The Ancient of Days by William Blake - from Whitworth Art Gallery The University of Manchester UK The Bridgeman Art Library via (public domain)In his poem The Cabbages of Chekhov, Robert Bly had me again when he wrote that,

“William Blake knew that fierce old man,
irritable, chained, and majestic, who bends over
to measure with his calipers the ruins of the world.”

Despite such a fierce image in his poem, Bly has that way about him where he can rescue you in the end from all the bad news that comes tracked in on the dog’s paws.

With Bly on my mind, I wasn’t all that surprised that something magical was about to happen this past weekend. On the wings of Bly, a sweet little guy with a funny hat stopped in practically unannounced to stay overnight on his pilgrimage home to his adopted southland. This guy is a cartoonist, writer without an editor and guitarist who can’t read music, but can draw good conclusions and jam along to his heart’s content. Amongst his other charming qualities, he doesn’t eat critters or cucumbers, perhaps an unusual dietary combination but we honored his wishes by having an onion tart and green salad ready for his dinner.

He’s a soft speaker and good listener who needs a tad of coaxing to tell his own tales. He was gone the next morning without much fanfare and with few wakes in his track. In the short time he was here, though, he left us with a trace of his life, the good woman and teacher he had married, and the daughter who’s about to jump into the medical fray. And then there was his old dog Nug, short for the nugget he wasn’t looking for over a decade ago but one this same daughter and her friends brought into the family without any questions asked. All that was expected of him was his ceremonial vote in favor of the pup’s name which the ladies had already chosen. And thus Nug joined the pack and got his name by committee. Like most fathers, our friend knew he had been had when told he had nothing further to fret over since the girls would forever look after all of Nug’s needs.

His hat was nearly brimless and came to a high perch above his head. The band was somewhat stained and had once belonged to his father, but had hidden in the closet nearly eight years in mourning. He looked a bit anxious when he reluctantly took it off before dinner and let his pony tail drop free.

He told me earlier not to trouble much in preparation for his visit, unless, of course, I liked trouble. My wife Jody and I were not sure what we were in for when we said we would be delighted if he should stop by. He is a fellow scribbler who told me he thought we had something in common that he sensed in my own jottings. How could you turn down someone who doesn’t eat critters, likes what you write, and has all the good-natured habits of a well-grounded lad who is partial to canines?

He didn’t disappoint us and left us all smiling. He was a calming presence without any sense of presentiment. He smiled spontaneously as he told us some secrets about how to draw by using what people say to shape their outlines. He also had a book of music it had taken him eighteen months to write with just the chords shown as a guide. He showed a particular sweetness in his smile as he gladly accepted a second helping of the Hungarian dessert Jody offered.

When he left after a heavy breakfast of waffles and hash browns, we felt a certain lightness of being. Even the rambunctious dogs warmed to him immediately and seemed to be amiss after he disappeared as quickly as he had shown up. And unlike the fierce old man that William Blake knew, this man measured a world not in ruin but only in constant and amazing surprise.

He’s still moving me to a softer place.

Image: The Ancient of Days by William Blake - from Whitworth Art Gallery The University of Manchester UK The Bridgeman Art Library via (public domain).
David Evans

David Evans

I'm retired from another life and live in the mountains of eastern West Virginia with my muse Jody along with one little and two big dogs and a diminishing pride of two cats and other critters who come along the path from time to time. I retired one morning years ago when I woke up and said, "This is the day." It was simply time to do something new with my life. I had done whatever I did long enough, and now it was time to do something else. Being independent and no longer in the reins of someone else's driver, I believe I have found something to cherish that I never had before. Retirement may be dull and boring, but that's true only if you are dull and boring. But if you’re like I was, and am, I saw a lot of things as I went along the trail that I would have liked to linger over a lot longer if I had had the time to spare. Above all, I wanted to think about what they meant and have the chance to go back over them and figure them out. I'm not abashed to say that today I lead a life of real luxury. I also recognize that I'm a lucky boy. In the words of Katherine Anne Porter: "My life has been incredible, I don't believe a word of it." I am the author of the recently published collection of essays entitled Meeting Memory In The Dark. Earlier I self-published Words To Woo Her By And Other Distractions Along The Way; Tunes of Glory: The Slow Ticking of the Heart; Cradle My Soul: Glimpses Into Other Lives; and Unscheduled Stops: Essays on Love, Loss and Other Roadside Attractions. All are available on either Amazon or Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. Proceeds go to the Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.