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Number of posts: 117
Email address: email
Posts by David Evans:
stupidity and crime of war
Before I fell asleep last night, my wife Jody read aloud to me from her copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Lacuna. The passage she chose was a diary entry that opened:
“Tonight’s news: the Allies broke open the dikes along the Netherlands coast, letting in the open sea and drowning thousands of German soldiers in the flood. Like the Azteca opening dikes to drown Cortés and his men on the shores of Lake Tenochtitlan. But fiction is nonsense, the war is real. Tomorrow the farmers of Walcheren will wake to see a tide standing over their crops, the floating corpses of their cattle, every tree in the land scalded dead by the salt on its roots. The glory of war is so frequently disappointing.”
the writer and the spy
And in the midst of hell’s a poppin’ lives, Peter Matthiessen and Thomas Polgar were reflective men who wanted to see what was on the other side of the door. They were realists who sought answers, who didn’t pretend the false was true and did not buy into fantasy. Most importantly, they were not afraid to look in the mirror and take a measure of the value of their lives, their legacy, what would endure from their stay on this rock.
winter without end
“Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write any more.”
So reads the last entry in the diary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. It’s dated 29 March 1912 as he and three companions have made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to return safely from the South Pole. His team had gotten to the Pole in January only to discover that the Norwegian Roald Amundsen had gotten there first a month earlier.
going to the groomers
My dear wife Jody got a good chuckle recently when I asked about her “beauty parlor” appointment. Seems as though I’m so behind the times that I didn’t know that expression went out of style probably in the days when Jimmy Carter was president. So yesterday when m’lady scooted down the driveway with our hirsute Sheltie, Mr. Sheldon, in the front seat, I was sympathetic and in solidarity with him that he was being dragged to a “dog groomer,” the equivalent I’m sure to a trip to the vet to be neutered. And being an especially scrappy little lad with a country boy delight in rolling about in natural stuff like deer poop, he certainly would have had his tail between his legs had he even thought he was being ferried to a sort of canine beauty parlor…
the written magic
As I try to understand the need I have to write about what I see and what I think I believe, I find that I continue to narrow the themes that especially occupy me. I’ve got the main ones down to under a dozen I believe–from love and commitment, to friendship and loyalty, to success and disappointment, to fragility and death, with more than a couple of stops in between. Although I’m not convinced it’s an “age thing,” the theme of death seems to be creeping in more and more.
Years ago when I was a reluctant warrior on a battlefield far, far away and now almost forgotten, many people died for no real reason. That time was one of great discontent. As Sherlock would say,
“It’s the East Wind that takes us all in the end, the terrifying force of ‘rolling thunder’ that lays waste to all in its path. It seeks out the worthy along with the unworthy and plucks them from the face of the earth. It is both the blunt as well as the sharp instrument, the club and the dagger, precise and without remorse. ”
The “rolling thunder” got many of us, friend and foe alike.
He always held his pencil differently from the rest of us. While we philistines labored to be little Norman Rockwells desperately trying to make the faces we sketched look at least human, he glided over the paper with an ease none of us could ever duplicate. His faces were human, but they were in a Picasso-like abstract style. The noses were there but they sometimes overlapped the mouth and eyes and were out of proportion. Our teacher in middle school was not in the least amused and totally disinterested in how his mind was able to see the assignment in such a different way. All she could tell him was to quit “wasting time” and …
we were soldiers once and young
Of all the distinctive experiences in my life, there have been only two that have totally brought me to a halt, changing my landscape to the point that the line before and after are dark and broad strips as though made with a blunt and heavy magic marker. There is no ambiguity that the line is one of separation. One was my tour of duty in Vietnam from 1968-69. The other was the death of my late wife, Lilian.
oft we mar what's well
The practice Sunday morning went well and my wife Jody said that I had “nailed” the playing of my alto sax part of The Black Cat Rag, a snappy and quick-paced piece of music by Frank Wooster and Ethyl B. Smith written in 1905. It has been a tough piece, however, for me to get my fingers around in order to dance fast enough to keep up with the light-hearted but sprightly pace. When the time came later in the afternoon…
I suspect there is often a child in a family who is able to escape the confines of the worst kind of restrictive life. Perhaps just getting away from people who have squeezed the vision of possibilities into a speck is beyond our power to appreciate, especially at the moment when we leave their world behind. It is a moment when the air rushes into the lungs and the body can fully breathe. We must shed them and slough off our old skins if we are to become more ourselves.
proud of my ancestors
On the back of my daughter’s car is a sticker that proclaims:
I dream of a world where chickens
Can cross the road
Without having their motives questioned.
She has other amusing stickers on her car, including an image of an early hominoid that reads, “Proud of my ancestors.”
now is the winter
December has been a cold month. Perhaps when our time comes, it is best to go in winter with its short days and long and dark nights, amidst the bitterness of storms that take our remaining warmth. I think my time should be a moment when I have finished my work, tidied up my tools, kissed those I love goodnight, and not have to worry about what new change is afoot in the world. My exit will perhaps be best when rebirth is still months away from the first green of spring.
duty to share
A friend of mine recently came out with her first novel which was so delightful that I wondered if I could do the same. Needless to say, I’m discovering that it ain’t easy. All my life, I’ve been writing short essays, not fiction, on my take of what’s happening. I don’t write diatribes or commentary, though. There’s enough of that on the opinion page of any newspaper. In fact, we stopped our subscription to our local rural paper, since I couldn’t help myself from reading the owner’s nonsense each week and then fulminating over how worthless his ideas were and how pathetically he expressed them. But I couldn’t help myself.
