White Light, Tinted with a Tiny Drop of Red

This morning’s post will be shorter than usual, surely a welcome respite to followers of this blog, people who must tire of regularly reading screeds that lately take on characteristics of a poorly-written nonfiction version of War and Peace.

I have places to be and people to see this morning. A lung-tissue biopsy, followed by a visit to a medical imaging clinic to pick up a disk containing files of recent CT and PET scans. I need the disks to take to my Friday follow-up medical appointment.  As potentially troublesome as those sorts of things can be, I am reasonably confident it’s all just “an abundance of caution.” My confidence was boosted yesterday, when I received a notice of a scheduling change for this Friday’s medical appointment. Instead of a consultation with the surgeon who performed my lung-cancer surgery around Thanksgiving three years ago, I will see the surgeon’s nurse practitioner. I suspect a closer look at the PET scan by the surgeon led him to determine the reasons for concern were far less concerning than originally thought; hence, shuttling me to someone else so he can devote his attention to more pressing and critical matters. Today’s biopsy is still going forward, of course, but unless it reveals a surprise, all will be well. Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m viewing the world through rose-colored glasses (didn’t I just write something about that recently?), but I think not. Although, as I consider it, my joy at finding myself enmeshed in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful woman might tend to make the world look like a friendlier, more loving, and safer place. If that’s what rose-colored glasses look like, I’ll have a few extra pairs, please, to ensure every day is as clear and inviting as the one before.

My girlfriend and I have a bet of sorts. I think the biopsy this morning will be completed and we’ll be out of the hospital by lunchtime. She laughs at my naiveté, suggesting we’ll be lucky to get out of the hospital before it’s time for our next breakfast. I want to treat her to lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant; I hope I win.

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Giddy. That’s how I feel. Like a kid let loose with no restrictions in a candy store. It’s occasionally necessary, for the maintenance of (or return to) good mental health, to return to the joyous freedoms of one’s childhood. I think the world would be a better place if more of us would cast off the solemnity of adulthood with some regularity, trading seriousness for lightness and frivolity. Doing so does not negate the pain of loss or the concerns we all have about world around us. But embracing joy and appreciating simple good luck can make more tolerable those unhappy encounters with a universe that has no stake in keeping us happy. There may be a time when slitting my wrists might seem like the best option, but now is not it. Today is the time for me to be enormously grateful to love and be loved by someone I find absolutely, completely, utterly awesome. Today is a day to be giddy, happy, and glad to be alive.

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If I don’t stop now, I might make this short post a long one. Enough. Off to fight the wars and smile in the process.

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Following the Trail Where My Mind Takes Me

During the past several days—roughly three weeks and change—I have been more addicted than usual to music. Listening to a rich musical pastiche has mined my emotions and, in the process, helped to clarify them. I’ve discovered that tastes in music between people can parallel other intellectual and emotional preferences. Music and dozens of other forms of art—combining sounds and visual images and vivid colors and the buds of emotions that actually have textures like burlap and silk—can extract and put on display the elements of one’s innermost persona. Musical tastes, and perhaps other preferences for types of art, reveal where we have been and who we are. People who share a passion for music, regardless of genre, share a unique passion for life. That’s my opinion, anyway. And I’m glad I’ve documented that I hold it.

Yesterday morning, between moments of intense focus and vaporous mindlessness, I revisited some pieces of music that I used to find both strangely out of synch with sanity and exhilaratingly similar to how I think and feel. Some of that music is a collaboration between an extraordinary guitarist, Leo Kottke, and a bassist and singer, Mike Gordon (a founder of the group Phish). From the moment I heard it, I had to have the album, Clone. I knew Leo Kottke’s music, but was unfamiliar with Mike Gordon. Subsequently, I listened to that music several times a month, but over time, the frequency of my listening declined. Yesterday was probably the first time in a very long while that I’ve listened to that album and to some other of Leo Kottke’s spectacular guitar mastery.

These past few weeks my musical preferences have drifted toward blues and jazz, though I have listened to a lot of contemporary rock, as well as rock music and hybrids I can’t define from my youth. I’ve paid attention to lyrics of some songs listened to as a teenager and young adult; until these last few weeks, I’ve not known the lyrics. It’s like an awakening of sorts; sometimes happy, sometimes not so much.

Last night, I watched parts (the “sessions” recordings) of American Epic, described as “a documentary series about the first recordings of rural music in the U.S.A. and their cultural, social and technological impact on the world.” It was fascinating! The performers who participated in the program included Taj Mahal, Los Lobos, Elton John, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and many others with whom I was unfamiliar until last night. And some I know but who, this morning, I’ve forgotten. The performers showcased talents while being recorded on equipment that was painstakingly recreated; though used extensively to create recordings in the 1920s, none of the original equipment exists today. The project’s collaborators, including director Bernard MacMahon, spent ten years traveling around the country, interviewing family members of the musicians whose sounds originally were recorded on the now-extinct equipment.

I opened this post with an assertion that I’ve been more addicted than usual to music. I think my addiction is to emotion; music is one of the most direct paths toward unearthing emotions, whether fresh and joyous or long-forgotten and best left buried. I’m sure I’ve publicly admitted before my addiction to emotions, if that’s what “it” is. Emotional journeys provide texture for life, whether the grit and pain of profound sadness or the soft smoothness of passionate love. Some day, I will successfully coax myself into writing the autobiography of emotions; I think that would be an incredibly interesting undertaking; one that would force me to reveal the full spectrum (I use that word a lot, but not as often as I use “shard”) of my emotions.

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Love exists at the intersection of caring, compassion, and raw selfishness. I think true love, the kind that can emerge only from a foundation of respect and admiration and appreciation, too often goes unexamined. We fail to explore just what happened to make the seed grow. How was the seed planted? How was it nurtured and made healthy and strong? Maybe, rather than examine it, we allow ourselves to wallow in it, happily absorbing all its delights and dismissing the rest of the world while we experience its extreme comfort and luxury. As pleasurable as that may be, taking it for granted cannot guarantee its survival. We have to constantly explore it and replenish what sustains it. We have to invest energy and emotion and, above all, time in tending it. That’s my take on love this morning. I love to love.

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While I can drink many different kinds of coffee (unflavored, please), I am rather persnickety about what I drink at home. I really prefer French roast, a dark, rich, deeply flavorful brew. But “French roast” tells me only how it got to be what it is, not what kind of bean was used. Yet that doesn’t bother me. When I order an Ethiopian yirgacheffe (when that option is available), I expect a specific bean, a small, pea-like bean that’s been lightly roasted (maybe medium…I don’t know many details about coffee, only what pleases my taste buds). But when I order a French roast (my favorite), I don’t really know what I’m getting. Yet it’s usually quite good. Yet I say I am persnickety. Well, I am, with respect to flavor; but I can’t tell you much more than that I like French roast. And I know where I get mine. And I know its flavor is always completely dependable. Why am I writing about coffee beans? I haven’t a clue.
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I suddenly feel much younger than I did a month ago. I always feel younger than my actual age (by decades), but lately I’ve begun to feel young and energetic. If I were to lose about 75 pounds, I think I could be perfectly comfortable white-water rafting or running a full marathon. Well, there’s the lung thing; missing a lobe has an impact on stamina, so I might not become as physically active as I imagine, just by losing weight. But I need to lose that weight, nonetheless. Lately, I’ve become more vain; more conscious of how my physical appearance might contribute to or detract from my appeal to someone else. Vanity. I do not much like it, but we all store plenty of it in our minds. Overcoming vanity is extremely difficult and, sometimes, counterproductive; vanity has its place.

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“You make me want to be a better man.” That compliment, a quote from a film that may have a long history of predecessors, gets to the root of love, at least from the perspective of an imperfect man. The scene in which Jack Nicholson’s and Helen Hunt’s characters in  As Good as it Gets engage in an awkward conversation in a restaurant, moved me to tears (but then so damn much does). For whatever reason, men tend not to verbalize and vocalize such thoughts. I suspect they exist, though, even in the hardest, most macho-laced, masculinity-drenched men. At least I would hope so. But I’m satisfied to have such a thought and to allow it to unleash a torrent of tears (though I still wish I could stifle them long enough so I could unleash in private).

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Anyone going to the “World Tour of Wines: Destination Chile” event on June 24 could be in for a treat. My next-door neighbor, Bill, will display a piece of his artwork, an oil painting of grapes. The frame in which the painting will be displayed is adorned with wine corks. In addition to the art, I will participate by either reading a poem I wrote or listening to someone else read it. One of the organizers of the event asked me last year to write a poem to be read during the night (the request was last year; COVID-19 delayed the event for more than a year). I long since wrote the poem. I hope it will strike a chord with the audience. We’ll see.

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This morning’s provocation from my little black book, an anthology of quotations inspired by Zen, does not necessarily portray a physical place but, rather, an emotionally happy and fulfilling place inside me where I freely think about a new love.

Under this tree, where light and shade
Speckle the grass like a Thrush’s breast,
Here, in this green and quiet place,
I give myself to peace and rest.

~ W. H. Davis ~

There’s something about those words, something that speaks to me at a level few short quotations can and do, that makes me feel confident that I will be fine. I’m not worried about anything, just as long as my experience with nirvana continues, as I feel sure it will.

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My calendar today holds no unpleasantness. I like that kind of day; a day that feels freeing and open. Tomorrow is another thing entirely, with the time scheduled for a lung biopsy screaming for my attention. But not today. Today will be good. I can feel it in my bones.

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Taking the Temperature

A friend’s comment on my latest blog post launched in me a whirlwind of thought. My friend related the story of her mother who, after 45 years of marriage, fell in love with another man just a few months following her husband’s death. The couple enjoyed thirteen years of their new marriage, up until the man’s death. My friend and her siblings were stunned by the surprise and the speed of the relationship; those thirteen years, though, were wonderful, meaningful years. As my friend said in her comments, “Love happens sometimes when you least expect it.” I may be a wide-eyed unsophisticated romantic, but I believe the sentiments behind that comment are as reliable as the sun.

I am confident there are those in my circle of friends and acquaintances who think my new relationship with this woman—any woman at this tender moment in my life—is dangerous. They think its development was too fast. They think its potential for causing pain is too great. And they believe it will prove impossible to sustain because…”you’re investing all of your emotional capital without giving it time to grow naturally.” Or something along those lines. The unspoken message of those judgments is that my new girlfriend and I are taking enormous risks by allowing our emotions to control our actions, rather than following “safer” social conventions that would provide us protection from decisions made in haste. Okay, my confidence that others judge our relationship in this way is based less on overt evidence than on supposition. Maybe I’m wrong. But I’m betting I’m not.

These judgments and doubts can, if we let them, interfere with our own feelings about the relationship. We would be naive if we simply dismissed those judgments and doubts out of hand. Yet putting too much stock in them could torpedo our own strong feelings that this relationship will not only survive, but grow. If we were to trust others’ distant assessments more than our own intimate and immediate experiences, we could risk dismantling something extraordinary simply because it is, admittedly, extraordinary. And so the matter ultimately comes to this: do we exercise extreme caution at the risk of letting an opportune moment that may never come again pass or do we expose ourselves to the risks (and the potential for immeasurable rewards) that unbound emotions can bring?

I understand and appreciate subtle suggestions that this time of chaotic emotion merits “putting on the brakes.” But I also understand that paying too much attention to warning to be cautious can ruin lives just as readily as being carefree and spontaneous. I have never favored taking action that completely disregards the potential consequences; consideration and analysis belongs even in cauldrons of emotion. But logic has limits in matters of love.

I hope my “assumptions” about what others might think of my blossoming relationship are not coloring how I view the world. I don’t believe they are. I avoid wearing rose-colored glasses. Yet I am aware that, as certain as I feel at this moment, things could change. This moment in my life could morph from an unexpectedly joyous one to an unspeakably painful one. I understand the risk of letting ourselves become so heavily invested emotionally that a derailment could cause immeasurable grief. I also understand that time is a precious commodity that can be squandered by indecision and “waiting until the time is right.”

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On matters almost (but not completely) unrelated, here are some things that have been on my mind recently:

  • Cooking my own soft-boiled eggs at Hotel Le Calendal in Arles, France
  • Driving cross-country as the first stage of a long, leisurely exploration of time in the presence of happiness
  • Learning how to immerse myself in music in ways I’ve never known before
  • Dragging myself out of a rut of my own making on the wrong road
  • The joy of watching birds acquaint themselves with a new place to dine
  • Determining how much is too much and how little is too little and what is exactly the right amount
  • How unexpected joy and unexpected tragedy have the potential of overlapping
  • Neglecting anyone important in one’s life is a way to dash dreams

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This post was meant to be shorter and more gleeful and cooler. I blame the temperatures. Arkansas should not be so damn hot at this time of year. Or any time of year.

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A New Appreciation

I spent part of the evening last night with my new actual girlfriend (who I feel like I’ve known and loved forever—more on that in a minute) and some other friends, listening to an extraordinarily talented young guitarist. It impressed me that someone can develop and nurture an incredibly strong attachment to an art form like guitar, knowing all the while that the odds are not in the person’s favor, vis-à-vis employment. Though the kid has recorded a few CDs, the likelihood that he’s ever going to make a living with music is slim.

NO! NO! NO! That sort of negative thinking has no place around here. This kid is destined to be recognized the world over as a virtuoso guitarist. Watch for the name Travis Bowman. He’s already been recognized for his talents, but I suspect the recognition soon will extend far beyond his appreciative peers.

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Medical professionals and others have long had the tools to measure blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and heart rate. They have been able to detect and measure blood alcohol level and the amount of arsenic in the body. But, to my knowledge, they haven’t been able to develop a meaningful measure of the stress level experienced by a person. That seems to be an awful omission, given all the maladies, conditions, and byproducts we attribute to stress. I wonder how many infirmities and ailments are erroneously attributed to stress? Common sense (which sometimes is so at odds with reality that…) tells me some stress-related afflictions could be treated by treating the stress. For example, an ailment caused by stress-induced anxiety should respond well to anxiety drugs. But if the ailment does not always respond as expected; the correlation may be wrong, the adjustment might be insufficient, or there may be no correlation at all. Who knows?  Do I feel stress? Of course, I feel quite a lot of stress. How does stress feel? Hmmm, good question. Well, then how do you feel when you’re under stress? The possible symptoms are endless. Something, though, must be done to treat stress or to determine other causes of various ailments and act accordingly. I’m wandering here; I have things on my mind, but that’s no excuse for wandering.

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In the introduction to this post, I mentioned my actual girlfriend. I remain stunned that something so powerful as our relationship can develop so quickly. And I am surprised at myself for being able to (or willing to) develop a relationship so soon after my wife’s death. Is five+ months too soon? Well, if I count the five+ months before she died, it has been closer to a year. What, exactly, is the appropriate length of time for mourning or for grief or for memories to make experiencing some moments so joyous, yet so tearful?

The right amount of time, in my opinion, is whatever time it takes. It could be five days or five years. Every individual is different. I miss my wife. I will grieve for her and the loss of her love until it is my time to die. But I believe a strong friendship that seemingly transformed overnight into love will help me cope with, though not discard, those emotions. And I said “seemingly” because the fabric of  of the relationship took its time, developing one thread at a time, before it was sewn into a garment. In our case, a months-long attraction and many months exchanging friendly and supportive text messages and emails formed the underpinning of our relationship. It may have caught fire with a spark, but the fuel for the flame was collected a little at a time over a period of…years, really.

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With the excitement of this budding relationship, there also is a certain kind of peace I feel, a peace that draws me to think and remember and appreciate so many things. And, of course, somehow my little black anthology of quotations provides some insight.

Along the mountain road
Somehow it tugs at my heart
A Wild violet

~ Basho ~

And so there you go. An extremely brief assertion of the natural cycle of life and love.

