Life is just
another spectator sport.
There is only
room for so many players.
The rules are
on the sidelines,
with a soda and some chips.
I never liked conflict, or
I just want
to be left alone,
do my job,
and have the weekends off.
I have drunk
from the well of indifference,
and found it
as a cold beer and a couch.
I don't ask for much.
I have forgotten
what living means,
and so I have chosen
a slow, comfortable death,
here, in this life.
I have made this choice:
I give up.
Recently I happened to find myself at a gathering where the mother of an Iraqi War combat veteran spoke. This woman’s son had participated in combat and also suffered a bomb injury and so in addition to PTSD he also apparently has continuing neurological problems. She was an impassioned speaker. Because of her experience with the military and the VA and with her son’s difficulty in ‘transitioning’ to civilian life, she has been a force in forming a local organization to help other combat veterans. The organization helps not only with a peer support network, but also with practical support issues such as housing, cell phones, laptops and internet, and food. I agreed with much of what she had to say. Too many combat veterans remain isolated, forgotten, left on their own to deal with the after-effects of witnessing and participating in the organized violence of war.
There was a point in her talk, however, when she lost me. Thinking back on it I am almost reluctant to tell the story for fear of it being misinterpreted or somehow manipulated. But because it is Memorial Day, a day this country has set aside to honor our soldiers and their sacrifices, I will try to explain how my thoughts became conflicted as I sat and listened.
Yes, I am one of the perhaps millions of Americans who are subjected to the FOX network in a public venue that I happen to frequent. For me, it’s the local chain fitness center. The array of TV screens in front of the cardio machines is truly impressive, and I always try to get one in front of the local network for the weather or the cable network that carries “Gas Monkey”. Unfortunately, I don’t always have a choice and often I end up in front of the FOX monitor. Because of my schedule (I drop by after work, usually around 5:30 – 6:30) I have lately been favored with “The Five”. Since five is my favorite number I had a passing interest in what might be going on. And I should preface further remarks with the fact that we have no TV in our household so any corporate media presentation at all by default takes on a surrealistic tone.
Stay tuned for the surrealism following the loony tune balloon.
The Bridge Between
I don’t know why
Most things matter
Most days, although
I do try to see
What’s important and
It’s the narrow bridge between
That keeps me puzzled,
Keeps me seeking balance
Like the dragonfly at rest
In the late summer sun,
I try to honor the known.
Like two young men
Pushing their truck
Down the state road in morning traffic,
What is can seem so unfair,
Leaving me unaware
That the journey
Of the heart
The greater part.
My contribution to the poetry decorating the site recently...
The first is an outcome of the dialogue on military action against Syria. The second one, below the break, is, well, just a poem.
The War Zone
There is a boundary at the edge
Of the war zone.
On the ground,
Like a child’s toy used once and discarded,
A broken bird whispers
In secret code:
Forbidden To Enter.
To proceed further means
Suffering and death,
And so we turn away –
But the battle god must be fed.
Run, scatter, let the slow serve
As reckoning, worthy
We live, and while we live
We rejoice, we are not diminished,
We measure our losses only by the glassful.
Meanwhile, the fool nods and stumbles,
And sits down beside the vacant throne.
We laugh and quietly hope
Our eyes never meet.
This morning I split wood and it felt good. It’s going to be hot and humid but it’s the Fourth of July so bring it on. In October when it’s frost in the morning I want to remember what is felt like to sit in my shorts and sweat. My wife and I finished the last two pieces of her strawberry-rhubarb pie and we are having tea. It’s too early for lunch. I am up, I am breathing, I am healthy, and we are doing well. Twenty-nine years married next month, three kids grown and out in the world doing their lives just fine, it’s just the cat and the dog and us at home now. It is going to be a lazy, laid-back long holiday weekend. Chicken on the grill later, and a couple of beers.
As I was sitting in my study this morning writing my daily “Morning Muse”, I was looking for a notebook to write in. I picked up the red spiral notebook next to me. It was filled. It was one of my journals, in fact the last of my daily journals that I kept for many years. I probably have ten or more spiral notebooks just like this one, in various colors, the kind we had in school back then, one for each subject.
I opened it and July 2012 was there, staring me in the face. I read, and remembered. It was hard to imagine that was just one year ago. I was in a bad place, and I was writing to save my life.
Sometimes we turn a page in our lives, and sometimes we start a new chapter. At just a few points in life we realize that we are now leaving "Part the Second", for example, and entering "Part the Third". This awareness, it seems to me, is one of the few benefits of getting older.
Last evening my wife and I had dinner with an old college roommate that I had not seen in fourteen years. We were more than just roommates, we were very good friends and after we graduated we were on-the-road travelling companions for a short while until our new-found freedom took us separate paths. We connected here and there over the ensuing thirty-four years. Occasionally he would call on our mutually shared day of birth. The phone would ring, and I would answer and hear his voice singing, "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you."
Shoveling snow again this morning, after our second “plowable” storm passed through overnight. Since it is a weekend, I was in no particular rush and waited until well after daybreak to start. Church this morning for me was going to be the cool, dry air of a winter morning and the fresh feel of snow blowing off the pines, scattered by the wind, and brushing against my neck.
As a double bonus, it was very quiet. My neighbor had already used his snow-blower to clear his driveway, apparently while I was still snoozing (since it was a weekend, and a holiday weekend at that, I opted for the rare pleasure of pulling the covers over my head after the dawn had woken me). Across the street the young couple who lives there had been visited by their “plow guy” and was off to somewhere together.
A couple of gun stories from up here in Maine.
A store worker at the L.L. Bean outlet store in Ellsworth Maine found a loaded handgun in the men’s restroom. Just sitting there, waiting to be picked up by anyone who happened to find it. Turns out it was left there by a 72 year old doctor from Winter Harbor Maine who said that he took the gun out of its holster to use the bathroom and simply forgot it.
More after the break.
It might have come to me today as I was driving a side street in the next town, one block off the Main Street. It’s a narrow residential street with parking on both sides, STOP signs at each block, the kind of street where you don’t get much speed up. Because of the double parking the roadway for two-way traffic is on the tight side, which normally isn’t a problem most hours. But today there was traffic and I was watching the faces of the oncoming drivers as I negotiated the road. I am a cautious driver, and it struck me how in most cases when there was a tight spot the oncoming driver performed two actions simultaneously: increased their speed and avoided eye contact with a distained expression.
More below the fold...
People with dogs live longer, we are told. Perhaps one reason is that if one loves one’s canine companion they will enjoy taking daily walks in all kinds of weather. In so doing, the combination of fresh air and exercise may give one’s tense, tired body and soul some measure of refreshment. I think this is basically my experience.
The dog currently living with us is Brutus, a rescue dog who was adopted into New England from an animal shelter in Mississippi. How he came to live with us is another story. He is a Rottweiler-Beagle mix, so we are told. Sturdy and fearless like a Rotty, but vocally expressive and intelligent like a Beagle, with a nose and a tail-wag that won’t quit. And every day, at around 6:30 in the morning and anywhere from 8:00-9:30 in the evening, you can find us walking along the roads around our house. It’s not great dog-walking territory, actually, and we have to traverse along a busy town road on most days. But we do it.
What follows below the squiggle are a few things I have learned from this mutual experience.
I come from the Judeo-Christian faith tradition. One of my favorite stories from the Hebrew scriptures is that of the prophet Elijah hiding out in a cave, afraid for his life, on Mount Horeb:
The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD; for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the nountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentie whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
More below the squiggle...