Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Now that the hurricane has passed by, I was thinking about life existing in the eye of the cyclone! Homeostasis! Perfect equilibrium! If you think about Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs met; the eye of the cyclone remains the perfect sanctuary, but it is a job to stay there and not get into the vortex. I'm not sure that the concatenation of activities needed to stay in the eye of the storm is what life is all about! Take your pills, seek friends and love, have a good job, insurance, be good, have confidence, create a beautiful home and children,a good book club, join the service club, grow old gently, die in your sleep! There has to be more than this. Maslow had the idea that all these met needs would ease the development of self actualization! Seems to me that more is needed and it will be outside the eye of the storm that actualization will happen. Homeostasis by definition is stasis: Homo sapiens standing still on the airport belt, carried along in measured pace. Wow! Unfortunately we need stress to temper. If you don't know black you will never recognize white. If you haven't been buffeted by the ill winds of fortune you will never know the quality of your fortitude! Better that you have an illness, lose a job,lose a love,get kicked out of a club and recover from these to know you are made for the vortex rather than the eye of the cyclone. Leonard, in his song, Famous Blue Raincoat, says, "Are you living for nothing now? " Getting old isn't for sissies, so we have to be living for something real!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Polluter

The pianist and I have an 1990 Nissan Axxess that is in good running order partly because it is softly used and serviced regularly. I tried to start it the other day after we had been away for a while and the battery had run down since a roof light had been left on. When the tow truck man came and jumped the starter he told me to run it for a half hour to charge up the battery. I drove around Lotus Island for a while with the pianist and then took her to her bank. I was fearful about stopping the car at that stage so sat in the car with it running in idle while she did her business. I was musing on nothing in particular when a small, purpose driven lady in earth clothing came over and said, "You people are all the same. You pollute the earth with your gas fumes and use up a natural resource and do not have any regard for the earth or the people in it." She was quiet and intense and having made her clear statement she left me hanging and crossed back over the road. I wondered, "Am I of the tribe of 'You People' and who are 'You People' anyway?" I was never given the chance to explain that I was not one of "Them". A man then emerged from the bank wearing earth clothes and came to my open window and said, "You know your car is running!" "Yes", I said. "My battery is flat and I am afraid to turn it off as yet since it is still charging and I may not get it started again." "That's OK then", he said. I thought, "Thanks a lot green buddy." It is not that I was being accosted and taken to task that took me aback so much, since this is Lotus Island. It's just that I am one of the "You People", separated, categorized, held up as a lesson and packaged as not like us. It's hard for all of us not to jump to conclusions!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Targeting readers

The self publishing industry has two important rules for the novice writer who has no track record in the industry and needs the initial buzz to launch their book. TARGET READER MARKET and UNIQUE SELLING POINT! That is NOT a book that tries to be everybody's cup of tea,or is a whole grab bag of ideas! The book, AN ELDERLY ECLECTIC GENTLEMAN is targeted to the over 60's that embrace the world around them as a part of themselves; who are of an eclectic nature and perhaps a bit eccentric; and whose empathetic, open-handed nature has led them to believe that the small things of life are some of the most important! In search of a unique selling point is a thread in the book that repeatedly describes the ordinary as uniquely extraordinary! As usual, I stumbled into the two rules without the intelligence of knowing what I was doing! This is a reader market for which I have considerable respect, since their perspective gained from age and experience will quickly dispense with insincerity!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Surgeon Songster

Years ago, one of the old time surgeons in Lotus City, who seemingly only knew one tune, would sing sometimes softly under his breath and sometimes look fixedly at his scrub and sing Sotto voce during his operative procedure. A co-conspirator admitting his scrub to the mysteries of his song. He usually had a commanding presence and could fix you with his eye and say something like, "Fresh fish", and you would ponder that a monumental message had been delivered, since it had a certain sonority to it! Though singing is not that uncommon in routine surgical procedures, it is usually during the closure and when the mood lightens! Most surgeons have a modest repertoire to draw on and will drone on tonelessly, but it is relaxing to the surgical staff to know that the operator is at least content with the progress of the case! The one of whom I speak however, only sang Nearer My God to Thee, which would emerge at intervals during the procedure, not always at the most relaxed or routine part of the procedure. Thankfully the patient in those days was always asleep, so they would not take the hymn as premonitory of some trip that they were not quite ready to make. On the other hand the more optimistic of the patients may well have considered that they were simply being operated on by a saintly man, whose connection with God was immediate and proximate. Since, however, they lay blissfully ignorant of the heavenly melody that was mercilessly massacred by the operator, they could be reassured that their organ in his hands was treated with more skill and care than any organ with which he may have attempted to accompany his hymn!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Good Man

