November 1974

November 17, 1974
A gray, wet Sunday. We stayed up very late last night watching movies. The children are out of the house today. Their overnight guests up and gone along with my contingent. I remember the lovely liquid hush of rain drumming and sliding, slipping and tinkling over everything outside.
But at this moment, I’m enjoying a lovely, lazy morning, although I did chop onions for chili before settling down with coffee, the newspaper, and my trusty journal.
Item: A new unit of matter has been discovered—something smaller and quicker than the atom and its components. How exciting to see science and metaphysics approaching a common denominator!
The creek is muddy and I have a strong desire to go wandering. I want to breathe in the clean, sharp air and revel in the sights, sounds and feelings of fall. Leaves, stricken from the trees with the onslaught of rain, carpet the yard in green, yellow, and brown. Chip’s—darling Chip’s marker–is white in the woods. I’d planned to put plastic over it to shield it from the weather this winter but the season has been fair and dry, I never got round to it. Hope it isn’t too late.
I should answer the several letters awaiting me, but I cling to procrastination. No dilly-dallying on Monday. Snap, snap, house cleaning, shopping, and banking as well. Safe on Sunday, I am free to love the lazy hours that end the weekend. I’m like a swimmer floating—not obliged to stroke lest I sink. Able to drift and contemplate in perfect ease of mind and body.
November 19, 1974
Almost midnight. I ought to be cozying down for some sorely needed sleep instead of scribbling at my desk. Rain on the roof glistens in crystal strings from the eaves while the brook chatters like a madman in the dark.
The Buddha incense burner meditates on Dad’s little copper box. Am so glad I have that from him. It’s homely and bent at the corners but has an unknown, mysterious quality that speaks to me of him. My Chinese chest and pencil holder keep the Buddha company, and even the blue and white glass decanter has an Oriental design. A black and steel crucifix lends an occidental note while the clay head of my unfinished centurion brings thoughts of Rome and high school. Why am I describing these things?
Perhaps to read in future, when such memories have faded…and, like Yeats’ poem, I am “old and full of sleep, and dreaming by the fire”? But that is a long ways off. Back to the present.
Baked bread today and one whole loaf was demolished this evening. I love the smell of yeast in the kitchen. All things domestic drift into the mind upon scenting it.

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Published in: on October 7, 2018 at 11:25 am  Comments (2)  

Journal Entry: October 23, 1974

October 23, 1974
The wind is stripping the cedar fronds, hurling their golden fragments across street and yard. I heard the wind blowing in the dark when I went to bed. The sighing of trees was so loud and breathy that it could easily have been the voice of a larger-than-life goddess a’crying through the night.
Had a bit of fever in the evening. Taking vitamins to discourage the old ship from being dry-docked but the barnacles may get me yet.
Scratched a sorry bit of poetry down in the near dark of my bedroom about midnight, inspired by the wind and deep thoughts. I shouldn’t record it here as it hasn’t been polished and I’m not good at refinements of verse.
I wake at night to rain,
And warm in bed, hear
The cedars sigh in the wind’s embrace.
Fir needles tip-toe, dry and drunken
Across the redwood deck.

Beyond my window
The brook flows dark
And narrow over ragged stones.
Hold me through the moaning
Of trees.
Hark instead to love whispers
And let us
Sleep a little longer.

I shan’t apologize for failings and faults which are privy to one’s diary.

November 2, 1974 Saturday
Cloudy again after brief morning sun. If we don’t get a cold snap soon will have to plant the rest of my bulbs somewhere other than in the brick planter and geranium cart. The geraniums and petunias are blooming like mad. Yellow leaves on the Mountain Laurels show here and there as they do among the peonies. The honeysuckle vine has little bunches of red berries.

Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 8:26 am  Leave a Comment  

October Thoughts – 1974

October 13, 1974 (How a grumpy morning can end in gold.)
Nushka and I are in the fragrant gold and green sanctuary of McIver. No hunters with guns to worry about. Read until 2 o’clock by the fire when I’d finally had enough and tottered off to bed with that curiously unreal sensation one has when overtired. Dreamed but with a thread of worry running here and there…about the boys and their dad [on their big fishing trip}. Afraid to take the phone off the hook because they might call – and suffered two early wakenings because of that. Surrendered at 10:30 and heaved myself ungraciously downstairs for coffee, additionally soured because Tom Cat had messed in the bath tub and I had to clean that up before performing my own morning ablutions. Also cross because Paige, exiting for work, had exchanged one nuisance for another. She let Tom Cat out and Pickwick in, so he had growled and purred and trampled my sleep wracked frame until that, combined with the phone calls, persuaded me to abandon ship. With coffee and the bloated Sunday paper, I felt somewhat restored though my eyes were like puncture wounds from last night’s TV and the reading of practically 3 books! Nush barked whenever car wheels crunched by, and I muttered maledictions and curses to turn away unwary guests. “No people!” I repeated darkly, aloud. “No people today, darn it!”
But once showered and groomed, I appeared surprisingly civilized. Presentable. Not a misanthrope at all. The gray sky had thinned and the blue linings were shining through. Ought to do something. Not read. Eyes too far gone and those must be preserved. Being blind would be horrible – or having to wear spectacles. [I snicker as I copy this.} Must put letters in the mailbox; all written except for finishing the one to Dad.
Nush leaped all over me at this activity. Full of health – no bugs left worth a hoot in his system. Guilt, guilt. “Slob,” I scolded myself. “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you take your poor dog for a walk? Getting too old? You didn’t treat Chip that way!”
I was beaten. Packed my canvas creel with necessities, such as this book, doggy treats, and a large green apple. Caught one inning of the 2nd World Series game. Dodgers ahead 1 to 0. then cleaned up Nushka’s garbage dump on the far side of the house. Ick! I should treat him good? But off we went for the walk – Nush so sunny and joyful, rushing, leaping, jumping back to worship and welcome me – I am reformed and restored. The forest is my temple, and Nush, like Chip before him, my devoted attendant and fellow pilgrim.
We’ve taken a side path, one newly revealed in the wilting sere undergrowth. A beautiful cluster of young, smooth skinned maples rise in the sparsely wooded clearing. Brown leaves are down, green ones up. The colors are not so brilliant this year as it has been too dry. The dogwoods, many of them, are crackling and parched –gypsies turned from laughing color into faded mummies. Birds disport themselvesas though I were a ghost. They ignore me and Nush too. We’re resting – white flags up. A peace party.
Later
We’ve tramped through a maze of cow paths and/or deer trails and have enjoyed a whole new scene. Points up how routine can get you on neat little tracks that by-pass whole areas of your life. Areas you never explore or realize. Of course, some may be pretty thorny or otherwise unpleasant, like the deceptively attractive red-leafed vine climbing a tall fir I just passed. The vine is a socially motivated bit of poison oak.
Have now come upon a silver log, airily arched and upholstered with green and gold moss; all to provide me with a sweet chaise lounge. Lucky me. Alive and healthy in the sun drenched October forest with Nush at my side and a fat green apple still uneaten.
Still Later
Almost to the fence where I slither under via a favorite chuck hole. Sun slants further southwest and the leaves that tremble loose from the trees sound like furtive footsteps. The bushes are still thick with black berries, some fat, sweet and lustrous; though others have dried into little gnomes. Thursday night’s rain has left scant trace except for a lingering dampness in sheltered areas. My god, I do love the forest! And the open woodlands. They are so beautiful if haphazard to the civilized sense of exterior order. But they are gracious, maternal, benevolent. Nature offers all things without bitterness. She tucks me into her wooded embrace as tenderly as any seedling, any nesting bird, or spotted fawn. She does not ask my antecedents or my loyalties. She takes me to her breast and sings her sweetest songs. She offers her tallest trees for shade, her grass for a bed, her berries for food, her beasts for companionship, and her flowers for adornment. Barriers of thorn, stone, or fallen limbs are only to whet the appetite for adventure and to crown the explorer with the delight of discovery.
Weather is more to be likened to the father. He punishes and he blesses, or is indifferent; and one must accept and conform. The father is reckoned with; the mother lived with.

