From a list of books read

Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine.” Henry Miller’s “Nexus”; Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “In Evil Hour”; Jack Kerouac’s “Desolation Angels”; Kurt Vonnegut’s “Deadeye Dick” and “Galapagos”; Richard Brautigan’s “So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away”; Carol Rakoski’s “Ere-Voice”; Anne Tyler’s “Accidental Traveler” and “Earthly Possessions”; Hugh Nissenson’s “The Tree of Life” (interesting use of pioneer Ohio historical materials); Grace Paley’s “Later the Same Day” short stories; Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter Night a Traveler” (this time, rather fascinating seems I’m finally able to read styles quite unlike my own part of that cleaning out I’m in); William Kennedy’s “Ironweed”; Laurence Sterne’s “Tristram Shandy”; Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”; Hugh Prather’s “Notes to Myself” (late Sixties classic that seems so superficial these days); Marilyn French’s “The Women’s Room” (blames men for every problem, including mothers); Nena and George O’Neill’s “Open Marriage” (my wife had wanted me to be influenced by this what I see is that we HAD an open marriage, which is why it failed); Merle Shain’s “Some Men Are More Perfect Than Others” (more blame, this time from an upscale pre-Yuppie bubblehead); Paul Wellman’s “The Indian Wars of the West” (one of my ex’s left-behinds); “The Solution as Part of the Problem” (superficial Sixties Leftist education propaganda); Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” what else?

In the flow of the inland waters

While my Quaker lines eschewed all forms of ritual, their movement nevertheless also expressed an awareness of the mystery of water as they moved inland, as the naming of some of their Friends Meetings conveys: Black Creek, Pagan Creek, Goose Creek, Cedar Creek, Herring Run, Gunpowder (for Gunpowder Falls, with its series of rapids), Indian Spring, Sandy Spring, Patapsco, Little Falls, West River, South River, Bush River, Deer Creek, Pipe Creek, Monocacy, Dunnings Creek, West Branch, Crooked Run, Cane Creek, Deep River, Back Springs, Short Creek, Stillwater, Miami, Caesars Creek, Whitewater, Clear Creek, Blue River – the litany goes on, and with it, an image of water (Living Water, in New Testament terms) expressing the motion and working of Holy Spirit.

One may turn, too, to the angel in Revelation 22:1-2, as well: “And he showed me a pure river … On either side of the river, was there the tree of life.”

And, as the chorus of Robert Lowry’s 1864 hymn rings, drawing on that text, “Gather with the saints at the river, That flows by the throne of God.”

That’s why I named one collection of essays Stillwater.

 

An ongoing internal tension

Trying to strike a satisfying balance:

Between my local Meeting and serving the wider world of Friends.

With my writing, finding a wider audience for my existing work.

With the rest of my life – householding, exercise, reading, etc.

It just never seems to come together neatly!

So just what, exactly, holds it all together?

It’s kind of the woodchuck of the insect world

My wife brought in a big green caterpillar, fatter than my thumb and longer than a finger, then asked if I knew what it was.

Nope.

Then she informed me it’s a hornworm, our first one she’s found on our tomato plants in the two decades we’ve lived here. And she was terrified. Said they can devour not just whole tomatoes but the plant too, as well as peppers, eggplants, potato plants. Well, it’s a long list and if you find one of the goliaths, there are bound to be more.

That stirred up memories of the three little woodchucks that showed up one July and reduced our six thriving Brussels sprouts plants to sticks. The very thought of something like that recurring still strikes terror.

A gardener has to be watchful.

One coot to another

As a preamble to a friend’s retirement, “Congratulations” doesn’t seem quite in order, other than, “Wow, you’ve survived!” Or “Hallelujah,” in a minor key full of wonder. Like making it to the end of a gauntlet.

Chronology doesn’t matter in these matters, older as I am but less mature, the eternal 17-year-old emotionally.

I still have no idea of how it feels to “be retired,” other than there seems to be a bit more space to savor what we’re doing or eating, if we want or can remember to do so. Golf? Tennis? Who has time? And yes, after all those years in the newsroom, I’m still “on the clock,” even when sleeping. Tick-tick-tick, only now there’s more of an urgency of mortality. Well, at least so much of my literary writing doesn’t feel like acts of graffiti.

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