”There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
That was the central — and only — “conclusion” of a report submitted Thursday by an investigative committee of the local garden club.
“There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware,” said Jim Holderman, chair of the committee and prize rose grower. The crowd murmured and nodded. He added: “I think it’s time we stop, children — what’s that sound? Everybody look! What’s going down!”
The sub-committee had been empaneled to make recommendations to the group after the results of a contentious and nearly psychedelic board election were eventually certified. Everyone was still confused.
Retired trout whisperer, Courtney Scales, stepped briefly from the shadows at the back of the room into the flickering old-timey moody candlelight and said:
“There’s battle lines being drawn.” Heads nodded in the gloom.
“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong,” Scales continued, encouraged. “There’s young people speakin’ their minds, but getting so much resistance from behind.”
“It’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?… Holderman said again, then slumped back into his seat. No one took notice, as he did that a lot.
Everyone grew silent as Ruth Broadbottom rose with a great deal of rustling. (It was how she did everything, and gave off the smell of lavender. Always.)
She was the oldest member of the group and had lived through the great Rubber Duck Fiasco of 1962, and the Gingerbread Restoration Wars in town in the early 70s and late 80s. People wanted to hear what she had to say. She waited until the room was absolutely still, cleared her throat delicately and said:
“Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep.” She paused and looked at every face turned toward her.
“It starts when you’re always afraid. Step out of line, the men come and take you away.”
At that, she rustled out the back door, trailing a cloud of lavender, and the meeting broke up. The people left murmuring in small groups as they went out into the night. The comments were all the same….
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….
I didn’t think it would be like this.
I could have been convinced, mind you,
But I was skeptical, in a benign way.
Unmoved except by facts, I said.
“Show me a ghost; I can’t take your word for it. Continue reading “A Ghostling, in Training”
everything here seems to need us –Rainer Maria Rilke
I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.
Here I am, suspended
between the sidewalk and twilight,
the sky dimming so fast it seems alive.
What if you felt the invisible
tug between you and everything?
A boy on a bicycle rides by,
his white shirt open, flaring
behind him like wings.
“The only things that matter in this life are effort and simplicity,” the monk told me. We sat a short distance apart on an ancient wall made of massive, moss-covered hand-shaped block of stone as big as coffee tables.
At least, I seemed to be me.
I was different. Completely different, but still me. Dreams are like that. Dreams from another lifetime. I didn’t seem to care. I knew. And I gladly sank into the world of long ago.
I was eating the only meal I’d had that day. There was a deep pool of clear water beside the wall. I could see to the bottom, where, a foot or two under the still surface, two hand tools someone had lost, or discarded lay. I reached down with water up to my shoulder and retrieved one and set it dripping on the flat top of the wall. It seemed important to pull it out and let it dry. Someone might need it. That’s when he came to sit beside me.
I was exhausted, but exhilarated more. Whatever rice and sauce I was eating was hot and good. I shoveled it into my mouth with my fingers.
The day had begun far away, hours earlier. I had been in a race of a sort, with what seemed like hundreds —certainly many dozens— of people. That part seemed kind of changeable. Some looked like Westerners, Continue reading “Effort, Simplicity”
Excellent piece. Among other disabilities, I am a history nut. I’ve been especially fascinated my whole life by slavery and the Civil War, which culturally continues through today’s political campaigns. I’ve visited Monticello 4-5 times, Mount Vernon, Madison’s little shack, and every battlefield of note between Virginia and New Orleans (with the exception of Vicksburg). I used to live in Williamsburg (long story, but we moved there when I was 9 and stayed in a guest house owned by William and Mary, where my dad taught for a year; I took a bath in what had been Jefferson’s office at one time.) I have vacationed in the South dozens of times over the years, and usually took in the places and stories wherever I am. I revere the Enlightenment and it’s ideas. This piece summarizes what I, a white guy, finally came to believe. I can barely stand to visit those places anymore, both because of all of the neo-confederate denialism that still bubbles up down south, and because I finally saw beneath the surface into the lives of the anonymous people that built everything. Every single nail and clapboard on the houses of their masters.
I know my reaction is unfair to the majority of Southerners who have to live with and live down all the legacy. But I’m reminded of my Muslim friends who get painted with the same brush when one of their nutcases blows up an airport. It’s not fair to the vast majority, either, but deep down in both there’s one kernel of truth: the South has a legacy problem it still hasn’t completely expunged. Neither has Islam, as both have the same buried, shameful, reflexive tolerance for the old hatreds.
Dear Ms. Sherman, When I read your reflection in The American Conservative I was so sorry to hear that you had mistaken the museum at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for a monument to the Declaration of Independence. This mistake clearly caused much despair to you, and I suspect, to your unwitting children, who later found themselves flung […]
were carved more than 2500 years ago on the temple of Apollo at Delphi (Only the columns are left). But it must have been important. Those old Greeks didn’t γαμώ around about with what they carved on temples, especially at Delphi.
The Romans noticed and translated the Greek to the Latin phrase, “Nosce te ipsum”
Six hundred years or so ago, a family adopted the Latin version as a motto for its coat of arms, which is also a commandment for future generations.
I heard the stories when very young, and looked around …
She had been a beauty, but her life was marked by a broken home and some dark secrets—
Still she was deep, iron-willed, smart.
He, sprung of a king’s bastard somewhere in the misty mists, was shaped by unending work in the fields, and laughter, and curiosity—
Brilliant, a passion to be an artist, a teacher, a thinker, a prankster.
They were children of a different time, and products, too, of hunger and fear; children of the last century, proud, tough.
Long memories of family, faith, war, terrible losses, sacrifice, duty and honor.
And “Know Thyself” was in the air, always, floating up in the corner near the ceiling.
Like an explosion of elemental particles,
Thrusting up with grace and power;
With arms cocked and balanced, ready to strain to Heaven;
Tender curves coiled, tensed, aligned, ready to fill the void with creation.
The eye pulls my spirit into the fertile chaos of life.
Courage, at last.
I step out into the fog, put the first foot on the dusty road, lightly, risking everything.
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