You begin life by performing an unconscious miracle: being born.  Next, you study the masters that the teachers set before you.  After that, you study the ones of your own choosing.  Then, most importantly – if you’re lucky enough to still have a beating heart – you live.  You live, digest life, use your hands and brains and guts to make something of your own.

You develop the patience to peel garlic.  You learn when to make a routine, when to break a routine.  When to take stock, when to make stock.  When to stop chattering and feel how huge silence is.  When to multiply, when to divide.

Eventually you might try a cup of decaf or a study group, once you’ve blown off enough steam, once you’ve fulfilled your requirements, once you’ve taken care of your responsibilities.  You might try gardening or calligraphy, fishing or painting or poetry.  You might become interested in sanitation or telescopes or diseases.  You might give away everything you own, walk to the side of the road and put your thumb out.  You might stare at the wall, seeking nothing, finding nothing, needing nothing.

Watching and Waiting

Here I stand, just as powerless as I’ve always been.

If only I was a shaman, magician, healer.  If only I had the strength of herbs, fire, music, storms, ancient knowledge, sacred rites, guarded secrets.

Like a tide bird over the sea, I can only watch the surface, only glimpse occasionally a shadow beneath.  But, as you probably already know, the shadows below get tangled with the surface above.  The dream of the story combines with the real story, until the dream seems real and the real seems unreal, suspending you between opposing forces as if pinioned in the center of a vortex.

And nothing to do but watch and wait.


In our little ramshackle house with the woodstove cranking out heat, I’d lie on the floor with the cat and listen to my mom’s old 33 record “A Christmas Carol”, the one with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge, over and over again.  My mom knew how to make things cozy.  She’d tie little bundles of cinnamon sticks with ribbon and use them as ornaments, make pomander balls, light candles and a kerosene lamp, and hang old Christmas cards from the thirties and forties on the walls around the house.  We always had a real tree.  Her decorating style was one part country living, one part holistic gypsy, and one part just downright old-fashioned.

We’d open one present on Christmas Eve.  Sometimes we’d go to church, sometimes not.  Sometimes we’d drive around the well-to-do neighborhoods in town, looking at the light displays and singing carols.  Then on Christmas Day it was off to the grandparents, where I would gorge on meat and deviled eggs and pickles and olives and candy, and watch t.v., and listen to the way old people talk to each other.


Solid things break when enough pressure is applied.

Everyone has a part of them that’s hanging on by a thread – vulnerable, scared, weak, paralyzed by  anger or depression or loss, loss, loss.  Loss of love or health or control.  We feel around for something to help us get through, pushed to the crumbling edge of desperation, groping in the darkness for anything to help us make it.  Then, when the outward things have run their course, we turn inward and throw up our hands.  We stop trying and leave it be.  We fall silent with nothing more to say.  We submit to grief, and all things painful.  It digests us, and we come out the other side damaged goods.  Sometimes we do not ever come out the other side, at least not in this lifetime, this world.  Sometimes we get lost in the dark.  If we’re lucky we might find the light again, or find something to help light the way.  A heart must learn love to find peace, I think, but love can be a difficult lesson.

Broken things can often be mended.


The birds and leaves slow-dance as day breaks through the shell of night like a newborn chick.  Reflections of naked trees in the windowpane of the first frost.  Everyone knows the same thing deep in their tendons and veins.  Those who are sick begin fretting harder.  I can feel their uncomfortable darkness in my hand – the same hand that longs to build fires, futures, cradles, libraries, cabins in the woods.

We hold our secrets in the pit of our stomach, below the rib cage.  We step into today.  You choose, day by day, to put away the decisions you might have made differently, as if they were ancient artifacts in top secret government vaults, and try to decide what you’re going to do now, today.

As you maneuver along the crowded street, and pass the cigar smoke on the bistro patio and hear the tinkling of glasses chime with laughter inside, you suddenly realize you’re not missing out on anything.  You don’t even stop, you just move on.  Bakers will go to work soon, to make bread and pastries on the graveyard shift.  Then they’ll come home smelling of yeast and dough, their eyes drooping as children get off to school, as farmers drive trucks full of vegetables to market, as fishermen arrive at the wharf with their cargo, however meager or bountiful it might be.

You raise your face to the sky, remembering that all around the world there are monks being silent in their devotion to God, and there are sick people crying out in pain and fear.  People are getting married, driving taxis, working out in their barns, waiting for a phone call, counting their change, snapping photos of lavender fields and cathedrals and elephants, planning a robbery, a murder, a bombing, rehearsing for a play, doing their taxes, paddling out from the beach on their surfboards, recovering from breakups and hangovers, longing for high wild places washed in wind, eating pizza and chicken wings.  Life is brine and we are all soaking in it, curing in it.  Try to relax.  There’s nothing to miss out on.


Keeping with the spirit of apologizing for my jokes ahead of time: hey, sorry folks.  But this blog-post is unapologetically dedicated to The Pun, both crowned king of humorous forms and (like myself) shameless jester in constant danger of banishment from the comedy kingdom.  Simply put, I adore puns.  If you’re peeling beets, you can count on me to pipe up with “if you can’t beet ’em, join ’em”.  Or how about an illustration of dinner rolls dressed up as famous people we all look up to, with the caption “Roll Models”?  Let’s not even get me started, people.

The pun is workingman’s humor – you don’t have to get dressed up for a pun and take it out to a fancy dinner, carefully trying to impress it.  Puns are sluts.  All you gotta do is buy that pun a few drinks and take it home, the rest will take care of itself.  How’s that analogy workin’ out for ya?  If I think of a good one, don’t worry – I’ll keep you “posted”.  (Insert “lol” here, then load gun with single bullet.)

…aaaaaand the post bad-joke awkward silence ensues…

Two Favorites

My favorite thing is the thing I can’t explain, because there are no words for it.  But you know what I mean.  You feel it too.

My second favorite thing is what we talk about – what is possible to communicate with language, what can be expressed, what can wear the clothing of poetry.