Last night, the World Tour of Wines dinner and wine tasting delivered samples of some very nice wines and a meal far superior to all previous offerings. Perhaps because of recent history, especially the horrors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the crowd was considerably smaller than other dinners in the series. Those who attended, though, were treated to an array of Chilean wines and a very tasty meal that began with a tomato and onion salad (marinated, I think, in a mixture that included oil and lemon juice). Three baked clams with cheese and a hint of a butter sauce came later, followed by a baked chicken thigh. Dessert was a delicious flan. The wine and the meal were secondary; the primary source of the evening’s enjoyment was the fact that I experienced it in the company of a beautiful woman, along with two other couples. I read a poem the emcee had asked me to write (well over a year ago, when the meal was first planned). In my role last night as the evening’s Poet Laureate of the World Tour of Wines, I was asked to draw names from a bowl; the names I drew were awarded bottles of wine. One of the winners was a woman at our table. It may have seemed rigged; it was not. A nice evening, I think.


The remnants of Spring lately teased us into believing the late June climate of Central Arkansas might have changed. Yesterday, though, Summer disemboweled Spring; he tore  out her hair and burned her at the stake. Today, he promises to add fuel to her still-glowing embers and spread her ashes in the hot, dry wind. Summer is a miserable beast; he should be drowned in an Olympic-sized pool of iced tea as punishment for his cruelty and his disregard for our desire for cool comfort. The bastard.


What is the proper terminology to use in describing the woman with whom I am deeply and happily involved? Girlfriend? Lady friend? Oh, there are plenty of other terms, but most of them seem to describe a vaguely inappropriate relationship involving inequality. A blog follower and friend suggests that “girlfriend” sounds teenagerish and “lady friend” sounds stiffly Victorian and “partner” implies a permanence that may not yet be established and “acquaintance” sounds trivial. So what word describes our relationship? And what term describes my role in it? Am I a boyfriend? Or does the term suggest that I am considerably younger than I look?

This dilemma calls on me to take action, creating or selecting the right words to describe our respective roles in this blossoming relationship. I suppose we could say, respectively, “she’s my woman and I’m her man.” But does that suggest ownership or control? Ach! There must be a word that neither diminishes nor exaggerates and doesn’t mislead.

Companion. Flame, Intimate. Sweetheart. Steady.  Perhaps a combination, shortened to initials: I.C., for Intimate Companion. “She’s my IC. I’m her IC. We are ICs” That could work. Ultimately, though, the terminology doesn’t really matter, does it? What matters is the underlying connection, the relationship. I tend, sometimes, to overthink.


I wish I knew more than I know. But that’s not an unusual desire, is it? Don’t we all long to have answers to questions we may not have asked yet? Questions that pop up unexpectedly in the course of living our lives?

“Will the horror of COVID-19 ever be behind us and, if so, when? And if not, how can we cope…how can we return to some semblance of the lives we lived before?”

“Will efforts to make possible human travel to Mars yield as much value to humanity as did efforts to make possible human travel to the moon?”

“When Earth’s supply of rare-earth metals is depleted, will technologies that depend on them disappear?”

“What is the optimum human population of our planet with respect to achieving or maintaining a balance with nature?”

There are billions more questions. Probably exponentially greater even than billions. Maybe so many more that we will never run out of them. It’s the answers that seem in short supply. No. The “correct” answers are the ones in short supply.


Self-confidence and egotism are not one and the same. But self-confidence can feel oddly overblown. Similarly, a lack of self-confidence and humility are not synonymous, but the latter can look like the former in the right (or wrong) context.  I think we tend to judge people on the basis of extremely limited understanding of mere slivers of their behaviors or blurry snapshots of their personalities. The quality of being judgmental is rarely a positive trait, yet we tend to admire certain people whose only “redeeming” qualities seem to involve being judgmental. Take, for example, television political commentators; Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow earn their keep by honing their judgmental expressions to a fine, razor-sharp edge. We forgive judgmental people for their flaws only when their flaws resemble our own; possessing the “wrong” flaws is akin to classifying one as demonic in the extreme, while owning the “right” flaws is akin to sainthood. For those reasons and many more, I am skeptical. Very, very skeptical. But not always.


What would someone who knows me, but not extremely well, say about me if asked to write a few paragraphs describing my appearance, my personality, and my place on Earth? What would they write if required to expound on my flaws? Do we all wonder about such things? Or is it just me? I know some people would say “I don’t really care what they would say.” Really? On one hand, I would admire that dismissive attitude. On the other, I would question its legitimacy and veracity. We are trained to care what others think. That caring may be genetic. And if we were required to write about others, I suspect most of us would tend to be gentler in expression than we might actually think. Because we care not only what others think of us, but because we care about others and do not want to hurt them; not even those we find distasteful and uncompassionate. This is the stuff that contributes to the creation of psychological experiments. Sometimes, psychological experiments are superficial; sometimes they are profound in the depth of understanding they can provide.


The next few days are laced with social invitations and obligations; all promise to be interesting, intriguing, and enjoyable. I am, these days at least, a very fortunate man. Lucky is not too much of a stretch. But it’s after 7:30, so I need to explore how lucky I am in finding food that is both satisfying and healthy.

About John Swinburn

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