On February 16, the temperature here was -31 degrees. That was the all-time low ever recorded for that date. On March 4, our home “weather station” registered 75 degrees. So, in not quite three weeks, the temperature varied by 106 degrees. You gotta love this place. For many years (it may still be the case) the life span of the people in the Midwest was advertised as being the longest in the country. I always thought that might be because the smart ones moved away or the weak ones died young, or some combination of those things. Anyway, the sunshine has been delightful. Such a welcome change to walk outside and see so many others luxuriating in the warmth and blue skies also. What with the COVID precautions and an already long winter – on 25-26 January there was 15 inch snowfall, the second largest ever recorded in Lincoln – it has been great to be outside a bit, even though the masks and the social distancing guidelines will remain in place for some time.
Writing news: I received my author’s copy of the printed version of the magazine Months to Years (Winter 2021) which published a bit of prose of mine. There is an unusual backstory associated with the magazine. The publishers developed it after each of them had lost loved ones. Their backgrounds in counseling led them to decide that a forum that would allow people to share their experiences, beliefs, and stories about mortality, end-of-life, terminal illnesses, etc., might find a receptive audience. No doubt the COVID-pandemic has added considerably to their readership.
I had somewhat mixed emotions when I read the magazine. It is always nice to have a piece selected for publication and then actually see it in print -- and I found some of the stories and poems to be of interest. Many, though, had a dark or somber quality that wasn’t much to my taste. I suppose given that a major purpose of the magazine is to give people a chance to “talk” about what are often difficult, wrenching moments in their lives, that tone should not have been unexpected. “Shadows” – my small work that was published – takes a different form. It focuses on those who have gone before us and specifically on the qualities, the lessons, the aspects of their lives that have been passed on “like reflections from distant mirrors” to those that have followed. It is, as the publisher acknowledged, somewhat different from the other entries. I hope their readers will find it interesting.
There is a bit of irony associated with the timing of the poem’s publication. “Shadows” was actually written a few years ago. I had put it in a folder at the time and except for one small venue had not focused much on getting it published. Months ago, I read a blurb about Months to Years in a writer’s magazine, remembered the poem, and thought perhaps it was something the editors might consider. It was actually submitted June 28 of last year. I received word of its acceptance this past January. At the end of February, my sister and I were notified that our brother had passed. “Shadows” was published for the first time only a few days before.
After my brother’s passing, I received a very thoughtful note from a cousin who mentioned his memory of all of us together playing ball at a family reunion. That was indeed a great time and I savor that memory also. It would be nice if life had a rewind tape that allowed us to go back and relive occasions like that. Now that I am “of a certain age,” I am more and more convinced that most of us – me for sure – did not then appreciate how special those times and other plainer moments in life were. They were taken way too much for granted. How great it would seem, for example, to just be with the family seated around the dinner table in the evening. I did not appreciate enough the easy companionship – the love – that wrapped itself around those moments, or the work that went into preparing the meal, or the chores that had to be done before all of us could sit down together. There’s probably a lesson there.
In other writer stuff, Glory in the Shadows, the book I’ve mentioned from time to time, is at long last at the stage where I’m putting the handwritten chapter drafts on the computer, doing some preliminary editing as I go. There is still a long journey ahead – I feel like I may still be sitting at the keyboard while Nita brings me a bite of Thanksgiving turkey.
This epistle has probably rambled on long enough. Barring unforeseen events, maybe next month things with the book will be far enough along to share a table of contents outline and give you an idea of where things are headed. This one, for many reasons, has taken a long time. As always, some parts have been a hoot to write. As always, there have been some interesting discoveries. In researching the portion on the Korean War, I came to think, for example, that one of greatest feats of generalship in American military history was accomplished by Marine Major General O.P. Smith (one of the “forgotten leaders”) who led his force to safety from the battle around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Over a single track road ringed by mountains on both sides, in temperatures that sometimes reached 30 below zero, outnumbered by most estimates at least 12 to 1, he saved everything: trucks, tanks, armor, artillery and most importantly, people. Nobody got left behind. He got his casualties out and somehow even brought with him the American dead. Reading about his leadership made a person want to stand up and cheer. I hope the writing will do it justice. (Conversely, his boss, an Army general named Ned Almond --Douglas MacArthur’s immediate subordinate—may easily rank as one of the worst senior officers in the Army’s long history. But don’t get me started …)
And now – wait for it – the humongously acclaimed feature (three or four people have mentioned it) TRULY AWFUL PUNS.
I’m reading a book about anti-gravity.
I couldn’t put it down.
The past, present, and future walk into a bar.
It was tense.
Best wishes to all. Stay safe