Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

Learning Tree

One of my all time favorite books is a children’s book, written by an off-the-wall cartoonist (among other things) named Shel Silverstein.

Maureen and i have endeavored to give this book to children or their parents as soon as possible after that child comes into the world. The book is The Giving Tree.

i believe it encompasses some of the most important lessons in life.

In the early 1990’s, i contemplated writing a children’s story about a jacaranda tree and the support it needed with a stake before becoming strong. It wasn’t really a good concept. My attempt to follow Shel Silverstein fell well short. The story lay fallow (lord, i hope that’s right: i seem to never get lay or lie correctly entered) and is in one of my “to work on” folders of which i have many. i am trying to winnow them down.

But as we moved through our landscaping improvements — and will keep continuing, because if you have land, earth around your home that is yours, not some landscape management outfit, this is a continuing, ongoing, mostly enjoyable, and never ending task — we had an interesting side effect. i have presented our two coral trees in previous posts.

One coral tree has grown naturally with no impediments and looks similar to all of the other Mexican coral trees i have encountered in the Southwest corner.

Earlier this spring, the coral blooms were magnificent even in the dark skies of a cloudy day:

On the other side of the backyard was a similar tree. But it was next to a carrotwood tree, which was beautiful but began to take over the backyard and became a problem. It also overshadowed the coral tree.

Finally, we had the carrotwood  tree taken down. And there stood the coral tree. Unlike the other, it had been deprived of a lot of sun. The carrotwood tree had dwarfed the coral tree. But undaunted, the coral tree began to grow its branches where it needed them to get to sunlight.

The tree looked scrawny even with the blooms. They are deciduous and lose all of their leaves before the beautiful coral buds dominate the branches. Maureen wanted a tree specialist (what does my little old brain not remember their official name) to cut it back. i refused. i was enchanted.

You see, this little old coral tree had been denied access to what it needed to thrive. It did not ask for assistance, but it strived to work out a way to make it on its own. Somewhere i have a photo of it with the coral blooms. Can’t find it.

But here it is now. A magnificent tree that didn’t deny the other tree its rights, that sought its life on its own, and grew to this:

My story is over. i was going to explain further, but i trust you will reach your own conclusions.

darkness

the darkness came
enfolding us in unknowing
and
all were sore afraid
and
folks, good folks, sought shelter
safety
for they did not know this darkness
and
in the darkness
they built their barriers to caring
for their own protection
eventually making no sense
creating war amongst good folks
with no definition of
what is was all about
except they knew
they all knew
even though
what they knew was different
and
in the darkness
someone
saw a light
saw the goodness of the folks
who had drawn
their lines in the sand
but
could not see the lines
because of the darkness
enveloping the land
and
they did not hear the someone
screaming about the light he saw
and
they did not see the light
because they were ready to war
over the lines they had drawn
in the darkness.

Bird Songs

It was after dinner, lunch as they call it out here in the Southwest corner, a misnomer this ole Tennessee boy can accept because it’s 72 degrees with a 5 knot ocean breeze, 60% humidity, and there are no clouds.

i’m sitting in my home office after a Monday morning of medical checkups and other appointments trying to decide if i should plug ahead on several writing projects, take care of some adminstrivia (thank you, Dave Carey, for giving me such a great term for necessary busy work), or…taking a nap. Undoubtedly, i will end up taking a nap.

However, during my contemplating, i realize the air outside my air conditioned less window ( yep, don’t have air conditioning; don’t use the heaters except to knock off the chill for about two hours in the winter months, and…oh, i’ve bragged about that before), there is a cacophony of symphonies going on. It is not the neighbor young daughters in the pool with their music blaring. They don’t play a lot of Bach.

But this isn’t Bach. It’s goldfinches, mostly i think, a few mourning doves, a couple of which are nesting in our eaves; there seems to be black phoebes joining in along with a California Towhee, and a song sparrow or two. i really don’t know. i am in no way an ornithologist. i stole these from a Google search. But i do know the finches call, and i do know and love the doves cooing. And for some reason, the multiple crows and ravens (someday i will figure out the difference; we have them both) seem to be silenced during this allegro.

