The Bug and the Blade

I was looking out my back window this Sunday morning and about ten feet away I noticed a bug climbing a blade of grass. I shouldn't have been able to see something so small at that distance, but the blade was angled just so that the bug glinted like polished bronze in the sun. She struggled up that smooth green slippery surface until it bent down and was hidden. I waited a few moments to see if it would fling her into the air when she reached the end, but neither bug nor blade reappeared. Like Frosts's birches, it set her set her gently down again onto the earth, bent for the moment by her passing. 

And it struck me then how vast the world is, and how very very tiny is our part in it. And how many many stories come and go without notice. And how writers, the ones who notice and record, have an impossible and important job to do. One could do worse than be a writer of notices.

Recent comment in this post
Katherine Gregor
Truly beautiful and heartwarming, Stephen.
Saturday, 25 July 2015 11:37
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Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday, my 59th, one that I looked forward to no more or less than my 58th or my 25th, even though the theory is that I'm now on retirement's cusp. My secret intention, stated only to other writers, is that I intend to start my fourth career, this one as a writer, and write until the means to write is exhausted. Too much youth was lost before I discovered I wanted to write, needed to write, and then I shunted my writing aside for the safe and secure paths my wife's nerves and fears required.

I thought about how I would novelize my birth. I was the second child born to young parents. They were piloting American life on a US enlisted man's wages in the 1950s, which Mom tells me is low, low, low, middle class. My older sis was born in '54 and I was born in '56. Others followed. I decided that if my life was being written as a novel, I would write of my birth, "He opened his eyes to see what was going on, and kept them open, trying to understand." 

I don't recall much of my birth. They claim I was there but there's no tangible evidence, just Mom and Dad's memories and circumstantial evidence. I sufficiently resemble my parents that I can't believe I belong to anyone but them. I wasn't switched at birth. Actually, that can't be said, as I could have been switched and then switched back after my moody, temperamental personality, fondness for silliness, and preference for solitude was revealed. 

As for theme music for my birth, I considered, "Bad to the Bone". It's such an overused song in that capacity that it was immediately there, quivering with hand raised, "Pick me, pick me, pick me." Same with anything from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". Seems like "Spring" has been utilized for this a few times. I've always liked Pink Floyd and thought "Comfortably Numb" might work. "Hello, is anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me." But why would I be asking 'in'? Maybe I'd skip music and sound and come into the world emulating "The Scream". Maybe I should use CCR's "Fortunate Son", or "Born in the US" by Springsteen, or be ironic and select Lee Greenwood, with his lyrics, "Well, I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free." That song always reminds me of the ending of Sinclair Lewis' novel, "Babbit". Ah, such choices. On this I must further ponder.

I've had many pleasant birthday memories. I'm not actually big into celebrating them, for me or or others, but I do like cake. I have one absolute favorite birthday even though I didn't have cake that day. I met my wife at the end of June before my 15th birthday. She and I felt an instant connection. The second time I saw her was on July 4th. She and I flirted terribly, and I flirted with more intensity than I'd ever flirted before. There was just something about this girl. Then she asked to see my watch, the one my father had gifted to me when he bought a new watch. I loaned it to her to look at and she refused to give it back, vexing me terribly. Then, after the Independence Day fireworks ended and midnight passed, she presented it to me, telling me, "Happy birthday." She didn't have anything to give me and wanted to give me a present, so she stole my watch and gave it back.

I can't reminisce about these things with her. She cringes with embarrassment, gags at the schmaltz, and begs me to stop. That's how our story together began, though. It still continues forty-seven years later. We've been married forty of those years. Many force five storms have been endured but everything damaged has been more or less repaired. No matter what's happened in the years since, my first birthday with her remains my best memory.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time. 


Recent Comments
Virginia M Macasaet
Happy Birthday Michael! Wishing you all the best on your writing journey. Life is just beginning for you! Go for it!!! Keep us... Read More
Sunday, 05 July 2015 23:49
Rosy Cole
Happy New Year, Michael! Happy new leaf! ... Read More
Monday, 06 July 2015 11:09
Happy Belated Birthday Michael. Sorry I don't get over here often enough to find your blog, but I know that your fourth career wil... Read More
Sunday, 12 July 2015 21:42
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Lotsa Stuff

Friendship, heat, walking and writing, music and movies share residence in my head this week, along with nocturnal dreams, holidays, Supreme Court rulings, politics, marijuana laws and family. I don't know what will find release here. Walking four to six miles in 100 + F degree heat hasn't been bad but I'm prepared and determined, and it's a choice, not a chore. That last leg of thinking is most critical. I'm focused on writing to the coffee shop. It's down hill and earlier in the day. It's rarely been hotter than ninety then so I don't think of the heat or the walk.

