Literary Musing (No. 3)

If you don’t like watching sailboats at sunset because they move too slow, then “A Gentleman in Moscow” may not be the book for you. Not that it’s boring or moves slow, but like a well brewed cup of coffee or a 12 year old Scotch, it’s meant to be sipped, sniffed, swirled and savored, not gulped down.

The book opens shortly after the Russian Revolution. Our protagonist, count Alexander Rostov, is hauled before the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and accused of writing a counter-revolutionary poem. Only his connections keep him from being stood against a wall and shot. Instead, he’s declared a “Former Person” and sentenced to life imprisonment in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol in a tiny servants room at the top of the hotel.

From Ron Charles review in the Washington Post:

As prison sentences go, life in the Hotel Metropol sounds a lot harder on the novelist than on the count. After all, Alexander Rostov might be able to pretend that his little attic room can “provide the satisfactions of traveling by train,” but for the writer, the task of describing decades in a single building sounds frighteningly cramped. And yet, remarkably, in Towles’s hands, it’s a wonderfully spacious setting. As he creates it, the Hotel Metropol is transfixing, full of colorful characters: some transitory, others permanent; mostly fictional, some historical. Yes, the novel offers more high tea than high adventure, but this is a story designed to make you relax, to appreciate your surroundings, to be a person on whom nothing is lost. And don’t worry: There’s some gripping derring-do in the latter parts.

In yet another example of “Authors Who Intimidate the Heck out of Me,” the simple act of grinding coffee is transformed by Amor Towles’ prose.

“Even as he turned the little handle round and round, the room remained under the tenuous authority of sleep. As yet unchallenged, somnolence continued to cast its shadow over sights and sensations, over forms and formulations, over what has been said and what must be done, lending each the insubstantiality of its domain. But when the Count opened the small wooden drawer of the grinder, the world and all it contained were transformed by that envy of the alchemists – the aroma of freshly ground coffee.”

If you have read “A Gentleman in Moscow, ” let me know what you think. 

If you haven’t read it, but appreciate a well crafted cup of coffee, 12-year-old Scotch, or sentences and paragraphs where every word is perfectly placed, then add this book to your must-read list.

Read well …Poppy

Literary Musing (No. 2)

I’m only into my second “Literary Musing,” and it occurs to me a more appropriate series name might have been, “Authors Who Intimidate the Heck out of Me,” but we are on this path and will stick to it.

Ordinary Grace was a  Christmas present from my oldest daughter quite a few years back. A present for which I am very thankful, because I wonder if I would have discovered this work on my own (not knowing the author at the time). Ordinary Grace is now firmly in my top 10 most-recommended-books. The official promo copy tells the premise better than I can … 

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

The novel contains a cast of well-developed and complex characters who learn, grow wiser and eventually accept what they cannot change. There is a murder mystery that forms a secondary layer beneath this coming of age story. I’ve read some individual reviewers who state that it wasn’t a good mystery because they figured out “who-dun-it” before the end of the book. It is then that I want to yell, “Good for you sweetheart, but you missed the whole point.”

Points to the author for including this quote from Blaise Pascal on the dedication page. 
“The heart has reasons that reason does not understand.” 

Read well …Poppy

Literary Musing (No. 1)


We have moved twice in one year. It seems more like 3 or 4 moves as we are still searching for lost and misplaced items. Somewhere in the house (I hope) is a beat-up hardcover copy of Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. The dust jacket is long gone, the spine is wobbly at best. Sure I could buy another copy or download the Kindle version, but that well-read book is precious to me not just for the content and story (which are superb … more on that later), but for the hand written notes from friends to whom I have loaned the book. The front and back endsheets contain notes, reflections, quotes from the book, all signed by friends. This is especially poignant because if you would ask me what Lonesome Dove was about, I would not say, “A cattle-drive from Texas to Montana,” or “Two retired Texas rangers,” or any of a number of themes that emerge from the book. My answer to what Lonesome Dove is about would be, “Friendship,” the relationship, the philia love between Augustus McCrae and Woodrow McCall.

