Sunday, April 26, 2015

Got the Bill

Timing Is Everything: I think about this quite a bit, how lucky I was to have my heart attack on February 6, 2015. We all know that once we turn 65, we are forced to accept Medicare as our primary insurer; hospital coverage is free for all. I turned 65 on February 26 but Medicare started covering me on February 1. I just got a statement from my supplemental insurance, NALC, which had been my primary until February 1. The statement delineated the charges from the hospital for my two night stay and assorted charges. Total billed was a staggering $51,148.53. I’m not complaining about the amount. I received tremendous care. But that’s a lot of stuivers, shekels, pesos or Jeffersons. Medicare covered $49,888.53 while NALC picked up the modest balance. So the thought returned: if I had had my heart attack one week sooner, on January 31, NALC would have paid out 80% and I would have had a balance owing out of my pocket for over ten grand. Seeing that bill, I probably would have had a second heart attack on the spot. And if this is not a great argument for universal healthcare, I don’t know what is. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had been considerably younger and not insured at all.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bonus Blog: DVR Watch - 2B Vegg'd 2B

DVR Watch: 2B vegg’d 2B: Television has dominated my waking hours for months now. Among the distractions that have allowed me to avoid the keyboard have been a series of series that I have been following. Where once I considered network television to have become a wasteland where, at best, a show I liked would be cancelled within weeks of its premiere, I suddenly have found myself hooked on current programming. It reached the point where I cannot wait for a season to finish so I can rent it on Netflix for binge watching; I record it week by week on my DVR as it broadcasts, usually watching within 24 hours and then anxiously awaiting next week’s show. The weekend is especially nice, and busy, with a total of nine shows ready to view. Fortunately, or unfortunately, most are winding down, so maybe I will eek out more time for myself. In other words, maybe I’ll get my discipline back. The nine shows are 4 B’s, 2 G’s, a V, an E and a D. Two finished this week, and one goes away next. They are Bones, Backstrom, Blacklist, Broadchurch, Grimm, Graham Norton, Vikings, Elementary and Dig. Broadchurch (about a small English town rocked by a brutal murder, Season One, and the killer’s trial, Season 2) and Vikings (about Vikings) ended their seasons on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively and brilliantly. For intense drama I recommend streaming them from Netflix first chance you get. Warning: Vikings is brutally violent, but no more so than Game of Thrones. I am most sorry about the end of Backstrom: it won’t be back in the fall, succumbing to mixed reviews and the competition of that other 8pm Thursday show, the brilliant Blacklist. If it weren’t for DVR, I would have had a difficult time choosing which to watch. Bones is solid; Elementary (about a modern day NYC based Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Jane Watson) highly entertaining, and Grimm, although sometimes plagued by subplots that take far too long to tell, remains solid storytelling. Graham Norton is a talk show from Great Britain that we have been watching on BBC America for years. Only Dig disappoints; it could have been so much more than watching the talented Jason Issacs run around Jerusalem. But now the seasons are over or ending and the summer rentals are coming. As the weather warms up, maybe I can go outside from time to time.

An Apology to My Moderate Republican Friends

Moderate Republicans, My Apology It occurs to me that, when I rant about the Republican right, I tend to generalize. I lump all Republicans into the same basket. I apologize. It is not fair. There are many Republicans who are thinking, thoughtful, informed and even moderate. Apparently, not every Republican is a gun-toting teacup carrying White dude over 50, and not every White male over 50 is a gun-toting teacup carrying conservative (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In fact, many are card carrying members of AARP. I know and acknowledge that painting one single group with stinging generalities is a form of prejudice. I own it. I am prejudiced, against extreme thinking. Once upon a time the middle ground was what we all sought; in today’s supercharged bipartisan world all those more reasonable viewpoints on both sides of the aisle seem to have been swallowed up whole. But they’re there, still, perhaps waiting for the current climate to change. I know several such specimens. They don’t shout lies and half-truths from the rooftops. They don’t base opinion or action upon pseudo-science or uninformed dogma. I may disagree with some of their views, and they with mine, but they offer intelligent argument presented from a reasoned and informed perspective. I can only hope to do the same. In that light, I also remember that not all Republicans are rich, just as not all Democrats are poor. Not all Republicans watch Fox almost-the-News, not all Democrats MSNBC. But the people in the running for high office court big money, and real life for them is a political commodity. Maybe the moderate Republicans and Democrats both need to get more vocal about the super-rich who have hijacked their government. I wager that moderate Republicans far outnumber the far right base we always hear about, but, unfortunately, most if not all of the serious contenders for the Republican nomination for President seem to be appealing to that base. This bodes well for the Democrats in 2016, all apologies aside.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Climate Change: Ahead of the Curve on Gay Marriage