coming to terms
In Rabbi Joe’s class this week on Mussar, the Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in the nineteenth century in Eastern Europe, I heard the words of the author Anne Tyler echo in my ears. In her book The Beginner’s Goodbye, she startles the reader right off by having the main character say,
“I have a couple of handicaps. I may not have mentioned that.”
a changed man
When you grow up with a hooligan in the neighborhood, you learn quickly to stay alert and to fight back or forever be a patsy to his terrorist tactics. I have Frank to thank for my first bloody nose and other important lessons in life, such as how to handle a hard grounder to third base. But he was a tough kid and a bully.
colors against the shadows
The American marten’s body this morning had lost its lustrous sheen my wife Jody and I had marveled at yesterday when our dogs found it in the woods just off our drive. In the eighteen years I have lived here, this is only the second marten I’ve seen. I only got a glimpse of the first one years ago as he darted down off a rock and disappeared alongside the stream. We have no idea what killed this one, although we have coyotes and fox here who are natural predators.
part of the family
One day, as I was returning home from town, there he was, standing alongside the busy highway just waiting to be run over by one of the timber or chicken trucks that come roaring down the road. We looked at one another for a second with resignation in our eyes but not spoken before I stopped by the side of the road to rescue him. I got him across the road where he stood beside me rather shakily. As I checked in a futile effort for a collar and any ID, my hands ran over a cluster of fully engorged ticks on the back of his neck. After frantically pulling off all the obvious ticks, I picked him up and put him in the back of Jody’s Mini Cooper. He cried as I cradled his chest when lifting him.
Certitude is one conviction for me that remains on the tip of the sword of Damocles, forever dangling out there within my eyesight and my concept of where I don’t want to be. As I grow older and less trusting of what appears to be progress but really isn’t, I can understand why some people just drop out, go off the grid, or simply refuse to participate in conventional life because of what they consider to be its increasingly chaotic and alienating nature
forgo any stumbling
Finding an old friend after all these years, sitting down for coffee with an ex-lover after an accidental meeting on the street, reconciling with a family member after a period of silence so long that neither of you can remember why your worlds went quiet, how lovely to know there are second chances.
The overlapping of love and laughter is perhaps all I really want from this life. I recently read the words of the poet W. S. Merwin who said,
“One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.”
All he could say was “I doubt it.” The message was somewhat unexpected, since we still held on to the faint hope that Charlie and his wife Mary Kay, my childhood friends, might be able to make the seven-hour trip over to visit us this fall. With her illness no closer to remedy or even accurate diagnoses from when I visited them over a year ago, he added the sad touch that “perhaps spring” before admitting that he doubted then either.
In a surprise garden event, the groundhog had bypassed all the ripening vegetables to get to the lamb’s quarters, an edible but common invasive weed. In his book More Scenes From The Rural Life, Verlyn Klinkenborg stands unnoticed for a few seconds watching the voracious eater who has made the effort to break into the garden only to nibble on a weed. He likens the surprising incident to discovering a burglar in your house intent on shampooing the carpets rather than stealing the valuables.
neither darkness nor light
The music played. She danced with slight, tentative steps, a tulip too heavy for its stem.
When I read my copy of The Writer’s Almanac this morning, these words from the poem ”Old Age Home” by Burt Kimmelman jumped out at me, especially as I continue to ponder the death of a friend who had passed recently and most unexpectedly. Sitting in the last pew of the church listening to the well-scripted mass “celebrating” her life, I was left wondering about the simplicity and conviction of those who spoke.
idea of place
What was in the closet in Virginia Woolf’s room of her own? What kind of high-collared blouses were hanging there? Was there a hat box to hold some of the wide brims she liked to sport? What did her sense of place give her?
The idea of place has always been on my mind. I have a firm spot in my recollections of the places I have lived, where I have planted gardens, where I have enjoyed good times and bad with loved ones, and where I have buried pets and memories.
remembering elmore leonard
“I got one question. How you gonna get down that hill?” the hero Paul Newman asked Richard Boone, the classic villain, in the film adaptation of the 1967 film Hombre, based on the Western by Elmore Leonard. The story is of John Russell, played by Newman, a white man raised by Apaches and forced by circumstances to be responsible for the lives of a group of people who despise him.
a kind of magic
As I fast approach a birthday that will be my last one in this decade, I think of my granddaughter Lia who is not quite seven. Right now I’m ten times older than she. When she was here this week, she learned that my birthday is coming up in just a few weeks. She was somewhat curious about how old I would be but the mention of birthdays excited her into count-down mode and to talk the rest of the time about her own birthday in November and what kind of party she wanted.
As I grow older and wearier of worldly causes and tilting at more and more windmills, I have learned to enjoy the company of like-minded souls more than the fray of battle. Perhaps the choice in my desires has always been there, longing to be free. I don’t enjoy being in the mud any longer wrestling with the pigs who take so much away from the table that everyone should enjoy.
Most of us wonder from time to time about the day we will die. What time of year will the end come and where will we be? Since it’s going to happen to all of us eventually, let’s at least hope it’s not behind the wheel watching a big truck coming at us left of center. Even worse would be in a hospital room tethered to a life support system hearing vague voices talking medical jargon. Don’t know of anyone who looks forward to that.
What intrigues me is who will be the last person we hear or who hears us. Will it be a loved one or a paramedic sitting in the back of the ambulance with us?
Worthy of Comment
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