Going Down, Looking Up (Some Reflections on the Verge of Turning 40)

On my last day of being in my thirties, I fell on my face. I had just finished lunch with my 94-year-old grandmother who had eaten more than I. I took her to an organic salad place in town and all she had to say was, “why do they give so much dammmmm lettuce. Stupid. Where is the meat?” I tried to explain to her that we were eating at an organic, sustainable restaurant that was more concerned with health than meat. She told me that the world was finished. That she would rather be at home eating her frozen ham and cheese puffs. I tried to engage her in conversation, in between large bites of lettuce- pieces of which stuck to her nose. But I had little luck getting any meaningful words out of her until I said, “so grandmamma, as you know I am turning forty tomorrow. Do you have any advice on how to grow old gracefully?” She put down her fork, which was searching through the lettuce for any signs of chicken, looked me in the eyes and said “Jared, (my name is Randall) just stay yourself. Stay who you are and don’t let yourself grow old and bitter like all the other old farts your age.” Then she went back to rummaging through her lettuce for any signs of meat.

“Stay who I am?” I thought to myself. Since my grandmother said it I have not been able to get this one simple sentence out of my head. In my desire to find some kernel of truth about growing old gracefully, my grandmother hit the proverbial nail on the head. She had given me the exact answer that I did not expect to hear. Today at lunch I cannot help but think that my grandmother provided me with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received- the gift of anti-aging. As I was saying goodbye to my grandmother, she took her waterlogged lips and placed them against my curious ears. She said, “James (my name is Randall), never forget who you are but in order to know who the hell you are- don’t forget where you have been. Don’t be afraid to look down.” I thanked my grandmother, kissed the wilted side of her face and tripped over her walker as I made my way out the door. Now looking back it feels as if my fall was a kind of petty and painful ritual or indoctrination invoked by my atheist grandmother. I say this because on my way down, my thirties flashed quickly before my eyes.

When I was thirty I was broke, disowned by my mother and father for selling my newly deceased grandfathers Ford Crown Victoria and living in my friends shoe boxed sized closet. I slept night after night on a broken futon under a clothes rack filled with young ladies dresses and cigarette smoke drenched jackets. Beyond the wall that separated me from the ghetto was a tall redwood tree in which lived an owl that kept me up late into the night with its primal and onomatopoetic mantras. I remember laying there on my back, an always-intoxicated thirty-year-old man remembering my youth with disdain and looking forward to a future filled with fame. I was convinced that I was the next great writer or painter waiting to be born into public fame- being broke and living in my friends closet was a sure sign of my devotion to my art. But day upon day passed like wind through the quickly turning pages of a book and before I knew it I was thirty-one, still living in my friends closet. The only thing that had changed was that I now had a plan.

My parents forgave me for selling my grandfathers car because they finally came to understand that having money to eat and pay my share of the rent for a year without working, was much more important than a dead man’s car. Even though they were terrified by how much alcohol I consumed, and how little I cared about my future- they had to admit that I was not dead yet. When I told them that I had decided to move to Portland where it was easier to find a job and cheaper to find meaning and purpose they were excited that I was going to get my life out of the closet. They threw me a very generous going away party where I invited many of my friends and after too many tears and too much rich food and wine I packed my bags and prepared to leave California forever. I took the remainder of the money that I had from selling the Crown Victoria, put it in my back pocket and the following morning I boarded everything I owned onto a train- destination Portland. Sadly, I spent one lonely and depressed night in Portland. I got drunk because I had no idea what else to do. The next morning I was without a clue where to begin so I bought a train ticket and headed back home much to the shock of everyone who knew me. I took up residence again in the closet.

When I was thirty-two I spent much of my time in a bar. I worked as a waiter and was in love with a nymphomaniac alcoholic. She was also a waitress at high end restaurants, but she kept losing jobs because she would show up to work beautiful and drunk. I had moved into a studio apartment, which had a pool where we would spend our afternoons sunbathing, drinking and reading. By nightfall she was always slithering her words and sounded more like an out of tune piano than the articulate poet that she was. I tried to return to graduate school for the third time to finish my master’s degree in English Literature but I was still convinced that I had a future as a famous writer and/or painter so I decided yet again that I did not need a master’s degree. Instead I drank and read and filled my mind with lustful thoughts about an alcoholic who was once President of her college class. Sometimes she would disappear for days on end and my heart would be frantic while my mind was convinced that she had taken off with another man or woman. So I would camp in the ivy outside her one bedroom apartment, spend my nights smoking cigarettes and drinking Budweiser beer and waiting to spy upon what was going on. The problem was that she was never out with anyone. Instead she was cheating on me with several bottles of whiskey- drunk for three or four days straight.