Larry McMurtry passed away on March 25, 2021 in Archer City, Texas … the same town he was born in on June 3, 1936. As an aspiring writer, he is one of those those authors who intimidates me. His characters are well rounded and complex, the dialogue is genuine and humorous. The environments are real, you can feel the heat, the dust, and the currents of the rivers. To say that Lonesome Dove is a western is like saying the Mona Lisa is a portrait.

If you haven’t read Lonesome Dove, put it on your list. If you’ve read it and would like to digitally sign my wayward copy; drop me a comment. When I find it, I’ll transcribe your comments to join all the others.

Read well …Poppy

King Tut meets 2020 (and what I’ve learned)

I really wanted to write something wise and insightful about 2020. I would like to be that guy, you know the guy who people read and think, “Gee, I wish I was as wise and insightful.”

If you’ve made it past the first paragraph and still looking for something wise and insightful, you might want to jump back to the last site you were on and click on the link that says, “You won’t believe number 12” or “Gut Doctor says to throw out this vegetable immediately.” I got nothing, well pretty much nothing except for this flashback …

It was 1977, Tutmania was in full swing at the Field Museum in Chicago, as “The Treasures of King Tutankhamun” (the boy king of Egypt 3000 years earlier) came through town, breaking attendance records and adding millions of dollars to the city’s tourist trade and Mrs. Poppy and I were there to contribute our few dollars. We were newly married, we were naive, did not have much money, but we were on a mission to see the King Tut exhibit. Mind you, this was pre-internet, pre-GPS, we headed to Chicago without much of a plan, but armed with a AAA roadmap, some cash in my wallet, and cruising up I-55 in a lime-green AMC Gremlin …what could go wrong?

Not having reservations was a big mistake and not arriving until after dark didn’t help. After multiple failed attempts and many “No Vacancy” signs later we ended up at a luxury high-rise hotel on Lakeshore Drive.

We got a room.

It was a fabulous room with an incredible view of downtown Chicago. It also used up half of our budget for the entire trip. We retreated the next morning to a seedy little motel in a less than desirable part of town, but we persevered, toured other museums, and prepared for our date with King Tut.

We got up early and headed to the Field Museum, waited in our first line to get a number and approximate time for the second line (four or five hours later). Don’t remember what we did during those waiting hours, but I’m pretty sure my bladder was a lot stronger back then. Our time finally came and we were ushered in. It was worth the wait. The artistry, the engineering, the craftsmanship, the beauty of each ancient artifact was incredible. And I had a minor epiphany.

Those ancient Egyptians were just as intelligent as we were in 1977 (or now), maybe even more intelligent in some cases. We are all on version “Humanity 1.0,” sure our technology has changed, modern humanity does most things a lot faster, but not necessarily better. Humanity as an aggregate does not change that much over the millenniums. We have our up years and our down years. 2020 seems like a big deal to us now, because we are living it, it’s on our doorstep. I believe history will weigh 2020 as a middling year, certainly not our best and certainly not our worst.

I do believe though that 2020 gave us a little dose of steroids that amplified our personalities and natures. The politicians who were power-hungry and over-reaching in 2019 became just a little more power-hungry and over-reaching in 2020. The first responders who put their lives on the line last year, did so again this year, but with the added threat of an unseen enemy. Those humans who were prone to be selfish and self-centered the year before now had a horde of toilet paper in their basement. Fortunately, I believe those who were selfless and self-sacrificing also got a little boost this year.

Where does this leave us in 2021?

The transition from 2020 to 2021 is just another rotation of our planet, not much will change. A different year, a different U.S. president will not change us. And if you are looking to politicians, celebrities, and social media influencers for guidance, you are looking in all the wrong places, because they will always be working under the same operating system of “Humanity 1.0.”

If you are looking for guidance, if you are looking for hope, look to the One who wrote the software. Over the millenniums, despite our best attempts at self-destruction, we continue to bumble along, covered by Grace … and that won’t change in 2021.

