Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So, you think there are no castles here

Well, there is no denying the Royal Castle across the street from my apartment in Warsaw was significantly more legitimate, more historic, more solidly constructed -- pretty much more everything -- than the would-be castle across the street from my leased-for-the-summer townhouse in Minnesota. But, you cannot argue the point. There really is (at least, was) a castle across the street from me here in Minnesota, too. Perhaps, castles are to be found wherever I go; an interesting point over which to speculate. Whatever …. the view from upper-level windows often is intriguing and fascinating. Of that, you can be sure.

Forever Fram the Fortunate

Part 1 of (maybe) 2 (or more)

During the immediate eight or nine months before I went to Poland, I had dropped eighteen pounds which had crept up on me during the eleven or twelve years since I had quit smoking. While I was in Poland, I lost another eight or nine pounds. Since I returned from Poland, I have gained those eight or nine back, and a few people have commented that I look both better and younger carrying the extra weight.

Why am I mentioning this? Very simple. Because, during the past few weeks, I have been in a phase of spending too much time thinking about stupid, trivial, unimportant, nonsensical things rather than about the important matters in my life.

It is not that fretting about what possessions to keep and which to throw away is an easy or a welcome task, or that my opinions about reincarnation or love have no relevance in my life, but it is that I have been failing to put my life into perspective and to prioritize the chores that are confronting me at this point in time.

Where do I want to be a year from now, or should I just hoist sails and go wherever the wind takes me? Who do I want to be with a year from now, or should I move over into the "love the one you are with" side of the ledger? I think these are the only two real questions confronting me, and they are facing me in that order. I have two months to reach some major decisions in my life.

All right. That said, take one more step. What in god’s name am I doing writing (i.e., whining, crying, complaining) here?

I could be married to an evil, mean, gold-digging woman -- but I am not. I could have a job I hate and a boss who makes my life miserable -- but I do not. I could have a serious, even a life-threatening illness -- but I do not.

When I was a school boy, I slept in a snow/ice cave for ten nights and had no food except for what I shot with a rifle. When I was in the Marine Corps, I slept on rocks anchored to a slope so I would not fall down it into a ravine and, more than once, slept tied to the branches of a tree so I would not fall out of it. I have the strength to do this yet, and would neither care all that much nor complain if I had to do it again right now. So, why does my life seem to be in turmoil today when compared to living life like that in the past? Absolutely no logical explanation.

Like many before me, I have looked into the eyes of death, closed my own and leaped into it with a smile and a laugh -- then collapsed into sleep after living through it, only to repeat the exercise a day or two later. So, what is important enough in my life right now to match that? Absolutely nothing.

My only issues are where do I want to live next winter (or, maybe, even longer) and, if fate wills it, who do I want to live with in "momentary" (sorry, I could not resist) happiness. You know, it is quite possible I am a very, very lucky man, but simply too dumb to realize it. I suppose that is what love can do to you: Confuse you, put you into a state of bewilderment, keep you off balance in terms of the other elements in your life.

Think about it. I soon will be literally unencumbered of any albatrosses around my neck and free to "go my (your) own way" to a significantly greater degree than I was a year ago -- or, even than I have been at any time in my life since I was eighteen or nineteen. Maybe, there will be no one for me to go to, but will that be the end of the world for me? Not quite. Love most certainly is a two-way street, so why give it if you do not also receive it? Life goes on, and so will I -- with or without a companion by my side.

A young lady in northern California wrote to me recently that she has reconciled herself to the thought she probably never will find the ideal partner with whom to share the rest of her life. It could be that I need to "grow up" in that sense, too, and then accept probability as fact that I will be living the rest of my years with no love greater than that which friends can offer for each other.

When a man is young and inexperienced at life, there is every reason to be wary and nervous, but I am older and have swung a sword a number of times. I suppose it might be understandable when a man drifts off into a daze during his weaker moments, but, when all is said and done, there should be no problem for him eventually to remember what he has accomplished in the past and who he is because of it and what he is capable of doing tomorrow and the day after.

And, most importantly, there should be no problem for a man to understand that there really is absolutely nothing at all in this world to fear. Life can do no more to him than kill him, and it most certainly will do just that, sooner or later, no matter what.

I frequently have been accused of being too introspective and of taking myself too seriously. Well, perhaps. No matter. I wonder .... possibly, I will be fortunate enough to find a castle to lease for the winter ....

(To be continued ....)

Castles in the Air" by Thomas Love Peacock

My thoughts by night are often filled
With visions false as fair:
For in the past alone I build
My castles in the air.

I dwell not now on what may be:
Night shadows o'er the scene:
But still my fancy wanders free
Through that which might have been.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Waiting for the last man -- and longer

Yes, it is the real thing. The uniform, I mean, but, I guess, I mean the bottle of wine, too. The uniform is mine, and dates from the U.S. Army of 1917. It has been in places like New York, California, Ireland, England, Belgium and France. It has crossed the Atlantic Ocean by ship, and America, England and Belgium by train. The wine is of more recent origin, having been purchased in 1934. It -- the wine, that is -- once was the property of a group of men who had fought in France during World War I and returned to their homes in Minnesota. Now, it is mine, in a sense. It still belongs to them but, through fate and accident of birth, I am entrusted with caring for it at this moment in time.

Our war to end all wars

At least one person noticed a subtle difference about the bottle in the center foreground of the photograph that accompanied the piece ("Pleasing memories & a drink to worship") two days ago in which I wrote about my developing taste for Benedictine. She sent me a note asking about it.
The bottle appears to be a bit older than the others in the photo -- vintage, as people say when talking of antiques or wine.

Yes, it is old, I suppose, by some standards. This particular bottle was purchased in 1934 by a group of veterans of World War I who belonged to the American Legion.

The American Legion was born in the aftermath of World War I by returning veterans of that "war to end all wars" as a means to maintain the camaraderie established through the common experience of being soldiers fighting in a war far away from home on foreign shores. The next paragraph comes from the organization itself:

"A group of twenty officers who served in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France in World War I is credited with planning the Legion. AEF Headquarters asked these officers to suggest ideas on how to improve troop morale. One officer, Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., proposed an organization of veterans. In 1919, this group formed a temporary committee and selected several hundred officers who had the confidence and respect of the whole army. When the first organization meeting took place in Paris in March, 1919, about 1,000 officers and enlisted men attended. The meeting, known as the Paris Caucus, adopted a temporary constitution and the name The American Legion. The Legion held a second organizing caucus in St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1919."

