Sunday, August 30, 2015

the gifts of a fifty-eighth birthday and a peek in the dictionary / gratitude and appreciation / then, cluster flies

Cool and cloudy with a snappy northwest breeze, a spit of rain.

Morning view of the north field ’twixt the cabin and the river.

First successful mouse trapping of the season. (Yes, first thing, dead mouse!)

No, wait, first thing is Josie, all excited, waking up, licking my face.  thump thump thump  (Sometimes I wonder what, exactly, it is, he dreams about.)

Thirty sit-ups, thirty push-ups, touching my toes without bending my knees.

JoBeans and Elsinore! Encore!  thump thump thump

AKA Josie the Ever-Watchful and Elliot the Immensely Well-Fed.

Fun stamps at the post office!

Heartbreak Hotel.

Birthday wishes coming in from near and far.

Picking up ribs, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw from the Lucky 7 restaurant inside the Ojibwa Casino. Because it’s my birthday, I could eat in the restaurant for free, but because it’s my birthday, I want to eat at home while watching the Cubs game.


With a cozy fire.

Big Monday afternoon crowd at Wrigley, wind blowing out, but the game is a pitcher’s duel, a fine one at that. In the end, the Cubs win, bottom of the ninth, two outs, a home run.

go cubs go

A few days later I am wondering about gratitude and appreciation, if there is a difference, and if so, what? I type “gratitude vs. appreciation” into Google’s search box. Oh, the many who wade the waters before me! All sorts of explanations. Let’s see … hmm … a bit of hocus-pocus. Gratitude comes first, I read, appreciation follows. Or no, wait. It’s the other way around? Hard to tell. Perhaps a bit circular. One article dismisses the discussion out-right—it’s just nit-pickin’ words, after all—but then it goes on to use some nit-pickin’ words to explain that, if we must know, appreciation vibrates at a higher level than gratitude. It’s a vibration thing. A vibration calibration thing. Like gratitude is a good vibe, but appreciation is a great vibe. Maybe. Kind of. Sort of. Or something like that. We probably need a few more words to get at the meat of that thing, and there are more words, but I’m vibrating so with the giggles I can’t go on.


Recovered, I go to a higher source: Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. It’s a big, thick, unwieldy book with a hard red cover, slightly yellowed pages that segue to a modest brown about the edges, and it’s always lounging there against the bookcase, near the sofa. It has those half-moon indentations progressing down its outside edge, marking each succeeding two-letter set of the alphabet.
appreciation – 1. the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value. 2. clear perception or recognition, esp. of aesthetic quality. 3. gratitude: They showed their appreciation by giving him a gold watch. …

gratitude – the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
With that, I do believe, we can appreciate the difference between gratitude and appreciation. It’s a vibration thing.

Anyway, it was a good thing that my birthday was Monday rather than, say, Thursday, because Thursday it warmed up, was sunny, and at 3:33 p.m. the cluster flies launched their first massive attack of the season. You would think I had put out a flashing neon VACANCY sign; that I’d put out a sign saying HIBERNATE HERE! Quiet Warm Corners To Huddle In! FREE Continental Breakfast March 28 Thru April 13! Daily SPIN Class with Sally! The dang flies seeped in through the walls, every pore, just all of a sudden, by the thousands, suddenly there, manic, on my windows, creeping and dancing and bouncing and spinning—this is what they do—in my happy little cabin, the one I am so thankful for, and, usually, most days, appreciate, but it’s hard to appreciate a place vibrating with crazy fly juju. But, with both small vacuums in good working order, ready to go, I did what I do, which is to suck up the flies, and by six or so they were receding, backing off, I reclaimed my territory, and by 7:30 I was fed and washed and catching up with that day’s ballgame while planning a strategy for the next day, which would be, give or take a few, my 21,174th day as this person on this planet. And believe me, if I understood a minute of it, I might tell you about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

a pea picklin’ diary with energy: grab your hats, folks, there may be bat eggs

This week brought to mind my Animal Energies book by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer. Anything set off in italics is from it, unless otherwise noted, for example, this explanation.

Sunday Last – Bat
There is a bat clinging to the side of the cabin, just underneath the crawlspace vent on the west side, by the gravel patio. This is a bad place for Bat to be as Elliott could easily get ahold of him. I try to move Bat by coaxing him onto a branch (I get this advice off the Internet), but he only moves around a bit, arches his back, makes an ugly face at me. So I leave him. Try later. Leave him again. Try later. And now Elliott, who has been inside napping all day, wants out.


