Mining me

Somewhere in here is a trove of stories about seekers of truth, and travelers through time and space, and dinosaurs, and sentient robots, and robots without a clue, and puppies whose only superpower is love, and all of it itching to be told. 

Somewhere in here is a determined storyteller who yearns to sit down and bang out tale after tale to delight his inner child and his outer old fogey in tandem.

Somewhere in here is a frustrated artist who wishes he would stop pointing fingers at himself and just get on with the artistry.

Somewhere in here is the world, the universe and everything and ducks lined up in a row.

Ten first lines

I’m still on the Bradbury theme from the other day, “You have to inject yourself with a little fantasy every day in order not to die of reality.” 

So I decided Sunday I would would do a journal exercise of 10 opening lines to potential short stories. Which one should I do first? (The first one will be familiar since I’ve already done two blog posts about it.)

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The dragon settled in our backyard one sunny afternoon just before the end of winter.

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Tom Cole Piper carried his magic guitar slung over his shoulder like a rifle.

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If ever there was a perfect day for a grumpy gnome to cross Susan Winkel’s path, this wasn’t that day.

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When I say I never expected a unicorn to walk into my insurance agent’s office and take a dump, I’m as serious as the day is long — and this was the summer solstice.

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Do mermaids wear mascara? Asking for a friend.

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In the old stories a Martian base always has some generic name like Mars Alpha One. In real life it’s just home.

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The sun rose, gray and alien, and Hal Spenser had no interest in seizing any day.

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“Are you sleepy?”
“Very much so, and all of a sudden …”
“Yeah — I meant to do that,” waving an empty packet.
“What?! Why?! You little …”
“Yes, that’s what I am all right.”

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Of all the seedy bars in all the planets in half the galaxy, she walks into mine.

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I met the creature in the field next to my house, when I was 8 years old. I saved its life, and this is how he returned the favor.

A surprise winter redux

The weather forecasters were fooled by Ma Nature this time. A snowfall that was supposed to bypass us or leave a dusting morphed within a couple of hours into a winter storm warning. There were six inches on the back deck when I took this picture, and that doubled by the time the snow moved on late in the afternoon.

That big willow tree looks over Willow’s Field, which I named after Willow The Best Dog There Was, because it was the first place we took her after we adopted her and because she loved walking and running and chasing her flying disc across the grass.

Willow would have been 14 today, Sunday, March 26. The almost 12 years she was with us changed me. It wasn’t all Willow’s doing, but she was a big part of it. Dogs are strange and wonderful and dare I say magical creatures.


I never noticed before how much a dragon resembles a giraffe. The long snout, the snaky neck — the only difference is that one has cute fuzzy markings and the other is scaly and reptilian. Oh, and the wings.

As I said last night, the dragon in our backyard is friendly enough. Dejah and Summer — especially Summer, the 1-year-old — love to play with it. They dart around its legs and sniff nuzzle-to-nose like kittens around a doting aunt. The dragon seems to sense it could smash our golden retrievers without a thought, and so it is always conscious and thoughtful as they frolic together.

What is it that troubles the dragon so? As soon as the dogs come inside, the dragon sits and resumes its vigil. Always, its eyes scan the sky and the horizon to the north, as if it knows what it expects to see and is ready to meet whatever that threat is.

I feel the threat may be imminent, but it just as easily could be months or even years off. And why did the dragon choose our backyard to prepare its stand? Is this simply a strategic location — hard to believe because, while we are on a hill, there is higher ground above us — or is there something special about this home or its occupants? Surely we are just an average and ordinary older couple. Our retrievers are sweet and loving, but most retrievers are. Could it be the cat? Could there be something valuably mystical about a black cat of 15 years that yowls incessantly day and night? Are the yowls a warning against the danger the dragon awaits?

What can all this mean? Why is the dragon here? What is the yowling about? Part of me prays this vigil will not become some apocryphal battle until after we are safely departed to the next world or our just desserts, whichever is more pleasant. Part of me realizes it’s more likely we have been chosen to stand this ground and help the dragon defend against whatever is coming.

I have no idea what that is — what menace would I need a dragon’s help to fight? Why here? And why now, if indeed it will be now? All that seems certain is it’s coming from the north and that its existence troubles an otherwise friendly and playful dragon.

And so, like refugees in Casablanca during other troubled times, we wait — and wait — and wait — and wait. 

Giraffe photo © Kittichai Songprakob |

From the North It Comes

“You have to inject yourself with a little fantasy every day in order not to die of reality.” — The Ray Bradbury Facebook page posted that quote Wednesday.

So here I am at my desk, fixing to write the Great American Novel, working on a Great American Newspaper, generally doing Great American Work.

I have little choice but to do American work, seeing as I am second-generation American by birth, being the grandson of immigrants (except for the quarter whose grandmother was in Daughters of the American Revolution). You may hyphenate me as you will, but I was born in America to parents who were born in America, so there you have it.

And what is “American”? That seems to depend on who you ask, and most Americans seem to think “American” is what agrees with their personal opinion — and so it is.

Superman was once said to stand for truth, justice and the American way, and all three of those subjects are open to interpretation these days.

So will I produce a Great American Novel or a Great American Newspaper? Any greatness in or around me is not for me to say anyway, so I don’t spend much time thinking about it. I just put down the words as I have the time and see fit, and the rest of you can take it from there.

And what does this have to do with injecting ourselves with a little fantasy today?

I’m not actually sure. I think I should be less concerned about truth and justice and more concerned about what that dragon is doing in my backyard. It seems friendly enough; it even pranced and danced with our dogs like they were old friends.

Every so often, the dragon looks to the north skies as if expecting a bad storm, either a late winter blizzard or an early spring thunderstorm capable of spawning tornadoes. But from its body language and its vigilance, I really don’t think it’s concerned about anything Mother Nature could throw at us. 

No, I think the dragon is watching for something manmade, or perhaps something supernatural, but whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s something evil.

I wonder if there are any Scarecrows, Tin Men or even a cowardly lion in the neighborhood.

Live the life that’s left

I rediscovered this post while I was thinking ahead to my 70th birthday, which is today, and while I was again thinking about Willow The Best Dog There Was™ who departed this life on my birthday two years ago, forever merging the day I entered this world with the loss of my dearest friend of fur. (Thanks Tom Groenfeldt for the ancient photo of me and my girl.)

The post below was posted March 11, 2020, with a somewhat out-of-focus photo of Willow looking a tad anxious. We only had slightly more than a year left together, though we didn’t know that, but I am glad I took the time to savor our time and love that old pup with all my heart.

Anyway, it seems like the sentiment works for a 70th birthday, so without further ado, I turn the microphone over to slightly younger me:

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We spend a lot of time thinking back about what happened, what could or “should” have happened, missteps made, things that didn’t get done that could have made things better, things that did get done that seem to have made things worse.

We all know something about regrets and second-guessing. If only I’d taken steps to get out of that situation long before I did; if only I’d stayed and toughed it out … if only I’d saved my money instead of spending it or going into debt … if only I’d said something; if only I’d kept my mouth shut … if only I’d carved out time to write that book; if only I’d written a better one … if only I’d done something when I had the chance; if only I hadn’t done what I did …

What’s important to know is that regrets burn a lot of energy, and second-guessing wastes a lot of precious time.

There will always be books that could have been written by now, thoughts that could have been shared, words and actions that can’t be taken back. Every life, every day, is packed with what could have happened but for whatever reason never has.

What happened before is finished and done, and every minute spent despairing about How Little Time Is Left To Do What I Could Have Been Doing All Along is a minute that could be spent doing. Tuck those regrets in a safe place and move on.

Do what’s left to do with the time that’s left. Write the novel, sing the song, build the fence, clean the storage room, read the books, reread the best ones and the most fun ones. But let go of the regrets.

Live the life that’s left: It’s all we can do anyway.

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