The climate is changing. I’m not talking about the weather – which is a separate issue from climate, anyway. The weather is what you see outside your window on any given day. The climate is why. But I am talking about the climate toward gay marriage. As we await anxiously the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue, due sometime in June (we all hope), the fact is that the American people by a growing majority are finding themselves okay with the idea. The Republicans, not so much. But that’s okay: the “Grand Old Party” believes in being behind the times. Old is part of their nickname. When Marco Rubio stated flatly in his speech announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President, he proudly said he was not interested in going back to yesterday. What he did not say is he wants to go back to the day before yesterday. Now, when several of his opposing nominees and potential nominees were asked if they would attend a gay wedding of a friend or loved one, some said they might; others said they definitely would not; one, Scott Walker, said he did not attend the wedding but he was there for the reception. In the face of climate change, these poor fellows are having trouble deciding where to stand – with the base, or with what’s right. But then, most of them don’t believe in climate change in the first place. Years ago, when the issue of gay marriage was first becoming part of the national debate, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Monterey Peninsula Herald that posed this crucial question: why should gays be denied the joys of divorce? With so many politicians screaming about the sanctity of marriage, I kept looking at divorce statistics, and had to wonder. I also fail to understand to this day how two people committed to make a relationship work are more harmful to the institution of marriage, because they happen to be of the same gender, than two people who blunder into a marriage casually over cocktails and end up divorcing in eight months, who happen to be “straight.” It seems that the climate agrees with me. But then there are those wonderful base-buying Republican candidates. “I don’t believe in gay marriage, but I’ll see you at the reception, because, you know, those people know how to throw a party.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Did You Know? Wild Turkeys

Not sleeping well …hip barking…nurses at rehab seem to think I’m really really strong for a heart guy, so they want me to do more, more, more when I want to do less, less, less. Oh, well. Missing that stupid cat. I get a joyous feeling every day now, when the Toms march down our driveway trying to impress the hens and the other Toms. I think there is nothing as spectacular as a wild turkey on full display. They spread their feathers wide, walk with a strong dose of pride, and their colors are more magnificent than an iridescent rainbow. It is something to see. And yet the girls look at them as if to say, “Yeah, so? We’ve seen it all before. Where are the flowers?” And it makes me wonder, silently, of course, why it is that in formal gatherings of human beings, the men all dress the same but the women show off a wide variety of color and style. I guess human beings are different. And I guess a female human can readily spot a suit from Armani over one from the Men’s Warehouse. But give me a wild turkey any day. Along with a healthy shot of Jack Daniels. Did you know – and this is my inaugural blog with that theme – that Benjamin Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be named the national bird of the new United States of America? In 1784 he wrote an essay calling the Bald Eagle something of a coward and thief, while in comparison, although a bit vain and silly at times, the Turkey was courageous, would not back down from a fight, and would serve as a better mascot. Also, he was no alien bird: he was truly American. Franklin lost the debate on this one, but I raise a glass to him nonetheless.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Confessions from a Treadmill

As part of my recovery from my heart attack, I go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour-plus of physical therapy. The therapy is designed to increase my heart rate and working blood pressure within the aerobic parameters. The main reason for this, ostensibly, is to give me confidence that I actually can do these things: walk on a treadmill for prolonged periods of time; ride a stationary bike; and work the Nuflex, which makes you pump with both your arms and legs. With that confidence, theoretically, I will have confidence to do other physical things. Well, I have the confidence. Thank you! The stated goal is to get me able to walk 5 miles a day 5 days a week. I think I can, I think I can. But there is another key goal: to make it fun, to make me want to exercise. “You will want to come to the gym!” the brochure says. Every day! Well, that’s never gonna happen. I know I need to do this, but I don’t need to like it. I lived a physical life as a mailman and coaching kids in various sports, but I was never an enthusiast. I hated PE in school. I think I have a long standing allergy to exercise. I get weak and sweaty and just a bit nauseous just thinking about having to go. Intellectually, I understand the benefits, but when I weigh them I sometimes wonder. I mean, eighteen minutes at 3.2 mph on a 2.5% incline, and all I burn off is 95 calories? That’s a serving of chips. A light beer. I could burn 95 calories eating celery and channel surfing from my chair. In a full hour I am lucky if I burn up 200 calories doing all that work. And then according to a recent study I saw on the News, junk food is just as effective as health food in recovering from the immediate effects of a heavy workout. So I guess my post-therapy stop at McDonald’s is allowed, maybe even encouraged. Just don’t tell my therapists I said so.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Eulogy for a Cat