As i sit here listening, i am taken back home. Summers. Robins, bluebirds, sparrows, mockingbirds (oh, i long for the mockingbird trill). Mornings. Filled with the sounds of birds. Songs of the heart.

The world as it should be. Back home then or in the Southwest corner now.

Peace.

Before Turning In

Written (and revised today) while the USS Hawkins (DD-873) was in the Portsmouth (Virginia) Naval Shipyard in October 1969 to have her fantail deck strengthened and a crane installed on the port quarter for lifting the Apollo 12 Spacecraft Module out of the water. Hawkins had been assigned as the Atlantic recovery ship in case problems arose with a Pacific recovery where the USS Hornet (CVS 12) was the primary recovery ship and did recover the capsule with astronauts Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Al Bean aboard, November 7. There are a couple of more stories with our involvement, but this was what i was thinking one night in the shipyard.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, October 1969,
walk around the ship, late,
the command duty officer
checking if all’s well,
night rounds;
on the weather deck,
he turns the collar of
his drab green foul weather jacket
up to ward off the night wind;
cigarettes taste best on the forecastle
when there are lots of stars;
the squalid clutter of a shipyard
disappears after sunset,
and
sometimes he sees better after dark;
he breathes easier
before turning aft
to check the mooring lines once more;
before going below
with his red filtered flashlight
to check the holes and the voids
for watertight integrity
before turning in.

Old Men

once upon a time in a land far, far away,
there were some old men who grew up together:
played in the fields together;
played cowboys and indians together
where being one or the other
did not make them good or bad;
played mumblety-peg together;
played red rover and simon says together;
threw and caught balls together;
got into trouble together;
even had fights together;
and
as they grew up, they
played sports together;
were boy scouts together;
hunted together;
began to smoke together;
began to drink together;
began to go out with girls,
not together but
they talked of those exploits together;
and then,
some went away;
some stayed in the land far, far away;
some made some tidy sums:
some went broke;
some moved to the big cities;
some moved to farms;
some stayed right where they were;
and then,
nearly all of them married;
had different experiences
in the places they chose,
in the lives they chose;
and
years later, they would get together
to talk of when they grew up together
once upon a time in a land far, far away;
ask about their wives, their kids,
how things were going for them.

and then,
they locked themselves into their new grownup roles,
taking sides of politics,
world problems,
country problems,
local problems,
forgetting they grew up together;
some suffered maladies,
some lost loved ones;
some died;
and
those who locked themselves into roles
became spiteful and full of hate for those
who did not believe as they did;
and then,
there were two groups of the old men
who rejected each other;
there were a few others who did not forget,
did not judge;
but they were few
still remembering growing up together.

and then once upon a time in a land, far, far away,
they were gone.

And a Good Day to Ye

My hard run/walk never-really-daily exercise regimen had been cut short. Yesterday, i underwent some minor surgery, which turned out to be not as serious as i imagined, the bane of old men: worrying about just how bad a minor problem can become.

Doc told me to cut out any serious exercise or work for two weeks. That meant no golf, boo; no run/walk, boo; no home tasks, ahh, okay; and no dishwashing, yippee ti yi yay, get along little dogie.

As  you might have noticed, it did not include writing with the computer.

Doc also okayed “leisurely walks.  “Good for you,” he said. So late morning today, i decided to amble. One of the circuits in our neighborhood is just shy of two miles. The streets run along canyon views and the hills beyond, including Mount Miguel. This was all scrub, high desert, used mostly for grazing land and for youngsters to hunt small game before the development men rolled in their trucks and graders and clobbered the ridges, other high ground, and eventually most of the laderas and arroyos. Yet there remains a wide swath of open space The views to the west are magnificent with the skyline of San Diego and, oh yes, the Pacific. The views to the east, in spite of the best efforts of the development men to sully the vistas with dots of houses and grey strips of road, looking east gives one pause at the beauty of this high desert land.

i had other things to do like naps and lunch and reading and sitting at this crazy electronic wonder, so eschewed major preparation to go out, another tribulation suffered by old men with hall monitor wives (that i really appreciate; i really do). So i slapped on my sunscreen sleeves and wore my wide brimmed sun hat and headed out.