I get a board from the garage, one much like the board the bat has been clinging to, and hold it flat against the cabin while prodding the bat lightly with the branch. Bat moves up onto the board, which I carry over to the garage, hold under the eave until Bat crawls off the board, underneath the eave.
The power of Bat is its adaptability. … If Bat has come to you, its message may be to examine your surroundings to discern what bounty is being offered to you, and then alter your patterns so you can receive it.
Four years ago, before being fully moved into this cabin, my old dog Buster and I slept here some nights on a futon in the living room. One August night we were in bed, looking out the window at a nearly full moon, when a bat swooped around the room. The flap of the bat’s wings was sudden and startling. Seeing a bat flying in front of a nearly full moon while sleeping in a derelict cabin out in the middle of nowhere, well, it felt kind of like being in an old black-and-white monster movie. I ducked under the covers. Peeked out. The bat swooped around again. I drew the covers over my head, unsure what to do. All I could think of was this episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Andy and Helen and Barney and Thelma Lou are in a cave and Barney, in all seriousness, says ridiculous things about bats. I peeked out. Monster movie. I took hold of myself and came up with a plan. Quietly I crept over to the door and opened it. Once again the bat swooped through the moonlight, then out through the doorway! I slammed the door, waited for applause! Buster snored softly.

Monday – Frog
I am renewing the frog candle listing on Etsy, and that gets me thinking about old froggie. While on the morning walk I get this idea to post a picture of froggie on Facebook with a quote from Princess Sweet P. Pickle: “I have kissed a few princes, I have kissed a few toads.” I get to this shortly after noon when the first of several beeswax frogs that I’m making for a shop downstate pops out of its mold. Moments after posting the photo with the quote, I get an order through Etsy for five frog candles …
Frog is the caller and cleanser of the emotions. In some traditions, Frog is the spirit keeper of the element of Water, which represents and connects to our emotions. … If Frog has jumped into your awareness, look at your emotions at that moment, and see if they are in harmony with the rhythm of nature or if they need cleaning.

Tuesday – Mouse
It’s that time of year when mice begin sneaking into the cabin, and if they weren’t holding noisy scrabble parties in the middle of the night leaving behind all those black rice turds, I would not necessarily mind.
The power of Mouse truly lies in illusion. These small mammals have somehow elevated themselves to an amazing status of popularity. … (Think Mickey and Mighty.) … Although Mice  are highly destructive to the houses they invade, they have somehow become a symbol of cuteness, fun and play. If Mouse has come to you, it is asking you to pierce the illusion, and see the way things really are.
Before I moved in, this cabin had been little used for several years and indeed was still being cobbled together. No doubt the field mice considered it their winter home and with the first blush of fall would start moving in, start making it cozy.

Then, one year, interlopers! Not that the mice paid much attention to me or the nearly blind old Buster, no, they just worked around us, at night, every night, all night, the sound of little saws and chisels chipping away at whatever they felt the need to chip away at, the click-clicking of knitting needles as they knitted together whatever they needed to knit together, the rumble of little trucks with their loads of kitchen crumbs, the grumbling and grunting of the blue-collar mice as they stacked and stored those crumbs, and the the scritch of quill pens on rough birch bark paper as the white-collar mice with their paisley ties and polka-dot ties and 401(k)s and three-martini lunches kept track of it all.

Oh, the noise! The industry! The ambition!

Being the soft-hearted boob that I am, or was, I constructed an elaborate trap using an oatmeal carton with a cardboard ramp attached by duct tape that the mice could walk up, lured onward by pieces of dog kibble, straight into the hole cut in the plastic top of the carton, a hole partially covered with a piece of flimsy paper. Aha! Trapped alive! How clever am I? The next morning I would take the carton full of mice way over by the river and set them free, unharmed. Aha! How humane am I! But, despite constant refinements to the trap, I caught only one mouse. The rest of the mice simply hauled the kibble off to storage while avoiding the trap door. I’m sure they made points with the boss. Thank you very much.

Now I use inhumane snap traps and this year have not yet caught any mice but have snapped my own fingers once or twice.


Wednesday – Cat
This morning, on the doormat, a splotch of red, about the shape of the continental U.S. The remains of Elliott’s midnight snack. Cat will always be a mystery to me.

One morning I found this on the doormat.

