Why We Write

Radicchio in the garden, June 11, 2021.

This retro post is from July 16, 2012. If the Sisters of Mercy had any influence on me in the late 1960s, it was in the phrase “all for the honor and glory of God,” which, at one time, we were required to write on every school paper. In a world more connected than ever, reaching out beyond the veil of our own humanity with purpose seems as important as ever. It is not enough to believe that God is watching our every move. We must also live in society. I witnessed women making traditional lace in Morbihan. We have to get beyond the appearances of things, as comforting as they might be, as well as they might fit into a traditional world view. Hope you enjoy this recycled post.

We are isolated beings, wrapped in a veil of humanity, closer to God, or its divine essence than we realize. Such veil, metaphorical or not, is woven of delicate threads, like the lace of Morbihan, or silk from China. We could spend a lot of time marveling in its delicate needlework or shimmering surface. Yet we are compelled to reach out beyond the veil. A Cartesian view of life, if there is one.

Some say we should live our lives in the presence of God and perform all works for its honor and glory. The Sisters of Mercy taught us this and had us inscribe on each sheet of school work, words to the effect, “all for the honor and glory of God.” If God is reading this blog, my offerings may not be living up to divine standards.

Yet there is a compulsion to communicate, in manners crafted and on the fly. Verbally and in writing. In the silence of being, writing, especially in e-mail and on the internet, comes as a natural outlet for our need to express ourselves when other people are not around. It is difficult to accept that there is just God and me in the universe, and that I should be satisfied to live in the Presence of the Lord.

This weekend I had a conversation with a friend about everlasting life. We agreed that if the everlasting version is like the current one, the attraction is not enough to tithe and focus on the next life after this one. There is too much inequality, too much trouble today, to relish a state where our worldly problems are solved, the veil of life on earth torn and we visit with our deceased predecessors. It all seems an ill-designed nostrum for ailments that are not really ailments, but the stuff of our lives.

So we write, partly to clarify our thinking, and partly to satisfy our need to reach out to others and express the value of our lives, one life among the billions of people walking on the planet. Whether anyone reads or understands our writing is not the point, although we hope they do. The point is that if it is only me in the Divine Presence, then I am not yet convinced of the connection with the rest of humanity. Something I believe exists, and is more than a mere veil protecting me from the light of society.

Home Life Writing

Gravel Roads

Cedar Township

We rely on the county secondary roads department to keep farm-to-market routes in good shape. Each spring, gravel roads need grading and gravel application. While they are not well-traveled, people notice if they are in disrepair. Secondary Roads did a great job on those I use, like the one in the photograph taken after my shift at the farm.

My soil blocking at the CSA is winding down. Yesterday I started early because of mid day heat. I showered afterward and went to the wholesale warehouse to get provisions. That’s my work for the week so the next scheduled trip off property is not until Monday to deliver produce to the food pantry. That is, unless she calls ready to come home.

Having the house to myself is a little weird. I set up a music station on the dining room table. The three-in-one device plays radio, compact disks or audio cassette tapes. We keep things pretty quiet most of the time, so it is evidence of temporarily letting loose. Last night I played my Greg Brown CDs. Brown tells a story I’d like to believe about Iowa.

The menu I wrote for the both of us is out the window. There was leftover rice so I used it with other bits and pieces from the ice box to make a dish: leftover beans, kale, onions, bell pepper, and seasonings. That served as breakfast and dinner on Wednesday.

In addition to drinking a Coca-Cola on Tuesday, last night I drank the first beer since March 13, 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. I bought a case of Stella Artois at the wholesale warehouse and with temperatures in the upper 80s, I relished the first taste.

There is a big bowl of limes to be used up. I have something mixed with vodka in mind, although I am no mixologist or hard-liquor-drinker for that matter. For complicated reasons I am reluctant to open the bottle of Stolichnaya Russian Vodka purchased at the Me Too grocery store in Cedar Rapids around 1986. I hauled it out to Indiana and then brought it back to Iowa. The label says, “Imported from the USSR” and that’s half the story of its travel. Once I open it it’s a matter of time before it will be gone. I’ll probably hang on to the unopened bottle a while longer. In all this time, only about an ounce has evaporated through the sealed cap. I’m not keen on vodka consumption anyway.

