A FaceBook friend of mine, we’ll call him Doug to protect the innocent, recently posted a map of Jack Kerouac’s journey “On The Road” back in the 50’s. It brought back memories of trying to find some resonance with the work when I read it, and I remember that I finally gave up. I don’t remember being too impressed. I probably had indigestion or something. He just sounded lost and aimless to me. There’s no question that he made an impact on thousands in or proximate to his generation. I was otherwise focused, at the time.

Steinbeck’s TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE in 1962 and Least Heat Moon’s BLUE HIGHWAYS in 1978, which could have drawn on Kerouac’s work as well as many others, meant more to me in my more or less laced up mindset by and by. Perhaps I should give Kerouac another chance. I don’t feel the laces are as snug as they once were.

I’ve always thought I’d write about some trip or “journey” of some kind myself. I have said so at various times and invariably someone pipes up and says the same thing. The thing is, every man’s – whoops! – I should say person’s journey is different, if not actually unique, and deserves a telling. Ah, but it’s the telling that’s the issue, isn’t it? That telling that holds together as story and, of course, self revelation. I suspect many of us do not tell our stories for fear of just that.

Now, as I think about journeys so wonderfully chronicled by pilgrims, adventurers, seekers and story tellers, I wonder what it is that draws us into that dream world of creativity. It has to be, in my humble opinion, that we all have a story to tell. Whether it is an actual journey, or time spent in service, or memorably interesting job or even a failed relationship. Our lives are nothing if not full of story.

I can remember times as a child sitting on the floor against the wall as my father’s brothers and sisters, all 12 of them, would begin sharing and laughing at each others stories for hours. If I only had a little digital recorder in my pocket then – back in the 40’s – what a trove of source material I would have. I have to smile as I do this, thinking how memory is sometimes better when creatively re-constructed. Very un-technical, but more fun, and at times more accurate.

Anyway, Mr. Kerouac set an entire generation to wander-lusting and I am sure many have chronicled their journeys somehow. Are you one of those? We wait to see. The road beckons.

Snowy evenings demand special considerations when planning a relaxing and nourishing meal. All day I was thinking: SOUP! I’ve never been much of a soup chef, but tonight I stumbled onto a combination of ingredients that made me wish that there was no limit to what one could eat at one meal.

Here’s what I did.

Sauté in olive oil –

One medium to large onion chopped
One whole garlic pod minced
One large stalk of celery chopped

Take two links of your favorite sausage – Italian, Cajun, chicken or whatever you like and strip the “skin” and make a bunch of penny sized balls out of it. Just take the skinned links and split them lengthwise, then cut across them in sections to make just the right amount for the little balls.

As the onion mix is working in the pot put the little sausage balls in and move it around until the onion is transparent and the sausage is warmed throughout. The sausage will probably turn white not brown.

Chop up a bunch of curly kale, wash it and put that in the pot and cover until it wilts. It will be about six cups of kale.

Keep stirring this along the way.

Throw in one can of diced tomatoes, one can of drained and washed white beans, two medium diced red potatoes, one large carrot diced, and enough chicken stock to cover it all. I used about 1 1/2 quarts.

Don’t put any seasoning in yet. Bring things to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. THEN taste. You’ll probably need some freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper and a dash of salt. Be careful of the salt. I used a teaspoon of Tabasco. I can’t do anything without a little Tabasco. Probably should have used more.

You should adjust anything that seems right to you. You never know: you could discover something exciting.

Simmer a while longer and then let it sit for a while.

Cornbread demands a presence at the table, of course.

There comes a time – at least, I assume it does – in most of our lives, when the specter of moving into a new and completely different phase of life confronts us. It comes up to consider the possibility of leaving the cherished home site or situation and moving into something more manageable, for instance.

There will come a time when we must move on and leave this treasured spot on the edge of the woods. In gentle preparation for that moment, we have begun culling out those obvious items that are purely meaningless and hauling it off to the dump. It’s actually a so-called “transfer station”, but nobody is keeping score. But the heavy lifting is yet to come and it could take longer than we imagine. It’s the kind of activity that we both dread to do and are anxious to do. I suppose that is the nature of transitions.

