Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Swimming Underwater / Chapter One / The View

   The view from the hospital window is of the old neighborhood, experiencing the past as present. Rooftops and trees along Bernardo Street two short blocks away. Where it intersects on the south with Florida Boulevard its lane-like narrowness is apparent. Ten houses squeezed along its length and there's North Street and beyond that Roselawn Cemetery. There are whispered lies long ago of ruthless blacks digging up new graves for valuable rings, but strolling through the headstones forty years ago, reading inscriptions and calculating the time between the chiseled dates, there is rarely fresh dirt, just weeds and plastic flowers bleached white by the sun.
   The house on Bernardo is still there in memory. Where I grow up. Where, later, Dee and I raise our daughters. Although now among oaks on a few acres 17 miles east in Walker, Louisiana, moved years ago after my father died, the house still resides a short distance from the hospital, a simple frame design built in 1941 by my father and his father, Papa Cothern. Two bedrooms, front and back porches, kitchen, living room, one bathroom. The table in the kitchen is there also, in that phantom house on Bernardo, a reminder of a time when family and food are still linked, when meals are markers of everydayness; chrome, tubular legs, formica top, 1950's to the max, the surface of the table bears its history in nicks and mars and scars from countless gatherings: field peas and okra and tomatoes and corn and butterbeans and summer squash and hot dishes of black-eyed peas that slip off the crocheted table pads and darken the polished surface, boiled crabs, platters of fried chicken and bream and bass and rabbit and squirrel and crawfish tails, bowls of strawberries and milk from Louisiana Creamery left on the doorstep before dawn, lemon and egg and coconut and apple and cherry pies.
   But there is other food as well, different: fried squirrel heads cracked with a tablespoon, tiny white brains scooped out. sardine sandwiches on mustard bread, butter and sugar sandwiches, fried Spam sandwiches loaded with mayonaise, Vienna sausages and its petroleum-like gelatine.
   And then there are the holdiays as land mines.
   The entire pot of soupy cornbread dressing before stuffing the turkey sitting on the table, father, three sheets to the seasonal wind, taking it, feeding it to the dogs, saying, Well, Goddamn, that son'bitching squirrel dog dove straight into that stuff.
   On the 4th of July, folded towels on the kitchen table under buckets of homemade ice-cream and fireworks in the backyard, the lighted punks like fireflies in the evening air; the holiday turkey and ducks and hams and enough pitchers of ice tea and lemonade to dot the table like sentinels; more food at Christmas and, glancing from the kitchen into the small living room, presents spilling downward on both sides of the tree in an avalanche of foil wrap and curly ribbons of green and red and gold, carols of goodwill and sentimental journeys trumpeting from WWL in New Orleans while my parents argue silently with each other through the doorway, my mother in the kitchen, frowning, getting back a disapproving tilt of the head from my father in the living room, his recliner upright, the air of seasonal generosity around them electrically charged with potential arguments like explosive coal dust in a mine or chaff in a silo.
   Once, long ago and late at night, peering into the kitchen from another doorway, brother Wayne's head above mine, one eye each to the crack in the bedroom door, mouths rounded in astonishment, father smashing every plate, saucer, cup, whatever, in a raging windmill approach, jagged pieces of china like the broken oyster shells of the driveway covering the floor entirely, surrounding table and chair legs and the soles of mother's shoes. The image remains, not what is being shouted by father or the placating words from mother, but the sight of her hands, open, palms toward him, an image not of exposed silver grains on paper stored in the brown suitcase with other photographs, but one of memory, not subject to yellowing or the septia wash of time.

(Chapter One to be continued.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Swimming Underwater / Prologue

   Daughter dying and I'm mentally clipping newspaper articles.
   Been doing it for years. Some are gruesome dealings like the lady soprano in Metairie who hacks up her best friend in the church choir because best friend is having an affair with the soprano's husband. Choir-mates. Both women, soprano and alto, faces upward, concentrating, the name of the Lord on their lips as they strain for clear notes. The description in the newspaper article of the polished kitchen floor is about the detectives slipping on the waxy tile from all the blood. Another clipping concerns a pregnant woman visiting the French Quarter who is shot in the stomach, bullet lodging in the brain of the fetus. Labor is induced, then baby undergoes surgery.
   Both okay.
   Random shooting not yet solved.
  Interest never waning in the dark dealings of human misery, the newspaper so filled with death, dismemberment, the reason for collecting them because of the oddity losing its appeal in sheer volume, clipping articles becomes even more selective.
   Humor and irony rule.
   The darker and funnier the benchmark the better.
   John Lewis Jones tells judge and jury that a voice from the dead told him to rob Max's Superette in Fat City. He loses the case when he adds that the voice also told him he could keep the money.
   Or these headlines:

