A Certain Kind of…

Those moments when the vastness and wonder of Nature fill me up are the moments I wish I could share with others. But I think such experiences are uniquely solitary. They cannot be shared. The circumstances in which I am overcome by Nature do not require magnificent scenery like towering waterfalls or majestic peaks. They can be simple glimpses of treetops beneath my deck, innumerable shades of green as far as I can see. Or seconds or minutes of staring at dark grey clouds hovering above me. Those moments when my entire being is bursting with awe at the world around me are the ones I wish I could share, but I will never be able to transfer that sense of wonder. It comes only from within and only when a person is ready to experience it. And, I’m afraid it does not always last. When it fades, I feel dejected and somehow abandoned. I know I do that to myself, but I do not know how to stop it. Yet I know it will always return; that feeling of such intensity that I might explode with sheer joy. Life is odd. And it is so brief, so terribly temporary.


The skin on my arms and hands betrays my age more than any other aspect of my physical being. Even absent big, visible wrinkles, the top layer reveals millions of tiny dry cracks and reddish scars left by minor wounds in months and years past. I have come to the conclusion that one’s skin offers the earliest testimony to advancing age. What once was supple and gently firm becomes almost brittle and unpleasantly soft to the touch. The skin drinks up moisturizing cream, only to absorb the salve in minutes, leaving its surface as dry as the desert. Tiny imperfections, which multiple exponentially as we age, become stunningly apparent as sunlight and dehumidified air take their toll. I wonder whether my skin would recover at least a fraction of my misspent youth if I drank a pint of olive oil every day and bathed at least once a week in a tub filled with Noxzema skin cream? I doubt it. It’s too late to recover the supple façade of my salad days. But my mind can and will remain firmly planted in my youth. I remain just as mischievous and childish as ever, the sort of kid who could be suspended from school for adolescent pranks and juvenile innuendo.


Yesterday’s church gathering under a large lakeside pavilion was energizing. Seeing and talking with and hugging people I haven’t seen in more than a year felt good. The turnout was exceptional, made even more remarkable by the presence of people who had joined as members and friends during the pandemic, without ever having set foot inside the church building. That fact emphasized the reality that the church is not the building; people comprise the church.

As the event ended, and after most people had left, I stayed to visit with several stragglers who, like me, wanted to milk the moment for all it was worth. One of them, a woman largely responsible for bringing the event together, mentioned to me that a non-church wine group (of which she and her husband and I are all members) would be coming together again soon. I told her I looked forward to it. She mentioned that I would be welcome to come back, “plus one” if I wished. “Plus one?” I said I did not understand. She replied that it meant I could bring a date, if it wasn’t too early for me. I suppose it’s not too early, I told her, but I had been out of the dating scene so long I did not even understand the lingo. I said with a smile I would be happy to, if she would set me up. I haven’t dated in forty-five years or more, so I don’t know the first thing about it. How awkward I would feel on a “date.” The word seems dated (pardon the pun). I think my style, if I have one, is to allow an unplanned, unscheduled, unexpected relationship to grow organically. And while that can happen quickly and without warning, I suspect it is more likely to evolve over time. Or, perhaps, it will never happen. That may be the more likely scenario. Most of the women I know belong to the church and the ones to whom I am naturally attracted are married or “involved.” Following that attraction would be a recipe for danger. And excitement, maybe . But there’s probably too much danger of rejection or unforgiving husbands/boyfriends or both to warrant the pursuit of that excitement. I said I am mischievous, not suicidal.


This morning I am torn between wanting to go test drive an RV or searching for a private piece of land where I could live my lifelong dream of having a “place in the country.” The arguments in my head involve both monetary value and emotional value. And they involve time and how much of it I might spend with either endeavor. And, of course, I have to weigh whether my interest in an RV might be temporary; my interest in a place in the country is by no means short-lived. Both may be possible, but probably not practical. The idea of being a solo traveler has both appeal and concern attached to it. Would I tire of having no one to help me work my way through RV ownership? I know my friends who have RVs would be happy to help me learn, but I could not rely on them for round-the-clock support. But, then, who would help me till fields or repair broken tractors or do the million other things that must be done to maintain a place in the country? I can tell, already, this dilemma is not one with a satisfactory solution. Choices, by nature, require both attachment and abandonment. 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.


Years ago, when I was a very young man, I had a very, very brief relationship with a young, beautiful woman whose beauty reminded me of the female star of the movie, “10,” but whose intellect was far superior to the actress. It was a short-lived but incredibly passionate relationship that did not survive to reach its potential at maturity. Every incomplete experience leaves us wondering “what if?”. What if I had accepted the job offer with the Department of Agriculture? What if I had trekked across Nepal and India with my friend Paul as we had planned? What if I had move to Morgantown, West Virginia to accept the job with the association of cost engineers? What if I had insisted on buying that place in the country? What if I had bought an RV? What if I had pursued that passionate relationship? All of those “what if” questions leave us with a slight aching sense of dissatisfaction; a realization that we can never know the answers. Ideally, that dissatisfaction will dissipate and, ultimately, dissolve over time. But some of those questions will always remain, tucked someplace in the back of the mind.


For well over a year, I have treated this blog as a journal, mostly recording my thoughts and experiences instead of exploring ideas and serving as a repository of my fiction and nonfiction writing.  I have a feeling that will come to an end soon. It may either revert to its original purpose or take a long rest, in which case my writing will return to Word documents saved to my computer. I doubt my daily thoughts hold more than passing interest to most visitors who land here, whether by intent or by accident. So, either direction will not be a shock to the universe. The only shock, I think, may come in the form of a shock to my habit of coming to this site first thing every morning. I’ll simply have to groom a new habit; opening a Word document first thing in the morning, instead. I wonder whether I’ll do that, though? It’s so easy and has become so natural for me to come here and spill my thoughts onto the screen. Time will tell, of course, whether old habits are impossibly hard to break. I suppose I need to find out whether I can force myself to break out of habits that seem to have confined me to perpetual sadness. There’s a song entitled Somebody that I Used to Know that includes the lyrics “you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.” And that seems to be true. So, perhaps it’s time to break the addiction by taking away the needle, as it were.  I’m babbling again, as I am wont to do.  Time for more coffee and a breakthrough attitude. And some breakfast, I suppose.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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