There probably is not a historian who can say with accuracy when the first "last man's club" was organized among veterans of wars. I know they existed among a few units which fought in the American Civil War. But, there almost certainly were such groups of men among Roman Legionnaires, Viking raiders and the remnants of Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of Russia.

In any event, by the early 1930s, American Legion clubs existed in cities and towns and villages across the United States. Some of them began their own versions of a "last man's club."

Some of these clubs obtained a bottle of expensive Scotch or a bottle of imported French wine. The concept was that this bottle would be held in trust until only one man remained alive among the members of the respective "last man's clubs." The bottle would become the property of that last survivor, who would open it and then drink a toast to his departed comrades.

In 1934, in my tiny, country village, the World War I veterans of the American Legion post bought a bottle of ordinary, inexpensive, American wine. No fabulous Scotch or imported French wine for these men who, at this time, were living in the midst of the "Great Depression" and were second- or third-generation descendants of Norwegian and German immigrants.

Well, I now have that bottle of wine in my possession. This container of "pleasant and refreshing Virginette Special Wine," bottled in the far away state of Ohio, was not opened by the last surviving member of World War I veterans in my home town. I have no idea why he did not open it. I did not even know the bottle existed until three or four years ago.

When the last man died, the bottle was kept by his widow. When she died, it moved along to her son. When he died, it came to me.

I doubt this bottle will ever be opened -- at least, not by me. My belief is that it still belongs to a group of American warriors whose era has come and gone. All that remains of them is one old bottle of wine, now held in perpetuity by me -- by a man who carries their blood and treasures their memory.

by E. Wyndham Tennant
(Ramparts, Ypres, July 1916)

I too remember distant golden days
When even my soul was young; I see the sand
Whirl in a blinding pillar towards the band
Of orange sky-line 'neath a turquoise blaze -
Some burnt-out sky spread o'er a glistening land)
- And slim brown jargoning men in blue and gold,
I know it all so well, I understand

The ecstasy of worship ages-old.
Hear the first truth: The great far-seeing soul
Is ever in the humblest husk; I see
How each succeeding section takes its toll
In fading cycles of old memory.
And each new life the next life shall control
Until perfection reach eternity.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pleasing memories & a drink to worship

Pick your poison, as we used to say once upon a time in the wild, wild, old West. Scotch, a couple of bottles of Benedictine and a couple of cognac, Southern Comfort, brandy, Kahlua, Amber Cream and a few varieties of wine are available in this batch. There probably are a few more types of whiskey and wine around here, too, on the chance that you care to wait while I look around. In the meanwhile, if you are curious about the meaning of this photograph, read on.

A very pleasing memory

A few days ago, I referenced my blog description of my concept of how an individual meets the "perfect" companion: "I learned romance might exist, but depends upon whether a man and a woman can tread the maze (of living life) individually and reach its center at the same instant in time."

A comment emerged from a reader which brought me back to that thought, and it is one I have had not only in terms of the beneficial intersection of a man and a woman, but in terms of time and place for matters ranging from the trivial to affairs of life and death.

For instance, a trivial event: I am walking down the street with a friend. He looks down and sees a twenty-dollar bill blowing in the wind along the sidewalk. Lucky him for passing this way and looking down at that exact moment. Why him and not me? I could use an extra twenty just as much as he can.

For instance, a life and death issue: I am walking on line with a squad of Marines and a sniper's bullet stops the man next to me literally dead in his tracks. Again, why him and not me? It is an ever-present question in combat that has no answer except among the type who possess a large enough ego to believe god has spared them for some specific purpose.

Being at the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time is the centerpiece of our lives, I think, and not one of us has a single bit of control over it. It is fate. It is destiny. It is life and there is nothing to be done about it.

The comment from the reader was something like this: "Or..when you actually find someone you really love..that person is not ready..Strange? I don’t know.."

While I was in Poland with my mind focused entirely on one woman, two other women displayed more than a passing interest in me. Both were very attractive. Both were well educated and, in fact, although they were Polish, spoke the English language with greater grammatical skill than I do. Both were financially secure and well-traveled. One of them went so far as to invite me (more than once) to go on a holiday with her for a week. I declined.

This episode, of course, is related to what I mentioned two days ago in the post titled, "A theory, a poem, an opera." My comment was this:
"I have been wondering lately how many women have shown an interest in me and I walked away from them without giving them much (if any) consideration as a potential companion in life ."

I am not sorry I stopped short of becoming better acquainted with either or both of these two Polish young ladies because I was completely involved with another young lady at the time, but the simple fact that it happened causes me to return to the words of Robert Frost still one more time: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both." Was it fate or destiny? What caused me to choose the road that I did?

Some people would tell me my "inner being" would have known if either of these two women were right for me, and since it did not, my decision not to pursue either or both of them was the correct decision. As for my own thoughts about the matter, right now I am more inclined to think my inner being is a fool.

Oh, well .... at the very least, these two encounters provide me with a very pleasing memory. Each and every one of us appreciates being wanted by another.

Deo Optimo Maximo

Since returning to America in April, I have developed a taste for the liqueur known as Benedictine.

This is a description of it pasted together from three sources: "Made with a cognac base, Benedictine was born during the Renaissance when a Venetian monk at the Abbey of Fécamp, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created an elixir from twenty-seven herbs, roots, spices and sugar. Originally used to revive tired Benedictine monks beginning in 1510, the term D.O.M. on the label stands for Deo Optimo Maximo, which translates into 'to God, most good, most great.' One of the best ways to taste the distinct flavors of Benedictine is in a B&B, in which the liqueur is mixed with brandy."

My "usual" drink is brandy, with an occasional cognac. Perhaps, that is the genesis of my new-found taste for Benedictine. Perhaps, I was an Italian monk or a French grape grower in a previous life.

Now, that I really do doubt.

I am not extravagant when it comes to liquor (come to think of it, I am not extravagant when it comes to anything), so the idea that I actually buy and drink Benedictine is somewhat of a shock to my psyche. I literally can buy four bottles of the brandy I drink for the cost of a single bottle of Benedictine.

I wonder what is happening to me.

Windy Nights
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

With or without us, life goes on

Companions yet for a few more weeks, a Chevrolet Suburban and an Audi rest half-hidden in the garage at the townhouse I have leased for the summer. Whether the two vehicles signal that their owner has a split personality or represent some other facet of his character is any one's guess. The Suburban -- large and capable of carrying a considerable load, although purchased in Minnesota, bearing South Dakota license plates. The Audi -- small, sleek and a fast runner, displaying Washington state license plates. Yet, the pair "reside" in Minnesota -- for now. If you can figure out the significance of these disparities, tell me, will you?

