Forty-eight Years Jogging and Counting

Braces clamped on newly stem-celled knees;
hiking sticks in hand; stop watch set. His

wife and Chocolate Lab took off toward the
woods. He started his slow jog behind.

“See you back in 30 minutes,” he called.
The cold wind out of the northwest hit

him in the face. He felt invigorated and
full of gratitude. His knees felt good.

In a paraphrase of the Paul Simon song,
he called down to his knees, “Still faith-

ful after all these years.” The wind whip-
ped against the tear tearing it from his

face. He breathed deeply and basked in the
heart warming grace as he increased his

pace, cold northwest wind in his face.

Stone Soup From His Refrigerator — Contentment and Appreciation

Half-way through the summer
he ran out of steam to make
any more soup, but the temp-
erature plunged and the leaves

started to turn and well…this
morning he took out of the
refrigerator the big pot with
the remains of the homemade

chili, the plate with the remains
of the baked squash with pork
sausage from last evening’s
dinner; scraped the squash into

the large pot added one chopped
link of summer sausage and pro-
ceeded to clean out the vegetable
crisper of squash, green onions,

Romain lettuce, a sweet potato,
red beets, and several Brussel
Sprouts, saving all that he could.
He’d add some carrots and celery

later. Next came tomatoes, chopped
garlic, a super chili, sans seeds
hotter than a Habanero, filtered
lard, olive oil. He poured in the

chicken stock, dropped in two beef
bouillon cubes, Italian seasoning,
sea salt, pepper, added some grated
Parmesan cheese and stirred. The

heat on the stove went from four,
to three to two to simmer to low.
Before even dipping the ladle for
a taste test, he felt contentment

wash over him and that really was
his purpose for making the first
pot of Stone Soup of the fall. Oh,
his wife, who did sample the soup,

told him it simply was delicious
— especially the broth, which made
the whole morning’s effort worth-
while. Contentment, appreciation.

What a combination! Now for a nap,
and then a jog followed by a tête-
à-tête with John le Carré and finally
a bowl of Stone Soup du Jour.

Yes, It’s True

Yes, it’s true;
It’s contextual
Thru and thru.
In conservative
Circles, I’m
Liberal, and
In liberal circles
I’m fairly
Conservative;
It’s true.
It’s hard
to admit.
I don’t want
To be thought
A twit
Or nit-wit
Or hypocritical
Pseudo wit,
Or without
A core value,
But
It’s contextual
Thru and thru.
It’s who I am
And, probably,
If you are
Honest,
It’s
You, too.

The “I”s Have It

Part I. Gratitude

People may wonder what life is like after
tragedy. Thanks for asking. Does it ever
get back to normal? Normal? I’m not sure
what normal was let alone what normal

is. I would say muted. Life is muted —
never quite as high; never quite as low.
When the colors came back they weren’t
quite as vivid. You just go. I was never

one to go with the flow, so, I don’t mean
that. I mean you go through life with ap-
preciation but with a bit of apprehension —
Gun shy? Maybe. I guess it has to do with

the loss of innocence — innocence even if
you are not young but have never previously
experienced anything tragic. Dulling the
senses a bit, perhaps. Yes, sanding down

the rough edges. Being prepared. Not ex-
pecting the heights; Not expecting ecstasy;
not expecting Nirvana, Valhalla in this life.
Something like that. I always cried easily

Part II. Grace

just ask my kids about how I would cry
during a sad or tender movie scene but now
more than ever. (Establishing credentials
of sensitivity) You’d think it would be

just the opposite given numbing. Yes, I
cry more easily, but I don’t laugh quite
as spontaneously. Really, that’s about all
I can say. Thank you for asking, though.

Really. Oh, in all honesty (watch out for
that phrase. It could be a set-up), I still
get pretty angry. I’m working on that. Do
you know what I would really like? (No, of

course not; that is just a set up question
so I can tell you what I really would like
to convince you of.) I would like to get
out of myself (that certain amount of self-

indulgence, egotism that keeps my focus
inward) and actually turn it outward in
selfless anger for others. That’s a worthy
goal (and aren’t I noble in mentioning

Part III. Guilt

it?). Goals can keep you alive. Sometimes
the goal is just staying alive. But it has
to go beyond that — eventually. And to be
perfectly honest (which probably isn’t

perfectly honest but is a phrase of self-
justification or self-deception for what
is to come), focusing outside of one’s
self isn’t at all easy for me. This ac-

count is it’s own proof. Look how many
of my sentences are spent on me. (Enter
respected core value of humility.) Just
count the “I”s. The “I”s have it. In some

religious circles, that’s called naming
reality — every word, every posture, every
action, each and every one is tainted with
sin, or self-interest, self-absorption

(and see how humble and sincerely honest
I am about admitting that?). But getting
back to the topic at hand — that being
tragedy….