Peas are ready to pick in the garden, so that’s first up when the sun rises. Some kind of stir fry will follow. There will also be soup today. Ambient temperatures are forecast for the 90s this afternoon, so garden work will be finished early, and most of the day will spent indoors.

It seems too hot for early June. The drought in Western states is horrific. The Colorado River basin is disastrously low on water and it seems doubtful rain will come in needed amounts. My worry is the drought is creeping eastward. I lived through the 2012 drought and worked outdoors in it. I don’t want to repeat that experience, yet may have to. Fingers crossed we get back to normal weather before long.


Learning in the 21st Century

Box of Redbor kale picked June 7, 2021 for donation to the local food bank.

Most people believe learning is important. Yet “learning” is such an all-encompassing word its meaning get muddied. I’m not sure how much actual learning goes on in said people’s lives.

I hope to be a life-long learner and assume I will be. As a gardener, learning comes with the avocation so there is a process of getting better in producing vegetables, caring for the soil, and controlling harmful to humans inputs. As a writer, most of my time is spent editing words to determine what captures intended meaning, what sounds best, and figuring better ways to say more with less words. In December I reach another decennial milestone and enter septuagenarian status. In response, I’ve been considering what it means to be a learner in 21st Century society.

This post frames up a longer discussion of what learning means in the years ahead.

As young children we learn by nature and gain an understanding of how life works. Things like where food comes from, rules of behavior, when to expect a spanking, and from whom receiving a spanking is appropriate. As we age, we learn there are other options from what we learned as a toddler. It is possible to eat a healthy diet different from the culture in which we came up. Children can be raised without spanking. I find this kind of learning pretty dull because it is ubiquitous and necessary.

While there is significant learning once formal schooling begins, that too seems less interesting. I chose not to become a teacher early on, and that decision made the mechanics of pedagogy of fleeting interest. I had a long formal education, which includes Kindergarten through high school (1957-1970), college (1970-1974), a formal tour of Europe (1974) military service (1976-1979) and graduate school (1980-1981). While I had several paying jobs during these years, I considered everything part of my education. Learning is assumed during a formal education, it’s not the reference I am making in this post.

Learning occurs as a result of conscious intent. When I approached my friend Susan about working on her farm, in addition to financial compensation, I hoped to become a better gardener. As I planted the garden this year, I reflected on how much specific knowledge and technique I acquired since that initial engagement. My relationship with a community supported agriculture project made learning possible.

Over the summer I plan to set a new course for learning. Now that I retired from paying work, much of my time has been spent learning how to cope with my new status. Napping has been involved. That adjustment aside, I plan to review how I spend my time, what I have been working on, and what I should be working on. After doing that, I expect to embark on a new journey with learning at its core, one to carry me into my eighties.

I ran into one of my octogenarian friends at the food bank yesterday. She was the key organizer who started the food bank, found a permanent home for it, and continues to manage it. She is a living example of what it means to stay active in the community. My hope is I’ve learned enough to emulate her approach to living and learning. There are additional role models in life. Seeking them out will be part of the rest of my 2021.

Living in Society

Memorial Day

Oakland Cemetery on Memorial Day

A soldier feels a sense of connection to his country that is like few other things. That connection is to current events, but to the lives of past soldiers as well. Being a soldier can be a form of living history.

When I left the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, and the Robert E. Lee Barracks in Mainz-Gonsenheim, Germany, I returned my service revolver to the arms room and never looked back. It was with a sense of duty, family tradition, and adventure that I had entered the post Vietnam Army. My enlistment was finished, I resigned my commission, and like many soldiers turned civilian, my main interest was in getting back to “normal,” whatever that was.

A soldier’s connection to country includes being a part of living history. For example, many of us are familiar with Lieutenant General George Patton from the movie starring George C. Scott. When I stood at Patton’s grave in the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial there was a personal connection. I learned a history I had not known. He died in a car accident after the war and his life seemed visceral, real…he was one of us. His actual life story, considered among the American soldiers laid to rest in Luxembourg, was real in a way no movie ever could be.

Words seem inadequate to describe the feeling I had when visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer in France. I was traveling with some friends from Iowa and we went to Omaha Beach and Pointe-du-hoc, where the United States Army Ranger Assault Group scaled the 100 foot cliff under enemy fire. It is hard to believe the courage it took for these men to make the assault that was D-Day. The remains of 9,287 Americans are buried at Normandy. What moved me was that so many grave markers indicated deaths within such a short period, buried at the site of the battle. The lives of these men embody the notion of devotion to country.