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If Suddenlink does as it says it will, a technician will arrive between 8 and 11 this morning to explore what’s wrong with my voicemail. It hasn’t worked in days and multiple telephone calls have had no impact. But maybe a technician can fix it. Based on looking at my phone’s display, it appears I have eleven messages. Yet when I try to retrieve them, I get a message saying I have none. Long story. I’ll stop. Please, Suddenlink rep, visit my home and fix my phone!

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I just read that 13 people were injured in an early-morning shooting around the Sixth Street entertainment area in Austin, Texas.  There’s literally nothing we can do to stop this sort of thing, regardless of the circumstances that led up to it. Too damn many people have too damn many guns and we cannot “collect” them without risking civil war, thanks to gun fanatics whose worship of the Second Amendment at the expense of every tenet of morality and decency. So we reap what we sowed. Bullets, planted like seeds, are sprouting in places once deemed pockets of über-civility. Some days, I want to live in Denmark or Norway, but not in the present day. I would want to take a jaunt back to the 1990s, before seeds of populous rage were planted and grew into mindless self-inflicted stupidity.

There’s always another time, another place I’d rather be. And I often long to be another person. But we cannot go back to what we (I, anyway) often believe was a gentler, kinder, more compassionate time. And, so, we cope. We try to change minds or, at least, open them. If fresh breezes can flow through windows that once were nailed shut, then we have a chance. Not “us,” as in the people inhabiting our planet today. “Us,” as in the rest, the ones who will inherit the opportunities and the challenges we left them. And it’s not just the Second Amendment that merits a deeper look. It’s societal compassion and how it seems to be trained out of us, little by little, then in huge chunks.

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My second cup of coffee is calling. But I’ll not post this just yet (it’s already past 8); I need to run it by my editor.

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Twisting

The world did not end yesterday, despite the fact that I did not fulfil my self-imposed commitment to write at least one blog post per day. One of my brothers called to confirm that I had not shuffled off this mortal coil; otherwise, though, the day was not significantly altered by my failure to behave as expected. Proof the world does not revolve around me. Nor does it revolve around anyone. We make more of our impact on the universe than reality says we should. The butterfly effect—which some days seems such an obvious and overwhelming element of the validity of chaos theory—is vapor. It is an expression of magical thinking, almost as impressive as evidence a tiny tuft of goose down in the wrong place at the wrong time brought the Titanic to her ultimate end. As entertaining as it is to pretend we matter to the world at large, massive amounts of evidence suggest otherwise. Our influence extends only as far as our imagination lets it, no further. And, even then, our imagination has a severely limited range. Our influence does not reach even the near edges of our imagination.

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Today’s weather will introduce me to the unhappy state of impending summer in central Arkansas. High humidity and moderately high temperatures suited only to the care and feeding of chiggers are expected for the next week or so; maybe more. This morning, I counted 22+ chigger bits from my feet to my mid-pelvis area. Itching, irritating, unsightly. I hate chiggers with a passion unmatched in modern times. I am almost willing to agree to testing nuclear detonations as a means of controlling the beasts. So what if I perish in the process? At least the incessant itching will stop!

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My emotions this morning, for reasons unknown, are tight and tense and drenched in self-imposed pain. Mixed with jubilance, there’s a sense that I’m walking on a tightrope of razor wire above a pit filled with fire and a mixture of molten glass and broken bottles. I want nothing more at this instance than to take someone by the hand and escape to someplace without memories; a place absent the possibility that forgotten experiences will drag me into a pool and drown me. What in the hell is with me this morning? I should be ecstatic that the world didn’t end when I failed to write yesterday. Instead, I feel like I’ve been tasked by an unpleasant old man with writing a report of my own autopsy.

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The PET scan earlier this week triggered some follows-up next week. A lung biopsy, a pulmonary function test, and a visit with the surgeon who invited me to spend Thanksgiving of 2018 in the hospital will take place next week. Worry about such stuff does no good, so instead I will luxuriate in the fact that I will be accompanied to my appointments by someone who will make long hours of waiting go by quickly. The oncologist, when she reviewed my PET scan with me, was very matter-of-fact and seemed unconcerned. Unlike the time she informed me of the results of my biopsy in 2018, she did not suggest I might want to come to her office to get the results (I did not want to, so she told me over the phone). Regardless of the results of these new tests, I am convinced all will be well.

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We have to face the fact that joy intermingles with profound sadness in a murky cloud that hides evidence of a history in which we played no part, but which always will be etched in stone tablets where we go to read. There is no escape from the fact that history exists in our absence, no matter how much we might want to obliterate those elements of time of which we were not a part. We cannot remember experiences we did not have, but those memories always will cast shadows on us, whether days are dim or bright. A nagging sense of impotence accompanies memories built not from experience but, instead, from the smoke of fires stoked with damp, artificial ashes.

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I got three hours of sleep last night, before I awoke at 5 this morning. Before that, I dozed a bit in front of the television (without ever switching the device on) for an hour or two. So, maybe five hours of sleep. But I did nap yesterday afternoon, so in the aggregate I got at least enough sleep yesterday and last night to fulfil my need for nocturnal (or not) rest. I’ve been advised by someone I trust more than I trust myself to have a sleep study done. Perhaps I need some assistance in getting to sleep or staying in a dream state.

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Time to shave, shower, and prepare for the twice-monthly visit by the housekeeper. I’m twisting myself into knots over getting the house adequately clean to welcome the cleaning person. This is an ongoing deviancy of mine. Maybe next time, instead of cleaning up in advance, I will pour maple syrup and ashes on the floor and fill the sink with dirty dishes. I suspect that might result in her resignation from the assignment; not a good idea, since I hate cleaning the wood floor. Off to the wars.

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Thunderous Applause from Above

Explosive cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning woke me just over half an hour ago. I got up to have a sip of water, which was a mistake. Getting out of bed was all it took to leave all possibility of sleep by the wayside. I knew, moments after I arose, sleep would elude me no matter how hard I tried to recapture it. Too many things on my mind and too little discipline to put them back in their resting places. So, I am up for the day. Later, I am sure I will feel worn out and tired and I will regret my decision to get up. But it wasn’t really a choice. It just happened; I had little control over it. Damn!

So, I started the dishwasher and took the sheets off the bed. When the dishwasher has finished its cycle, I’ll wash the sheets. I go back and forth as to whether I should run both dishwasher and clothes washer at once. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I have vague rationales for both decisions, but I argue against each from time to time. I’m consistently inconsistent in my thoughts and in executing those thoughts.

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How do I describe my emotional state at this moment? I’m on edge. Nervous. If I were standing, rather than sitting here typing, I would be pacing the floor. I suppose my pacing would be an attempt to work off nervous energy. Or maybe it would represent a way to redirect the energy, from anticipation to…something else. I don’t know. I’m trying to make sense out of a chaos I don’t quite grasp; never an ideal pathway toward understanding. Suddenly, I want to escape all expectations and obligations. I want nothing more than to get away from everything and everyone…except the one person with whom I can open up and be myself without restraint. It’s not all about my freedom, though. I want to be the one who offers the same freedom I seek. I want to be the safe harbor, too. I’m writing in circles, the way I sometimes think. I am a different man early in the morning; different from the man who, later in the day, has donned a modest suit of armor to protect against unintentional assaults and accidents. In the early morning, when I write, I reveal too much for my own good. I know this. But I do it anyway. The mistake is not in writing it all down; the mistake is in where I put it. Here, in public view, for all the world to see, simply by stumbling by. I could change it, of course, but I’ve either grown too lazy to adopt another medium or I’ve grown addicted to putting myself on display, wondering what reactions, if any, my revelations will generate.  I’m going to visit a counselor later this morning; maybe she can help me figure out why I am so willing to expose my soft and unseemly side. And maybe the fact that I’m going to see a counselor is why I’m feeling more nervous; even more nervous than normal. But it will be a good experience, regardless, I think. Do I ramble? That’s all I do, isn’t it? Yes, indeed.

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Passion. Guilt. Love. Shame. Loathing. Anger. Lust. Compassion. Tenderness. A thousand others. I imagine that all the emotions I’ve ever felt reside on rubber bands, each emotion attached to an almost infinitely flexible strand. Each of those strands is then stretched almost to the breaking point…but not quite…and then they are intertwined with one another and wrapped around one another until, collectively, they form a hard, tense sphere. In spite of its hardness, the sphere is flexible, too, because the strands of emotions support one another, preventing any one from breaking. Pressure applied to one area of the sphere is gently transferred across the rest of the globe so none of the bands break. But there is a point at which the pressure can become too great for the collective to sustain its flexibility and cohesion. When a single strand breaks, all the rest of the ones that form the sphere must adjust in a chaotic instant, causing a ripple or shudder to envelop the rubber ball. But it finally adjusts. Yet it is noticeably different, even though only a single strand out of thousands was broken. But the difference, though obvious, is almost impossible to pinpoint.

Why emotions, as an enormous collective, are so intriguing and important to me is a perpetual question I have had but which I’ve never been able to answer. Why are emotions so spellbinding? Why do we recoil at expressions of anger but approach as if drawn by a magnet at expressions of sadness or pain or grief? How can we explain that the tears of one person can cause us to feel empathy, while the tears of another can cause us to feel indignation? So many questions. So few reliable, dependable, believable answers.

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Today’s weather forecast concerns me. A person driving on the highway today could be caught in sudden, drenching rainstorm that might make for dangerous conditions. Water on the highway can be deeper than it appears. Just a little rainwater collecting in the slight indentations in the roadway where tires compress the asphalt can cause a car to hydroplane. That fact, along with several others, is why the universal advice to drivers in wet weather is to drive slowly, watch carefully for collecting water, and take plenty of breaks to maximize the driver’s ability to respond to challenging conditions.

It’s interesting, I think, that those bits of advice coming from a radio announcer or a highway traffic safety expert are treated as legitimate advice. However, the same words coming from someone not seen as an “expert” can be seen as evidence of undue worry. The same is true, of course, with regard to threats of hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, etc., etc. Expert advice merits attention and behavioral changes. But advice from a parent or friend or lover or spouse or co-worker may be dismissed as over-coddling…or something like that. That concept is worth another look one day…after I’ve explored real “data” as opposed to my own deeply-held opinions.

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For a few weeks now, I have consciously avoided watching or reading much news. I cannot explain why; only that I have intentionally avoided it. Perhaps it’s that I have too many other things on my mind, things that matter more to me than news stories covering issues over which I have no control. But that’s just a guess. I have no reason to believe it’s that versus something less meritorious. Like, I’m just tired of it. Or, I just don’t want to be beaten and stoned and subjected to the equivalent of emotional water-torture.

I am embarrassed by the fact that I have been paying scant attention to national and international (or even local) news. We have a responsibility for knowing what is going on in the world around us…don’t we? But how is it that we are responsible for knowing what is going on if we have no hope of changing it? Should we be taught to believe we can change anything and everything? Ach! I don’t know. But I feel a sense that I have let the world down by not paying attention to it. My attentions, of late, have been directed toward matters much closer and far more important to me than gyrations in crypto-currency markets or Republican obstinance about infrastructure and January 6 insurrection investigations. Of course those things are important. But I have no control over them. I do have at least some control over how I interact with people close to me and with whom I choose to spend my time. I suppose the relative degree of importance we assign to all such matters cycles up and down. I am satisfied with relegating national and international news to a much lower tier for now.

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The thunderous applause from above seems to have quieted a good bit, so I feel safe in going back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. I never felt unsafe, actually.

I look forward to what today will unveil for me. I want to understand the world and my place in it a little better.  Today promises to be a good one. I have it on good authority that it will get better and better as the day goes on.

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Spinning a Few Philosophical Thoughts

Before this morning’s welcome experience with freshly-brewed, hot coffee, my last cup of the stuff was Sunday morning. Though I am by no means addicted to coffee, it is a welcome luxury I miss when I cannot have it. Yesterday, thanks to the required protocol in preparation for my PET scan, I had to forego my normal consumption of coffee. Usually, at least one cup; more often, two or three.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I doubt that’s truly possible. Not for coffee and certainly not for someone with whom one longs to share a morning, with our without coffee. “Out of sight, out of mind” is another absurdly incorrect “truism.” Again, not true of coffee and not true of relationships. The desire for coffee cannot compare to the desire for companionship. Yet those of us who speak the English language seem to accept, or at least parrot, these aphorisms as if they have some sort of intrinsic value; as if they carry a message that other words cannot convey. Balderdash! In spite of my use of various adages in my writing, I do not accept them at face value, nor do I believe they carry some magical “truth” to which we all must subscribe.

Why has my mind veered so sharply from coffee to a “witty” apothegm or two this morning? It’s hard to say. It’s just what I do on mornings when cleaner teeth are just hours away, thanks to an appointment with the dental hygienist.

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I have things to do today, aside from going to get my teeth cleaned. If all goes according to plan, I will drive into town to visit a place I call the “gummy distribution center.” And I’ll stop by another purveyor of pleasure, a liquor store, for some cheap wine (I’m a cheap kind of guy).  If I’m in the mood, I’ll go to Lowe’s to explore LED lighting for the crawlspace under my house. And, if it fits my schedule and a friend’s schedule, I may tag along to look at a Class C motor home (not for me, mind you…just looking). I could add a thousand other things to my schedule, I suppose, but doing so would not succeed in stifling my anticipation of tomorrow, when my eyes will be treated to a view I’ve been missing for too long. I feel the smile on my face as I think about that sight.

It is hard to follow the admonition to “live in the moment” when anticipating another moment is such a strong force in one’s life. But we all do that, don’t we? We all hold our breaths and count the hours until something—the birth of a child,  evidence of a growing bulb breaking ground, the next season of a favorite television program, the return of a lover, a graduation ceremony…something important—takes place. How can we live “in the moment” when we are so wrapped up in the next moment? It’s not so hard to understand. Anticipation is living in the moment. The pleasure of anticipation corresponds to the release of endorphins that make THIS MOMENT a spectacularly pleasurable one. When anticipation becomes reality, the spectacularly pleasure becomes orgasmically pleasurable (sorry, I could not summon a word that better describes that climactic moment).  Living in the moment means letting the past be gone and permitting the future to unfold; but when anticipation is part of THIS MOMENT, one can feel comfortable that one is following the admonition. The entire paragraph, including my comments about endorphins—about which I know almost nothing—is simply speculation. But it is based on real belief. At least I think the belief is real.

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We would not feel so vulnerable, so subject to the whims of arbitrary Nature, if the world were a safe, predictable place. The fact, though, is that the world is unsafe; none of us leave it alive, even after living an almost magically glorious life. It’s hard to wrestle with the fact that experiencing good fortune does not preclude its evil twin from intruding on celebratory festivals. But that’s precisely what we must do. We must wrestle with the negatives that strive to bring down the positives. Joy and good fortune are worth fighting for to the very end. Preparations for the fight must include the unpleasant acknowledgement that fights are sometimes lost. At the same time, the possibility of loss must not be treated as an acceptable outcome. One must twist logic on itself in order to summon the strength necessary to overcome the evil twin; that bastard that threatens to dismantle and shred a monument built from the fibers of good fortune. It seems that bleak reminders of our ultimate destinations often follow the most wonderful experiences, experiences that are almost spellbinding in their wonderment. Perhaps it’s just coincidence. Or, perhaps, it’s simply the way our minds remind us that we must not take joy for granted; that we must fight and claw and brawl our way through the melee in order to protect the magnificence from harm.

Of course, sometimes we prepare for a ferocious fight, only to learn one’s opponent has left the ring. That is perhaps the time we most need to remember how urgently we must prepare for a fight because, the next time, the opponent may return, this time with a contingent of henchmen.