   Bible-quote contest loser sought in killing.
   Golfer hits hole-in-one, drops dead in Mass.
   Assistant coroner commits suicide in autopsy room.
   Mugger hits mob boss's mother, 94.
   Woman scattering son's ashes drowns.
   Award-winning foster parent convicted of molestation.
   Husband, wife shoot each other at church.
   Man holds chickens hostage in effort to ward off police.
   Five posing as New Orleans police stop real officers.
   Gun safety lecture misfires, leaving N.H. minister dead.

   Or one of my all time favorite headlines (which one way or the other tells the entire story about us all):

   Man on hike to prove people good, robbed, pushed from bridge.

   Aware that people I loved have died in this hospital where I was born, having lived long enough to be confounded by those facts, daughter struggling to live, to survive the very efforts at saving her, Dr. and nurses frantically replacing a dislodged trach tube in the hole in her throat, I stand in the hospital corridor, thinking about my daughter, clipped headlines flashing in my head like the one about the Colorado man who is killed bungee jumping because he is attached to a cord that is 70 feet too long.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Swimming Underwater / The Memoir

   Instead of posting snippets and fairly self-contained narratives, what follows from this point on is more of the same but from the beginning on of a memoir entitled Swimming Underwater, about growing up in south Louisiana, being able to stand at my daughter's hospital window and look over the old neighborhood, aware of what went on down there and aware of what is being played out in the room behind me, my daughter, Jennifer, critically ill and in a coma from viral encephalitis.

   Keeping a journal during all those dark days gave me an outlet, a foundation, something to grab and weather the everyday changes that shaped everything in daily life. So it was a time of life folding back in on itself, the view from the window of the old neighborhood, the history there, where even Jennifer lived as a child, and the history of the hospital, where I was born, where family members had died. Life repeating familiar patterns and doing the best to make memory make some sense of it all--and both memory and events co-existing in the now, both alive and in a dance as one.

Monday, October 3, 2011


   Unlike the Wilsons, my mother's side of the family, the Cothern family never has a reunion, not until long after my father and his parents are deceased. Uncle Kellon, my father's youngest brother, finally calls one day and says he invited the entire family for a Sunday get-together at his house on Blackwater Road. Good idea, everyone says, why haven't we done this before?
   Uncle Dulith's family is the last to arrive, approaching the rest of us sitting in chairs under some oaks. When he is close enough, smiling in his sly way like always, as if perpetually amused by everything around him, privy to humorous secrets the rest of us can't fathom, the resemblance between Dulith and my father is so uncanny it is my father standing there in the shade among us. A glance at my brother Wayne, mutual shakes of our heads and deep breaths, feeling faint myself, scalp prickling coldly like that day in the hospital when a heart attack claims my father at age 58.

    The day after Laurie's first birthday on Bernardo Street, I stand beside the bed in the emergency room, watching my father's fingers moving across his own shoulders, showing the doctor where the pain is. I tear through his wallet after my father tells me to get the typed paper listing the medicines he has been allergic to over the years.
   A note I retype many times over the years--each time another medicine needs to be added because of some adverse reaction.
   So I find the last note I typed years before on a hot afternoon after school--little dreaming I will be there to hand the note to a doctor, both of us standing next to my father in the emergency room, him sitting up in the bed, retching into a chrome basin from the pain in his back.
   "What about Demerol?' the doctor asks that Sunday after quickly reading the list. "And what the hell does etcetera, etcetera mean?"
   Seeing Uncle Dulith at that first Cothern reunion is like standing there in the hospital with no answer for the doctor; the feeling of fainting and the absurdity of safeguards because the memory of a man can be so strongly stamped in another's face.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ordinary Days

   My earliest childhood memory on Bernardo Street is standing in the baby bed in the back bedroom, holding on to the slats on the side, looking at Uncle Porter with his broad animated face as he booms wordsounds at me while handing me a red Prince Albert can he is squeezing and producing tinny popping noises. Still in the baby bed, eighteen months old or thereabouts.
   But I've lost touch with everydayness back when. I am those patterns. It's easy to recall the time in the second grade when a borrowed pencil is licked on the point to make a darker mark on the paper and then the lender-kid across the aisle says he dipped it in poison. It is important that I believe him?--or that I put my head down on the desk and cry because I will never see my mother again? Or the morning I go to the grocery for my father and get short-changed and get a beating for it. Or my father making a big show of trying to save my cat who has gotten trapped under a pipe and choked to death, giving him artificial respiration as ants march in and out of my cat's nose. Can rehashing all this put me in touch with all those other days when there are no clashes? All those ordinary days that seem not so special at the time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Moon Yellow / The Night Young