The Andersonville, Georgia National Cemetery is where some Civil War dead are buried. This cemetery is active with veterans and their dependents continuing to be interred there. Andersonville is a part of our history that is often forgotten. Some 45,000 Union soldiers were confined at Camp Sumter during its 14 month existence. More than 13,000 of them died “from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, and exposure to the elements.” It was an ignoble death for a soldier and emblematic is the large number of graves marked “unknown” at Andersonville. It saddens us that citizens activated to serve the cause of preserving the union ended up this way. It seems like such a waste in an era when we have knowledge that proper public health procedures and basic sanitation could have prevented many of these deaths.

A friend of mine in Davenport kept the bullet that killed a relative during the Civil War on a “whatnot” in her living room. It was a constant reminder of the sacrifices servicemen and women make when they put on a uniform. It is also a reminder that defense of the common good is no abstraction.

On this Memorial Day, it is worth the effort to consider those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and pay them respect. People and organizations are decorating cemeteries with American flags, reminding us that military service is not about images and speeches. It is about the decision individuals make that there is something more important than themselves and that from time to time it is worth giving one’s life to defend the common good.

~ First published on May 29, 2011 on Blog for Iowa.

Living in Society

Memorial Day Weekend

Service Flags at Oakland Cemetery, Solon, Iowa.

Editor’s note: I’ve written about Memorial Day so many times I can’t remember them all. This retro post is from May 29, 2010. Back in the day I would occasionally post live blogs of my activities to note an occasion. I was still writing to understand how to blog. This year the number of activities planned is less and there won’t be any live blogging. Instead, I’m hoping the rain abates and I can finish planting the garden. Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Friday: 9:00 AM: Five Mile run. Saw many (stopped counting at 30) goslings with parents near the shore.

1:00 PM: Trip to Stringtown Grocery. Perhaps the favorite item is popcorn, which comes in several varieties and is sold in bulk. It is worth the trip to Kalona for the popcorn. They also had local lettuce for a dollar a bag and brown eggs for $1.79 per dozen (much less expensive than at the farmers’ market). The clear blue sky made driving along Highway One a pleasure. The antique stores had banners unfurled and seem ready for business.

5:15 PM: Peace vigil at the Pentacrest.

7:00 PM: Iowa Press with the three Democratic US Senate candidates Roxanne Conlin, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause.

Saturday: 4:15 AM: Wake and coffee made.

7:00 AM: Arrived early at the farmers’ market, parking on Iowa Avenue near the Unitarian Church to avoid the congestion of the lot south of Chauncey Swan parking ramp. Ran into Tom Baldridge and we discussed Nicholas Kristoff’s article in the New York Times on Sister Margaret MacBride of Phoenix. We passed a happy half hour, waiting for the whistle to blow, starting the sales. I bought a cucumber, asparagus, a bunch of turnips, a bunch of radishes and two quarts of local strawberries.

8:00 AM: There was a crowd of twenty outside the Solon Public Library when I arrived, waiting for the early bird opening. $5.00 to get in before the crowds to search through the 9,000 books on sale this year. There was a tall stack of free t-shirts and I took a couple for me and two to send to our daughter. I had a bag, which I filled, moving quickly among the piles to get through the majority of tables. I bought two dozen books, hoping to find time to read them. They are, community cookbooks from Mount Pleasant, Nauvoo, Illinois, Keokuk, Victor and Fort Madison. John Gardener’s Nickel Mountain, New Directions 27, The Life of Honorable William F. Cody, Now Playing at Canterbury by Vance Bourjaily, Vachel Lindsay’s Collected Poems, a biography of Mary Baker Eddy, the book and lyrics for Brigadoon, Kiss Me, Kate, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Porgy and Bess and other musicals of the American Theatre. There was a book of Tennyson, Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach about the Dutch tulip speculation. A second copy of Passing Time and Traditions: Contemporary Iowa Folk Artists by Steven Ohrn. Iowa Inside Out by Herb Lake, a book about the art inside the U.S. Capitol provided by former congressman Ed Mezvinsky. Selected Letters by Robert Frost, Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words, Mason and Dixon by Thomas Pynchon and a hardcover copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Two more; Hope Here: Beyond East and West by Norimoto Iino and The Idea of Fraternity in America by Wilson Carey McWilliams. Quite a lot to tote from the truck; more of a commitment to read them all. Should be set for the next year.

