metal roof and drips on the sodden masses of leaves piled beyond my door.

Earlier this week, a memory rose to stifle a carefree moment between chores. This wicked vision does not wear a label but I know it: An endless annoyance, caused by someone else’s choice, with which I will eternally struggle. Some would call it just desserts. Truth hurts. I swallowed my bitter pill and stared at my reflection in the window, at sorrow lingering behind the grey-blue tint of my Irish eyes. I wondered whose burden would be eased if I bear mine with silent nobility. I might as well; it won’t be leaving soon.

I don’t know what happened to my workbook on nonviolent communication. I seem to recall a paragraph or two about forgiveness. I don’t think Dr. Rosenberg required that we forgive, nor that we apologize. His theories hung together with deft precision when he explained them but I’ve lost the sense of them.  I had better watch the tapes again.

A yellow-brick road stretches six decades behind me. Each square holds someone disappointed by my choices. I rejected a request made of me. I tendered one which someone resented having to honor. Their faces linger on faded Polaroids which line the squalid room where my spirit huddles.  I pry the thumbtacks from the torn corners and hold each one to the feeble light. I study the rigid lines of their mouths.

I should burn the lot, but a hint of affection lurks in those frozen eyes. I yearn for just a drop.

Tonight I sing an ode to forgiveness, a litany for the season, a ballad for those who march toward the something better which they hold the universe to providing. I stand at the checkpoint with cold bottles of water and fresh towels for their fevered brows. I watch them stagger past. I cheer them forward.

I name the runners: You – I shall call you, “Enough.” Over there, your name will be, “Accepted”. Coming behind these two, “Chosen” and “Wanted”.  I christen them all. I open my velvet bag of advanced vocabulary words and spill the best of them: Golden. Glory. Sensation. Above. Beyond. Complete. They slap my palm as they scurry by. They grin; they laugh; they raise their fists towards the flood of light and fall into the finish line.

Tonight I sing an ode to forgiveness, to deep breaths, and second chances, and the liquid gold dripped into the shards of porcelain to heal the shattered goblet. I wonder, over and over and over and over, if the lashes across my narrow back will ever be enough to even the score.  What price must I pay for what I’ve done, or failed to do?

On a long scroll of parchment, I pen the name of each person who raised the whip and brought it crashing on my tender flesh.  At the bottom, I scribble a prayer. I light the match. I watch the smoke rise to the heavens. The ashes fall away.   I forgive you.

And the owl hoots. And the wind blows. And the rain seeps into the ground, reaching for the tender roots which lie beneath the winter grunge.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the seventy-first month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.

 

 

And there will come soft rains

I owned an Anne Klein raincoat when I walked into the Goodwill last month and saw this beautiful London Fog, new with tags, on 75% of 50% sale, blue tag color of the day.  Four bucks.  How could I resist?  My size, 4P, and a lovely plum with a hood.  I saw no reason to walk past.  I draped it across the cart and called it mine.

We like rain in Northern California.  After a decade of drought, even we newcomers crane our necks for the sight of clouds.  Is that smoke?  Fog? Or could it be. . . a gathering storm?  We dance to the staccato beat on the roof and laugh as we dash to the car.  Winter settles over the Delta, chilly, and bold, and wild.  It’s raining, and we couldn’t be more pleased.

Derek and Kelly came back from Montana and the community dinner attendance skyrocketed.  Someone made mac and cheese.  Two people brought salad.  Derek and Kelly handed around bottles of home-made cider and beer made from hops that they grew on their family’s farm.  Pool cues came out; wine corks eased from bottles; and Louis, who comes from France, brought three varieties of Madeleines — chocolate chip, vanilla, and Nutella.  I sat at the end of the table next to Jessie’s grandma and asked everybody what they are “thankful for”.  Family, friends, community, jobs, safe travels.  We ticked the bounties one by one, all smiles and wide grins.

I liked Helix’s thankful-for best.  “I’m thankful for my human experience,” he said.  He talked about self-acceptance, and finding meaning, and his journey.  The room fell silent.  The mood shifted, to a quiet sense of calm.  

Then the rain began in earnest, drumming on the solar panels above us.

A few minutes later,  one of my neighbors walked me out to the car and I drove around to tiny house row.  I opened my mother-in-law’s flowered umbrella  and dashed to my porch.  In the house, I slipped from my coat, perfectly dry, perfectly warm, and perfectly ready for rest.

 

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the seventy-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

 

“There Will Come Soft Rains”, by Sara Teasdale

 

 

Lost in San Francisco

The girl at the counter says, Can I help you? and pulls her sweater sleeves down over her hands.  I shift my computer bag and ask why the cafe has not yet opened.  She shrugs and laughs, and then says, breakfast is downstairs today.   Her accent tells me that she comes from France and I think about my neighbor Louis.

I know from experience that the stairs to the downstairs kitchen pose too great a risk, but the ADA kitchen has no coffee pot.  I ask if there is somewhere else to get coffee.  The girl shrugs again.  I wonder if she does not understand me.  I tell her that I want to make coffee in the ADA kitchen and she suggests that I boil water.  I ask, is there a coffee pot or a drip cone that I can use? and she says, We just boil water, and I know that she and I have reached the end of our ability to communicate.

