In search of story


December 31.19

My new year’s wish for you

is handsomely portrayed

upon this rosy wall

in sprightly accolade:

may dancing pigs attend you,

adventures fill your cup,

may loved ones sit beside you

wherever you sip and sup,

may your plates be heaped with kindness,

your spirit taste no hurt,

may laughter season your days,

may there always be dessert.


Wishing you a very happy new year, dear reader,

with muse and chocolate ever near.

Thank you for all encouragement and enlightenment in 2019!

And special new year’s thanks also

to photographer S.W. Berg for this splendid wall!




December 21.19


People are weird.

Therefore, I, being people, am weird. Do you know, dear reader, how I sifted myself through the Venetian blinds, trying to get a good photo of this brilliant visitor? There are countless images of cardinals in the snow. Why, then, did I work so hard to photograph yet one more cardinal on one more snowy branch? Because at that moment it was MINE. A crimson splotch in a pristine cottony new-snow pouf, something wonderful — and fleeting — opposite MY window.

Maybe this is just one kind of weirdness. Maybe not everyone has the same intractable instinct to hold an image or a moment. Do we write or grab for the camera (or brush or wheel or dough scraper or needle and thread) because some of us have an invisible arm which must reach out to capture what we see and save it?

Maybe it isn’t what we see that compels. Maybe it’s what we feel when we see it. Maybe it’s the feeling we want to grab and hold.

Maybe it’s weird to wonder about it at all.

On the more practical side, my Venetian blinds got partially dusted.



December 19.19

Language isn’t always words —

it’s far more complicated;

not everything in life

can be articulated.

That’s why the things of Christmas

assemble every year,

preserving time and place

we won’t let disappear.

Each family has a history,

hero, legend, fiend;

words fall short, but things

keep them evergreened.


There is nothing in this photo, dear reader, that doesn’t tell a story, including the chunk of mid-century furniture that belonged to my parents. Not everyone celebrates Christmas: I get that. But most people understand how things tell a story, and we probably all have at least one thing tucked away somewhere that says more than words alone can say.

For me to put into words everything said here would require an epic. There are things from my Grandma O’Hern’s house. From my sons’ childhoods. From my bachelor days. From friends, from family. Then to now.

Sometimes meaning is better told without words.


December 16.19

Can you hear the nothing?

Does it have a name?

Is it stillness? No,

it’s not the same.

It lacks the breath

the stillness sighs,

it has no pulse,

nor lives nor dies.

The hollow air

and muted street,

in want of wings

and wheels and feet,

straddle worlds

of real and not

with fragile boundary


Of substance there are

shapes and weights

King Winter’s touch





December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.


That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.




December 8.19

The curtain may come down

on their soaring sounds,

their tearing, teasing


but the curtain also rises

on the future

they will be.

The baton

(magic wand),

the hands that sculpt sound

and send it into the world as music,

directors of the hormone-crazed,

prophets who see the good

and the hope —

God bless them, every one!


This was the final bow of my granddaughter’s high school Christmas program. It was wonderful, and one of the countless times I have given thanks for music teachers. What their ears have to go through! And what miracles are wrought! I am ever grateful to all teachers of all arts. STEM is good, but I think STEAM is better. I wish you the joy of music in your December, dear reader, whatever you are celebrating.