Accidents Happen

“Into each life a little rain must fall,” or so they say. And also, “it never rains but it pours,” so get out that big umbrella like the one wielded by the little girl on the Morton salt box. So who is (are) this “they?” Someone who wants something I would wager, if nothing else than to appear wise, knowledgeable. Best to take such “wisdom” with more than a grain of Morton’s salt. Except when coming from Ray (Charles), “They say, Ruby is like a dream . . . .” Who could doubt it? And Johnny Hartman seductively intoning, “They say that falling in love is wonderful, wonderful, so they say  . . .” But, hey! I digress.

Accidents in the mountains are often, but not always, connected to weather. A climber, cold, wet, in haste but cowering before the storm, scrambles over slippery terrain as Thor hurls bolts of lightning peakward.

The rain came early, seven thirty in the morning. No one asked for rain, unless it was the potato farmers over in Idaho. It was August 1976, and it had been a dry summer. But now it was raining, and we were not far from the Upper Saddle. Go back. Continue reading

The Omen

It is morning.  To the north

dark clouds shroud the mountain.

Its pine-covered lower reaches

are also dark. Nearer at hand

the sun slants in, lighting

oaks and aspens on a western hill.

It is fall. They shine

burnt orange and yellow

like costumed characters on a stage.


From the wings a solitary bird,

white and shining, flies

through invisible sunlight,

luminescent against clouds

and dark trees, like a comet

only alive. Surely

it is an omen, but of what

I neither know nor care,

satisfied with any light

against the dark.


published in “Galley Sail Review”, Spring 1990

Roy Lichtenstein – Dot Man

It seems like ages ago but it was only toward the end of October when we visited Washington D.C. (see “The Greening of America” post) and took in a retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein’s work at the National Gallery East. I wanted to write about it at the time, but reality intruded, and art (his, not mine) had to wait as is all too common. The intervening few months have dimmed or erased certain memories, but perhaps have served to sharpen others like pencils at a drafting table. If I err, bear with me.

I had thought I knew Lichtenstein. He did cartoonish paintings (or were they painted cartoons?). People called it Pop, and, more than anything, it seemed fun. A lot of it still seems fun, but it seems a mistake to subsume his work under such a narrow rubric as Pop. The early section of the exhibit features abstract expressionistic works, as if he were trying to find place in the then current art scene. These works are not memorable. Then he found a technique—the dots used for cheap reproduction in newspaper photos and comic books, and his success was assured, although it is difficult to say why. Maybe because Continue reading

The Open Line

About the time I was a sophomore in high school, I discovered (was told about by a fellow student) the open line, a fluke of the telephone system about as close to Alice’s rabbit hole as we’ll ever get. You dialed a certain number at any time of day, and you were in. In to what? A telephonic space occupied by any and all of the other bored souls who happened to dial that magic number, mostly kids older than me as far as I could tell. This being the telephone system, people talked. Unlike normal telephone conversation, all talk was anonymous, and there was always someone talking, frequently a boy/girl conversation, a kind of faceless seduction. The seduction could never bear fruit of course, because it had to end with the conversation. And these conversations were always at risk of someone Continue reading