Muscles in the back of the neck become tight. The shoulders and upper back stiffen, as well. The tension causes knots to form within long strips of rigid, contracted muscle. Ribbons of tendons, stretched almost to the point of snapping, surround and strangle sensitive tangles of snarled nerves.

Thus is the onset and expression of the kind of cramps caused by stress. Anxiety. Tension. When the worst of the cramps subside, the body remains poised to react to the slightest provocation. No significant loosening of the bindings. No relaxation. Just a moderate diminution of the hard-edged pain. A slight transformation, from cords of braided steel to braided cords of rock-hard, brittle rubber.

Those sensations are like old memories, pulled from deep within a morass of dusty recollections. Neither the sensations nor the memories are welcome. They bring back experiences I hoped would have dissolved—and did, for a while. But now they are rubber bands, stretched beyond the breaking point yet refusing to break.

Some of the more recent experiences were brought on by exposure to incredibly outlandish bureaucratic Catch-22 situations. And simple bureaucratic stupidity, baked into mindless bureaucratic interactions. Yesterday, for the first time in months, I felt like screaming, breaking glass, and roaring like a lion that had been poked one too many times.


The wood from acacia trees is harvested, primarily, in Asia and Australia. It is said to be a sustainable source of wood, with wide-ranging uses including furniture, flooring, and wooden musical instruments (e.g, guitars). In my opinion, it is beautiful wood, with colors ranging from orange to yellow to red to deep, mahogany brown. I mention acacia wood because, when we were out shopping for a replacement for a rug beneath the table in the dining room, we bought a replacement for the table. The live edge acacia wood table has black metal legs, the live edge an angular base giving the table a distinctly modern look. Oh, we bought a rug, too. Both are to be delivered Friday.

We both were drawn to table when we first laid eyes on the wooden top. Perhaps it is the fact that the flooring in our house, composed of luxury vinyl planks, was manufactured to mimic the look of acacia. We had come to the conclusion that we could easily live with the antique oak table that belonged to mi novia’s abuela. But happenstance can change the course of a day in an instant.


We had a superb, turmeric-laden lentil soup for dinner last night. My sister-in-law brought it over yesterday morning, as she is wont to do; when she makes a big batch of soup, she often shares it with us. And she makes excellent soup. Mi novia, while she liked the flavor quite a lot, was not as much a fan of the soup as am I. I am a huge fan of lentil-based dishes; she is not. She would have liked the soup even more if the lentils had, instead, been peas. I suspect I could enjoy a pea version, too, but in my view lentils belonged in that soup. It was spicy, but not overly spicy. While the soup was heating, I added some vegetable broth and a bunch of fresh spinach to the pot, as instructed by my SIL. Excellent flavor. Healthy. Comforting. Satisfying. I am a fan of soup. Not really an aficionado, but I could become one with just a little more exposure. This morning, for breakfast, I will finish off the tiny bit remaining. That will make me happy for a while.

Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart.

~ Emil Cioran ~


I vaguely remember the feeling. Bursting with excitement. Ecstatic, with a sense that I knew precisely what constituted happiness. Giddy. Alive! But I do not remember what caused me to feel those sensations. I know they were brought about by simple experiences, but I do not know exactly what. Could it have been the first time I caught sight of a glacier? Yes. Or could it have been watching a friend achieve and be recognized for achieving a long-time goal? Yes, that, too. Could it have been boarding a plane with my late wife, taking off for an adventure in Europe? Yes. So many things once sparked such overwhelming excitement. Today, though, the exuberant feeling that I have encountered the pinnacle of delight is less than scarce.  It is exceedingly rare. How does one get that back?


Mornings are fast. They are speed-skaters on steep, smooth sheets of ice. Blink and they are gone. They are blurs that refuse to come into focus for even for a moment. It is not just time that races by. It is life. Always too late to do or say what should have been done or said.

About John Swinburn

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