Peace Poppy

Mary’s Reveal Party

I cried and turned away. I could not watch as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took his body from the cross. He was many things to many people; lunatic, traitor, heretic … and to others, rabbi, teacher, savior, but I alone was his mother, he was my son, my baby boy. My sobbing came deep from within, racking my body in spasms as if I were giving birth … and my mind skipped back 33 years.

The walk to the well seemed to grow longer every day. Nazareth was a small village. Everyone knew everyone and everybody knew everybody’s business. The well was fed by the only spring in Nazareth. Drawing water was women’s work and there was no time of day when some of the ladies of Nazareth would not be sitting around the well. It was the center of village news and of village gossip. I put one foot ahead of the other and forced my head to remain erect. It was harvest season, hot and dry. If I could have gone without water I would have done so, but I was drinking for two and this was now apparent to all of Nazareth. The whispers and glances could not be ignored. I was tempted to walk up and say, “Did I tell you about the angel that visited me?” It was a foolish thought, but it made me smile. These days my emotions rolled in like crashing waves on the shore. I was confused, and scared, but also comforted and honored by what Gabriel had told me. I was determined to see this through.

Poor Joseph, I know this was as trying for him as it was for me.  I’d seen the men of the village jeer and overheard their crude remarks. I would have understood if he had put me away, but when he told me of his angelic visit, it strengthened my resolve.  I don’t know what the future holds, but we are going to trust God together, and whatever comes, we will deal with it as a family.

We were too poor to own a donkey. Fortunately, one of Joseph’s friends took pity on us and let us borrow his. It was a good thing because there was no way I could walk 70 miles to Bethlehem, not in my condition.

Joseph was holding the reins of the beast and muttering under his breath about Romans and taxes while I attempted to mount the donkey. It was old, grizzled around the muzzle, and very fat. In my 15 years, I had never ridden a donkey or tried to climb onto one. If I had not been so heavy with child perhaps I could have succeeded on my own, but Joseph had to come and give me a boost. Once on top, I reflected on what a ridiculous sight I must have been and got a case of the giggles. Joseph just looked at me and shook his head.

I thought I was over my nausea, but that donkey rocked to and fro and I felt like a sailor on a storm-tossed boat. Somehow I held it together.

Joseph alternately patted me and the donkey as if reassuring us that everything would be alright. It was a slow plodding journey. I wondered who had the bigger belly, myself, or the donkey.

The only drama on the road was provided by a group of Roman soldiers who came up behind on horseback, yelling at us to get off of the road, then leaving us to travel through a haze of dust. A thick film of grime coated me, Joseph, the donkey, and all our belongings as we pushed through the cloud left by the racing horse’s hoofs. I pulled a scarf across my nose and mouth to keep from choking. I watched as Joseph clenched then unclenched his fists, the muscles in his forearms knotted. If possible my love for him grew even stronger. I knew he would do anything in his power to protect us. I reflected that there were now 3 of us, though one had not yet been revealed.

The sun was sinking below the horizon when we arrived days later in Bethlehem.  The last rays of the sun gave way as the glow of oil lamps and candles spilled from windows and doors onto the narrow streets. I wanted nothing more than a warm, clean bed, and enough water to wash away some of the road dirt. To say things did not go as planned would be a huge understatement. We went from inn to inn looking for a room, but there were none available. The influx of arriving taxpayers had stretched the city’s capacities to the breaking point.

I closed my eyes and replayed what Gabriel had spoken to me over and over in my mind. I knew God would not forsake or abandon us now. I had faith and took renewed comfort from the angel’s message … but I still wanted a warm, clean bed.

We made for the last inn situated on the very edge of town. The donkey could hardly keep his head up and I wasn’t much better. The sun had completely set and most of the city’s lights were now behind us. The night sky was inky black, clear, and crisp as only a winter sky can be. Thousands of twinkling stars created a dome that filled the sky from horizon to horizon. The distant hills were dotted with pinpoints of flicking yellowish light coming from the campfires of shepherds as they tended their flocks.