i rejected the idea of wearing ear buds with my iphone — Why did they get away from “earphones?” Are these things stuck in our ears our pals or little flowers? And why is this magic, ethereal connection between two machines or more labeled “bluetooth?” Haven’t they ever used teeth whiteners? — even though i relented to using those music generators on my walk/runs because they keep me from realizing just how labored i’m breathing. It was a “leisurely” walk. i wanted to take it in.

i did, take it in, that is. Out of the house, i once again relished my Southwest corner: mid-June, 11:00 am PDT and i am comfortable, almost cool in brilliant sunshine, no clouds, an ocean breeze and high 60’s. i could live with that…oh yeh, i do.

i look at the yards and the different approaches to improving houses and yards. The agapanthus are everywhere, the jacarandas are close to losing their blooms and the purple petals form a wedding aisle on some of the sidewalks.

i think, “i am a lucky man.” Again.

Couples are out walking. We meet. For several years, my usual response to “How are you doing?” is “i may make it, but i’m not taking any bets.” It nearly always gets a laugh. But today, i’m thinking this walk is too nice for such tomfoolery.

i pass a couple. The woman says, “Hello;” the man says, Hi.”

And it hits me. i respond, “Hello, and a good day to ye.”

Seems about right to me. One or two more couples pass with greetings, and i have got it down to just, “And a good day to ye.”

The couples smile when i say it. i think it’s my new deal.

i ponder as i hit our cul de sac on the return. It seems a shame we have all of this confrontation of people, mostly good people on all sides. i wonder how it might change if everyone started off and concluded each conversation with everyone by saying, “And a good day to ye.”

me

i wrote this about two years ago. It’s not quite the same with the wars of hate and scourges raging around me, but there’s always something, always somebody trying to impose their will on everyone else, and i think this was a projection of me i would not have considered back then.

me. every man; no man

i am every man;
i am no man;
i have been everywhere;
i have been nowhere;
i have seen the heights of joy;
i have seen the depths of despair;
i have laughed; i have cried;
i have found the world and its inhabitants inspiring;
i have found the world and its inhabitants depressing;
i have been loved, and i don’t know why;
i have been hated; and i don’t know why;
i have failed;
i have been successful;
i have watched the generations following mine and become disgusted;
i have watched the generations following mine and been in awe;
i am older than the limbs of a wizened oak;
i am younger than a babbling brook;
i have lost loves;
i have found love;
and
i marvel at my life, the world, the people
while sitting on my perch of older:

it’s a pretty good view.

Strawberries

In this time of cross words and insults (of which i’ve received some dillies), which nearly always leads to worse, i have escaped. i will not discuss politics. i prefer to keep friends from across the spectrum, even though i know i will lose the most strident. That too is okay because that is on them, not me. After i posted last night, i felt free this morning. Maureen and i woke about the same time and did home things together. It was a great feeling. When i saw her at our garden boxes, the below thoughts crossed my mind…and our home grown strawberries taste wonderful, better than the store-bought kind.

It was an odd morning:
grey with a slight drizzle
in southwest corner june;
the marine layer gone a little haywire
with actual rain, not mist to burn off before midday;
saturday morning, early,
we went about our chores
leading us outside;
she walked to the backyard,
lifting the net of the strawberry garden
to pick the luscious red berries
from the thick green foiliage
as i watched undetected
from the side yard
and
i thought of classic paintings
of a woman in a field
but she was more elegant,
more sublime,
even more graceful,
and
i thought of my Aunt Corrine
gathering eggs from the hen house
in the corner of the farmyard
in early morning light
when Papa, my great uncle,
with me by his side would return
from milking the cows in the barn
but
she was not Aunt Corrine;
the strawberries were definitely not eggs
and
she was mine,
still leaving me breathless
at times
just like the first time we met
as she walked toward me
with the sun behind her,
graceful, elegant, sublime
taking my breath away
just like she did
this odd damp june morning.