One morning I awoke in ivy, covered in cigarette ash and realized that I was now thirty-three. I had spent most of the last year of my life in pursuit of somebody that was not there. I was drinking too much and finding garbage bags filled with whiskey bottles hidden underneath my girlfriend’s bed. My heart was starting to beat irregularly because of all I had put it through and I realized that if I did not get my mind, body and soul together I may come to an early end. I spent my thirty third-year working as a waiter in French restaurant that rarely had any costumers. The owner would spend the evenings banging his spatula against the crepe makers wondering what he had done wrong. “My product is good. It is a nice restaurant with unique food but no one ever comes. I don’t understand!!” he would whine. My answer to him was always the same, “location is everything. A homeless shelter across the street and the ghetto are not good ingredients for a busy French restaurant.” “Merde!!” he would growl and then tell me to open a bottle of wine which we would proceed to drink. However that French restaurant was not as much of a curse for me as it was for him. In fact it was a blessing. Not only did I get to drink a lot of good free French wine but I also waited on a beautiful twenty six year old woman who would later become my wife.

When I was thirty-four I learned how to stand on my head, meditate, drink a bit less, give up smoking and live with a woman. Things with the alcoholic nymphomaniac had fizzled out and I had found myself in a relationship that had the potential for health and happiness. After my new girlfriend and I had discovered a dead body in the apartment beneath hers (he was blackened to a crisp and lying face up on the edge of his bed- the victim of a painkiller overdose) she decided to move into my studio wall-to-wall carpeted apartment. She loved me because I reminded her of Jack Kerouac and because she believed in my heart (which was still irregularly beating along). She was finishing up art school and even though we did not know it then she had a future ahead of her that was filled with success as an artist. She introduced me to organic food, clean sheets, baby soft skin and home cooking that made me consider giving up the pursuit of art and instead getting a real job so I could afford to have her cook for me every night. Together we lived in that studio apartment, overcrowded by too much stuff and two big egos that had a hard time learning to live together.

When I was thirty-five I proposed to my girlfriend in a cemetery that I spent a lot of time in. Day after day I would go to the cemetery with a book in my hands and contemplate the fine line that exists between life and death. Even though I realized that as a married man there would be those who would expect me to live a more conventional, career driven life I hoped that by proposing to my girlfriend in a cemetery she too would realize that there were more important things in living than working. She said yes to my brief proposal and I spent the next eight months evading preparations for a wedding, fearing over a future that felt out of my hands and working hard to lose a fifteen pound overweight stomach bulge that was the result of eating too much and many home cooked meals. My fiancé was furious by my reluctance to engage in helping her plan the wedding and I was just as confused by my apathy. I though about Franz Kafka who found himself in a similar predicament. He called off wedding engagements several times because he knew that his indoctrination into domestic life meant the end of his writing life. In the end he chose his writing life and I chose married life. But unlike Kafka I have not written some of the greatest novels of my time- but I did have a great wedding (where the rabbi made out with the brides maid), buy some nice furniture and a dog.

Thirty-six passed by and was spent mostly in couples therapy. I came to find that my wife’s issues were equally as dense as mine but I was no match for her quick wit, wisdom and disdain. In order to please her and her family’s career aspirations for me I got my first real job teaching English at an inner city high school. My anxiety started to become more chronic and was more of a normal state for me than tranquility and calm was. I became continually worried about money and my ability to become the writer and/or painter that I once was certain I would become. For the first time in my life I was working five days a week for more than ten hours a day. I was making more money than I had ever made in my life- thirty five thousand dollars a year. I was teaching inner city freshman how to read a book and liberate themselves from the heavy fist of white male oppression. I was also spending my evenings driving around in search of sex because my sex life at home had all but dried up. Even though I never had the guts to cheat on my wife (well not yet at least)- just the idea of the possibility of sex with a stranger kept the muscle that is also referred to as a penis from atrophying.