Thursday – Dog
An all day drizzly day, and in the afternoon Josie takes me for a walk, lures me off the usual trail and we meander through the meadow brushed full of light purple and white aster, black-eyed Susan, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, dried head of clover. Some grasses have turned coppery, gold, and wheaten, have arched their stems gracefully back toward earth.
Dog is good at knowing the way. (I just made that up.)

Friday – If anything, Cow
Everything still this morning, heavy with the dew of last night’s rain, leaves silvery-edged, almost like frost, it is 40 degrees and the sky is a pale washed blue, awaiting sun. From the south, a soft moo. I find the sound soothing. Josie ignores it. He is watching for deer, for wolves, listening for a bark, a yelp, a howl, something, anything he can react to. But not Cow.

Lately I find myself longing for winter, that unbroken white landscape, that fire blazing on the hearth. Tiny white lights sparkling in the dark. This has nothing to do with Cow, of course … or does it?

Saturday – Bat
Shortly after 6 a.m. I am waiting for Josie to handle his bit of business before we leave for the farmers market. No sun yet, no moon, but enough of a grey light to see by, barely. I am on the porch step, waiting. It is still. Bat flies by, flits by, up this way, back that way, off one way, around another, in and out of my field of vision. Bats are a bit disconcerting, I think, because of the odd way they maneuver. Not fluid, but jerky, like a kitty toy on a stick. I had heard that bats up here were succumbing to white nose virus, and that is why we had so many mosquitoes the past year or two. This year, the mosquitoes seemed not so bad. I am glad Bat is in my world, or maybe I in his. Anyway, good morning, Bat. Please don’t lay your eggs in my hair.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

hitting a rock bar, letting summer and the insects sing

Just beyond the bend in the river there is a rock bar covered by an inch or two of water.

Rock bar.

I am on my hands and knees looking at stones. Josie cannot cross the deeper water that surrounds the bar, so he is on or near the shore, running to and fro, running all over, always running. He runs into the woods. I call him, and he comes running back. I carry him to the rock bar, put him down. The next time I look up, I see he is being carried away by the current. I follow, get to him just as he is bobbing up against a log, pluck him from the water, carry him to shore, put him down.


The next day, I want to explore the rock bar again.

Josie gets to the bend in the river first.

I haul Josie over to it, set him down, discover if I just sit on my butt it’s pretty nice, and Josie sits on my lap. I pick at stones. I look at my hand there in the cool, clear water, the water that is moseying on by, and what happens is one perfect moment of detachment and connection. Then I notice my butt is sinking in the rocks and sand so I move. Josie roams the rock bar. I walk about a bit, stop to pick up a stone or two, I pick up Josie, we return to shore.

Rock bar again.

On the porch in the evenings we listen to a medley of voices that weave in and out,
that rise and fall,
that are as constant as the movement of the flies and bees and wasps
and those big black things like ants with wings
and crickets and grasshoppers and beetles and maybe, just maybe, a few mosquitoes;
it is an overture of insects with the added whiz and whir
of hummingbirds that zip in from the treetops in the yard,
two or three meeting up by the feeder,
pulling up short,
doing a mid-air dance,
a mid-air joust,
so much to say, so much to express, but then no one eats and
they all just zip out and away
to the treetops in the meadow, or perhaps make an arc around the corner of the house,
zip-zip away,
zip-zip, zippity-zip.
One more time.
Do it again.
We might as well be at the circus, Josie and Elliott and I, in front row seats, heralding the exit of summer, this blast of heat and glory before
school bells ring
and orange lumpety-headed jack-o’-lanterns
get lit up
with big old jaggedy-toothed grins.
Or maybe not the circus but the symphony, a new age experimental symphony with multi-layered tones
and vibrations
crossing and criss-crossing
and jousting
with just a hint of herbal tea—jasmine, I think—wafting through
for good measure.

Back in the river, dragonflies and waterbugs.

We like waterbugs.

Logs to walk.

One day, we will look back on this and laugh.

Treasure to haul.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

alongside the road: kindness

Sometimes I just want to see what’s alongside the road, not what’s ahead or behind, just alongside, sit and stare out the passenger window as it all passes by. But I am the driver. I must look straight ahead. Josie gets the passenger window. He looks out, lets it all drift by, though sometimes he puts his front paws on the dashboard, looks straight ahead. One day, looking out the side, Josie saw a crowd of people where usually there is no one. It was just down the road from home, and it was the county fair. Josie leaned out the window, threw back his head and barked.

