an old man walks in the woods

I have been too long gone from the woods. The trees and flowers and weeds and birds and bugs haven’t missed me, but I have missed them. The musty smell of damp earth, the long forgotten scents of weed and flower, the rippling mummer of the spring moving to the river. The heat rising in my own body through work it has not done in such a long time, the breeze cooling me in turn.

Walking along dappled trails, light and dark alternating in moving patterns, emerging into a clearing in the woods with the sun suddenly toasting my skin. Hot, with humidity drawn from the grasses making the air heavier and richer, following the trail until it falls again into shadow. The sudden cool of that shade.

A bench ahead; a rest. Then hear the birds. A robin, a cardinal, a red-wing blackbird trills off in the grassy clearing. A wren sings out. There are other songs, once known, but now a mystery. A mosquito flies near my ear. Not a welcome sound, but a part of life and nature. I rise, walk a little further and a furtive movement catches the corner of my eye. A snake, never expecting to be disturbed, slinks off and disappears, I as much surprised to find it as it was to find me.

Another person appears, walking in the opposite direction. A warm greeting, though we do not know each other, only that we are kindred spirits in the moment, in a common pursuit, a shared experience. No politics, no judgment, no expectations. Just two people passing each other in the peace of the moment.

I tire. I have not walked this far in quite some time. I wonder why, but already know it is because I had lost the sense of being in the world. I pulled the limits of my life ever closer. A self-imposed seclusion. Having forgotten the ability of nature to heal, I determined that healing was not possible. Here, my eyes have been reopened.

The trail ends. Though weary, I feel more alive. I sit in my car with the windows wide open with the slight breeze cooling me. I take a deep drink of water and watch the other people who are out in the day, enjoying their own experiences of nature, escaping the confines of their daily lives.

Reacquainted with the woods, I know I will, that I must, return.

a return, and a step forward

I’ve received many inquiries as to my current whereabouts. What’s going on? Where have you been? Why did you stop writing here?

Asked no one.

And that’s cool. This blog is for my amusement, not yours. For someone to have stumbled across this blog they had to have entered an incorrect web address, searched for something similar and clicked on this by mistake, or just started typing random URLs into their browser.

And since you don’t care where I have been, I’m going to tell you anyways.

I’ve been gone.

Duh!

All nonsense aside, my wife had been becoming increasingly ill and passed away last July. That will explain my lack of time and ambition to complete the blank book reviews or to write new posts that were about anything other than beating my chest and wailing.

The death of a spouse is an incomprehensible thing for those who have never experienced it, and to tell you the truth, it is just as incomprehensible for those experiencing it. If you have read my personal entries in this blog, you will know that I lost my “significant other” back in 2014. Reading back over those posts, it’s interesting to see how my experience with my wife’s death parallels my experience back then.

Having been through this once before, I figured I knew how I would feel this time, and to a great degree that held true. But this time I found the pain to be much deeper. Not to sound insensitive to my earlier “significant other’s” death, but back then I had not divorced my wife and it was an almost natural expectation that we would get back together. While that was not clear to me from the start, it was an option, if she wanted me back. That possibility gave me at least a hint of salvation from my grief, and sure enough, as my wife and I came to understand what our relationship could be, the prospect of that reunion helped to assuage my grief, eventually.

When my wife died, there was no “significant other” to help me along through my grief. My son, bless his heart, is the best son I could ever imagine, and without him I don’t know how I would have gotten through my wife’s death. But despite all he did and continues to do, he could not fill that hole in my heart.

So, one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, don’t think, just move ahead, somehow. And I did. I knew that time would help me get through the pain, and it has. It’s been about ten months now since my wife passed. I was still lost and had a huge ache in my heart, but something unexpected happened.

Someone came into my life.

I was totally unprepared for it. It happened casually. Three years ago she had sent me a message through Classmates saying “Hi” and while I was looking at my profile about three weeks ago, I thought, how rude, I had never answered her, so I did. Just a “Hi” back. But interesting things can come about through simple interactions.

Through this person I started to find my way again. I started to feel alive again. The pain has started to subside. Through this person I am finding love again. I am finding hope. This person does not provide an obstacle free path for me to follow, but she has given me a reason to try and clear those obstacles from that path, a path that we can walk together.