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Love is among the most pleasurable of the emotions. It is both a receptor of good feelings and a deliverer of the same. It is absolutely altruistic and unspeakably selfish. Love makes the daylight sky brighter and the night sky darker and more mysterious. It enhances the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Despite what some would tell you, it does not necessarily take long months and years to develop; it can come on in an instant. But when it does, it can grow stronger, though it seems impossible at the time it could have more power. Love is salvation; sometimes just in the nick of time. Giving and receiving love is the most intense aspects of all the emotions and the elements we all most need.

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My emotional state this morning is an odd mixture of happiness, wonderful anticipation, and a little dread. I really have no interest in taking a shower, but I must. And I must shave. And brush my teeth (and floss!). Oh, well, I suppose I have to hurry or I’ll not make my appointment.

 

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Sleep Inoperability

A million matters cross my mind this morning, topics spanning the scale from deliriously happy facts to some unhappy memories. The subjects of my thoughts have no cohesive theme, only haphazard elements from recollections across time. The one commonality in this morning’s sensations is this: an ongoing sense of enormously good fortune.

I am loved and I love; perhaps the two most important components of life. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs places physiological and safety needs above the psychological needs of belonging and love, but I think the evidence says otherwise. Consider a mother’s absolute devotion to her child—her love for her child will propel her to put herself at risk of death without a thought, to preserve her child’s safety. But that’s not what I came to the desk to write about. I sat down here to write about a haphazard collection of thoughts. So here goes.

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The thunder this morning is loud and the rain is heavy, at least from time to time. I wonder whether the rain will wash away more of the pollen and make the streets more pleasant? And what about the damn chiggers? Can chiggers drown? If we seeded clouds with sulfur dust, could we solve the chigger problem? Or would we need to seed the clouds with DDT pellets. I’m almost willing to consider the latter.

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Cyber attacks have gone beyond our ability to determine reasonable “punishments” for the crime. Because they are so stealthy and the perpetrators are so knowledgeable, I think the immediate solution is to infiltrate cyber-criminal networks with the aim of destroying them. And the only way to destroy them is to make inoperable the brains behind them. So, either render them unable to function or, more achievable I think, render the perpetrators unable to breathe…by whatever means possible. This sounds like I’m abandoning my opposition to the death penalty; not, it’s not a penalty I’m suggesting, it’s a deterrent. The philosophy behind my thoughts is, like modern morality, in the developmental stages.

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I slept reasonably well last night, from around 10:30 until around 2:30, when I woke to pee. When I tried to go back to sleep, my efforts kept getting interrupted by half-dream interactions involving purchases of high school text books. I finally got back to sleep, but not until I’d had a good hour of wakefulness. Then, shortly before 5, I woke up again, this time for good. I played word games, read a bit, and otherwise tried to occupy my time; but I had things on my mind that refused to let go (nothing bad, but definitely things with a good grip). Finally, after drinking lots of water (no coffee, thanks to my scheduled PET scan), I got settled in front of my computer to type. But mental intrusions continued, unabated. One of those intrusions was hunger. I had very little to eat yesterday, all day long, and did not eat much last night. And I cannot eat this morning until after my PET scan. My sister-in-law may meet me at Las Americas for lunch after my PET scan, depending on how much time I have between the scan and the visit with the doctor. I will have just two tacos, I think. But I may eat all the chips and bowls of salsa within several tables of our location.

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Okay. I’ll admit it. I am so damn tired I cannot keep my eyes open. Again! So, a brief nap, perhaps, until I have to leave for my appointment. I may write coherently later. Maybe not.

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Context…Again

First things first. I accidentally hit the “post” button instead of the “save as draft” button a while ago, sending an utterly unfinished “new post” notice into a couple of dozen email boxes. My apologies to those who received a false notice. I will, eventually, finish and post it. In the interim, I’m posting this, which was my intent all along.

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Last night, I joined a group of people (all from my church and mostly participants in our weekly trivia games) at the Beehive to listen to live music, have dinner, and celebrate the birthdays of a couple of folks around the table. Though the pub was crowded and noisy (especially with live music), the experience was great fun. I was happy to be there. One day soon I will write more about why it’s not entirely the medical marijuana that has lifted my mood in recent days.

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I’ve written so often about the impact of context on experience that you might think I would grow tired of thinking about the subject. No, the more I think about the topic, the more intricately carved in my brain are the considerations I give to the matter. You might assume that my regular screeds involving spectra of emotions, experiences, etc., etc. would dissuade me from writing more about spectra in general. No. Same comment as above.

Just this morning, I was thinking about the relatively few concerts I have attended in my lifetime. I have enjoyed a few of them immensely: Leon Redbone, Leo Kottke, Leonard Cohen (there may be a “leo” connection?), Gordon Lightfoot, and a few others. But the crowds and traffic and noise of other concerts both blocked those experiences from memory and convinced me that I am not a fan of live concert music. But it suddenly occurred to me that the context of the event is crucial to enjoyment. The person(s) with whom one experiences the event is even more important than the performance itself.

I am going to a concert in a couple of months that I think would have enjoyed by myself (but I could never know because I would not have gone by myself). But as I anticipate going to the concert in the company of my concert companion, I grow ever more excited. It’s the context, even more than the experience itself, that will make the experience the delight I expect it to be. All because of who I will be with. The electricity of my concert companion’s anticipation transfers to me and makes me realize how exciting it will be.  My mind buzzes with anticipation as I start contemplating other live music that might stimulate my companion’s (and, therefore, my) excitement. What about Death Cab for Cutie? Or maybe…ach, stop it! The list could go on forever. We’ll play it a day at a time. But if I see an announcement for a Keb’ Mo’ concert within driving distance…

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No sugar, carbs, booze, or strenuous exercise today. Those are my instructions to prepare for tomorrow’s P.E.T. scan. Though my oncologist explained it’s just a routine follow-up, the only other P.E.T. scan I recalled was just before my Thanksgiving 2018 lung cancer surgery. But a check of my records quickly confirmed that I’d had a follow-up P.E.T. scan just about a year ago. It seems I remain a little nervous about such stuff, after all. I thought I’d left that medical paranoia behind me; I guess not. Now, though, that I can confirm it is indeed routine, I feel the tension unwind. Of course: why worry about things you cannot change? It is what it is. Easy to say and believe; harder to let the aphorisms shape one’s emotional response to circumstance.  By 2:00 p.m.. tomorrow, though, I should know the results of the P.E.T. scan; I fully expect them to re-confirm the absence of cancer. I’ll post a celebratory comment on Tuesday. Assuming my expected celebratory news is delivered.

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The morning sky is dull grey. Maybe it’s not the sky. Maybe the sky is hidden by thick, fictile fog. That’s it. The fog is so thick, like whipped cream, that it conceals the sky. That could be the way the world comes to an end. As we go busily about our days, wondering when the fog will lift, the sky above us could change from cerulean blue to an odd mixture of violet, purple, and black. The sun’s rays, unable to penetrate this new, darker sky, would simply bounce off the atmosphere. Buried in that dark sky might be millions of enormous spacecraft, sent to Earth to vaporize the planet before the planet contaminates the entire galaxy. Cheery thought, isn’t it?

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My thoughts about selling my house and hitting the road are shrinking from their shining peaks. Other things are on my mind. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to take a leisurely drive to California to visit my sister? And there are so many places in the surrounding states I want to see.

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My mind is wandering again. Too little sleep and too much occupying my mind. Maybe a nap later in the day will “cure” my state of mind. An actual nap.

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Feeling Positive

Last night, I joined friends for a celebration of wine and food aficionados. Each couple or individual brought wine and hors d’ouevres to share. Six bottles of wine and what felt like 48 ounces of food later, we finished the assessment: all the wines were good and so was the food. It was nice to get out; to socialize and enjoy this good life of ours.

From there, the night got even better: seeing fireflies light up in the darkness; feeling deeply connected to the universe for some reason.

As I type these words using just one finger (I challenged myself to do this post from my phone), I feel about as positive and hopeful as I think possible. It occurs to me that a positive outlook can emerge only from positive thoughts–meditating can collect them like flowers.

Enough 1-finger typing for a while.

 

 

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Drizzling Nothing Onto Empty Air

Last night, our team came in a very respectable second in the trivia game we planned at the local pub. I wish I could contribute more to the answers, but I’m afraid my knowledge, though trivial, does not work well with pairing performing groups with the songs they sing or comic characters with the super powers they possess. The source of my ignorance of some subjects is obvious: that fact that I have no kids, for example, helps explain why I know virtually nothing about comics or that, given the year of my birth, I have limited knowledge of rap music. Other subjects, not so much; although I blame my dim recollections of important events in American history on poorly-written text books in my younger years. Or something like that.

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I am in a strange place this morning. My head wanders a path between happiness and fear or something like it. During a very brief dream (or dream-like waking moment) from night before last (or morning before last), I “woke up” to a woman next to me in bed, both her arms wrapped around one of my arms.  She said “Can our next house have a pool?” And that was the end of it. Nothing before, nothing after. Whether that’s happy or strange is open to interpretation. I don’t know. But it could be fear, too. But, as I am so often reminded, “It is what it is.” Worry is pointless. Assuming one has no ability to change things. Some days, I feel like I’m having the same damn conversation with myself that I had yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Ground Hog Day wired into my real psyche.

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Hundreds of unfinished draft posts await my judgement; salvation or destruction. If I opt to save them, I rarely opt to save them with the intent of using them as a stand-alone post. Instead I generally like something about them and think that something might work well to support points I want to make in a different post. That having been said, I’ve fished out some of my drafts. Rather than stitch together an incoherent post from those torn threads, I’m just dropping in pieces of them to save me from having to write much. I’m not really in the mood to say what’s really on my mind this morning; mostly because I can’t quite decide exactly what’s there.

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When I think an opportunity is about to pass me by, due to my lack of the gumption and courage to seize it, I sometimes act in irrational haste in the hope I am not too late. But, maybe it’s not really the wonderful opportunity it seems to be. Or perhaps it’s just one of several opportunities that might come my way; and they might be progressively better. But, as the aphorism goes, “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush,” so I might go for it to protect myself against finding two empty hands at the end of my arms. I’m not quite sure how to correct for that fear of missing an opportunity. The older I get, the more I think it’s just an unfortunate character trait that correlates with impatience, fear, and reticence to invest time in exploring opportunities when ample time is available.

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Dishonesty is not limited to overt lies presented as truths. Dishonesty can comprise careful omissions—or oversights so blatant it is almost impossible to believe they were mere lapses. No matter the springboard from which dishonesty leaps, though, it quickly can derail an enterprise,  a marriage, a business, a friendship, a corporation, or a love affair. Dishonesty can emerge from discomfort just as easily as it can emerge from malice. But even if it derives simply from being ill-at-ease, it offers evidence of a willingness to be deceitful. And that can be a hard—or even impossible—obstacle to overcome. Complete honesty is hard to achieve, but it is easier than recovering from dishonesty.

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What algorithm might answer how much immediate aid versus long-term training/education is necessary to eliminate poverty? It’s not a flippant question. I wonder whether sufficient social science research has been done to serve as the basis for such an algorithm? While humans and human behaviors are not readily replicable in the “laboratory,” I would think we have enough data to enable us to calculate, at least roughly, what combination of aid and encouragement would be required to turn a life around.

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I am nervous. Nervous that wanting something too much can actually have the opposite results. I should be aware of this possibility. I think I’ve written about desire being so big and unchecked that it can smother everyone and everything in its path, driving them to seek open air and spaces where they can breathe. On the other hand, one’s survival might be inextricably linked to stoking that suffocating desire.

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I hear the washer winding down its efforts. My underwear should be sparkling clean now and ready for the dryer. I’m not sure whether I want to wash sheets today or wait until tomorrow or Sunday. What an enormous, life-altering decision.  Why does it even require a moment’s thought? Just do something, John.

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My landline’s message light is on, but when I try to retrieve messages, I get a message that I have none. This is odd. I guess anyone who doesn’t get a return call from me will call back.

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Enough mumbles. I’ll go through laundry in the dryer and make an effort to attack the day.

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Reboot

Last night, I blamed the chiggers for my insomnia. Sometime before 3:00 a.m., the chigger bites, too numerous to count, made sleep impossible. They. Itched. Like. Crazy. I thought I had discarded the outdated chigger-bite-relief-goo that I bought a few years ago at HealthMart. But last night, in an act of desperation, I went searching under the cabinets in the guest bathroom, where I found the remnants of the goo in a tiny plastic bottle. I put tiny dabs of the slimy stuff on every bite I could reach. With the application of the goo to each bite, I felt a sting. But before long, the itching declined in intensity to tolerable levels. Yet the places I cannot comfortably reach remain brutal reminders of last night’s pest-induced insomnia.  The little monsters have been feeding on my flesh for the last umpteen hours. I wonder whether, when I showered the last two days, I  failed to let the water get hot enough. Or, perhaps, I simply “rinsed” my skin when I should have repeatedly sprayed in, then scoured it with stainless steel brushes. Followed, of course, by an alcohol wash  finished with flames. It’s too late now to do much other than complain. The bites are there. Eventually, if they are like the other chigger bites I have suffered since moving to Arkansas, they will heal. But they will leave small scars, reminders that it is unsafe to go outside in Arkansas (when temperatures surpass 72°F) without drenching one’s skin and clothes with chigger-repelling poison.

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Yesterday’s lunch with friends was enjoyable. It was the sort of long, leisurely engagement that can yield positive results simply because of the conversation that can take place in a buffet restaurant. Yes, I realize that sentence could be interpreted to suggest that certain conversations can take place no where else BUT in buffet restaurants. The only way to know whether that was the intent, though, would be to ask the formulator of the sentence to expound on his reasons for writing it. The danger of doing that is that he might produce a multi-volume book on the effects of buffet lines on conversations in Chinese restaurants. The contents of the book would be his opinions, presented as if they were indisputable facts, and could well change from day to day, depending on the way the sun’s light is refracted through windows coated with dust.

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Even with the chigger bites, I felt pretty damn good last night. I feel like my little piece of the world is evolving as it should; even better than I expected. What have I done to deserve this…what shall I call it…onslaught of happiness? I don’t necessarily deserve it; but I should take full advantage of the mood when it strikes and should be appropriately appreciative…massively grateful…that I am so fortunate

I suppose what it’s all about may be this: I’m in the midst of a reboot. I expect this reboot will refresh my appreciation for experience and otherwise enable me to perform better as a human being. This reboot might well spur me on to lose weight, gain knowledge, be kinder and gentler, and give my undivided attention to someone who has important, worthwhile, powerful things to teach me. Yes, I realize I haven’t fully explained. It’s because I cannot fully explain. It seems I’ve just recognized how vitally important it is to acknowledge good fortune. It’s never too late to be better until it’s too late.

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Every single day in 2014 and again in 2015, I posted at least one “thought for the day” in addition to whatever “real” writing I was doing at the time. Occasionally, I refer back to the collection of 2014 Thoughts for the Day (I actually collected them as if I were going to publish them as a book). This morning, I looked back seven years to see what “thought for the day” I posted. I didn’t like much of what I read. But I liked one part of what I wrote, this: “Care. Really care. Act on it.” And I think that’s exactly what I’ve been doing these last few days. I’m acting on something I really care about. It feels good.

The next day, my words continued on the theme, in a sense: “If I had one thing I could change about my life so far, it would be this: I would like to have been a better, more caring, more compassionate and empathetic person.” I like to think I’ve made progress there, as well; not in the years leading up to the time I wrote that, but since then. At least I hope so.

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There’s a great deal on my mind this morning that I want to share with the world (that is, the world reading my posts). But I have things to do. Do laundry, take out the trash, make myself into a more appealing, loveable person, change the world…that sort of stuff. So I’ll stop writing and get to work.