   Onetia Mae Wilson meets Willie Talmadge Cothern at Topeka High School in 1930. Having seen him at some dances, she's aware of who he is and that he has a reputation for drinking. On the first day of school, the students there to register before going back home to chores or to finish picking cotton with their families, Onetia is standing with a group of her girl friends near the door of the school. Just inside the doorway, sitting on the edge of a desk, W.T. watches them, no doubt with that sly Cothern smile. The girls chatter about their summer, their hopes for the upcoming school year, and, probably, there is talk about the boys, gossip and the inevitable judgment about their looks. Glances are exchanged, perhaps a shy smile from Onetia, perhaps a slight nod from W.T., some acknowledgment of the future.
   The two weeks at home, daily chores of cooking, mopping the broad plank floors in the house, feeding the chickens or wringing their necks, those days before school starts, before Onetia can see W.T. again, those days drift ever so slowly along, stretching out ahead like an horizon that never seems any closer.

   W.T. never drinks beer or any homebrew before coming to see Onetia. Sometimes he uses his father's automobile to travel those rutted red clay roads in Mississippi, sometimes a bicycle, and a few times he walks those dusty miles. Once after getting a late start home, still miles to go, he spends the night on the porch of a colored family, perhaps before drifting off to sleep, his head propped up on a piece of firewood, listening to nightsounds and watching stars wheel above the tin roof.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods

   At age eight, listening to the hushed fragments of conversation at the farm in Mississippi, some images enlarged by my imagination become fixed so strongly they bleed into sleep.
   Long ago, Allen Brister, my Great Uncle, Mama Cothern's brother, is an alcoholic, who when he spends the night at his sister's raises the upstairs window and urinates slowly on the tin roof of the porch, hoping his relatives below will think it is rain. Strikingly handsome in his youth, three-piece suit, early photographs belie the disheveled, rheumy look I remember. Uncle Allen manages to kill his wife Vera during a dense fog while she is riding on the front fender of a 1935 Dodge with a dim flashlight so Allen can see the edge of the gravel road. She is crushed between the automobile and the ditch when the car runs off the road. Sleeping upstairs in the cold, in the same bed Uncle Allen slept in years before, I am always afraid Aunt Vera will be standing at the bottom of the stairs during my family's short Christmas visits at Mama Cothern's house. Not ghost or imagination. But there. Nude. Her left breast gone from the accident. Scarred body. Bloodless wounds. Staring up the stairs at me.
   Hello, Raymond.
   Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


   The first time Laurie visits Jen in the hospital she moves slowly around the bed, her back pressed against walls and furniture, keeping as much distance between her and her younger sister as possible. It is that first time shock of seeing someone you love, the unexpectedness of serious illness no one is prepared for, of viewing something hard to understand, accept, something creating changes in the everydayness like the wake of a boat long after it passes.
   Still standing away from the bed, still acclimating herself, Laurie calls Jen's name. Visibly, Jen fights her way to the surface, is able to open her eyes for a brief moment, tries to find her sister in the dim room, is able, for the last time before descending, to speak with sense, to mouth the words, Hi, Laurie.
   Two years apart, always different in most ways, the girls grow up with our idea that they are coming into our lives, that we are not going to center everything around them. We walk around the house normally when they are sleeping babies, play music, loudly sometimes, have friends over and laugh and argue. Dee and I make all the right moves, disciplining them with a swat on the butt when they are learning right from wrong, no means no, never letting them interrupt adults when they are talking, never letting adults interrupt them, loving them and caring for them, treating them like we wish we could have been treated as children, always aware of everything we are doing is molding them, especially the first two years; during all those days in the late 60's, early 70's, referring to Dr. Spock occasionally about ailments, aware we are doing it differently from our parents, we make all the right moves and still fuck our children up.