How, in three weeks, do you fall in love with another person? I guess it depends on the person, and this just happens to be the right person. I can’t believe it myself. How strange to have found three people in my life that I would want as a life’s partner. Here I am again, with a life renewed, wondering what is ahead of me, and grateful for the woman who has helped pulled me out of the morass of my sorrow.

Is it clear sailing from here? Hey, neither of us are spring chickens and there are issues we need to deal with, but our commitment to deal with them is, I believe, heading us in the right direction. I love you, hon. Thank you for being you.

bookmark: the shadow cutter

The Shadow Cutter – by Harriet Smart

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 3/29/20

bookmark: after rain

After Rain: Stories – by William Trevor

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 3/13/20

bookmark: the violin maker

The Violin Maker: A Search for the Secrets of Craftsmanship, Sound, and Stradivari – by John Marchese

If you have no interest in violins, I would suggest that this may not be a book for you. I, on the other hand, am interested in violins and found it to be an interesting look into the world of violin making.

It is pretty amazing that these music boxes made of bits of wood and string are such complex, yet simple, constructions. Even more amazing is that there are violins made long, long ago that are still being used and that are so valued that no musician can afford to buy one without either an inheritance or a patron. Indeed, many of the violins made by the old masters are owned by collectors and temporarily loaned to more renowned violinists for their use.

The book superficially follows the making of a violin by an accomplished craftsman, Sam Zygmuntowicz, for a well-known violinist, Eugene Drucker. It does not cover violin making in great detail, so don’t expect to be able to follow along and make one yourself. This book is more about the spirit of violin making.

As well as the making of the new violin, this book covers some of the history of the old violins, the Amatis, Stradavaris and Guarneris, as well as some of the violin players who use these old violins. These violins and their players exist at a level far above most violinists, but one wonders if the practical value of the old violins is a bit overblown. That is also touched on a bit in the book.

I started to learn the violin when I was in sixth grade, until I realized that it was going to be real work before I was able to play anything worthwhile. Like so many other things in my life, that reality led me to give it up rather quickly. I regret that. I now own a violin of my own with the thought that someday I am going to learn enough to turn out at least one tune, but we will see. As well, I would love to actually make a violin, whatever the quality may be, just to be able to say I have done it. Obviously this book had an appeal to me. If you are of like mind, or at least have an interest in music, perhaps it will appeal to you, too.

Finished 3/4/20

bookmark: paddle your own canoe

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living – by Nick Offerman

I suppose that someone actually interested in the mechanics of being an actor would be interested in this book. Perhaps someone as ego-driven as Mr. Offerman. Unfortunately I am not that person. Instead, most of the behavior described in the book describes an obnoxious person more interested in his own “hijinks” than in being a decent human being. Of course, since the author devotes a great amount of his book to his youth, one can make some allowances for being an asshole “back in the day.” The problem is that he revels in his past assholeness, rather than seeing the youth that he was as someone with the morals and manners of a self-absorbed child.

So why did I read this book? Well, Mr. Offerman is an accomplished woodworker, and as such I was willing to follow up my reading of his book, Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop. Secondly, because I had read that book, I was given this book as a gift. Personally, if I am to recommend one of these books to someone, read Good Clean Fun.

As a disclaimer, I must admit that I am, indeed, an old fart, and as such find a lot of the author’s discussion of his sex life and his language grating on my sensibilities. I am guessing that I am not his main audience. Still, I like to think that I am somewhat liberal in my acceptance of human nature, so I actually found my reaction to his writing a bit surprising. I guess I’m more “old-fashioned” than I think I am. In one chapter he says he will keep it cleaned up for his mother, but loses that ability half way through the chapter. I am sure his parents are proud of his accomplishments, but I wonder how they really feel about this book. I would be shaking my head after reading it if the author were my son.

Since I read the whole book, obviously there is some worth to it. He makes a few good points. If I had not read it, though, it would not have been a loss.

Finished 2/29/20

bookmark: pigeon pie

Pigeon Pie – by Nancy Mitford

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 2/12/20

bookmark: charlie and the chocolate factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – by Roald Dahl

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 2/12/20

bookmark: christmas pudding

Christmas Pudding – by Nancy Mitford

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 2/8/20

bookmark: the dead songbird

The Dead Songbird – by Harriet Smart

Notes to follow . . .

Finished 1/17/20