Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Mad Dog of 2010 Approaches: FIRE IN THE HOLE! (My Last Blog of 2009)

Yowsa Bowsa!

Nice doggie! Welcome! We're sure glad the other doggie is leaving us this week--you know, the Mad Dog of 2009. What a savage mutt that one was! Now, come on in, precious new puppy, we'll find a nice, warm place for you by the fire with plenty of good red meat and high hopes that things will be better. Sit! Beg! Lie down! Roll over! Fetch me my slippers!

Yeah, sure. You betcha, master. First let me kill a few more thousand people and chew through a billion or two of your tax dollars, foreclose on some homes, and help Rush and Glenn and their micro-brained listeners tear up the left-wing, liberal, socialist elite, and get the underwear bomber some new drawers. Gives a new meaning to the old gold miners' warning, "FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!" Grrrrrr.

On a positive note for the New Year: Did you know that marijuana is the No. 1 cash crop in America? Hmmm. (I'm watching the news and multi-tasking as I write this) and that 8,000 Americans are arrested each year on marijuana-related charges and that three of our recent presidents have admitted to using it? Thirteen states now allow marijuana use for medical purposes and that in 2010 there will be a serious initiative to get marijuana use legalized in the U.S. for recreational use. It would be about time. We could become a nation of pot farmers and you gotta' admit that drinking booze does a lot more harm to our society than the gentle effects of a toke or two of Mary Jane. Talk about a FIRE IN THE HOLE! Let's FIRE ONE UP!

That's the only good news I could find this morning, so I'll leave the punditry to the pundits. They get paid to sum up the old year and speculate about the new while I very happily get paid to do nothing at all.

In any event, this is my last blog of 2009. We had a pretty good Christmas, just the two of us here in our little Town-That-Time-Forgot on the Chesapeake Bay, but I did miss my kids and my grandson, who were scattered about from Texas to California. Tomorrow we're driving up to spend New Year's Eve with our old friends way up in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia where there is lots of snow even fewer people than on the Eastern Shore.

(I took this picture of the mad dog in Tasmania, Australia two Christmases ago. As most of us know, Australia began as an English penal colony and in one place in Tasmania they staked vicious dogs in a line across a narrow peninsula to keep the convicts where they belonged. This bronze statue memorializes those fearless mongrels who did so much to keep the Empire and the Queen pure and noble.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Still Sending Christmas Cards? Some Thoughts on the Existential Merits of Snail Mail Holiday Greetings

Here's the tree, here's Terry working on Christmas cards. This scene which I captured this morning on my little pocket Pentax caused me to question the ancient tradition (started by Hallmark) of receiving and sending cards from and to friends/dentists/credit card companies/and publishers in this age of Facebook/blogs/and chat rooms.

Why bother? We are connected, for better or for worse, via the Internet in a profound, daily, world-wide way with anyone who was formerly only heard from once a year or two or three through a Christmas card. Gone is the fun of hearing from a long-lost pal and learning, in his own handwriting, the letters surrounded by silver bells and snowscapes, that he now lives on a tropical island with the German au pair he ran off with two years ago. Now we get all that dirt immediately and first hand on Facebook or on his blog or by breathless emails from friends of the friend.

Still, the cards come in and we are always glad to get them, to read the extended letter inside that says life is wonderful, and to post them on the mantel or around the doorway and see how far we can make them stretch. Not as many this year? Probably because last year you failed to send a card to everyone who sent a card to you. Miffed, they dropped you from their list after one failed Christmas greeting. Ah, true and abiding friendship. At least that's the guilt trip we lay on ourselves. Actually, I have a friend whose favorite game is ignore someone this Christmas and then send them a card the next Christmas. Keeps them off balance.

