Sunday Morning

My cousin’s last day was spent out on his bike, a seventy-mile ride on a Saturday morning. He did the ride alone, and nobody had any contact with him after that. At some time in the next twenty-four hours he died, and his body was found by the police on Monday morning when his employer called them, worried because he hadn’t turned up for work. He always turned up for work.

I would wish for my last day to involve an act of freedom–a walk by the ocean, a long bike ride, something I love. I hope that the walk and the bike ride were suffused with joy, with pleasure, for my stepdad and my cousin. Neither knew it was their last time to do that thing. If they’d known, would they have enjoyed it more or less? Eventually, everything has to be done for the final time. There must be many things that, without our realising it, already fall into that category for all of us.

Final acts acquire holiness. My stepdad’s walk that day has. When we go to Ireland we almost always take the same route. We look out on the sea because it’s the last sea he saw. We write his name in the sand. We reflect, each of us inwardly, that one day we will never see this place again either. It’s a dull shock.

If finality makes something holy then every moment is holy, because every moment could be the last. That’s a thought we spend too cheaply. Live each day as if it’s your last, we think, and then we don’t. Everything is holy. It’s only when we die that the holiness is called up. But it was always holy, all along.

Samantha Harvey, The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping (Grove Press; May 12, 2020)


Photo: Mine. 5:23 a.m. A Holy Moment, on Sunday, a Holy Day. Cove Island Park Stamford, CT.

Sunday Morning

First blossoms.

Seeing them extends my life seventy-five more years.

~Matsuo Bashō, “haiku 96”, from “Reading Basho with My Ten Year Old” in Paris Review, April 29, 2020


Notes:

  • Photo: DK on Run This morning. 6:11 am.
  • Matsuo Bashō, born 松尾 金作, was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is recognized as the greatest master of haiku. He was born in 1644 and died in 1694

Sunday Morning

“Mansfield’s last note, from an unfinished story, ends with an observation that only the dying Mansfield would make: “It was an exquisite day. It was one of those days so clear, so still, so silent you almost feel the earth itself has stopped in astonishment at its own beauty.”

~ Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life


Photo: “Clear Day” by Zoo Human

She always bats 1.000

As Rob Watson, one of my favorite environmental teachers, likes to remind people: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.”

You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot manipulate her. And you certainly cannot tell her, “Mother Nature, stop ruining my beautiful stock market.”

No, no, no. Mother Nature will always and only do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last,” says Watson, “and she always bats 1.000.”

Do not mess with Mother Nature.

Thomas L. FriedmanWith the Coronavirus, It’s Again Trump vs. Mother Nature  (NY Times, March 31, 2020)


Photo: Economic Times

Beth Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind?  I am calm, peaceful, happy, looking forward to the new year and new adventures.
  2. What is your favorite journey?  A long walk through the woods.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness?  My family and friends happy and healthy, me in love, a book, a hot cup of coffee, a good film, a blanket.
  4. What is your greatest fear?  That I would outlive one of my children
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? My ability to always see the positive side of things
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  My lack of control over my blurting or interrupting (just because I’m excited or have a story or idea)
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Cruelty.
  8. What is your greatest extravagance? Very soft things- clothes, scarves, fabric, blankets, bed – worth every penny
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Having to be the best 
  10. On what occasion do you lie? To save someone’s heart
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? My height is 5′ 3″ – it would be fun to be tall sometimes, but I’m okay with it overall
  12. Which living person do you most despise?  Our current president – so much cruelty flows from him
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  ‘done’
  14. What is your greatest regret? that I wasn’t able to have more time with my daughters when they were young and I was busy trying to make life better for all of us
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  my family
  16. When and where were you happiest?   when all of my family is together
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?   to be a singer with a beautiful voice and a dancer with grace
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?   to spend more time helping those less fortunate in life
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?   that they would never have to suffer
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  my children
  21. What is your most treasured possession? my 7 dollar wooden kitchen table made from one plank of wood (found at the Salvation Army and a gift from my children)
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?   losing a love
  23. Where would you like to live?   in a quiet small home near the water and woods
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  writing
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man?  kindness, compassion, humor, honesty  
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman?  same as #25
  27. What do you most value in your friends?  loyalty
  28. Who are your favorite writers?  pat conroy, roald dahl, ann patchett, fredrick backman, david sedaris, bill bryson, erma bombeck, rod serling
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? King Arthur
  30. What is it that you most dislike?  clowns/dentists
  31. Who are your heroes in real life?  children
  32. How would you like to die?   asleep in my soft bed, dreaming
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?  a pygmy goat living on a lavender farm
  34. What is your motto? “this is the best day ever.”
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? I have no memory of my stumbling upon you, just that is was a pleasant experience from the get-go
  36. Bonus Question: Why do you keep coming back to this Blog?  because it is beautiful, heartfelt, thoughtful, kind, and intelligent. it offers me food for thought and a wonderful aesthetic experience, plus I love to give my feedback/opinion. 