9:30 AM: Garage work. Cleared out a space for one car. Collected grass clippings for the garden. Ran 2.5 miles.

2:45 PM: Made lemonade out of lemons. Listened to Awful Purdies on the radio. Wrote post for BFIA tomorrow.

5:25 PM: Gardening to prepare for dinner.

6:00 PM: Picked spinach, made a big salad for our dinner while listening to A Prairie Home Companion.

Sunday: 3:15 AM: Wake and first loads of laundry over coffee.

4:30 AM: Wrote post for BFIA on Memorial Day.

6:30 AM: Jacque and I attended the Solon Firefighters Breakfast in town, at the fire station.

Fire Fighters Breakfast

7:45 AM: Take a nap from being up so early and too many carbohydrates for breakfast.

9:53 AM: Weeding the Garden.

11:16 AM: Drink leftover lemonade after weeding. My shoes fell off and barefoot I walked and crouched in the dry soil, pulling weeds. Working in the garden takes practice, a hundred times of squatting and pulling unwanted grasses by the root by digging fingers deep in the soil.

12:44 PM: Departure for Iowa City.

Plum Grove Historical Site

2:47 PM: Return from Plum Grove. The home of Iowa’s territorial governor from 1838-1841, Robert Lucas, can be found at the south end of the streets Dodge (for Augustus C. Dodge an Iowa Territorial Representative to the US Congress), Governor and Lucas (both for Governor Lucas). It is open during the summer and there was an interpreter today, along with costumed interpretations of the governor and his wife, Friendly Ashley Sumner. The house seems typical for the time, and something I learned was that Governor Lucas was a part of the temperance movement and wanted Iowa to remain a dry state. That didn’t really work out.

5:30 PM: Dinner potato salad burger and baked beans.

6:10 PM: 2.5 mile walk by the lake. Very hot and sunny. Met neighbor’s new baby in a pram. Lots of pontoon boats out on the lake. The grasses are grown tall and gone to seed.

7:15 PM Prepared strawberries and ate a bowl of them for dessert. They taste much better than the ones trucked in from California.

9:02 PM: Just finished the last load of laundry. Took all day! Tomorrow morning is the ceremony at the Oakland Cemetery, and then more gardening and preparing for the coming week’s work.

Living in Society

Shopping After the Pandemic

Onion patch after weeding, May 15, 2021.

Delivery vehicles ply the neighborhood on a daily basis, more than I remember. Increased numbers are partly a function of more online shopping due to restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Postal Service has always been here. UPS, FedEx, and Amazon are also here daily, often multiple times a day. The creamery a few miles away makes home deliveries of fresh dairy products ordered online. Will this level of online shopping persist when more people are vaccinated for COVID-19? Yes, it will.

A pandemic lesson learned is the value in quickly finding what one needs, ordering it, and receiving it within a couple of days without starting a vehicle. How does that impact local retailers? If Sears and Roebuck didn’t drive local merchants out of business, neither will the rise of online shopping. Rural retail has its roots in people ordering from catalogues. Here’s a refresher from the Sears Archives website:

The 1943 Sears News Graphic wrote that the Sears catalog, “serves as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living.” The roots of the Sears catalog are as old as the company. In 1888, Richard Sears first used a printed mailer to advertise watches and jewelry.

The time was right for mail order merchandise. Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.

History of the Sears Catalogue, Sears Archives.

We piled in our car and went to Sears as a family when I was a child. Frequently it was a special time together. Our lives were more about living than shopping in the 1960s. Automobile trips became family outings and visiting Sears was another trip to make. If father looked over the Craftsman tools while we were there, that was a side benefit. The pandemic taught us automobile culture was not as important as we may have believed.

In a life not far removed from the frontier, shopping wasn’t that important. When my great, great grandparents settled the Minnesota prairie, there were few retail merchants and no internal combustion vehicles. Making do is how they lived. Distribution infrastructure as we know it now did not exist at the time Sears mailed the first catalogues. The pandemic forced many of us to return to making do and online shopping became part of that.