Faint murmurs drifted from the open doorway as Joseph negotiated with the innkeeper, at least he didn’t reappear immediately, which gave me hope. A woman emerged from the doorway and headed towards me. I took her to be the innkeeper’s wife. She was short and stout, black hair streaked by grey. The wrinkles at the corners of her eyes spoke of many years and many laughs. Indeed she laughed as she approached me and patted me on my knee.

“Don’t worry child,” she said, “We are going to put you up in our stable, it’s the only place left.” She leaned toward me and whispered, “I’ll tell you, our stable is better than a lot of the rooms you would have gotten back there.” she motioned toward town. She laughed again as she disappeared into the inn.

I heard the clink of coins being exchanged and knew this was where we were going to be staying. 

Joseph walked out, shrugged his shoulders, holding his hands apart as if saying, “What are you going to do?’

“It’s okay,” I mouthed. And it was. I felt a peace flow over me and somehow knew that this was exactly as it was supposed to be. 

Joseph tethered the donkey and began to unload him when the innkeeper’s wife reappeared carrying a pitcher of water in each hand and some blankets slung over her shoulder. 

“You may need these tonight.” she smiled and headed back to the inn.

She was right. I went into labor shortly after she left. 

Joseph was great, he was doing his best though at one point I could see he was getting worried and asked, “Should I get the innkeeper’s wife?”

I shook my head violently, no. “This is our promise,” I said, “This is our covenant.” I don’t know where it came from, but I remember blurting out, “This is the prophecy.”

I cried out in pain, and the next thing I knew, Joseph was handing me the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He had dark curly hair, plastered against his olive skin. He was crying, then calmed as I held him to my breast. 

Tears flowed as I have never cried before, not tears of pain, not tears of sorrow, but tears of joy, and tears of humility. By any normal standard, he should not be here, yet here he was. Not just a boy child, not just a Jewish boy child from the house of David … but the Savior of the world revealed, here in my arms.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but this birth in the most humble of places would forever break eternity into two pieces; the before and the after.

Merry Christmas

The Death of Michael Brown, My Revelation of the Media, Tomorrows Election and My Faith in America

Our family lived in Ferguson for over 30 years. Most of those years even residents of St. Louis could not have found us on a map. That changed and we became one of the most famous or infamous cities in the nation if not the world.

I first heard of Michael Brown’s death not on the news, Facebook, or any other social media outlet, but in aisle 2 of what was then Ferguson’s Shop N Save. I was wheeling my cart down the aisle when I encountered a very agitated African-American woman who was telling another lady about someone who had been shot in the back 9 times by the police. (This is not about the accuracy of the lady’s account or the now disproven, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” scenario … bear with me.)

There was nothing I really needed in aisle 2, so I just backtracked and went down aisle 3. Of course by that time the agitated lady had circled around into aisle 3 and was still waxing on. After a few moments, she saw me, realized she was blocking the aisle, flashed me a smile said, “Sorry, ” and moved her cart over.

It was an epiphany for me.

By any normal standard … our dress, the contents of our shopping carts, our age, we were not on the same socio-economic strata, we were just two souls looking to buy some groceries. As a beyond mid-aged white male, I understood that I was not the focus of her frustration and anger, it went beyond that and beyond what I could truly grasp.

It went downhill from there.

“Ferguson” became clickbait. It was my first exposure to the lack of accuracy (or caring) by the media. I remember in particular, an article posted by some financial blog (who I won’t mention) whose 15 minutes of fame was claiming that a big part of Ferguson’s problems was the lack of banking facilities, even though there were several within walking distance of my house (I’m not making this up).

The picture at the top of this post is a prime example, a group of NYC students who found the means to fly into Ferguson for a night, tell us of our shortcomings, then fly home the next day to their privileged communities.

What does all this have to do with tomorrow’s election and my faith in America.

It’s simple, if I take an inventory of the people I know and come in contact with, in Ferguson or now in Imperial Missouri, they may not be in sync with me politically, they may not share my tastes in music or food, they may even like Cheese Whiz, but they want good things for their families, they want safety and security, they want fairness and justice and a better tomorrow. They do not want to riot or loot, and this gives me hope.