Chained to a temporary abode & waiting

In my temporary residence, there are three bedrooms.

In one, I have a chair, a footstool, a liquor cabinet which also serves as a storage unit for coins and assorted rifle and handgun ammunition, a couple of end tables and a rather large television. I usually sit in this room while I eat, watching television, mostly the news. Sunday afternoon, I watched an entire baseball game. It was the first time I have been in the room for more than about thirty consecutive minutes since I rented the townhouse way back on May 14.

In the other bedroom, I have two tables, each with a computer, a television usually tuned in on a cable news channel, and a futon cushion spread out on the floor. It is my bed. This is a "bachelor pad," remember? And, a place to stay for a man who often has proclaimed he can sleep anywhere, even on rocks, at anytime. And, a home for a man who currently is a very inactive one in terms of guests. I am not in the mood for guests (for rocks, either, for that matter), but comfort is not requisite. I only want to get my affairs in order so I am ready to depart for "whateverland" at the end of August.

The third bedroom and the living room, plus the downstairs bathroom and laundry room, are my designated "dispersal centers" -- the places where packing and re-packing and stacking boxes in preparation for storage takes place.

Of my former furniture, only seven bookcases, a few tables and a few chairs remain. Two vehicles still reside in the garage, the Chevrolet Suburban which I purchased on May 4 and the Audi which I have had for a few years and which soon will belong to another. Since my return to America in the final minutes of April 9, I have disposed of three handguns, two rifles and one shotgun, but purchased two additional rifles. To me, this is funny. Buying, selling and trading firearms is the consistent inconsistency of my life.

In the bedroom that now serves as my television room, one of the former residents had attached an automobile bumper sticker to the wall which reads: "Life is Good." Considering the fact that the two occupants were a pair of university students who quite literally fled town after passing bad checks and committing a few other indiscretions, I am not certain of the logic behind the bumper sticker. They even had removed the house numbers from the townhouse in an attempt to confuse anyone who might be "looking" for them.

Life might be good, I suppose, but it could be better for me. I do not like living alone or being alone. I do not want to eat in a restaurant alone, or go to a film, or to an auction, or for a walk or do most things alone -- except, maybe, to canoe alone at times, especially on stormy days, or to enter the woodlands by myself on occasion. Which is not to say I do not like having a certain amount of time to myself -- preferably at night while others are sleeping -- and, I think everyone needs private space and time to be alone when they wish to have it.

Evidently, I am not the first man who does not like to live alone: "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." This is from Genesis 2:18, in case you are interested.

Yes, yes. Whatever ....

I am uncertain if anyone understood the primary point (or even read the post, for that matter) that I was making in my commentary two days ago under the title of "When ice meets fire." I was trying to express a dilemma, without being blatant about it, regarding love. Why bother with it? Why worry about it? Why even think about it? Life would be made considerably more simple by following the path of Tannhauser.

Another philosophical question: Does it matter if love is a sacred love or if it is a profane love as long as it is real and exists in some form? Is "life good" under either circumstance? Or, even good with the total absence of love?

Meanwhile, here I am in self-imposed chains waiting for the end of summer. What is life if it is not waiting, for something or for someone? Life is good, I suppose, but sometimes I wonder and, for sure, it usually could be better.

All right .... life goes on, whether we are in the center of it or on the sidelines .... back to the packing and the re-packing, packing and re-packing, packing and re-packing ....

But, first, the music

It is not the norm for me to comment about my music selections, but I do want to mention the video of Elvis Presley singing "Unchained Melody" in South Dakota only a few weeks before his death in 1977.

I never cared at all for music by or from Elvis, but to watch this video is to watch a man who knew who he was, what he was and where he was going. This, in a sense, makes him admirable during his final months of life. His performance is pure pathos, painful to watch. He was only 42-years-old, and his life was done. I think even he has tears in his eyes by the end of the song.

Then, to compare his performance to that of the same song sung by Kristy Lee Cook, who is young, has a beautifully powerful voice and is singing for tomorrow rather than for yesterday, the dichotomy of our mortal existence is very evident.

My thought is, "The King is dead; long live the King." In terms of American music and culture, Presley really was something special, like his music or not.

Some lines from "The Prisoner of Chillon"
by George Gordon, Lord Byron

The other was as pure of mind,
But form'd to combat with his kind;
Strong in frame, and of a mood
Which 'gainst the world in war had stood,
And perish'd in the foremost rank
With joy: - but not in chains to pine:
His spirit wither'd with their clank,
I saw it silently decline -
And so perchance in sooth did mine:
But yet I forced it on to cheer
Those relics of a home so dear.
He was a hunter of the hills,
Had follow'd there the deer and wolf;
To him this dungeon was a gulf,
And fetter'd feet the worst of ills.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When ice meets fire

In the cosmology and mythololgy of the Old Norse, the universe was born from the collision of fire and ice -- direct opposites. Under the human condition, most "creation" seems to begin with fire meeting and merging with fire.

A theory, a poem, an opera:
Once again it is demonstrated
there is nothing new under the sun


The Old Norse believed the Earth was born from the meeting and merging of fire and ice, heat and cold. When you think about it, this is a rather folksy way of describing the "big bang" theory of cosmological creation. Which means, believe it or not, these old sword-swingers knew what they were talking about.

In the case of human relationships, here meaning between men and women, more often than not the situation seems to involve fire meeting and merging with fire. This is particularly true among the young. Those who are the most physically attractive seem to receive the most attention. Over a matter of years, however, those with a degree of insight actually come to learn the meaning of the words, "beauty is only skin deep."

As people become more experienced at living life, security seems to be a big factor in the contest of human relationships, especially among women who have been "burned" by men once or twice along the way. In theory, as wisdom grows, so does the focus on seeking out a companion who offers security in every sense: Financial, emotional, physical.

Many other factors, of course, enter into the mix. While opposites often attract, my belief is that those who have the most in common have the greatest chance to maintain a successful relationship. While there are exceptions in every instance, similarities in age, religious beliefs, political philosophies, recreational activities -- to mention just a very few -- would seem to indicate greater odds for success among couples seeking to form a lasting relationship than among those who have disparities in these and other regards.