Kevin passed away this morning. It may seem odd to some to eulogize a cat, but Kevin holds a special place in the hearts of almost everyone who ever met him. He was a funny fellow, sometimes more like a dog than a cat although never insulted by the comparison. He could be difficult, especially when it came to respecting someone else’s personal space. He enjoyed walking on my head or otherwise curling up against my face so that I breathed fur. There was never a baby – human, cat or dog – that he did not love totally and unconditionally. And he purred – incessantly, loudly, happily. I do not think there was an animal born on the planet earth who was happier than Kevin. But he developed heart disease, ironically enough. He almost died four months ago but earned himself a reprieve at the Vet’s by bouncing back from total lethargy to total suck-up. Yesterday, he did the same thing, but overnight he declined rapidly. He was fifteen human years old. Cats have always been a part of our lives. In fact, I have been called the Cat Man. Many felines have crossed over our threshold, giving us and our children a richness and depth I would never trade away. I love dogs, too, but it was a cat – Kevin – who convinced me to adopt our Chihuahua, Meg, when she was a wee pup. Kevin was born in our garage in 2000. His feral mom decided that was the place to have her kittens. We captured her and had her spayed and turned her loose. We took in Kevin and his brother Sean and hand raised both kittens to adulthood. We know that humans make lousy parents for cats, but we did the best we could. Sean passed away in 2010. When we moved to Montana, we could not bring any of our cats with us, so dear friends took them in. Once we were settled, however, Kevin and Jane, the last two of a household that once numbered 25 indoor only cats, came home. Jane was born in 1999. We adopted her on behalf of our daughter’s good friend, as the last kitten she needed to place. For us, she was supposed to be the last kitten we would take in – in fact, I wanted to name her “Omega.” My daughter wanted to call her “Cinder” because she was so completely black. Diane settled the argument by telling us, “She’s telling me her name is Jane.” But she was supposed to be the last. We all know how life goes; a year later Kevin and Sean entered the household. Now Jane is the last. As much as we love cats, we will not take in any more. The ancient Egyptians would mourn the loss of their cats by shaving off their eyebrows. I won’t go that far. Kevin will be cremated, not mummified. His ashes will go back to the earth, and his spirit has already left for whatever passes as kitty heaven. In my heart, he will live on as long as I do. A photo of him playing with our grandson Xander, when Xander was just eighteen months old, greets me every time I boot up my computer. But I do wonder: if all the pets I have ever had will be waiting for me in the Afterlife, that’s going to be a whole lot of love. And Kevin will be leading the pack.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Keys to Happiness: An Adventure