   Only a few months old and Laurie is sleeping all through the night. (Nothing to this child-raising gig.) Always independent and head-strong about food and clothes and opinions, even as a child, she is looked at by others with a touch of envy because decisions come easily, no endless debating like most folks over choices and consequences. Choose and move on. Just like her mother. On the other hand there's Jennifer--who doesn't sleep through the night as a baby, whose disposition is reflected in a photograph of her on the front porch on Bernardo Street in her windup swing, arm on the front of the seat, chin resting on arm, eyes staring straight into the lens, questioning, reserved, a weary resignation like she's had enough of this childhood thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Unofficial Lifeguard

Part Three

Summer, 1977

   Also this summer, after saving the kid, one humid Friday night, I am relaxing in the pool, floating on my back, occasionally propelling myself off the side with my toes, away from Dee sitting on the edge with her feet in the water. We are joined by five black women. One I recognize from nods in the laundry room and along uneven sidewalks; the other ladies seem like visitors and all of them are unaccustomed to the water. They swim awkwardly, arms chopping at the water, their kicks creating turbulence but little forward movement. One of the ladies refuses to venture in the water any deeper than her thick waist. They laugh and tease and cry out to each other. Amused, Dee and I sip our beers and watch.
   Dee says she is not comfortable swimming either. She looks at me and nods for emphasis.
   The women squeal like girls--their voices echoing from the walls of the apartments surrounding the pool. Two of the women race the length of the pool--their thrashing along a crooked course causing a choppiness in the entire pool.
   I hold on to Dee's toes and float on my back. Ears under water, the noisy women sound like barking seals. The closer sound of Dee's voice brings my head up.
   . . . brother Petey drowning, my parents instilling such a fear in me. These women lacked opportunity, too.
   One lady veers off course so badly that she swims into the side of the pool. Her companions hoot at her.
   I'm going for beers.
   Dee nods.
   Coming back down the stairs, beers in hand, drops of water from my suit still running down my legs, I hear Dee call me.
   The cries of the women have changed.
   She's in trouble, Raymond.
   Dee's voice is surprisingly calm.
   Two of the women struggle in the deep water. One has panicked and grabbed the other. By the time I reach the deep end, one of them manages to free herself and makes it to the side. She holds on, both arms stretched out on the wet concrete, screaming rage and panic and worry and relief. I think once of the long-handle pool net but instead jump into the deep water near the woman. She grabs me immediately in a fierce stranglehold around my neck. A surge of panic and I start to rip myself free. Facing her, my face buried between her breasts, I wait until we sink deep enough to propel us off the bottom with my toes. We gulp air and sink again. She tightens her hold and her legs come up around my waist and lock behind my back. She no longer struggles but holds on and waits for air each time we bob to the surface. Locked tightly together, I use my arms and begin to move us to shallower water. Her soft breasts cocoon my head. Finally, with her up on me, her head above mine, she is able to gasp for air and cry out once. I tip-toe until my head is out of the water.
   It's okay.
   We're in shallow water.
   Okay now.
   Feel better?
   Slowly, slowly, staring, the woman loosens her hold around my neck and leans slightly away from me. Slowly, finally, recognition, like waking from sleep, comes into her eyes, across her face.
   The woman is embarrassed.
   She releases her legs and backs away from me.

   Later, in the pool, alone, thinking over the events earlier, the panicky feeling of the woman's fierce hold around my neck, I remember, when he was still alive, Dad's main expression of love is always in the form of a dilemma: imaginary situations involving choices equally unsatisfying. What if two of his sons are drowning, who to save? What father doesn't know about his youngest son, Raymond, feeling trapped because of his adolescence, too scared to strike out on his own like his brothers, staying on instead, is that he feels that he and his parents, the three of them left in that small house on Bernardo are all drowning and can no more save each other than express their love openly.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Unofficial Lifeguard

Part Two

Summer, 1977

The first person I pluck from the pool this summer is a five-year-old boy who is left to play on the steps in the shallow end while his mother paddles slowly to the other end to eye the tanned men swimming there. The application of sun tan lotion on sleek bodies is rampant. The blonde living across the parking lot floats on a green rubber raft, her long painted fingernails trailing in the water. Another paragraph read, another glance around to find my daughters. I read on--aware how hot the sun is on my shoulders. Another glance around, the young boy not on the steps. He is stretched out under the water--struggling--his legs kicking but creating no real movement in the water. Two steps, the chair collapsing behind me, I jump from the edge of the pool and reach down and grab the boy around his waist. I stand him up on the wet concrete to study his face. A shocked look then he exhales through his nose--expelling water and mucus. Activity ceases in the pool. The boy cries for a moment and holds his arms out to his mother. She takes him and holds him while standing waist-deep in the water. They say nothing to each other but stand for a long time in a comforting embrace. Finally, still carrying her son on her hip, still silent, the woman walks slowly to the steps and climbs out of the pool, pausing only to pick up a towel across the back of a chair.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Unofficial Lifeguard

