Archive for January 2013

Flight of angels

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Arriving home from work on Tuesday…greeted by the UPS man, who delivered a flight of angels…in memory of Sharon. Thanks to brother Joe and wife Linda…every time the chimes reply to the whispering of the wind…I’ll remember.

If I Cried Out, who

in the hierarchies of angels

would hear me?

And if one of them should suddenly

take me to his heart,

I would perish in the power of his


For beauty is but the beginning of


We can barely endure it

and are awed

when it declines to destroy us.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke, A Year with Rilke (January 22)

– translated and edited by

Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

Written by Jim

January 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Happiness is

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…an empty septic tank. There’s an old adage in these parts that, “Birds gotta fly…fish gotta swim…toilets gotta flush.” Yesterday afternoon, both of mine stopped flushing…or to be more accurate…started flushing in the wrong direction, which simply would not do. I quickly surmised that this was a situation that was not going to be easily remedied by employing that high-tech tool known as a plumber’s helper, with which I’ve become somewhat proficient. This job needed a professional.

Derrick arrived about an hour later, and after giving him the details, he immediately asked for the whereabouts of the septic tank. “Oh no”, I thought, “this is serious.” I knew the general location, but we couldn’t find a drainpipe that would allow for easy access. We would have to go in. He went to his truck and returned with a long metal rod with a T-shaped handle. He began carefully inserting the probe, in an effort to determine the layout of the concrete tank buried about six inches beneath the grass. From previous experience…I can only guess…he blindly determined the location of the access lid, and after retrieving a shovel from his truck, began digging…with almost surgical precision. After a short while…as I curiously…and helplessly looked on…the lid was visible. It was about a foot-and-a-half square in size. It had a handle. The air was filled with excitement…like we were on an archaeological dig of some sort. I imagined that we were about to open some ancient tomb. As Derrick carefully lifted the lid with a crowbar, the air was immediately filled with something other than excitement…although the word shares a lot of the same consonants and vowels. A foul, malodorous stench arose. This had to be much worse than the curse of the mummy.

Derrick soon brought me back to reality by loudly exclaiming…with some self-satisfaction I might add, “Here’s the problem…you’re full, Jim!” Thankfully, he tactfully left off the words, “of it.” I looked heavenward, and thought, with some degree of exasperation, “OK…I get it! I get it!” The timing, on this day, was just too good to be coincidence. I could sense someone up above smiling…and admonishing me to lighten up.

Derrick was soon on the phone, consulting with a specialist. He informed me that a fellow named Chris would be along within a half-hour to finish the job, and then close up. The prognosis was good. Soon after presenting me with the bill for his services, Derrick left, leaving me to silently ponder the gaping wound in the front lawn. After a while, Chris arrived in a large truck with about a mile’s worth of large-diameter flexible hose wrapped around a huge tank. Because this was Saturday, he had his two young boys in tow to assist with the job. Strangely enough, they seemed rather excited, eagerly awaiting the final step of closing up the hole with the previously excavated dirt.

Then it began…the rather delicate…and carefully executed process of emptying the septic tank. It brought to mind the movie Spaceballs, and the words, “Commence Operation Vacu-Suck!” The pump onboard the truck came to life with a throbbing sound…the large hose started quivering as the contents of the septic tank were expertly transferred to the holding tank on the truck. At this point, I couldn’t look any longer…and went inside the house.

After about fifteen or so minutes, I heard a knock on the door. As I opened the door, one of the two boys politely requested…a paragon of Southern manners, “Sir, our dad asked that you please flush the commodes a few times.” This was a good sign, I thought to myself as I flushed, as the water quickly and silently flowed in the proper direction. The operation had been a success.

After Chris and the boys finished filling the hole, and tamping down the dirt the best they could, I thanked them all for their services. They all politely replied, “You’re welcome,” got into the truck, and drove off down the road in the direction of the setting sun. One never knows what each day will bring. Although my wallet is somewhat lighter due to this unexpected expense, today’s events have taken a…pardon the expression…considerable load off my mind.

Written by Jim

January 20, 2013 at 10:29 am

String of pearls

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This morning is exquisitely beautiful…the sun rising behind cedars and pines whose delicate limbs and branches are traced with ice crystals that capture the light and send it shooting in all directions. The tall grasses and shrubs beneath…every one clothed in a thin mantle of pure white. In this cold…condensed frigid air…everything is just…there…before my eyes.

