Category Personal Reflections

The Turning Point on the (Hopefully) Long Journey Home

You reach a point in life—I’m not sure when it began but I know it has—that your people—friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, teachers, teammates— who have died begin to rival in number, and feel as present to you, as those who are still living. This represents some kind of turning point no one ever alluded to in my formative years, when they suggested all the exciting things awaiting me in my maturity.

No one ever took me aside back then in a candid moment and intoned, “All they’re saying is true, but at a certain point, you will also begin to suffer loss upon loss, and it will last until the very day you, too, will perish from this earth.”

Much as we suspect that might not be the most helpful and inspiring bit of wisdom for an elder to pass along to a youth in bloom, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be at least as helpful as the traditional exhortations along the lines of, “You can be anything you w...

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The Day Bernie Flew Over His Chair

I was eight years old and skinny and new to the school, and my parents spoke with thick accents. Bernie combed his hair straight back and often tilted on the back legs of his chair, a pencil stuck idly in his mouth, and there were several girls who walked by his desk a lot.

Bernie offered me his friendship not so much by anything he said, but just by following me out the door to recess a couple of times and lining up next to me for milk. We became partners in foursquare.

In the spring of that year we were doing morning math, me hunched over my desk, Bernie leaning back, gazing. There was a rocket-like suddenness to what happened next, Bernie shooting over the back of his chair and falling to the floor.

I barely stifled a laugh, Mrs. Agee’s “four legs on the floor” rule once again claiming its due.

As I turned to see with what sheepish look Bernie would rise to his feet, I saw Mrs...

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On Simone Biles and the Triumph of Women

Let’s face it, guys: the women have won. And though it was a long time coming, their victory was inevitable. They just had to push long enough, through a protracted labor, and wait us guys out, allowing our emotional deficits enough time to send us crashing into walls, dazed and confused and shouting ourselves hoarse all the way.

And as it turns out, their victory is ours too, though it has been a grudging one, and we have not yielded all that gently (who does, about what?). And there is still a long way to go.

But that is to get ahead of ourselves a little bit, and how we got here and what it means is worth a word or two.

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Many millennia after women began to strain against the bounds of the metaphorical straitjackets males had kept them cloaked in since our hunter-gatherer days in caves, it has become abundantly clear that all else being equal, the world would be in a hella better place if women had ru...

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Weeding As a Way of Life

Last fall we teamed up with our neighbors with whom we share a driveway that crosses our respective property lines and hired a guy named Max to bring his excavator out, level the driveways, then smooth out a nice load of gravel (“Gravel #67” from the Stone Center of North Carolina) to give it a uniform look.

Part and parcel of the effort was to bury or otherwise obliterate the veritable weed farm that had grown industriously through the mashup of crummy soil and lifeless little stones over the years.

Max told us that his scraping and sizable overlay of chunky new stone would keep the weeds to a minimum so we shouldn’t have to worry much about an invasion for a good long while. Which is when I should have followed up to ask for a more quantitatively specific definition of “good long while.” But I didn’t.

I came to find out in short enough order, though: about six months.

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That’s when spr...

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The Drama of Self: A Personal Reflection on the Poet William Everson

“Everson has been accused of self-dramatization. Justly. All of his poetry…is concerned with the drama of his own self..Everything is larger than life with a terrible beauty and pain. Life isn’t like that to some people and to them these poems will seem too strong a wine. But of course life is like that.”

I love those lines, which come from the introduction to poet William Everson’s 1948 volume, “The Residual Years.” They were written by his friend and fellow poet Kenneth Rexroth, who came up for discussion here a few posts ago, and who served as a kind of mentor to Everson and other younger poets who had gathered around him in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s.

Rexroth’s droll insistence that “of course life is like that” points to the fact that even when we try to numb ourselves with various inebriates (including electronics and overwork) or present ourselves externally as even-tempered and...

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