Going and daring before I die

I have always been charmed by The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been published around this time of year for these 232 years now since it was established in 1792 by the late Robert B. Thomas.

I picked up the 2024 edition on impulse the other day with a thought that, this year, I would do more than browse through it, I would actually try to read the whole thing for the first time.

So far I’ve read only the first page, but I’ve already gained a bit of inspiration in the form of a lovely bit of life advice from a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Rest not! Life is sweeping by,
Go and dare before you die;
Something mighty and sublime
Leave behind to conquer time.

My handful of regular readers know this is a theme in my thoughts: Having failed in my duty to the species to convey my DNA to a new generation, I have been trying to create stuff that might survive for a time after I inevitably leave this mortal coil. 

As I mentioned last week, I have at last completed a morsel along those lines, which may not be “mighty” but may possibly qualify as “something sublime,” if I may be so bold. No, it’s not one of my novels in progress, which would be appropriate on the first day of National Novel Writing Month, wouldn’t it?

No, this is the little scrap that qualifies more as a novelette, which I have held back in describing, other than to hint that I consider it a “little Christmas present.” 

In the grand tradition of unwrapping one’s presents slowly and carefully, I plan to reveal the title and subtitle on Wednesday morning and share the work during the Christmas season. Whether it’s destined to “conquer time” is not up to me, but I hope and pray the story will brighten this one Christmas, at least.


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“I probably shouldn’t say this …”



“No, no, I’m sure you were right the first time.”

“Don’t you want to hear?”

“Well, maybe, but you said it yourself — you shouldn’t say it.”

“Now, I don’t want to tell you what to think …”



“You’re about to tell me what to think, aren’t you?”

“Well, I —”

“You just said you didn’t want to.”

“Well, yes.”

“Then don’t.”

(Hat tip to Cory Dahl)

those who wait

The quiet man turned to his dog and said,
“What of all this sitting and waiting
for life to come to me?
Shall I not chase life for myself?

“They say all things come to those who wait —
but why wait?
If life is short and precious,
why not go to all things
rather than wait for them to come to me?

“Watch out, things,
I’m coming for you
and full of life!”

The dog gave a look of approval
and waited, until he came to her.

A consistent voice is one key

This week I listened to the new Andy Carpenter mystery from David Rosenfelt. Twas the Bite Before Christmas is the 28th in the series for people who love courtroom drama and dogs and stories set in New Jersey and dogs. Most if not all of the audiobooks have been done by Grover Gardner, so I associate Andy as much with Gardner as I do with Rosenfelt.

I’m finding that having a consistent voice enhances an audiobook series.

Walt Longmire is George Guidall almost as much as he is author Craig Johnson.

Cormoran Strike is Robert Glenister almost as much as he is Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

Charlotte Holmes by Sherry Thomas is also Kate Reading.

Cork O’Connor by William Kent Krueger is also David Chandler.

They got away with changing the narrator on the Harry Bosch novels, but only because the new narrator is Titus Welliver.

And I have found some tasty books I may otherwise have ignored by searching for other novels narrated by Guidall or Gardner or Chandler.

I never quite got over when they switched the narrator of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels from Lori Petty, one of the great actresses from A League of Her Own who gave Stephanie a pure New Jersey accent, to C.J. Critt and finally Lorelei King, who do a nice job but they’re not Lori Petty and, in my mind, they’re not Stephanie Plum.

The audiobook has really gained in popularity since it migrated to smartphones as opposed to multiple-unit CDs and cassettes before that. It only makes sense, in this art form of its own, that the format is gaining its own set of stars.

Three little words

One of my last visits to see my dad coincided with my late mom’s birthday — or maybe it was their wedding anniversary. In any case, I mentioned the date and remembered her with fondness.

My dad smiled, got a far-away look in his eyes, and after several long moments he nodded and said, “I miss her.”

His voice caught just a little. Like most men of his generation, he was not good at expressing his feelings. I could feel the enormous depth behind those three words.

Mom and Dad were together for nearly 62 years, from a Sunday afternoon in the cold World War II days of December 1944 until the anniversary of D-Day in 2006, and he spent the last 14 years of his life without her. Red and I had less than half as much time as my parents, but now I have a bit of firsthand knowledge of what it took for him to say, as calmly as he could muster, “I miss her.”

When I wrote the other day about the Canada geese leaving town for their winter quarters, the WordPress algorithm suggested “Last goodbyes” at the bottom of the page among the three “Related” posts. That was my post about our Celebration of Life after Red passed in early summer. Of course, the memory brought the inevitable tears to my eyes.

There are no “last” goodbyes, are there? I seem to say goodbye at least once a day. My friends who have had similar losses tell me the feeling never completely goes away, you just live with it, compartmentalize it, deal with it, et cetera et cetera. I get it — for awhile I had moments where I had to sit down and let the grief wash over me, feeling lost and paralyzed, but these days I am functioning more or less as well as I used to.