Returning is up a long steady hill. Temperatures are usually 97 or more. Yesterday was 103. At least we're coping better than Europe at this stage. This heatwave's global breadth and depths staggers me.

I've written but I still think about writing as I walk home, continuing to write, plot and revise in my head. Then music enters. I sing songs. James Taylor, Fire and Rain. Santana with Rob Thomas, Smooth: "Man, it's a hot one. Like seven inches from the midday sun." Mungo Jerry, "In the summertime, when the weather is hot, you can reach right up and touch the sky." Lovin' Spoonful, "Hot time, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty." It's therapeutic to sing these songs aloud, as though my shower's privacy protects me, as I walk. "Let it rain," became the song of the day as the humidity and heat plotted to stew me in my sweat and hunkered clouds glowered through charcoal shades. "Let the rain fall down on me." A few drops sprinkled me but most cruised past our neighborhood without dropping in. Still, it killed the hot wave for a day. That night, we enjoyed a low in the lower 60s. 

I thought of friends many times while walking. One couple was in Tuscany, celebrating her progress against lung cancer. Another couple walked the Camino de Santiago. She suggested it to him as a means to grow close again after 45 years of marriage and raising their children. A second couple also walked the Camino, doing it more to get away, they claimed. Their mother lives in a local nursing home and their home is used as a hotel as siblings, nieces, nephews, sons and daughters and grandchildren come to visit their mom. They don't mind being the host but decided they required an energy change. Walking the Camino was the solution! We watched 'The Walk', starring Martin Sheen, the other night. Made in 2010, directed by Emilio Estevez, it's about a father grieving for his son after his son dies on the Camino, and walking it in his son's honor. 

Another friend has sold his house. He and his wife are entering Phase IV, he says, downsizing from the current 3,000 square feet to 1600, from a quarter acre to .16, a three car garage to two, from progressive Ashland to conservative Medford. He's a beer buddy, though, a BOB - Brains on Beer - and vows he will continue as part of our group. He also read one of my novels for me, giving me feedback, enjoying, he said, the privilege of reading a novel and discussing it with the author. He is a gracious person.

We've been on a sick watch of sorts, checking on other friends and relatives. One friend's 23 year old son was hospitalized with pancreatitis. His medical team finally announced they were hopeful of his recovery after a terse seven days. Meanwhile, my wife's mother, suffering Parkinson's, experienced a major fall. She ended up unable to move and was hospitalized for three days. Now she's in a nursing home. The drama sowed new fields of irritation, aggravation and frustration into their family dynamics as decisions were made and challenged, communications failed, and narcissism rose, all worsened by being across the country from the activity. My wife thought about and rejected flying home, part of the family dynamics. Her sister's husband continues recovering from his brain cancer stem cell treatment but now has chemo brain, while her son copes with PTSD from his battle days in Afghanistan, and the other sister endures cystic fibrosis. My own family is doing oddly well, free of life threatening ailments and apparently free of feuds and acrimony. I hope the peace lasts.

Of course, I remembered. I'm always remembering and re-visiting the past, not in grief but in reflection, sometimes in longing, a few times in celebration. And there are dreams at night that startle me into laughter, surprise me with insights or mystify me with incoherency. 

The cats are another facet of concern and adventure, along with the cougars, bears and raccoons sightings. Tucker continues suffering from stomatitis gingivitis. Depo Medrol gives him some short term relief but I've gone through this with a few cats. The relief is temporary and Depo's side effects can kill him. I don't want him living in agony. I've reluctantly decided to follow the vet's advice to have most of his teeth removed. With that decision made, I'll need to address the particulars for executing the decision. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it best, and I've thought on it many hours as I comfort and feed him. I haven't told my wife yet. Small steps, you know?

Although I only have two cats, I'm feeding five. Besides the ever jubilant and healthy Quinn, I'm feeding Meep, the orange Scheckter doppelganger who made his first appearance a few years ago. He's a young, friendly cat. We're sure he belongs to someone. He disappears for a day or two but he enjoys our yard's environs, often appearing when I'm working in the yard or in the garage with the side door open. Yes, he's a sweetie. More recent and surprising are two other cats who have chosen our place for their place. One, Pepper, belongs to my neighbor but she elects to visit with me, sleep on my porch, and ask me for food. I'm startled, as she ignores her human when he calls her and when he comes home. When I come home, she races to greet me. It's peculiar. Likewise, a large but friendly black cat has found a home in our back yard and runs to greet me whenever I open a window or come to the door. He's lost almost all of his tail so I call him stubby. Like Pepper and Meep, he's polite and friendly. 

We also went blueberry and cherry picking. Picked seven pounds of blueberries, eight pounds of cherries. Then pitted the cherries and froze pints and pints of both. More blueberry picking is planned for the morning of the 4th.

