I cancelled a massage this morning (my first one in many, many years) because the closing on my house was scheduled for today. At this very moment, my neck, back, shoulders, and the back of my head are in dire, dire, dire need of the healing power of strong hands.

The closing on the sale of my house has been postponed. Ach! Probably until Tuesday. But I may still be called to the title company to sign various documents that, I hope, will facilitate the closing process whenever it actually takes place. I have come to the conclusion that people involved in real estate transactions—professionals who engage in property ownership transfers professionally—may be sadists. The complexities associated with title searches, easements, easement exclusions, mortgage calculations, etc., etc., etc. seem purposely designed to impose stress on both buyer and seller. The processes could not be more stressful if they involved agreeing to consume Rohypnol in advance of having Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer over to the house for a forced sleepover. Jeez!

But I have to look at the situation through the lens of a practicing Buddhist, who might rightfully say, after doing all I can do, I should just let it be. It is what it is. What will happen will happen. Yeah. Easy to say, not quite as easy to feel.


Word people. When I ponder the meaning of that two-word phrase, I realize the two words, taken together, can convey as much meaning as an entire book. Those words categorize people—people who belong and those who are excluded from the coterie. And the phrase subtly acknowledges differences within those who are included. Word people may be adept at using words to convey description and, possibly, emotion; the canvas and the paint of language. At least two—but probably three or more—classes exist within that broader category: those whose technical proficiency with language is most evident in the quality and structure of the stretched canvas, those whose virtuosity with blending words creates stunning visual and emotional images, and those whose genius merges technical skills with creative brilliance. Of course, each of these capabilities exists on a three-dimensional continuum that incorporates degrees of proficiency with the other capabilities.

I know this because I observe it from the perspective of someone who has achieved enough understanding to comprehend the enormous distance between his own capabilities and mastery. But I know it, too, because there exists a usually unspoken and often publicly unacknowledged camaraderie between word people. Even between relative novices like me and undeniable experts like Salman Rushdie or Margaret Atwood or J K Rowling there is a connection. The connection between word people may be invisible to those who do not belong to the group, but it is evident to those who do. The connection can be quite strong, too, like brothers or sisters or lovers. It can be evident even before they identify one another as word people. I’ve seen it. I’ve felt it. The connection is mysterious; two word people can stand in a room, far from one another, and feel an odd sensation. Like a diaphanous shawl wraps around their shoulders, binding them to one another. That is not always true. It is especially not true of the word people I would call  technicians: the prolific writers who produce voluminous, formulaic materials that rarely need editing but that also fail to believably capture and convey emotions.

I’m rambling on about a subject for which I have no credentials. I spout off my opinions and beliefs as if they were indisputable truths. They are indisputable truths. To me. At the moment. But I can change. And I often do. I shift between the persona of a poet and the character of a novelist and the identity of an essayist or short story writer. An aspiring actor, in other words. Or someone who tries on different personalities to see which ones best fit his mood at the moment.


Yesterday’s visit to the dermatologist’s office yielded this: the spot on my nose that was biopsied quite some time ago is basal cell carcinoma. The recommended treatment (the “gold standard,” a nurse told me) is the same one performed on my left hand several months ago: a Mohs Procedure. That is, a dermatologist/surgeon (?) slices out tissue around the offensive area until no cancer is found in the extracted tissue. Then, it’s sewn up and left to heal. The alternative treatment is thrice-weekly application of a chemo-cream for six weeks. I chose the latter. Mi novia was unhappy with my choice. I will think on it. My body seems to be telling me it may be time to just give up. Let nature takes its course. Decay gracefully. I joke about it, but sometimes I really do feel like quitting the fight. The amount of time and energy dedicated to doctor visits, treatments, etc., etc. takes away from time I could spend on road trips or visits to animal sanctuaries or spending money in ridiculously expensive restaurants or…whatever.  Decay. That’s what it is.


I am hungry. I may have some yoghurt and bran flakes. Yoghurt substitutes for milk, which ran out two days ago.

About John Swinburn

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