The thought of moving on curdles my blood and also heightens my sense of adventure and being alive. The reality is that there will come a time when we will not be able to take care of this place. It’s part of the natural rhythm of life. Oh, if one of us wins the big one, we will be able to just hire the work done and be as mobil as we want to be. I read those headlines about someone winning mega millions and think – it’s just a matter of time until my number comes up. Yes, I know. There are balms available that can calm such specious thinking.

There are hundreds of books, CDs and cassette tapes. Give them away, I hear you say. Take them to one of those places where they accept boxes of such stuff without a word. Don’t do a close inspection of every single book. Actually, I will hold onto Baugh’s Literary History of England. About two and three quarter inches on thin paper – it does not miss a point. I’ll keep the poetry – a few other volumes that remind me of the loftier aspects of the human experience. OK, I’ll probably hold onto some pulp as well, just to keep me honest. God, how I love a mystery.

Around this rambling house are nooks and crannies into which is stuffed every imaginable piece of useful, useless and unused “stuff”. There are kayaks, bicycles, snowshoes, badminton sets, bows and arrows, a chainsaw, a wood chipper, a table saw, all kinds of battery powered tools and there is a photographic darkroom – just to give you an idea. Actually, the darkroom equipment is not useful anymore except to a scant few holdouts. If you want it you can have it. This list is only a “symbol” of what is actually stored around this place.

So the task is laid out before us and, as I have said, we are beginning to hack away at it. It’s the mechanics of transition. It’s not easy work, but it should reveal something important about us. Something I am actually anxious to discover. I really think I already know what it is, and it is this: You can go farther with a lighter load.

There was a time, back in the searching 70s when meaning was attached to everything, that in the middle of a warm night I hauled the contents of a large storage space in my building to a huge dumpster. I needed to make a break and rid myself of stuff, the possession of which, I could no longer justify, and which simply did not hold meaning for my life anymore and needed to be jettisoned into the night sky. It was transition time. I needed to lighten my load.

There was as many as a dozen suits, kitchen ware that drug my memories back decades, dozens of sundry items that filled boxes upon boxes – like rocks and mementos collected from places once visited and which had no function except to remind me of things I did not want to be reminded of and so should be let go. It was one of my finest “grownup” moments.

This cleansing took most of the night. It occurred to me then as it does now that this kind of purging is best done beneath the covering of darkness. It is best not to have too bright a light shine upon every once prized artifact of a past life as it tumbles into the rubbish bin. I think that’s the key: begin at midnight and work until dawn.

When my storage room was finally emptied, I felt light of heart, energized and quite hungry. It was time for an early breakfast at the Pig Stand on I-10 where I celebrated with three of my most faithful friends: grits, sausage and egg.

I’m Jerry Henderson Be well and stay tuned.

I’m a sucker for a new bag. It doesn’t have to have a purpose in my life, as such, it only needs to be, somehow in my limited experience, different.

It all started years ago – I’m talking forty odd years ago – when I began carrying a camera, film, extra lenses and other related junk everywhere I went, just in case I came upon a picture that needed to be captured. I came upon a lot of pictures. I ended up pretending to be a professional photographer for a number of years and had a lot of fun doing that. I collected so much camera gear that it would fill the trunk of my car. I might not have a suitcase filled with gear always with me but that bag was always there.

Well, one day I realized I was not in the photographic “business” anymore but meanwhile, I had begun adding other items to that bag effectively displacing camera gear with personal stuff and that bag continued to be indispensable as always. Think purse. In it you will find a vestigial camera in the form of a tiny digital thing smaller than a bar of Dial soap. There’s an iPhone, flashlight, passport (just in case), scissors, Kleenex, extra glasses, batteries for hearing aids, spare medication, a mini bottle of Tabasco (just in case), hand sanitizer and an emory board. See what I mean? I couldn’t leave home without it.