Every so often, though, a friend will ask with concern, “How are you doing?” and I will need several long moments before I nod and say that I’m hanging in there. And it’s true — no worries, folks, I really am doing all right.


I miss her. 

The adventure continues

The Facebook Memories feature showed me that on Oct. 25, 2016, I had written, “Well, that was interesting news. More to come.”

I was puzzled — what interesting news did I receive seven years ago? When I realized what it was, I was amazed at the power of healing.

It turns out that Oct. 25, 2016, was the day that a corporate drone sat me down to tell me I was no longer needed to do the best job I ever held down. The fact that I didn’t remember tells me I’m pretty much over it by now.

Sure enough, here is what I wrote for my post of Oct. 26, 2016: 

When the news broke late last week that layoffs were imminent at the corporation that owns the venerable small-town paper where I worked for most of 14 years, I started to think about how logical it would be to lay me off. I suppose all of my co-workers had similar thoughts about themselves, but I just had a feeling.

I don’t take horoscopes seriously, but I do read mine because they often contain good advice. On Monday morning, I read it out loud to Red and we both laughed nervously:

“Changes at work are coming: This could be the luckiest turn of events that’s happened in months. To prepare yourself, bone up on your skills and make sure your client base is ample.”

If ever there was a moment when I went over to the dark side and embraced the idea that my fate is sealed by the position of stars light years away, that might have been that moment. Whether or not I “believed,” in any case, by golly, it was good advice.

And: A little after noon on Tuesday, I was given the word that I was part of the company’s latest round of cuts to contain costs.

It was a cordial conversation, and I was assured this was not a performance decision but an economic one yada yada yada, and they explained some nice going-away benefits, and off I went to let the folks who work with me know they were safe, and only I was leaving (at least in the newsroom; a trio of other, tremendous support people were also let go).

Now, my dear friends and colleagues have railed about how could the company do this, and I love them, but let’s note that the goal is to keep the doors open, and under this ownership the newspaper has endured for 12 long years since the previous owner decided he couldn’t make a go of it any longer. My fondest desire was always to grow the paper despite the odds, but in the absence of such growth, the alternative is to cut costs, and frankly I was the costliest cost in the room.

The paper survives to fight another day. My loyalty has always been to the 154 years of folks who toiled under the banner before me and with me, and not to the corporation that bought the brand, and perhaps that helped put me on the list. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The brand survives, and if anyone can save it from oblivion, it’s the incredible journalists and other people who still work in that building.

I am so proud to have been a part of that tradition and grateful for the high bar set by the people who walked those hallways before me. Anytime I started feeling my oats, all I had to do was remind myself, “Bluhm, you’re no Chan Harris,” or someone would come along to say it for me. I wouldn’t have tried as hard as I did without those noble ghosts chasing me.

Today is the first day of the next phase of my life, and oh, what an adventure it shall be.

(Sadly, all but two of the stalwart colleagues I mentioned that day have now also been “made redundant,” as they say across the pond, as the corporation continues its agonizingly slow death spiral. But I’m still proud of what we accomplished despite the clueless corporation in those years, as we did what we could to preserve what is now 161 years of local history.)

Cacophony pre-dawn

I am sitting on the love seat with my laptop, doomscrolling, when the background sound encroaches on my consciousness: Mixed in with the woosh of tires rolling along the Highway to Paradise up the hill, the cries of hundreds of Canada geese launching into the sky for their journey to wherever it is they go when they’re not nesting near the waters of Green Bay.

It’s a forlorn, wistful sound — “Goodbye! Goodbye! Take care! Goodbye!” over and over as bird after bird takes to the sky and they take their positions in V after V after V. Of course, sunrise is still nearly an hour away, so the sound is all that carries through the air, and we can only imagine the bustling Grand Central Station of it all. 

It’s part of the fall, this great migration, this cacophony of leaving, and the sky will become as quiet as it is cold for the next few months. I already know the sound that will break the silence and declare, “We made it! And now spring.” It will be the trill of a red-winged blackbird, back from wherever the blackbirds go. Sure as daffodils poking up to defy the frozen soil, the blackbirds’ return will signal the end of winter.

I’m getting ahead of myself. First the leaves must finish falling, then the snow must fall and cover the earth for many weeks, and we must endure the silence.

I ache, listening to the geese’s cries fading in the sky, but I know, Lord willing, I will hear those cries again, this time a cacophony of “Here we are! Here we are!” as the green creeps back and life starts over again, sometime around my birthday in March, six (!) months on from here.

For now, though, it’s “Here we go! Here we go! Goodbye!” and I’m grateful I took the time to stand on the deck and listen and to see them on their way, at least in my mind’s eye.

For moments like this, the word cacophony was coined.