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A swan, she was, with all that entails.

Long-necked, pale, graceful, a pillar of dignity,
She was also fearless and arrogant,
Intimidating with a sharp-eyed glare,
Loyal unto death.
Within her arms, I felt safe, protected by her fierce strength.
She stood behind me in maternal overwatch
As I took first steps to face a harsh world.
She taught her children with patience.
She dealt harshly with threats.
She fought all comers until the end.

A swan, she was, with all that entails.

————————

k

Seoul Train

A lot of today’s pop culture cinema leaves me cold. Superheroes. Vampires. Zombies. Especially zombies.

What is it with zombies? I don’t watch The Walking Dead. I don’t get all fidgety waiting for the next zombie apocalypse video game. And I certainly don’t queue up to see the latest action-packed, gore-spattered, plucky regular-guys facing walls of crazed, offal-eating zombies.

Usually.

Continue Reading »

A long-standing obsession of mine has been act 1, scene 2, from Shakespeare’s Richard III. It’s the scene where Richard accosts Lady Anne during a funeral procession and, in the course of a few hundred lines, steers her from unmitigated loathing all the way ’round the bend to a point where she warms to his affection, accepts his ring, and considers his suit for her hand in marriage. Afterward, astonished, Richard asks us:

Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
Was ever woman in this humour won?

Answer: No. Never. Not in a million years.

The complete implausibility of this scene has always puzzled me. I’ve read analyses of the play, pored through the variorum of the play, all to no avail. Shakespeare, generally quite good at character motivation and development, has shoehorned this relationship into his play, telling us “Just roll with it.”

Why?

My friend Barb, who knew of my curiosity on the topic, recommended I read Sharon Kay Penman’s historical opus, The Sunne in Splendour, a historical novel about Richard III. Now that I have, I’m glad I did, but the book is not without flaws. Continue Reading »

This past weekend, still recuperating from a kick-your-teeth-out head cold, I didn’t have much energy for anything beyond breathing, so I figured maybe I’d play Valley, the new game I’d purchased. Aside from that, my one major expense of energy would be to accompany my wife (who had also succumbed to the Killer Cold) on an errand to the mall. The mall is one of my least favorite places, but I managed to muster enough oomph to assist her, and I’m glad I did because whilst there, I was able to try out the Oculus Rift.

These two items — Valley and the Oculus — pretty much peg the spectrum of gaming costs. At an online sale price of $8, Valley was a superb bargain, while the Oculus headset rig ($499) is about as dear a peripheral as you can find, especially when you factor in the current requirements for both a high-end gaming PC (the model I used in the demo was $1499) and the Oculus Touch handsets ($99/pair).

Now, there’s no frakking way I’m going to plunk down over two grand for a gaming peripheral. Ain’t gonna happen. Nuh-unh. After spending ten minutes under the VR headset, though, I was tempted. Sorely tempted.

On the other hand, my expectations for a video game that costs eight bucks were low. Very low. Like, I expected to be bored within an hour, low. That didn’t happen, proving that even my jaded sensibilities can still be wrong. Continue Reading »

Defining Man

Man, the tool maker.

Great apes, dolphins, sea otters, crows, jays, octopuses: Dude, get a grip.

Man, the user of language.

Dolphins (again), orcas, bats: Um… what now?

Man, the animal that grieves.

Elephants, dolphins (yet again), giraffes, jays: Seriously?

Man, the animal that farms its food.

Ants, damselfish, wood beetles: Hey, get off my lawn!

Man, um, the … jeez … the animal that cooks its food.

Dragons: Hold my beer.


k

Thursday: Barbarians at the gate

Riders, sir! Enemy advancing! Portcullis down! Drawbridge up! All able bodies to the walls! Defend the city! Heaven help us, they’ve breached our defenses. We’re being overrun!

Friday: Auto-da-fé

Muscles are seared by heat. Every joint creaks. Be strong! Don’t give in. Tell them nothing! But the fire, it burns. It burns!

Saturday: Eye of the Storm

The fire is out. My lungs pop and snap with the sound of distant firecrackers, only to explode in fits of coughing that tear my throat. My muscles have the strength of cooked ramen. I get aerobic just standing up. This thing, it has my wife, now; she is following my trail, and today she burns in Torquemada’s fire.

Sunday: Clever Girl

The virus spent two days in my chest and has fully colonized me. Now it climbs to its launch pad: my head. Chest rattling, nose dammed, the hacking coughs are joined by hook-ended sneezes that tear off little bits of lung in their explosive exit. My eyes weep tears of acid, burning, bringing more toxic tears. I am a seeping, spasmodic mass of flesh. The yellow jack flies high.

Monday: The Land of the Vocal Fry

My voice has dropped below Barry White level and shudders like an ill-tuned Harley. Every miserable exhalation is accompanied by a crushed-gravel moan, but not from pain; it’s a comfort. To hear my voice, damaged as it is, is to confirm that I’m still alive.

Tuesday: End Game

Expectations are low. Stamina is limited. We return to work (from home … we don’t want to give this to anyone else), but will continue to rest, repair, and recoup our spent reserves.

k

Disclaimer:
I do not often get colds. Usually, I fight them off. This is the first time I’ve been brought low in about two years. My wife — a woman who always gives me straight answers to direct questions — assures me that rather than being a man-baby about it, I’m pretty much a Stoic, refusing to succumb even when rest would do me more good. This time, I had little choice. Surrender was my only option.

We have changed, she and I.

The slender, vibrant creatures of decades past are gone. The bright, idealistic hearts of youth have faded.

Our eyes are dimmer, our skin more slack. The hair we brush is thin, dull. Our waists are thick. Our steps less spry. Our knees creak as we climb the stairs. We can feel in our joints a coming storm. Night comes early, and rarely now are we awake to hear the chimes at midnight.

Others look at us and see: an older couple, a bit odd perhaps, a bit retrograde in tastes and attitudes, middle-aged, greying, but pleasant. We are faded echoes of a beauty long past its prime. That is what they see, and they are not wrong but…

…I see us differently.

I see two souls in a long, entwined dance, an Arthur Murray diagram stretching back through time and space. I see two bodies, traveling together, paired by love’s gravity, swinging each other through the cosmos. I see the whole of us, from our separate births through our unlikely meeting, a shared past gyring toward an unknown hoped-for future.

We’ve seen decades. We’ve learned from life. We know that nothing lasts forever — only the earth and the mountains — but beauty resides within us still.

The beauty of our history.

The beauty of our past.

The beauty of our one life built together.

To us.

k

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