Wednesday, September 20, 2017


 If you've read a couple of short stories or novels by Neil Gaiman, you may think you know his writing. I've read several, and thought I did. But until you wade into The Ocean at the End of the Lane you haven't a clue to the depths and heights his mind is prone to wander. It is a fairy tale about children, but definitely requires a grown-up reader. Deeply dark and starkly illuminating, it will not allow you ever again to see your world, or yourself, under quite the same sky.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yes, I am . . .

Oh, you're not old.” Often, somebody young says it, although sometimes it is somebody not so young who just wants to deny time. Of course, I'm old. If I can manage it with some measure of dignity and style, I'd like to get older yet.

Being old is not some kind of illness or handicap. It is my crowning achievement. It is who I am. It is the sum of my becoming. When you insist that I'm not old, you are denying part of my identity, part of what is me. History informs my moment, but doesn't rule it. The shorter my future becomes, the more curious I am about what comes next, and the more intensely I love and embrace all that is now.

Not that everything is pleasant right now, but looking back, I see that it never was. This is the day I am who I am, and I am glad. And thankful.

Monday, September 18, 2017

...every day.

So, the old man is writing every day. It may not be necessary, or even desirable that I should write one more book. Five books in five years is probably adequate. I'll be nearly 77 years old by the time my latest novel, Slick Rock Creek is released. A lot of writers are dead or retired at that age.

Ursula K Le Guin didn't swear off fiction until she was 87. She is still writing, has a mind-boggling blog. So maybe I'll get to go out writing. The males in my clan are usually in the ground by their mid eighties. But like I say, I'm still writing every day. Not so much because I want to see my words in print. I've done that, not as often as some, but often enough that the new has worn off. Often enough to know that published writing is not necessarily good writing. I'd rather be good than read, but if I had to choose, I'd also rather be read than dead.

The new hasn't worn off being apprehended by a story, discovering what happens next, how it all turns out. When I get tired of that, I'll be tired of life.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Photo by David Longley

My prayer vocabulary is pretty limited. Sorry, Thanks, Wow, and Yes about cover it. Even so, I don't have any illusion that I can tell God something She doesn't already know.

On the other hand, God knows a lot of things that I don't, but desperately need to know. So mostly, in my prayers, I don't talk to God. I just try to be quiet and pay attention.

Most Sundays, I worship with a little gaggle of Episcopalians. We're big at saying prayers at God in church. I try to listen as hard as I talk on those occasions, because God is talking back to us in the silences between our words.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Reading directions...

Round Mountain, Polk County North Carolina
 Photo by David Longley

Took a little walk with my friend, Wayseeker a few days back. The trail got a little scarce on us, but we maintained our sense of direction. We were always certain of up and down.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I don't read...

I don't read much memoir. People who go out in public without their clothes on make me uneasy. I do read my share of fiction, though. Fiction can be just as revealing of a writer as memoir, which according to some is just another sort of fiction, but honest fiction is not quite going naked before readers. Writing stories is more like going trick-or-treat on Halloween. At least there's the cover of a costume. It may be a fanciful and outrageous costume, but a sharp-eyed reader can figure out who's behind it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Just in time...

Just before all the rain arrived, we had a couple of crisp sunny days and I sowed a row of moru daikon up on the high side of the garden next to the volunteer arugula resurrected from last year. They should do well up there on the hill, with good drainage with plenty of sun. By Thanksgiving, we will be getting plump, delicious red-meated radishes, that will be coming to harvest right into winter.

My seed were several years old, so I sowed them thick. if they germinate well, the thinnings will make for some tasty and spicy salad greens. Moru daikon is simply the Japanese term translated round radish in English. This variety was brought to Japan from northern China. The Chinese name translates as Beauty Heart. Before we moved up the mountain, I bought the seed from Kitazawa Seed Company in Oakland Ca. They are still my go-to source for Asian veggie seeds.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ask the leaves...

Sere Messengers, can you recall,
ere your demise, so say again
how we may rise up in pain,
hanging high, by all disdained,
yet gain glory at our fall.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

If I lived...

If I lived all alone
With none to praise me, none to scold,
None to smile when I did well,
Or frown upon my sins,
I would not care; I do not need
An audience for my life;

But if I lived alone
My life would be so small, so bare,
Without a place for joy or rest;
I’d rail against the solitude
And I would suffer; I would die
Without the one who loves me.

Monday, September 11, 2017


 In 2010, Jane Ella and I were members of the North Main Friends Meeting (Quakers) in Greenville SC. The consensus of the meeting was that we needed some music for worship, so I wrote some verses that another Friend, Don Shabkie, a talented pianist and composer, set to music for us.

A couple of these little "hymns" were actually sung in the meeting, but some members felt they tended to be too "Christocentric," to qualify as Quakerly music, so the compositions were set aside.
Don and I had a lot of fun dreaming them up, though. Here's one of them-

Lord Jesus, who for forty days
All company suspended
To walk the solitary ways
The Father had intended,

Out in the desert, vast and still,
While angels there attended,
You held fast to your Father’s will,
And all the beasts befriended.

O Christ, guide me upon your road
I’ve scarcely comprehended,
And hold me up beneath my load
Until the journey’s ended

At home, before the Father’s face,
Where you have gone before us
To make for us a dwelling place
To shelter and restore us.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

...act of faith.

Like scraps of landscape glimpsed from atop a distant mountain, bits of towns, farms, forest, twisting threads of roads, emerging from clouds and lost again in them. 

That is how a novel comes. A scene here, a conversation there, a face, the feel of weather and a place. It doesn't come all at once or even in order. 

But you have to be there, paying attention, to write down all the bits as they show themselves. Eventually, you can discern a pattern, and out of the pattern, assemble your story. 

I'm usually at least half-way through a book before I get any clear notion of where it is going or what it is about. Writing fiction begins, as do all holy undertakings, with an unreasonable act of blind uncalculated faith.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

...when you return.

Sometimes, a little distance between friends
draws them closer;

Sometimes, stepping away from a problem
 makes it simpler;

Sometimes, leaving your sweet home
makes it sweeter

when you return.

Friday, September 8, 2017

...high and lonely.

Craggy Dome

Up in the high and lonely places,
Solitude is already putting on
her autumnal Joseph's coat;
She waves her multi-hued apartness
before the wind, daring winter,
welcoming any who crave the music
of hawkcry, and their own heartbeat.