Peace, Poppy

One last editorial comment … my biggest disappointment has been with the media, who now doesn’t even pretend to be unbiased (on either side). RIP Walter Cronkite.

Travels with Mimsy: Part 2

It’s official … if there were ever any doubt, Mimsy is not a Labrador Retriever. Apparently, she likes her water in shallow puddles and in drinking bowls. Vast spans of water that have no end in sight and are constantly in motion are not to be trusted. She wants nothing to do with even the gentle surf of the Gulf, and as you can see, she turns away, denying its existence.

For me, there is something magically therapeutic about the experience of being on the beach. On Sanibel Island, that experience is amplified, here there are no highrise buildings, no amusements but what nature provides, no traffic lights, and no fast food establishments outside of a Dairy Queen and Subway, here before the current zoning restrictions. Each visit I make an effort to absorb and memorize the input of each of my five senses. To the best of my ability, I tuck them into my memory bank, held safely and securely until the Midwestern winters call for a withdrawal, and a much-needed reminder of warmth, salt air, and the cry of gulls.

Hearing: It’s a looping soundtrack that changes throughout the day. The sound of the surf attacking or caressing the shore (depending on the weather) is a constant theme and the back-beat for every other rhythm. The early morning hours feature the sound of shorebirds, pelicans, and gulls as they begin their daily quest for food. The slap of fishing skiff’s hulls against the chop of the Gulf provides a staccato beat as they head out to begin their pursuits. The sun rises and people begin to populate the beach, murmurs of voices are added to the mix along with the squeals and laughter of children as they splash, running in and out of the waves. Eventually dusk falls, people and birds retreat to their nesting places and the soundtrack becomes muted until only the beat of the waves against the shore remains.

Vision: Before sunrise, the color palette of the seascape is muted, one of cool blues and grays. The sky bleeds into the water as they struggle for distinction. Then the sun rises and the horizon becomes a razor-sharp line dividing the elements. On a cloudless day, the brilliance of the sun creates a hot-spot directly below and highlights the tip of every wave as they dance and weave toward the shore, creating points of light that put a diamond to shame. Cloudy and rainy days orchestrate their own understated beauty, an impressionistic painting that slowly shifts and changes, absorbing and reflecting light and hues of muted colors. If we pause and observe they are just as beautiful as a cloudless sky.

Herons, Egrets, and Ibis move in slow motion along that magical line where the water meets the shore. Each leg is lifted and placed with thoughtful and deliberate intent, while Sandpipers, Plovers, and Willets scurry in frantic motion zigzagging across the beach.

A potpourri of people populate the beach; a middle-aged lady sets up her chair and umbrella, pulls a book from her beach bag content to spend the day relaxing and reading, not moving from that spot … families with young children also set up their gear, shovels, buckets, balls, and toys while attempting to slather SPF 50 sunscreen on the exposed skin of their offspring … young lovers and newlyweds hold hands as they stroll down the shore … fishermen wade into the surf succumbing to the seduction that the next cast could hook the “Big One” … serious and casual shellers hunch over in the famous “Sanibel Stoop” searching for that elusive shell.

Dusk comes and the color palette is dialed down, clouds reflect soft shades of gold, coral, and pink. Trees, people, and buildings so brilliantly illuminated at mid-day become silhouettes. On a clear night, the sky becomes a bowl of stars. Familiar constellations are displayed overhead; Orion, the big dipper (part of Ursa Major), Canis Major, and others reminding you of the enormity of the universe and your own insignificance.

