“Dust’s certainly all our fate, so why not make it the happiest possible dust . . .” (Michael Blumenthal)

Everybody loves Saturday night on Main Street

Everybody loves Saturday night on Main Street

A cousin, a year younger than I, lived in London for many years as a (seemingly) hot-shot powerfully successful corporate lawyer for some big American company. I remember hearing the tales—and now and then seeing pictures—of his and his family’s life in London from my aunt and uncle after they would visit him. I haven’t seen or heard directly from my cousin since about 1985, the last time I was in the same city he was when he was studying for the LSAT. A little late in life, wouldn’t you say? Yes. He had been an English professor at some small college in far west Kansas but decided he wanted to make a real living as well as, with Dorothy, not be in Kansas anymore.

His late father told me once the only person he knew who writes better than I do is my cousin—and that’s why his lawyering was so successful. (One might wonder how much writing my uncle had read that we were his two favorite writers. But that’s another story.) The practice of law is all about writing, he said. And the practice of being successful in this world was all about being his son, in his eyes.

In about 1985 I was at my aunt and uncle’s home in suburban Kansas City with my partner, and my cousin refused to come to dinner.

Yes, I am miffed. Don’t like my cousin. Don’t ever want to see him again. I have my reasons. Homophobia.

He’s unkind. I’ll be unkind in return.

The other night Stephen Colbert interviewed George Saunders who was promoting his book on kindness, Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. It’s now one of those books on my Nook that I haven’t read yet. George Saunders was pretty entertaining talking about kindness, how easy it is to be kind instead of mean, and how seldom we all choose to do so. Even Stephen Colbert managed to be kind a couple of times during their conversation.

Through their entire conversation I kept wondering if either of them had read the poem, “Be Kind,” which was the first of Michael Blumenthal’s poems I read. It came in a poem-a-day thing I subscribe to. I’m not educated enough to go looking for such work. I’ve written about Michael Blumenthal and that poem before (the text is at the link). After I did so, I wrote to Blumenthal, and he not only replied with a kind and funny little letter, but also put me on the list to receive his holiday (Christmas) greeting. I told him I am a member in good standing of his fan club.

Michael Blumenthal is an attorney turned poet. He is not, as far as I can tell, homophobic.

Last night (Saturday) a friend and I were walking on Main Street in Dallas. The traffic was heavy, and people were strolling about and sitting in restaurants have a grand time. I saw only one homeless person in the four blocks up and back we walked. (We were on a mission to have a Fluellen Cupcake.)

As little as three or four years ago there would have been virtually no traffic on Main Street on a Saturday night. Things have changed. I think, not being a social scientist or city planner or demographer, the change finally tipped over into city life when the Joule (boutique) Hotel and its (ridiculously upscale and expensive) restaurant finally opened across the street from the small sculpture garden the developer also owns, with its one sculpture, the big eye—and the center of upscale socializing shifted to Main Street (from wherever it was before).

Immediately the city was flocked with the beautiful people and the wannabes. It’s the happening place again. Minus the poor and the homeless, of course.

Sculpture for the beautiful people

Sculpture for the beautiful people

I do not want to sound unkind. I like the bustle as much as anyone. I think it’s fun. Cool. Groovy. Bitchin’ (how many old fashioned words can I dredge up?). If anything I say sounds unkind, it’s probably because I am jealous. No way can I afford to eat at the Joule restaurant (or have my car parked for $25 by their valets—they park on the same level where I park for $2 in the public garage over on Commerce Street a block away). And there’s not much left of me that would be one of the beautiful people even if I could afford to shop at LA Traffic clothes, also in the Joule.

I do not want to sound judgmental. Michael Blumenthal wrote a poem he titled “Suburban.” The first line, “Conformity caught here, nobody catches it,” came to mind last night as we walked. One can catch conformity anywhere, I think. Conforming is likely to be unkind if one is a gay elitist pseudo-intellectual like me; or an English professor turned homophobic lawyer; or one of the beautiful people; or a suburban golfer clutching his putter; or a lawyer turned poet; or a valet at a fancy hotel; or a clerk at a cupcake shop; or a homeless person invisible in the happening city.