Thirty-seven went by without any sex. I was married to a woman who worked more than I had ever worked in my entire life. Her determination to succeed as an artist was enviable but my idea of being an artist involved spending much more time sitting around and contemplating the unsolvable mysteries of the universe. I was still teaching high school, but I had to find another job because the school where I taught was shut down since California did not want to pay money to give minority inner city kids an education. The recession was in full swing, there was a war being waged in Afghanistan and in Iraq, George Bush was still President but soon a black man would occupy the lead in the white house. My wife and I had moved into an old Victorian home with hardwood floors in the Oakland ghetto. But there was a small stream and a redwood tree behind the house and from my opened studio window I could hear the sound of birds chirping and bullets passing. I was settling into married life, struggling with an intense anxiety problem and spending too much time masturbating.

Thirty-eight was the year that I began to have a mid life crises. My wife was accepted into a prestigious graduate school so we moved to Davis, California and while she was away at school (which was most hours of the day) I was left on my own. I had no job, no friends, very little money and not much ambition to do anything but dress like I once used to in the 1980’s. I started listening to new wave music again and wore black eye liner and black nail polish. I started smoking cloves again and dancing alone in the privacy of my room. My diet had become healthier, my heart beated a bit more regularly, my insomnia was not as bad but there was still something inside of me that grew unhappy and jaded. I started to feel like my life was a failure and to combat these unwanted negative vibes I began meditating more and reading spiritual self help books. I learned to go on two-hour mindfulness walks, I purchased a dog, I got a job as a bartender and did what I could to assuage the gut feeling that being a successful writer and painter was as far from me as winning the lottery was. I enrolled in graduate school to become a psychotherapist and I found a therapist whom I still see once a week. My therapist helped guide me back to what now feels like a place where hope and love have the potential to reside. My anxiety started to leave me alone and while sitting in a restaurant in San Francisco on my thirty-ninth birthday I was able to acknowledge that “yes, I have a good life.”

After I tripped over my grandmother’s walker I struggled to get back onto my knees. I landed straight on my chest and face. My grandmother was too weak and giggly to be of any help to me so I lay there and thought about being thirty-nine. It had not been a bad year. My wife and I were getting along and I had learned to accept my fate as a future psychotherapist who was excelling in graduate school. I was interested in things I had never heard of before such as: family systems theory, Gestalt therapy, Client Centered therapy and cybernetics. I had to let go of my need to be the next great writer or painter and traded in my paintbrushes for textbooks. I would spend some days drawing, reading and writing but now it was more for play and less for destiny. I worked in my garden, walked my dog, visited my therapist, lost my beer belly, ate organic food and meditated every morning at seven thirty. Even though I know it is a cliché I go to say it- life was good. But somewhere beneath the surface of my flesh and deep down around the fringes of my belabored soul- I was unsatisfied. Maybe that is why now I sit here writing at my desk in my parent’s home where I am living. I am yet to know of anything that lasts forever and my marriage was also unable to escape from this eternal truth. All I can say is that two people who loved and love each other very much grew apart in the same way that two leaves that grow from the same stem can spread out in different directions. Shitty things happen to the best of us.

“Give me your dammmmmmm hand,” my grandmother said as I was stuck in a finally revelry about being thirty-nine. I reached out my hand and surprisingly my 94-year-old grandmother was able to help me onto my feet. She was holding onto her walker and had wrapped a leather belt around her waist and strapped it to the door to brace her body so she could help me up. I felt a bit dazed and confused. There was a bit of blood on my shirt since I bit my lip sometime during the fall. “There you go kid, back on your feet. That’s right!” my grandmother said as she undid the belt from her waist. I dusted myself off and got a first taste of how much more pain an aging body feels than a younger body. “You all right?” my grandmother said with a look of genuine concern on her face. “Fine, fine” I replied with a half smile and half embarrassed grin. “Well you just listen to me David. There will be a lot of falling down in your life. Promise you that. But as long as you always get back up that is all that gives a dammmmmm. After you fall as many times as I have, have as many bruises as I do and are still alive at 94 you start to really, really realize that anything is possible in life. That is the best part about getting old. Now brush yourself off, have a good birthday and get out of here.”