I wrote my share of the cards this year. I sat at the kitchen table, picked up a pen, and put on my best penmanship learned in the old days when they used to teach a dignified and proper cursive. Still, the ideas for a dignified and proper greeting to match the writing were hard to come up with. "Happy Holidays?" No, it already says that inside the card. "How are things going? They're going great here!" No, you've been telling them all that all year on Facebook. I was at a loss until I realized that all I had to do was sign my name. No soul-touching message required. We'll save the soul-touching for the privacy of the Internet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer"....Gertrude Stein

Here, in front of my treasured literature are my favorite philosophers. There's the Buddha, of course, and then there are Kikazaru, Fuazaru, and Mizaru of hear-speak-and-see-no-evil fame. It's a little known fact (besides the little-known fact that the monkeys have names) that these fellows come to Japan via India via Buddhism. They were originally considered wise monkeys, but in Western translations, they have come to mean ignoring evil--which is not so wise. Must we Westerners screw everything up?

A, Zen! Let's empty our minds, shall we? Get down to the real nitty gritty by admitting that there is no nitty gritty. Old Gertrude and at least three monkeys understood that and so can we.

I was just sitting here in one of my two fat recliners and I happened to take a break from my struggles with the written word when I looked up an started scanning my book shelves.

Most people give books away/throw them away when they've read them. But my attitude is that we need to cling to wisdom and so I cling to my books. In short, my books are part of me, of who I am. I'm not getting too serious here, because a lot of my books are not serious. For example, I have one big, fat volume of limericks--just limericks and it's a prized possession. Yes, there is wisdom in a good limerick.

Yet I do have more than a few "serious" volumes, like Faulkner, Hemingway, Marquez, The Genre of the Dirty Joke, and the two my eyes fell on tonight whilst sitting and watching "The Colbert Report." To wit: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.

Both of these tomes are definitely serious stuff by a cracked "genius" named Robert Persig. Mr. Persig, armed with an I.Q. of 170 (I thought the Stanford-Binet only went up to 165) and a brain that is wired differently than ours (so he must be right?) tackles the dichotomy between Western values and those of our brethren in the Orient (forget that most of the Orient, these days, is interested in technology and money--mostly American money). Specifically, Zen Buddhism which teaches that enlightenment can be reached through meditation as opposed to Western thought, which teaches that enlightenment can be reached through collecting guns, watching the Colbert Report, and eating doughnuts and pizza.

Not, I'm not kidding. It's all true. The problem for the mysterious Orient, though, is that the Western philosophy of food, power, fame, and money seems to be winning. Take China, which, since the death of Mao and the Cultural Revolution, is focused on that fine old capitalist goal of industrial production and which produces vast amounts of Zen-be-damned pollution.

Nonetheless, I love Persig's writing. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is, of course, a classic, while Lila picks up the philosophical thread and weaves it into somewhat less entertaining, but equally interesting cloth. In Lila, the author, presumably Persig, is sailing his sailboat from western New York State to New York City via the Erie Canal. Along the way, he picks up a woman of questionable values--indeed, she turns out to be a hooker--who, after many ship-board discussions and subsequent cogitating, causes Persig to posit that New York City, because of its anything-goes-if-it-goes creative environment (its hooker virtues, apparently) is the most moral place in the world; that the most moral thing a human can do is be positively creative. Kinda elevates hookers to an unheard of level in the scheme of things befitting the oldest (wisest?) profession.

In the end, though, we'll all have to admit that, Persig notwithstanding, old Gertrude and the monkeys were right: There ain't no answer. And there ain't no reason there has to be an answer. Why does there have to be an answer? Or, in the words of a bumper sticker I saw once: What if the hokey-pokey is really what it's all about?

Of course, Gertrude (who was no hooker and may or may not have been familiar with the practice of Zen) is most famous for declaring, A rose is a rose is a rose, so when it comes to philosophy, you have to consider the source.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Back Home at Last: The Glories of One's Own Bed, the Lonely Howls of a Lovesick Cat, Just Hanging Out

These figures memorialize the coming of the Irish to Boston. In 1847 alone, some 37,000 starving, dirt-poor Irish immigrants escaped the potato famine only to continue their famishment in the squalor of Boston-waterfront slums.

Coming home from Boston last night at 2:00 A.M. exhausted after being jammed up on the East Coast for the second time in three weeks, we were greeted by our joyous kitties who immediately wanted something to eat.