We like to mark out each year with anniversaries. They help us to remember things…events…that have happened in days gone by. They help us make sense of the long series of days that, hopefully, lie ahead of us. They keep us rooted in the past, and prevent us from falling into a state of acedia…a feeling that this day…today…will be just like the rest to come.

It’s been two years. I need not color this day with the terror, sadness, and grief that occurred on that day. Once was enough…for that day. I would rather remember the sweetness of previous days, and use this day as a marker…a remembrance…of all the days we spent together…and all the joys we shared.

Today is another day…a new day. Just one in a long string of pearls. Each one unique…with its own beauty…with its own imperfections.

Written by Jim

January 19, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in Country Living, Grieving, Musings

Tagged with

The long way home

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misty morning

Yesterday morning as the sun was rising, I stepped outside…and peered into what seemed a primordial mist that was enveloping the trees surrounding me…with a soft orange glow in the East. The unusually mild air foretold an unexpected taste of Spring…in January. It did turn out to be a beautiful day…a welcomed interlude from the cold weather we’ve been having lately. By mid-afternoon, the sun was warm…and there was a peacefulness in the air that defies description…the best of Autumn…and Spring…in one new, short, ethereal season occurring in mid-Winter…here in the Carolinas. Half-expecting trees to blossom forth at any moment in the warm, moist humid air…along with the pungent-sweet scent of burning leaves.

It was not to be wasted. I quickly grabbed Belle, and we went for a drive through the countryside…windows open…lapping up the nectar borne on the winds of this strange new season. Belle…thoroughly enjoying herself…


riding shotgun…glancing at me from time to time…“Is this for real?”

When it was time to turn around and make our way back…we took the long way home.

Written by Jim

January 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Ghost in the machine

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On a recent walk through the old city of St. Augustine, I ventured into the Lightner Museum, which is in what once was the old Alcazar Hotel. My brief visit resulted in a different kind of a ghost story. The museum houses the very large Victoriana collection of Otto Lightner, a Chicago publisher who purchased the hotel in 1946. He later gave the museum to the city of St. Augustine.

The sheer number of objects from the ‘Gilded Age’ of the 19th century was overwhelming…clothing, furniture, glassware, buttons, embroidery, stained glass windows and lamps. As I slowly walked through the three floors of the museum…at one point, the effect was dizzying. I realized that each and every one of these objects, whether a brass button, a shaving mug, or a beaded purse, had some story behind it…of the person who made it…of the person who used it. It was as if the presence of the past was made palpable. I could almost sense the great cloud of spirits…or energy…that seemed still to be attached to these mere things.

On one wall, my gaze was held captive by embroidered samplers…where every single stitch was once held in someone’s mind. In this case…a twelve-year-old named Diana…intent on showing her skills as a young needlewoman. I wondered what she thought about the spacing of the X…the Y…and Z.


In most of the rooms in the museum, there were old photographs of how the same room looked when the Alcazar was a working luxury hotel. Alternately viewing the photos and the real room, from the same vantage point, reminded me of the scenes in the film Titannic, where the images shifted from the derelict ship on the sea bottom at present, back to the time in the past when real people roamed the decks…and the ship was still alive.

Looking down from the gallery above the former hotel’s ballroom…echoes of a waltz, perhaps? And ghostly images of dancers swirling in elegant circles to the music…and all the hopes and dreams contained within these walls while the Alcazar was still alive.

ballroom gallery at Alcazar Hotel

As I was about to leave, I was hearing music…real music. A museum guide was giving a demonstration of some of the mechanized musical instruments that are in the collection. The largest…the Orchestrion…was playing a song. It was all a bit eerie…sounds from another age…guided by a roll of paper that some real person had created over a hundred years ago. At one point, the demonstrator had to stop the machine at a certain spot. She explained that the punched paper roll was getting extremely fragile in places…from repeated playing over the years. The memories of the music were getting thinner…the ghost in the machine was slowly fading away. It was an unexpectedly sad thought. I’m glad I had the chance to hear some of the music before it vanishes into thin air.

Written by Jim

January 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm