My granddaughters asked if I had pictures of their great-grandfather ‘during the war.’ As I searched for pictures, I found a document he wrote in 1995, an autobiography of sorts, two decades before he passed away on June 3, 2015. I am proud to include it as a chapter in Tree Rings.
“Read with a pen, pencil, or highlighter in hand, marking in the book or taking notes on paper. The idea that books should not be written in is an unfortunate holdover from grade school, a canard rooted in a misunderstanding of what makes a book valuable. The true worth of books is in their words and ideas, not their pristine pages.”
Karen Swallow Prior
“The Good Reader”
Plough Quarterly, Winter 2019 Continue reading Reading
My father built a grandfather clock from a kit in 1974. It quit working correctly many years ago, about the same time he did. Although he passed quietly in his sleep on June 3, 2015, the clock continues to function, but the chimes have long since gone silent and it no longer ‘ticks’ as the pendulum continues its methodical swing, but quietly. No clocksman had been able to fix it in years past, and today there are no clocksmen to try. They disappear like tradesmen. Plumbers and electricians will be the millionaires of the future. Clocksmen won’t because there are not enough clocks to fix. Time has been digitally disrupted.
Still, the grandfather clock stands silent sentinel in the entryway and watches me as I sit on the wooden bench to don my winter boots on these cold mornings to walk my dogs. A part of my father remains in the clock. He smiles a bittersweet smile knowing that my thumbs, particularly the one on my right hand ache with arthritis as I struggle to tie the bootlaces.
A regulator clock hangs on the wall in the living room. While I cannot verify its age, it does look like a regulator you might see in the telegraph office, the railroad station or the sheriff’s office in an old Western film. It ‘ticks’ with confidence and it chimes as long as it’s wound. There is comfort in its regularity.
My father built me in 1949. I quit working correctly with my first hip replacement early in the millennium. I opted for a second artificial hip in 2014 as much to ease the pain as to complement the first. Now I have two artificial hips. The second one works better than the first. Together – like the grandfather clock and the regulator – they work well.
I still get to bed early and I’m early to rise, I am healthy, not wealthy but wise enough to know how little I do know. I continue to function, to bike, hike, read, write, walk, pray, swim and kayak, but I don’t sing as much as I used to. I can’t hit the high notes. No one misses it but me.
Last January, I announced that I had stepped away from social media. The act was monumental and enabled me to break down the resistance that has plagued me for four years since we published Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ in 2014. In January 2018, I began work on a new manuscript, inspired in a small way by my friend Jessica Sayles who passed away in December 2017. Continue reading Working Manuscript
It is noon. Time to break for lunch, which consists of a bag of mackerel and a dill pickle. I have added 1,500 words to my new novel-in-progress, which I started at the beginning of the month. With a single day left in January, I will be over 10,000 words into this manuscript when I shut down tomorrow afternoon. I have eliminated resistance. Continue reading Defeating Resistance
As we approach the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea, I reminisce on my personal experience in the 1928, 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympic Games. During the two years I worked on The Hamsa, I spent much of the time ‘living’ the Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Lake Placid and Garmisch-Partenkirchen with my protagonist, Bronisław Czech, a Polish Olympic skier and jumper who died of typhoid fever in Auschwitz in 1944.
Times have changed
During those early games – the 2nd, 3rd and 4th edition of winter games – television, marketing and materialism were not synonymous with the Olympic Games. Men and women participated for the sole purpose of the joy they received from competing on an international level in activities they loved. Performance enhancement was not a part of the formula to win at all costs. Personal fame and glory was secondary at best to the honor of representing one’s country on the world’s greatest athletic stage.
2,800 athletes will compete in February’s games, approximately 240 will represent the United States. The U.S. team is nearly as large as the total number of athletes – 252 – who represented the 17 countries that participated in the 1932 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. The Lake Placid Olympic Stadium had a total capacity of 7,475. That is not large enough to accommodate just the athletes, their support staff, and the media that will converge upon Pyeongchang for two weeks.
If you have a desire to experience sport for the pure joy of the game, I invite you to ‘live’ three Winter Olympic Games with Bronisław Czech in The Hamsa.
The Christmas story from Gaspar…