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Facing the World Head-On

Hurt feelings can cause emotions to get even more breakable. They do not become softer with use, they become brittle. It doesn’t matter whether the actions or omissions that caused the feelings to be scuffed were intentional or even legitimately hurtful. Hurt feelings are magnetic for more of the same. And the greater the number of real or perceived hurtful behaviors, the more delicate the emotions get. Psychological Catch-22. I’ve been there. It’s painful. It’s even more painful to watch it take place—or think it’s taking place—in someone else, someone you wish could just cast the feelings aside and start over. So, that’s a bothersome thought on my mind this morning. Witnessing someone experience pain that you can’t fix. Not a pleasant situation.

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I managed to drop an unopened bottle of wine onto a granite countertop last night, flooding the counter, the floor beneath it, and the “appliance garage” beneath the wine rack with pricey red wine and a million shards of glass. And when I began to pick up the pieces, I managed to insert a few slivers of glass into my left thumb. My allergy to even the slightest bit of pain kicked it, so I whined a little as I extracted glass from my flesh. And, then, I picked up broken glass for about ten minutes, after which I scooped up pieces of glass for the next ten minutes (times are approximate, estimated by a brain unhappy with its owner). I’m not even sure what I was doing to cause the wine bottle to drop. I doubt I got all the glass up. Or the wine. I suspect I will continue to encounter glass for weeks. And I will smell red wine in places where the odor of red wine is inappropriate. Like the drawer that houses aluminum foil and freezer wrap and such. Oh, well. It will be a memory, augmented by the senses.

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Two meal engagements are on the calendar today. Lunch with a couple of friends to chat about various and sundry things and dinner with a couple, just to re-connect after several months without communications between us. Before lunch (if I move quickly enough…I need to take a shower, shave, take care of a few “to-do” items, etc.), I’ll participate in a “spiritual practices” Zoom meeting. We’ll see about that. I allow myself to get too busy sometimes, but it’s busyness that I enjoy; except when there’s too much to do and not enough motivation to get it all done.

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My brain sometimes gets so scrambled that I cannot decide whether a thought represents a memory or just a wish. For example, I want someone to come visit me…did I already ask them, or is my intention to ask simply sitting idly in my head, awaiting action? Is that a sign of intellectual decline? Or have I allowed too many mundane things to fill up empty spaces in my skull?

It’s not just those scrambled bits and pieces, either. I allow myself to get distracted by matters large and small. Frequently, in fact, I will push aside important matters (filing taxes, paying bills, scheduling medical appointments) in favor of other things that are not necessarily “important” but are so much more appealing and attractive than the stuff that truly should command my attention. I suppose we’re all like that to some extent. But it’s not infrequent that I feel a little like a self-launching ping-pong ball, rushing from one thing to another, but not pausing long enough with any of them to feel like I’ve given it the attention it deserves. Like this morning’s post so far (and, almost certainly, as it moves forward for another paragraph or two); short bounces between a thousand paddles.

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I learned yesterday that the Brubeck Brothers Quartet will play live at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa next April 1. And I want to see them! I think it’s a “sign” that my interest in Decorah, Iowa should not take on immediate importance. Rather, I should wait for a while; take it slow. But I have put the concert on my calendar already, so the plan to see Decorah is in motion. Just not immediately. The way I learned about the concert date will be fodder for another blog post one day, along with other elements surrounding that happy accident. Well, it wasn’t an accident, but it was happy. More later. One day.

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I have so many things on my “to-do” list. Or things I keep forgetting to add to my  to-do list. Like getting my eyes checked and getting new glasses. Like getting painful little bump removed from my left foot (perhaps the third time removing the same painful little bump will be a charm). Like discarding my dead electric smoker. Like power-washing my deck and the front of my house. Like cleaning out my garage. Like…on and on and on. First, though, I think I’ll take a shower. Prepare to face the world head-on.

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One day soon, I’ll get back to writing something that matters and makes sense. For now, I’m just acting like my fingers are printer ink-heads; they need to be used, whether anything of consequence flows from them or not.

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Bursting with Unrelated Things

As I begin today’s blog post, it’s almost 1:30 a.m. I’m awake because I haven’t been to bed yet. Going to bed late is not always the result of some external influence. Nor is it always a symptom of some kind of psychological trauma. Sometimes, it’s “just because.” Maybe something good happened and you’re wired up and cannot imagine going to sleep yet. Or perhaps something is troubling your mind and you feel a need to sort out the issue before trying to sleep. Whatever the genesis of the matter, wakefulness in the wee hours is not necessarily the result of insomnia.

Insomnia, incidentally, is from the Latin insomnia (yes, the same word), which owes its genesis to another Latin word, insomnis, the combination of the Latin words in (not) and somnus (sleep).  Odd, that. The fact that a word we use today is the same word in Latin. So, when we speak of insomnia, we literally are speaking Latin.

To reiterate, though. I was awake at 1:30, not from insomnia, but from a different affliction. Affliction may be the wrong word; state of mind is probably better; longer than a single word, but more descriptive. My state of mind was and is one involving a sense of heightened awareness. As if my brain is receptive to every stimulus that comes its way. The sound of my breath. The way the air feels as it enters my lungs. The way the light emanating from beneath a lamp shade seems sharper, somehow, than the light from above. The way my fingers feel as they touch the keyboard. And my brain’s receptivity extends to emotions, as well. Every emotion that can arise in my brain has done so. During the last several hours, my positive emotions have reach a zenith, then scrambled to climb down that peak in an effort to avoid falling off of it. And that resulted in stumbles. Mental mistakes I associate with distraction.

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A little time in bed, but then actual insomnia takes over. I’m up again, but now it’s 3:00 a.m. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing. What’s my hurry in deciding whether or not to sell my house? How important is it for me to drive off to see Decorah, Iowa? Is it necessary for me to explore Guttenberg, Iowa, after all? Can a new me emerge right here in the forest? Can I be thinner, more active, more engaged, and a better person over all without changing houses and without leaving friends for the unknown? Are my attachments here real or are they wishful thinking?

It’s off subject, but it’s one of the thoughts vying for space in my brain at this hour; loneliness. After a while, loneliness begins to feel, if not comfortable, somewhat normal. That tender pain—the one that feels a little like the intense sadness of abandonment—weakens over time and becomes more tolerable. Loneliness starts to fit like it was tailor made. Like a bespoke garment. Bespoke is a British term that means custom-made or tailor-made. I picked it up years ago, probably from a novel, and I liked it. It somehow seems more direct and certain than “customized” or other such words.

Anyway, back to the off-topic of loneliness. When it is interrupted and replaced by its opposite—something akin to a loving embrace—it stays just under the surface, ready to emerge in an instant. When that occurs in full force, even temporarily, a person feels that awful raw pain again. I think loneliness causes wounds to the psyche that never fully heal. Scars may cover them and make them less visible, but the wounds are there. And a person becomes increasingly susceptible to a sense that loneliness could be thrust upon him at any moment, so he better be ready for it. But he never is.

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I tried sleeping again and it worked. For reasons that make me question my sanity, I set my alarm clock for 6:45 before I went back to bed. I was sound asleep when the noise roused me out of bed. Immediately, I realized I had not taken in the hummingbird feeders last night. I looked outside and saw that one of them was in place. Where the other should have been, only the hanger remained. The bloody raccoons came back! When I feel so inclined, I will climb down the steep hillside in an attempt to retrieve the feeder, hoping it is not broken.

The bird feeder I purchased yesterday remains where I hung it. I have seen no evidence of birds around it yet, but I’m growing in patience, so I’ll wait. It may just take time. A friend recommended a specific birdseed that has been treated with herbs or spices that make the seeds seem too hot to forest animals but that do not impact bird behavior. We’ll see.

+++

My calendar today is relatively free. I need only to go buy a bottle of cabernet sauvignon to take to a gathering of wine aficionados on Friday. And I need to decide what I’ll make for hors d’oeuvres to accompany the wine. Everyone (or every couple) will bring a bottle of wine and something tasty; everyone will share. It’s a relatively small group, but a comfortable one. I look forward to that.

In addition to wine shopping, I should do any number of things that need doing around the house. Whether I do any of them remains to be seen. My mood shifts from elated to deflated and back again this morning. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep. I am not sure what time I went back to bed, but I suspect it was around 4:00 or 4:30.  And it’s only just after 8:00 now. Well, I had slivers of sleep that, together, add up to a reasonable amount, I think. I slid off my calendar again, didn’t I? Evidence of a need for sleep. But I will not nap. Because I might get a phone call from someone I’m eager to speak with. Or American Express National Bank my return my call from last Friday. Or something else might occur that I might miss if I were napping. So I will not nap. I’ll save that for the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

+++

It is not too early for me to “date” or “court” or “go out with” women again. Though it has been less than six months since her death, my wife was kept away from me for most of the preceding five months. So it’s more like just under eleven months now that she has been inaccessible or gone from me.  Soon, it will be a year. That’s a long time. But I’m not the only one “out there” who’s lonely. Others cope with being alone far better than I. There’s a difference, of course, between being alone and being lonely. I can handle being alone pretty damn well. Loneliness, though, is much harder. Because just as that empty space that causes loneliness can get filled, it can be emptied. That very fact puts one on guard.

Cripes! I can’t keep on topic long enough to finish a paragraph! Back to my wandering thoughts. It’s not too early for me; other opinions to the contrary be damned. I’ll explore the world at my pace, on my timeline. It could take me years to find someone, or I could make a connection right away. In fact, I might already have met that connection. Who knows? Time will tell.

+++

Looking at next week’s calendar, I see all manner of appointments and commitments. I start the week with a PET scan, followed by an office visit with my oncologist. When I get home from that, a representative of the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record will come by to deliver an iPad. My subscription to the newspaper makes me eligible to get an iPad from which I can read the newspaper. Though I only signed up for a month (or six?), they want me to get used to it and to feel compelled to re-subscribe so I can keep the iPad. I already have an iPad. Though it’s well over ten years old, it still works. The following day I have an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. It seems I’m there almost monthly; my teeth should sparkle like diamonds. They should be as white as…something or other. The following day, I have an appointment to see a counselor; I decided I might need a little professional assistance in working through some emotional things before they become unmanageable. I have other commitments the rest of the week. And I have various appointments, etc. the following week. Ach! The week of July 4 looks like the first week that’s entirely open (except for some things I can easily change or ignore).

When a person really want to, though, he can change his schedule. He can empty his schedule for good reason or no reason at all. Self determination. That’s it. If a meritorious reason presents itself, I can change my schedule or tear it up completely. Freedom. That’s such a fortunate state to be in.

+++

How can it be 9:00 a.m. already? That’s what one gets when one stay up late and doesn’t get but three hours or so of sleep. I could easily fall asleep at this desk, but I would curse myself later for the pains in my neck, back, and so forth. Enough writing for now.

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Fragments and Figments

The weather can take at least partial credit for my cheery mood yesterday morning. The mood could have continued with unabated joy, had the temperature ever reached its forecast high. But the rising temperatures seemed to stall around 67°F around 3 p.m., which is a bit chilly for my taste. Especially in late May. It edged up a tad by 5:00 p.m. to 70°F; better, but not quite the perfection I was hoping to experience.

I feel confident I will wish for cool late May temperatures when the oppressive weather of July and August makes breathing just as difficult as it is uncomfortable. Such is life. I will adjust and cope as necessary. With good fortune, I’ll be able to wander off in search of more appealing weather, at least on occasion, when sweltering summer temperatures spring upon us, fangs exposed.

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A few weeks ago, as I mused with my fingers about life, I wrote a couple of short sentences (an oxymoron when it comes to my writing) that stuck with me: “My thought process has to be my own. I have to reach a conclusion by myself; no one else to congratulate, no one else to blame.” The matter on my mind at the time was the  choice between a “place in the country” and hitting the road alone in an RV. I had not yet made up my mind between the two. Regardless of which direction I might choose, I thought at the time, the choice was exclusively mine to make. And it remains so. Choices always come with consequences. And making choices between two options is sometimes confounded by the emergence of a third choice—a choice that seemed improbable, at best, or even impossible. But, then, there it is, suddenly staring you in the face—like the unexpected gift of a new puppy or discovering all six winning numbers on the lottery ticket—rendering all other options irrelevant. Life is marked with surprise after surprise after surprise. It’s best to accept that reality, rather than try to manipulate or control them. Hmm. These last several sentences read like hidden messages from a mystic. They are nothing of the sort; they simply are ruminations that pop up from time to time when the morning air is right and the sun is properly positioned in the sky.

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Just before I awoke this morning, I was in the midst of what may be the most bizarre dream I’ve ever had. It was so bizarre that I cannot even begin to adequately describe it. Let me say only this: it involved a series of impossible experiential puzzles in which visual clues transformed the presence of an object or a shape into something completely different. The only one I think I can describe in a way that MIGHT make sense is this:

At the top of a drawing of a rectangular box, a tiny fragment of the top line of the rectangle is missing from the rectangle. The missing fragment, just above the box, is bent into a meaningless shape. But looking carefully at the meaningless shape, it becomes apparent that, when viewed from a specific perspective in conjunction with the remainder of the rectangle, the whole rectangular drawing looks like a negative-space image of something completely different (for example, the top of the rectangle looks like an image of the entrance to stairs leading into a basemen). It’s too strange to attempt any more.

“You had to be there” is the only way to describe it, really. And that rectangular clue was one of literally dozens that appeared in the dream, all in a huge empty white field of space.

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The desire for of an object of one’s passion grows exponentially greater when one gets just a taste of the object, only to have it snatched away. Think of a desire for salty caramel ice cream. The ice cream store clerk gives you a little taste, sending your taste buds into shuddering ecstasy. You ask for a bowl.

“I’m sorry, that taste was the very last little bit we had,” the clerk says to you. Your hunger for that specific flavor of ice cream spikes.

“You must have another container of the stuff in a different freezer,” you say to the clerk.

“No, I’m afraid not. I probably shouldn’t have let you taste it, knowing what I know about how powerfully addictive it is.”

“What?! You knew I could not have any, yet you gave me a taste?! That is cruel! It is beyond cruel! You are a monster!”

You jump over the counter, pushing the clerk aside. “Tell me where the other container is hidden! Tell me or I’ll strangle you!”

“Sir! We have no more,” the clerk replies, the fear in her voice almost palpable. “Please leave. I don’t want trouble.”

“If you didn’t want trouble, you shouldn’t have teased me that way. You shouldn’t have ratcheted up my craving for salty caramel ice cream!”

You reach into your satchel, pulling out a collapsible guillotine. “This,” you point to the blade as the device self-assembles at the push of a button, “is your punishment for torturing me like that!”

It goes downhill from there, of course. Like most ice cream stores, this one has an emergency call switch to summon the police in just such an emergency. And, naturally, the clerk used it. In an instant, a S.W.A.T. team rushes through the front door. They disable the guillotine, wrap flex-cuff disposable zip-tie handcuffs around your wrists, and haul you away to a prison cell. Outside your cell, you witness guards scooping salty caramel ice cream into bowls, serving all the other inmates…all the inmates but you!

And so it goes with desire. It is dramatically amplified when you can have just a taste of something powerfully addictive; but no more than a taste. This message is brought to you by Blue Bell CreameriesTM and the International Tactical Team Officers Association.

+++

Eh. I think I’ll stop writing for a bit. Maybe I’ll come back later in the day to see if something meaningful has entered my mind. Something worthy of taking up the time of anyone stumbling upon this post (or the next one). Writing is an addiction, but it isn’t always a 24/7 addition. Sometimes, I need a little break to collect the millions of shards of broken mirrors that constitute my brain. I need time to sweep them into a dust bin, then melt the pieces of glass so I can begin anew with something stronger and more lasting. And so off I go to shower, shave, and begin the day again.

