Category Odds & Ends

Good-bye to a Tree

“Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil, the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould. So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth. As I live now so shall I reap.”
—From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau, October 24, 1837

***

March, 2014

***

A year or two ago, I came across a passage, its source now slipped through the holes in my memory, in which the writer was talking about his grandfather who had received a terminal medical diagnosis and was forced to leave his home. The grandfather had been on the land his whole life, I think in Italy, with all that such long, deep immersion implies...

Read More

The Solace of Rainbows

Don’t know about you, but I feel myself wearying of being in the dark thrall of a mad man. (Making that two words was intentional—he’s just angry, and thus engenders none of the empathy and understanding due someone who may be mentally ill.)

Knocked off balance by such brazen amorality and conniving, I have joined millions of others in groping toward a prudent response, but no amount or vehemence of thought or critique seems to suffice. Resist, yes, a solemn duty, but ultimately, it will likely be less outsiders’ resistance and more his self-immolation that will be the defining moment of this—and his—time.

Once again, Icarus flying high in his own fathomless self-regard, too close to the sun. It is a story as old as the first storytellers told.

***

Meanwhile, what other stories might we access in this time of trial? How might we break free, toward brighter lights and better angels within and am...

Read More

My Desperate, Careening Near-Fall, In Eight Steps

I   The Bump
The front of my shoe into the root-raised sidewalk, in the early morning dark, immediate forced lurch and lean, gravity at play, my body a sudden projectile.

II  The Stutter
Left foot down hard, short and choppy, seeking a base, body and brain electric, woke, as they were not the barest moment ago.

III The Thrash
Alarm, surely going down, hard, fast and sprawling, on concrete, drive it, drive it!, right quad fully engaged, firing with everything it has, a millisecond’s wobble, oh no! push push, hang in, oh Lord, a severe rise in the sidewalk just ahead, damn these unkempt, insidious trees!

IV  The Veer
Faster still, a running back at 20 degrees, struggling for yardage and a smidge of stability, momentum forcing my body suddenly right, leaving the sidewalk, toward the sideyard morass, if rocks or roots await there, my ankle is toast.

V   The Stumble
Crashing the weeds, shrubs, indistinct ...

Read More

Loss in the Tribe

A Saturday night of edenic silence in the early dark of fall, the season’s first halting, feathery rain seeming to muffle every sound save for the second-by-second tick of the clock hand on the kitchen wall, reminding that this quietude, so reminiscent of the timeless heavens, is itself bound and must stake its own claim for whatever eternity it can muster. I can hear neither car nor cricket nor neighbor near or far; even the refrigerator is joined in the solemnity of this hour, its motor soundless and bowed. Dog to the left of me, cat to the right, our threesome forming an obtuse triangle punctuated only by the silent rising and falling of torsos, accepting without rancor the insistent, intrusive breath that moves the world...

Read More

Big Honkin’ Transitions: Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

“If I could just freeze this moment!” It’s such a human sentiment, to feel overwhelming joy, peace or contentment and want it never to pass. To hold tight to the bliss. Alas, there is no capturing lightning in a bottle, no holding back the ocean’s tides. Change is the coin of this realm, the only constant. A line from a Shel Silverstein poem, which you can read en toto below, is worth chewing on here:

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends and before the street begins.”

That’s a profound image, that interim between one zone, one solid unchanging thing, and the next. It’s a place of transition, migration, crossing over. When you’re no longer tethered to one place but not settled in the next, either.

That in-between place can have tremendous impact. You have to be careful there: the footing can be dicey, and it’s easy to sprain your ankle and worse.

Attention must be paid.

So now it’s t...

Read More