I wrote those words, understanding them and believing them to be reality as it exists, but absolutely certain in my heart that any obstacles can be overcome if two people wish to be together more than they wish for anything else.

Moving from the general to the more specific -- meaning that I want to talk about myself now -- I have been wondering lately how many women have shown an interest in me and I walked away from them without giving them much (if any) consideration as potential companions in life . Or, viewed from the opposite side of the fence -- how often have I looked into a woman's eyes or talked with a woman or gone out with a woman and tried to indicate my interest in her, only to be given a "thanks, but no thanks."

Sometimes these rejections have been because of physical attraction (or, the lack thereof), or from having different interests, different backgrounds, different beliefs in this or that or, again, any number of all too often very superficial reasons (i.e., excuses) for not at least spending some time exploring the possibilities.

If I recall correctly, the divorce rate in America is somewhere around fifty percent. If one adds to that number all of the couples who have tried and failed to live together without the benefit of a marriage contract, probably ninety percent or even more of us fail to maintain a lasting relationship. This certainly is my case.

I have been married twice, both times the marriage ending in divorce. There are four other women who I believe I could have made an emotional commitment to had things been just a bit different in our lives and had we been able to reach agreement regarding the future direction of our lives together. One of these women, I would have "pledged my troth" to on the spot.

In some ways, my life parallels that of Tannhauser, a 13th Century Teutonic knight and poet, probably only known today because of the opera bearing his name composed by Richard Wagner. In a mythic sense, the pathway of Tannhauser is the course of life open for all men who have ever walked the Earth and sought some manner of redemption through pure love.

Whatever ....

It is evident in my posts that my tendency is to "overthink" my past -- to overly analyze my personal history. By this, I mean that I often tend to second guess decisions I have made in the past, or, if not actually second guess, at least to wonder who I would be and where I would be had I chosen that path rather than this path. In the words of Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both ...."

Fire also is a primary ingredient in the Old Norse cosmology regarding the end of the Earth. The sky will burn and fall into a pit of flames, while the land will sink into the sea. But, one man and one woman -- Lif and Lifthrasir -- will survive by finding shelter in the branches of the ash tree known as Yggdrasil. And then, the Earth will rise again from the sea and flourish.

Regeneration, replenishment, rejuvenation -- even reincarnation is implied, but enough of that. Since the Old Norse were right about the creation of the Earth, I have little doubt they will be correct about its end. And, since I know I can survive anything and everything, all I have to do is to keep my eyes open for Lifthrasir.

Some lines from "Laus Veneris"
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Ah God, that love were as a flower or flame,
That life were as the naming of a name,
That death were not more pitiful than desire,
That these things were not one thing and the same!

Behold now, surely somewhere there is death:
For each man hath some space of years, he saith,
A little space of time ere time expire,
A little day, a little way of breath.

And lo, between the sundawn and the sun,
His day's work and his night's work are undone;
And lo, between the nightfall and the light,
He is not, and none knoweth of such an one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A note from the Winter past

Once upon a time, I carried a camera with me wherever I went. That was partly because of my work and partly because I enjoyed photography. While both those things might still be sort of true yet today, they are much less so. The result is that I have fewer photos of my own with which to illustrate (or simply to decorate) commentaries that I write. In this instance, the subject of the landscape around Lake Superior came up in a recent "conversation," and I decided to retrieve a photo I took during my brief jaunt there last summer. This was taken about midway up the Minnesota portion of the North Shore. Possibly, the North Shore and, for sure, the South Shore (in Michigan) of The Lake will be on my list of places to re-visit during the month of September.

Time only is time for what is meant,
not what was said


"I came here (to Warsaw, Poland) with the intent to construct a long-term, romantic relationship and to hide out in a city / country overflowing with an aurora of history while attempting to do some serious writing ....

"I have since learned what would have been obvious to anyone other than to me: Neither undertaking is conducive to the success of the other. Each one steals time and energy from the other, creating little chance for success in either. But, time will tell. We shall see. Or, as the frequently inebriated Ernest Hemingway was known to observe with astuteness found only in a successful novelist: 'It will either happen or it won't'."

I wrote those words, among others, in a note to five or six individuals around the first of February, give or take. For me to make such a revelation to so many others regarding current, personal matters is, in itself, almost remarkable. There is only one person with whom I communicate regularly (a life-long friend). Correspondence with others only happens when I have a specific reason. It is clear to me now how troubled I was at the time.

To the ghost of Hemingway, I am unhappy to report that it apparently will not "happen." But, as most adventures in life, it provided me with the opportunity to learn (or, perhaps, to re-learn) a valuable lesson or two.

On the other side of the coin, I am most pleased to report to all others that it was the most wonderful Winter I believe I ever have experienced in my entire life -- or, at the very least, for a long, long time. So much so, that I wish to experience it (or something near to it) still again next Winter. Whether this will take place somewhere in the U.S. or at a European destination -- possibly even in the same European city -- will be decided in the months ahead.

One significant difference this coming Winter compared to last Winter will be the focus of my time and attention. It will not be a mix of relationship-building and serious writing. These two most definitely, in my opinion, are not conducive to one another. Each requires its own time and place, I think, and right now I am mostly concerned with serious writing. This time, I will apply what I learned (or, perhaps, re-learned last Winter. This time, I will adhere more to my instincts and less to my emotions.

This is not to say that being in love and serious writing cannot co-exist. In fact, I suppose I agree with Hemingway: ".... the best writing is certainly when you are in love." But, walls must in place before a roof can be constructed.

Ah, yes .... next time .... maybe next Winter. Experience is the best teacher; of that there is no doubt. So, maybe next time ....

Ah, yes .... sweet catharsis ....

Some thoughts from Henry Ford

"For thirty years I have leaned toward the theory of Reincarnation. It seems a most reasonable philosophy and explains many things. No, I have no desire to know what, or who I was once; or what, or who, I shall be in the ages to come.

"This belief in immortality makes present living the more attractive. It gives you all the time there is. You will always be able to finish what you start. There is no fever or strain in such an outlook. We are here in life for one purpose -- to get experience. We are all getting it, and we shall all use it somewhere."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Destiny awaits at the end of the maze

One final commentary (for now) regarding reincarnation or the transmigration of souls and one last photograph of the view from the place which once was my "Sanctuary / Refuge" from the unpleasantness that so often seems to follow us wherever we go. This photo was taken from the deck of the house and, of course, shows South Dakota in the foreground, the Missouri River in the distance and Nebraska across the "wide Missouri."