It was a fine homecoming after sitting in the Newark Airport for over eight hours (yes, we sat comfortably in fat, soft chairs in the Continental Airlines President's Club where the booze/wine/coffee/snacks/Internet are free, but still....), a delay caused by fog and complicated by an overweight plane, oversold seats, angry fellow passengers, and a piece of Terry's luggage being taken off the plane as we watched from the last seat in the back and finally being delivered to our doorstep late this afternoon.

Still, it was worth it. Boston is always worth it. We had a crackling fine time in the city before and after four days in the minor but Christmas-lovely former mill town of Southbridge which is right next to the colonial reenactment town of Sturbridge, MA, where Terry had biz meetings and I blogged, read, and hung out. I say crackling because that's how the winter temperatures, enhanced by a 20 mph wind, made my face feel--burning-crackly.

On Saturday, we walked the city again as we had the Saturday before. We scouted out a bar/restaurant for our dinner with Tom, my old, Emerson College-days roommate (it's been 42 years since I was a college student in Boston. Did I know Sam Adams? No, we ran in different circles), bought me yet another pair of gloves (Earlier in the week, I'd lost a nice pair of fur-lined leather gloves two hours after buying them).

Finally, we met up with Tom and poor Terry had to put up with a few hours of us laughing like apes over our fondly-remembered, long-lost youthful adventures boinging around the old city. We were innocent back then, really--terribly innocent and I wish we could go back and start things over--maybe get things right this time---Did I just write that? I take it back. I love what I have.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weathered In In Newark; Working on THE BOOK

Terry and I are stuck in Newark Airport waiting our delayed flight. So, I'm noodling around with a Cast of Characters and Glossary of Terms to be included in the The Mirrors of Castaway Time. If you read Book I of The Eye of Stallion, The Face in Amber, you will have met most of them. So far it looks like this:
Cast of Characters and Glossary of Terms

Time: Consider time a living thing, a breathing, writhing, willful creature, for such are the powers of its whims and moods, its vagrant energies and whirlpools. When Sonoria and Dag-gar’s eternal love is ripped apart, so too, is the flesh of Time torn asunder.

Metacephalas: A select group of humans who have special powers and so are considered to be “small gods.” Around their necks they wear a symbol of their place in the Time-Universe: their own heads, shriveled and desiccated by Time.

Sonoria: A Metacephala and the young Queen of the Stratus Valley, savior of her people, headstrong and impetuous, daring to challenge Time itself so that she can call herself free.

The Girl-Child: Sonoria’s young and wild spirit, separated from her ancient, crone spirit when her horse smashes into the crystal mirror wall of an ice cave. Leaving behind an old hag, the girl-child emerges from the ice an eternity later, is taken in by the Wind People, and is rescued by Scraps.

Dag-gar: He is a handsome and wild Thrang and his and Sonoria’s love is an eternal part of the fabric of Time, yet he is a dark Metacephala who seeks to break her spirit and control her destiny. The battle that rages between them has released a terrible energy upon the world.

Scraps: His full name is Scrapius and he is an ancient wizard and Metacephala who wears clothes sewn together from multicolored rags and rides a difficult camel. His purpose is to pass the wisdom of the ages down to new Metacephalas, to keep the world on an even keel, and the universe unfolding as it should.

Mother Mar: A wise crone, a sorceress, a healer, she is Scraps once-and-future consort. Mar, too, is a Metacephala who instructs young Metacephalas in the ways of Time and the Universe.

Astral: An Ancient Boy, he is Sonoria’s confidant and constant companion.

Sol: A young man, seemingly inept and innocent, he is instructed by Mother Mar in natural healing and sent out into the world to mend the rift between Sonoria and Dag-gar and so placate wounded and outraged Time. Sol will someday be a Metacephala.

The Bird: Appearing in various forms (seabird, pelican, owl, raven), the Bird is Scraps’ spy and spirit messenger. As an owl, the Bird carries the Girl-Child’s soul to be rejoined with the soul of the old woman and so bring Sonoria back to her fullness.

Spiritus: Sonoria’s great, blue roan stallion.

Sleena: Dag-gar’s wild and dangerous mare. At Dag-gar’s bidding, Sleena causes Sonaria’s soul to be split in two in the mirrors of the ice cave.