My Brief Love Affair with a Pool Sweep

I am currently going through a separation from my wife. I moved out from our small home in the country and have moved back into my parent’s large home in the suburbs. I am almost forty years old, living again in the room where I experienced my first erection, my first kiss and my first alcoholic beverage. There is even the first pornography magazine from the eighties that I diligently used as a teenager, still stuck in between the mattress and the box spring. My parent’s home sits on top of a solitary hill and is surrounded by century old oak trees, rolling hills, birds and skittish deer. In the backyard there are palm trees (air lifted from Hawaii), a plethora of native flowers and plants, a lot of stones and a large white-bottomed pool.

For six months out of the year my parent’s home is a ghost house. No one lives here. They pack up and go to live in their second home that is situated somewhere in the Idaho mountains. Other than a caretaker who shows up a few times a week to check on things, no one steps into this house. When I moved back in a little over a month and a half ago, I felt like I was moving into a space devoid of life. The furniture was covered in white sheets. The house creaked constantly. I cleaned up cobwebs, killed numerous mosquitoes and turned on the refrigerator and the freezer, both of which had nothing in them. I felt like a middle aged prodigal son coming home to the cruel tricks that time often seems to play on me. What was once my childhood home, filled with life and fervor had become nothing but a four walled remnant of what once used to be. I also could not help but feel like Thoreau returning to his solitary sixty-two acre pond. Except my pond was not a large pond in Concord, Massachusetts- my pond was the pool in my parent’s backyard.

Every morning I would wake up at eleven and rain or shine, the first thing that I would do is go out into the backyard. When I began this minor ritual a little over a month and a half ago I was an emotional mess. I would pull a chair up besides the pool and in the clothes that I had fallen asleep in I would cry. I would cry and cry and feel gut churning sadness for losing the life that I had with a woman whom I deeply loved. I cried for all the grief and suffering that I had caused her. I cried for days on end and after three or four days of continual grief, my grief began to ebb and flow in unpredictable tides. I would be fine one moment and then a thought or something that I noticed reminded me of my wife and I would fall into grief again. I felt like (and still do to a lesser extent) my heart strings were being played by a careless, manic musician.

In my parents backyard the silence is so palpable that I often could not help but to talk to myself. I would console myself out loud, talk to my disappearing wife and push slightly beyond the borders of sanity. Then one afternoon while I was lamenting my fate, a stream of cold chlorinated water sprayed directly into my face. Up until that point I had not noticed the small, amphibious pool sweep that spent its days rummaging around in the pool. With its four wheels, and two long hoses that danced around the pool floor, the pool sweep selflessly had been keeping my parents pool clean for years and I had barley noticed it. With chlorinated pool water stinging my eyes I watched the pool sweep makes its way around the pool, joyfully diving and surfacing, as if my grief meant nothing at all to it. By the end of the day I had forgotten all about the solitary pool sweep and once again was lost in my grief. The following morning while I was sitting besides the pool in what must of looked like a near catatonic state, the pool sweep again sprayed me directly in the face, mixing my tears with chlorine.

I’m not proud of what happened next, but please understand that I was not in my right mind. It is strange how quickly grief can turn into rage and turn a man from sweet to sour. At that moment a rage came over me so strong that I lost all logical reasoning. I was convinced that the pool sweep was mocking me, disrespecting my grief and making a target out of me for its own fun. My rage took over control of my body and caused me to jump head first into the pool, where I proceeded to swim after the pool sweep. But the weeks of grief had weakened and atrophied my muscles and the pool sweep out swam me into the deep end where I was unable to reach. I cursed the pool sweep and told it to stop fucking with me or else I would break its hoses and wheels. I then waded my way out of the water, short of breath and cold. I dried off in the sun- a man defeated by love and the world. A middle-aged man who could not even catch a pool sweep.

I sat there for a while on one of the pool chairs with my wet clothes sticking to my body and watched the pool sweep dance around the bottom of the pool floor. It looked so happy and carefree. It reminded me of distant times where I had felt a similar way. I thought about some of the more meaningful times that my wife and I had shared. The time that we bought our first dog together, the day I proposed to her by a pond in the graveyard, the time we went to an old bathhouse in Spain, the walk on the beach in Australia that was shortened by my fear of the wild dingoes and all the pleasurable times we spent sun bathing in my parents backyard and swimming in the pool. I remembered our days gardening and drinking coconut water in our backyard, the time that I taught her how to ride a bike and the five-course meal that she made for me on New Years Eve. I cried as these memories filled my mind but as I watched the pool sweep make its way around the pool, I felt the thorny edges of a smile crack the rusted sides of my lips. My tears gradually dried and dissipated and I spent the rest of that afternoon falling in love with a pool sweep.