The man said, “I’m so depressed that falling down would feel like getting up.” Fortunately, I don’t feel that way. I feel bolstered, happy, content. I have joy in my life over simple things: running a vacuum when I thought I might never be able to again. I do want things, but not having them has not cut me low. I wish I had more time, money, money to take the time and pay for travel. But wishing and wanting are okay things unless they eat away at you. Wishing keeps you goal-oriented as long as the wishes are reasonably attainable. I can’t run for President because of an accident of birth, so wishing to live in the White House is not a reasonable goal. I might run, anyway, but with no expectations. Wishing to return to Holland is more reasonable, given enough time to accumulate enough money for the trip – hence my wishes listed above. Goals keep you going. They lift you up. They give you hope. They encourage you to get up every day. All these things are fine with me. Whatever time I have, I will do the best I can. There are moments. Tuesday was one. Di had a doctor’s appointment late morning and we were ready to leave in plenty of time, but as soon as I closed the front door I realized that I had left my keys inside. Di did not have hers, either. I went to the back of the house but the back doors were locked, as they should have been. We thought our son might have a spare, but when we tried to call him we discovered the cell phone was dead. I tried the credit card trick but immediately discovered I have no talent for breaking into houses. So we walked down the hill to our neighbor’s house. Fortunately, she was home. From there we got hold of Nik. He was sure he did not have a key, but would look, and would be right over. Meanwhile, with highly stressed intonation, Di called the doctor’s office to explain why we were not there. Fifteen minutes later, Nik arrived, keyless. It was decided that a new door knob was cheaper than a house call by a locksmith. So Nik took my aluminum bat to the lock. It took a while – I felt somewhat encouraged that the lock was so hard to bust – but it finally gave way and we got inside. We rescheduled the appointment. I then went to our local hardware store, Sliters, to get a new lock. When I got the lock home, I could not figure out how to remove the strike-plate attached to the main mechanism. Not wanting to break it, and not opening the instructions in case I had to return the item altogether, I packed up all the bits and went back to Sliters. By now the air was more blue than the sky. The people at Sliters helped me, between finally opening the instructions and using their muscle (if they broke it, I would not feel guilty, or nearly as stupid as I was feeling). Meanwhile, I had them make two spare keys. I returned and the new lock, with four keys, stands ready to guard against all evildoers. Nik now does have a spare, and I keep one in a logical spot. And our front door has a lovely, distressed, broken into ambiance. Now we want a new front door. I hope to get it soon, installed of course, with lots of spare keys.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Apology It has been a busy week. Not wild, but very, very busy. It seems that, since my heart attack on February 6, my time has not truly been my own – though I am grateful for the time! Whoever might own it! Still, I have had little or no time to write and especially to polish my words into a blog or a poem. As short as those forms might be, they still need a concentrated dose of time to do them justice. So I apologize: this is April, which is Poetry Month. During which we are encouraged to write and post a poem a day on whatever website we prefer; I have some catching up to do. As to the blog, I sort of promised myself not to let such huge gaps occur between entries and, again, I have slipped from the path. The hardest part is getting started. It always is. I have talked about distractions in the past (often, being often distracted). Being busy is a major distraction. My mother used to say, “If you need something done, find a busy man.” He will find the time, he will find a way. But the truth is, having a busy schedule wrecks the mood. It is positively daunting to sit down at the keyboard to write even a short piece like this one, knowing you have to leave for therapy mid-day (which includes a forty minute drive each way), or prepare and enjoy dinner soon after you get back home. By then, tired, you begin to think about tomorrow. I know, this sounds like an excuse as I read it back. If you remember from an earlier blog, excuses are often welcome in a writer’s garret. We open the door when they knock, invite them in, offer them coffee, and bemoan to them our fate that we just can’t seem to find a good solid block of time to get started. And then there are the novels I plan to write, long term commitments that might or might not turn out. Writing a novel is like committing to a relationship, fraught with the fear that you will disappoint. And that is a heck of an excuse. So all I need now is to get started, and all I need for that is a solid block of time. Oh, wait, dinner’s ready.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Deep in the Zone: My Zepplin Moment

Every now and then, you enter the Zone so completely, with such connection and understanding, that you become one with whatever it is you are doing. It is like drinking the liquid luck potion Professor Slughorn gave to Harry Potter; knowing that “Stairway to Heaven” will be the best rock song ever; Wisconsin will beat Kentucky; the San Francisco Giants will win three world championships in five years. The Zone is a very special place that renders a feeling unlike anything else in the world: this is good. A few days ago I wrote a kick-ass poem. I knew it was kick-ass with that absolute certainty that comes only from the Zone. I posted it as part of the April Poetry Month challenge on the Linkedin discussion group, Poetry and Literature. I also posted it on, a site for poetry enthusiasts of all types and preferences, where I myself have discovered several great poets. I got confirming responses right away, from both postings. So, with humility, and knowing that many of you are not really into poetry at all, I offer it to you, my Zepplin moment: //Lament of Those Who Did Not Fall //There are those who did not fall, //Who now stand, hunched, weighed down, //Whose stoic resistance //To the embrace of Death //Brought them home to just grow old //Clinging to memories //They now wish they did not own. //Each will succumb soon enough, //Each will take their place //Among their fallen comrades, //Among the innocent no one meant to kill, //Their names one by one read //On the scrolls drunk to in Valhalla. //Memorials float on the breeze //Like the strains of Last Post //Or the guitar strings snapping //In search of long lost songs; //And in these shadows cast //By aching monoliths, //Those who did not fall //Remember only sorrow //As bugles sound again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Where Artists Are Born