Josie takes a peek beyond the road.

Sometimes I just want to see what’s alongside the road, watch as it all passes by, maybe hoot and crow, then have it all be gone. I don’t want to feel anything, but perhaps for the wind. I want for no memory, no anticipation, just this, this passing by, and an idle wondering of what is that there, alongside the road?

I don’t want to be cranky just because there are ants in the crawlspace that are now, I hope, dead. I sprayed them with poison. And neither do I want to be joyous just because I woke up today and hey, the sun rose, too. And I don’t want to think ad nauseam about how to insulate that crawlspace. We’ve gone from full-blown ideas to … well, what can I say, I got distracted by those ants, carpenter ants, I think they are called, or should be called, as they all had, slung low on their slippery little hips, tool belts with chisels and drills and bits, all the tools necessary, I guess, for the work to be done.

All I want, really, is to see just what there is, alongside the road.

Josie and I walk alongside the road most every morning. We see this dead turtle, the one which one morning I picked up to move, thinking it alive, possibly heading for a spill over the bridge, into the river. But then, holding it in my hands, I saw that the turtle’s bottom shell was cracked and the turtle was dead. I moved it to the end of the bridge, tucked it into the weeds, didn’t know, really, what to do with it, but there it is now, every morning since, alongside the road.

It was a good-looking turtle. Still is.

Back home we throw open the windows to let in the light and air and still a darkness descends.

At night—last night, one night, some night—a wolf howled so close to the cabin I woke up and we lay in our nest, Josie and I, alert but not moving. It was a strange howling, like talking, and at one point I thought others were going to join in, but it was just one. And then it stopped. Quiet. Dark. Elliott is out all night now, he must take care of himself, and he does. Often I look out and there he is, eating a mouse. Perhaps I should take a picture of that, but I don’t.

One evening the wolf was in the yard—Josie alerted me to that—and I was so stunned and flustered and Josie was so wild and loud and of course I wanted to find the camera, and then the wolf was gone. It trotted down the trail—our trail—to the river. We had seen him through the kitchen window. I went up to the loft, the upper deck, camera now in hand, but the wolf was already far down the trail. He veered off, heading west, and a pack of three or four others joined him.

Were they wolves or coyotes? The one in the yard seemed too big not to be a wolf, but of course I am obsessed with the ability of everything to be not what it seems.

It gets hard—I don’t know why—and it gets dark—I don’t know why—and all I want is to see what’s alongside the road, to let it pass by, neither capture it nor hold it, leaving no need, then, to let go of it, and sometimes it is that way, but sometimes it is not.

One morning, from the opposite side of the road, I watched
a porcupine chisel this sign. Luckily, Josie was busy with other matters.

One morning I think of how walking alongside the road on a drizzly morning is a pleasure, and I am reminded of a young woman I once knew, she was from Turkey, and one day we discovered a shared passion for rainy days. After that she would stop by my office once in a while, on a rainy day, and we would smile. Josie certainly does not mind a drizzle, so we walk and our spirits lift, we say hello to the turtle, and back home we close some windows, write a letter or two, put a pot of beeswax on the stove, start a fire, turn on a ball game.

Yesterday we drove to the farmers market looking straight ahead. Josie slept. Remnants of fog from the day before’s rain obscured the sun. At the market my Jabber Machine turned on, and I reined in the first guy in a Cubs cap to tell the story of the first night game at Wrigley Field, the unofficial one, where the weather played its hand. I was in the center field bleachers that night of 8/8/88, and I am compelled to explain how the sky looked, how the orange infield dust swirled up into the lights as storm clouds took aim from the west. Oh, the oppressive heat! And, oh my gosh, I must be an old person. Do I remember correctly that the guy in the Cubs cap said he was five that year? Fortunately, the Jabber Machine never goes non-stop—I must make a sale!—and there are times I just sit back and watch. About three hours into the market, I realize something: there is kindness. I am seeing so many acts of kindness. Small, perhaps even ordinary, common, common acts of kindness. Alongside the road.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

the italian poet and the comma queen: a summer romance with a bit of old russian and murder

First and foremost, I am an idiot. Yes, yes, it’s true. Despite your protestations, faint as they seem to be (that is a protestation, right?), I am an idiot. Please, do not try to persuade me to the contrary. I know what I know and the evidence room is stacked floor to ceiling, items neatly tagged with dates and places, all those reminders, all that evidence! I am an idiot. Also, I may just be a romantic, which is no excuse, I agree, except … maybe? A feeble, forgivable one?