Touch: The most dominant sensation defies categorization, it’s not a physical touch in the truest sense of the word, but on a sunny day, it’s the sweet caress of the sun. It’s a calming celestial massage that dissipates stress and trivial worries as only nature can do. Coupled with the rhythms of the surf and you have a heavenly prescription for stress relief that no pill can duplicate.
Of course, mother nature has a fickle side. Late afternoon thunderstorms may not be as relaxing, but they provide an equally delightful sensory experience. These brief intense storms are not just related to touch as the wind roars in your ears (hearing), You watch as the dark clouds form on the horizon, roiling and churning, containers for flashes of lightening (vision). Then you feel a quick drop in the temperature as the wind gusts arrive, picking up particles of sand and horizontal raindrops that sting your skin. People scramble to lower umbrellas and gather gear as air mattresses become airborne twisting and turning away from the beach. (Yes, I love experiencing these tropical storms)

And then there is sand … it’s ubiquitous, under your feet, under your fingernails, and into places, you don’t want it to be, yet you wouldn’t trade it for anything. As you stand where the waves rush onto the shore, you feel it pulled from beneath your feet. You sit on the shoreline, dig your hands into the sand, overturning dozens of coquinas, and watch as they greet the next wave as an opportunity to dig themselves back in. You try to be a good citizen and rinse it off as you leave the beach, but it still finds a way into your condo.

Taste-Smell; I’m combining these two senses because they are so linked and let’s be honest unless you get a mouth full of saltwater while swimming, you are not going to be tasting the beach, but the two senses are very connected. The aroma of a freshly brewed pot of coffee or the fragrance of a batch of chocolate chip cookies pulled from the oven excite not only your olfactory nerves but your taste buds as well.
I wonder what percentage of us Sanibel fanatics roll the windows down as we begin to cross the causeway … purging the dry, air-conditioned, antiseptic air with a warm, salt-filled breeze?

Like every-other sensation, the smells of the beach vary from day-to-day. The central theme will be one of the scents of the Gulf; salty, organic, and rich in nutrients. Depending on the tides and the weather that can be mingled with the acrid scent of seaweed and fish or layered with the sweet fragrances of coconut oil and suntan lotion.

Just two weeks removed and we already miss those shell islands, but we have the stored senses in our memory banks ready for withdrawal when needed, and know we will return.

Peace, Poppy

Travels with Mimsy: Part 1

Disclaimer … This is not a literary work like Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charlie,” just a few musings of Mimsy’s first real vacation and our first post-retirement road trip.

In many ways, we were traveling old paths … a road trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, a route we have taken many times before. But chapters have turned, we are leaving from a new location, a new route, on a pace with minimal deadlines, a future undefined, but underscored by solid old paths; years of love and commitment.

October is a wonderful time for a road trip, the trees in the heartland are just starting to turn, the temperatures have dropped, and the skies seem just a little bluer.

The first day was a mixed bag. Several internet sites informed me that the first leg of our journey should take 7, maybe 7 1/2 hours. They did not take into account numerous road construction sites and a horrific wreck that all but closed the highway for an hour … other parts of the day were delightful. We traveled south down interstate 55 then cut across at Cape Girardeau, Missouri into the farmlands of southern Illinois. Those two-lane roads provided the best vistas of the day. The skies were a brilliant blue, dotted with minimal white puffy clouds whose existence served only to provide contrast to the azure hues behind them. The sun backlit the fields and low rolling hills as plumes of dust generated by combines and tractors reminded us that the food we purchased so neatly wrapped in grocery stores is a product of someone’s toil and sweat.

This brief journey across rural America also underscored that we were weeks away from a major election. Political signs and banners sprang from the edges of cornrows, houses, and small businesses. These are clearly people who are passionate about their politics. Every office from the President of the United States to the local circuit clerk was in evidence. If dog-catcher was an elected position, I have no doubt that we would have seen signs springing up alongside the highway extolling the virtues of various dog-catchers … “Vote Fred for Dog-Catcher, he can corral 3 Pit-Bulls, a feisty Chihuahua and 2 Airedales before you can say Dog Gone.”

I can also say with certainty that if the presidential election were held only in southern Illinois, Donald Trump would win in a landslide. We counted only one pro-Biden sign amidst hundreds of pro-Trump banners.