THE HUMANITY OF DEATH If I wrote a novel in which no one died a violent death, my readership would be small even if I were an established best-selling author. There are exceptions (there always are, or we wouldn’t need the word), but in most of the fiction we enjoy, Death occurs. Some of the best feature Death prominently; in The Book Thief, Death is the narrator. People die in Harry Potter; in fact, murder is the entire back story defining the main character’s importance. Without Death making her appearance, most stories are boring. There would be no mysteries, no epics, no war stories, drama and angst can exist without Death underlining the moment. Humans are violent, primitive, deadly creatures. We are not evolving quickly enough to suit me, and our stories that glorify death and Death just fuel the fire, and I know this. And yet I kill people – sometimes in most inventive ways – in my own stories, and recount other deaths in my re-tellings. The same thing that makes war seem so glorious when you are 18 and training to fight yet so heinous when you are 19 and have survived the fight, that makes the danger of being killed in a story or on a movie screen so intensely frightening and surviving the story (even by remote control) is the humanity of death. That humanity finds its roots in our fear of and fascination with the Dark Lady herself. I am guilty – I like it. I confront my demons by writing about them directly or enjoying the agony of others in a similar battle. I can rationalize by saying what I am confronting is my very own nature through vicarious actions, which is true but also a bit of a cop-out. I am human. I think about dying. I think about killing. And as long as my thinking is abstract and not confused by the reality of a real body lying face down in a pool of blood or the crushing weight of a metal box burning inside my own chest, I am safe. I believe it is accurate to say that every human being is both living and dying simultaneously, but only a fraction of us give that much thought. It is that fraction from where artists are born.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bonus Blog: Yesterday, April 2, 2015

Yesterday was positively amazing to watch. I ran a couple of errands and picked up our mail around 11:30; on my way back home I found myself in a positive snow flurry. By the time I got home, it had gone. A little while alter, while having lunch, I saw it begin to snow again – huge flakes worthy of full-on winter. For half an hour they attacked the ground like GI’s on Omaha Beach, and began to blanket our just greening lawn and our porches. Then the sun came out and the snow retreated. A while later the snow returned, but this time its strategy had changed: this time it attacked only the front half of the house. One porch was turning white while the back porch was bathed in sunlight. And, again, the snow gave way in the end. But it was not done. There was one more assault in store. As the afternoon deepened the snow attacked the whole region of our home, and fell so hard and thick and fast that the air turned white. But the ground was still warm and even that last onslaught gave way as a beautiful nearly full moon began its slow arc across the sky even before the sun began to set. The other thing that happened yesterday was that Iran and the so-called P-5+1 reached an agreement on the framework for a more formal agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear production, dismantle their main plutonium plant and reconfigure it, and open itself up for full on inspections. It was a monumental achievement partly between two countries highly suspicious of each other – but only partly. Five other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council participated in the negotiations, including Russia and China. To think this was a US-Iranian deal is ridiculous; to think that, in any way, shape or form, the chance to monitor Iran is more dangerous to the world than things as they are, or another war in the region, is insane; to think that the deal relies on trust and not precise and careful methods of accountability, is insulting.. Nothing yet has been signed. There are three months to hammer out the fine details and to understand the full implications of the deal. What we don’t need is obstruction, especially when so many other crucial nations are moving forward. We do not need 47 senators clamoring for a course that might lead to conflict, unless those 47 legislators are going to be the ones putting their asses on the line – literally. We need responsible thinking to scrutinize and perfect the plan. We need to bring Iran back into the world of nations. We need to protect our allies in the region by stripping Iran of its capability to create nuclear weapons overtly or covertly, and this treaty, once signed, will do just that. If the United States fails in this, the term Rogue may be applied to us. And that would be as likely as snowfall in April in Montana.