The Poong: A monstrous man-like creature, he lives in the forests and mountains in the Stratus Valley. When Sonoria’s soul is torn in two, he takes her old woman incarnation to his cave and holds her captive.

The Oracule: The terrible energy unleashed on the world when the fabric of Time is ripped apart by the Sonoria and Dag-gar’s star-crossed love.

The Horde: The Oracule’s endless army of savage barbarians, it lays waste to all before it.

Thrangs: Young men and women who travel the world astride half-wild horses. They live off the land as they seek the impossible: to understand the Great and Sacred Mystery.

The Thrang Story: The ancient oral history and legends of the Thrangs.

The Stratus Valley: Ringed by towering, ice-covered peaks, the Stratus Valley is where
Sonoria grew up, where, in Book I, The Face in Amber, she fought a bloody battle to free her people, and where she now rules.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

THE MIRRORS OF CASTAWAY TIME: Deep Phantasy Adventure--Here's an Excerpt

Here's an excerpt from the Prologue:

She was a tall, thin old woman, an ancient woman, a powerful crone with strong features on a dark, leathery face, and thick, wavy, gray hair that reached the floor behind her when she walked. On her heavily-veined wrists she wore silver bracelets, and on her long fingers were silver rings that set off the darkness of her skin and the strength of her intentions.

She was talking with a young man, a youth not far into the first longings of his manhood. They were seated at a broad wooden table in her overheated kitchen. There was the odor of many things on the warm air: spices and herbs, wood smoke, the smoke from the crone’s pipe, and the smell of baking bread. From the rafters hung bunches of garlic, onions, cloves, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and mold-covered cheeses. Sunlight coming through the uneven glass of a window moved in slow patterns of light and shadows across the table’s dark wood.

The crone--Mother Mar--puffed at her pipe while the youth sipped at a cup of tea, his eyes focused on the old woman’s face.
“They love each other?” the youth asked. His name was Sol and his voice crackled with a new, uncertain manliness.
“Yes. Eternally.”
“Of course. Throughout time.”
“Yet they have been in discord, then, these lovers, throughout Time.”
“Of course. That is the nature of love—and Time.”
“Forgive me, Mother Mar, but Time . . . I find it confusing.”
Mar laughed. “But not love?”
“Never mind, you are too young for that. You will find out soon enough. But as regards Time, picture the ocean-sea on a windless day. What do you see?”
“To me,” Sol said, “it always looks like a mirror that stretches out forever.”
“Good. And think of that still mirror as this.” She spread her long arms and gazed around the room. “Think of it as everything that is all around us.”
“The cosmos?”
“Yes. This kitchen, the world, the sky—everything.”
“And Time, then, is….?”
“…..when you throw a stone into the mirror-still water.”
Sol’s young face brightened and then immediately darkened again. He thought for a moment longer and said, “I don’t understand.”
Mar smiled. “When you throw in the rock, you disturb the surface of the water—our endless mirror that represents existence unperturbed. It is now troubled. Those small waves, those ripples, change the perfect stillness of the changeless--and that change is Time.”
Sol watched Mar’s lips as she spoke. They were full lips creased by vertical lines, and behind them, her teeth were worn and yellow from clutching her pipe. When she had finished, he looked into her eyes and then away toward the window, and then upwards at a bunch of fat, beeswax candles that also hung from the rafters. Then he said, “But I cause the ripples in the mirror-water by throwing a stone into it. What, Mother Mar, causes the ripples in the Universe that you say is Time?”
“Oh, dear boy, the Universe is full of vagrants.”
“Yes, yes. Homeless energies. They come, they go. They wander around nudging things this way or that way, disturbing exotic gravities, causing hearts to beat unreliably and good intentions to go astray. And so, when things are not going smoothly, it is called Time.”

