Considering the number of times I mention BBC.com in my posts, one might think I have stock in BBC. I don’t, but perhaps I should. Just this morning, I read a piece about Yaupon and learned that it is North America’s only known native caffeinated plant. I learned, too, that it once was a popular plant used to brew tea by almost all indigenous tribes. And it’s readily available throughout the southeastern United States. Where else but BBC.com is one apt to read about such a common native plant in a context that includes sentences like this:

At the Spanish outpost of Saint Augustine in northern Florida, yaupon was consumed to such an extent that in his 1615 chronicles of New World medicinal plants, botanist Francisco Ximenez noted that, “Any day that a Spaniard does not drink it, he feels he is going to die.”

Exactly! For that experience, and so many others, I nominate BBC.com for some unknown prize that will recognize the extent of its deeply interesting journalism and the fascinating ideas that spring from it.


Last night, among the topics of conversation after dinner was a discussion of nudity. My neighbors, at least the female component of the couple, commented about the nude beaches in Germany (from whence her husband came). This was in response to something I said, questioning the prudishness of Americans and pointing to Americans’ almost pathological fear of the human form. She responded that the nude beaches in Germany displayed unappealing nudity; taut young bodies with sculpted shapes and rippling muscles are one thing, she suggested, while elderly pot bellies and flabby arms and drooping boobs are quite another. Clearly, we have different perspectives. I implied, but did not say it outright, that I advocate teaching kids, from an early age, that nudity is no more unpleasant or unappealing or embarrassing or wrong than full-dressed people going to work every day. I guess nudity is right up there with BBC.com in terms of the number of times I mention it and the potential for its use as an educational tool. I think the single most appealing aspect of common public nudity would be the potential erasure of body-shaming. People should not be embarrassed of their own bodies. Of course, I readily admit to being embarrassed by mine and it’s unlikely I will lead the charge for public nudity. I would follow a charismatic leader, though.


The neighbors I hosted for dinner last night (the ones with whom I discussed nudity) enjoyed the eggplant parmesan I bought from Dolce Vita, as did I. We had good conversation, a nice dinner, and plenty of laughs. They sensed I was tired, though, so they insisted on leaving before they would normally have gone home. I suppose my attempts to dissuade them from leaving were silly, given that they were right and I probably looked and sounded like I was ready for them to leave. Long before they left, I had developed a splitting headache and a very sore throat. I noticed a slight cough, beginning around 7:30 p.m., that got progressively worse. After my neighbors left, I felt like I might have had a fever, but the thermometer disagreed, measuring my temperature at 97.6°F. In these days of COVID-19, I was a bit concerned, though the symptoms were not entirely in line with COVID.


There was no way I would be able to sleep with the headache, I decided, so instead I did a search on animal adoption sites, looking for a potential companion dog. I found Rosie, an adult Chihuahua mix, who looks like she might enjoy being in my company and vice versa. On a whim, I sent an inquiry. I got a response around 11:20, inviting me to complete an application. By that time, though, I was about ready to try to get to sleep. During my search of animal adoption sites, my headache improved and then returned with a vengeance. I decided to try to get some sleep. I was able to fall asleep fairly quickly, but I woke several times with a very dry mouth and a sense that I had just emerged from a troubling dream about which I had (and still have) absolutely no recollection.


My headache, not nearly as severe as it was last night, remains (or has returned). My neck and shoulders remain stiff and achy. I would pay handsomely for a neck and shoulder rub, though I would prefer caring caresses given freely. Caress is probably not the right term; strong hands and significant pressure would be far more comforting at this very moment, I think. But I probably wouldn’t refuse caring caresses, either. A massage from my forehead all the way around to the back of my head might help, too. I’ve tried it myself, using only the fingers on my left hand, to press hard enough on my forehead so that the pain might be relieved; it helped, but it’s not quite accomplishing the alleviation of pain I had hoped for. The pain is not bad, though. Coffee, alone, may take care of it.


Passion. When does it fade into the background in our lives? At what point do our passions develop protective crusts that hide them from others and from ourselves? I wonder about these subjects and all such matters involving emotion. Emotions evolve over time, I suppose. They tend to become less brittle or, depending on one’s perspective, more flexible. Their hold over us weakens; or, at least, I think passion’s hold over us weakens. Passions tend to lose much of their intensity as we age, though that’s not a universal statement of fact. The urgency of youthful romantic passions mellows in old age, although I think it can be triggered again. We become used to the familiar; the familiar can lose its ability to stir passions. But I think an injection of freshness and novelty and just simple difference can stir them. That’s true not just of relationships between people, but relationships involving activities; a person can become passionate about skydiving or creating stained glass objects or making pottery or caring for abandoned or abused animals. New activities can fill a void, inflaming passions in the process. But that doesn’t happen to all people when their passions flag. Some people just wither, emotionally. That is a dangerous transition, I think. I am afraid withered emotions can suck out one’s energy and leave an empty shell. Passion is a good thing. But it can be overwhelming, I suppose, to be in the presence of someone who is passionate, regardless of the object of their passions, whether the object is automobiles, jumping out of airplanes, tending to stray dogs, or entering into passionate personal relationships.


I hear sounds all the time. Unusual sounds, like a background noise of millions of crickets. It’s not overwhelming; I can hear everything else, but even in silence, I hear those damn background noises. I say it’s not overwhelming. Sometimes it is. I can imagine, one day, reacting to those constant annoying sounds by detonating a nuclear device in each of my ears, just to make the sounds stop. That might be overkill, but I’m pretty sure it would work.

I’m suddenly so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. I have to stop. Maybe a short nap. Enough of these bullet point snippets. I need to sleep and dream an entire novel.


About John Swinburn

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