Cassandra Goes to War

Cassandra Goes to War Call me Cassandra. I sometimes feel like her, walking the embattled streets of Troy issuing dire predictions to deaf ears. Father Priam frowns. Hector scowls. Paris laughs outright and Helen just shakes her head sadly: “Yes, but what can I do? I am only a woman like you, and the cause of all this.” Andromache, who will lose more than any human being should be able to bear, simply gathers Cassandra in her arms as if comforting a precocious but clueless child. It is a curse, the curse of Cassandra, to see and speak and know, yet have no one pay attention – worse, they continue the very course she sees as leading to disaster. And disaster always comes. It was her curse, passed on to me and millions like me. Cassandra was an auxiliary character, sad and fascinating in her own right. She was put into the Iliad to emphasize the inevitability of Fate when the Gods themselves are so fickle. I am even more auxiliary: I am a secondary character in my own novel. I do not begrudge the world its hubris but I continue to issue warnings only the converted heed. The ones I want to convince will not be persuaded, whether the issue is climate change, ending poverty, or preventing war. It does not fit the bottom line. The rest of us are the bottom line, or buried beneath it like Dead peasants and starving Armenians. Yet, even knowing that to be true, even knowing that all wars are waged for the profit and/or empowerment of a highly selective few, we fall for the spiel every time; even knowing that poverty kills a child every three seconds, we turn away from what we do not see; even knowing that the overall complexity of planetary climate can be influenced by human actions, we so quickly accept the opposite because it is convenient. And even though I know it will do no good, I scream against the darkness nonetheless.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter I feel like my figurative heart has taken over my life. Maybe that’s fair: my metaphorical heart has dominated my existence for decades. It’s the real heart’s turn. But it takes so much time! Energy! Pills! I cannot wrestle out blocks of time long enough for more than the occasional blog or a short poem, first draft; it feels as though I open up my ancient computer, check my emails, pull up a working file, and it’s time to go. Yes, that’s a complaint, yet I acknowledge that, when I do get a block of extended time these days, I would rather watch old episodes of Doctor Who than work. And that’s on me. We all are dominated by our own self-interests, and most of the time that’s good. It’s called survival, and every now and then we must pull back from the world, listen to our bodies, and hibernate. How else can we be of help to others, if we are too exhausted to help ourselves? But, I keep reminding myself, Winter is over. I know how lucky I am. So many others have it much worse than what happened to me. But I can share best my own experiences and impressions. Sharing is therapy for me and it might be helpful to someone else. It might bridge a gap in understanding your own situation, or give someone suffering from similar issues the courage to seek the help they need. It comes back to listening heartily to your own body and your own mind. So if I go back to the heart of the matter from time to time, bear with me. It’s a good thing: my heart will go on – and on, and hopefully on – for a long, long time, season after season, and word after word.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Fear of Dying

The other day at Cardio Therapy, one of the nurses, Mary, informed me that she had purchased the Kindle version of my poetry volume, Banned in Boston, and was quite taken with the poem, “How Death Will Come.” She confessed herself to be afraid of dying, which is an admission I find most people afraid to make. She cited in particular the lines: Elementary Fear/Lurking in my shadows/Every night when sleep/Brings its little deaths/And resurrections. She told me she had not thought of sleep like that, but it made her realize why many patients seem so afraid to sleep at night. I was thrilled, of course, partly that she had purchased my work, but mainly because she found something in my words that related to her world. Of what else can a writer dream? The time since I officially was covered by Medicare has been, to say the least, peculiar enough to find myself needing cardiac rehabilitation and thus encountering Nurse Mary, who shares my blatant fear of dying. Writing is therapy for me against that fear, as most of you already know. There is an old saying, whose origin I cannot remember. I always thought it was a pearl of Native American wisdom, but I suspect it is the kind of thought that has occurred to many and in many cultures. It goes, “You must confront your demons in order to defeat them.” I confront mine daily. She is not yet defeated; she is only postponed. My nephew Erik, inspired by my blog about the spark being missing, the Muse and the desire gone, told me they were gone in him as well. But did it matter? Did it really matter: in the grander scheme of things, the fact of life itself matters and gives the Muse her chance to return. But later we decided that the Muse is not really missing at all. We both have faced cardiac issues, although mine came on much later in life and, as far as I can tell, a much less severe situation. He has been relying on a pacemaker for a very long time and had triple bypass in 2013. All I had was a stent. But I could have died, and in that Erik and I share a common knowledge. I suggested to him that Death might actually be my Muse. And it doesn’t matter whether anyone else reads our words or understands where they come from: we write for ourselves, we confront our own demons, we dance with our Muse – we dance with Death, and she is great at keeping time. And that is, as they say, the heart of the matter.