What a dream I had

There’s the signpost up ahead — We’re entering the zone where not much can be explained rationally. How do such things happen? Only through explanations beyond the grasp of the average human. Of course, what is “average” anyway, and for that matter what is “human”?

We have all been dropped into a giant Candid Camera show, or perhaps a giant spy-op if you prefer sinister motives. “What can I get away with today?” asked the sociopath in charge, and he directed his minions to give his latest experiment a try.

Oh wait, I just woke up a few minutes ago. It was all a bad dream, wasn’t it? There aren’t really people out there acting as if the government ruled us instead of the other way around. There aren’t really people who are mixed up about what “by the people, of the people, for the people” means. I was just having a nightmare, and freedom of speech is still rocking and rolling, and no one is abusing freedom of the press to the point where the press is a parody of itself. What a dream I had! I’m glad I was asleep and all that goofy stuff wasn’t really coming down.

It was weird, though — up was down, good was evil, in was out, freedom was slavery, and ignorance was strength. The scariest part was when people started talking as if war was peace, as if peace was abnormal and kindness was a weakness. The lunatics were in charge of the proverbial asylum, and if you noticed, you were accused of being a lunatic yourself or a dupe of a foreign power.

Phew! The dream was so real I didn’t realize I was dreaming.

Summer passed the ‘choke Warren up’ test

Red had found the breeders, a lovely couple about 150 miles from our place. Their male dog Windsor is one of the most magnificent and friendly golden retrievers I’ve ever met, and the mom, Lady, is a sweet thing who reminded me so much of my beloved Willow, who had left us five months earlier.

On the way down we went over dozens of possible names for the new puppy. I’ve told you this story before: When we got to the name “Summer,” we paused for a few moments and I said, “I don’t know why, but ‘Summer’ has passed the ‘choke Warren up’ test.” And a few moments after that, Red replied in a quivery voice, “Me too,” and we knew we were going down to meet Summer.

The next step was picking her out of the crowd. We had made arrangements to adopt a female, we had first pick, and Lady had dutifully delivered eight girls and two boys a month earlier. Red had picked out Dejah eight years earlier, so it was my job to pick out Summer. 

I decided to literally dive in: I stepped over the fence into the puppies’ play area, sat down, and let the little ones climb over me. And climb, and climb, and climb. I was in there for 45 minutes. Do you think it would be fun to let 10 puppies crawl over you for 45 minutes? You have no idea!

The only real way to tell them apart was they had 10 different-colored collars. Of course the puppy who seemed most interested in me was one of the two little boys. But we wanted a female, and so I apologized to the little guy and spent most of my time with his many sisters.

For a while I thought I was going to pick the one with the green collar, and then blue, and then purple, but slowly I started building a bond with the one in the yellow collar, whom the couple had code-named Mimosa. She was — oh, heck, I have tried to reconstruct in my mind why yellow-collar and I gravitated to each other, but I honestly can’t remember. All I know is after 45 minutes I had her wrapped in my arms, almost weeping, because I loved Willow so much and this poor little fluff ball was going to be tasked with taking Willow’s place in the family.

This was Aug. 29, 2021, so Tuesday was the second anniversary of Summer’s “Gotcha Day,” or whatever you call the day you pick a pup. Summer has adopted the classic golden retriever habits, like lying down five inches from the wheels of my desk chair or sitting down next to me with that attitude of “You may pet me now.”

We are adjusting together with life without Red, Tuesday also being the second-month anniversary of my beloved’s passing. On balance it was an anniversary full of happy memories. Red seemed to have almost as much fun watching me cavort with the puppies as I had in the cavorting.

And 2021 was a happy year on balance. We gained a grandson and a puppy who have been sources of endless delight. It was sweet to think back on Gotcha Day and the anticipation of bringing Summer home a couple of weeks later. And Summer still chokes me up from time to time.

Time out for some more shameless self-promotion

Three days out from the long-awaited 81st episode of the legendary-in-my-own-mind Uncle Warren’s Attic podcast, and I’m still digging around the Attic trying to decide what to share. This thing is more than 10 years in the making, so it feels like a series of momentous decisions.

On the other hand, my intention is to bring the podcast back to stay for a while, so anything that might not be ready for #81 can always go into a pile for #82, right?

All I really know for sure is I’m committed to posting UWA #81 here in this space at 3 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1, featuring a reading from an unfinished novel, the usual eclectic mix of recordings from long ago, and perhaps a handful of other surprises.

Uncle Warren’s Attic was always meant to showcase my ridiculous hoard of old stuff and maybe plug my various projects in progress, so episode 81 may or may not be pretty much the same as the previous 80 episodes, except for the part where there was a gap of 10 years and 10 months between #80 and #81. 

I would say a little more about the project, but I have to get on with doing the project, so … tune in Friday.

When we live despite the urge to fear

[Drawn from the archives, June 17, 2020 – now THAT was a year! Also reprinted in Echoes of Freedom Past, one of my 2022 books.]

Fear is an ugly thing. It contorts the face, boils the gut, and manifests in every unhealthy emotion – anger, worry, hatred. Fear can spread across the land, a virus more deadly than any microbe.

“Fear is the mind-killer,” Frank Herbert wrote: It robs us of our reason, strips love and compassion from our hearts, and brings out the monster in us.

The children of fear are slavery, tyranny and war.

When we overcome fear, we rise.

When we rise, we turn our faces to the sun.

When we turn our faces to the sun, we begin to live. The sun nourishes, warms, gives life to the dying. Without the sun, we die in darkness.

When we live despite the urge to fear, without loathing, without anger and hatred and all of that – when we stand instead of cowering, in other words – our spirits become invincible.

When our spirits are invincible, we have no need for the darkness.

The spirit of love is fragile and beautiful and strong and powerful all at once. It takes courage to shout love at the heart of darkness, but it’s lighter, more free, an antidote for terror, and healthier for the soul.

An ounce of love is more powerful than tons of gunpowder. Love slices souls more surely than the sharpest knife. Fear is a poison; love an elixir.

I would say that I loathe fear, and I do, but loathing is a byproduct of fear and the world has enough loathing.

Better to say that in my most sane moments, I set the anger and the hatred and the anxiety aside, burying them in a place where I am free to love and to live and to laugh and to cry with joy.

Unworthy premise, worthy advice

I was, as is my wont, listening to 1960s pop music on SiriusXM when Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’” came on.

I was struck by how outdated the song’s premise was — here’s Dusty dispensing advice about how to become the possession of a man: “Ladies, you have to be doing more than wishing and hoping and praying; you have to take action if you want to be his.”

“Show him that you care just for him, do the things he likes to do, wear your hair just for him.”

And then, of course, once you get close enough, “all you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him. Yeah, just do it and after you do, you will be his.”

It’s somewhat unnerving that someone would sing a song about how to be owned by a man, but as I pondered that, it suddenly occurred to me that this is actually quite a good formula for accomplishing anything.

For one thing, it’s true that you definitely will not achieve your goals just by wishing, hoping, thinking and/or praying about it. You have to do something!

You have to show that you care about doing this, and you have to change your behavior in ways that are likely to get it done. And keep going, in more and more intimate detail, until you’ve done it.

Hopefully you’re going for a more worthy goal than becoming a plaything for a member of the opposite sex. As 1960s sensibilities go, I am more in tune with the sentiment of “You Don’t Own Me.” But I must say that Ms. Springfield is definitely insightful in her assessment of what you need to do to achieve your goals.

What it was like

One of my favorite memories is the first time I saw Casablanca. It was around 1972 and I was in a college lecture hall with around 200 other students. In those days before DVDs and Blu-Rays or even before VHS and Beta, almost no one in the big crowd had ever seen the film before.

The audience was completely into the story, and at the climax when Louis told his minions, “Major Strasser has been shot!” we all held our breath with Humphrey Bogart. At Louis’ next words — I’m not going to spoil them for the sake of the three people who still haven’t seen Casablanca — the crowd erupted in the biggest cheer I’ve ever heard in a movie theater.

The other day Facebook Memories showed me something I posted 11 years ago, in 2012: “We pulled out Raiders of the Lost Ark tonight, and it’s still true – best adventure movie ever, best hero ever, best heroine ever. Thirty (!) years later, it’s still a wonderful ride.”

I would annoy Red with comparisons like this one: “If, when ‘Good Vibrations’ was new, the radio played songs that are as old as ‘Good Vibrations’ is now, they’d be playing ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ from 1910 on an old Victrola.”

So of course I did the math. When I wrote that 2012 musing, Raiders of the Lost Ark was just as old as Casablanca was when I saw it for the first time.

I was born in the waning days of the Korean War, and of course I have no memory of those times. There are adults alive today for whom the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are similar — it’s history that happened before they were aware.

I think we relics from another era owe it to those young adults to try to explain what it was like. It helps me to understand, both the generation that preceded me and those that have come after, to reflect on what the world was or is like when I was their age — I’m now older than my parents were on 9/11, for example.

What movies today are as old as Casablanca was back in 1972? Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park. Groundhog Day. Feeling old yet?

Interplanetary travel from the back deck

I let the dogs out for one last constitutional before bed and stood on the deck overlooking our back yard. The air was room temperature — 68 degrees according to the weather app — and filled with the sound of crickets and other nighttime singing creatures. Everything was green and summer-lush.

I tried to imagine the same scene absolutely quiet, the air so cold I need to wear a coat even for just a few minutes, and the ground covered with a deep layer of snow, everything white and gray. 

In my head I know it’s possible — not only possible but completely likely, because I have been here and under those conditions time and time again. In the middle of summer my heart screams no, it can never be — just as it does when I stand in the cold and try to imagine a lush, green night full of life sounds.

The cycle of the four seasons is a fascinating phenomenon. Just as we live different lives within the span of “one” lifetime, we live in four different worlds by staying in the same place, year after year.