Part One

Summer, 1977

I sit--the unofficial lifeguard who will save two lives this summer--sunbathing and sweating at poolside. A beer at hand getting warmer. Shouts of children and the deeper hum of adults mixes with the rumble of traffic from Jefferson Highway. Later the children will tire and go in; a few adults will remain then leave for showers before Saturday night movies or parties or smoky barbecues on small balconies or enclosed patios. Saturday nights the pool is empty, the traffic vibrating the water enough to smear the reflection of white-lighted windows and yellow bug-lights in long bands across the dark water.

Nights are quiet at poolside with only an occasional person loaded with laundry passing by or some people on their way to the parking lot. After 10 p.m. even the underwater lights are extinguished and I often slip out of my bathing suit and let it sink to the deepest part of the pool as I swim away, unencumbered, bubbles of air moving along my body like the touch of silk.

The pool is crowded today.

Both daughters are tanned and slick. They cruise underwater like seals, arms along their sides in a graceful glide. Laurie surfaces quickly, hands running over her hair to slick it back off of her face. She checks to see that her sunglasses are still on the side of the pool then sinks below the surface and propels herself off the bottom of the pool. Jennifer crashes to the surface from below, head tilted back, streaming water slicking back her hair. Beads of moisture form a mosaic on her dark face.

I watch, ready to save them, reading a novel about the center not holding, reading a sentence or two at a time before checking on them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Garage

Sitting here at the keyboard I can pull open the sagging double wooden doors of the garage where long ago I plot nighttime raids on plum and pear trees, construct crystal radios to pick up that exotic Del Rio, Texas station, where buckets of foul water are suspended over the doors in elaborate snares for friends in disfavor, where giggling girls with budding boobs are tempted to smoke stale cigarettes and then laugh at attempts to feel them up; arming for battles on cold nights and throwing rocks at my brother Wayne or Bill Leet or Charles Parent or Joe Silvio or John Wayne Collier or J.C. Saintangelo as they dance out of the dark, coming close, their breaths visible laughter in the cold air, flashing through the spill of light out of the doors just for a moment; and where long ago on Sundays my father spends his day off drinking Falstaff beer and puttering between the unpainted walls, his vast array of tools spread out on various workbenches, fixing bicycle flats, busting knuckles and holding them against the cold beer can, tightening the handlebar on the same bicycle, perhaps, but usually repairing dip nets or fooling with minnow jars for bait, tying lines and swivel hooks for a catfish line, and one day a clear varnish on the wooden frame of my backpack used not as much for camping as it was for adventures imagined, dreams of excape, long hikes away from household tension.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hunting and Gathering

It passes down directly--from a father who grows up on a farm, who adds fish and squirrels and rabbits and venison to the farm-raised table fare of chickens and vegetables grown in a plot down by the barn and hogs butchered for bacon and pork chops and ribs and ham and roasts.

It is undeniably a thrill when young to wake up before dawn, perhaps fog shielding the familiar, knowing an adventure awaits. That it will end in taking life with the rod of a barrel or a rod and reel is last in the young to the thrill of holding fresh kill in the hands, a larger sense of self being peeked at, the adventure of fingertips finally touching for a moment some place of absolute control.

And it occurs to me that almost all those companions on those hunting and fishing trips are dead now, my father, my father's father, uncles on both sides, Mississippi cousins, brother-in-law Ricky, my brother Wayne. And those adventures begin to roll into one, certain moments from different trips with whomever (it doesn't matter) spotlighted for a moment then on to another adventure with someone else, all those images assuming more weight the more distance from them, repeating countless times while growing older.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hurricane Gustav / Part Two

Hurricane season in south Louisiana is always a time of nagging worry that weather patterns will align and a path will open up through the Gulf of Mexico, sending a storm of destruction that changes people’s lives. Hurricane Gustav in 2008 was one such storm.

And when the worse of it has passed, but still the gusts scary enough to walk with back flattened against the outside walls of the house, it is like emerging into a wartime battlefield. Nothing is left untouched. It is like those views of Vietnam, seen from bombers dropping so many close-patterned bombs, carpet bombing, and then the view up close, at ground level. Even after going through it, seeing a small portion of it happen through rain-streaked windows, it is still difficult to wrap my mind around what has happened.