Notes:

  • Beth is a virtual friend and faithful follower (and me of her blog) and she kindly agreed to share her responses to the Proust Questionnaire. When I think of Beth, I think of her in response #5. She is exceptional. You can find her website and bio here: I didn’t have my glasses on.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

Mimi Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind?  A pint of grateful with a chaser of anxiety.
  2. What is your favorite journey? Any road that leads to my kids.  And I love Paris…and the beach…and the mountains.  I fear I’m going to struggle with this questionnaire, but I figure Proust would too.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness? My family together, happy, healthy and belly laughing.
  4. What is your greatest fear? Anything happening to anyone I love
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? I have no clue, so I cheated.  Upon asking a few people who know me well..a friend said ‘kind’’; Andy said ‘you’re short’; my kids said ‘perceptive, empathic, entertaining, sincere and relatable’.  I love my kids.
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I apologize for everything – even the poop that’s not mine.  A former boss who later became a friend once told me that he had never met anyone who could advocate for others with the tenacity and passion that I did and he had never met anyone who was so awful at speaking up for themselves.  C’est moi.
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Refusal to own what’s theirs (or in the vernacular people who don’t ‘own their shit’.)  In the immortal words of Eric Clapton, ‘before you accuse me, take a look at yourself’.  Please understand this as a general statement, there is absolutely no one to whom I’m directing this statement.  
  8. What is your greatest extravagance?  Being able to even consider one’s greatest extravagance is an extravagance few people really get to consider. I am humbled by how spoiled I am
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Any virtue in excess is overrated and tiresome
  10. On what occasion do you lie? if I think my words would hurt someone deeply.  I will try to tell the truth, but I may wait until I’ve formulated the message and/or the person is better prepared to hear.
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? Seriously?  Most days the list is too long to write here.  Some days though I realize that I’m being superficial and stupid and embrace what is.
  12. Which living person do you most despise? I’ve got some pretty strong feelings about our current commander in chief, but the verb is too strong.  I despise some of the decisions he has made, some of the beliefs he touts and I may not look at an orange in the same way again, but I hesitate to say that i despise anyone.
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Again, I deferred to those who speak with me the most…Andy offered up “I love you” a lot; Donna thinks I say ‘seriously?’; my kids think my most overused expressions are ‘will this matter to you in five years’, ‘who are you doing this for’, ‘everyone has to own their shit’ (see question 6)
  14. What is your greatest regret? Not getting my PhD or continuing with singing.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?  Andy, my kids and my grandkids
  16. When and where were you happiest?  Snuggling with my granddaughters and listening to whatever they have to say
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? I wish I could draw.  My sister is uber-talented and has the kind of artistic talent that my mom also had.  Me?  I can draw a mean stick figure…
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  I’d be physically healthier.
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?  I’d see them more (and I see them a lot).  My sister would live in closer proximity (like upstairs).
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Hands down growing up with my kids.  I realize that every parent says this and every parent means it.  But, is there anything one can achieve that parallels the enormity and magnificence of playing a part in someone else’s development as a human being?  And no joke, these men of mine are fabulous people. 
  21. What is your most treasured possession?  My wedding ring and my books
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  Just thinking about anything unfortunate happening to those I love propels me to a place that is so dark and foreboding I have to quickly move away from this question.  I was truly miserable when I was sick, but I didn’t know how sick I was, so I don’t think it counts.
  23. Where would you like to live?  Wherever my family is of course…I’ve had the good fortune to travel to a slew of countries and have lived in many cities.  As trite as it sounds, wherever my heart is is where I want to live.
  24. What is your favorite occupation?  I know ‘mom’ isn’t an occupation, but it is the role I always wanted and exceeded my expectations when I became one.  I loved my career, even though it involved some plot twists I didn’t anticipate.  It might have been awesome to be on Broadway, but I didn’t have the ego (or the talent) for it.
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man? Humor, sensitivity, the ability to be present.
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Humor, sensitivity, the ability to be present.
  27. What do you most value in your friends? Their ability to love me despite my flaws. My friends are trustworthy, smart, emotionally generous…and they like me.
  28. Who are your favorite writers? Seriously?  From which century?  Fiction or non-fiction?  Essayist or poet?  
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Again, there are too many coming to mind – Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird), Jo (Little Women), Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), Max (Where The Wild Things Are), Ari (Exodus), any main character of Toni Morrison…I could go on…Holden Caulfield…
  30. What is it that you most dislike? Self-absorption
  31. Who are your heroes in real life? Greta Thornburg, Lizzo, John Lewis, Barack and Michelle Obama.  This is a pretty fluid list, and it changes with the day – right now the firefighters in Australia are coming to mind.
  32. How would you like to die? Very old, very healthy and happy while dreaming a delicious dream.
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? If I were to come back – wait a minute, I’m not going anywhere.
  34. What is your motto? “Say yes – save your no’s for when you really need them”
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? Kismet, pal, kismet.  Years ago when I first signed up for WordPress, I found you the first day and I’ve been at your mercy ever since.
  36. Bonus Question: Why do you keep coming back to this Blog?I agree with everyone who has already responded to this – your posts incite and excite, they are intriguing and thoughtful and at core, you write damn well.  For me though the reason is really more personal and you’ll think I’m crazy.  I immediately felt that I knew you, your work life, your family.  Not in a creepy way – we both worked in professional services, my parents lived nearby,  I grew up on the trains you take everyday.  And you pushed me to say something.  In your insistence and encouragement, I found some words to string together albeit lamely.  I come back each day because your blog is diverse and amazing – and because it’s yours.  

