Forty Eight Degrees

Sometimes the title comes first. Sometimes not. Sometimes I clip along, writing merrily, ‘full sails’ with a routine as sure a course as if I had masterly navigated it.

Um. Sometimes not.

I have returned to the mindset from seven years ago when I reread one of my favorite books, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. At the time, my life was turmoiled. Running across the book was a godsend. My heart landed upon his poignant description of the benito pair. The old fisherman recounted to the boy how he had landed a lovely, large female benito. He described to the boy how her mate circled the boat, looking for her. The male kept swimming, circling, looking for her.

I could not release the imagery from my head nor my own desire for such a relationship. Stronger yet was my own stirring to develop the ability to write story events in such a way. How would an author write to extract feelings from a reader? How would someone write in such a manner that the words, the story remain with the reader long after the page is read? The rawness of the fisherman’s story oozed just as the catch of the female benito oozed life upon the hands of the old fisherman.

Perhaps it was my own identification to both the fish and my fishing heritage. But isn’t that the mastery of Hemingway?

Of all the circumstances in life I run across, the bravest is, I believe, facing the blank screen: A white screen of nothingness needing to be written upon, calling, beaconing to be filled. I laugh now at the thought that I cannot rely upon my own impetus to fill the page. I really thought all along that my own desire was strong enough. My own desire would guide me with the strength and power of my intellect. (Please laugh with me at this notion.) Even more laughable is the thought that I could declare myself to be a writer. Improvement necessary? Oh my, yes. But I never daw the process and life of writing as developmental. What if life, no matter what the mastery, is developmental? (Yes, I have been this wrong. Not out of arrogance but I did view the creative life a bit like a crowning achievement.)

I am rather grumpy that the process – the writing and creating – boils down to discipline. How is that possible? Surely my own desires are stronger than discipline?

Any adult would know that is not so. I do not really regret being a fool but I do regret the amount of effort being a fool had worn upon my soul. No wonder Hemingway wrote every day. I have to write every day. And I do not. Oddly simple. Answer? Write every day.

How is it that discipline is so difficult? Is it not simple? It is the most fundamental of equations, is it not? That, I regret. I regret my lack of understanding and effort in beginning on the open roads. They were my roads. And yes, others were on the same road. They too began where I began, travelling, looking for their one road. All of our roads began as one.

Oh, I was so wrong. I had runaways and super highways opened for my abilities. I had been so consumed with other ideologies and opinions that I did not realize that the path to building your own road is planned and paved while you drive the super highway. That I regret.


As soon as I write about regret, I correct myself. The wild ride of life, with mistakes and regrets and messes, plopped me here.

And I would not wish to be anywhere but here.

As I pick up my studies of self-discipline. I reaffirm that the first step of any zen process is that mindset of presence. And I think the gift of this day is the universe’s gift of presence.

By some miracle, I woke up this morning. I have been granted a new day. And I am here. I do not wish to be anywhere except where I am. I am here.

Among the painted trees.

Among the painted trees.

His beard wrapped the morning light into outstretched fingers. As I moved, he moved, the whitened hairs softly blanketing and enveloping. The dawn’s light caressed us both, nuzzling a glow of intimacy with the mind’s eye of love.

The sunrise was a rise of no sun, but of a shimmering golden pink, vaporizing into the white of sky and beard. Gently I drove further into the morning fog. Nestled among the pines, it slept softly where the wind storms had shaved through the forest. Now its stubble lined the road, capturing the flecks of sunlight in morning dews as well as drops of moonlit in dancing shadows.

It would be another hour before the sun would nudge the slumber of tempered, heavy air. This was not a crisp morning weatherwise. But I drove with crispness and the speed of a woman and her Jeep which both had a bit too much sleep.

I was comforted by the slumber of the world while driving under the sleepy watch of nature’s giant.

Since that morning, north central Wisconsin has seen three mornings of decent frost, meaning that the morning temperatures, always coldest immediately before the sunrise, have plunged well below thirty two degrees. With each freeze, the trees started with an unremarkable feathering of dark yellow, proceeded to dabs of gold, then flecked with streaks of reds and burnt oranges.

The foggy beard of frost reminded the leaved trees that it is time to paint.

The brick realities of a dandelion.

The reality of a brick dandelion and the discipline of a frosted artist….

The garden’s last tomatos

The killing frosts, for the time being, have come and gone. For another week, northern Wisconsin will not experience a dip below freezing. It is coming though. In the neverending dance of the seasons, the day begins to follow the night’s lead. With each day, the sunlight succombs to darkness. I like to think we trade our sun for the light of faraway stars.

Autumn 2020 arrives with a surprising feeling of beginning. I am old enough to know that each ending comes with a beginning and vice versa, but this autumn feels a bit magical.

The nostalgic magic of fall geraniums.

At the Matthias building, a bright fuchsia-color geranium greets me. It sits all by herself, she and Matthias, growing and reblooming. Now and then, I shift it from window to window, depending upon the season. I water her, sometimes wondering how she survives and marvelling when she blooms.

The Master Painter

I remember one of my favorite parts of the church service are these words:

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

~Numbers 6:24-26.

In my own words, I wish you love. Lots and lots of love…


ps. OH – I almost forgot. Why forty-eight degrees? Killing frosts are obvious. But the real changes to routine come when the day temperature is forty-eight degrees. Golfers pause. Motorcyclists pause. (Not that pausing is a bad thing….)

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