Mother Mar sighed, blowing a pall of smoke into the ray of sunlight that was making its dust-laden way across the table. “And, alas, it seems things never go smoothly: the vagrant energies are always busy, busy, busy, and so the need for wizards and sorcerers, and magic, and Metacephalas--which, as you know, are small gods such as Sonoria, and Dag-gar, Scraps, and myself. We try to keep things straight by explaining the unexplainable. Only wizards and magicians and Metacephalas can do that.”
“But all Time cannot be the same, then,” Sol said, “for I can throw a small rock into the mirror-water or I can throw a big rock.”
“Ah, but aren’t you a smart one! Big ripples, small ripples, small waves, big waves, for every wave size there is a different Time-Energy. Pity the poor Universe! You grew up here in this pretty town called Eye o’ the Sea. You see the ocean every day and understand that the water-mirror is seldom truly still, and so it is with the Universe.”
Sol was thoughtful for a moment. The metronome inside Mar’s great kitchen timepiece tapped out moments with perfect regularity, resonating in the silence. “But,” he said after a while, “then the vagrant energies can even affect those whose job it is to keep the water-mirror smooth.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean Sonoria and Dag-gar, Time’s great lovers. You say they are Metacephalas, small gods, and so it must be their job to keep things straight. Yet it is their lovers’ spat that has caused the biggest ripple of all.”
“You are wise beyond your youth, Sol!” Mar said. “That is why you were chosen and why you have come to my kitchen every day these many seasons to learn the ancient songs, and the wisdoms, great and small, of healing and of life.” She sniffed the air. “I believe the bread is ready. I must set it out to cool. Before you leave, you will have a slice of it smeared with the butter I churned this morning.”
She set her pipe down on the table and stood up. Sol watched her move with careful steps across the room to one of two broad, cast-iron stoves. She pulled her hair back, stooped her long body, and, holding a thick cloth in either hand, opened the oven doors. The smell of the bread rushed out to fill the kitchen and Sol breathed it in. Mar took the four loaves out, one by one, and set them on the table within arm’s reach of the lad. Then she sat back down.
“Sol,” Mother Mar said, now reaching out and taking both of the youth’s hands in hers, “I’m afraid this is to be your last time coming to see me—at least for a while.”
Sol began to stammer, “But—but….”
Mar smiled. “It is time you were off, my boy,” she said. “Time for you to leave on your quest—The Quest! The one we have been preparing you for all this time.”
“Oh, but Mother Mar,” Sol said, “I’m sure I’m not ready. Not yet. Why, just last night, I remembered I’d forgotten one of the Songs of Healing, the one about the use of ginger root—the easiest one of all!”
Mar took her hands from Sol’s, reached out, and tentatively touched the top of one of the loaves of bread. Sol watched her do this, his face now growing red. She turned back to him.
“Silly boy,” she said, “you know them all and you know them well. You have a most wonderful memory for these things. What, for example, would you use the seeds of the Chaste Tree for?”
Without hesitation, Sol answered, “For women who have difficulty with their monthly cycles.”
“And,” she said, “Yellow Root?”
Again, without having to stop to think, Sol said, “A tea made from the root cures stomach ulcers, cramps, and sore throats.”
She stood up. “You see what I mean, dear Sol? Your knowledge is profound, your memory infallible. Now, wait here, I have something for you.”
She walked toward the open door of a cupboard, reached inside, and pulled out a large sack sewn together from strips of multicolored cloth and drawn together at the top with a leather string. She carried this sack across the kitchen, set it on the table in front of Sol, and sat down again.
She opened the sack and from it took a series of smaller cloth bags. She lifted each to her nose, nodded, and put them in a line across the table. “This is your pharmacy,” she said, her nod indicating he should pick one up.
Sol took a bag and sniffed at it. “Wormwood,” he said, “to stimulate appetite and expel worms.”
“Yes, of course. In each bag is something powerful that you know well—nightshade, powdered mushrooms, foxglove, willow bark, on and on, dried, powdered, crushed, whole leaves, and so forth. And a mortar and pestle, too.”
Sol looked from the bags to Mother Mar and back to the bags. “But…!”
“Now, you may take the Admiral if you wish,” Mar said.
Sol thought about the donkey called Admiral Penance, a dour, difficult, sulky beast with whom he was not on the best of terms. “If it’s all the same to you, Mother Mar, I’ll just walk and carry my kit under my robes.”