 


Notes:

  • Mimi is a virtual friend and faithful follower and kindly agreed to share her responses to the Proust Questionnaire. She has been with me from the beginning and I consider her a critical inspiration in this blogging effort.  And as you can see from her responses, she is something Special.  You can find her website and bio here: Waiting for the Karma Truck.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

Bro, if you’re reading this post from above, hit “Like” please.

Ray Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind?  Restless.
  2. What is your favorite journey? A 3-week mission trip to Tanzania in 2007. My favorite Journey song however is Wheel in the Sky.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness? On the back porch with a book, a glass of bourbon, a cigar and a dog or two at my feet
  4. What is your greatest fear?  Something happening to our daughters and now granddaughter.
  5. What is your most marked characteristic?  Being comfortable in a room full of strangers.
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Speaking before thinking
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Not following up after promising to do so.
  8. What is your greatest extravagance? Fountain pens.
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Tolerance. Relativism is helping destroy our society.
  10. On what occasion do you lie?  I have gotten better at telling the truth as I get older since I don’t get in trouble as much.
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? My three chins and four waists.
  12. Which living person do you most despise? I don’t hate/despise anyone, but would like to have a word or two in private with a few representatives from California.
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  I polled my family and was advised: “Drive Gently”, “Swell”, “Roger that”.
  14. What is your greatest regret? At times, being selfish in my marriage.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife and daughters, but I think our granddaughter is positioning to take over.
  16. When and where were you happiest? Vacations at the beach.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? To be able to sing in addition to playing the guitar. Played in a band for years, but can’t sing a note.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? See #6 above.
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? To go back in time and get a do-over at being a better husband/father.
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Helping raise three daughters into productive adulthood without getting pregnant or needing to be bailed out of jail.
  21. What is your most treasured possession? A photograph, taken on Memorial Day, 1976 of three men who had a profound impact on my understanding of life and real friendship. Background can be found here: A Difficult Task Indeed.
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Feeling worthless and unloved
  23. Where would you like to live? The beach. Any beach.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? As crazy as it may sound, I loved being a funeral director for the 30+ years I worked in that world.
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man? My, isn’t that a bit personal?
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman? I’ll defer to my wife of 33 years.
  27. What do you most value in your friends?  Rigorous Honesty. . . absence of any intent to deceive.
  28. Who are your favorite writers?  Michael D. O’Brien and NYTs Best Selling Author, Andra Watkins
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? John Galt
  30. What is it that you most dislike? People who pretend to like you, but sabotage you at every opportunity.
  31. Who are your heroes in real life? Don’t have any
  32. How would you like to die? In my sleep, after a great dinner out.
  33. If you were to die and come back, what do you think it would be? A dog living with one of our daughters.
  34. What is your motto? Life is short, dead is for a very long time.
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? I’m not sure how I found DK’s blog, but my WordPress stats page indicates that I began following it on April 22, 2012. 
  36. Bonus QuestionWhy do you keep coming back to this Blog? Dk’s blog is like a box of chocolates. You never know what to expect each morning (when I read blogs) and you are never disappointed.