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Trying on Happiness Like a Comfortable Pair of Shoes

Unlike a day ago, I awoke later than normal this morning, having slept soundly. Any dreams I had were pleasant; thoughts that went through my mind overnight left me feeling good, as if I had made peace with a sometimes troublesome world.

The chill in the air this morning prompted me to pull on a favorite old t-shirt, but that wasn’t enough to satisfactorily warm me. So, I added a sweatshirt, warming me enough to feel at ease with what feels like an unseasonably cool late May morning. As I sip my first cup of coffee, I consider how good I will feel under a hot shower. That will wait for a while, though. First, I will ease into the day by acquainting myself with an unusually positive mood. And, then, I will see what the day holds. I had planned to get together today with my friend who’s an RV aficionado, but some troubling health issues with her dog put that on hold. I offered to accompany her to a veterinary ER in Little Rock if the dog needs that level of care, but I gather from an email I read this morning that probably won’t be necessary today; it may be a day or two from now, if at all. So, today belongs to me for the moment; I will behave accordingly.

+++

All sorts of things went through my mind before I went to bed last night, from taking a road trip to New Mexico to planning a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Mexico in the not-too-distant future. But, unlike some of my travel fantasies of late, those ideas weren’t spurred by escapism. Instead, those thoughts sprang from desires to explore and discover. They arose from a desire for new experiences or for refreshing my experiences in new environments. It’s odd…waking from a good sleep—after an evening in which all sorts of exciting possibilities seemed to present themselves in my mind—makes the world seem more inviting. Friendlier. More exciting. Just a better place to be!

+++

I doubt it’s thunder I hear, though the barely audible rumbles sound like distant thunder. The sky offers no evidence that the atmosphere is angry or that the air is considering a revolt against the very cool morning air. But somewhere “out there” are noises that sound like Mother Nature either is perturbed or ate some dark grey clouds for breakfast. The faint sounds linger for several seconds before they dissolve into the background noise in and around the house: the buzzing electric motor of the refrigerator, incandescent light bulbs hissing suggestions that they are approaching the point of burning out, taps of woodpeckers that cannot differentiate wood siding from tree trunks. When sounds are too soft to identify but too loud to ignore, they become troublesome, as if one hears ghosts…or termites chewing on structural timbers that keep the house from crashing down into the crawl space below. No, that can’t be. My mood is too good at the moment to acknowledge any danger of dangerous termite infestations. I’ve recently had my annual termite inspection, anyway, so that thought should not even be permitted a temporary parking space in my head. The sounds could be imaginary, like the ones I thought I did not really hear several months ago. But those were not imaginary, though I thought they were. No, they were the sounds of blood being pumped through the veins and vessels near my ear drums. I determined the source of those sounds on my own, without any assistance from medical professionals. Some people may think I still need the help of psychological professionals to rid me of those noises. But I know otherwise. The sounds of blood coursing through one’s body is a little like hearing oneself think. But different. I cannot remember who told me, years ago, that Richard Nixon once said to someone, “We’re a lot alike, but in different ways.” That has always troubled me. It sounds too much like hearing blood being pumped under high pressure through “blood-pipes” in the body. A “blood-pipe” is a perfectly good term for the flexible carriers of blood through our bodies, isn’t it? Of course it is.

+++

Yesterday, I wrote about the powerful first kisses of youth. And I questioned whether the excitement of first kisses is an absurdity unavailable to those of a certain age. As I mull the question this morning, I am relatively certain excitement and desire are not reserved for the young. The young stumble into first kisses, not knowing what to expect or how to feel about them, whereas age and experience enable us to develop deep and abiding wisdom about how meaningful first kisses can be when we have left the ignorance of youth behind us. Yet, even knowing what we know about them, we are apt to be surprised—stunned—when we discover again how exciting and enriching they can be. This paragraph pretends to be based on age and experience, but it is just as likely that it is based on dreams and memories resurrected from the recollections of youth. We can wish and dream as we grow older, but our fantasies and fancies may be built upon recall that has been “repaired” by time and experience. That is to say, it might all be in our imagination; and it might be running away with us. I say, though, let it run!

+++

If I look in the mirror this morning, what will I see? Will I see a face that looks as happy as the mind behind it feels? Or will I see the same old face; possibly adjusted to accommodate a slight smile or a little grin? I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Time to think more seriously about shaving and showering and otherwise preparing not only to face the day, but to seize it. Embrace my feelings about the day. Hold those feelings in my hands and embrace them. Be passionate. Always be passionate. Passion is what makes the day worth exploring. I read recently that one should approach each day as one might approach trying on a new pair of shoes. It would be pointless to try on a pair of shoes that one expects will be uncomfortable. The same is true of the day. Expect it to be good and comfortable and it probably will meet the expectation. Yes, I know, this sounds a little like naiveté and the power of positive thinking. So be it. What can it hurt?

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Good morning.

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That First, Powerful Kiss

Here it is, 3:15 a.m. and I’ve been awake for more than twenty minutes. I can feel my eyelids attempting to reclaim the sleep of which they are being deprived, but the allure of sleep is insufficient, for now, to lead me back to bed. So, for at least a bit, I’ll try to empty my mind of what’s keeping me from enjoying sleep the way it should be enjoyed.

Forty-five minutes before my dinner guests were to arrive last night (yesterday afternoon, actually), I opened Facebook. There, right at the top, was a photo of my wife. She was smiling broadly, as she so often did. I could see the happiness in her eyes as she stood in front of a beautiful, brightly colored painting in the lobby of the Boutique Hôtel Cezanne in Aix-en-Provence, France. The photo was taken five years ago during the Road Scholar tour of the south of France we took with my sister. Despite the happiness of the image and the memories it triggered, seeing it prompted almost unstoppable waterworks and an outpouring of grief, the immense power of which I hoped might have begun to subside these past few months. I should have known better. I spent most of the next thirty minutes trying to regain enough emotional control to finish preparing dinner, as I recalled our experiences in Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Cabrières-d’Avignon, Gordes, Nîmes, and dozens of other little towns and villages.

And, then, I spent the following fifteen minutes astounded and embarrassed at the emotions that followed; selfishly wishing for a warm hug from a loving woman who would hold me close and comfort me. The two emotions seemed—and still seem—so utterly at odds with one another. Grief, missing my wife with an enormous fervor, on one hand, and desiring the comforting embrace of another woman, on the other. What kind of demon processes those kinds of competing, opposite emotions at the same moment? Maybe it’s not an ugly, selfish, craven madness; maybe it’s normal or, at least, not thoroughly abnormal. No matter whether normal or monstrous, though, I am confident I will try to find a way to excuse it as simply an expression of grief. Isn’t it so very convenient that I do not need to condemn inexcusable flaws because grief provides a shelter for even the most egregious transgressions. Ach!

+++

I pulled myself together in ample time. The evening went without a hitch. In fact, last night’s dinner was pleasant and calming. My guests, a couple who are friends from another lifetime ago, enabled me to transform a guilt-ridden few moments into an evening filled with laughter and memories and genuine enjoyment. These friends, now retired, owned a very successful mystery shopping company and were active, as leaders, in one of the associations my company managed and served. We talked about conferences we attended together—in Moscow and Dubrovnik and so many other places. And we reminisced about other people whose company we enjoyed so much during our travels. Though we never completed the conversations, nor the ideas, we toyed with the possibility of hosting a “reunion” of sorts, right here in the Village. Though I do not miss association management, in general, I miss some of my client associations and the members to whom I became close.

+++

During a recent conversation with a friend from church, the possibility of international travel came up. That conversation has kept coming back to me, prompting me this morning to open my always-ready link to the Iceland Monitor. The first thing I noticed when I opened the link was an article discussing an unusual haze over Reykjavík. Here’s what the article had to say, explaining what what going on:

Meteorologist Eiríkur Örn Jóhannesson, at the Icelandic Met Office, explains the reason for the haze: “This is dust from the outwash plains around Markarfljót river, [South Iceland]. We’ve had strong southeasterly winds [since Wednesday], and it’s been very dry, so the sand is dry, which is why this exceeds what we’re used to.

“This appears as particle pollution at the Environment Agency stations,” he continues. “It is somewhat coarser than particle pollution from studded tires, but of course it has an effect, which is why it is marked as red.”

The next thing I noticed was from a photo-op, showing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir in conversation. Iceland has, for years, been attractive to me. It occurs to me that I might finally just invest in travel to the country. I love the fact that Iceland seems so youthful and willing to embrace equality. And, to top it off, from all accounts it’s a gorgeous country.

Like so many things, I have a broad and shallow knowledge of Iceland. I should learn more and plan to travel there. Anyone want to join me?

+++

It’s nearing 4:00 a.m. now and I am getting wider and wider awake. That is not good, because I want to be fully awake and energetic when, this evening, another friend comes over with a bottle of wine and an interest in looking at the ceramic masks I have made. So, perhaps I’ll put my fingers back in their cases for awhile and will try to get back to sleep. I look forward to enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres and conversation this evening, enjoyment that could be derailed if I were constantly yawning and nodding off in the middle of sentences.

+++

So, I’m off to bed. I expect I’ll be back here to continue, or to finish, what I’ve been writing.

+++

The time is now 6:54 a.m. I have been up since around 6:30 and now am drinking a cup of coffee. I rather expected to sleep even later, given the intensity of my wakefulness before I returned to be, but one never knows. This morning, as I ruminate on our trip to the south France, I recall how thoroughly taken I was with the region. I believe I could have been left to live in the Camargue and I would have adapted quickly. Except for speaking French. It is a lovely, melodious language, but my tongue is not suited for it, I’m afraid. The shape of my tongue and my mouth and the demeanor presented by my body language screams Deutsch,. It’s as if I were a native German whose accent remained perfectly harsh and acute after an accident that robbed me of making coherent the sharp and stringent guttural noises!

+++

Hania Rani is a Polish pianist, singer, and composer whose talents are stunning. Listening to her play the keyboards just once was an extremely pleasing experience that introduced me to her remarkable talents. Listening a second time, almost a month later, persuaded me she is a genius. Listening again this morning as I write this convinces me I can be calmed by piano music; entranced by sounds generated not so much by the instrument being played but by the soul of the pianist. I sometimes listen to “Spa” music on Spotify and the twin brother on my Amazon Echo. Even the best of those offerings pale in comparison to thirty-year-old (plus or minus a year or two) Hania Rani’s music.

Speaking of music, I am delighted that my taste in music runs the gamut from jazz to blues to rock to rap to the classics. Even country has its place in my repertoire of “go-to” pleasing sounds. Music simply elaborates one’s moods. Musical sounds capture and amplify (or release and soften) emotions. When I think back to times (some quite recent) during which my musical preference tends to be stable, leaning toward one genre or another, I think my moods and thought processes tend to echo that “sameness.” Musical variety mines my emotions the way a diver mines shallow waters for abalone shells. Every new find is different from the one before; rich and beautiful and glistening with iridescent colors that spark passionate responses. Sticking to one genre, no matter which, seems somewhat limiting to me. I think we need to shock our emotional responses to music by regularly exposing our ears to sounds and rhythms that, on first listen, might seem initially unpleasant or unfamiliar or discordant at first. Our ears and our minds and our emotional cores learn from experience; even when that experience is painful or gut-wrenching.

+++

Many years have passed since I had that “first kiss” that electrified me. The first one took place when I was just a kid; I must have been somewhere between eight and twelve years old. I remember the girl’s name, but I’ll use only her given name: Amy. Amy’s father was the school principal where my mother taught school. For reasons I never knew, Amy and her father were at my house one day. Amy and I went into my very big back yard, where large mesquite trees provided ample “cover” and privacy for two children who were physically attracted to one another. I do not recall exactly how it happened, but I assume Amy initiated it; even then I was shy and reserved and more than a little scared of girls. Whatever the genesis of the experience, we kissed. As I remember it today, it was a long, leisurely, but passionate kiss. I felt a new and powerful emotion that caused my body to feel like an electric current flowed through it. I don’t know how it affected Amy; I don’t think she was similarly impacted by it; we did not kiss again.  remember thinking, for weeks afterward, that I must have done it wrong, because it didn’t seem to have the same effect on her as it did on me. She was not lovestruck. It must have felt like more of a casual brush on the cheek to her, whereas I think I assumed a kiss that deep and powerful could only have arisen from true love. I was a gullible romantic then; I’m not quite as gullible now. But in the intervening years, I experienced a few similar moments in which I felt the electricity course through me with enough power to leave my arteries and veins singed from the heat.

Now, in the midst of feelings of both intrigue and guilt, I wonder about the next “first kiss.” Do they even happen anymore after one reaches geezerhood? Is the very idea of an exciting “first kiss” an absurdity at this late stage of life? I honestly don’t know and I’m probably too embarrassed at my inexperience to find out. That’s another thing about moving (and renting) to a new place where one is unknown. Mistakes, when the embarrassment attached to them is too great to take, can be erased simply by moving away to a new community for a new chance. Friendship and its more intense embodiments

+++

Last night, during our dinner conversation, my guests told me about their daughter (in-law?) who had just lost a pet. She feels intense guilt for its demise, because she took it to the veterinarian to be euthanized. She now thinks she should have taken it home to live out its final days in a familiar place. Even though it was in agonizing pain, could not walk, was in an ongoing state of diarrhea, and otherwise was in miserable condition. She felt, and feels, guilt. I feel for the poor woman; having responsibility for an animal’s life and death is a weighty one. But I think when a person concludes the time is right to release the animal from its suffering, the person’s conclusion is correct. Maybe the animal would have lasted a bit longer, but its quality of life would have been awful. Euthanasia is the right thing to do, in most cases, I think.

After my guests left, I viewed an email sent by a friend, informing me that her dog was critically ill. Consequently, some plans we had to get together to talk about RVs and selecting communities in which to live and other such stuff might have to wait. I offered to go with  her to Little Rock if she determines her dog needs to go to competent doggie ER.

Coincidentally, just as I was writing this, my cell phone rang. I saw it was her calling. But when I picked up and said “hello,” I did not get a response. I spoke a bit more and I listened to indistinct voices on the other end. After a moment, she realized someone was talking to her from her phone. The call was made accidentally; commonly called a “butt dial,” though I’m not sure exactly how it happened. At any rate, I learned a little more from her (after she realized she had accidentally called me) about her dog. I hope it gets better, but I reiterated I would be available to go to Little Rock if necessary. A woman who used to follow my blog (and with whom I used to regularly exchange emails) would have called the circumstance an example of synchronicity. Now, I wonder what my former follower is doing these days and how she is doing; for reasons too convoluted to go into here, I was getting concerned about her, after reading some things into her emails. But, I suspect she simply tired of “talking” with me. I hope that’s it. Uh-oh. I just slipped part way into a rabbit warren, didn’t I?

+++

Crap! I’m falling asleep again. I may take an early morning nap to get it out of my system.

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Cool, Clear, Imaginary Water

Recently, I’ve engaged in conversations about places that, for various reasons, attract me. Among them: New Mexico and parts of Arizona, as well as several other places where rain is not as common, by far, as it is where I live now. During those conversations, I’ve expressed concerns about some of those places, due to the potential for water shortages.  Yesterday, a CNN headline online caught my attention: First-ever Colorado River water shortage is now almost certain, new projections show. My vague worries about an ill-defined point in the “future” are coming into focus, far clearer than heretofore. Right-wing climate deniers might refute the projections. And they could, conceivably, be right about causation (though I seriously doubt it). But denial of causation seems to carry with it denial of demonstrable facts; like, we’re running out of water in a lot of places. Whatever the cause, we have to do something. And that might include killing lawns, redirecting water from golf courses to city drinking water supplies (okay, I hear the unhappy murmuring of golfers as they reach for their torches and pitchforks), and planting crops that maximize nutrition and minimize water use. And, finally, we may have to insist that people who want to live in the desert are on their own when it comes to water, except that we must limit how much they take out of the ground.