Mar smiled. “You never did learn to ride him, did you?”
Sol shook his head. “I can stay on his back only a few hundred paces before he throws me to the ground. In truth, I don’t think he cares much for me.”
“I will have some words with him about this,” Mar said. “I think we can arrange an understanding. And you will be able to bring so much more with you by way of medicines, food, and water. I’m afraid where you are going, you might not find much to sustain you.”
Sol sighed. “As you wish, Mother Mar.” And then, thinking about what she had said, he asked, “Where am I going, Mother Mar?”
“You must go wherever it is you need to go to find them—the lovers, Sonoria and Dag-gar. To the mountains and beyond, to the high Stratus Valley, perhaps,” she said. “As you know, that is where Sonoria, the Queen of the Thrangs, rules from the back of her great stallion, Spiritus. As for Dag-gar—who knows where that one is. He is, I’m afraid, a bit of a wanderer, a dark-souled Time Drifter. For the life of him, he can’t seem to settle down.
“You, dear Sol, have the impossible task of solving the riddle of their lovers’ spat, of finding the answers to the conflict between them, for it is the discord between these two small gods that has upset the applecart of the Universe. It is much more serious than you can imagine. If they cannot find harmony between them, I am afraid that those terrible vagrant energies will be loosed upon this fat, round world of ours. You must try to bring them back together, patch things up between them—that is the purpose of your journey, the quest for which we have prepared you for so long. You are to do nothing less than patch up the fabric of Time.”
Sol was speechless. He was beyond even stammering. He stared at the old woman, at the deep lines in her forehead, at her hair, and then at the antique, yellow-toothed smile that had spread across her face. Finally, he stood and walked to the window. He put his face close to the glass and looked out over Mother Mar’s small farm and out beyond it, past the overgrown garden, past the camel and the donkey grazing in the green pasture, to the town of Eye o’ the Sea and to its small, snug harbor. There he saw sailing ships, their masts and rigging etched against the sky, and the town itself with its rickety, wooden buildings, each painted a different bright color. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
“I’m sorry, dear,” Mar said, “but I didn’t hear you.”
Sol turned away from the window and looked across the kitchen at her. “About love. I don’t know anything about it.”
“By the time you are finished with the quest you will, my dear. You will certainly know all about it.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Time to Remember in Cold, Snowy Boston; I witness a Savage Mugging on the Common; A Message from my Publisher

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds....Samuel Adams, Patriot, Brewer
(Did the great man foresee the extreme elements of the 21st Republican
Party or what?)

An old man retraces his footsteps through the Boston Public Garden

Samuel Adams grave: The Great Brewer's last resting place. Wasn't he also a Founding Father?

Is this snowperson being mugged by a troubled child on Boston Common? No, the cold-hearted thief stole her hat.

Forty-two years ago I was a college student in Boston. Except for the infamous Big Dig and lots of newly erected glass sky scrapers that utterly overwhelm the old brick buildings that Samuel Adams would have recognized, not much has changed. I walked around town for two hours while Terry had her hair done and found that, in fact, at least in the Back Bay section of town, things are still quaint and, well, gratifyingly Bostonian.

Take the Public Gardens. Here I am, playing the part of an old man who once was young (No, I did not join the other rascal frat boys who painted certain parts of the statue of George Washington's horse red--but now I wish I had.) and hot blooded. It was here in 1968, on this hallowed ground, that the police sicced their dogs on us during a mass student demonstration against the war in Viet Nam. Seems some of us had just burned our draft cards in the church across the street (Again, not me. I ended up in the Army soon afterwards. What was I thinking?). It was also here that I found love and then lost it, slept off hangovers in the spring sunshine, and strolled slowly, contemplatively, as young men are want to do, and I wrote great romantic poetry in my head.

And, once again I trod the sacred ground of the Old Granary Cemetery and said a few words (no great poetry this time) over the graves of Sam Adams (do modern Americans know that beer making was just a sideline for Sam?), the victims of the Boston Massacre buried next to him, Ben Franklin's parents, and John Hancock, too. They are all here, their bones lying chock-a-block, sometimes four deep, amongst those of hundreds of lesser folk.

And just what was up with that innocent-looking little girl-in-pink attacking the melting snowperson? I worked with many a troubled child in my long career in special education, but this one was surprising. As I was about to take the picture, she came out of nowhere, grabbed a stick, ran up to the unsuspecting iceman, and began stabbing it with great malice aforethought, shrieking in delight with every blow. I looked around for a cop, or a least a mother, saw none, decided not to get involved, and quietly, quickly, left the scene of the crime.