Notes:

  • Photo of Ray Visotski and his beautiful Grandaughter Adeline Louise.
  • Ray is a virtual friend and faithful follower (as I am of his blog) and he kindly agreed to share his responses to the Proust Questionnaire.  Ray’s Blog can be found at Mitigating Chaos.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

Lori Takes The Proust Questionnaire

  1. What is your current state of mind? Happy and a wee bit antsy.
  2. What is your favorite journey? Any that takes me to family and dear friends.
  3. What is your idea of perfect happiness? An evening of good friends, fine wine, and lively conversation.
  4. What is your greatest fear? Hurting those I cherish.
  5. What is your most marked characteristic? The ability to giggle, sometimes at the most inopportune times.
  6. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My need to please.
  7. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Callous indifference.
  8. What is your greatest extravagance? A gorgeous piece of art.
  9. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Righteousness
  10. On what occasion do you lie? To protect another’s feelings.
  11. Dislike most about your appearance? My legs—I’ve always yearned for long, willowy gams.
  12. Which living person do you most despise? In this instance, I am Switzerland.
  13. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I need to let that percolate…
  14. What is your greatest regret? Not trusting my heart.
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My family—those by birth and those by blessing.
  16. When and where were you happiest? In the midst of a great conversation or a good belly laugh.
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? The ability to speak multiple languages fluently.
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d be braver.
  19. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? They’d be physically closer to me.
  20. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My education.
  21. What is your most treasured possession? My family, friends and dogs.
  22. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Being bitter and alone.
  23. Where would you like to live? Anywhere that’s near to nature.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? Writing
  25. What is the quality you most like in a man? Intelligence paired with a dry sense of humor
  26. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Compassion
  27. What do you most value in your friends? Their ability to love me despite my flaws.
  28. Who are your favorite writers? Can’t choose just one…
  29. Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Never been into hero worship.
  30. What is it that you most dislike? Cruelty in any form.
  31. Who are your heroes in real life? Those who give their hearts & voices in service of the greater good.
  32. How would you like to die? In bed with a book on my chest.
  33. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? An owl.
  34. What is your motto? A good laugh makes everything better.
  35. Bonus Question: How did you find my blog? Can’t recall, but so grateful that I did.
  36. Bonus Question: Why do you keep coming back to this Blog? The community and camaraderie I’ve found here are a balm to my soul.

 


Notes:

  • Lori is a virtual friend and faithful follower and kindly agreed to share her responses to the Proust Questionnaire.  Lori is a professional writer. You can find her website and bio here: Lori Ferguson.
  • See prior Proust Questionnaires.
  • The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.  (Source: Vanity Fair)

Running on Christmas Day. No signal.

At 8 pm last night, I agreed with myself I wouldn’t post, wouldn’t share, wouldn’t clutter up Christmas Day with stuff on this blog.

But no, that wasn’t possible Now.  So we’ll keep it short.

I hadn’t run in weeks, but the pull to get outside, was out-of-body.  You need to get out. Today. Now.

30° F feeling like 26° F.  Sun bright and beaming.  It was high tide at the cove, a flock of Canadian geese, 25 or so, were floating at the base of the break wall, offering me their moment of silence.

He used to follow this blog, comment on certain posts.  I could feel His finger reaching for the “Like” button towards the End when he was no longer up to offering comments.

Forgiveness is not a strong suit.  Actually no suit I wear at all.  I had to stop at mid-point on the run. Toxicity from the anger made another step impossible.

Anger burns for the Health Insurer, who silently collected his premium payments, and then provided notice that coverage wasn’t provided as promised because of an exclusion.  And then to stick the knife deeper, terminated coverage retroactively for a month, causing a scramble by the Care providers demanding payment from Him, shuffling Him to a hospital, and that hospital shuffling him to another for lack of confirmation of Insurance Coverage, and this second one pressing for transfer to permanent skilled care.  “We needed to provide him with a sedative.  He’s really anxious, struggling to breathe.” And you wonder why he’s anxious?  The cauldron boils over.  Anger also burns, for those who took a vow with my Brother, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, only to let him fight alone in sickness. [Read more…]

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