In search of story


September 27.22: Coping, but barely


Have you ever, dear reader, read your Homeowner’s Policy? I have read mine. Every single obfuscating, fog-bound, stupefying word.

I am reminded of this at the grocery store in aisles blocked by shoppers engrossed in the study of labels. The looks on their faces as they read are, I’m sure, exactly like the look on my face as I read my Homeowner’s Policy. It is not the look of enlightenment.

Dan Antion, of No Facilities fame, recently wrote a post touching on the maddening truth that we are paying more for less. Dan has a very sophisticated workshop with tools I’ve never heard of, and that’s how he knows (mathematically!) that his materials are less sturdy. But they cost more.

My workshop is the kitchen, and there is nothing sophisticated about my tools, but I can tell you it’s ditto here. My newly purchased “buttery spread” refuses to melt on toast, and when it melts in a hot pan it becomes a remarkable lot of water. So I took an older product — same brand, packaging and weight — out of my freezer; it is on the left, above. Labels like homeowners’ policies! A plague on them all!

I know the term “shrinkflation” and I don’t like its cuteness. Cheating by any other name is still cheating.




September 25.22: Coping, but barely

Ceres paints in shades of cream,

daubing light like candle gleam

in autumn;

a mother’s sign when daughter leaves,

soft-whistling wind in union grieves

in autumn;

in seed-pod spike, in brittle stem,

desiccated requiem,

in autumn;

grasses in allegiance tender

bow their annual surrender

in autumn;

luminous mantle, light as breath,

gentle over sleep and death,

in autumn;

mother’s vigil thus ignited

over waning year twilighted,

in autumn.



More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

and to artful arranger D.J. Berg.


September 21.22: Coping, but barely

My mother had a habit —

endearing it was not —

that ended every argument

abruptly on the spot.

“That’s just dumb!” the guillotine,

no gentle, soft word cuddle,

the end, finis, the fortress wall

to onslaught of rebuttal.

To consider rank stupidity,

deserving of disdain,

to her was waste of time

and energy and brain.

I’d messily implode

when she Mommed me in this way,

but I must admit I hear me

quoting her today.

“Don’t cook chicken in Nyquil,”

the headline black and bold,

bewilders and confounds —

is it just because I’m old?

Besides the who-cares? key

that’s lacking on my board,

the that’s-just-dumb key’s missing

and I’d like it underscored.


Really, dear reader? Don’t cook chicken in Nyquil? Did you ever wish your parents, grandparents, or others in their generations were around to react to the things that assail us on the computer screen? I do. I think I’d laugh a lot.


Cookbook by Betty Crocker, 1940. Which you probably guessed.

I like to keep things that are older than I am, even if squeakingly so.


September 11.22: Coping, but barely

It’s a cool, dense September rain, grey as the sky, its splashes welcomed by the bowed heads of late summer’s garden. It is noisy, it is quiet, back and forth, to make me listen.

The images of the day, the somber pageantry in England, the shock and suffering of 9/11, tumble about in my head, looking for grounding.

At my front door, out of the rain’s refreshment, the potted pineapple mint looks longingly outward, poor thing, that cannot move itself. I step out into the cool drone of the shower, and there, against the sostenuto of the rain, the cricket’s aria. A piercing oneness.

The mint looks grateful as the drops wash over it, and I stand, stopped.

Were you ever surprised, dear reader, at how the tumble in your head was stilled by something so simple and ordinary as cricket song?


September 5.22: Coping, but barely

The gardener’s profound satisfaction,

last word in delayed gratification:

a corner that booms

with tumultuous blooms,

and a duck for gentrification.


On Labor Day we who garden ask ourselves if gardening is labor or therapy or fun. The answer is yes. I think the same applies to wood-working, cookie-baking, quilting, and maybe half a hundred other ways in which we invest ourselves. When we were thirty, it was different, and today I thank all those younger people whose labor keeps me going.


Thanks to my son the gardener for photo op.


September 3.22: Coping, but barely

Harvest looms,

maple tips blush,

September’s percussion

comes in a rush.

Wachoo, snuffle, snort!

rings out through the land;

kleenex is crammed

in pocket and hand.

With sinuses gurgling,

persistent nose splash,

“Have a nice day”

is abject balderdash.

That hackneyed nice day

is pie in the sky

when the red of hot peppers

emblazons the eye.

Itching and wheezing

and scratchy of throat,

sufferers glare

when others emote

how lovely the day,

how pure the sky’s bluing;

they’d rail and berate,

but they’re busy wachooing.