I’ll Take My Stand

My period of dismay and sadness at what is going on in this country is not over, but i think i have finally got my head around it and have resolved what i believe is appropriate in terms of what action i, me alone, should take.

i am 76, half way to 77 and with a limited time on this earth. i am either a benevolent fiscally responsible conservative or an anti-politically correct and fiscally responsible liberal, neither of which exist. i believe in the equality of the human race and recognize there are differences in individuals in intelligence, drive, and sadly, good and evil. I have tried to stay out of political involvement but have, in the past, tread too close.

I believe in helping others and being responsible. i believe we should all be accountable and contributors to our society. i believe in what Major Kenneth Morgan defined as “Freedom” during a Latin 101 course at Castle Heights Military Academy course in 1958: “Freedom is the ability to do anything you want as long as it does not interfere, conflict, or deny someone else’s freedom.”

I believe i have been for the equality of all persons, especially those who have a different skin color than mine for most of my life. All of us being human, not different, struck me at a very young age and has remained until now. i think i have avowed this equality since then, but i have not actively protested for it.

i have served in the defense of our constitution because i believe it is not perfect but the best system around and founded base on “All men are created equal.” I am dismayed that people who think they can fix it want to get rid of it and those who have corrupted it want it to remain corrupted for their own purposes and beliefs. I am dismayed and saddened religious groups are becoming political instead of trying to help their believers live good lives.

At 76, i believe i have done my part in contributions to help this country be better and helped the people i’ve met to improve their lives. I believe if i did become active in politics, it would be the sound of the tinkling of a glass in amidst of a clashing of cymbals. i am retired and except for writing, i intend to stay that way. i also believe if you aren’t going to actively participate, you should quit calling out others or making negative comments. i think that is called “put up or shut up.” i intend to shut up.

i stated previously i would make one last political comment. This is it:

i must take a stand concerning the upcoming presidential election. i am not a fan of Joe Biden, but Donald Trump is the worst president we have had in our history. No one has demonstrated such a disregard for respect of others or our politically balanced system of government. No one has taken such disgusting stances and comments to get votes. He is, in my opinion, an egomaniac, even narcissistic.  i am concerned with the Republican Party supporting him and putting the party in an awkward position.

For those of you who are conservative in your views, i respect your position, but you need to find someone else to represent them. Trump is selling you Kool-Aid, and if you believe he is acting in your or the country’s best interest, you have been duped.

If you surprise me and find another candidate to replace him, then i will have to decide to cast my vote based on policy and the candidate’s leadership capabilities and moral standards. It would be difficult for me to decide which way to vote.

But i will not ever vote for Donald Trump and feel it is time to take my stand against him, not the Republican Party, but against Donald Trump.

At Sea

Well, that ain’t exactly what this should be titled: “At Sea.” But that is where i am at. Lost. Even feeling alone. i have vowed not to write about it, not to talk about it (except with Maureen; it seems we can’t avoid it), not to do anything about it, if anything until i get my head around it, because i’m torn between family and friends taking up their shillelagh’s on the lines they’ve drawn so they demonstrate their fear and hate before…oops, i wasn’t going to write about it.

So what i’ve being doing is revisiting things i found important to me in the past. Memories. It occurred to me i have more memories (and more experience) with the things in vogue to be fixed…oops, again. i found this one on torn out pages of a wheel book. You know what Navy folks used for a brain before fancy notebooks guiding you through the items and giving you dates and stuff  and requiring you to place a priority on every thing you wrote down, and before such magnificent automatic tell you about it tracking came with the computer directing you how you should keep track of events and actions required and who should do what to whom, but back when you actually had to think for yourself about what was important and write it down to remember. i remember, but this i found when it fell out of a folder i was shuffling did not have to-do stuff. It had a poem, written in 1970 as i was concluding my tour as executive office of the transport unit on USNS ships carrying Korean troops to Nam and back (yeh, yeh, i know i mention that a lot but it was a very significant year of my life and oh, oh, how things changed that year).

i thought i had published it before, somewhere, sometime, somehow. But i can’t find it. Old man frustration. So…

one hundred miles at sea
this morning,
i saw a gull,
flapping white
against the cold harsh rays
of the East China Sea winter sun
and
tremelo wind;
whitest gull i’ve ever seen,
out of how many thousand
i wonder;
the gull was captured
in a prism of time
from which i shall soon escape
and
then watch the mockingbirds.