I recently read a column in the National Post by Barbara Amiel in which she mentioned Septimus Harding in passing. He is one of my favorite characters in fiction and a subject that figures large in Anthony Trollope's novel, Barchester Towers. He is a prime example of the ordinary as truly extraordinary. In the BBC film production, a paragraph is placed as a eulogy provided in an after a dinner toast by his son in law, Dr Grantly, the archdeacon; but in the book it is Trollope's concluding narrative paragraph. Clearly of great importance to Trollope. Here goes: "The author now leaves him (Harding), in the hands of his readers: not as a hero, not as a man to be admired and talked of, not as a man who should be toasted at public dinners and spoken of with conventional absurdity as a perfect divine, but as a good man without guile, believing humbly in the religion which he has striven to teach, and guided by the precepts which he has striven to learn." One can clearly see why the BBC wanted to place this wonderful narrative as dialogue. The place in this life of the Septimus Hardings of this world is so obscured by the lurid and extravagant that we cannot see them through the haze. When a master like Trollope brings them to life, we are humbled by their majesty!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shed Seaweed

My son in law and I were sitting on a log this afternoon and the tide was coming in with strong wind and moderate wave action. For the past two weeks there has been a big shedding of sea lettuce and sundry other seaweed carried in by the tidal action. There is a lot of lateral tide movement on our beach as well, and the accessible part of the beach that welcomes the weed is about a five hundred feet long. After a few days, the weed tossed up on the beach dries on the surface and loses much of it's salinity and its definition. In the olden days I used to collect much of this material for compost and top dressing. The ocean gives up its sea lettuce in August and its eel grass in October, both of them gifted to those who scavenge the shore for that kind of treasure. I have always had a fantasy that if I had a donkey and a two wheel cart I could walk the shore and pitchfork the drying weed into my cart with a lot more ease than trying to haul it up my 12 steps from the beach in a garbage pail. In the distant past my earlier Irish generations used this gift to create soil from barren stoney headlands. It was where they were banished to from the fertile valley lands that were usurped from them. As we looked at the drying weed I thought, "The line of drying weed at the tidemark is evenly ten feet wide over the five hundred foot length. It averages two inches thick!" By my calculation that is 833.3 cubic feet of compost from that little area. What the sea gives up today it will take back tomorrow unless we act! I wish I had a donkey and a large two wheeled cart and another life span.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Come see, come saw

The best definition of this is, been there, done that! A cursory look at Google does not come up with this definition which is too bad, but so what? By that definition everything is old hat! That individual is non entertainable! Non instructable! It is difficult to teach or please those who know a bit of everything and have seen all there is to see! The thrust of my blog and my book is that the ordinary is truly extraordinary. That is my whole point. Fancy then, that I'm told that it is very interesting and resonates with all my readers so far but it can't be marketed effectively because the subjects are too ordinary! I haven't succeeded in making the point. "For instance", says one," your piece on 'Puberty,Jim has hair'; why would any one care about that?" Well, I have thought about that observation. The appearance of that first tuft of black in THAT place! Why would not anyone care about that? It was a seminal event in everyone's life! Death of childhood! A fearsome step to the unknown! It was more important than the Iraq war to the adolescent. It was almost more important than anything at the time. It is an example par excellence of the ordinary being extraordinary! If it does not resonate with you it is because you have forgotten what mattered. I cannot help you; I can only tell you! Don't be life weary. Don't be come see, come saw!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Writer

The writer in some fashion is also a thief given the nature of the job and the occasional stealthy, or often unconscious acquisition of the resource needed to fulfill this job. The keyhole collecting of information, read, seen, heard, thought, where the writer innocently refashioned someone's material, looking at it from a different angle. The sleuth may or may not have had a peripheral role, just observing and recording, unconsciously or consciously. "I think I can use that," they think," I don't have to put it in quotes because it is a foundling!" Even the kernel of an idea or observation expressed elsewhere is fodder! This isn't bad. We are often just building blocks, piling onto the genius of others! Hopefully adding something more! It's a fine line and has nothing to do with plagiarism which is simply the more obvious! Someone said today that there may be no original thoughts! "There is nothing new under the sun". "What has been done will be done again!"( Ecclesiastes, 1, 9) We may just not recall what has been done, where we heard it, where it was recorded, where a small light was lit that we observed. If you think you have a lot of original thoughts there is a chance you haven't read much or observed a lot or have a short attention span! It's not that you need to invent the wheel, you just have to acknowledge to yourself that you didn't. It is a great service to display the "nothing that is new" again to remind everyone about it and know that yours may be an honorable theft, but not unique.