Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thoughts of love

Well, now, if little by little you stop loving me, shall I stop loving you little by little?

A friend came to see me yesterday. He was joined by his wife of six years, and they were still obviously in love.

"We are celebrating six years of marriage," he said.

"Are you feeling an itch?" I ungraciously asked. "Seven comes after six."

"No, we are still quite happy," he smartly replied and clasped her hand. And there was truth in what he said, for one could see it in their eyes, and in the gentle grip of their hands.

One takes a chance when speaking to someone for the first time. Later, thinking better of myself, I went up to the happy couple. They had lingered about, going to one corner of the room, then another, always cooing and chatting together like two turtle doves in spring. I explained to the wife that my friend always spoke lovingly about her.

It is better to speak one's mind than to stay silent. One speaks, however, at the risk of embarrassing oneself. Then again, it is nice to call to someone's attention how loving and caring they are.

When does marriage become old-hat? When is the fire of love-making gone, replaced by a something else, first, a joint endeavor to raise the kids, then, perhaps, a passion for a shared life of friends and what not? Finally, a sense of commitment, having stuck it out this long, why not see the process to the end.

Ernest Hemingway married four times and divorced three. He took his own life in Ketcham, Idaho in 1961.

Ernest, Hadley, and Bumby in happy times; image, JFK library

His first marriage was to Hadley Richardson. They married in 1921 and divorced six years later. Ernest had by then turned his affections to another woman. Ernest and Hadley shared a tiny flat in Paris, three flights up, in "the poorest of addresses." Somehow, little by little they stopped loving each other. In time, these six years would become the subject of the posthumous, A Moveable Feast.

Later in life, trying to explain why he didn't kiss Hadley at the train station for the last time, he said,

"I didn't want to kiss you goodbye — that was the trouble — I wanted to kiss you good night — and there's a lot of difference.”

Such a lovely thought, but it would have been lovelier, had it been said at the time.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Haiku and Travis McGee

Traditional haiku is seventeen syllables, three lines whose length is five, seven, and five. The haiku should juxtapose three distinct but related ideas in search of a deeper truth.

Travis McGee
In a bright blue sky
Anchored in a silver slip
Floats the Busted Flush
Mystery fans who have read John McDonald's Travis McGee novels will recognize the reference to a boat, the Busted Flush, that Travis Mcgee, "salvage consultant" lived aboard. 

My criticism of my haiku is that it should be separate ideas, and not read like a single thought.

A second try, still not quite.
Its only okay
Because we believe it so
Or because it is
Haikus traditionally deal with nature.
In the dark green woods
Among meadows, trees and trails
I heard my footfalls
November Days
Cold November days
Wind blows from the frosty north
Winter comes too soon

Among the best Japanese haiku authors is Matsuo Basho.

He breaks form on occasion, as in A Cold Rain Starting.
A cold rain starting
And no hat-
The point of this exercise is, I suppose, the idea that good writers get to the point.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Are you ready?

Are you ready to hear the naked truth?

No, I didn't believe it. So, I'll come back when you are ready.

Still, you ought to know. You are a really tame bunch. So polite, like parishioners at Sunday service in the Washington National Cathedral. Everyone, in their seat, listening politely, afraid to even cough. I suppose I could understand your quietude if this were a funeral, but Ronald Reagan died years ago, and no one is to be buried this week, month, or year.

Say something. Let me know, as Lily Tomlin would say, that there is intelligent life in the universe.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


image fotosearch

This weeks writing assignment is to create a murder scene that takes place in a shower, like Alfred Hitchcock's famous scene from the movie Psycho. Neither am I good at murder mysteries, nor creating fictional characters, so this should be a challenge.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

He is mighty who today is happy.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC), Horace wrote lyric poetry during the time of the Roman Emperor Augustus.

Odes, Book 3, XXIX

 ... Ille potens sui laetusque deget cui licet in diem dixisse:
 'Vixi': cras uel atra nube polum Pater occupato uel sole puro...

Fortuna saeuo laeta negotio et ludum insolentem ludere 
pertinax transmutat incertos honores, nunc mihi, nunc alii benigna....

 He is mighty, who today is happy and says :
"I lived!" whether tomorrow may clouds darken or sun shine...

Fortune delights in her cruel business and plays her haughty game
ever changing uncertain honors, now kind to me, and now another....


The Latin Library

Poetry in Translation 

English poet John Dryden, Imitation of Horace (1685) wrote:

Happy the man, and happy he alone, 
He who can call today his own; 
He who, secure within, can say, 
Tomorrow, do thy worst, for I have lived today.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Life's a Gift

Life's a Gift

Some say life's a gift, a treat
For me, I have to work to eat

Sunday, September 8, 2013



My dog* is no thoroughbred, he’s a mutt, but he’s still amazing. Toby is a two-year-old cross between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Mountain Cur. Most people know what a Jack Russell is, constant motion combined with unlimited curiosity, but few people have heard of the Missouri bred Mountain Cur. They are stocky, slim and muscular with a strong, wide head and short, high set ears that flop to and fro when they run. When you look at them head on, they look as though they are grinning from ear to ear.

Toby, the amazing dog

We have all heard stories of amazing dogs - a German Shepherd who rescues his master from a burning house, a St. Bernard who brings brandy to a stranded hiker in the Alps, a Huskie who, along with his teammates, brings needed medicine to an outpost in the far reaches of Alaska, a Labrador Retriever who pulls a child from the pool, and so on. 

"Jezz-us," Toby tops them all.

The combination of terrier and cur in Toby’s case has produced an extraordinary result. On a walk in the woods, Toby is capable of finding and carrying for miles a stick five times bigger than Toby’s compact 45 pound body. The only problem is that the stick is often ten feet wide. As Toby runs through the trees on the trail, he has to turn the long stick this way and that to weave through the openings.

When we come across a logjam on a stream, Toby will inevitably find the needle in a haystack. He pokes here and there until among all the debris he comes up with an old worn tennis ball that he then brings proudly back to me.

Now here is the most amazing feat that Toby is capable of. We go to a nearby lake to swim. Toby perks up as we get close to the parking lot. He knows where we are at and he can hardly contain his excitement. His bobbed tail, he gets it from his Mountain Cur side of the family, beats like the wings of a hummingbird, his head stretches into the windshield as he can hardly contain his excitement. We park the car, I open my door, and Toby shoots around my backside, and out the door. "Liketidy split," he hurls himself into the clear, cool lake. The fish scatter. The ducks and the geese, forewarned, sail out to sea and safety.

I know you may find this hard to believe, but it is true.

Toby’s fore and hind paws are working the water so fast, that he literally is walking on water. (If we had named him Evan instead of Toby, then his last name would be Rude.) I think it is the extra force of the tail that gets him airborne. The fishermen on the shore are a little rattled that he stirring the water up so. The fish, which had been nibbling at the fishermen’s bait, are now headed for the deep to avoid this miniature Moby Dick. The kids on the shore all point to their parents and say just one word, “Look!” Eventually, Toby tires of walking on water and succumbs to normal swimming. But normal swimming for him is acting like a seal, dipping his head in the water trying to catch minnows, and barking like a seal trying to bring the fish to the surface.

I know you might think this a tall tale, but it’s true. Just come to the lake and Toby will be glad to show you.

*My daughter, if she reads this, will tell you that Toby is her dog. I say dogs don’t belong to people, people belong to dogs.