I recently watched an American Masters presentation featuring James Taylor and Carole King and a music venue called the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Having experienced a musical awakening in the latter 60’s and early 70’s that coincided with some of the most melodic and memorable music in Rock’s history, I was mesmerized throughout the program. I really don’t need to be jerked back 40 years into the past, and my old ears do not hear all of it anymore, but there it is. What can you do?

Of course, I began to think of what I was doing as all that music was being written and sung. I wasn’t writing and singing but I was certainly messing around with life. What I remember is the music. It was a time when a couple of dozen of us would gather up somewhere on a Friday night and simply spend the night listening to music. “Seeing” the music, if you know what I mean. We were a gentle and loving group. Agreeable in most things. The music was soul stirring. It evoked visceral emotions and spoke to a truth that in the end changed the direction this country was headed. I can’t say I was a front line force in that movement, but I can say I was on the bus.

I remember sitting in a cafe on Guadeloupe Street in Austin having a sidewalk burger and a beer when C, S & N, and at the time Young began playing in the background with CARRY ON. “Love is coming to us all”. I did so want to believe that. You listened to the words in those days. That the music was drop dead phenomenal was a plus, of course.

I know I am a victim of that generational malaise characterized by thinking that “that” music is better than “this” music. But that music, especially in the sixties and early seventies, even today churns the soul as no other that I know of. Well, maybe Beethoven’s 9th. I don’t know where this is going, except to say that If I could hear the music as I once did, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’d be laying out on the floor with my stereo as loud as “others” could abide and be there again. So what would that accomplish? Not a thing, except that through the tears, I’d be feeling pretty damned good.

These are new-crop hummingbirds bobbing around the feeder. Mostly females – most of the males having already departed for points so far south it would require at least 4 or 5 plane changes for me to catch up. I’m not going. I’ve decided to winter here in Sunny Maine. Well, we may make a trip or two to Florida to minister to the needs of family. After all, someone must do these things.

I have moved my news paper tube to make it more accessible for the route person. I’ve tied up the antique barnside rudbeckia which is at least 9 feet this year and leaning into a spread that promises to block the door. it has a golden bonnet of blossoms that is a haven for bees, butterflies and humming birds.

If I had to choose one flower for the summer it would be the family rudbeckia – the black-eyed-susan in all it’s variations, which is a lot. We have six varieties just in the deck area. The native variety comes up in just about every flower bed we have, which is a lot.

Left to their own effort, these tall spindly creatures lean in every way and lay down ultimately. Interesting how they mirror the aging process in us all. I find that I also need some propping and support as the years go by. Although I’m not falling down yet, I do notice that I don’t stand as tall and straight as I used to do.

Even the pressure treated deck railing mirrors life in a small way. It was new summer before last, sporting its sawmill yellow coloring. Now it has now acquired a nice weathered, mature gray tone. Ha! I won’t even say it.

The cedar fence is almost 30 years old but looks as old as I am. We keep thinking it will need replacing, but it looks great just the way it is. It’ll probably outlast me. There is true beauty in that old weathered look. Ha! I won’t even say it.

I decided I needed some sincere exercise today and went around the corner to Bradbury Mountain and walked the perimeter trail. I went up in the clockwise direction which meant a steep climb in the beginning with a flat and easy finish. I won’t dwell on the steep climb at the beginning but it’s enough to say that the day when I can’t do this seems nearer than ever. But I did it today! I might do it tomorrow.

So many young people on the mountain. I did see one old and wizened gray man walking toward me as I sat on a rock catching some air. I hailed him and asked if this was the Old Guy Sewing Circle meeting. He laughed and I laughed and he went on in the opposite direction.

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that the only key to happiness in old age is to accept every moment as a royal gift, using it to the very last drop, saving nothing for posterity. I hope to learn that lesson before it’s too late.

Hate is the biggest gas guzzler on the planet. It costs a lot to run out a big hate. Yet, it seems that it is one of the most popular past times out there. Everybody seems to hate something or someone.

Hate is mishandled all the time. I hate cold coffee. What I really mean is that I don’t like cold coffee. More to the point, I prefer hot coffee. We seem to like to throw out hate to cover anything in the less-than-love category. You love it or you hate it. No middle ground.

The point is this: we use the word so much that it’s poison has been somewhat diluted. Hardly a day passes that we don’t hate something. I just hate that. See what I mean? So with all that in mind I offer a short list of things I think are worthy of, at least, a mild level of hatred.

Cold coffee. See above.

Drivers who can’t decide how fast they want to drive. If you pass me and then slow down you deserve to die. Your behavior is life threatening. I intend to stand my ground. Call yo mama – it’s your last chance.

Tailgaters. Just today I was going into Freeport and this guy in one of those 4WD monsters drew up on my tail like he was about to attempt some kind of roadway copulation. I am driving a respectable, and by the way dead on legal 45 MPH in a close neighborhood area. We were approaching this deep blind gully and this fool whips out and around me right at the lip of this depression and passes me. This gully is deep enough to hide a 22 wheel tractor-trailer. Forgive me for briefly thinking this idiot might end up as little more than bug guts on the grill of the afore mentioned tractor trailer coming up the hill. I mean – who are these jerks? Why do we even need them?