The clerk next to her mutters something.  The French girl says, “Oh, I see,” but not in my direction.  They confer as I edge toward the exit, then the girl says, I can go downstairs and get you a cup of coffee.

I shouldn’t have bothered.  The coffee she brings is clearly instant, almost cold, and in a thin paper cup which bends when she hands it to me.  But I smile and thank her.  She goes back to pulling at her sweater and I move outside.

The city spans before me, wide and silent.  I watch a tanker glide through the bay, straining to see if I can catch a photograph.  I think about the ships which we see in the San Joaquin, not as close but probably smaller than these.  A man whom I know here says that the ones which come upriver to Stockton don’t spend much time on the sea.  But still, they form a link in an endless chain of commerce which connects my every day life to this city by the Pacific.  The tanker moves out of sight and I wonder what she carries, and where she will empty her hold.

I spend the day with my friend Joyce and her wife Jane, in their amazing house on one of the iconic hills of San Francisco. I move through their rooms, awed by Jane’s astounding art. I stand on their balcony and try in vain to capture the stunning skyline with my little Canon.  I want to drag a cot outside and stay there forever.

Later I meet Kimberley for coffee.  We’ve both moved to Northern California from Missouri.  We love it here, but we acknowledge, if only to each other, that we’ve struggled to adjust.  We watch a gaggle of nearly identical thin girls primly sitting on a bench in the chocolate shop.  Kimberley hands me a cookie and I take an extra large bite.

In the evening, I sit in the cafe at the hostel with a hummus sandwich, a bag of chips, and a tiny bottle of Pellegrino.  The intermittent bleat of a fog horn reminds me that nothing stops at sea even after sunset.  Voices drift around me — laughter, bits of song, teasing, and earnest debate in several languages.    I’m the oldest person in the cafe by thirty years.  Most of the people my age whom I see at this hostel keep to themselves, in their dorm or tucked into a corner of the common room by the fire.  Here in the cafe, the twenty-somethings gather.  When my walking stick clatters to the floor, several of them scramble to help and I realize, it’s time to make myself scarce.

On Sunday, I ease out to the car with my bags bumping against my legs. My friend Sally texts to see if I want to meet her in Martinez for church, something in which I’ve expressed interest a time or two.  I think about it for a few minutes.  I’d like to see Sally, but that’s no reason to impose on an entire congregation of people who will mistakenly think that I share their beliefs.  I don’t want to mock them.  I text back my gratitude and tell her that I’ll see her another time.  I find a restaurant on Union Street and order eggs, a potato pancake, and black coffee.  An hour later, I head for home, the cityscape at my back, and the wide expanse of the San Pablo Bay alongside me.  

I pull into the park before noon, and lift my hand as I pass the kiosk.  Everyone whom I see waves.  When I finally stop, I’m in front of my tiny house, which looks exactly as I left it except for the pile of oak leaves shimmering in the midday sun on the deck.

It’s the twenty-fourth day of the seventy-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

This moment

The Delta wind danced through the meadow today, leaving a fine silt across everything in my writing loft.  The china angels hold out their hands in prayer.  Their eternally reverent eyes offer only a hint of reproach.  I left the window open last night.  

The park in which I live continues to repair and update its water system.  Outages have leveled out.  The water sputters to a halt at 9:00 p.m. and restarts at six in the morning.  When I got home from work tonight and tested the taps, I grabbed my phone and sent a message up and down the tiny house row:  Water!  Noah texted back a grand hooray!  I guess I should take a shower, he chortled, followed by a goofy emoticon.  You never saw a bunch of grown-ups happier about anything so mundane.

I’ve never been one for drinking city water and I don’t do it here.  Liter bottles already adorned a shelf in my kitchen.  Now I have gallon jugs, too; courtesy of the park and ready for dishes or a quick tooth-scrub.  I plan my days around the water cut-off schedule.  We only have to endure this for another week and I intend to make it without cracking.  I have a friend with a shower in town which helps.  I shan’t complain.  The upgrades will improve our lives.

This episode has got me ruminating over the parts of the world that scramble for clean water every day.  While I’m shuffling two dollar bottles of the fancy stuff, hundreds of thousands of children have no access to any clean water.  Illness, lack of hygiene, social exclusion, and crippling dehydration plague  nations where the poor must walk an hour from their village to fill jugs or bathe.  I stop at the grocery store on the way home from work and a pleasant teenager carries my plastic containers to the car.

Nine o’clock passes and the pipes fall silent.   I fretted for the first few days, but I’m used to the rhythm now; and the end of this mild inconvenience draws near.  I’ll be in the city this weekend, where the endlessness of the Pacific stands as an eternal reminder of my bountiful existence.  I feel lucky.  How could I not?  My belly rumbles with the fullness of dinner.  The dishes dry in the drain basket.  Food chills in the fridge just steps from the kettle and packets of my favorite tea.  On the counter, carafes await the merest suggestion of thirst.   The wind has calmed and the dust in the air has settled in the stillness of my tiny house.  In this moment, I want for nothing.