This discussion seems to out of place as I look out the window at miles and miles of wetness. It’s too wet for me even to comfortably walk out onto the deck to hand the hummingbird feeders. I assert that it’s not out of place.

+++

And now for something out of the ordinary.

How shocking would it be for people to learn that I suddenly left Arkansas in the company of a woman, destined for Christchurch, New Zealand. The surprise would grow when the circumstances of my departure became known. I had been hired to handle international marketing for the Te Pae Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre. The shock would grow exponentially when the identity of the woman who accompanied me became known. A married woman who was understood to be morally steadfast and devoted to her husband. Yet it was clear; she was not just in my company, she was my intensely romantic companion. As we waited together in the LAX departure lounge, she took a selfie while giving me a passionate French kiss and sent the image, attached to a text message, to her closest friend. “Willard will never understand, Lela, but I hope you can and will. Please try to comfort him and assure him that I love him, though it may not seem that way now. But I need this excitement, this passion, in my life.”

Tongues would wag for months. Poor Willard, though initially stunned and hurt, would eventually find comfort in the arms of Letitia, a beautician from El Dorado. And Lela would join us in Christchurch a year later, bringing her new lover, a jazz violinist named Galileo Smart, with her. Lela, too, would have discovered what Susanna and I had long since learned: life lived wrapped in the barbed wire chains of a moral code more suited to a Victorian age than to modernity, can be intolerable. Infidelity and raw romantic excitement, as we say, are as natural as breathing; maybe more so. Lela’s husband, Barney, eventually recovered, more or less. He and Willard spent their days playing pickle-golf and drinking Geritol-laced vodka tonics.

Obviously, I have a bias against unquestioning adherence to irrational social convention turned into compulsory manipulation that serves only to keep us subjugated in the master/slave relationship, where “master” is cleverly disguised as the church or the body politic. And I realize mocking Willard and Barney for sport is an indecent failing, a flaw I am trying to correct. I promise. But the freedom to pursue the forbidden fruit of what most consider illicit passion is a privilege I refuse to surrender.

That’s a tiny part of the backstory. The reality of this unexpected vignette has yet to be played out in my head. Which may be best for everyone who stumbles upon this twisted fiction. Or what might best be called twisted friction. Written from an intricately woven first, second, and third person point of view, this never-to-be-finished piece would engage the reader in direct conversation with the writer while exposing elements of the experience that could be revealed only in third person (well, maybe a better writer could do it better from a whole different perspective, but…I am the one with the keyboard and morally corrupt fingers). Okay, that’s enough of a foray into fiction for the moment.

+++

I am hosting a religious, Republican couple for dinner at my house tonight. I’ll roast a pork loin (smoking it is no longer an option, thanks to the untimely death of my electric smoker). I do not know what else I’ll serve. Whatever it is will require me to go grocery shopping. Maybe a salad, some sort of potato dish, perhaps corn or green beans. And for dessert? Will  I even serve dessert? I am not much of a dessert eater, but I will eat it if it’s placed in front of me. It is extremely rare for me to order dessert at a restaurant (it’s not rare; it’s extinct). But I need to do something. Maybe ice cream? And after dinner? Cognac? Do I have any cognac? Do I have any cigars? Will my television set willingly display FOX News? Just kidding. It feels odd for me to host dinner by myself. I can’t say it’s a comfortable feeling, either. It’s more an obligatory feeling of reciprocity (these folks, as different as they are from me, have been caring and have been very kind to me in response to my loss of my wife, so I should stop being such a jerk about religion and politics). I’m doing something just like it next week; a different couple, but also at opposite ends of my spectra. And responding to my own sense of obligation; but also wanting to express my real appreciation.

It occurs to me that I should invite several other individuals to come over for dinner, for the same reasons. But these are people who share much with me in the way of political and philosophical sensibilities. They are women who delivered food to me in the aftermath of my wife’s illness and death. I wonder whether it would be unseemly for me to invite them over, one by one, for candle-lit dinners? The invitations would exclude their husbands, of course. My twisted sense of humor remains intact, I think. Actually, I have to admit, though, I probably would be far more comfortable with them than their husbands. Their husbands, on the other hand, might not be comfortable with that scenario. Especially if they read any of my old (or new) fiction vignettes involving torrid affairs and the like. They probably would wonder, legitimately, whether my moral compass registers true north. Sometimes, I think I am intentionally demonic in one sense and prone to provocation (would the word “provocative” be more appropriate here?) in another.

+++

A few days ago, during a conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I have in mind reinventing myself (and I’ve probably written the same here). My friend suggested I could do that right where I am; I don’t need to go anywhere to do that. But as I think about it, I have to say I disagree. I’m relatively sure it would be much harder to dislodge others’ perceptions of me, based on their experience with me, than to create new perceptions untainted by prior knowledge. In a new environment (with enough effort on my part), I could become a gregarious, outgoing extrovert. That would be essentially impossible where I am; too many people know me as I am (gregarious, outgoing, extroverted on the page, but withdrawn, introverted, and generally uncomfortable when social settings become too big or insufficiently intimate).  In a setting where people do not know me, I could present myself as a retired police investigator or as having been the owner of an art studio before retirement. Or a practitioner of placebo medicine; sort of like placebos in drug trials, but in a medical office setting…the real doctor would work in one set of examination rooms, I would work in another. The real doctor would prescribe treatments and medications and so forth, whereas I would simply ask patients to disrobe and watch them, in their discomfort, while they describe to me their symptoms.

One of these days, I’m going to be imprisoned for my ideas. They’re going to be so far outside the mainstream that people will feel uncomfortable in my presence. Hell, that may already be true.

+++

I need a drink of water right now. But there’s none to be had. I’ll just drink from my coffee cup and pretend it’s water. That’s the ticket.

+++

Too much of what I write involves me. I. I. I. I. Who gives a flying…? People should care about themselves, of course, but not at the expense of others. The balance between one’s own happiness and the comfort and happiness of other people in our world is a difficult one to achieve. So here is something that might help cement that balance in at least one life:

He who loves
does not think about his own life;
to love truly,
a man must forget about himself.
If your desires do not accord with your spirit,
sacrifice them,
and you will come to the end of your journey.
If the body of desire obstructs the way,
reject it; then fix your eyes
in front and contemplate.

~ Attar ~

And thus ends another exploration of tortured madness.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face.

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Replica of a Natural Morning

Paul Simon is probably right. There must be fifty ways to leave your lover. But without question there are a million different ways to replicate the outcome of the same mistake in different forms. I write from densely personal stupid experience and inescapable insanity. Hence the apothegm, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I write this as a reminder to myself. Not that I’ll change my behavior, of course. Because that would be the intelligent thing to do. I just want to go on record with evidence, just in case I need it for the insanity defense.

+++

I spent time over lunch yesterday with a very intelligent, kind, and beautiful woman, absorbing some good ideas and excellent advice, capped off with an outstanding cappuccino gelato. During the course of the conversation, I discovered with glee that I am not alone in being enamored with the concept of co-housing and enchanted by the possibilities of the tiny-house movement (in which “movement” is defined not as physical displacement in space but as “a diffusely organized or heterogeneous group of people or organizations tending toward or favoring a generalized common goal.“). The time I spent yesterday triggered new ideas that may cause me to adjust my thinking about whether or when to sell my house and what to do should I move forward with a sale. The upside is that I might pursue activities that could otherwise have gone undone. The downside is that I might have invested a rather significant amount of time during the last several weeks (months, even) in pursuit of ideas that might never be realized. But that’s the way life works, isn’t it?  I learned of a place that has captured my imagination in a way few others have: Point Roberts, Washington. So many appealing things about the place!  But that’s not all. I left the conversation with a renewed interest in travel to Greece and Iceland and Denmark. A danger in all this, of course, is that I might get depressed because I cannot “do it all.” I would need several more lifetimes to pursue all my desires. But isn’t that true of all the wishes and dreams one has in life? I won’t let this episode derail me, though. I will use it as another tool in the process of honing things down toward near-perfection.

+++

Buffalo Trace Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey should be consumed only in very small amounts and never after unmeasured but significant amounts of good India Pale Ale beer. Refer to the first paragraph, above. The lesson need not rely exclusively on Buffalo Trace or IPAs. It could just as easily be Rock City vodka and Guinness stout or Herradura tequila and Red Stripe beer from Jamaica. In the immortal words of Tom Paxton, “It’s a lesson too late for the learning, made of sand, made of sand.” I have it on good authority that consumption of such pairings can lead to dreams in which midgets dressed in Pacific islander native costumes accompany nurse practitioners on house calls.

+++

Guilt. Regret. Remorse. Shame. Many more related words might flood from the Thesaurus, but those additional words are not necessary. Guilt, alone, will do. I have been thinking about guilt, as well as its etiology and its ramifications, for some time. During that time, I’ve discovered several ways in which guilt is categorized and classified. Depending on whose perspectives one adopts, guilt can be said to be rational or irrational, natural or free-floating, persecutory or reparatory, reactive or anticipatory or existential, adaptive or maladaptive…and on and on. I have no sense as to the true number of classifications or theories of guilt, but I know this: guilt and its companions regret and remorse and shame, etc. command a significant amount of investigative and theoretical energies. Guilt is both easy to understand and impossibly complex. Guilt can be both therapeutic and irreversibly damaging. From the perspective of the layperson whose experience with guilt may be both rational and irrational, whatever form it takes, guilt can be debilitating. It can be so overwhelmingly painful that its soul-crushing strength can lead one to think the unthinkable. I think feelings of guilt must be tackled early and addressed fully. Whether guilt is a legitimate response to acts or omissions or, on the other hand, an irrational reaction to circumstances over which a person has no control, it needs to be acknowledged. Coping mechanisms that recognize legitimate guilt and channel responses into positive thoughts and behaviors as part of “lessons learned” can redirect the power of the emotion in productive ways. Intentionally dismantling irrational guilt and internalizing the fact that it is not a person’s “fault” can dissolve potentially negative, even deadly, misdiagnosed “guilt.”

In all the clinical, unemotional dissection of the emotion and all the thought I’ve given to guilt, though, I’ve discovered something else. For me, guilt sometimes has more power than all the tools I use to assess and dismantle it or to try to disarm its most painful weapons. It carries a bigger stick than I can fit in my bag of tricks.  Sometimes, I think the only reasonable response to feelings of guilt is to allow the emotion to take hold and let it ring out the tears until one is as dry as the desert; hoping the pain is flushed away in the deluge that leaves the landscape dry.

+++

I encounter a lot of emotion in other people, people I know, every day. I try to keep it out of my writing, purely as a matter of respecting privacy. I do not always succeed; sometimes, it slips in and I don’t catch the fact that I might have betrayed an assumed or even a requested confidence. Given that possibility, though, I try to keep others’ names out of my writing. Sometimes, my words make it easy for readers to identify a person, though; I try to allow that in only when doing do does not compromise the person in any way. All of that notwithstanding, sometimes I want to paint a full and comprehensive picture of others’ emotions, complete with identities, home addressed, phone numbers, and identifying marks. That desire usually does not arise out of contempt for a person but, rather, out of frustration that the person does not seem to recognize or acknowledge the legitimacy or necessity of emotion. Usually, the person is male. Males are taught to hide or even deny their emotions. Those lessons obviously did not “take” with me. But the part of the lessons that said “if men show their emotions, they should feel embarrassed and should try to recover from such an awful faux pas” stuck with me quite well. I resent those lessons. I think those lessons do far more damage to men than any good that might arise from an imaginary “benefit” that might be attached to adherence to the masculine macho stereotype myth. Resentment is a weak word to describe my feeling toward those lessons. Contempt and fury and rage come a little closer, but I think the word that fully describes my emotional reaction to those lessons has not yet been invented.

The irony of the image of the stoic male who either hides or simply does not have deep emotions is this: the image hides a fundamental weakness that belies the myth of strength. Men who can’t or won’t show their emotions lack the strength to reveal what true humanity looks like; as if they could not handle reactions to revelations that they, too, are sentient beings.  And, of course, when I get upset with myself for being unable to hide my emotions, I am buying into the myth and revealing my fundamental weakness. It’s odd, isn’t it, that a façade that tries to hide emotion behind a curtain of  strength is actually a sheer veil whose every wrinkle reveals weakness? I wish I could find a way to unlearn the lesson that causes my discomfort and embarrassment at emotional release.  Even though I recognize what it is, I cannot seem to overcome it. Most men can’t. Those who do are derided by those whose weakness had been perfected to an art form. But, those same men who are derided for exposing their emotions are admired by people who recognize the trait as strength.

Where the hell did that come from this morning? Well, I’m glad I wrote it, despite being surprised that my fingers spun the words.

+++

Language pleases me. I saw a post this morning, with the following heading: “missing a yellow child’s kayak.” My reaction was laughter, as I wondered whether a kayak for a yellow child was missing or whether a yellow kayak for a child was missing. I’m easily amused, even by normal language not intended to amuse.

+++

Today feels like a Saturday for some reason. I know it’s Thursday, of course, but it just feels Saturday-ish. Enough for now. I a million things to do, thanks to my lethargy earlier in the week.

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Continued from Earlier Today…

As I was saying, there’s much more on my mind. Not that I’m going to record it all on this blog at this moment. Some of it, though…

+++

I can’t control another person’s thoughts and emotions; I can control only my own. And sometimes not even my own. But I should always try to exercise a significant degree of direction over myself. Suddenly, though I’ve known it for almost as long as I’ve breathed on my own, I realize that when I forgive someone, an enormous burden of anger or disappointment is lifted from my mind. Whether they forgive me from real or perceived transgressions, I always can forgive them. And that releases me in a sense; it release me to move on to things that merit my energy and attention. Anger absorbs too much energy that could be devoted to productive thought. Reinventing myself will require some constant reminders of such matters. The most difficult aspect of forgiveness is forgiving oneself, I think. While forgiving oneself does not necessarily require withdrawing judgment, I suspect it does require it more often than not. Forgiveness involves forfeiting the roles of judge, jury, and executioner in favor of figuratively dressing oneself in the robes of clergy.

+++

Ripping through billowing clouds while inside a jet airplane flying at several hundred miles per hour is, no doubt, different from drifting slowly through those same clouds in a glider. I have experienced the former, but not the latter. I’ve always wished I could find a way to go inside the white pillow of a summertime cloud so I could compare the sense of being in a thick fog with the sense of being enveloped by an entity that has more precise and distinctive boundaries. I would like to know whether the experiences. It is like being in a thick, grey fog or something more vivid and distinct, as if the soft white swollen balloons were more cohesive and substantive.

+++

I am drifting in and out of consciousness as I try to type my thoughts, a byproduct of sleeplessness. Obviously, I need to get more sleep than I’ve been getting. It’s just a matter of giving myself permission to sleep late, after a sleepless night, without condemning the practice of “sleeping in” as slovenly or wasteful of daylight. It’s odd that, at the same time I’m nodding off at the keyboard, I’m getting occasionally intense hunger pangs, despite having eaten a bit of cantaloupe just an hour or two ago. Weakness trails along behind the path insomnia; I wonder whether it’s the sense of weakness that makes me think, artificially, I’m hungry or whether I’m actually hungry. If the former, I’d rather not eat. I weigh far too much; is it the result of eating when I’ve tricked myself into believing I’m hungry. Or it is something else?

+++

I have to stop this and go shower and shave. Maybe that will wake me. For now, though, I will abandon my efforts to continue writing everything that was on my mind. I think it has disappeared into a pit formed when narcolepsy solidifies around an ill-formed idea.

