Long Ago

Yesterday, just after mi novia returned from her visit to the urgent care clinic in Hot Springs (where her COVID-19 test came back negative—but she has a very bad cold), a little herd of deer appeared in the woods behind our house. Numbering at least ten, the group comprised what I judged to be several full-grown does and a few relatively young fawns. Based on an article I read about herds of deer, at least one or two (and perhaps more) probably were immature bucks that are too young to fraternize with their antlered male elders.

Standing at the windows on one side of the breakfast nook, we watched for at least five or ten minutes as the creatures frolicked and fed on the little greenery visible above thick layers of fallen leaves. Living in a house nestled in the natural world is a gift; I contemplate my good fortune, grateful that I stumbled into something akin to paradise.


All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We are afraid to be children, to be ourselves.

~ Jean Vanier ~


The new coffee maker arrived yesterday morning around 10 and I put it to immediate use. Sitting at my desk, alternating between sips of strong, hot coffee from one cup and cool, clear water from another, I decided that’s the way to enjoy the morning. The heat and the intense flavor of coffee, counterbalanced by cool water, is magical.


I hold French President Emmanuel Macron in high regard, though I know relatively little about him. The way he expresses himself is at once sophisticated and casual, suggestive of a person who is comfortable in his own skin and conscious of his cultural milieu. An opinion piece published online at CNN.com quoted an English translation of his Twitter feed, describing the French national dish—the baguette—as “250 grams of magic and perfection.” I love that sort of over-the-top hyperbole; it is the sort of grandiose comment I might make about something so common as a loaf of bread. But of course I share his admiration for the French baguette. It is not just a loaf of bread; it represents the struggles and the triumphs of the French people over centuries.

I pity people who consider food as mere sustenance. Such people are beyond dull. They lack the creativity and vibrancy that contribute to the enjoyment of life. They tend to focus only on the negative aspects of their environments. If those in their spheres allow it, they smother with gloomy outlooks and deep pessimism the happiness and childish appreciation that accompany simple pleasures.


I had a dream last night that began in a Chevrolet dealer’s showroom. Someone—I cannot remember who—accompanied me as I waded through a disinterested clot of salespeople in an effort to test drive and perhaps buy a Corvette. Finally, we were directed to a cubicle where a man glumly offered us chairs. A few minutes later, another unenthusiastic man arrived and engaged me in conversation that seemed intent on revealing that I was “only looking.” I got the impression that he did not believe I was truly interested; he assumed I was financially incapable of buying an expensive car. That notwithstanding, he finally has us follow him across a parking lot that was overgrown with weeds to a car that I learned later in the dream was a 1999 Corvette. The salesman sat in the seat beside me and my companion somehow managed to climb in the car and sit behind me. The salesman directed me to cross over a freeway to a feeder road and then drive a short distance. The car’s ride was rough and the brakes were very bad. I found it difficult to stop the car when necessary, but I somehow managed to avoid hitting anything. We arrived at a ramshackle building, where we went inside and discovered a resale shop with old furniture and soft, hand-woven blankets. The salesman wandered off, engaged in conversation with the resale shop’s owner. Apparently, the salesman brought a dog along on the ride and my companion and I were left to lead the dog around the store on a leash made of thin monofilament fishing line that seemed to be perpetually tangled. At some point, my friend and I decided to drive back to the dealership, where we met with the glum man with whom we first met. We explained that we had left the salesman at the resale shop; the glum guy called the salesman, who asked that we return to give him a ride back. As we were driving back, we saw the salesman drive by us in another rather old, worn Corvette.

I had a hard time getting into and out of the Corvette, which convinced me not to buy one—even though a new car would almost certainly be more comfortable and more responsive. Still, I thought, it would be low to the ground, designed for someone younger and more agile. But it wasn’t so much the car that dissuaded me from buying; it was the arrogance and attitude of the salesman. He treated me as if my interest was artificial and that I was wasting his time. I did not like him from the moment we met. My dream seemed to end abruptly when I saw him driving by after asking that I return to give him a ride back to the dealership. Ach!


I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

~ Pablo Neruda ~


This morning, I happened on a post I wrote about nine years ago. It generated several comments, including one I found particularly moving. Returning to the past on occasion has value. It reminds us of who we were before circumstances changed us into who we are. Everyone is in a state of constant change, morphing from who we were to who we are and, then, who we will be. Events expose us to revision; they revise us in ways we cannot anticipate. Life and circumstances edit us as if we were a manuscript. And, indeed, we are manuscripts. Just drafts of who we will be at that moment when no more revisions are possible.

About John Swinburn

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