We went for a walk in the woods this afternoon
Not many afternoons left to do that without
Special consideration – snowshoes, skis, crampons
We climbed our local mountain in the sub 40? chill
Shedding clothing on the way up and reaching for it on the way down
I could have been talked out of it – lazy to the bone
But here’s the thing – I get more than I give to it
I am remembering how I used to run these same trails
On which I now strain for breath as I walk slowly up them
But that list is endless, it seems, and is not profitable

We photographed each other standing by a rock wall
That proclaimed some whimsical intelligence
That left a window enclosing an elliptical stone
That seemed to say, “See, we actually had fun doing this”

It’s impossible to go anywhere in these woods
Without walking in someone’s footsteps
Where love was made, life was lived
And Death called every name

Sometimes, while sitting in November’s afternoon sun, I catch myself gazing not at the bony maples in their stark beauty, or the sky so sharply blue and cold, but downward at the old pocked and scared brick beneath my boots, a patch of lichen sheathing a point on a sandstone flag and the endless patterns etched by time and a low fall sun in those old salvaged cross ties that seemed like such a deal at the time.

A concrete pot that held petunias in their day stands empty of all but cold soil and fallen leaves.  The gardens all about are full of the dead and dying awaiting a moment when some mysterious gene will wake up with a program of flourishing life, symmetry and beauty.  The pleasure I feel is palpable.  But I’ve never been hard to please in the out of doors.

The sun warms me though it is not long for warming.  I am beginning to wonder if I can get to my feet having set for a spell with my knees drawn up so.  It occurs to me that I, with my cracks, blemishes and faded color, fit right in with the textured weathered and decaying world about me.  I had to smile thinking that someone passing by might not see me, so well camouflaged, amid the lichens, fallen leaves, grasses and lilies gone by.  Particularly if I were quite still.

I have never stayed up past 2 AM on an election night. I’m not sure that what I was doing could be called “staying up” either. I ended up turning the TV toward my position in bed so that I could close my eyes without the concurrent danger of falling out of a chair.

I had actually fallen into a rather deep sleep while reading and listening at the same time. Due to a bit of earlier imbibing, my system needed a bathroom break and, as is usual, I woke up to take care of that duty and noticed quite a celebration going on in Chicago. It couldn’t mean but one thing.

I actually felt the President would win this election, but I didn’t think it would be determined in one day. Poor Carl Rove, even after everyone else was conceding the results, and while strangling on his own hubris, held out until the floor just fell out from under him. One would expect that he would just fade away, but his “kind” never get that message. The man spent, as it is said, multiplied millions of other peoples – read corporate – money (thanks to the Supremes) to spread lies and distortions which have worked their dark magic in the past and did not this time. I wish we as a nation could get past this childish tactic.

But to move on, we can only hope that comments Republican leadership have made which seem to embrace a dirty tricks philosophy will turn out to be TV rhetoric and not a plan for sabotage. Mitch McConnell is on record, for instance, saying that if Obama wins this election, the Republicans will make it impossible for him to govern. They actually tried that tactic and I believe the nation is tired of it. This country wants movement in Washington. Not a my-way-or-the-highway kind of political strategy.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I am ecstatic about four more years of a truly good man in the White House who believes that government is for the people and if those needs are met then everything else works. Be well, and stay tuned.

Jerry Henderson

They say it could be worse, and I’d have to agree. However, having the 4th confirmed reservation to fly home canceled is somewhat distressing.

I am writing this from a Holiday Express in Oldsmar, not far from where we were staying, and out of the range of kitty dander. I had made it though a full eight days without much trouble. Then, I began to fog up and have some trouble breathing – wheezing and coughing. It was decided to move, and in so doing hopefully help me avoid the ER, and secondly let Michelle and Michael have some much needed time with those two newly adopted Ethiopian kids without us there absorbing energy needed elsewhere.

The kids are Adeline (Adi) and Lucas. 5+ and 3 years. They are delightful children, sister and brother, who have fallen into a life they could never have imagined. There is a long way to go, and much of it is up hill. They have two wonderful parents dedicated to them with a dedication that reaches far back in their relationship.

We were scheduled to fly home on Monday when Sandy intervened. We rescheduled to a much earlier flight on Monday thinking we could sneak in before the door shut. Flight canceled. Then we made what we considered a cinch reseveration for Wednesday and that was scratched as well late Tuesday. Now we have the next slot: Saturday at 6 AM! We are still playing airline roulette with no success.

So, it is what it is. I guess we could be home without power and stoking the fires (and yes that is exactly what I would prefer) but here we are in sunshine instead.

We have been walking for a hour each day and enjoying that highly appreciated perk of the deep south in a gated community. I could get used to that. Reading in the sun by the pool is the high point of the committed sybarite. No, I wouldn’t like that every day but the option would be nice.

Then I am reminded of you who have been through a real storm and actual power outages. I am reminded of thousands who have lost everything and are suffering indescribable hardships. I have had you on my mind. Well, there have been a few moments when I was toping off my glass, when I must confess, there was a brief lapse in the thinking-of-others-first thing. But it’s the truth – I have been concerned that everyone is well and nearing Normal Harbor after the storm. For too many it will be as though the tide is running against them.