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To Be Continued

In spite of the drab, grey morning and despite the fact that the deck was wet (not sure whether it was just heavy dew or rain from last night), something about the morning’s atmosphere captured my interest and appreciation. Maybe it was the refreshing coolness that did it. Or an almost fictile sky that beckoned me to take it in my hands and shape it into a comforting embrace. Or a little of each. Whatever it was—and is—I like the way this day began and the way it is progressing thus far. Today has potential. I can feel some energy that belies the sullenness of an overcast morning. Some mornings seem perfectly suited to action; but action that’s gentle and slow and purposive. This day is unfolding as a graceful introduction to late May.

+++

And now, for some thought-provocation:

The purpose of life is to live it,
to taste experience to the utmost,
to reach out eagerly and without fear
for newer and richer experience.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

+++

Lately, I wake in the wee hours almost every night. Sometimes, I am able to get back to sleep pretty quickly; others, my mind simply won’t stop racing in ways that make sleep impossible. Whether it’s just a brief interruption of my sleep or its complete abandonment, I often “feel” there’s a hint of something on my mind that causes me to awaken. I think at least part of that “something” has to do with an aspect of my psyche that either troubles me or excites me. Maybe I’ve uncovered some of what it is through a conversation with a friend.

Last night, I drove with a friend from my church to participate in an NAACP peace rally in Hot Springs. During the drive to and from Hot Springs, we talked about all sorts of things including my thoughts about possibly leaving my newfound friends if I move away. I told her one of the reasons prompting me to consider moving was to give me the opportunity to essentially “start over;” to become a person I could like better than the person I am. A little later, in response to my comments, she explained how she had changed. When she and her husband moved to the Village, she morphed from a conservative, reserved woman who had worn the formal greys and browns of the legal profession (the environment of both her work and her social life) to a progressive, adventurous risk-taker whose wardrobe and lifestyle are awash in color and excitement. Hearing her speak about that transformation—and knowing her as a beautiful, energetic, kind, loving, and enlightened person—the idea of reinventing myself is beginning to take shape as more than just a fantasy.

I don’t want to leave the impression that my plan is to start with a blank slate. Despite significant misgivings about myself, I have no intent to discard aspects of myself that I value. I will continue to be progressive in my thinking. I will continue to try to do my best to be compassionate, empathetic, and kind; I’ll just try to enhance those attributes and reduce the instances in which I exhibit their opposites. I will hold on tightly to valuing and embracing diversity and I will continue to be an ally to people whose sexual and gender orientations differ from mine. Those, and a few other core elements of who I am, will not change. What I hope will change will be the negative aspects of my lifestyle and my personality. More energetic; less judgmental of those whose views conflict with mine; more conscious of my physical appearance and state of health. Those sorts of things. And of course I recognize I don’t need to move to make those things happen. A change in my physical environment, though, might remove elements that support staying as I am. I hope a “shock to my system” might trigger what I need to become someone more likeable, more loveable, more appealing to the kind of people to whom I want to be appealing, including myself. Good, decent, caring people. People who, I hope, are like the person I will be. And, yes, I know how this whole thing sounds; like a fantasy sparked by trauma. While I cannot explain how and why I know that is not true, I just know it. It’s a bit late to do it, too, but that’s not going to stop me. Whether I decide to move away or not, I will become a different me.

+++

My Echo Dot reminds me to take my pills, to weigh myself, to bring in the hummingbird feeders, and various other things. Occasionally, I feel like I’m ceding responsibility for memory to an electronic device that can hear me and that speaks to me. There’s good reason for that; I feel that way because I’m doing it. I’m absolving myself of the responsibility to train my brain to behave the way a brain should behave. Is it really wise to ask “Alexa” to recall and remind me of obligations and responsibilities? Is such a dependence on a magical electronic device healthy for one’s brain? I suspect not. I suspect relying on Alexa may allow parts of my brain to atrophy.

+++

There is so much more on my mind, but I’ll stop for a while. My sister-in-law is on her way over for coffee. I may write more later…

…to be continued…

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The Pain and Pleasure of Risk

In my opinion, The Woman in the Window, on Netflix, is a waste of time, intellect, and the investment made in producing the film. Why I watched it all the way through is beyond me. Fortunately, after I finished that miserable excuse for a movie, I had ample time to watch something else of greater value…which would have been damn near anything. But I didn’t watch anything. Instead, I cogitated and mulled and mused; three endeavors I sometimes find fulfilling.

The only value I found in the film was the opportunity to see just a bit of Julianne Moore, who I find extremely attractive and from whom it is impossible for me to turn away my gaze. That having been said, I would have rather watched almost anything else, and should have done. Arabic cartoons based on the collected works of the philosopher, Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani, would have been more entertaining and engaging. Incidentally, I had never heard of Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani until this morning; incredible, isn’t it, what one can learn when one awakens before 5:00 a.m.?

+++

I am not getting Ricky the chihuahua. While various matters made it impossible or inadvisable for me to adopt Ricky, apparently, someone else snatched him up. Which was good, because my veterinarian friend suggested several reasons for passing on the dog, without even meeting him. And I trust my friend’s advice.  So, instead of introducing her to Ricky, I may participate this evening in an NAACP Peace Vigil in Hot Springs, along with several members of my church.

+++

I spent four hours over lunch yesterday with my veterinarian friend. We talked about RVs, the RV lifestyle, moving to new places, selling existing places, political intrusions on friendships, the definitions of friendship, dogs, Unitarian Universalism, the perception that women have the propensity to gossip, the reduced propensity of more highly educated women to gossip, men and their tendency to talk sports and other such stuff that holds no interest for me, cats, parrots, the advisability of getting a dog immediately before a potential move, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, military posts, and a thousand other matters. It was an enjoyable four hours. I learned some fascinating things about her history and experiences and discovered that we have some traits in common, including traits we wish we had corrected before we built our respective businesses. She shared with me some of the pros and cons of life on the road (in an RV), giving me much to consider, if I were to opt to pursue it, even temporarily.

We compared notes about all sorts of things and agreed to do it again sometime soon. I discussed with her my meeting yesterday morning with a real estate agent whose assessment of my home’s value and potential for sales matched another agent’s advice. This agent reiterated that, if I really plan to sell, I better have a plan as to where I will go after the sale. I told her I’ve been looking for small towns that might appeal to me. Though I did not put it in these terms to the agent, I later told my veterinarian friend I was looking for a  Mayberry-type town with easy access to big-city amenities. And I mentioned that I had found several possibilities in Iowa, of all places. I’ve looked in New Mexico and lots of other places, but Iowa seems, at present, to offer many of the things I’m after. Who knew? But, then, there’s Wisconsin, and Minnesota and upper Missouri and a dozen other places. My vet friend and I agreed to get together again soon to compare our assessments.  Wow. I am stunned at what appeals to me in these geezer years.

+++

When I got home, I viewed a text message from another friend who expressed an interest in viewing my ceramic masks (evidence that she read yesterday’s blog) and who offered to visit—and bring wine. That was a propitious message, as I was planning to invite her to join me for conversation about that same topic we recently had discussed (selling homes and moving on) . I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon people like her with whom I am finding more and more in common; maybe not common experiences, but definitely common philosophies and common ideas about things that matter. The problem with discovering these commonalities at this stage of my rapidly evolving life is that I am exploring possibilities that would remove me from her sphere and vice versa. The same is true of my veterinarian friend. Sometimes, I think life consists of intentionally unfair sets of circumstances meant to test our strengths. No need to test me, life, I already know I would fail the strength test.  She is one of the women I wrote about yesterday; one who’s already attached. It matters not. I will enjoy wine and conversation with her anyway. And I might just give her a mask if she decides she wants one. If I’m going to move, I need to unload a lot of this stuff anyway; might as well give it away to people I like and whose company I enjoy. Yes—to anyone who’s thinking it while reading what I wrote—I have a purpose in writing what I’ve just written, knowing my friend probably will read what I wrote. I sometimes have a difficult time expressing orally my appreciation and admiration and affection. For some reason, doing that causes me to get inexplicably emotional. I never advanced beyond near-adolescence with regard to social skills.

+++

So, am I really considering Iowa and Wisconsin and New Mexico and Michigan and…on and on? Yes. I am. At 67 years old, and only half a year left before 68, I recognize I really don’t have much more time to explore new places. I could live to be 100+, but the reality is that I may not even reach 68, so I need to use my time judiciously. As I’ve told a few friends, I wish my family were of a mind to collectively work to build a family compound of sorts…lots of privacy, but space for group gatherings and meal preparation and so forth and so on. But that’s not something that has been received with universal support over the years, so I’m pretty much giving up on it. And I do not know others who would seriously consider creating co-housing communities. So, I look for a different place. An affordable Mayberry type place on the upper Mississippi, perhaps, or a Mayberry type place elsewhere that offers opportunities for friendship, camaraderie, etc. Or elsewhere. Someplace pleasant and kind and welcoming and open. One of the motivating factors in my musings is that the real estate market in Hot Springs Village is the highest and tightest it has been in many years; if I were to sell now, it’s likely I would make back my investment along with a substantial bonus, which would be a nice addition to my retirement funds. Of course, it’s possible the rise in prices will continue for years to come and, by selling, I’d miss out on all that as-yet-unearned appreciation; that doesn’t worry me in the least. I’ve had that experience before and am perfectly happy that I sold my last house when I did.

I’ve been working on a list of issues to explore with regard to any location I might seriously explore, including the following:

  • Monthly temperature average highs and lows (and record highs and lows)
  • Monthly precipitation averages and forms (rain, snow, etc.)
  • Proximity of geologic fault lines
  • Costs of insurances (home, auto, etc.)
  • Local “pests” (like chiggers, ticks, black flies, mosquitoes, etc., etc.)
  • Availability and reliability and quality of service by service providers
  • Cable TV providers (though by no means crucial…cutting the cord with high quality internet is more appealing)
  • Telephone landline providers
  • Cell phone service providers/coverage
  • Land and real estate costs
  • Age demographics
  • Diversity (race, ethnicity, sex, etc.) demographics
  • Openness to diversity of all kinds (which I think correlates with social and political progressiveness)
  • Property taxes
  • Sales tax
  • State income tax
  • Could I raise chickens?
  • Could I have goats?
  • Proximity of UU churches
  • Existence/size/proximity of Democratic Party organization
  • Voting in last presidential election (Biden vs. Trump)
  • Quality and proximity of hospitals/medical care
  • Liquor laws (mostly because I find offensive governmental intrusion into my personal habits under the guise of public safety when the intrusion is based, instead, on religious beliefs)
  • Many, many more to come, I’m sure

All the foregoing notwithstanding, it’s possible I may decide to stay where I am. It’s sometimes easier to let inertia and comfort control one’s life than to spend the energy on adventure and risk. But I’m leaning toward risk. The biggest risk is that I might leave behind me “my people” and discover they are impossible to replicate elsewhere. But, I’ve been mostly alone, except for my wife and a very few now distant friends, for most of my life, so I have experience with it and know I could survive it if I had to.

+++

As I contemplate the possibility of selling and  moving on, it occurs to me that I have committed to joining friends on a trip to Galveston island in early November. That commitment stands, no matter where I am at the time, just in case there’s any question about it.

+++

This morning, I will participate in a live, face-to-face grief support group. The other times I have participated in such groups have been via Zoom, so this will be rather different. It will take place in someone’s home. I don’t know quite what to expect, as I haven’t participated much in grief groups. I guess I’ll find out in a few hours.

+++

I plan on keeping most of next week open so I can accomplish two things that simply won’t get done unless I clear my calendar entirely: First, I need and want to power wash the front doors of my house and, then, power wash the entire deck, screened porch, and all the windows along the back of my house. Second, I plan to spend a lot of time between cleaning to explore the issues I’ve identified with regard to a possible move (the items bulleted above). Clearing my calendar means skipping a “spiritual practices” gathering next week, as well as a men’s gathering, both church events.; most of my social life revolves around the church and/or people in the church. But, I will shower and shave and become sufficiently presentable Friday evening next week to attend a wine and munchies gathering with my old wine group, which has mostly been on hold since the pandemic began. That group includes only a couple of folks from church, proving my social life is not entirely dependent on the church. (Damn near all of it, but not entirely.)

+++

I feel a sense that I will return to writing more about philosophies soon and make this blog less a journal about my personal experiences. I’ve felt that before, though, and it hasn’t panned out. I hope, this time, it will. The exploration of a possible move, I think, will prompt me to examine both intellectual and emotional matters that lend themselves to philosophical examination. I miss both writing about and engaging in conversation about personal and societal philosophies. Those explorations help me grow beyond the end of my nose. Another friend, formerly of my church, regularly articulates his insistence that he needs always to examine his own thinking and his own experiences if he is to move forward in life; and he feels he must move forward or he will begin to slide backward. That’s the way I feel, albeit perhaps within a somewhat different framework. I have to think about things in ways that challenge my beliefs or my assumptions or my own experiences. Writing. That’s how I think. I’m “quicker on my feet” at a keyboard than in a rapid-fire debate. While I enjoy conversation, when it comes to verbal jousting, I feel like I’m wading in cold tar and wet sand, making it impossible for me to be “quick on my feet.” I suppose I would never have made a good lawyer, given my slow thinking verbosity (does that even make sense?).

+++

It’s almost 6:15, well beyond the time I should have taken the hummingbird feeders outside. And I still have to eat breakfast of some kind. And I need to shower, shave, get dressed, and confront the day ahead.  So, in making my plans to make this day another one that’s as fulfilling as yesterday, I turn to my anthology of Zen quotations, which today advises me to take care of my mind:

The mind is very difficult to see,
Very delicate and subtle;
It moves and lands wherever it pleases.
The wise one should guard his mind,
For a guarded mind brings happiness.

~ Dhammapada ~

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Moving Music and More Coffee

A public post on Facebook by someone I do not know asked whether there’s music that brings tears to a person’s eyes. I could list dozens of such pieces, if only I remembered them all. But the music that moves me wasn’t on my mind as I read what others had to say.

As I was skimming some responses, I came across a guy named Alvin Ondriezek, who identified one such song in Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Oh, yes, that’s one of mine! I decided to see who this guy is, this guy who shares my sensitivity to that Gordon Lightfoot tune. Alvin lives in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Sandra Bellock Ondriezek. I learned from his Facebook page that he first met Sandra in 1953. He appears to be a fan of Patsy Cline and Jim Croce. I learned through a little more research that the town name where he lives comes from the Welsh Nant Y Glo, meaning “The Ravine of Coal.”

I scanned a few other comments and found several that listed Amazing Grace. A number of others identified Fur Elise. Several others names various other classical pieces. Another popular one, I found, was Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, from the film, Beaches. Some others were unusual in that I personally could not imagine why a person would be moved by them; until I read on to learn that “such and such piece of music was my mother’s favorite and we played it at her funeral” or “this music was on the radio when we got the call about my aunt’s death in a car accident” or “I associate this music with the birth of my first child.”

The reasons, when given, frequently were moving.  Another one that I found interesting was Desperado by the Eagles. The guy who identified that song said it was “an unconventional mother/son wedding song but the underlying message was her encouraging me to ‘let someone love you before it’s too late.'” He goes on to say his mother has since died and the music gets to him every time. A woman said she heard Let It Be by the Beatles on the radio on her way to counseling every week for several months; she said “big ole tears would fall” but she believed it was “a message for me to let go of what is not mine to carry.” I read many intensely moving comments, most of which were very short; but they were incredibly moving. All of this stuff could easily be incorporated into a novel or short story.

It’s interesting to me that I took time to read some of those comments. The post and the responses normally are not the kind of things I read; I just scroll past them. But in this case, something caught my eye. I’m glad it did.

Everything happening around us is a story waiting to be told.