Carrying a shoulder bag has provoked some concern among several gatekeepers I have encountered over the years. One incident will do. It was at a Walmart in Bangor. I mean that’s two loosing entities all balled up into one sad experience. There was some plastic hangers there I wanted and I happened to be next door. As I walked into the store this greeter person stopped me and wanted to keep my bag while I was in the store. I looked at him with my best “You dumb fuck” stare and told him he could not have my bag. He then said he would have to “tag” the bag so security would know he had checked it out. I asked him what “checked it out” meant. He wanted to look into the bag. Meanwhile several women walked by carrying bags that I could hide in. I asked why he was not stopping those women. That seemed to give him some pause. I went and got my hangers and left. The same thing happened at a Regal theater and a couple of other places. That was all I needed to turn me against profiling. When I worked at Beans security looked into every bag. That wasn’t selective profiling. They did not discriminate. They considered every employee a thief.

I keep telling CA that an iPad would fit in my bag with room to spare. She pretends not to hear me. But I do on occasion carry my laptop around and that, of course, requires a special bag. I have had a laptop since somewhere around the turn of the century and have managed in that time to put together a brace of six shoulder computer bags – seven if you count a backpack with a computer slot in it.

I have tried to combine functions with these bags with little success. I don’t want to carry a laptop around with me like I carry my “purse”, even when I have incorporated the purse function into the computer bag. So it’s really apples and oranges. I have one computer bag that accommodates the laptop, other writing materials, A book perhaps and regular office stuff. That’s nice specially if I have several projects I am working on, or am on an extended trip.

I even have a spare duplicate “purse” bag that is a nice light blue with leather trim. I have never used it. I figured that by now I would have worn the original one to threads. But that has not happened. It’s one of the higher quality items LLBean ever sold.

I decided to pull out the new “duplicate” bag and perhaps use it for a while, you know, just to break it in. I can’t find it. I have looked high and low – whatever that means. CA says maybe I gave it away. Me? Give a bag away? Are you nuts? I’d never give a bag away. No telling when I will need it.

I am waiting for that moment in the middle of the night when some remote memory switch in my tiny brain snaps shut and the picture of where I put that bag will pops into my mind like a technicolor sexual dream. I’ll get up and get it and spend the rest of the night loading it up and checking out how it looks with various outfits. Just kidding of course. About the outfits. I don’t have outfits.

Happy New Year – such as it is. This is what a pano shot looks like from my window.

The National Weather people say that there is a fast moving Nor’easter coming for Thursday (that’d be tomorrow) and Friday that could dump 9 plus inches with 30 mph winds.

I know – most of you who will read this will say something like: “Get a grip, fella! We’re way ahead of you.” Or maybe: :”You just wake up, sleepyhead?” (Well, yeah . . .). Someone else will say that I should get off my duff and get down to the local supper store and stock up on processed foods, beer and that all time favorite storm staple – potato chips. (Fried, not baked).

Good grief! It is winter and it is Maine. What did I think life here would be like? I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with another in the long and growing list of things old people have problems with. Cold tops the list. If all I have to do is feed my stove, make coffee and write a few emails then I am set. I feel it more than I used to – 30 years ago. I don’t care who tells you what – 30 years makes a difference, specially when the count begins at 50.

Next, the mere physicality of dealing with ice and snow becomes a challenge. What am I saying? The mere physicality of doing anything becomes a challenge. This is my most un-favorite thing about becoming an old person. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot I love about being older. I am particularly fond of the way people think that because I have lived a long time I know a lot of stuff. Hellooo!! I remember a lot of stuff, which is way different from actually knowing stuff.

Here it is the first day of a new year. Time marches on. One thing I have learned from the past 30 years is that I don’t have another 30 years. It’s just what is, and it does not for one second take away the absolute joy I have in living this one present day! So what? I can no longer climb up on the roof and dislodge the ice jambs. So what? I can no longer ski 20 miles or run 10 at the drop of a hat. So what? I can no longer work up 10 cords of fire wood from huge 8 foot logs with only a chain saw, a maul and wedge. I actually did that once and I firmly believe that is the reason I am likely not to live another 30 years.

I just noticed it is zero degrees, and my stove is dark. So I’ll feed the stove, make a cup of tea and read on into the new year. One must firmly establish a beachhead in new territory, don’t you think?

May 2014 be a good year for us all.

I’m Jerry Henderson –
Be well and stay tuned.