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Looking Back at September 1974

September 4, 1974
Another cloudy day. Woke in the wee hours and heard the cry of roosters in the gray darkness. That is the loneliest sound of all, except perhaps for a train whistle. The rooster’s announcement heralds a day still dripping with dew and surrounding vapors. Trees and houses are dragged into that narrow sliver between sleep and wakefulness. So I lay, quivering with gooseflesh, eyes determined to remain shut, refusing to deal with the lank hours before the sun’s return. I hate that time of laggard light. Not until the sky flushes pink, shading into gold am I ready to rise.
9/15/74
My “last day of freedom” so naturally I’m choosing to spend at least part of it here in the woods. Nush at my side, field glasses and khaki creel about my neck. The creel holds my journal and pen, comb, nail file, and pocket mirror. I sit on a log at the top of a slope in the trail with sunlight filtering through the leaves of a goodly dogwood tree. Bits of a dogwood’s orange fruit decorate my log, telling of a chipmunk’s feast! Warm today but not the scorcher of yesterday. Cool lingers in the green-gray shadows. Sun splashes golden freckles on my summer-brown skin. Many of the deciduous trees show reddening foliage, bright as Christmas ornaments. The maples have thinned, the fat wet look of youth gone from all but the most protected leaves. Rather like Miami Beach beauties. Me, I like to lean in the shade of tall trees and flirt outrageously with Old Sol.
Hate to think I go to work at Prom tomorrow. My dread is out of proportion, but I am still buffeted by the sense of unreality that lies between knowing what will come and its actual arrival. I guess it’s the dullness I hate as much as anything. But at least I don’t have to do it year round.
Blackberries are ripe and abundant and have eaten a handful or so of them. A flat white fungus stripes the underside of a neighboring log. Water drops speckle the surface. Nush rests in a hollowed bed of forest loam. Guess I’ll ramble on.
***
A blue heron flies off as we approach. I see only great wing span, the incredibly long neck and long sharp beak. As it finds a more distant tree, I hear it mutter, sotto voce, a harsh, croaking sound. It’s exciting to see the wild life, to feel that one walks with the little brothers and sisters of mankind. Realizing that they were not only meant to be food and clothing for us but to be our companions as well. The birds are conversing with an agitated chipmunk.
Surprisingly, we have run into a Hereford cow. We greet one another amicably and pass on. There are not so many birds now. Many have gone south and only the hardiest remain. Again I hear the heron shrieking in the distance.
In spite of the dominant green of vegetation, the forest crackles with dryness. The dark rains of winter must still lie beneath the cracked hide of September’s drought inviting trees to dig deep for its bounty. Thinking of this, I see it like a model of a science class project that reveals the hidden workings beneath our very feet. We live on two surfaces – earth and sky—and we are amazingly ignorant of both.

Published in: on September 16, 2018 at 9:21 am  Comments (5)  

Spider Watching 1974

Journal entry for
September 8, 1974
I’ve been watching the courtship of a garden spider today. The web is anchored to the deck railing and an azalea bush, the speckled-legged female in the center. A smaller, less brilliant spider of the same species crawls about the web, descending a tight rope wisp toward the central pattern and the object of his affections. The lady in question shakes the web in what is either hostility or excitement causing the male to slink off in discouragement. If at times he is reluctant, she rushes after him, promising menace in every dreadful movement of her claws. This maneuver sends him off at high speed as his respect for her presently outweighs his desire.
She returns to her central chamber, orange eyes ablaze with malice, gaudy back turned away from her suitor’s more sober tweeds. When instinct (no doubt a blind compulsion for something the poor animal has no clear notion of) becomes overpowering, he descends like an iron filing drawn irresistibly to a magnet. He strums the guy wires of her cage, hoping to stir a more kindly attitude with what might be a spider’s equivalent of a guitar or mandolin solo. The beautiful but deadly lady quivers; she flexes arms and legs; she hesitates in response to a subtle compulsion of her own nature. The red haze of anger and greed is tempered by a barely tolerated need to wait for the inexplicably attractive intruder. Then the conflict bursts into action—attack and defense more potent than vague desires. She rushes at him in a fury, and he ignominiously turns tail and shimmies up his escape rope. They go into their respective corners and wait.
At present, the leggy Romeo swoons on the balcony railing, casting looks of fear and desire at his Juliet who manifestly ignores him. Well, he will probably succeed. Whatever passions that pulse in the arachnid flesh will propel him toward both his triumph and doom—for his lady love will, for a shuddering moment, allow her body to be touched; her usual animosity will be suspended as the primal command to mate binds her will. But the urge satisfied, her normal temperament will return with undiminished ferocity and she will slay her sluggish and satiated lover. She will brood over her egg sac while the drained body of the husband-father spins slowly in the wind.

