Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Beach in Winter

The rain blows sideways and the ocean tumbles in long rills of white and grey, diffusing into the sand and barely holding its own against the sky. A seagull patrols outside our window, constantly turning his head from side to side, watching our movements for a gesture that might suggest a meal. Swaying curtains of rain are drawn over the tide pools that burst with life in the summertime. Flower beds surrounding the hotel are buried in water, forming tiny moats. Life at the beach in winter is about the next friendly conversation, the next cup of coffee and changing out of wet socks.

Using Gifts

If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?

—Stephen King

The Way Down from the Gallows

“The only way down from the gallows is to swing.”
– Tom Waits

Coffin Corners

In the houses of new England, where the steep and narrow staircases turned at the landing, they often built niches into the walls so coffins being carried down the stairs could easily make the turn. Death at home, in bed, was a fact of life no less than cooking in kettles hung over a kitchen fire and sleeping in unheated rooms. Passing a coffin corner on your way downstairs to breakfast every morning would have been an unremarkable reminder of what daily life told you in myriad ways, that life is brief and death is inseparable from the day to day experience of life. Mexico’s day of the dead makes the same point with a twist of mordant humor thrown in. In the USA of the 21st century maybe we fear death so because we have lost our friendship with it.

These bright, frigid mornings…

The Canada geese were huddled in the only sliver of the pond this morning that was not frozen over. Their avuncular mood does not change on these bright, frigid mornings. They greet the day with the same stolid optimism on the days when the sleet blows sideways and the sun seems gone for an eternity. Where are the men to match them in their world view?