It’s the twentieth day of the seventy-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

Memory Lane

I tell a little story about my son as a small child. My friend Sally asks, Have you ever written about that? and I say, “Oh, sure, probably, my son says everything I write is about him in one way or another.”  Then we fall silent.

Later I see something on social media about pumpkin carving well after Halloween and I remember an Easter card that I helped my mother make years ago. 

We sorted through a box of photographs developed at the drug store.  She couldn’t find just what she wanted.  She rejected snap after snap — blooming tulips, lush trees, the grassy stretch of ground at the side of the yard where the forsythia grew.  I thought they were lovely photos, each of them.  

I found a few taken on Easter in the prior year.  We kids at church, the girls wearing new dresses and hats; the boys in white-collared shirts and short ties.  Mother shook her head.  I rummaged a bit more and found a group shot of the four younger kids proudly holding their Easter baskets on the front lawn.  Me in my cat glasses and Mark with his coke-bottle lenses perhaps looking a bit goofy, but all of us with wide smiles.  Steve had chocolate smeared on his shirt.  Frank showed a gap-tooth grin.  

Maybe, was all my mother said.  We kept looking.

She unearthed what she wanted from the bottom of the third dusty box.  She held it carefully, by the edge.  Find the negative, would you please, Mary? she instructed.  I studied her pick and began opening the little envelopes until I had the right strip.  She wore her own smile now, sweet, satisfied.  She told me that she’d be back, she had to run the photo to the store for duplicating.

A week or so later, we sat together again at the table in the breakfast room.  We folded thick paper in half, glued a copy of the photo to the front, and wrote the message inside.  Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything!  I signed it, “Richard and Lucille Corley, and children”.  We hand-addressed each envelope from her spiral-bound book.  I carefully copied every name, every address, and on the back wrote, “The Corleys, 8416 McLaran Avenue, Jennings, Missouri 63136”.

My mother said, Do you like the picture?  I studied the photo of my two little brothers with their hands in a pumpkin, pulling the guts out of it, waving them around, surrounded by the newsprint which my mother had laid to protect the table.  It’s perfect, Mom, I told her.  

In the maze of terribleness which flowed like lava through that two-bedroom house in St. Louis County, the joy so often got lost.  I wonder now, as a few of these sweet memories rise to the surface of my aging brain, whether my son feels the same way about his childhood.  I recall one of my favorite lines from “A Thousand Clowns”.  The main character, a bachelor who has inherited his nephew to raise, sighs and remarks to a visiting social worker that he doesn’t know whether he’s doing a good job or not.  My only hope, he admits, is that he will speak well of me in therapy some day.

It’s the eighteenth day of the seventy-first month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

 

 

Aspirations

In high school we had to identify a life-goal for our senior profile in the yearbook.  Most of my classmates gave a glib or silly answer, but I spoke with unyielding honesty.  I wanted to have a poem published in the New Yorker.

I write fairly awful poetry.  I’ve had three published as companion pieces, forty years ago in the long-defunct Eads Bridge.  They might be the only decent verses that I’ve ever written.  Still, I kept trying.  The flow of words captivates me.  They trickle over stones, spring waters running through my winter-weary mind.

I’ve memorized three or four poems in my life.  “Jenny Kissed Me”, by Leigh Hunt.  “Fire and Ice”,  by Robert Frost.  The last few lines of “And There Will Come Soft Rains”, by my favorite poet and fellow St. Louisan, Sara Teasdale.

And, “The Eagle”, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

At times in my life, I have also wanted to be a photographer.  I hold fewer illusions in that regard.  I do not claim to be adept at the technical aspects of camera-work.  I shoot on automatic, and only for purposes of recording my world and illustrating what I write.

This afternoon, I chanced to glance out of my window and see a bird high above our meadow.  I could not stop myself.  With the lyrical Tennyson lines rolling over themselves in my mind, I grabbed my camera and scooted onto the porch.

My friend Sally asked me yesterday if life’s vagaries had slowed the pace of entries here.  I contemplated her words, but then, found myself telling the truth.  This blog might have run its course.  It could be evolving.  I cannot say.  This much remains true:  Writing compels me.  My words might not dance over the smooth stones of a river’s bed, but they tumble to the keyboard as swiftly and as relentlessly from my hands as from the pen of any poet.

It’s evening, on the seventeenth day, of the seventy-first month since I began this endless year, in which I strive not to complain.  From the California Delta, my corner of paradise, I exhort you:  Take up your camera, your computer, your brush, your song, your courage.  Do not let go of  that which you grasp until whatever you long to do consumes each waking hour and sends you tired but content into the night.

Life continues.

The Eagle
BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

I can’t say for certain that this is an eagle.  More likely, it is a hawk.  Taken with a simple Canon PowerShot SX530HS on full zoom mode, sitting on my porch across the meadow.

With special thanks:

To Sally Kerchner for her mad listening skills;

And to Genevieve Casey, for encouraging me to value myself.