Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who you callin' a recluse?

When people die, friends and family eulogize them, unless, somehow, they are "famous," in which case everybody gets into the act… as is the case with J. D. Salinger, author of, among other things, the acclaimed The Catcher in the Rye, a book you may have been exposed to in high school, and if not, then you must have been meaning to read it lo these many years. If you fall into this category, it's time you meet Holden Caulfield. Get thee to the library.

Apart from his publications that ceased decades ago, Salinger has been getting his share of recently ignited posthumous attention after living out the last nearly half century of is life as a media endorsed "recluse," before dying at 91 this week.

For the past five decades he was a resident of Cornish, New Hampshire, a town touted for harboring its share of "reclusive" artists. Salinger got out and about—church suppers, book stores-- and maybe stayed home just as often, like many folks do in towns where the population is 1700 or there about. While his widow thanked the town for affording her husband "a place of awayness from the world," is that what makes a recluse? Who doesn't want some "awayness?"

Are not writers solitary creatures? Try writing productively in a crowd. Or at least while engaging with the crowd. Do not writers, perhaps, create believable and memorable characters because they observe more than they engage?  And might not writers decide that writing for public consumption isn't what matters to them? So they stop. And might they tire of endless public evaluation of their work? And shouldn't they be granted this gracefully… no questions asked, or speculative magnifying glasses aimed their way?

Recluse? Is that what we call someone who once gave us good tales, and then stopped providing them for whatever reason? What about the other residents of Cornish? The…regular people. Were they recluses because they lived in a small town that afforded them privacy? And what is privacy anyway? Can you not be as private camouflaged on a crowded sidewalk in a city of  500,000 other souls to whom you don’t even raise an eye?

John David Salinger was a man, just a man. He wrote, and was published, and we read his stories and liked them or not. But now he's gone… leaving some of his words behind, and maybe, hopefully, many more hidden. Recluse. Who knows? Who cares? And what's the big deal anyway?

Salinger was who he was, and now he will now be redefined, many times, post death. He was a man, just a man. But we'll pull him back into the limelight now, poor guy.
I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J. D. Salinger

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter sings~

Can you hear it?


 cold and shadowy winter sings

in tones so low you'll  miss them

 if you don't put on mittens and scarf and squint into the setting sun.

Then the quiet aria becomes a duet,

then a quartet,

until soon

all nature raises its voice in harmony.

Do you hear it?

Do you join the chorus?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A thousand silent words~

In silence,
with no fanfare,
you blew your crimson trumpet 
and heralded the snow.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This New Year thing~

A tiny planet traveling at about 67,000 MPH makes a trip around a nothing special star 93 million miles away—and we who ride along mark its completed circuit with a big celebration.

These circuits—years—accumulate into centuries, millennia, eras; we measure our history with them. And yet we seem not to think far in the future to the time when the present  will be but a dusty memory, a two sentence paragraph in a text book--or maybe not even that.

Thomas Paine thought he lived in the “the times that try men’s souls.” Haven’t all generations before him, and those living after, thought the same thing? That the decades we live are the toughest, the most meaningful, the ones that will be remembered as especially noteworthy? A turning point? Something more important than anything in the past?

When I listened to the 2009 wrap up… pundits declaring certain moments as highly significant and memorable, I couldn't help but think of how many of the events are but  shooting stars… sound and fury… figments of our own self-importance.

What we do, individually and collectively, does matter, of course, and will affect the years to come. But we have to recognize that we are just a small part of the warp and weave of a universal tapestry and that no thread is unnecessary or less important… that we build on the old just as those in the future will contend with what we have contributed, for better or worse.

As this new year begins, I look with humility at what small stitch I might add to the future, what small touch of color I might add to the tapestry.