It seems to me conformity is the first sign, the first sign of unkindness. Are we unkind because we conform, or—worse—do we begin to conform because we are unkind?

“Suburban,” by Michael Blumenthal
Conformity caught here, nobody catches it,
Lawns groomed in prose, with hardly a stutter.
Lloyd hits the ball, and Lorraine fetches it.

Mom hangs the laundry, Fred, Jr., watches it,
Shirts in the clichéd air, all aflutter.
Conformity caught here, nobody catches it.

A dog drops a bone, another dog snatches it.
I dreamed of this life once, Now I shudder
As Lloyd hits the ball and Lorraine fetches it.

A doldrum of leaky roofs, a roofer who patches it,
Lloyd prowls the streets, still clutching his putter.
Conformity caught here, nobody catches it.

The tediumed rake, the retiree who matches it,
The fall air gone dead with the pure drone of motors
While Lloyd hits the ball, and Lorraine just fetches it.

The door is ajar, then somebody latches it.
Through the hissing of barbecues poets mutter
Of conformity caught here, where nobody catches it.
Lloyd hits the ball. And damned Lorraine fetches it.

TRAFFIC LA - a shop for the men at the Joule

TRAFFIC LA – a shop for the men at the Joule

Who are all those people shopping at the downtown Neiman Marcus. . .

If only they had a sign! At least on the parking garage behind.

If only they had a sign! At least on the parking garage behind.

. . . and why isn’t it pronounced “ ī ” as in “ice” as any self-respecting “ei” word would be?

The summer is almost over, and I have only two accomplishments to show for it. A glorious trip to Scandinavia and St. Petersburg, Russia, and an arthroscopic invasion of my right hip. Which is more important (if either is ultimately important) I can’t say.

All of those people shopping at the downtown Neiman Marcus aren’t, that’s who they are. Most people in the Dallas area wouldn’t know the store from the Dollar Store on Maple Avenue if it didn’t have a sign. That’s NM’s problem!—they don’t have a sign! If they’d put up a sign, they’d have more business.

I walk past NM on the average, I’d guess, six times a week. I use the NM parking garage across Commerce Street from the store three nights a week. It’s cheap. $2 overnight. No meter-feeding (Dallas is insanely vigilant about parking tickets). That is, I use the parking lot on Commerce Street when my hip doesn’t allow me to take the train downtown.

Taking the train comprises a walk across the new Parkland Hospital employee parking lot to the DART station, a ten-minute ride, and a four-block walk to the Merc on Main. A total of about half an hour—ten minutes longer than it takes to drive, and there’s no parking hassle at the end of the trip.

A friend who has lived in Farmers Branch (the first suburb north of the city) for 25 years told me not too long ago he’d never been to downtown Dallas. He’s been to basketball and hockey games at the American Airlines center, but it’s possible to get there without setting foot in downtown.

I don’t think St. Petersburg ever did much to destroy itself in the form of renewing its urb. They’ve had a couple of pretty disastrous wars that destroyed big chunks of the city, but I didn’t see much evidence that they’ve willfully gone into the center of the city and torn down old buildings in order to make room for ugly new ones. Perhaps they have and I didn’t notice those places.

Dallas, on the other hand, is fixing to tear down the oldest building in downtown (for all I know, in the entire city) to widen a street. That kind of self-mutilation is endemic to Dallas. As it is to almost every other American city. You know, urban flight (a self-delusional term for racism) and all of that demographic mumbo-jumbo. Urban renewal. Destroy the heart of the city to make a few hundred billion dollars for a couple of “developers.” I’ve written about it before.

Klyde Warren Park - renew or rebuild?

Klyde Warren Park – renew or rebuild?

Everyone knows the process.  White flight, urban decay. Urban renewal, decimation of the city. Suburban growth. Freeways. Freeways. Freeways. Homelessness. Homelessness. Homelessness. Billionaires. Billionaires. Billionaires. Tear down a few more buildings. Gentrify. Gentrify. Gentrify. So predictable.

