In search of story


February 28.23: Coping, but barely

What is the secret to life,

to live it the way it was meant?

Where do I learn survival,

how to feel at peace and content

even in winter’s cold rain,

a calypso of needley sleet

that beats on my head sharp staccato

while ice encrusts my feet?

How do they do it, these ducks,

apparently comfy and warm,

despite the bleak and the biting

of frigid late winter storm?

Could I be as gladly oblivious

to cruelty, bloodshed and dreck

if I wore my own feather bed

and had rubber band for a neck?

Or maybe I’m mistaken,

and they are not placidly sleeping,

but seek pond solitude

 for private silent weeping.


And thus, dear reader, ends February. With deadly ice and alien snowfall, with roaring winds and crashing downpours and tornado sirens and mid-day darkness and — of course — more news of suffering and idiocy. I watch the ducks and wonder what they know.


February 25.23: Coping, but barely

My mother was the queen of the quick evening bath and usually exited the bathroom relaxed and comfy in nightgown and robe. There was, however, one time when she blasted out of the bathroom in a foam of mom expletives.

It seemed that, as she started to get into the bathtub, she noticed there was a washcloth but no soap. So she took the two steps to the linen closet to get some soap. As she started to get into the tub again, she noticed that she had two washcloths but still no soap. Back the two steps to the linen closet for the soap. As she once again started to get into the tub, she blew her last gasket: washcloths, 3; soap, 0.

Unlike us, she was not amused.

Of course I have no idea why this came to mind.



February 22.23: Coping, but barely

Ancient friendships. One of my favorite topics.

We were sophomores in high school when I met Donna and Bill, the intrepid photographer whose images often appear here. That was 1958. (All gasp.) My grandson’s eyes glaze over at the mere mention of such Olde Days, but what does he know? He’s never been to a sock hop at the Civic Center. But I digress.

Bill and Donna and I were in Speech and Debate. (They were debate partners and still are.) There are few bonds as strong as those that form when you gather in the school parking lot at 3:30 on a Saturday morning for an “away meet.”

Donna’s birthday is in December, mine in January, and Bill’s in February, and he has made the most of that, trying hard to represent himself as the youth among us. Therefore it has been decreed that no one turns until Bill turns. So today we all officially turn eighty! Bill is not allowed to be the youngest.

I think we were in our 40s in this photo, about halfway to here. That’s me on the left, Donna on the right. Behind us is my parents’ blue spruce, in front of which many historical moments were recorded.

If you have ancient friendships, dear reader, you know.




February 20.23: Coping, but barely

The amaryllis catches light

in petal prisms, fancy’s sleight;

look to science if you must

but I will call it pixie dust.


I do realize, dear reader, that not all of you are old enough to remember Walt Disney’s version of “Peter Pan,” featuring Tinkerbell and her pixie dust. But you can imagine. It’s hard not to be drawn to Neverland; that second star to the right was beautiful. And who, after all, wants to grow up?



February 9.23: Coping, but barely

The speed limit here in a school zone is 25.

Flashback: the grade school I attended was brand new when I started first grade in 1949. Three classrooms, six grades, with room left over. We were on the cusp of the baby boom in a sprawling little farming community not far from Chicago. The area behind the school was our playground; there were swings, a slide, teeter-totters, all apparently excavated from some Roman ruins. But who cared? The main playground was an oak grove. Oh, it was splendid! We had acorns, and shade, and leaves in our shoes, hair, and stuck to our sweaters. And a white-headed, freckled nimble imp named Larry stood on his head there.

Then the babies boomed and the school boomed and one of the saddest days in my young life was the loss of that oak grove.

Yesterday, content at 25 mph, I puttered past one of our schools at recess. The playground is equipped wondrously, but some of the kids found something better: a gentle ravine, either a happy accident or a brilliant idea. Hills! Kids know what to do with hills, and there they were, rolling down at top speed, looking like so many bratwurst in winter coats perfectly formed for the occupation. Even in my car, I could feel the fun.

25 mph was too fast.



February 5.23: Coping, but barely

Did you ever in all nobleness

make promise to yourself

that you wouldn’t touch that chocolate

in the corner on the shelf?

Did you succumb to self-delusion

like some invertebrate schnook

and tell yourself you’d only

take a little look?

Maybe also sniff

of cocoa-infused air

just to be assured (of course)

the forbidden was still there?

Well, maybe just a nibble

wouldn’t be transgression awful;

it’s not as though a nibble

is criminal, unlawful!

Your hand has barely moved

when you see the fearsome worst:

security is tight —

your conscience got there first!


Not that I’ve ever done this.

OK, maybe once.

Amazements to Susan Rushton for this too-real photo of my conscience.


February 1.23: Coping, but barely

What gardening sage

will I have to be

to fathom the how

of this galaxy?

I can fathom the why:

to make our lives livable.

That is an axiom

I hold is unquibabble.

It grew from a blob

aesthetically dubious,

like tentacled shmoo

squatly lugubrious.

I can’t figure how

such blithe transformation

from dowdy drab bulb

to winged constellation.



With thanks to my dear friend Donna,

who sent these winter wings.