A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Sunday, December 30, 2012


    Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul...    Joyce Carol Oates


Ever since I was able to read...

"Run, Spot,

Run, run, run.

Oh, oh, oh.

Funny, funny Spot"

...and was able to laugh at the drawings of that little black and white dog with the pink tongue and  floppy ears fleeing from a leaping frog, ever since I put those words together in my mind and was able to read a whole sentence and attach it to a reality that I experienced, reading has been the most consistent and enduring passion of my life. It has added an unfathomable dimension to what I have been able to experience on this planet, and at virtually no charge.

I've fought in wars and been both wounded and physically unscathed; I've spent time on Kon-tiki and in the spring with other Mountain Men raising hell at our yearly rendezvous; have travelled through the world by every conceivable conveyance and have blasted into outer space and voyaged into the depths of the sea; have had myriad companions--and lovers--and a multitude of children and relatives, have been married to women and men--old and young, of all races; have trained dogs and horses and circus animals,  have lived on farms and in cities, in slums, caves, and skyscrapers; have painted landscapes and portraits, conducted choruses and written symphonies and sung arias; have made earth-shattering scientific discoveries in the lab and observatory, done micro-surgery in a hospital, eaten and cooked gourmet meals in New York and Paris, climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro, sailed solo around the world, and lived in the past-present-future; have survived in the heat of the jungle and the cold of the Arctic, flown Spitfires, supersonic planes and spacecraft, driven racing cars and covered wagons, vanquished indians and Nazis and barbarians; I have spent time with ghosts and goblins, giants and trolls, as well as animals that knew how to talk and had feelings like mine; played and coached all sports at all levels, have pondered the mysteries of the universe, and considered the existence and the history of almost everything. I have vicariously experienced and deeply felt the full range of human emotions, whether admirable or despicable, and experienced all five senses as if there were real. I have been a hero, a villain, and a nobody--and all of this without leaving my chair.

What a gift I have been given! What pleasure I have had in bookstores and in libraries, cruising the stacks, searching microfilm and microfiche, and now on my computer searching the world's repositories for any and everything that can be captured digitally.

From those first simple moments with Dick, Jane, and Spot, reading has enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.... and, as a virtually free supplement, also embellished my nights with some pretty wild dreams along the way.






As the New Year dawns, I find guidance in Mary Oliver's poems about "mornings." I trust that you will also appreciate the wisdom contained in these three poems.
 This selection comes from The Writers' Almanac 12/30/2012. I include the program's prelude as well as the three poems.

Happy New Morning.

Mary Oliver is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose body of work is largely filled with imagery of the natural world — cats, opossums crossing the street, sunflowers and black oaks in the sunshine. Her most recent collection is entitled A Thousand Mornings.
In one poem, "I Happen to Be Standing," Oliver describes herself as witnessing all these things as she stands by her door every morning, notebook and pen in hand. But, she tells NPR's Rachel Martin, she doesn't actually do that every morning. "Almost. I thought, gee, I do lie a little bit, and I should have said, 'which is the way I begin most mornings,' " she laughs.
Mornings with the notebook are part of a regular ritual for Oliver, though. "Most mornings I'm up to see the sun, and that rising of the light moves me very much, and I'm used to thinking and feeling in words, so it sort of just happens."
Those morning moments are a kind of prayer for Oliver. "I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and ... almost involuntary in my life," she says. "And when I talk about prayer, I mean really ... what Rumi says in that wonderful line, 'there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.' I'm not theological, specifically, I might pick a flower for Shiva as well as say the hundredth [psalm]."
Oliver says her work has become more spiritual over the years, growing from her love of the poets who came before her and the natural world — but she feels a great sorrow over humanity's lack of care for that world. "The woods that I loved as a child are entirely gone. The woods that I loved as a young adult are gone. The woods that most recently I walked in are not gone, but they're full of bicycle trails," she says.
Mary Oliver has won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Rachel Giese Brown
"And this is happening to the world," Oliver continues, "and I think it is very very dangerous for our future generations, those of us who believe that the world is not only necessary to us in its pristine state, but it is in itself an act of some kind of spiritual thing. I said once, and I think this is true, the world did not have to be beautiful to work. But it is. What does that mean?"
It can be a challenge, over years of writing about the natural world, to find new ways of describing what's out there — especially when so many other poets are writing about the same subject matter. But Oliver says she's up to the challenge. "To find a new word that is accurate and different, you have to be alert for it," she says. "But it's wonderful, it's fun."
"One thing I do know is that poetry, to be understood, must be clear," Oliver adds. "It mustn't be fancy. I have the feeling that a lot of poets writing now are, they sort of tap dance through it. I always feel that whatever isn't necessary shouldn't be in a poem."

Poems from A Thousand Mornings

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing.
The first time Percy came back
he was not sailing on a cloud.
He was loping along the sand as though
he had come a great way.
"Percy," I cried out, and reached to him—
those white curls—
but he was unreachable. As music
is present yet you can't touch it.
"Yes, it's all different," he said.
"You're going to be very surprised."
But I wasn't thinking of that. I only
wanted to hold him. "Listen," he said,
"I miss that too.
And now you'll be telling stories
of my coming back
and they won't be false, and they won't be true,
but they'll be real."
And then, as he used to, he said, "Let's go!"
And we walked down the beach together.
Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.
From A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Copyright 2012 by Mary Oliver. Excerpted with permission of Penguin Group.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


They lie for the first time under the cold Christmas snow, while above them, in places of worship and around creches, other children are singing "...sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace."

...and in packed auditoriums the NRA agitates for armed guards in every school.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Whenever I get depressed about mankind, as I have been in this week since the Newtown killings, I run across an article like this one which turns my attitude around and gives me hope. In the dire surroundings of an urban landfill, beauty can be made to emerge. Hope can be created from garbage. Love it. Will try to do the same thing as I recall the events of last week.

**Story on 'Landfill Harmonic: An Orchestra Like No Other':