You know what you can’t do with your own body? Stop suburban flight or renew the urb. There’s this suburban flight going on from the day we’re born, I think. I’m not going to press this metaphor because it’s too obvious, and I don’t have the poetic skill to make it anything other than ridiculous. The metaphor has been around for at least 3,000 years. “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth. . .” (1)

You can have all the arthroscopic surgeries you want, and you can’t renew the urb of your own body. Can’t be done. You can work out at the gym three times a week from the time you’re 20 until you’re 80, and you are not stopping the process.

Neiman’s stayed in downtown until it was—quite literally—the only retail store left. How could it leave? It WAS Dallas, Dallas WAS Neiman’s. Shall I carry the figure to its (il)logical conclusion? Neiman’s was (is) in some way if not the soul of Dallas, at least an image for the soul of Dallas.

Now it’s having a facelift (literally, there’s a sign that says so). And a little cluster of retail stores and restaurants and such is growing up around it. And more than a few of the old empty buildings (both retail and high-rise) are being refurbished, completely gutted and rebuilt and made into new businesses and  apartments. Thousands of people (with their thousands of dogs) are moving back to downtown. Not the kind of people who were pushed out when old downtown was obliterated, mind you. Not the poor, the tired, the humble masses who huddled in the rooming houses and inner-city apartments.

The urb is, once again, being renewed. And I love it. I want to live there.

Neiman’s can have a facelift. Dallas can build the Klyde Warren Park. My hip can be fixed (at least temporarily).

But it’s that soul, or the image of that soul that won’t let my mind rest. Dallas can’t be renewed. It can be rebuilt, but it won’t be the same city. Renewal is not the process. Remaking is, finding a new soul is.

Do I need to push this metaphor to its limit? A human body cannot be renewed OR rebuilt. To say nothing of a human soul.

Damn! I wish that had worked out.
____________
(1) Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, KJV.  Hebrew Scriptures and Urban Renewal

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Towne Square Apartments; Employee Parking Lot; DART line rail (with yellow train); New Parkland Hospital. Can the urb be renewed?

Towne Square Apartments; Employee Parking Lot; DART line rail (with yellow train); New Parkland Hospital. Can the urb be renewed?

 

I am much too easily entertained

St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg. Don't ask me who built it!

St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg. Don’t ask me who built it!

In about 1975 when I was a doctoral student in the University of Iowa School of Music in Iowa City, a friend from Muscatine, IA, where I was music director at Trinity Episcopal Church, asked me if I didn’t think it was wonderful that we were part of the “intelligentsia.” She was the program director for a foundation that presented educational forums at a center they owned in Taos, NM. She was well educated (an MA from the University), and I was supposedly becoming even better educated than I was. We were both moderately intelligent persons.

At the time I told her I thought her description of us was a bit of a stretch.

Over the years many other people have asked me similar questions, usually in the form of “Do you consider yourself an intellectual?” or some such. (Or, worse, they state it as a fact!) My answer has always been without reservation, “No, I do not.” I am intellectual enough to know that I have been in the company of—have close friends who are—“intellectuals.” Most of those friends are much too modest to say they are.

That one has a PhD is no indication one is an intellectual. It merely indicates a certain kind of perseverance, a willingness to play the trained seal and jump through a certain number of hoops. That one teaches in a university is no indication one is an intellectual. I hardly even need to give evidence for that. Usually what passes for “intellectualism” in university faculties is the ability to focus on one tiny aspect of one tiny subject and carry out arcane research to the point that one knows more about that tiny subject than (almost) anyone else.

The fact is, I am too easily entertained to be an “intellectual.”

I go to the opera to be entertained, not to analyze either the work itself or the production. I cannot now, and could not the day I saw any of the operas, tell you the name of one singer I heard at the Dallas Opera last season. Two of the three productions were entertaining, as far as I was concerned. The other was bizarre, hard to follow visually, and confusing. That’s all I know about them.