Oh yes. I have been known to behave idiotically—so idiotically!—simply because the romance of it all caused my head to spin, my heart to flutter, and with all that going on, where can one find oneself but in a dither? Only later upon finding out that according to The Other Hey! There is no romance here! What the heck are you talking about? Quit all that spinning and fluttering and dithering and get out of here! will I crash to Earth, in dismay, all those idyllic images I walked besottedly straight into being ruled by The Insect Gods and strewn, no less, with dead flies and mouse turds. No different, really, from anywhere else, from anyone else.

Oh, I have the evidence all right. One would think one would learn.

But alas, as a romantic, every time I walk out on a morning not yet dawned to find myself nearly blinded by a full moon hanging low in the western sky barely kissed by overgrown fields, I forget. And every time I sit on the porch of an evening and the wind stills and out there in a shaft of sunlight I spy this vast other world of insects flying every which way making crazy little sparkling patterns in the haze, I forget. And on occasion in the serious dark of winter when the fire is exploding with heat and I am nearby and I am warm and a storm rages outside, I forget. And every time a Chicago Cub hits a home run, I forget. And sometimes, it’s just the air. Something about the feel of the air. And I forget.

Lately, I find romance in books. It all started a few weeks ago with that library card. I’ve had in my lifetime maybe eight or ten library cards starting at age six with a card of muted orange made of thin cardboard, stiff but pliable, with rounded edges that would bend and crease, get fuzzy. In one corner a strip of metal with raised numbers was attached through two thin slots that the metal fit into, its top and bottom edges folded over, crimped tight against the cardboard. How did that card work? How exactly, without computers, did librarians keep track of who had what book for how long? And wouldn’t it be interesting to have a list of all the books you’ve ever checked out of a library? Since age six? Sometimes I would fiddle with that metal strip and the way it attached to the card and the whole system would get worn and tattered and eventually I’d have to get a new card, which probably cost a dollar or something. The initial card, of course, was free.

I paid an annual fee of $85 for my library card here, which is plastic with a spare to attach to my key chain in case I ever forget the real thing, and now I can’t recall where I put the spare—certainly not on my key chain—and that $85 is an example of romance meeting reality, cause for alarm, but in this case, no problem. It was, however, a different story a few years back when I was first faced with having to pay for a library card. Then it was $75 to continue using a library I had been enjoying for free. Reality greeted romance with a bill for $75 and I got pissed off, walked away, joined the Amazon Nation, thought I was fine, but I was not.

If not for the library, I wouldn’t be reading short stories by Dostoevsky. One day I turned around in the stacks thinking oh, I need one more book, and there was Fyodor.
Good Lord, only a moment of bliss? Isn’t such a moment sufficient for the whole of a man’s life?
Thanks to the library, on my way to and from the farmers market each Saturday I am listening to a mystery, the first being The Death of a Bore, by M.C. Beaton, read by Graeme Malcolm. Rachel was right—his voice is great! I especially enjoy the dialogue. Malcolm changes his voice a bit here, a bit there, to be one character or another ranging from quirky old spinster sisters to hardboiled seafarers to arrogant detectives. What could be more romantic than a deep, Scottish-inflected voice bringing to life this misty, murder-besieged village somewhere out there in the Scottish Highlands? (Oh, by the way, the murdered bore was a writer.)

I found In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, by Joseph Luzzi, and Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris, at the library. Both are new books, just two-week loans, and I was feeling the pressure—I am not a particularly fast reader. Plus, I was expecting to like both, which is another kind of pressure—don’t want to be disappointed! And I was a little scared of In a Dark Wood because I have never read Dante. Perhaps this book would be too heady or literary for me. Perhaps I would not understand it.

I knew of the book only because I had heard the author interviewed one morning on the radio. It sounded interesting, but it’s possible I would have forgotten about it but for the Italian connection, the Dante connection, as no doubt Louis mentioned Dante and“The Divine Comedy” to me once or twice. Louis and I did have some wonderful conversations, and I suppose the title of this book and the author’s Italianness brought all that to mind, fed my anticipation, which added to the worry that the book might let me down, but it did not. So many passages I wanted to mark! But I could not stop reading, and besides, this was a library book, so I kept going, thinking, I will read this again someday.