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Yesterday afternoon was partly cloudy, but the sun that shone through those clouds was sufficient to warm the air to a very comfortable temperature, especially on the waters of Lake Balboa. I forgot my sunglasses, protective headgear, and sunscreen. It wasn’t so much that I forgot them; it just never occurred to me that I should take them along. My neighbors offered me sunscreen. I declined, though, because I am a macho, outdoorsy, über-male kind of guy—the kind of guy who gets his kicks through hand-to-hand combat with grizzly bears and who tracks and hunts deer wearing only a loincloth and carrying only a club for a weapon. Yeah. I’m wearing a pretty decent sunburn this morning. But it was most definitely worth it.

Three or four truly glorious hours on the water (in spite of no sunglasses nor headgear) left us hungry. On the way home, we went by El Jimador, where we picked up three orders of seafood ranchero, one of my favorites. We took the food to their house, where we sat on their deck for dinner. We had a nice, crisp, sparkling Cuvée Amrita with dinner, then switched to Green Fin White Table Wine.

After dinner, the artist in the house (the most prolific oil painter I have ever know, a guy whose paintings are absolutely beautiful) showed me his latest works. His most recent pieces were inspired by the U.S. southwest; spectacular stuff. He surprised me by making an offer: he offered to allow me to pick any one of a large number of his paintings in return for one of the ceramic masks I made a few years ago. I did not hesitate. Though I told him I’d have to mull over which of his paintings I most wanted, I certainly want to do it. And he is free to pick any of the thirty or so masks I made.

Both of my neighbors were, as expected, unhappy to learn that I might sell my house and move. She, especially, was quite distressed. She argued with some fervor that I should think long and hard before making such a decision. She said that I should, of course, make the decision that is best for me, but I should be absolutely sure before doing something that would so utterly alter the course of my life. She made some compelling arguments, but I will do what I think is best for me. I love them for their friendship, their generosity, their compassion, and their constancy. It’s tough to think about leaving people who care so much, but it’s a decision only I can make. And I will plod ahead, intent on reaching a decision before long.

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I read several posts I’ve written in recent years on the subject of friendship. My definitions of friendship seem to be more rigid and more demanding than most other people’s thoughts on the matter. Maybe my expectations are too high; I expect others to consider as I do that with  friendship comes an unspoken sacred commitment to “be there” for the friend, no matter the situation nor the circumstances. I’ve written before that I believe a friend would take a midnight phone call and then drive ten hours to bail a friend out of jail (or whatever other demanding scenario one might imagine). I’ve been challenged on that, insisting that friendship is no different from other engagements and attachments—that friendships exist along a spectrum that might have acquaintances at one end and pals somewhere in the middle and good friends near the other end and best friends at the termination point of the spectrum. Maybe. Maybe I am just unable to see through the fog that enshrouds that spectrum. Lately, I’m beginning to sense that I’ve been a romantic far too long. It’s time to shed notions of chivalry and gallantry. Time to abandon the ideas of unwavering commitment to others, who one considers friends, as a condition of admission to the human race. People are just people. They do not magically become knights in shining armor who would slay dragons to protect their friends. WTF. I have been deluding myself my entire life.

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I am in love with a woman in Hot Springs, a woman I’ve met only a few times. But I read her hilarious posts on Facebook and know that I love a woman who shares my somewhat bizarre sense of humor. I am in love with another few women here in the Village, women who are unattainable for many reasons, not the least of which is their marriage to their husbands or commitment to their lovers. I am in love with a woman here in HSV, an adventurous woman whose kindness and unbridled honesty seem at odds with one another but, then, a perfect combination. I am in love with another woman, a woman I gently tease about being crazy and living in the wrong century for a person with her sensibilities and conflicting Victorian persona. I am in love with women who are too young for me, too intelligent for me, too married or attached for me, or are otherwise too unavailable for me. And then I go back to friendship and what it is. Maybe I am in love with them because I consider them friends. Or maybe I don’t know what love is. Does it belong on the same spectrum as friendship? Or are they really very different things? If they are on the same spectrum, at what point does friendship merge with love, or vice versa?

My mind not only permits me to confuse myself with thoughts that have no satisfactory end-points…it insists that I confuse myself with those thoughts. Normal people don’t let such things weigh on their minds; they may encounter those conundra but, when it becomes apparent there is no “answer,” they let it go and move on. It’s sometimes often difficult to be abnormal.

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My Zen book is at it again. It suggests what might help me resolve some things that seem unsolvable.

Do not seek the truth.
Only cease to cherish opinions.

~ Zen saying ~

Hmm. Well, there you go.

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Last night, my neighbors told me about some charges that appeared on a credit card bill. The charges were purchases made at a cannabis-related store (not marijuana…just extracted products that do not make a person high) in Haltom City, Texas. It was unclear where the charges were in-store on on-line. The credit card company responded to my neighbors’ inquiry by investigating and removing the charges. But the credit card company did not explain how the charges got on the account. Were they fraudulent charges? Was it simply a mistake? Did someone create a card with my neighbors’ information? Was it an online purchase in which the buyer had access to both the card number and the card-specific security code? I think credit card companies should be obligated to explain details of erroneous charges to one’s accounts. I advised my neighbors to write to the company, giving thanks for the removal of the charges, but saying the explanation was insufficient and asking for full details. I don’t think they will write the letter. Oh, well. I sure as hell would. Dammit!

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My friends in Fort Smith are on my mind this morning. They have suffered a tragedy that I can only imagine. I am conflicted about whether I should give them their time and space to mourn or just drive up, unannounced, and hug them. I suppose the correct thing to do is to ask. But even in asking I might trigger pain from a wound that is in the very early stages of healing.  Friendship is more complex than even I believed it to be.

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It’s just after 7 a.m. I’ve been up for hours…again. In an hour and a half, I have an appointment to learn what my house might sell for, should I decide to sell. Instead, I may just roll up in a ball and go back to and endless, dreamless sleep. That sounds extremely inviting at this moment. But, first, more coffee.

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Scribery

It is just after 3:00 as I type this. I have been moderately awake for some time, thrashing around in the bed, trying without success to get comfortable. During the period in which I was not asleep but could not yet claim to have been awake, I spoke out loud to myself, inquiring as to the reasons for a strange form of insomnia that trapped me between unconsciousness and wakefulness. My inquiries went unanswered. No matter. My inability to sleep, while sometimes an annoyance, has not reached the point of being a problem. So, instead of bitching about it, I simply wonder about it. And just cope.

When I got up, I checked my email—a bad habit to get into in the wee hours—and noticed a Nextdoor message from a Hot Springs Village neighbor, claiming to have seen thirty satellites in a straight line about four hours ago (that would have been 11:00 p.m.) and asking if anyone else had seen them. One respondent said she had seen them, but counted only about fifteen. The extraterrestrial invasion has begun.

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There’s a possibility that a mistreated chihuahua will find a home with me before long. No assurances, of course, but I’m exploring the possibility. I thought my dog days were long gone with the departure of Bob, the 54 pound Mountain Cur mix sweetheart I loved but could not fathom giving adequate care and exercise. But on Saturday, I came across a dog named Ricky. Ricky seems like a perfect match for someone like me…a geezer who wants a pocket dog. We’ll see. Ricky will visit me on Tuesday afternoon, when his savior will bring him by my house. My friend, the retired veterinarian, has agreed to come to my house to meet with and assess Ricky. Her advice will factor heavily in whether I decide to give Ricky a new home. I did not expect anything quite so soon. But you can’t always forecast the future. We’ll see.

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This afternoon, about ten hours from now, I’m going boating with my very nice and wonderfully generous neighbors. They are taking me out on Lake Balboa on their pontoon boat. Afterward, we will stop in at El Jimador to buy three orders of Seafood Ranchero to take back to their house, where we will sit outside on the deck and enjoy the meal, assuming the weather cooperates. Many times, they have insisted that I not even think about moving away; I suspect their insistence has arisen from their secret assumptions that one day, I just might. This afternoon, I will tell them I am exploring that possibility. On the one hand, it’s comforting to know that my neighbors like me enough to lobby hard for me to stay where I am; but on the other, that knowledge makes it difficult to tell them a move is a very real possibility.

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I got a call from one of the realtors who came by last week to look at the house. She has done an analysis and is prepared to give me a report that offers her best estimate of the “right” asking price, if I were to decide to sell. I’ll meet her at her office early Monday morning to go over her findings. She told me when she was here that, if I decide to sell, I must have a plan in place as to where I’ll go; she suggested it would be essentially pointless to think I might find a house in the Village because the market is so fiercely competitive right now. Another friend, who lives in Hot Springs, said the same. She is in sort of the same boat I’m in; looking to move, but she has business reasons to stay in Hot Springs, so she is being squeezed by the tight market. And, so, for me, a move would not be simply out of this house, but out of this area.

I have intensely mixed feelings about that.  A move would take me away from a number of people I have come to call friends; more people in that category than I have ever had. And I wonder if it would be even remotely possible to ever find another group of people where I might, finally, fit.  But, in addition to people with whom I feel a deep and growing connection, this area is awash in ultra-conservative, right-wing, gun-loving, flag-waving, uncompassionate, bible-thumping zealots. And even more difficult is the fact that everywhere I turn I am reminded of the good times I have enjoyed here with my wife.  This part of the world is awash in chiggers, too, every summer; that’s one reason I don’t get outside and walk/hike much.  If I were to sell this house for a significant amount of money, that money would be available for me to find a home someplace else. A smaller home that might cost as much as this one fetches, but that could be in an area where the benefits outweigh the costs. I wish I could take “my people” with me or convince them to follow me. I’ve long wished to create a co-housing arrangement. Or even a commune. A place in the country that could become a haven, a retreat away from the noise and distractions of a population center (but close enough to have access to big city amenities…I live in a fantasy world). Crap, I really am a dreamer. “My people” don’t know me well enough to do that. And I doubt they like me enough to want to live with me, even in separate houses. I think, while they may miss me, I doubt “my people” would urge me to stay. Why would they? We’re not really close friends; we’re more like buddies, I think. But I’m closer to this “tribe” than I’ve ever been to any other group of people. Most of them have at least one thing in common; they are involved in my church. I wonder whether that’s a clue as to where I should consider landing?

My ideal place is a dream world that probably doesn’t exist. I could just be gypsy for awhile. I could dispose of most of my possessions and roam, looking for a place and people who would make me feel like I’m home. I exchanged some emails with a friend just a day or so ago, in which we discussed the subject of  where we consider “home.” She said the Village doesn’t feel like home to her. I said I had a different definition. In my words, ” I look at home as the place I can go to every night and feel like it belongs to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like home was a permanent place to which I could always return.” But I understand her perspective. And I wish I felt there was a place where I would always be welcome and to which I could always return and feel safe and secure and love and all the rest…but that may be a fantasy, too.

I’ve thought about moving to Fort Smith, to be close to where my good friends of fifty years or more live. But there’s no guarantee they will stay there. There’s no guarantee of anything. Or I could move back to Texas to be closer to some of my family. But Texas has become a state where I am not sure I want to spend my time; the politics of the state, alone, is reason to avoid it. Or I could consider moving to the Dayton, Ohio area, where my nephew and his wife and my former sister-in-law live at present. “At present.” There’s no reason to think that will change, but there is, again, no guarantee. I have a sister in California, but moving there would be like intentionally emptying my bank account. Or I could look again at Mexico, a place I’ve fallen in love with. But now, especially with COVID, it’s hard to consider. And I can’t be certain my brother and his wife, who live there, will remain there. Would I like it as much if I were really and truly alone? Everything is a crap-shoot. Even staying here. Especially staying here.

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Over the past several days, I’ve been poring over maps of the USA, picking out areas I might like to explore. I’ve gone online to Zillow.com and realtor.com to check into  house and land prices. I’ve looked at street-view images of places that look intriguing; hoping to find that small-town America that may exist only in my imagination and in carefully scripted films. A friend, considering her options because she does not feel she is home, has been doing the same thing. It will behoove me to compare notes with her; I think she’s after many of the same things I’m looking for.

There must be some place I could go that would feel, instantly, like an embrace. A place where I would look around and sigh and and say to myself, “So, this is what home looks like and feels like, is it?’ No, such a place does not necessarily exist. I have to keep telling myself it’s not the place, it’s the people. And it’s not the place, it’s me. And it’s not the place, it’s how I feel when I’m in it. But I have to be careful about this. Even though I feel closer to my “tribe” than I’ve ever felt before, it’s not really a strong bond. It’s more like willing and welcoming acceptance than  a powerful embrace. While I may wish for a closer connection that is wise or emotionally safe, I may be living in a fantasy world. I may have unrealistic expectations. Duh, John, you think?

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Ignoring the possibilities of the future, I commented online last night to a neighbor down the street about her wisteria. That conversation led her to prepare a cutting for me, which I will pick up in a few hours. She warned me that it’s hard to control, once they start to grow, so I should be careful. Be careful. That’s good advice, and not just about wisteria that grows like kudzu.

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I’ve spent more than an hour and a half at my desk, pouring out competing thoughts and ideas. I think I’m adding to my confusion more than coming to a conclusion. I’m trying to decide now whether a cup of coffee or a snifter of cognac would be the best choice as a comforter and companion right now. Maybe a cognac, followed by coffee.  Ach. It’s 4:40; I don’t think it would be wise to drink cognac right now, even if followed by coffee.

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I think it must have been a dream that woke me up a few hours ago. But I do not remember what it was about, if indeed it was a dream. Sometimes, it’s better not to recall dreams because dreams can be nightmares.

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I posted a photo yesterday’s on Facebook of breakfast. It was an unusual breakfast of pan-seared tilapia and raw zucchini (intended as the previous night’s dinner that had not be prepared). A friend commented that my photo was not breakfast and that I needed to learn what constitutes a “breakfast.” I invited her to come teach me this morning. I await her arrival. But it’s early yet. In the meantime, I may cure my early morning hunger with a few pieces of herring in wine sauce.

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What I have done this morning cannot be considered writing. I do not know what it is, but it’s not writing. Maybe it’s self-induced hypnosis as therapy, produced online for reasons unknown to the scribe.

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Indulgence All Over

I had a late, slow start to the day. When I woke up at 4:45 or so, I did not feel like getting up. So, I set my alarm for 6:45 and went back to bed (I did not want to sleep beyond that time…it could ruin my day). I get up just a few minutes before was set to sound, so I turned it off and began my day. Thus far, I’ve washed a load of clothes, washed sheets, made a breakfast of tilapia and raw zucchini (intended for last night’s dinner which was delayed in favor of drinking wine and munching nuts and pretzels with neighbors, visiting briefly with my sister-in-law and playing a few Words with Friends games with her, and responding to a few emails to friends. And I accepted an invitation from different neighbors to go out with them for a ride on Lake Balboa tomorrow afternoon, followed by picking up Mexican food from a restaurant and eating dinner on their deck. I feel like I’ve accomplished more today than I actually have. I am enjoying a pleasant life, which does not explain why I am so…what? I dunno. I will try to dismiss that “what” for today.

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My gratitude for people in my personal sphere has never been unimportant to me, but I think I sometimes fail to express it as directly as I should. I think people should make a point of lettering others know they are valued and appreciated. Too often, in my experience, I simply have assumed my appreciation was obvious. That assumption is faulty.

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I overindulged in wine last night (my neighbor and I came close to polishing off a 1.5 liter bottle of chardonnay between the two of us; her husband, who prefers boxed wine, drink three glasses of his pinot grigio). Perhaps that is why I slept in and why I now feel less than stellar. I’m not in the mood to write at this very moment, so I’ll call it a day with regard to writing.  My head is fuzzy and my gut is telling me I need something like a milk shake instead of a sandwich. I think Sonic has decent shake, so I’ll give that a shot. Maybe I’ll feel like cleaning up the deck when I return home. Or maybe not.

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