Home remodeling also permeates my thoughts. My wife and I have looked at buying another home but we're not finding anything that calls, 'Live here!' It's more of a 'what-if we move' exercise, pushed mostly by features of our home that bother us, and by us, we're using the royal form, and I mean, what bothers her, my wife. I walked around with her, asking questions and taking notes. Now I've moved into the planning phase, collecting names of contractors, preparing to schedule appointments and meet with them to discuss plans and costs. Most problematic is the master bath remodeling. It has only a 3 by 4 foot walk shower, no bath. She wants a bath in there. So I've been measuring, examining and thinking. Now I've conceptualized what is possible and need to talk with experts to test my ideas' feasibility. While I'm doing that with the house laundry room, hall and bathroom, I'm designing a layout for the backyard to create another patio space. 

Then there is work...helping my wife with her social justice activities...dinner with friends...retirement planning...reading - finished Station 11, Oryx and Crake, and The Invention of Wings this past week. Now reading Americanah. Just realized I'm reading many female authors right now, but they're damn good writers. I just go where the reading takes me.

And I'm writing, every day I'm writing, revising, editing, writing like crazy in a comfortable zone. I laughed and laughed while watching Orange is the New Black the other day as Crazy Eyes became an author. Pestered by the other women for information about plot points, characters and motivations in her novel, she replies, I'm only an instrument of the Muse. Those of us who write pretty well understand. I don't know if the rest get it.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time. Then I'll walk home. It's 98 right now, will hit 100 in an hour. Have I mentioned that it's hot outside?

Recent Comments
I love your comment: I go where the reading takes me. I agree! I read a book because it intrigues me.
Sunday, 12 July 2015 21:48
Michael W Seidel
After writing this while reading "Americanah", which I highly recommend, I thought back to my comments here and were bemused and s... Read More
Friday, 24 July 2015 18:12
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The Character

We’ll call him Steve. White, Steve comes from a lower middle class American neighborhood. His father and mother divorced, mostly because he had issues that led to hospitalization and therapy. Dad number two lasted a few years but he was a meth head running drugs from Florida to Appalachia. It catches up. Mom went on to become a psychologist and start her own business. Husband number three is a successful doctor.

Maturing, Steve takes after his father in his physical stature. He’s a star athlete on high school football and baseball teams. A B-average is maintained but he’s not a scholar. He graduates college with a degree in criminology and joins the Navy, becomes an officer and pilot but discovers he doesn’t like flying. He’s scared of it. So he switches to Intelligence, where he does better. He marries a southern beauty who is in marketing and divorces her a year later. She wants children; he’s always said he didn’t. Neither listened to the other until confrontations were forced.

His man cave home is everything a partying sports enthusiast desires. He leaves the military, joining the reserves. As a reservist, he’s called up for duty in Afghanistan and special duty in South America. He goes through the ranks and is promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He buys an eighty thousand dollar sports car. Not bad. But four years later, birthday #40 finds him celebrating alone. He’s looking for a job and he’s broke. What happened to the money? That question is not answered but Mom sends him a thousand to help him out.

I wish it was a character but it’s a relative. I’m shocked. This isn’t what I expect of people. Sure, it happens out there but it stuns me when I brush up against it. What is his problem? What’s going on in his head? I don’t know.

That’s why he’ll become a character, because I don’t know. I don’t understand his motivations and behavior. I’ll invent the interior dialogue to help me understand but there seems to be a point where you can’t even explain it to yourself about why you do things. Either you can’t explain, or you won’t explain.

Take writing and publishing. I love writing and I’m scared of publishing. I suffer from the imposter syndrome and low self-esteem, something I just figured out for myself. I grit my teeth and scream at myself inside my head, so I don’t awaken anyone, “Just get on with it. What is wrong with you?” 

I wonder how many times Steve has asked himself that.


Time to write like crazy, at least one more time. 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
“We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest i... Read More
Thursday, 18 June 2015 15:12
Michael W Seidel
I've never read that Henry James quote, Rosy, but it's perfect for me, and for many writers, I think. Thanks for sharing it. Cheer... Read More
Friday, 19 June 2015 18:44
me, too Michael. I think that's why I've been on such a slide lately. No words come because of paralyzing fear that I'm just posin... Read More
Sunday, 12 July 2015 21:59
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Latest Comments

Monika Schott PhD Quiet strength
02 June 2020
Rich in experience too.
Stephen Evans Quiet strength
25 May 2020
"Acceptance of the polarity of life" -a phrase rich in meaning.
Stephen Evans That kid
25 May 2020
So charming.
Monika Schott PhD That kid
19 May 2020
It's amazing how common sleepwalking is.
Chris That kid
18 May 2020
Great story! Can relate as our son did the same as a child. One night we heard the front door openi...