An Italian Sonnet for a Chocolate Lab

Our new Lab dances with happiness
months after we adopted her.
First came clumps of thick brown fur,
because she experienced panic and distress.

She was a breeder dog with one purpose.
She was to produce litter after litter
making her owners’ coffers that much bigger
with prize puppies selling for more not less.

They tossed her away one cold spring day.
Her tenure done, the girl away they did send.
Her very last litter was soon taken away
and she hadn’t even had time to mend.
Rescued from her captors and then spayed,
she came to us for a beginning not a sad end.

On and On and On

He had echolalia
of the ukulele-ah
or was it the harmonica
or simply the guitar-uh, huh.
that he played
three chords far, far, far
and long, long, long?
Everyone said,
“Come on, let’s move
it along.”
We have better things
to do
than to sit here
listening to you
play three boring chords
over and over
and over again.
Your musical echolalia
might be hell —
it certainly isn’t heaven.

Do We Dare?

In sacred halls of spirituality
the brain trust competed.
Who would get top honors?
The academic faculty smiled
upon them, nodding approval.
One, with hubris and a
certain meanness, went
off to graduate work and
dropped out, never to return.
One, feigning humility
but perhaps the most
competitive of all, went
off to graduate work but
never got the job he
wanted.
One, with an edgy,
sarcastic wit, went
into the parish and
when his wife died
went into hiding
from which he has
yet to emerge.
One, socially un-
comfortable, went
to graduate school
never to emerge.
They knew the texts;
they knew the history;
they knew the ancient
languages;
they knew the systematics;
they knew it all.
Did they know the unknowable?
Did any of us?
Do we, even now?
Do we dare?
It seemed so safe —
elsewhere,
like in academia’s embrace —
not entering the cloud
of unknowability
the great mystery. .

Stein’s Mind

Have you ever read
a poem by Gertrude Stein?
I think she
lost her mind.
It is said
never say anything negative
about the dead.
Just read someone else’s
poetry instead.
Or perhaps,
Stein’s mind
was fine
and she just
played with her
literary and artistic
friends’ minds.

The Missing Layers of Onion

A wise theologian with a
knack for mixing metaphors
wrote that finding God within
is like diving into a well
with debris all around
and casting the debris
out-of-the-way and pealing
the layers of the onion
back. The man got the gist.
Yesterday, the man cleaned
the skimmer and pump of the
pond and waterfall, he
rinsed the net and washed
the brushes. He dug deeply
at the bottom of the housing
finding all kinds of debris.
He scooped out the debris
and tossed it to the side of
the pond. Finally, he reached
the pump — the god of the
pond — at the center of every-
thing and pulled debris stuck
to the pump’s intake area so
the water would flow more
freely up to the waterfall
creating a beautiful cascade
of clear water down to the
pond and around and around
and up and down revealing
more clearly the beautiful
goldfish in the pond. But
he didn’t find any peeled
back layers of onion stuck
to the pump.

The Library

The well worn, wooden floors creaked;
the worn, wooden stairway steps creaked;
those were the only sounds allowed
in the library of my youth. I loved

those sounds; I hear them now when I
walk across floors at my local library
where sounds are of feet slapping hard,
cold linoleum and people chitchatting

except in the reading room where only
coughing and throat clearing are allowed.
I loved fingering and flipping the cards
in the Dewey Decimal System card catalogue,

writing down the number of where to find
the book and then embarking on the hunt.
I’m glad for my local library, but I loved
the library of my youth built in the 19th

century, a red brick building down the hill
from Michigan Avenue and 111th Street
turning left at a street the name of which
I can’t remember (maybe Edbrooke Ave.)

and north toward 109th part of the Pullman
neighborhood. I would run up the cement
stairway to the front door and pull with
all my strength the heavy, wooden door

that creaked as it opened. As I entered
the librarian would frown and put her
finger to her lips in the anticipation
that I would start talking to my buddies,

who entered with me, which, of course,
I would have but didn’t dare. Come to
think of it, she never looked at Russ,
Terry or Dennis.