Obviously, except for the asthma/allergy crisis, we have had it easy. So we have to bunk up in a nice hotel for three days. Don’t feel sorry for us. And, of course, there is no place like home. What else can I say?

Be well and stay tuned.

I’ve never met anybody who didn’t enjoy, once in a while, a bit of undiluted leisure. Oh, I have known a few workaholics, but even they had their moments of pure distraction and inactivity.

This week Carol Ann and I are keeping watch over two teenagers while their parents are in Ethiopia collecting two newly adopted children – a brother and sister. This is an easy assignment. The kids – they are adults in many ways – are a joy to be with.

They live in a spacious home in a gated community on the west coast of Florida, which makes getting out for a power walk a more or less safe thing to do. I could use that perk where I live in Maine, but, alas, it isn’t there on our twisty shoulder-less roads with pickups and log trucks whizzing by.

There is a feature of the house that is called by the real estate/building industry a lanai. It’s actually a screened in back patio with a pool. I suppose that’s enough of a hybrid concoction that a fancy Hawaiian name like lanai is indeed appropriate. What it is is the most enjoyable place to lie about and read, dip one’s body into soothing waters, fall into a restful nap or sample some distilled sprit in the late afternoon. Leisure.

We just recently got back from a week in Canada and we didn’t stop the whole time. Can’t really say it was a leisurely vacation. Can’t say this is actually a vacation but there is a major leisure component.

I have this friend who makes snide remarks about me living the high life as a member of the leisure class down here. I tell him I have certain responsibilities and can not avoid the leisure part. I had to work at it, but finally can spend a major part of the afternoon reading, dipping, falling and sampling without even a tinge of guilt. I could get used to this. But alas, this is not real life.

Friday these two new Americans will arrive and this specious home will become the Dance Hall of Life – all over again. I better rest up for the homecoming. Probably a few hours relaxing in the lanai would do the trick.

I want to thank all of you who have expressed your concern and support at the death of Audry Henderson on October 4th. She was my brother’s wife of 50 years this December 14.

She had suffered from arthritis and diabetes for many years. Within the past three years, she had lost both legs due to the diabetes. She was in her high motorized chair when she fell onto the floor and seriously cracked a cervical vertebra and sustained many bruises and scrapes. She died of these injuries later that night.

She will be buried Tuesday in Baton Rouge after a funeral Mass at St. Gerard Catholic Church. My brother, Ken, is doing well, under the circumstances, and, of course, has a difficult time ahead. Audry was 77.

I will remember a kind, ever attentive and patient woman. She was devoted to her family, her husband and her church. I would be remiss if I did not also say that she was the finest Cajun Cook I ever knew. Her roots were down in Church Point LA in the heart of the Evangeline country. Feast day dinners at Audry’s table were always a culinary high point. I do not know of any place today where such a meal can be had. But of course, there are places. I’m just not there. It’s probably a good thing or I’d be more than a few pounds over my fighting weight.

Her greatest legacy is the love, wisdom and tender memories that will reside in the hearts of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sail on Audry.

We didn’t think we’d make it this year, but as things developed, we had the time. CA worked all night at the Hospice House in Auburn and crashed on a pillow next to me as I drove us up to Unity to the Common Ground Country Fair a few weekends ago.

If you ever wondered where all the hippies went, wonder no more. They, their children and grandchildren gather annually at the CGCF. You don’t have to be bare foot, wallowing in loose clothing and sporting dreadlocks to fit in, but it helps.

We never quite remember exactly how to get to the fairgrounds for some reason. We had a map and a GPS, but neither did much to enhance our confidence – until we noticed the car in front of us. It was a vintage Subaru with a well worn boat rack and at least fifteen political statements on the rear end. That car had to be going to the Common Ground Fair. We were dead right.

The last time we were there there was a cutout at a junction where “Seniors” could be directed to a lot much closer to the main gate. I remember the Volunteer looking at me, nodding approvingly, and directing me to the special parking lot for older people. Hey! I put in the years. Deal with it.

Not this year. We had a good mile (it seemed) to walk but it was fun and we got in for the discounted “senior” fare. Best deal in that neck of the woods. Actually, I think it was the ONLY deal in that neck of the woods.

Our first discussion was about where we should meet if we should become separated. Why that seemed to be a problem was due to the enormous crowds. I suggested the lamb burger place or the main gate but neither were centrally located. We finally found the main building where there were restrooms, the T shirt shop next door and the exhibition hall where the best eggplant could be seen. That settled, we moved off and never became separated. Go figure.

The very first thing I noticed was what I notice each year. These are the people. The 99%. I know, there are a few trust fund hippies milling about. God love them. At least their essential values are in tact. They try to dress down but it shows through. They drive off in their Volvo wagons and Escalades.

Another thing is that except for CA’s eyeliner, there was little makeup to be seen. Natural gray seemed to be the hair color of choice and flowing diaphanous gowns seemed to be the preferred covering for many women and specially those more generously proportioned.