Political robo calls. I have a don’t call fix on my phone. Did you know that the lawmakers who passed the legislation exempted themselves? Yes, the same folk who told you that your suppertime nightmare was over forgot to tell you that they could interrupt your meal anytime they choose. I hate that. Wait: I meant to say, I hate the jerks we elected who did that. What is it about these people that they think they somehow deserve more than the rest of us.

War. My oh my, how the politicians love to rattle their sabers. Let someone threaten to shut off the pump in some desert outback and we suddenly find WMDs or human suffering that demands we intervene with our own flesh and blood. By the way, ever notice how the public treasury empties out during war while the corporate treasury overflows? I just hate that. Wait a minute! You don’t think there is a connection there, do you?

Finally, religious nut cases. We have religious freedom in this country. That means you can practice your religion without fear of oppression. It does not mean that this is a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation, or any other kind of religions nation. It does not mean you are right and the rest of us are wrong. It does not mean that your religious beliefs should be imposed upon the rest of us. In case you missed it – if your religion does not breed an abiding compassion for your fellow human beings, you might want to re-think whatever is going on in your heart.

I’m sorry, I know I said “finally”, but this just came up. I hate FaceBook!

I moved things around today in my “space”. What I mean is that I moved furniture and equipment, and uncovered dust I believe King Tut shook off his sandals. I have more room but it’s tighter around the edges.

My couch is too big for this space. It’s a three cushion monster that makes a bed on which I wouldn’t sentence any but the most masochistic of my friends to a night.

My main desk is entirely too big. It was a gift from a friend at Tulane University when I was moving back to Maine from New Orleans back in ’93. It was a used up oak teacher’s desk when I got it but it is one of those things that is spacious to a fault and therefore to some minds, perfect. I sanded it down, painted some of the panels and have used it for many years. It was free.

The end result of my juggling around is that I have twice the room in the middle of the room but it is, as I have said, rather tricky around the edges. Cozy. Interesting. A smaller couch and a more utilitarian desk and I would be golden!

The former arrangement was cater-cornered. In plain language, it used a corner as a base line. It always seemed to me to be a waste of space. And it is. Considering my preference toward Euclidian squareness, I can’t believe i set it up that way to begin with. I rather prefer things to be along lines at right angles. I mean, a right angle is after all, right. Right?

If I had the money, I’d have a Swedish decorator come in and configure this space to be sparse, functional and square. Lots of room and light. Glass everywhere.

But then, if money were not a problem (I’d need some therapy in order to understand that concept) I’d get lost on some island somewhere. I’d leave Euclid at home. I’d walk along curved paths at oblique angles to sheer cliffs. I’d probably forget where I put the couch. I’d probably forget the couch altogether. Maybe a few other things as well. But that’s the point, isn’t it?

Yours perpendicularly – Jerry Henderson

Actually, I can’t see going to Mars.  I’m sure it will be done.  Not in my lifetime but maybe in the next 50 or 100 years.  Multiplied billions, yea even trillions will be spent.  It will be spent, of course, by Martians.  God knows WE can’t afford it. Unless the Chinese will loan us the money.

Meanwhile back on earth, where life, that can be detected without the aid of sophisticated and expensive instruments, goes on.  

I stayed up last night to see what the Mars Landing Machine Curiosity would do. What it did was to precipitate an orgy of hugging, yelling, grinning and exclaiming by a room full of engineers!  That alone was an event well worth the investment.   

But do we really need to re-create Star Trek in real time America, and go where no man has gone before?  By the way, I love Trekie clothes.  If only I could dress like Captain Picard.  Dr. Crusher could help with my belly fat.  No way I would appear in public in one of those tight fitting outfits with my gut hanging out there to be zapped by somebody’s phaser, or what’s that Romulan thing called – a discombobulator?

Seriously, I am impressed.  Two hundred fifty three days and over 380 million miles!  I suppose we will now be thinking and talking about the first peopled mission.  Unless there is a lot I don’t know – and that’s a pretty safe bet – it’s going to take years to even come up with an idea about a vehicle that will get people there and bring them home.  This is pure science.  Finding stuff and learning stuff and trying to see what it all means, while building the tools and machines that are needed along the way.  God, that’s purely thrilling!

Meanwhile, here, as I have said, in real time America,  life goes on.  We’ll try to pay our taxes, keep the grass down, pay attention to each other and cast the occasional eye toward the Red Planet, now and then, in recognition of our obligation to make it happen no matter what the cost.  We just have to keep those engineers hugging each other.

* * * * * *

Excuse me sir, but don’t you think you’re being a bit sarcastic?

Moi?

Well, it sounded rather harsh – that part about engineers.

Why, some of my best friends are engineers.  Are you an engineer?

Well, as a matter of fact I am.

So what’s the problem?  Do you need a hug?

Well, No.  A little butt pat will do just fine, thank you.