In search of story


December 31.20: Coping

A wink, perhaps,

lightly nefarious:

above the noble


the truth is stamped,

hidden slyly —

“Copy” — by luthier

deft and wily.


I think it was no coincidence that 2020 was the year I attended to my father’s violin, which I had allowed to fall into disreputable condition. I’d needed some sense of grounding, of continuity, in a year of such cataclysmic instability. I had it repaired and renewed for my grandson this Christmas, and there was indeed grounding. This was the instrument my father played in his grade school orchestra, circa 1925.


The one he played in our family Christmas concerts (a merry barnyard kind of sound) and introduced to his grandson circa 1977.


The one I rescued from my own shameful neglect and presented — in its well-worn KantKrack case, beribboned and (it seemed to me) proud — to his great-grandson this Christmas.

A violin doesn’t have to be a Stradivarius to be priceless. And 2020 has made us acutely more mindful of the priceless things that ground us.

Thank you, dear reader, for all your encouragement and insights this year. May the new year bring us all the repair, renewal, and tuning we need, may we be grounded in the priceless things of life, may we be mindful of those who grieve and who care for our sick, and may there one day again be real hugs!




December 24.20: Coping

Stories connect us;

the tales that we tell

try to fill the unfillable

of a deep human well,

but sometimes words falter,

they’re easily spent,

and we must turn to music

to say what is meant.


Whatever your stories, dear reader, whatever your traditions,

may they bring you peace and comfort.

Whether you soar with Beethoven’s Ninth

or (like me) warble along with ancient Robert Shaw records,

may there be the wonder of music for you.




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.


Disconnections: December 25.18


Do you remember, dear reader, two Christmases ago when my big beautiful tree fell flat on its face, ornaments and all? And we (my son) had to wrestle it across the room and tie it to the bannister with twine to keep it upright? Here it is again. More or less. Well, definitely less. This is the top part.

As you know, this has been the year of The Downsize. The tree is a little shorter, and so am I. We hold a million memories anyway.

Our tinsel might be tarnished,

our limbs a bit askew

but we wish a merry Christmas

and peaceful heart to you!






Disconnections: November 29.18

This tower rose in Ireland

as refuge from the Viking;

I ponder it as something

profoundly to my liking.

It’s possible this holds

the peace that calms, revives:

this could be the place

I might escape Burl Ives.



Ah, yes, dear reader, it’s that time again: time for the onslaught of Christmas mall music, aka noise.

Bing Crosby? Check. The Chipmunks? Check. Tylenol? Check, check.


Special thanks to photographer Art Lindeman.



Connections: December 25.17

Christmas Eve

the veil fell;

on webbed tiptoe

two ducks attended,

thickening the silence.

Christmas wrap

of folded wing

nodding branch

satin of still water —

in such small space

so vast a peace.



Wishing you a moment of peace, dear reader, in the traditions you hold dear.





Connections: December 25.16

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI sang along with voice congealed

“the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”

the while wondering with much ado

 if the blasted scotch tape might be revealed too.

And thus

does Christmas time

make the quotidian

the sublime.

I wish you, dear reader, the best of what you celebrate.



Connections: December 18.16

2015-12-14-uncle-mistletoesBack in the day

when shopping was grand

with a hat on your head

and a glove on your hand

Marshall Field’s was the place

to wander slack-jawed

wide-eyed and gasping

covetous and awed.

Field’s was the place

to play “let’s pretend”

with your grandma, your mom

or your best girlfriend.

Uncle Mistletoe, Aunt Holly

in Christmas benevolence

nodded and twinkled

amid grandeur and elegance

part of a world

that flattered and taunted

and taught us we couldn’t

have everything we wanted.

More thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives

and to the D.J. Berg Christmas Panorama.