Something about watching the pool sweep made me suddenly feel less alone. I gave it a name as all people do to things that make them feel less alone. I decided to call the pool sweep R2D2 and I even began to anthropomorphize it by asking the R2D2 questions. I told myself that when R2D2 sprayed one time that meant yes, when it sprayed two times that meant no and any more than two sprays meant stupid question. I would ask simple questions, being sensitive to the fact that R2D2 had not had the same opportunities as I for a good education. I would ask questions such as: “would I ever be free of this tormenting grief?” “In the long run are my wife and I doing the right thing by getting a divorce?” and “will we be better off in the future because of all of this?” I specifically asked questions that required more of a heart than a head but I never received much of a reply. Then one morning a few days later while I was sitting by the pool feeling the heat of the early afternoon sun dry my tear agitated eyes, this realization came into my head: Emotion is an energy. It is right to feel pain. Embrace it. Learn. Life is but a blip and time shows the way. I did not need to think about this very much because it immediately made perfect sense to me. Immediately grief seemed to be blocked from colonizing my soul. I felt a sense of unfamiliar calm come over me and when I looked at R2D2 it was resting in the center of the pool staring straight at me. It was then that I realized that my sudden realization had come directly from a pool sweep.

For the first time in months I was overcome with joy. R2D2 communicated to me a wisdom that seemed to patch the holes that were causing love to leak out from my heart. I stood up, walked to the side of the pool and dove head first into the unheated, over chlorinated water. With a smile on my aging face I swam over to R2D2. I lifted R2D2 and held it in my arms. I thanked it profusely for the insight that it had given to me while kissing it from head to hose. Never underestimate the power of a much-needed insight to unite man and machine. Together we swam around the pool until I was not strong enough to swim any more. For the first time in weeks I felt a sense of relief, I felt the possibilities of a new life and the reassurance that my broken heart was not going to kill me. The idea that I could have a new life, the potential to feel good again imbued my body with a detoxifying energy that was slowly bringing me back from the dead. Now looking back on this paradigm-shifting afternoon, I cannot help but attribute it all to my beloved R2D2.

The following day I felt the motivation to begin re-building my life. For the first time since I had moved back into my parents home I did not get out of bed at eleven and go sit out besides the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Instead I would get out of bed at around eight in the morning, do a thirty-minute meditation and then take a long walk. I would go out and get something to eat and then come home and begin looking for a job. I started listening to music again and took daily showers and shaved for the first time in months. Sadness would still come up in me at unpredictable moments but rather than allowing myself to fall into a near catatonic state I simply followed and embraced the energy that was moving through me. Days went by in this semi productive state. I went on a few job interviews, took some yoga classes and went into San Francisco where I began visiting a few friends. I was slowly getting back into a less grief filled life. I was embracing my heartache and learning from it- but while doing all of this I forgot about R2D2.

A few weeks passed by and the bouts of grief were getting less and less. I was smiling more and crying less. I had found a job working as an after school tutor for inner city junior high students and the solitude of my parents home was no longer as frightening as it once was. One morning I awoke early and after my meditation I decided to go sit out by the pool and check on R2D2. I looked forward to visiting with R2D2 and thanking it for healing wisdom it had imparted to me. When I walked out into the backyard the first thing that I noticed was that R2D2 was not moving. I walked over to the side of the pool where ten feet underneath R2D2 sat lifeless. I got down onto my stomach and looked deeply into the water where I noticed that one of R2D2’s hoses was wrapped around its wheels and net. I did not notice any of the usual bubbles that spewed forth from R2D2’s happy head. Immediately I stood up and dove head first into the pool. I do not know if it was the absence of chronic grief in my life and the healing that was resulting or the adrenaline that is released from a person in crisis situations- but I was suddenly strong enough to swim down ten feet to the bottom of the pool, undue the hose from R2D2’s lifeless body and swim back up to the surface with the R2D2 in my arms. I was not hyperventilating or gasping for air but instead I was begging R2D2 not to die, to hold on and to breathe. I swam over into the shallow end where I placed R2D2 on the side of the pool and cleaned out all the leaves that had collected in its net, blocking its air passages. I used both my hands to move its wheels hoping that I could somehow re-simulate life into R2D2. Minutes passed and I felt a few tears begin to fall down the side of my face. I still remember the rhetorical question that ran through my head at that moment: how could God be so unfair as to so cruelly take the life of the one thing that gave me life? I blamed my grief and guilt on a God that not even I believed in. I tried to do everything I could to bring R2D2 back, I even asked this illusive God for help. But the more time that passed the more I realized that R2D2 was never going to swim again.