Sunrise over UNT Dallas

Sunrise over UNT Dallas

I have been to Palestine (and therefore to Israel because you can’t get to Palestine without going there) twice. I have read, I think, three books on the history of the current plight of the Palestinian people. I have Palestinian friends—both in Dallas and in Bethlehem. I am committed to helping Americans understand the real situation there as opposed to the one our government and the news media present. But I have absolutely no scholarly ability to discuss the situation and no “intellectual” prowess with which to convince anyone of anything.

I have now been to three of the four Scandinavian countries and St. Petersburg in Russia. I went with the choir of Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills, TX. One of my friends loaned me a very large book, a biography of Catherine the Great of Russia, to read before we went. I cannot imagine reading such a tome. I learned half a dozen short pieces of organ music by American composers to play on the instruments we used in the performances we gave. I also had the Bach G Major Prelude under my fingers. I don’t have a single recording of my playing any one of those works on the glorious instruments I was privileged to play. Snippets, yes, complete works, no. I can’t tell you the history of any of those organs—or even the makers of all of them. Any of my real organist friends would have recordings of each and know exactly the specifications and history of all of them. I was entertained playing them.

Yesterday a group of workmen using a huge crane and a “cherry picker” attached signage to the front of the building across Main Street from my inamorato’s apartment. The building is now marked “UNT SYSTEM” and is the home of The University of North Texas at Dallas. I watched them lift the “T” up from the street and attach it. I want to know if the workmen were sign makers or employees of the construction firm that remodeled the building. I want most, however, to know how they attached the letters to the building. From our vantage point across the street there was nothing on the wall with which to hang the letters. I think they used crazy glue.

I have now been entertained for 24 hours by three big green letters—not the stuff of the intellectual life.

Why I’m writing this I don’t know except that I’ve been thinking more and more often (is it possible to think more often than always?) since I’ve become senescent about what’s important in my life. I don’t think it’s “Human Rights and a Post-Secular Religion of Humanity” (1) or “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions” (2).

I’m not saying someone shouldn’t explore those ideas. Just not me.

GET THE CRAZY GLUE READY!!!
________
(1) Calo, Zachary R. “Religion, Human Rights, And Post-Secular Legal Theory.” St. John’s Law Review 85.2 (2011): 495-519.
(2) Paul, Gregory. “The Chronic Dependence Of Popular Religiosity Upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions.” Evolutionary Psychology 7.3 (2009): 398-441.

I simply must say this once

When I was a kid, we had . .

When I was a kid, we had . .

My inamorato and I were out for a little stroll last night down Main Street in Dallas. That should not be, by any stretch of the imagination, anything worth writing about. Two old gay guys out for a stroll.

But this morning when I checked my email and found the pictures I took, my old man brain was boggled.

In 1965 one of my best friends at the University of Redlands was arrested in a city park for lewd conduct or one of those things gay boys used to be arrested for on a regular basis. When the police found out he was a student, in some kind of enlightenment that seems almost impossible in retrospect, they turned him over to the university for counseling rather than prosecuting him.

About twenty years later, in the opening stages of what should have been a brilliant career as a concert organist he died of AIDS after an equally brilliant career as a leather queen.

When he was arrested, I went immediately to the university chaplain for counseling because the police let it be known that if they arrested a student and he was already seeking help for his homosexuality, they would turn him over to the university instead of prosecuting him.

We were (at least publicly) a frightened and scraggly bunch of gay boys in those days. Well, not scraggly—we were as fabulous then as gay boys are now, believe it or not, but in our own let’s-not-draw-too-much-attention-to-ourselves way. Of course, my friends and I were very serious and high-brow music students. Pop culture was way beneath us except the Beatles had invaded by that time, and I was secretly in love with Ringo.

One never discussed being gay in public. When I came out in the school newspaper (obliquely, but “out” just the same) after an insult by a fellow student who didn’t even know he was talking about me, the music chairman called me into his office to tell me to be more discreet (terrified and careful were his real message). This was, I’m always surprised to remember about myself, before Stonewall.

