Some years ago, I published “The Sentinel,” an essay about Florida environmentalist Charles Torrey Simpson and a pair of shells I found washed onto a Texas beach.
The shells, a deep, rich purple, are known in scientific circles as Janthina janthina. Elegant, tiny sea snails, they form great rafts, then float around the world. When Simpson found such a raft in the Florida Keys, he chronicled his experience, and through his notebook entry I was able to identify my own bits of purple.
Soon after I posted about Simpson, one of my readers offered a request. Her love of all things purple had been stirred by the piece, and she wanted a “purple poem.” At the time, I didn’t think of myself as a poet, and demurred. As it turned out, she did think of me as a poet, and was convinced I could produce some verse for her. Continue reading
A shadow of my future self
Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the wisdom and dry wit of May Sarton, a woman whose books — particularly Journal of a Solitude, The House by the Sea, and Writings on Writing — have joined my collection of literary touchstones: volumes I find myself reading and re-reading multiple times.
And yet, another of her highly-praised books remained on my shelf for years, unopened and unread. It seemed appropriate to save it for a particular and quite special occasion. From time to time, I found myself thinking:
One day, I ‘ll be seventy. Then, I’ll see what May has to say about the experience in her book with the tantalizing title: “At Seventy.”
When the much-anticipated birthday came, I celebrated with a trip to the Tallgrass Prairie bottomlands, where I took my first, shadowy selfie.
Then, in the late afternoon, with bees buzzing about in the late gaura and goldenrod, and the Burlington Northern rumbling both south and north, I opened Sarton’s book. Continue reading
Even with a photograph in hand, I can’t tell you much about this car I helped to wash so many times. I never knew the make or model, and todayI’m not even certain of the color.
On the other hand, I remember the back seat perfectly well. My world-on-wheels came furnished with a red plaid wool stadium blanket, a plastic solitaire game with red and blue pegs, and a doll suitcase filled with crayolas and colored tablets, paper dolls, and a pile of Golden Books. Whether it was a jaunt over to the A&W for root beer floats, an evening at the drive-in movies, or a trip to my grandparents’ house, the back seat was mine. It was my castle, my refuge, my tiny bit of homestead to do with as I pleased.
On longer trips, tiring of books and paper dolls, I’d stretch out on the seat and pretend to sleep, while the low murmurings of my mother and father tucked a conversational blanket around me. Sometimes I drifted into sleep, secure against my pillows, enjoying the sense of movement and the soft hum of tires on concrete.
Slender, dark-haired, Yoani Sanchez walks the streets of Havana. Passing into and through the shadows of the Castros, she thinks of toasters and lemons, a scarcity of pork and the hunger of children. Fingers curled around the flash drive pushed deep into her pocket, she walks quickly, intending a liaison, a tryst, an encounter far removed from the world’s prying eyes. Her longing is for a computer – her desire, to send her words into the world.
A young Cuban woman who blogs from Havana, Yoani Sanchez has built a worldwide readership. The circumstances of her life, her straightforward words and incisive intelligence make her someone worth reading. They also make her someone to fear, particularly if you happen to be a Cuban official whose only desire is to maintain order and preserve the status quo.
Dictators may smile benignly when philosophers and thinkers use large, rectangular words to ruminate over grand issues like Freedom, Censorship and Ineffective Government. But when pretty young bloggers begin to describe the realities of life in words everyone can understand – toasters and oxen, lemons and milk – dictators pay attention. Continue reading
Novelist Dorothy Sayers’ most well-known character, the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey, is welcome to his opinion that “a facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought”, but he’ll not dissuade me from my fondness for quotations. I collect pithy selections from other writers’ work and correspondence with an enthusiasm usually reserved for baseball card traders or fans of architectural remnants. I’ve always found a good quotation focuses my attention, helping to make another person’s wit or wisdom accessible in new and useful ways.
Like any collector, I enjoy showing off my treasures. A few of my favorites are posted here. Occasionally I pass along tidbits I find especially piquant or amusing via Twitter, but most of the time I go old-school, taping current favorites to the bottom of my computer monitor. Rarely inspirational in any traditional sense, these hand-written snippets are meant to provide the kind of wacky encouragement and perspective I find stimulating.
They change frequently and vary according to the nature of my current frustration. Only one has earned the privilege of continuous posting, a friend’s utterly perfect description of our beloved computers as “infernal persnickety time-suckers”. Taken separately, each word is apt. Taken together, they bubble up into a perfect verbal storm that never fails to make me laugh, even as it washes my mind clean of whatever cyber-frustrations have built up around my desk. Continue reading
I never can remember where I’ve left my car keys. It slips my mind that I’ve been told to stop at the grocery for milk. I forget to swing by the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions and occasionally I forget to feed the outside cat. I’m always forgetting this password or that, and I’ve completely forgotten the names of some of my high school chums. People who claim to know about such things tell me this everyday-forgetting is unremarkable. A little more age here, a few things more interesting to ponder there, and the mind wanders off, unconcerned with milk, kitties or keys.
Most recently, I very nearly forgot I’d promised Ruth, of the lovely blog Synch-ro-niz-ing, that I’d accept her invitation to join with a group of bloggers and write about the beginnings of The Task at Hand ~ more specifically, how it received its title. It’s a story I’m happy to recount for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the sheer pleasure of remembering those first, halting steps onto the path called “writing”. Continue reading
I suppose there are as many reasons to blog as there are bloggers. Curiosity about the world, a willingness to accede to Durrell’s conviction that reality can be “reworked to show its significant side“ and the pure pleasure of shaping words all have played a roll in developing and sustaining my personal commitment to this strange new phenomenon of our time.
One thing I particularly enjoy about blogging is the response I receive from readers. Comments have ranged from challenging to congratulatory to caustic, but no matter their form, I always find them stimulating and engaging. To my taste, good blogs exhibit a certain tentativeness, exploring rather than defining the subject at hand, and good comments reflect the same qualities. Writers and readers work together, inching their way forward through thickets of allusion and argument to reach provisional conclusions. Occasionally they unearth a real, if unexpected, treasure. Continue reading