When one writes as regularly as I do, he tends to reveal secrets about himself without overtly admitting to them. He wants to express himself honestly and openly, but to do so might mimic lighting a match in a room full of hydrogen gas. But it is a small room; one that probably will accommodate no more than four people. A catastrophic explosion that only the people in the shattered room can hear or see or feel. So, to avoid the tiny cataclysmic event, he never reveals all his secrets to the world. He keeps them hidden, but he may drop hints in private settings; those settings may be real or fictional, depending on his mood and the extent to which he believes a secret might make its way to the intended ear. It’s all very complex and confusing. But ask me and I may explain it to you. Only on the condition of absolute privacy and confidentiality, mind you.


Much, perhaps most, of the ice that coated tree branches and pine needles has either melted or fallen to the ground. For a while, the forest appeared otherworldly, the icy coating on the trees looking like an imaginary winter wonderland from storybooks. I still see a few patches here and there, but the sight is not like yesterday, when the forest glistened. What was once an extraordinary, almost magical, visual experience is now almost drab in its ordinariness. Odd, that. The forest was beautiful before being coated with ice; yet, in the aftermath of that coating, its beauty seems to have departed. It’s all a matter of comparisons and context. Someone might consider my appearance acceptable in the absence of comparisons, but when standing next to Brad Pitt, that acceptability might transform into grotesqueness. I refer to that sort of situation as comparing apples to alligators.


Spain and Morocco are only about nine miles apart at the closest point. Europe and Africa almost touch one another at the Strait of Gibraltar. Spain claims sovereignty over the enclaves Ceuta and Melilla, which are located on territory that, on a map, looks like Morocco. The political and economic ramifications of the tensions and the trade between Spain and Morocco are fascinating. And those relationships influence other relationships, like Spain’s trade relationship with Algeria. Algeria’s trade with Italy seems to be improving as an indirect result of Algeria’s displeasure with Spain’s evolving relationship with Morocco. Geopolitical intrigue is real. The reason political thrillers often are so riveting, I think, is that their premises seem based in realistic potential. But I do not know enough about such stuff to write about it and I am not prepared to invest the time and energy to learn.


When misfortune of consequence befalls a person, predictable offers of support and assistance follow: “If there is anything I can do—anything at all—just let me know.” Some of those overtures are genuine. I suspect more of them, though, are automatic responses that have been trained into the person making the offer. And that person does not expect to be asked to make good on his expression of compassion. It is unfortunate that “good manners” in such circumstances seem to require such insincere offers. Life would be simpler—and navigating hard times would be more manageable—if declarations of support were made only when they were valid; with no contingencies.

But maybe I am too skeptical. Maybe the overtures are, by and large, genuine. Perhaps the reason they seem hollow is that the person needing support is hesitant to ask for it. Maybe he fears the offer is just window-dressing; a vacant attempt to show empathy, sympathy, kindness. If that were the case, the failure to follow-up on the offer might illustrate another form of automatic response; a person trained by experience to assume the compassion is artificial.

I do not know why this unpleasantness is on my mind this morning. It is not in response to a specific event or experience, at least as far as my consciousness reveals to me. It just popped into my head and refused to leave until I documented its presence. Though I have done that, it still refuses to leave.


I learned from my late sister’s example to make offers of assistance only when fully committed to following through on them. When I say “anything,” that includes driving a person to Baton Rouge or cleaning her oven or doing grocery shopping or showing up at three in the morning with money to make his bail. Given my sense of obligation to follow through on commitments, I tend to be judicious in making them. Sometimes, when following through on a commitment is extremely inconvenient, I wish I had not made it. But then I feel guilty for allowing my inconvenience to make me regret making the commitment. Catch-22 again.


The computer continues to rebel against me. Though I woke at 4:45, I have been unable to finish this post because the computer either drops the WiFi signal or freezes as if its primal secret is about to be revealed. I have to stop. Otherwise, the machine will drive me mad and I will burst into a million stars, each of which contains fragments of me. And you.

About John Swinburn

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