Feeding frenzy in Dallas

Feeding frenzy in Dallas

Eight years later when I was in graduate school, a friend and I took a couple of our fellow students—straight women—to a gay bar. Word of that indiscretion reached my dissertation chairman, and he called me in to strongly suggest that I stop being so flamboyant. Me?

Even for years after Stonewall, one had to be guarded. Gay boys today, except those who have directly experienced gay-bashing, have little idea how things used to be. Oh, come on! I can sound like your grandfather who walked to school in the snow and never owned a cellphone if I want to.

So here we are in the feeding frenzy of talking not about being gay, but about same-sex marriage! Openly, in public, and—at least among straight and gay people I know—favorably.

I don’t have a clue how to say this so it sounds as startling as I feel it to be. And as startling as every other 68-year-old gay man in the country feels it to be. I have nothing special to add to this conversation except—except everything.

When I came out to my university (it’s not clear how many people even noticed), I was taking such a risk that, if I had not been a self-absorbed little twit, I should have shaken in my boots (my organ-playing dance shoes). It really was a risk. The year after I graduated, the university fired our favorite teacher, a tenured professor, because they found out he was gay.

Even ten or twelve years ago I could be out to many members of the church in a Dallas suburb where I was organist, but I could not mention it in, for example, a church council meeting. Everyone knew it, but we didn’t talk about it in any formal way. Six years ago, I stood in terror—literally shaking in my shoes—at the microphone at the church’s synod convention and told the assembled crowd that I was one of the people they were talking about when they were deciding to memorialize the national church to ordain gay men and women. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

We walked to school . . .

We walked to school . . .

I guess all I want to say is that I hope no one is taking all of this open, public, positive conversation about same-sex marriage for granted. I know, I know. You’ve heard this before. But take it from a faggot who in the ‘90s volunteered at the AIDS Hospice in Boston where gay men’s families sometimes refused to come to be with them when they died, this openness comes not because our society is so benevolent but because years ago some of us called ourselves queer in public when it was an almost impossibly dangerous thing to do.

“. . . make your house fair as you are able. . .”

across the street R
When you get to be my age (I’m that old guy you used to avoid because you didn’t want anyone who was out of touch with the realities of the modern world to be telling you what things were like in the “good old days”), you begin to think things that would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago.

I’ve been wondering why we spend so much time and energy keeping our homes so spotlessly clean—and why we are so judgmental of anyone who doesn’t. This house cleaning business is a mystery that has built in intensity in my mind over the years. It’s an obsession that cuts across cultural, racial, gender, and age lines with impunity.

I did what I often do (old habits die hard) when I want to investigate the origin of something that seems to me to be purely a societal foible—I went to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible to find Biblical references to it. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” may be an idea that comes from the Bible. “Clean” appears 117 times in the King James Bible. But not one use has anything to do with your tent or your house. All of them are about ritual “cleanness,” rituals no modern American (even a fundamentalist who claims to live by the Bible) would think of practicing.

People who observe Advent in the church sing with fervor (because they know without thinking what it means),

People look east, the time is near
of the crowning of the year;
make your house fair as you are able,
strike the hearth and set the table.
People look east and sing today,
love the guest is on the way.

Those words sound like a folk song of some sort, but Eleanor Farjeon wrote them in 1928.

Strike the hearth and set the table.

Strike the hearth and set the table.

Make your house fair as you are able.

Because cleanliness is next to godliness. That applies to both our persons and our homes. And that truism is so thoroughly ingrained that even people who couldn’t care less about God or godliness believe it (or at least live as if they believe it) as fanatically as godly folk do—perhaps even more so.

Of course it may be a purely animal instinct that we couldn’t eradicate if we tried. Watch a squirrel build and maintain her nest. Think about your cat’s constant grooming and cleaning.

But cleaning isn’t all that’s involved in making our houses as fair as able. There’s this decorating business.