For those of you who have never fallen in love with a pool sweep before, the ending of my story may sound a bit ridiculous to you. But how can I expect those of you to understand something that you have never experienced before? I understand that I run the risk here of being perceived and judged as a man who has become mentally ill as a result of the grief caused by getting a divorce. I expect some of you to conclude that I am not fit to be functional member of society. But I have always spoken honestly in my writings and I do not want my fear of how you may think of me to get in the way of being brutally honest here at the end of my story. So despite my concerns, I will proceed. After I realized that R2D2 had passed I sat in one of the pool chairs and held R2D2 in my arms. I cried like a child who has just been abandoned by the only two people he knows in the world. I cried out all the grief that could ever exist in the world. I cried so loud that I scared all the birds out of the trees and all the deer out of the surrounding hills. In losing R2D2 I now realize that I was also deeply mourning the loss of my wife. When my wailing seemed to subside, I put R2D2 down on the pool chair and went inside the house and changed out from my wet clothes. I put on black jeans, a black t-shirt and did not have the energy to put on any shoes or socks. I then grabbed a towel from the closet, a shovel from the garage and went back into the backyard. I covered R2D2 in the towel and then I walked into the hills where I began to dig a deep hole underneath an old oak tree. While I was digging my tears fell onto the ground and seemed to moisten the earth, making it less difficult to dig into.

Once I finished digging a hole that would be large enough for me to place R2D2 into I walked back down to where R2D2 lay covered in a towel. I picked R2D2 up into my arms and walked back up into the hills. I placed R2D2 into the dark hole and then stood there for a moment staring at R2D2. My tears momentarily ceased as I thanked R2D2 for its wisdom and friendship. It has never been easy for me to let go of things and people in my life and burying R2D2 felt to me like I was also burying a very important part of my past. I took a few deep breaths and remembered the times that I would watch R2D2 happily and carelessly swim around in the pool. I remembered the time that I tried to chase R2D2 down but it successfully out swam me. I remembered the time that R2D2 gave me a sudden realization and freed me from the shackles of chronic and crippling grief. I felt very grateful for R2D2’s existence in my life and as I took the shovel in my hand and began to bury the R2D2 into the earth I felt at peace with the truth that nothing lasts forever. Once I had completely covered up the whole, I smoothed out the dirt with the shovel and then stuck a large boulder onto of the spot where R2D2 was buried so that I could return to this spot whenever I needed. A few tears leaked out from my eyes as I looked down at my bare feet and toe nails that were covered in dirt. I then looked up through the branches of the old oak tree and stared into the sun that hung in the sky. I closed my eyes for a minute or two and felt the suns warm breath heat up the skin on my face. I could hear the sounds of wind chimes and dried leaves rustling in the light breeze. It was at that moment that I knew that everything would eventually be okay. My wife and myself, eventually time would show us the way. With the shovel in my hand, I avoided looking at the pool and walked back down the hill towards my house. I imagined that it was mid-afternoon and I needed to get dressed for work.

Resurrecting a Withered Blog

I am lying in bed about to fall asleep- but as usual, I had a thought. I was thinking about this blog and realized that I do not tend to it much anymore. Like a vegetable garden I have left it untended to, destined to wither and dry up. The majority of my readers have probably disappeared, disappointed with my poor attendance. I understand this fate and hope that some of my readers make their way back to this withered garden once I tend to it again.

I have been going through a divorce and a slew of other life events that have made literary articulation uneasy. Writing has been something that I have avoided for some months now. But as I lay here in bed looking over my withered and downtrodden garden I am feeling the hint of a desire to tend to it again. There are many stories I want to share such as my recent love affair with a pool sweep and my month spent in complete solitude with nothing but Facebook for company. I hope once I have done the work of resurrecting this blog you and I will find the same pleasure in it we once did years ago.