The headline reads, “AP’s top 2022 photos capture a planet bursting at the seams.” The contents of the collection of photographs are fascinating. Some images are moving; others, deeply disturbing. Taken as a whole, they offer perspectives on life and death that accentuate the differences between the usually sedate experiences of middle-class America and the chaotic fury of the rest of the world.

Casually flipping through the images would be a mistake. Only by gazing intently at each image is it possible to grasp the intensity of living through calamities unlike any we could otherwise imagine. Only by trying to imagine the feelings of terror, rage, elation, pain, and all the other emotions captured on the faces of the people in the photographs can we even begin to appreciate our extreme good fortune. Even our most difficult struggles or most spectacular achievements cannot compare to life outside the bubbles in which we live. Glimpsing powerful moments shaping the lives of strangers a world away left me with a jumble of feelings—immeasurable gratitude, extreme sympathy, gut-wrenching emptiness, deep hopelessness, boundless admiration.


I will make another trip to Little Rock next week, a follow-up to yesterday’s visit. New tires yesterday. New rear brake pads next week. Though the demands of maintaining an aging car can be frustrating, having the wherewithal to meet those demands illustrates the meaning of “good fortune.” I could have had the work done yesterday, but I might have had to sit idle for another three or four hours. Instead, I opted to return home to blow leaves off the driveway and the street in front of my house. By returning very early one morning next week, my wait time should be considerably less than it would have been yesterday. Even counting the time required to drive to and from Little Rock, I will “save time” by returning next week. I sometimes wonder whether my impatience causes me to develop a mild case of insanity; though it may be that my insanity is responsible for my impatience. And it may not be particularly mild.


While I tended to my aging car’s needs yesterday, mi novia joined some of her friends for lunch and a fashion show. The idea of fashion shows holds no appeal for me. Even if a fashion show were to provide an excuse for me to join friends for a jaunt into town for conversation and a meal, I probably would opt out of the experience. I suppose the differences in socialization between males and females of our species are largely responsible for males’ disinterest in such diversions; socialization in that realm of experience “took hold” for me. But socialization into most male-centric activities did not “take.” I have no interest in watching or talking about sports. Or playing golf. Or tinkering with cars. Or hunting. The absence of those areas of interest is largely responsible, I suppose, for my paucity of male friends and my distinct preference for the company of females. But socialization—of both males and females—also is responsible for the limitations of my social engagements, I suspect. I would not feel comfortable inviting friends of the opposite sex, married or not, to join me on overnight road trips to explore interesting places. And whether I felt comfortable or not, I doubt that comfort would last long in the face of the discomfort experienced by others in my personal and social realms. Even inviting a female friend to accompany me for lunch and conversation in connection with my car service appointment probably would cause discomfort to spread like wildfire. Husbands, other friends, acquaintances, and even strangers likely would interpret the invitation as a sinister move. And if the invitation were accepted, the wildfire might erupt into a nuclear conflagration. Perhaps the drama and intrigue of such matters is why I find solitude so appealing; I would rather eat and travel alone than worry about the consequence of jealousy.


El Mercado Latino in Little Rock in the past has been a source for me for pork & jalapeño tamales. This morning, I sent a Facebook message to the store, inquiring as to the availability of tamales. I could make my own, but it would be more of an undertaking than I would like to pursue by myself—and it’s been years since I made tamales. I doubt I know enough people with enough interest to merit organizing a tamalada (that’s a tamale-making party, for the uninitiated). My rare childhood recollections include memories of buying tamales from people who, at the time, I considered “little old Mexican grandmothers.” I suspect those “little old Mexican grandmothers” were not necessarily old, nor were they necessarily grandmothers. They were just women who made extra Christmas money by making and selling tamales, continuing a tradition that probably began with their own grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers (and so on) in Mexico. I have enormous respect and regard for Mexican culture, especially Mexican culture rooted in el campo.  I suspect my admiration owes to long forgotten memories from my early childhood in Brownsville, Texas. And Corpus Christi, too. South Texas culture is imbued with Mexican influences. Despite a fairly significant sense of underlying racist superiority, South Texas Anglo culture is inextricably linked to, and grudgingly appreciates, its Mexican past.

***Edit before publication: I heard back from El Mercado Latino at 6:40 a.m. They sell fresh tamales Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; I need only to tell them what day and time I plan to pick them up! Life can be so gratifying!


The damn owls are making too much noise! No, that is not true. But they are asserting themselves. Their “voices” are loud and entertaining. I wish I could see an owl; just so I could equate the sound with the actual creature.


I am tired. Very tired. I’ve been up for two and one-half hours, without coffee, and I feel the need for rest. I may sit in a recliner and let my daydreams lull me to sleep.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Lullaby

  1. Meg, I’m glad you appreciated the tamale tale. I miss easy access to homemade tamales.

  2. Meg Kozi says:

    Enjoyed the tamale story, John. Made me remember the tamale carts when school got out in Albuquerque. Good after school snack.

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