I’ll soon be faced with figuring out how to live “comfortably” in the increasing poverty in which I will live as I get older. I must get rid of stuff, lots of stuff (including the pipe organ in my living room) so I can get a smaller, cheaper apartment when it’s necessary. Stuff I’ve bought or been given because it’s beautiful or makes my home look like I’ve “[made my] house fair as [I] am able.” I have some lovely things. Three paintings by the Canadian artist Allen Sapp come to mind. I must sell them.

The cleanliness issue is going to follow me wherever I go (I’m not referring to personal cleanliness). I have these valuable paintings on my wall, but I have no skill in (or, shall I be honest and say little interest in) spending time and money to keep the place fair as I am able. Yesterday I came home to a mess on my living room floor made by my cats scratching on the “Wide Cardboard Scratching Board with Catnip.” I inadvertently left it in a more obvious place than I should have. I was in a hurry to catch the train to come to my inamorato’s house (which he keeps as fair as he is able—and I love it!) and had to decide whether or not to get out the vacuum. I did not. That would be unnatural behavior for me. Later.

Across the street, a new building (actually refurbished and remodeled) is about to open with 250 apartments to rent. I’ve been wondering what it will be like to watch 250 renters move in. Think of the STUFF!

It’s not an architecturally distinguished building. In an effort (I suppose) to make it more exciting or inviting, the owners have installed outside lights that change color. From blue to green to pink to purple—all night long they change color. Is this making the apartment house fair as they are able? Is it a money-making come on? Is it playing out the same mammalian instinct that keeps my cats groomed? Beats me.

I must get rid of stuff, lots of stuff

I must get rid of stuff, lots of stuff

It’s fun. It spruces things up. But you have to admit it’s pretty silly.

 

“. . .no Notice — no Dissent No Universe — no laws —. . .”

snow day
A student asked me the other day why my writing has so many dashes—if that’s a good way to write. I told him, no, it’s not. Unless you’re Emily Dickinson.

Great Streets of silence led away
To Neighborhoods of Pause

Here was no Notice no Dissent
No Universe
no laws

By Clocks, ’twas Morning, and for Night
The Bells at Distance called —
But Epoch had no basis here
For Period exhaled
.

Otherwise, too many dashes can—and most probably will—confuse your reader.

I woke up this morning with the ceiling fan in my inamorato’s bedroom on my mind. Nearly every night when I am here, I go to sleep with the image of the mystery fan in my mind. Five shadows, four blades.

Of course, I know it isn’t so—the fan does have five blades. But one disappears into the ceiling. The colors, at the direction of the interior decorator, of ceiling and fan are identical, of course. Here are no notice, no dissent, no universe, no laws.

In December of 2004, I planted a tree in memory of my partner who had died but a month before—planted it in the front lawn of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmers Branch, Texas, with the help of many friends and the blessing of the pastor. A place for a tree to grow for years, decades, for as long as I would be around. I was organist of the church.

A book I know well says, “We will not regret the past, nor wish to close the door on it.” I have tried for years to come to terms with that concept. To make it part of my self-perception. Internalizing the idea is pretty difficult for me because much in my past I wish had been otherwise than it was.

I know, I know. Everyone can say that—and would if she were being unabashedly honest. But whether wishing it were not so is the same as regretting, I’ll let keener minds than mine decide. My distinction is that I can regret only those choices I made consciously and willingly, while I can wish experiences over which I had little or no control had not happened.

In the winter of 2010, it snowed in Dallas—a not unheard-of event, but unusual because it was real snow, three inches deep. On that day the pastor of St. Paul took a picture of me in front of the memorial tree. It is, and always will be, the only picture I have of the tree. The church closed and the city of Farmers Branch, without ceremony—and probably without the awareness of any city father or mother—uprooted my tree as they tore down the building to erect a new fire station.'fan-1

I could—and in some iteration of my life would—have been devastated by the destruction of the tree. It saddened me, but I am too old (but not too wise) to be devastated by such things.  Partly because the summer before I discovered Paradise Point at Port Orford, Oregon. I love the beaches around Port Orford because even in summer they are too misty and cool for Americans’ taste—no danger of melanoma (which is what took my late partner) there. But you can walk for miles and not see another person. In the beauty. In the spectacular beauty. My students understand this less clearly than they understand writing with dashes.