Over the calf rubber boots seemed to be the favorite footwear which by some strange logic harmonized perfectly with the afore mentioned diaphanous gown – pink, I remember it being. Those boots were everywhere.

I did see more dreadlocks than I ever saw even in the Old Port late of a Saturday evening. It all balances out. There were babies in carriages, babies on the hip, babies on the breast. There were old and young. I seemed to notice more benches than ever before. I sat on more of them than ever before. I wonder what that’s all about?

The Common Ground is not only an organic gathering place – it is that and then some. It is a conclave of every shade of liberal persuasion known to actual thinking humans. I felt so at home. And we got some great planting garlic as well.

It’s a rainy day. I began the day making a list of rainy day stuff to do, including, of course, to lie on the couch and read. I finally decided to actually get a few things done and first on my rainy day list was a pile of old clothes in my closet that needed to be donated. So I gathered up a double arm load of old clothes, all of which I have fond memories, and into which at one time in the misty past, I could actually fit.

There were also two shopping bags filled with old telephones, cables, Palm Pilots and their associated chargers that needed a new home at the transfer station.

The biggie was this old ugly filing cabinet in my kitchen – I should say kitchenette – it’s not really big enough to warrant the full title. I realized that the stuff in the two drawers that was worth keeping would fit in one file drawer in another cabinet with room to spare. And the stuff I could trash, which included six boxes of 3.5 inch floppy backup diskettes from my painful PC days, was enormous!

You have to be careful when cleaning out old files. Look at each piece. In one folder I found the official copy of my mother’s death certificate. There was information there that was actually valuable to me, and only me. If you had asked for it I would have said I don’t have it. I would have said my brother probably has it. Well, it was there and now it is re-filed and retrievable.

So with that old filing cabinet emptied out and taken downstairs I suddenly found the possibility for a reconfiguring of that corner of my little kitchenette that would open up room I never dreamed of having. The centerpiece of this project is a little trestle table I have had for nearly 30 years. In it’s present position it is a collection place for whatever can be piled on it. There was my toaster, a charger for my 18 volt power tools, a pair of pliers, a rasp for shaping ceramic tiles, a bag of rocks from some beach or other, a couple of bottles of booze, a fly swatter, several empty spice bottles and among a few other pieces of everyday detritus there was also a tin of saltine crackers I haven’t been into for over a year at least. The quality of my life would not be diminished one bit if I never had another Nabisco Saltine Cracker.

In it’s new configuration my little table is home to several of my frequently used appliances. Toaster, bread machine, vacuum sealer and the afore mentioned bottles of booze. The wide board that connects the ends of the table serves as a convenient storage shelf for some larger pots. I’m excited.

I had no idea about the emotional energy I had invested in this little project until as I stood there admiring this new arrangement when the bottom board of that little trestle table let go with a bang and all those items that had looked so serene resting on it came crashing down and onto the floor.

I was incredulous. How could a kind and benevolent god permit such a calamity to invade my serenity? I turned up my hearing aids so I might hear the murmuring of angels who usually, I am told, have answers. I even listened for the doorbell announcing one of my more spiritual friends who might come up and say something reassuring, like, Namaste! Which means, of course, “Come get your grits”. Just the thought of a big bowl of hot spicy grits made me feel blessed already.

I’m not sure it was an angel but something told me to get off my ass and clean it up and fix the damned thing. I had to laugh. It wasn’t in my plan, but what ever is? So, I cleaned up the mess and fixed the damned thing. It is now much better than it was.

You ever notice how such an event can actually make your day? Amazing!

That time in your life 
when it begins to sink in 
that you are probably not a centenarian
in the making 
When you can accept the 
consequences of your mistakes 
without apology 
When evening colors seem 
perfectly suited to the illumination 
of risky thinking down darkening paths 
in the company of agile opinions that carve 
eloquent turns in long conversations 
When you know what you know 
and it is not yet enough 
When you surprisingly begin to reclaim
what once you freely traded 
for the approval of others
That is the time of your life.
 

 

Someone once said that watching baseball was like watching paint dry. I’ve seen paint dry faster than a baseball game.

We watched a movie and CA decided it was bedybye time for her and I decided to watch a RedSox ball game just because I was still awake and felt adventurous. I can’t believe it. Live and learn.

First thing I want to say is, “Who cares?”

Second thing is, paint really does dry faster.

Third thing is, who the hell are those over-the-hill jerks with diarrhea of the mouth who think what they have to say is in some way what we all want to hear, or in some remote way is related to a baseball game? I found that I could turn the sound off and actually enjoy the game. Why in the hell are they even there? Is it some kind of jobs program? Would they all be in a half way house for the un-talented were it not for this job? Give me a break!

So I drank a beer and ate a few nuts and went to bed. Did I miss anything? I guarantee I did not. I can remember whole years without seeing a baseball game. Several in a row, as a matter of fact. I don’t feel neglected. OK, it was something to do. I suppose that is the genius of he game. It’s something to do. I actually get more out of solitaire. Or even the beer. Well, I’d say it’s toss-up.

Good night Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea. I always wanted to say that. I thank you Walter.