The rise in online retail is significant. I placed my first order with on Dec. 23, 1998. In the early days, Amazon lost money to gain market share. Today they are profitable, more profitable than other large retailers, by a distance. Sears as we knew it is no more. Amazon’s gross revenue is astounding, far surpassing any locally owned store.

There is a nearby ACE Hardware store, about 20 miles away. They suffer from the same lack of inventory as every other local retailer. While helping customers find something, if they don’t have it in stock, they take us over to a computer terminal. They search the store’s inventory and if they find the item, place the order, and notify the customer when it arrives. Why couldn’t I cut out the middleman and find items online myself? I can and during the pandemic, I did.

America is becoming a land of rich people and the most of us who are not. While we don’t want to say it, we have returned to a form of post-serfdom society, similar to Poland during the partition era. Forced off the land and into wage earning, it has become harder to get along on wages. There is no unspoiled prairie to seek and start over. Time, money, and efficiency have become mainstays in our effort to live. If we can get inexpensive, efficient help, and save time by shopping on line, we will.

That is the future of shopping after the pandemic.

Kitchen Garden

Salad Days

Garden salad.

A retro post from April 21, 2012.

We can’t force language to mean what we want. There is a social aspect of words and meaning that is undeniable and inflexible in the day to day parlance of natives. While over time, meanings change, and old words gain new meanings, when we talk about our salad days, it has a certain meaning here in Big Grove.

Shakespeare said it in 1606 in “Anthony and Cleopatra,” “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” The idiom came to mean a period of youthful inexperience or indiscretion. Around our house, it means the lettuce planted in early March is mature and over the next six weeks, we will have a lot of days of eating salad, our salad days.

If I were to commercialize our garden, lettuce would be important. At $3 per bag at the farmers market, the price is right to sell a lot of it. Too, there is a local restaurant market for fresh greens. What is not figured into the equation is the labor involved in picking and cleaning the greens, but with proper planting and marketing, a person could take in $60 to $100 per sales day from greens.

For now, we enjoy our salad days, knowing they won’t last long in the span of life. Last night the greens were topped with thinly sliced carrot and golden raisins. I found a bottle of store bought dressing in the refrigerator and used that. There are chives, sage, garlic and oregano in the garden, ready to be picked, chopped and added to the greens. There is almost always cheese to be crumbled on top. There are cans of kidney and garbanzo beans in the pantry. A host of variations on a theme as the salad days commence. My meaning, not Shakespeare’s.

Home Life

Summer of 1996

Summer wildflowers.

During Wednesday’s walkabout there was frost on the ground. It was clearly the last frost of spring. It’s time to plant warm crops in the ground and get ready for summer. Here we go!

Some parts of our lives stand out more than others. For me, the summer of 1996 was one of them.

At the transportation and logistics company, after taking every assignment offered — some I liked and others I did not — I was transferred back to operations as weekend manager. My schedule was Friday through Monday with three days off. I supervised everything that went on for a growing firm operating across North America.

Our daughter was coming into her own, finishing fifth grade that year. The new job enabled me to spend more time with her and I did.

We didn’t go far from home. Mostly we went to the nearby state park. Sometimes we bicycled to town and had breakfast or lunch at a restaurant. Other times we drove to the beach and went swimming. We picked wild black raspberries along the trail. It was a great summer at the core of my memories from when she lived at home. We get only so many times like that.

As I prepare for a long day in the garden I’m heartened by memories of life with family. I think often about the summer of 1996. The present is much different. The state park trail is ravaged today compared to then. Derecho damage remains, and development continues to encroach on the natural beauty that once was here. Our patch of wild black raspberries is gone in favor of a junction for the natural gas company. Sad, yet changing times, I guess.

There was a time I enjoyed being in the country with its neat, rectangular farm fields, sunshine, and long vistas. No more. Farm operations result in contaminated water, which in turn closed the beach when we swam that summer. The beach has been closed the last few years. Likewise, the scent of livestock wafts over our house from time to time. Not often, but enough to remind us there are 24.8 million hogs in Iowa, or about eight per human. The popular phrase to describe what Iowa has become is “a low education, low wage, extraction economy state.” There is no longer anything bucolic about being in the country.

There is no going back to the summer of 1996, except in memory. Just as the Mill Creek sawmill cut up the original stands of forest to create today’s rural landscape, life has irrevocably changed. We have a choice: linger in memory or continue forward. Both have a role to play. As annual seedlings wait in the greenhouse for sunrise, human nature doesn’t give us much choice. We are compelled to start anew.