A morning meditation I read daily (for reasons I can’t explain because I believe less and less in either the efficacy of or the need for such things), today tells me that “. . .we need our own personal definition of spirituality—something that will work for us. . .” The writer says his/her “definition involves being positive and creative because I believe in a positive and creative force in the universe.”

Why I should be positive and creative because the universe is escapes me. Why I should try to be anything escapes me. The universe—it seems to me—is what it is. Trees grow and are cut down. We love, and our beloved die. We find solace and joy walking the beach, and then we find solace and joy having found again a beloved. All while we have a private view of absurdity—a shadow cannot be made by nothing or a sentence by a dash—unless, of course we understand that
By Clocks, ’twas Morning, and for Night
The Bells at Distance called

But Epoch had no basis here
For Period exhaled
.

Paradise Point,Port Orford, Oregon

Paradise Point, Sunset
Port Orford, Oregon

I just discovered this blog about Port Orford. It’s worth a read.

“One Hour to Madness and Joy”

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of "second home." Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

The distant spire between two buildings: The old Mercantile Bank Tower. Now a sort of “second home.” Taken from Klyde Warren park on a January day.

I said I’d never write anything serious here. But life happens.

That doesn’t mean what follows is serious. It simply means what follows is not intended to be particularly funny. It’s meant to be joyful. I’m so unaccustomed to joy—real joy, not happiness or fun, but real joy—I don’t have a clue how to write about it or what pictures to upload to capture its essence.

The style of ottoman I'd been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

The style of ottoman I’d been trying to find for years is not my most important find at the Merc on Main.

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But bear with me. I’m going to find a way if it kills me (There! That was my version of a joke—no one ever gets my jokes, I think). Sort of like my mother saying, “If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me” (didn’t everyone’s mother say that?).

Here are some pictures that I would never in a million years (well, that’s a bit of hyperbole we all understand completely, isn’t it?) would have taken before about this time last year (let’s say March 14 is the anniversary). Are they joyful? Yes. On more levels than I can say. Are they simply ordinary pictures of a city that is not thought of particularly as a beautiful place—Dallas? Yes. Joy, like beauty, is in the eye of the subject. Since I can’t write about my joy, my observations of some scenes others may not find beautiful will have to do.

If these pictures are not your cup of tea, scroll down to the bottom and see what Walt Whitman says about joy. Surely you will approve of his description.

In case you haven’t figured it out, let me say that my joy arises not so much from what I’ve seen in the last year as from not being alone when I took these pictures.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot - for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now -- a playful fountain.

A metaphor? This block was a parking lot – for the federal court building across the street which has sorrowful memories for me. Now — a playful fountain.

Early on Sundays, a "morning bun" and coffee.

Early on Sundays, a “morning bun” and coffee.

 

The strangely beautiful "Harrow" by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

The strangely beautiful “Harrow” by Joe Lubben in another park built by the Belo family. Who would have known Dallas had such exuberance?

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.

We agreed: no Christmas exchange.
But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

But when you find the mixing bowl with a handle the cook needs, what can you do?

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[A correction (I had too much trouble posting the pictures to fiddle with them): The park itself is called Lubben Plaza.  The sculpture is called Harrow; it’s by Linnea Glatt of Dallas.]

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.
22. “One Hour to Madness and Joy”

ONE hour to madness and joy!
O furious! O confine me not!
(What is this that frees me so in storms?
What do my shouts amid lightnings and raging winds mean?)
. . . .
O something unprov’d! something in a trance!
O madness amorous! O trembling!
O to escape utterly from others’ anchors and holds!
To drive free! to love free! to dash reckless and dangerous!
To court destruction with taunts—with invitations!
To ascend—to leap to the heavens of the love indicated to me!
To rise thither with my inebriate Soul!
To be lost, if it must be so!
To feed the remainder of life with one hour of fulness and freedom!
With one brief hour of madness and joy.
(The entire poem is here.)