We ended our first day in East Ridge Tennessee just south of Chattanooga. This destination was chosen not by chance or geographical location, but by pizza. East Ridge is home to Portofino’s Greek and Italian restaurant. Years ago we made a stop at the La Quinta at East Ridge, we often travel with our pets and La Quinta’s are dog friendly. As is our custom in Poppy’s family we end our days travels about 7 or 8 o’clock p.m. Mrs. Poppy and whoever else is traveling with us (kids or grandkids) start the preparations for closing that day and organizing for the next. My organizational skills are limited, but I excel at foraging for food. I returned that night with pizzas from Portofino’s. I can’t speak to anything on their menu other than their pizza … a yeasty, doughy, bubbly concoction of cheese and pepperoni goodness. Since that first night, we make every effort to end our travels at East Ridge for the sole purpose of eating Portofino’s pizza in our motel room.

Did I mention the construction delays and the highway closing wreck?

We checked into the East Ridge La Quinta at 9:45 … Portofino’s closes at 10. We had Wendy’s that night and were thankful for it.

Peace, Poppy

A Gentle Storm


I love to see a storm roll in.

In my opinion, the best experience is to see a storm build over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Sanibel Island. Clouds morph in the distance, twisting … contorting … shifting colors from blue-grey to charcoal, building an internal light show with flashes of lightning. Standing on the beach you can feel the temperature drop as the winds pick up. Soon you are pelted with drops of rain flung at you horizontally. Stinging rain mixed with a grains of sand pelts you as the storm moves across the beach. I grab Mrs. Poppy’s hand and we run laughing toward shelter.

Tonight we are not on Sanibel Island but our new home in Imperial Missouri. It has been a year of chapter turnings, two house moves, moving from a vocation of many years to retirement. Pages flip, chapters turn, some things change, some things stay constant … faith and family.

It’s been weeks since we have had a decent rain here in the heartland. The ground was starting to crack, even my weeds are becoming withered. Tonight that is changing. It started with a cold front moving in, winds whipping as we struggled to lower the patio umbrella. The scent of the early autumn rain mixed with the anxious damp earth rose through the night.

Mimsy and I take a quick stroll before the rains became heavier.

The wind has died down, the rain falls gently as the sound of a locomotive sounds softly in the distance.

2020 is not over, more storms are likely to come, but faith and family will remain strong.

Peace, Poppy

Filthy Rich

You know you’re wealthy when …

…your car starts on the first crank regardless of the outside temperature. The key has slid into the ignition a thousand times. The edges and indents of the key are softened and rounded with time and use. The car won’t turn heads, it may have a few dings and maybe a smidgen of rust, but it’s dependable and you know it will get you where you need to go. The insignia of the hood doesn’t impress anyone … (bonus points if it’s paid for).

… you are greeted by children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews who treat you like hot property upon arrival. A hug around the knees by a toddler is wealth beyond measure.
(A dog will always treat you like hot property long after the kids, grandkids, etc. are grown … just saying)

…you can ride in silence for miles with your spouse or best friend. Relationships built by time and trust require no idle or forced conversation, no need to impress or entertain … never awkward, the silence wraps you like a soft blanket. Let the wheels roll and the miles slip by.

… a little container garden waits for you in the back yard. The clay pot is chipped and dinged on the edges, it doesn’t hold moisture like a plastic container but somehow feels just right. Sweet basil cascades over the edges. You cut off a few stems, rinse them, dice the leaves for inclusion into a pasta, homemade pizza, or soup. The fragrance fills the kitchen and transports you without cost to Italy.

… you can count your friends on your fingers without using your toes. Friends on Facebook are not the same. As the saying goes … A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, “Damn, that was fun.” Quality, not quantity.

… you run your index finger across the spines of books on your bookcase, your finger pauses then selects a volume. Extracting it from the shelf you lift it to your nose, inhaling the unique scent of old books; equal parts ink, paper, and a pleasant mustiness. It’s a volume you have read before, but it’s like greeting an old friend. The two of you have traveled this road before, but there are nuances and subtleties yet to be discovered.

… you step outside and look skyward. You know there is a God above who loves you more than you can love him or yourself. A God who would have sent his Son to die for your sins if you were the only boy or girl in town.

It’s good to be filthy rich. Wishing you health, true wealth, and happiness … Poppy