Published in: on September 9, 2018 at 11:21 am  Comments (5)  

Looking Back at September, 1974

Revisiting a Journal entry, forty-four years ago, to 1974
September 1, 1974
September again! The golden month, burnished still with summer sun but deepening into shades of autumnal wine. The flowers, trees, vegetables and grass wear a look of culmination—their apex reached with decline only as far away as the first frost and the first rain storm. Could I have my wish for the day, I would scamper into the woods with Nushka’s eager furriness galloping beside me—journal in one hand and a fistful of dreams in the other.
I’d like to sniff out the ripe scene of September’s arrival. I want the colors, shapes, shadows, and gleamings to sink into a brain stuffed with beauty. I want to hear bird songs and wind sighs as I walk in the wheat-dry grass. In this paradise, the crows cannot spoil a finch’s ecstatic trill, or the celebration of sparrows. And underneath it all is the silver sound of running water.
I want to search out the ghost of rain beneath a moss-trunked tree, hold the golden doubloon of a fallen leaf in my hand, and lay belly down on the dry mat of a sun-soaked clearing. There to give myself to the sight, sound, scent, and feel of the forest—to know the pivotal moment when the earth seems poised between past and present. To know you stand on the tightrope between what was and what is – the instant before you are launched like a diver into the turbulent stream of Life in Motion.
The wind blows and shakes the bushy alders by the creek, loosing a cloud of leaves, dry and snapping. So we live in a bubble world where, with a gentle twist, the crystal lens fills with swirling color.

Published in: on August 31, 2018 at 12:19 pm  Comments (2)  

September Past

Published in: on August 30, 2018 at 12:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

September Past

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Emmy and the Maw of Time

EMMY and the MAW of TIME

It is my pleasure to introduce Linda Brainerd who has recently published her first book. Ms. Brainerd has mined not only her memories, but the flavor of her formative years. Emmy’s passage from toddler to young teen embody the joys, fears, and maturing wisdom. Because her mother passed away when Emmy was only four years old, we learn how it feels to be passed from one relative to another. Spunky, talented, and amazingly observant, Emmy will make her way into your heart and mind. I loved every minute of this book and hope you will too.          Available at Amazon in print and Kindle format.

Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 11:16 am  Comments (2)  
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Still Alice

I admit I was attracted to the title, I’m Still Alice by Lisa Genova because I too am an Alice. I also wanted to broaden my knowledge about Alzheimer’s. I found the book thoughtful, provocative, deeply humanly, and lucidly told. When the movie based on the book was released this spring, I was eager to see how the book translated to the screen. Once again, I was filled with a sense of the courage this fictional woman displayed; a courage shared with real people who suffer debilitating diseases. There is a scene in the movie where Alice, now exhibiting the worsening symptoms of Alzheimer’s, opens her computer and sees her own face, a face she vaguely recognizes. For me, that scene epitomizes the question of identity. In my book, The Broken Chord, the child, Emaline thinks: “I wonder who I am. Who would I be if I had no name, no body, no mama and papa?” and later: “For I think one’s anchor is that sense of self, the verity that one is a continuous being, the one who goes to sleep at night and wakens in the morning.” What would it be like to gaze in the mirror one day and not recognize the face looking back? Take away your name, memory, and lastly your body, what is left? At death, are we born naked into that “undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns” as so eloquently opined by Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Will I be “still Alice” or a new creature committed to a new future? What do you think?

Published in: on April 4, 2015 at 8:16 am  Comments (2)  
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