Throughout the book I found silky threads of connection bringing in new ways to look at things, to organize thoughts and feelings through that crazy poem written hundreds of years ago as well as through most everything else Luzzi draws on. So many threads weaving together, coming through the language, the poetry, the family, the grief, the love, the Italian—I would go so far to say the very texture of the paper.

Luzzi is a professor of Italian and a Dante scholar. He is also a writer and a man who in a split-second lost his wife but not his unborn daughter—his first child. He is a man—a romantic, I feel sure—struggling to understand not only grief but love, how to move on, move forward; how to live the life that is now rather than yearning or grieving for the life that was, or was supposed to be. He turns to and is taught by Dante Alighieri, a poet exiled from his home, from Florence, in 1302. Dante spent pretty much the rest of his life writing “The Divine Comedy,” a poem of 14,233 lines in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. He died in 1321.

It turns out that Luzzi, also Italian, is the first in his family to be born in America, raised in Rhode Island, and not only does he become a professor, he moves away from his family, his roots. But, after the loss of his wife and birth of his daughter, he moves back “home” and in many ways is saved not only by Dante but by his Old-World, Italian-speaking mother.

For me, some of the most interesting parts of In a Dark Wood were the descriptions of Luzzi’s family, the mother and father who came to the U.S. from Calabria, an area in southern Italy, in the mid-1950s. I remembered the page number—249—of one sentence I knew I had to remember. In describing his father, Luzzi writes:
He died longing for a Calabria that never was, because America never became the place he hoped it would be.
You could substitute so many places, so many things, for “Calabria” and “America.” Maybe “Chicago” and “the Upper Peninsula.” Or, “togetherness” and “solitude.” Go ahead—you try it.

A couple of pages before, Luzzi is going on about Dante and Cacciaguida and Florence and this and that and this is kind of what he does, he takes you to these places and people you may know nothing or little about, teaching you a bit about them but eventually making it clear that whatever it is he’s talking about, it is also something about him, and quite possibly you, too.
It’s not surprising that Dante would create so extravagant—and skewed—a picture of this primitive Florence that never was. He had fallen prey to the great enabler of grief and handmaiden of mourning—a disease that itself was an invention, that of nostalgia.
Now, if you want to know how nostalgia was invented, read the next paragraph of the book. You will find yourself, kind of, in the Swiss Alps with the “banging of cow kettles” and learn, like I did, that nostalgia is one part pain. -algia = pain. I knew that, of course, I mean, I see -algia in other words and know it means pain, like in neuralgia and fibromyalgia, but never before had I seen the -algia, the pain, in nostalgia. I always thought nostalgia was supposed to be fun, like dancing without shoes to Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.”

Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for my life before here, my life in Chicago and Evanston and the suburbs, where I grew up, the security of 9-to-5, the knowing of every street, every alley, every shop, every distance, every beaten path and every short-cut around it. In other words, home. I’ve been homesick. Like Dante. I have begun to think that in my own way I was exiled from Chicago, because there are reasons I never went back except when I had to, and not all reasons have to do with me not wanting to go back, but rather, with me being not able to go back.

Right now I am deep into Between You and Me, written by a copy editor (copy-editor? copyeditor? see page … dang, can’t find it) at The New Yorker, who, by the way, is a woman of a certain age with a great sense of humor. This book is all about stuff like Words! Grammar! Style! Punctuation! All that fuss over “who” and “whom”! “That” and “which”! Commas commas commas … or, commas, commas, and commas … or, commas, commas and more commas. (Did you know the comma was invented in the 1400s by an Italian guy? Which means, of course, that Dante had 14,233 lines of poetry, but no commas to work with.) Norris occasionally draws on The Honeymooners to make a point (“polopony” appears on page 119, in a discussion of compound words, and I simply laughed out loud, seriously, LOL), and she tells stories of New Yorker editors and writers and starts off the whole thing, the book, with a story about her first job: checking swimmers’ feet for fungus at a public pool in Cleveland.

Grammar and fungus! Not romantic? Well, OK, I’ll give you the fungus—not romantic. But grammar? Where would we be without words and grammar? Without clarity? Without expression of feeling? After all, it is through words peppered with punctuation that so many of us find—indeed, try to capture, hold on to—romance. Oh! Idiots that we are!

 to be continued …

See … nostalgia. Some of these guys look a little creepy and everyone is wearing shoes! However, there are two couples I find particularly romantic. Can you guess who? (Or is it “which”, as in which couples are romantic, not who couples? Hmmm … )