May we do so cognizant of what was lost, what we have, and what we may lose through neglect. My wish for today is to make new memories as good as those of the summer of 1996. It may be difficult, yet the possibilities are endless, at least that’s what we are told.

Living in Society

Being Sexagenarian

Pears forming.

People don’t use the word sexagenarian much. Because of lack of use one associates it with being a sexpot or something related to youth. Let’s face it. After turning sixty aging accelerates. Most of us are not as sexy as we may think, despite genetics, efforts, and vague intentions. It’s more like we are clinging to youth rather than embracing our experience.

My sixties have been about life after the big job. During my last year in transportation and logistics I was tracking to make more than $100,000 annually. Since then, it’s been about making do on a much lower income. I turned 60 more than two years after leaving my career and despite a couple of bumps, have been okay financially.

A person who said being sexagenarian is about getting ready to turn seventy would not be wrong. Septuagenarians and octogenarians have to make do with less. Practice makes perfect, or rather semi-perfect. Life is what you make it, they say. I’m spending more time doing what I want. 70 is coming right up and I haven’t thought about life as a septuagenarian. Having given up on youth, I suppose I’m clinging to middle age. I need to let go of that, too.

In graduate school we studied aging in America and part of aging is being a survivor. Since 2018, too many friends, mostly younger than me, have died. More than a dozen neighbors died during the last couple of years and only one of them from COVID-19. Should I survive, being a survivor is going to get worse. Planning to survive is part of being a sexagenarian.

The decision to retire at age 58 was sound. Had I continued, the kind of stress I experienced would most certainly have led to a premature death. After losing interest in my career, I luckily recognized it was time to go and did. As a result, I’m here to tell about it and using my sexagenarian years to prepare for and live a more varied retirement.

However, the word sexagenarian just sounds wrong. I’d rather have no part of it even though I’m close to outliving those years. Like with anything, we believe the best is yet to come, regardless of the weight of an aging frame. A sexagenarian knows better.


A Pear Tree

Pear tree.

I can relax. Pollinators showed up at the apple and pear trees Monday. The relief is palpable.

Ambient temperature soared to 83 degrees and the warmth brought insects drawn to the pollen of open flowers. It’s expected to be warm again today. Hopefully it provides an opportunity for fruit to set.

I woke around midnight with moonlight coming through the blinds on the windows. It was very bright. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I went downstairs and got the copy of N. Scott Momaday’s new book Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land that arrived on Monday and read its 66 pages cover to cover.

Momaday strips language describing the earth to essentials. There is scant mention of cultural aspects of American society. His focus is on native oral traditions. It is different from other works by less experienced authors who use certain objects to make a point.

For example, what does it mean to invoke the image of the Piazza San Marco in Venice? For me, it is about art. Here’s what I wrote in my Oct. 9, 1974 journal:

These art works abound in poses like I’ve never before seen. It makes Dejeuner sur l’herbe seem trivial. A sketch book could be filled with writing the numbers of figures. And scores filled with drawings. Yet the true art is seldom, if ever, derived directly from other artists., but through nature. We must remember that art history plays but a small part in the dynamic, changing integrity of life. I seem to be a verb.

Personal Journal, Venice, Italy, Oct. 9, 1974

I’d already studied Momaday, and R. Buckminster Fuller (obvious from the last sentence) by the time I made it to Venice. The main justification of my trip was to see works of art around Europe. I remember Piazza San Marco and walking inside grand buildings that were virtually abandoned. They were preparing for a concert that evening. I remember the piazza flooded while I was there, a shallow pool of water broaching the banks of the Venetian Lagoon. I don’t know if that memory is real.

I wrote the names of 16th Century artists in my journal and compared them to other experiences. In the end, Venice provided an epiphany about the role of art in society. What we write can be more like Momaday: sparing in societal reference points with a focus on traditional narrative driven by the land.

When someone references “Piazza San Marco” it distracts from the point an author is making. Cultural artifacts inserted into poetry or prose don’t always have the same meaning to readers. That can be problematic.

I’m not sure what to make of this. For now, I’m glad pollinators showed up yesterday. I’ll get outside after sunrise and chew on it while planting more of the garden.