(As I write this, it's late morning and I'm lying in bed in a conference center in Southbridge, MA. Terry, in her role as Federal Education Association Director for DDESS, will be watch-dogging those tasked with reviewing educational programs for military kids. I came along to keep her company and to visit Boston. I'll be sleeping in, writing, reading, watching news pundits, and working with my publisher on the nuts and bolts of getting my next novel out. They are sending me the final manuscript for my one-more-time going over and also the cover art for final approval. Looks like January, at least, before we get the final product out. On Friday, we'll drive back to Boston and spend the weekend before flying back to VA.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Treacherous Weather Goddess Lets Me Down: Fumbling Through a Raw December Day

Let me introduce the Weather Goddess

It is one of the secrets of Nature in its mood of mockery that fine weather lays heavier weight on the mind and hearts of the depressed and the inwardly tormented than does a really bad day with dark rain sniveling continuously and sympathetically from a dirty sky. ~Muriel Spark, Territorial Rights, 1979

You can count on Goddesses to be flamboyant, irrepressible, chatty, given to idleness and arrogance. Just look at Paris. The weather goddess is no less undependable than our fair heiress. Yesterday's cerulean glory is gone, the blue drained from the sky, flushed away like a prom queen's innocence.

Now, in its stead, we have this, a day of mournful gray, with a dolorous rain spitting into a nagging, ragged wind. And I feel out of sorts. Notwithstanding my wife's claim that I'm a mole who prefers darkened chambers, I am a light junkie, really. The dull, steely sky steals my mojo.

What to do? Curl up in my cave and listen to New Age music on Satelite Radio. Right now the piece is by Liz Story. Title: 17 Seconds to Anywhere from a CD by the same name. It's a simple piano thing, not even as involved as Windham Hill. Is this Liz person a real artist or just another New Age, no-talent dreamer? There are a lot of those types out there.

Still, it's nice, with a glass of wine when you have absolutely nothing else to do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1st: The Beginning of the End of 2009--A Prelapsarian Day

Simon, our 20-year-old boy cat. You can count
on him find the sun on a cold morning.

I'm starting this posting on the crystal-clear dawning of the new and very last month of 2009. The rain is gone for a day or two, the sky an unashamed cerulean blue, and the air is delicious and crispy cool. I'll need to take a long walk later and suck in as much as I can of it.

And that brings us to my new favorite word: prelapsarian. It refers, originally, to that perfect time just before Eve convinced Adam to take a bite from the apple--before the fall from grace, before original sin, before everything went to hell in a handbasket on the smooth and slippery back of that sweet-talking Garden snake. Nowadays, it means a period in one's life when everything was--or seemed to be--wonderful and pure and perfect. Like today, for me.

What does one do on such an admittedly prelapsarian morning? Sleep in, of course, then a long, hot shower, a good cuppa, a visit with Simon, the old man cat, who was is out lying in the sun on the deck (head scratches with purring), read an article in The New Yorker about the writer Paul Auster (the reviewer likes everything about Auster's writing except his prose), practice guitar, a quick look at the news (that police killer was himself killed in Seattle; the lovely couple who crashed the big White House bash says they were in vited, honest!), pull up all the shades so the sunlight has free entry into the house, get my assignment from Terry who is, of course, as always, working at her desk (the ink cartridge I bought for her printer yesterday is not working--I must get another. I must go to the town hall and pay our taxes, I must make a bank deposit).

After that, who knows. If the new propeller I ordered for the boat arrives, I'll go over to the boatyard and put it on and we'll be ready to get Seawind back in the water (I'll have to print out the December tide tables for Onancock Creek. It could happen this week). Then, a little late lunch, that long walk, a nap, a glass of good white wine with a small amount of smoked salmon on crackers with horseradish mustard, dinner, politics on TV, and, as always, end the day with more guitar.

All in all, a pretty good prelapsarian episode in a long string of them. I'm determined not to listen to any of the many talking snakes that slither around this town.