Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category


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I could see it on the horizon…six miles distant…like a small sun rising over the pines. It was the Peachoid. Life is just not complete until the Peachoid is seen in all its resplendent glory…especially, now that it’s been freshly painted. For those of you who are fans of House of Cards…you’ll know of what I’m speaking. For those who aren’t…the Peachoid is a water tank in the town of Gaffney, South Carolina, that has, what Wikipedia describes as, an ‘enormous cleft’  made to resemble that distinctive characteristic of a peach. The water tower has also been, to the dismay of Gaffney residents who are extremely fond of the structure, the ‘butt’ of many jokes (visit the Peachoid link above to view some pictures and to draw your own conclusions).

But the Peachoid sighting was just a charming interlude on my way to Flat Rock, North Carolina, to visit Connemara, the former home of poet and writer Carl Sandburg, and now a National Historic Site. Sandburg moved there in 1946, when he was 67 years of age with his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. He lived there until his death in 1967 at the age of 89. Our tour guide attributed his longevity to the goat milk and cheese from the goats that his wife Lillian raised, and whose descendants can still be seen in the goat barn on this 246 acre farm.



The Sandburgs were said to have lived very simply. The most striking thing when walking through the house was the sheer number of books that were present. There were shelves in practically every room that held seventeen thousand books… in many of which could be seen small slips of paper that served as bookmarks…a record of when they were last consulted by members of the Sandburg household. I noticed many, many books on Abraham Lincoln that were most likely referenced by Sandburg during the writing of his own well-known works on our sixteenth President.

Carl and his wife Lillian, who was the sister of famed photographer Edward Steichen, were married for sixty years. Standing in the bedroom where Carl died in 1967, it was hard not to get misty-eyed when our tour guide mentioned that his last words, or last word, was ‘Paula’…a nickname for his beloved wife…

The Great Hunt
I never knew any more beautiful than you:
I have hunted you under my thoughts,
I have broken down under the wind
And into the roses looking for you.
I shall never find any greater than you.
~ Carl Sandburg, Chicago Poems, 1916


Written by Jim

May 24, 2015 at 5:05 pm


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Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, as from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a  line of fire just below the horizon, brush fire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes.

~ Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale 

Stepping outside, this autumn evening…Venus still burning bright in the west…chasing the sun, already fallen into the abyss over the horizon. Darkness ascending in the east…relentlessly. From the woods…now fading into shadows…the soft, eerie whimpering of a screech owl, welcoming the nightrise.

Written by Jim

October 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Easing back into the conversation

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I seem to have hit a wall lately…perhaps, a time of the interim as John O’Donohue describes…

…where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

~ from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

Recently, I’ve been listening to an audio series by poet David Whyte called, What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of an Everyday Life, in which he speaks of the conversational nature of reality. A reality in which we inevitably must meet somewhere on middle ground…between what we expect of our lives…and what the world expects of us. A conversation that results in a relationship that occurs at the frontier of these two sets of expectations. We can, of course, choose not to enter the conversation. That may be where the wall appears…so I’m trying to ease back into the conversation…and at least catch a glimpse of what may be waiting on the other side.

By the way…If you’re not familiar with David Whyte, the following video is a wonderful introduction…

Written by Jim

July 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Welcome home

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We’re brought into this world alone…and leave this world, alone. In between, when we enter into relationship with someone, we have the intoxicating illusion that we become one with the other…that we are no longer alone. In some strange and beautiful way…for a while…we share identity.

I’ve been finding that, for me at least,  a major part of the grieving process has been coming to terms with the reality that I am once again alone…that half of this shared identity is now missing. For a while, part of myself was sublimated…hidden away…for some greater good. Now…it’s natural to feel incomplete, and it takes a while to rediscover and recover that part of ourselves that, for a while, was lost. And…to recognize that the time has come to get reacquainted with ourselves. Perhaps…that too is part of the healing process?

I recently heard a poem by Derek Walcott that crystallizes this thought as only poetry can…

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott

Written by Jim

December 30, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Grieving, Literature, Musings, Poetry

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Time passages

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Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages.

~Al Stewart, Time Passages

There are moments in life when the reality that we’ve known slips out from under us…replaced by a new reality that is essentially the same…but with slight differences. Differences so small…and seemingly insignificant enough…to make us wonder whether any change  has occurred at all. But these minute changes color everything going forward. It reminds me of a story by Ursula Le Guin called The Lathe of Heaven, about a man whose dreams affected reality. After awakening from one of his dreams, the world would be changed, unbeknownst to everyone else who blithely went about their lives  as if nothing had happened.

After awakening early this morning, I was sitting in bed with my cup of coffee, listening to Living on Earth on a local NPR radio station. They were talking about the Fall migration of Canada Geese. It brought back fond memories of the large flocks of geese that would pass through and occasionally put down on the small lake that we lived nearby in Northern Illinois. There would be a cacophonous honking as they made their brief stopovers.

They then started talking about the migration of Cackling Geese. Cackling Geese? I rummaged through my somewhat still groggy brain cells…but couldn’t quite recall any details of that particular species. It was only when they mentioned that Cackling Geese were once thought to be a diminutive sub-species of the well known Canada Goose species that my memory was somewhat jogged awake. Evidently, in 2004, the Cackling Goose species was split from the Canada Goose species, based upon differences in DNA. I’ve always had more than a passing interest in birds, but somehow this had escaped my radar.

So…my reality changed this morning. Sure…it’s nothing momentous…but just another indication that things are constantly changing…whether or not we’re aware of them . Other such things have caught me somewhat unawares in the past. I vaguely recall when Pluto was demoted from being a planet. And I was somewhat recently shocked to hear that the Milwaukee Brewers were now in the National League, playing the Cubs on a regular basis, instead of their old arch-rivals the White Sox. But this goose thing…I never saw it coming.

Written by Jim

October 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

A new world

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Middle of June…this past week a string of beautiful, warm days…and cool nights. It was a good morning to sit out on the porch with Belle…cup of coffee in hand…just enjoying the beginning of the day. There was sweet birdsong coming from just within the woods…a song I’ve not heard here before. Mellifluous flute-like tones, with trills in between. We were being graced with the presence of a Wood Thrush…singing in the morning. Thoreau said of this bird…

“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Written by Jim

June 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Time is…

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“Possibility is the secret heart of time. On its outer surface time is vulnerable to transience. Regardless of its sadness or beauty, each day empties and vanishes. In its deeper heart, time is transfiguration. Time minds possibility and makes sure that nothing is lost or forgotten. That which seems to pass away on the surface of time is in fact transfigured and housed in the tabernacle of memory.”

~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

…the path that we are on? I seem to be in a walking frame of mind since returning from my hike in the Appalachians. We’re willing to walk miles to catch a glimpse of something we think is worth seeing. And then…having seen it, begin again.  What is this way that we wander?

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing back
one sees the path
that must never be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road–
Only wakes upon the sea.

~ Antonio Machado

Pondering such topics as time…and where it eventually might lead to…can put one into a melancholy funk. We tend to run away as fast as we can…with the usual distractions. But…I think it’s a funk that needs to be faced…perhaps in silence…and in solitude…if we really wish to value and appreciate the life we’ve been given in this extraordinary world…and the people with whom we share it.  This day…another step on our way. And it’s humbling to think that we may be the keepers of time, as O’Donohue says…within the tabernacles of our memories.

Time, flowing like a river
Time, beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever 
But time
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea…

Till it’s gone forever 
Gone forever…

~ The Alan Parsons Project, Time

Written by Jim

May 28, 2012 at 9:50 am