I know I am deathless

Part 3 of 3 (for now)

My past few commentaries originated from thoughts arising from a question posed to me on June 4: "Do you believe in souls that have met in another life .... that meet again to try to fulfill what they didn’t in the past?"

My response at the time was this: "Believe might be too strong a word, since it requires actual belief and faith in something that probably cannot be proved. But, yes, I do think this.

"Two points: First, I think I have met such a person, and have spent a considerable amount of time communicating with her and actually being with her during the past year. Next, I think I will try to write a post on this subject in more detail and see where it might lead."

Walt Whitman, the poet whose verse I cited here a few days ago, once said these words: "I know I am deathless. No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before. I laugh at what you call dissolution, and I know the amplitude of time."

While I might not have made the earthly circuit ten thousand times, I think I have come and gone this way a few times in the past. I have been considering the question posed to me, mental wandering with it, I guess is how I might describe the process, and have decided not to explore it here as thoroughly as I initially had planned.

The situation is too close, too personal yet, to write about in any detail. More time is required for me to free myself from the emotional entanglement and to view this chapter of this life in an objective manner. (Remember, I spent a number of years as a journalist, and I firmly believe that a state of objectivity can be achieved in viewing any situation, even when it personally involves the "reporter.")

That said, I will make a few general comments:

With respect to my "belief" that my soul and that of another have mingled in some manner in previous lives, I am not certain which of us broached this "feeling" first, but we both agreed that it was an actual reality and we both sensed it, felt it, understood it, believed it and accepted it as fact.

This phenomenon has only happened to me once in my life -- never before now. It involved much, much more than having common interests, and, in fact, included common dreams and sensations of being present and together although physically separated by a few thousand miles. To me, it was as though the only separation had been time itself, and a few thousand miles was the closest we had been to each other for an immeasurable length time.

When the two of us met face-to-face "this time around," I felt absolutely comfortable and at ease with her. It was like we were friends and lovers who had not seen each other for a year or two, and who were completely used to each other's presence in our lives. Every aspect of her personality and temperament was familiar to me. In a sentence, it was like I had known her throughout my entire lifetime -- or, possibly I should say, throughout my entire existence.

But, it also seemed that we had some major differences in the way we comprehend the world and view our individual roles within it. Perhaps, even irreconcilable differences, which means reaching the center of the maze together in the same instant probably is unattainable this time around. **

Time answers all questions in respect to life and living it -- or, again, possibly I should say in respect to existence then, now and the next time around. Who can say? It might well be my fate is to forever run the maze. Or, it could be I am Siddhartha, the ferryman, learning the essence of life from the river. And, when I finally have learned it, I will find myself in the center of the maze at precisely the right moment with the "One & Only Actual" -- whose name will be Destiny.

Since I am an authority on nothing, not even on myself, I will end this with the words of a man who was a recognizable authority on many things:

"My life often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and no end. I had the feeling that I was an historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had been born again because I had not fulfilled the task given to me." -- Carl Jung

** [The reference to running the maze comes from my description at the top of the page to this blog: "I learned romance might exist, but depends upon whether a man and a woman can tread the maze individually and reach its center at the same instant in time."]

Some lines from "Siddhartha"

by Herman Hesse

"He saw all these forms and faces

in a thousand relationships become newly born.
Each one was mortal, a passionate, painful example
of all that is transitory.
Yet none of them died, they only changed,
were always reborn, continually had a new face:
only time stood between one face and another."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I remember dying twice

Panning to the right from the photograph of two day's ago, this is the view from what once was my "Sanctuary / Refuge." Again, it is South Dakota in the foreground, the Missouri River in the distance and Nebraska way, way, far away. There are liberals and there are conservatives, Protestants and Catholics, baseball fans and basketball fans, but it absolutely boggles my mind how anyone can prefer the sights of man-made streets and towers and storefronts above the majesty of nature's work. Maybe, it is a matter of differences between women and men. Anyway, for now, until forever, Nature rules, in my world. Cities are there to visit, not to dwell within.

Dreams never leave you -- or do they?

Part 2 of ??

I can remember dying twice in the past.

By remember, I sort of mean I think I recall, I believe I can recall, I have faith that I do recall. Do I know? Of course not. Neither do I know that there is a Supreme Being, a God, a Deity. It is a matter of thought and faith and belief, not one of proof positive and knowledge.

In one death, I remember my chest being crushed, smashed, demolished .... I was running .... and then there was something like an axe being slammed into the middle of my chest

and stopped me dead in my tracks

and lifted me off my feet

and threw me backward.

In that instant, I knew that I was dead. The only other thing I remember about this event is that my hair was long, and that it whipped my face when my forward momentum was stopped.

In another death, I can see when and where it happened, possibly because it seems to be more recent than the previous event I described. It was, I think, on November 20, 1943, on the atoll of Tarawa on the island of Betio in the Gilbert Islands. I was in the Marine Corps, and, any number of times, I have seen and felt myself die there in a dream -- again from a chest wound, this time atop a mound of sand on the first day of the invasion. Tarawa obsesses me. Why? Perhaps this is the primary reason I joined the Marine Corps in this lifetime. Enough for now.

Beyond what seems to be the actual in terms of events "known," I had a reoccurring dream that began when I was about age twelve and continued until I was age eighteen. In that dream, I was rolling along the ground while a man who appeared to be of Oriental descent was firing a submachine gun at me. I rolled and I rolled, and the rounds being fired at me gradually were catching up to me. I always awoke just before the rounds reached me.

Some of you who have read here in the past know this story, and know that when I was eighteen I was in my first actual (not sort of, but actual) combat. You also might recall I wrote that the dream never reoccurred after that time; after the time I was in actual combat, this dream ceased to be.

Frankly, I have my doubts that anyone reads what I write other than one or two or three people. This is not very important to me, but curiosity drives me. I wish to know what others have experienced. If anyone has experienced this manner of feeling, dream, belief or event, I would like to learn about it. Tell me, if you dare .... which means, if you dare to reveal your inner self -- not just to me, but to yourself.

As for me, lose this, laugh at it, forget it, skip it. I am increasingly beginning to believe that humanity has entered an age in which living for oneself is more important than living for another. Perhaps, that is what separates today from yesterday .... and me, from many (most ??) others.

"To a Stranger" by Walt Whitman

Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,) I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Neverland always has been real for me

This is not a view of Neverland, but, instead, of Once-Upon-A-Time-Land. Some of you might have seen a photograph similar to this in the past. It is the view from the yard of my former "Sanctuary / Refuge." This photo was taken Saturday. South Dakota is in the foreground, the Missouri River is in the distance and Nebraska is across the river. This place is mine no more. Such is the penalty for picking the wrong companion. But, do not fret. It has gone into a trust for the generation which follows me, so, in that way, will remain with my descendants. This is where I spent the weekend, and what follows is the initial commentary of an occasional few to follow concerning thoughts and feelings about life, love and (as threatened) the transmigration of souls.

Who wants to be age eleven forever?

Part 1 of ??

I remember as distinctly as though it happened only a few days ago. I was happy, I was running through a narrow gap between two brick, business buildings, hurrying on my way home. I thought: "It is wonderful to be eleven. What a great age to be. I wish I could stay eleven forever."

Well, I have stayed age eleven forever, in many ways, but not entirely. As recently as 2005, I returned to that very same location, between the two buildings in my hometown, just to stand there for a moment, once again, and to try to understand what it meant to be age eleven. The narrow gap was boarded up, for no other reason I can imagine than to prevent eleven-year-olds from running through it. What cruel times we live in.

At age eleven, I had discovered the adult section of the library and bought my first guns. I had a lake, and a boat to row from one side to the other, and to anchor and to swim from in the middle of the lake, where no one else could go. I was not the typical, but not the exception, either.

Most boys my age preferred baseball to books and fast cars to guns but, remember, this was small town, rural America, and there was a niche for both types (for all types, actually) and both fit in very well. The reader / gunners were outnumbered by the traditional sports types about three or four to one, but there were enough to go around on both sides.

Beyond that, it probably will not surprise you to learn that "Peter Pan" was among my favorite stories as a child, and "Finding Neverland" is among my favorite films today. (White Bear prefers this motion picture above most others, too, and we often go to sleep watching the film or listening to the soundtrack from it.)

As life moved on, I went with it. I also thought age seventeen was a very good year, one in which I would be content to spend the rest of my life. I had a steady girlfriend at that time, which probably explains why I enjoyed the year so much. Age twenty-two was great for me. I loved it, and wanted it to remain forever -- or for me to forever remain within it. It did not, and the era of the perfect ages ended for me. There has not been another year since then in which I wished to remain forever.

Was this simply youthful exuberance, or some innate instinct or knowlege -- something more complex?

Are you still with me, or have you drifted away to your own Neverland? I will be back another day to continue this ....

The beauty & the power of some words

"Entreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following
after thee:
for whither thou goest,
I will go;
and where thou lodgest,
I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people,
and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die,
and there will I be buried:
the Lord do so to me,
and more also,
if aught but death
part thee and me."

The Bible
The Old Testament
Ruth 1:16

Friday, June 11, 2010

More thoughts on writing & a brief road trip

John Kenneth Galbraith: economist and prolific writer

The myth of inspirational writing

John Kenneth Galbraith, in a piece entitled, "Writing, Typing, and Economics," wrote that aspiring writers must resist the fantasy that good writing can only be accomplished during moments of inspiration. He said:

"All writers know that on some golden mornings they are touched by the wand—are on intimate terms with poetry and cosmic truth. I have experienced those moments myself. Their lesson is simple: It's a total illusion. And the danger in the illusion is that you will wait for those moments. Such is the horror of having to face the typewriter that you will spend all your time waiting. I am persuaded that most writers, like most shoemakers, are about as good one day as the next (a point which Trollope made), hangovers apart. The difference is the result of euphoria, alcohol, or imagination. The meaning is that one had better go to his or her typewriter every morning and stay there regardless of the seeming result. It will be much the same."

Galbraith also emphasized the importance of revision. "Anyone who is not certifiably a Milton," he wrote, "had better assume that the first draft is a very primitive thing. The reason is simple: writing is difficult work."

This difficulty, he warned, is enough to drive many a writer to drink. He therefore advised against relying on alcohol as a crutch. "It is, quite literally, very sobering," he pointed out, "to reflect upon how many good American writers have been destroyed by this solace -- by the sauce. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner -- the list goes on and on."

He offered a rule of thumb: "Any writer who wants to do his best against a deadline should stick to Coca-Cola. If he doesn't have a deadline, he can risk Seven-Up."

Alone again & heading for Dakota

In a few hours, I will be on the road from Minnesota to South Dakota -- alone (again), I regret to report. The trip is only for a long weekend -- one-third for business, one- third for a change of pace, one-third for visiting family.

Most certainly, there will be some trigger time. I am taking two rifles and two handguns with me. I have not done any shooting since before departure for Europe last December, and am very much overdue.

Just possibly, I will head for town on Saturday night and find some action in a cowboy bar. I am not certain what I mean by "action" right now, since there are several kinds in which to engage, but, for the faint of heart, I will suggest that you search out such an establishment and discover for yourself what manner of action suits you best.

Be back next week ....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An "old" writer's thoughts on writing

Ernest Hemingway at work in Africa during his 1953-54 safari

Ernest Hemingway -- relevant in the 21st Century

Years ago, 1958 to be exact, Ernest Hemingway (love him or hate him) was asked the following questions by an interviewer from "The Paris Review:"

PR: "Could you say something of this process (of writing)? When do you work? Do you keep to a strict schedule?"

Hemingway: "When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through."

PR: "Do you do any rewriting as you read up to the place you left off the day before? Or does that come later, when the whole is finished?"

Hemingway: "I always rewrite each day up to the point where I stopped. When it is all finished, naturally you go over it. You get another chance to correct and rewrite when someone else types it, and you see it clean in type. The last chance is in the proofs. You're grateful for these different chances."

PR: "How much rewriting do you do?"

Hemingway: "It depends. I rewrote the ending to 'Farewell to Arms,' the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied."

PR: "Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?"

Hemingway: "Getting the words right."

PR: "Is it the rereading that gets the 'juice' up?"

Hemingway: "Rereading places you at the point where it has to go on, knowing it is as good as you can get it up to there. There is always juice somewhere."

PR: "But are there times when the inspiration isn't there at all? "

Hemingway: "Naturally. But if you stopped when you knew what would happen next, you can go on. As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come."

PR: "Thornton Wilder speaks of mnemonic devices that get the writer going on his day's work. He says you once told him you sharpened twenty pencils."

Hemingway: "I don't think I ever owned twenty pencils at one time. Wearing down seven number-two pencils is a good day's work ...."

PR: "Is emotional stability necessary to write well? You told me once that you could only write well when you were in love. Could you expound on that a bit more?"

Hemingway: "What a question. But full marks for trying. You can write anytime people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that."

PR: "How about financial security? Can that be a detriment to good writing?"

Hemingway: "If it came early enough and you loved life as much as you loved your work it would take much character to resist the temptations. Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it. Financial security then is a great help as it keeps you from worrying. Worry destroys the ability to write. Ill health is bad in the ratio that it produces worry which attacks your subconscious and destroys your reserves ...."

PR: "How complete in your own mind is the conception of a short story? Does the theme, or the plot, or a character change as you go along?"

Hemingway: "Sometimes you know the story. Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come out. Everything changes as it moves. That is what makes the movement which makes the story. Sometimes the movement is so slow it does not seem to be moving. But there is always change and always movement."

PR: "Is it the same with the novel, or do you work out the whole plan before you start and adhere to it rigorously?"

Hemingway: "'For Whom the Bell Tolls' was a problem which I carried on each day. I knew what was going to happen in principle. But I invented what happened each day I wrote ...."

PR: "Do you make a distinction -- as E. M. Forster does-between 'flat' and 'round' characters?"

Hemingway: "If you describe someone, it is flat, as a photograph is, and from my standpoint a failure. If you make him up from what you know, there should be all the dimensions ...."

PR: "Then you enjoy reading over your own books -- without feeling there are changes you would like to make?"

Hemingway: "I read them sometimes to cheer me up when it is hard to write and then I remember that it was always difficult and how nearly impossible it was sometimes."

PR: "How do you name your characters?"

Hemingway: "The best I can ...."

Hemingway's remarks about having a preconceived story as he writes vs. making up the story as he goes along are intriguing, as are his concepts of distinguishing real, multi-dimensional characters from 'flat' characters. The admission that he reads his own stories to "cheer" himself when fresh writing is not going well offers a psychological insight.

And, in an even more personal sense, it absolutely fascinating to read Hemingway's comment in response to the question about only being able to write well when he is in love. I can understand why he declines to "expound on that."

Friday, June 4, 2010

A novel, a poem, a song -- a breath of magic

Two of these three editions of "Time and Again" by Jack Finney have been around for a few decades, traveled widely and been read a number of times. The copy on the right is a recent commemorative edition issued by the Science Fiction Book Club.

Literature, you say? According to whom?

Science fiction writers traditionally have been held in low regard when compared to "real writers." One who broke out of the mold, largely due to his overall versatility as a writer and to the uniqueness of a particular novel, was Jack Finney.

Finney specialized in thrillers and works of science fiction. Two of his novels, "The Body Snatchers" and "Good Neighbor Sam," became the basis of popular films, but it was "Time and Again" that won him a devoted following. The novel, about an advertising artist who travels back through time to the New York of the 1880s, quickly became a cult favorite, beloved especially by New Yorkers for its rich, painstakingly-researched descriptions of life in the city more than a century ago.

Finney's first novel, "Five Against the House" (1954), told the story of five college students who plot to rob a casino in Reno. A year later, he published "The Body Snatchers" (later reissued as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), a chilling tale of aliens who emerge from pods in the guise of humans whom they have taken over. Many critics interpreted the insidious infiltration by aliens as a cold-war allegory that dramatized America's fear of a takeover by Communists. Finney maintained that the novel was nothing more than popular entertainment. The 1956 film, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," has been remade twice.

Finney first showed an interest in time travel in the short- story collection, "The Third Level," which included stories about a commuter who discovers a train that runs between New York and the year 1894, and a man who rebuilds an old car and finds himself transported back to the 1920's.

He returned to the thriller style in "Assault on a Queen" (1959) and tried his hand at comedy in "Good Neighbor Sam" (1963), a novel based on his experiences as an adman, played by Jack Lemmon in the film version.

With "Time and Again" (1970), Finney won the kind of critical praise and attention not normally accorded to genre fiction. Thomas Lask, reviewing the novel in The New York Times, described it, suggestively, as "a blend of science fiction, nostalgia, mystery and acid commentary on super government and its helots." Its hero, Si Morley, is a frustrated advertising artist who jumps at the chance to take part in a secret project that promises to change his life. So it does. He moves into the Dakota apartment building by Central Park West, travels back to New York in 1882 and experiences the fabulous ordinariness of a bygone age: Its trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, elevated rail lines and gaslights. Later, Finney published a sequel to the novel, "From Time to Time."

"Time and Again" probably is my favorite novel, period, and I re-read it every few years. I just finished it again a few weeks ago, while living in the "Old Town" section of an European city, Warsaw, Poland, whose people treasure its history and its heritage -- in the very least, as much as those who live in and love New York City.

This tale completely captures the imagination, offers significant, accurate, historical detail and presents a range of interesting characters whose emotions run the gamut of human experience. It might not rise to the aesthetic levels of "Ulysses" by James Joyce or to the literary heights of "The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway, but I am not certain I have found any novel that does accomplish those things for at least the past decade or two or three. Have you?

"Yesterday is History" by Emily Dickinson

Yesterday is History,
'Tis so far away --
Yesterday is Poetry --
'Tis Philosophy --

Yesterday is mystery --
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The return & the next departure

This is a photograph of the near-full moon (with a bit of reflected double image) taken a few days ago from the living room window of the townhouse where I now (temporarily) reside. Have you ever looked out over a more dismal, boring, innocuous view? Yet, this is the only type of setting countless people have to look out at for countless years. How do they stand it? Go back among my commentaries and compare this photo to the remarkable, fascinating, compelling views I had from the windows of The Apartment in Warsaw. To laugh or to cry, that should be the question. Ah, well. With nothing to look at through this window, my powers of thought and concentration should show remarkable improvement by the end of summer.

Rambling on & on -- verbally and literally

Part 2 of 2

To be honest, my return to America was generated for several reasons. Yes, primarily the sale of my house, but not the least of which was because I simply wanted to hear people speaking English in shops and on television and on the streets. Now, I find myself missing Europe very much -- the look of the cities and the smiles of many of the people I met. I need to return to learn if my attachment is merely melancholy memories or actual feelings. But, whether my return is for a few weeks or for long-term, only time will reveal -- because, inside of me, I have no inkling. Moods and emotions and circumstances often shift with the tides of life.