Later reports state it is the worse storm ever for Baton Rouge. Gusts of 90 mph with sustained hurricane force winds for nearly 5 hours, the result of Gustav's eye coming close to the city, putting it on the northeast quadrant, the strongest area of destruction. And every neighborhood is the same: 20% of the trees in Baton Rouge down, every third or fourth house with a tree on it or in it. Streets blocked by huge oaks, trunks as big around as cars, street signs found miles away from the actual streets.

Now comes a long week. No power. Move everything from refrigerator into the freezer, eating sandwiches, Shredded Wheat before the milk goes bad. Trees across the driveway blocking in cars. No stores open even if there is a means of escape by automobile. No streetlights or traffic signals working in the entire city. At night it is like being in the country: no ambient light from any source. Only the sound of a few generators running, powering someone's refrigerator, a fan, radio, a lamp. It is eerily similar to those end of the world movies. And for the first two days the wind continues to blow, bands of rain falling, the weather cool enough to get some exhausted sleep. It is Wednesday before a crew is hired to cut a path through the trees across the driveway. And the crews like Carpetbaggers after the Civil War, from North Carolina, Alabama, Ocean Springs, all seeking work in the devastation. Thursday the sun comes out, the humidity rising and the nights miserable, sitting in the dark with as few clothes on as possible, candles, hurricane lamps aglow, reading (because there is nothing else to do) by booklight and flashlight, finishing three books in as many days. And every day, start that day by burying two or three koi, ten-pounders each floating in the water pitch black from the undisolved oxygen, beautiful fish, raised from thumb-sized specimens for six years. Like burying pets each day.

When the lightless nights are becoming the norm, when it is second nature to light candles and lamps at dusk to keep from entering totally dark rooms, the lights come on at Sunday dusk, the light over the kitchen sink suddenly lighting a small area on the patio, the sound of the pond pump with its first surge of water through the hose into the waterfall basin. Finally back to work after a week off, coming home into air conditioning, watching off-air TV because the cable is still out, and feeling for months to come somehow still disconnected, disgruntled, discovering it is the aftermath shock of driving home along a street no longer the same, a stranger street, not the same neighborhood of so many years before.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hurricane Gustav

Hurricane season in south Louisiana is always a time of nagging worry that weather patterns will align and a path will open up through the Gulf of Mexico, sending a storm of destruction that changes people’s lives. Hurricane Gustav in 2008 was one such storm.

Part One

Sunday night the outer wind/rain bands are moving inland. By early Monday morning the wind begins to gust at alarming speeds. Lose electricity at 10 AM and still the winds are building. Mid-afternoon it is downright scary. Thinking the brick fireplace down into the house is a strong point and because it is close the to walk-in kitchen pantry with walls all around, I sit on the raised edge of the hearth for long moments hearing and feeling the distinctive crack and ground-shaking thuds of falling trees, each time backing into the pantry doorway, waiting for a lull to venture back out into the house proper.

Peering out of rain-streaked window panes in the middle bedroom, the huge oak at the end of the driveway comes crashing down along Sevenoaks, taking all the poles and previously-dead power lines with it. Amazing how fast it comes down, earth-quaking up my 8" thick driveway into slabs as big as kitchen tables. Venturing to the large picture window in the kitchen, not standing too close because of the possibility of the glass exploding inward, here comes the large oak across the driveway, on the other side of my fence, crashing toward the house, top branches stopping two feet from the house, splitting the tall Bradford pear tree next to the koi pond, crushing plants and smaller trees and shattering lantern-like patio lights on supposedly immovable iron posts. And still all around the crack and ground-compressing whoomp of falling trees felt in the chest. Like standing next to a speaker at a rock concert, the vibrations like a cello bow being drawn across the ribs. And it goes on for hours and hours. The feeling of helplessness building endlessly with each minute, what it must feel like to be in the middle of a battle.

Two more trees from across the driveway come crashing down, one of them hitting the corner of the house, enough so it is being helpless in battle because the first thought is, I got hit that time. And it goes on and on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writers of a Certain Age

Writers of a certain age have come a long way from Underwood and Royal typewriters and the actual cutting and pasting when moving paragraphs about. Having done that with Scotch tape or staples gives a real appreciation of the ease of formatting and printing out work at the end of the day. And now, in this cyberage that still feels so new to so many, getting published is as easy as creating a blog and going at it. Nothing new in these thoughts but only the coming again wonderment of the ease in the trappings of writing, of putting something down (however good or bad) and hitting the Publish Post button for any to stumble across in cyberspace. Interesting times, these.