Just about the only place I do not want to go in Europe is to Italy. I have been to Rome twice. I am bored beyond mere words of hearing how great and grand and glorious Italy is, and what terrific ice cream is to be found there. Frankly, I think all ice cream is pretty much the same. Now, if we should begin a discussion about pizza, I might offer an inconsistent opinion .... and, of course, I might be persuaded to re-think my viewpoint if the subject were Venice, or about the northern lakes region, or ....

To ramble on: After my "mini-lease" on the townhouse expires, my intent is to wander a bit and to visit some of my former American "haunts" during September and, hopefully, return to Poland in October for three or four weeks before (maybe or maybe not) drifting on to somewhere else. It is all right to pause now and then, here and there, to rest and to study and to absorb -- but the name of the game is never to stop anywhere for too long and allow the present to become the past.

A person who is standing still obviously is going nowhere. There is a choice between left and right, backward and forward, down and up. Some people believe that there are greener pastures, a place over the rainbow, a land called Xanadu with its own actual sacred river named Alph(a). Even most religions have a version of hell and heaven at the end of earthly life. Theologians may argue cause and effect, but they at least understand that to pause for too long is to perish.

I freely admit that I am very pragmatic about making up my mind when it comes to important matters. My style is to weigh, measure, consider and to actually write out the pros and the cons of all issues when it comes to making major decisions. Then, after more intense soul-searching, I decide what coin I will use and flip it. That was a joke.

Whether I ever mentioned this in past commentaries or not, I cannot recall. But, when I was younger (last year, for example .... I am trying to be funny again), I was fond of bragging that I had done everything there was to do in one form or another by the age of twenty five. Just possibly I will provide a list for illustration sometime, but not this time. Anyway, since then life has been a series of repetitive motions. Pretty much like getting a haircut. (Incidentally, I had my hair trimmed today -- the first time in fifteen months.)

The pattern that emerges, from my standpoint, is forever trying to discover something new (and, I do not mean repeating the same thing in a different location or with a different person -- I have tried that, and it does not work) and, to be honest, I have been searching for a number of years and still am and probably always will be. Remember me? The "happiness is momentary guy?" (Suggestions, anyone? If you are a psychologist, fine; if you are clergy, skip it.)

Enough for right now. The continuation ends, for the time being, but, most certainly, will resume as the three months of Summer progress. Which reminds me, I probably will be in and out of here with a degree of regularity between now and the end of August unless lightning strikes. Send me some good luck on that .... on being struck by lightning, I mean ....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To recreate oneself is not a simple task

White Bear, who has been a traveling companion for me since we were introduced at an airport in Poland on New Year's Eve, checks out the view from the hood of our Suburban. Since he never had been to America before now, White Bear was generally only familiar with the smaller vehicles of Europe. Impressed by the size of a Suburban, he wasted no time learning how to drive it. Since I prefer to be a passenger rather than a driver, we have agreed that he will do most of the driving when we set out on a road trip in September. Unfortunately, for me, I was unable to persuade the young lady who introduced me to White Bear also to return to America with us.

Summer becomes a single moment in time

Part 1 of 2

Sometimes, it is easy to forget who you are and what you are and why you are. A year ago at this time, I was disgusted with American social and political strife (my external world) and bored with my personal life and surroundings as they existed (my internal world).

The eventual result was a flight to Europe in December. Without discussing the details, I will simply say that, for the most part, I was very happy there, and leaving was not easy.

Fast forward to the present.

Now, a few weeks after my return to America, the "same old" external and internal dissatisfaction has quickly caught up with me, and I am determined to break away again -- possibly, to remain in America or, maybe, to move on out to try Europe once again. (Those of you who have read my commentaries here in the past might recall this was my third trip to Europe, however, the first two were as a participant in a "conventional" tour group, with each stay lasting only about three weeks. This time, I rented an apartment and set up housekeeping for more than three months.)

Primary among my reasons for returning to America at this point was the sale of my house. I received an offer on it in March and, after thinking about it a couple of weeks, I decided to accept it. I could have handled the paperwork from Europe, but I had a considerable number of possessions remaining in the house or near to it.

So, back I came, and, in a leisurely manner (at least, until the past week) began the process of dividing things into four piles: Sell, give away, throw away or keep. I am pleased to report that I met the deadline (sort of), and withdrew the last of my possessions from the house this weekend.

I have leased a townhouse for three months, which should be more than ample time for me to complete my tasks here -- which, primarily, are to dispose of personal property that includes three lots, one "extra" automobile, books, guns, a coin collection and other odds and ends. I also need to spend some time writing (I hope).

When I said "sort of" in regard to meeting the deadline for clearing my house, I meant a number of boxes and assorted odds and ends are now piled up in the townhouse living room and in one of the three bedrooms. Oh, the tedium of going through boxes, some of which have been unopened for a decade or two ....

As I stated, I was happy -- very happy, for the most part -- living in the midst of winter in Europe, and I miss those days more than I can say. I am very much in love with so much of what is the Continent, yet, I am very much of a traditional American man in that within the first few days after arriving back here my activity included buying another Chevrolet Suburban (to replace the one I had sold before my departure) and two more rifles.

That is the American psyche within me from which I cannot escape -- the man who needs to drive one of the biggest vehicles on the highway and who needs rifles and handguns to feel secure and comfortable within the boundaries of his native country. Fool that I am. To recreate oneself is not a simple or an easy task -- at least not for me.

There you have it. There exists three month's time in which to organize (or to reorganize, if you prefer) my life -- to sell, to give away, to throw away and to decide what to keep and where to store it. And, that is the simple part of the equation. Ah, the magical, mystical dilemma. Where does one go when there is no obvious place to go to fulfill dreams and desires?

Some readers might also note that I have not mentioned resuming my search for a new house on a hill by a river or a lake. In truth, the further my former "Sanctuary / Refuge" drifts into my past, the more distant the thought of such a destination in the near future becomes. Maybe, someday, but it does not seem all that important to me right now.

Right now consists of a single Summer, a span of only three months, to plot a new course, while disposing of a significant portion of possessions collected during past incarnations. Life is a search. Some people end their searches in their own back yards. I often wonder how many of them are truly happy there, and how many actually are delusional liars who only claim to have found happiness. Some people never end their search, and I think whatever and wherever my end will be, fate does not mean for me to set up a last camp quite yet.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The season of my continuing confusion & my contradiction: Will Summer bring to me what Winter did not?

Claude Monet Painting on His Studio Boat (1874) by Edouard Manet


By Amy Lowell (1912)

Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat’s wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature’s changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world’s heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!

Something special ....