Category Archives: Allegory


It was 7:30 a.m. The sunrise was supposed to happen five minutes earlier. Clouds had rolled in to obscure it. Rain and storms arrived the night before. The early morning Sunday October sky was dark and beautiful. Without thinking about it, I found that I was headed to a part of the trail I rarely walked. About a quarter of a mile in, I noted the three abandoned antique vehicles in the brush. The broken, ancient barbed wire fence appeared, its length sporadically still intact.

Over the last year, the wild brush and trees on the other side called to me as I walked by them. I had no idea who owned it. The apparent neglect signaled to me that such a careless owner did not own it at all. The serpentine topography hid all clues about precisely where I was, as did the dense canopy of trees. When I approached the creek bed that flowed under the presumptive fence, I saw that the fence there was gone. Though my shoes were inappropriate for anything except pavement, I stepped through the gap.

With the second step, the air brightened, and the scent of fall decay receded. I took a dozen more steps and pushed against the gnarled branches.

Though the valley should have been shadowy and dark, I could feel the sun’s rays touching my neck. I looked behind me to see that the neglected bushes and trees were gone. In its place was an ankle-high expanse of grass and flowers. I felt like I was experiencing a hybrid dream, one combining Narnia and early-morning half-slumber.

I turned back to look. Instead of foliage, I saw a large red barn with its doors wide open. A hammer clanged rhythmically inside it. A mule stood nearby, untethered.

The hammer continued its work.

“Come on in, I’ve been waiting.” The voice was baritone and melodic.

I didn’t hesitate to walk forward. As I passed it, I rubbed the mule’s neck. It turned slightly to welcome it.

Though the voice did not match my memory, I already knew who would be standing there. I could feel the surety of it.

He appeared to be about forty-five. I never knew him as anything other than old, with a brutal life already behind him.

He wore an old pair of work pants and an oddly green shirt.

“Grandpa? It is you, isn’t it? Your voice is different.” I hesitated.

“I have the voice that belongs to the ideal me. Can I call you Little Bobby, the name I used when we sat on the porch swing together?”

I nodded. Without answering, I walked up to him and hugged him like I learned to do as an adult. He smelled of Old Spice, sawdust, and Cannonball chewing tobacco.

“Little Bobby, I’m most proud that you leaned away from hardness. It could have gone either way for you. I’ve waited forty-four years and three hundred and sixty-two days to tell you that.”

“Yes, but I feel like a failure, Grandpa.”

He smiled.

“I know. None of that is real, son. None of it.” Grandpa put his hand on my shoulder.

He laughed. “I can’t tell you any secrets that you can share. My words are for you only. That’s how it is done. One hour with you is all we get. Help me with this horseshoe, and we’ll talk. Agreed?”

“Yes. Let me help you mess this shoe up. I’m no good at this sort of thing.”

“You were almost a carpenter Little Bobby. And a farmer. Now you’re a writer. Because your job is to find a way to communicate the truth I’m going to share with you without violating the rules here.”

I stood next to Grandpa as he hammered the upper edges of the old horseshoe. The clang of metal was constant and comforting.

Grandpa began to talk, his voice even and confident. I felt like the little boy who sat next to him on the porch swing in Monroe County. Grandpa wasn’t a talkative man nor expressive. Wherever I was, I wanted to stand there forever as he talked. As his voice trailed to a whisper, I realized that the hour was over.

I hugged Grandpa. Instead of sadness, I felt joyous.

“Remember what I’ve told you, Little Bobby. Go live the rest of your life and find a way to share it. We’ll meet again one day and not in the way you expect. You’ll see.”

He turned back to finish another horseshoe, the heavy metal hammer rising and falling.

I walked through the barn doors and ran my hand along the mule’s neck again. Expecting reluctance, I found myself consumed by haste. Not to leave this place but to return to my life, one that would never be the same. In moments I was standing on the trail again, the gap between the creek and fence behind me. Light rain spattered my head and shoulders.

I know you want to know what Grandpa said to me.

I haven’t had enough time to process it, disguise it, and repeat it back. It’s likely that most people wouldn’t accept it. That’s how truth works. It’s obvious after-the-fact but a difficult pill at first.

I’ll give you a hint:

Go outside and look up at the dark sky. Feel the rain lingering in the air. Get a cup of coffee. Find a loved one and put your hand on their arm or run your fingers through their hair. Silence troubled words, worry, or distress that you have no control over your life or the world. Look inside and toward rather than away from.

Hidden inside those words is a world of truth. It’s a zen puzzle that’s not a puzzle at all.

Somewhere, the hammer still rises and falls.

Shadows turn to sunlight.

Voices echo with resonance and truth.

If you’re not sharing your voice and your love, you’re missing the point of everything.

Love, X



As I drove past the bus station in the early morning, I noted a young man standing with a throng of people waiting to board the long, modern bus. He wore what appeared to be a tophat. I laughed. He’s either optimistic or weird. I wanted to chat with him and see how funny he might be. But he was a stranger standing in a way station parking lot, on the way to one of an infinite series of destinations. The quirky word ‘sonder’ came to mind as it often does.

We all are, though, even though we might not even know where we’re going. Each of us could sharply turn on a whim. That’s the conundrum of our lives. We c-o-u-l-d wake up today and choose something markedly different. We won’t though, mainly because we are obstinate in our continuation of the same. Even if the arc we’re traveling doesn’t suit us, most likely our choice will be along the ellipsis of what we chose yesterday. There’s comfort in that. The obverse of comfort is that new choices could render new ways to be happier.

We could laugh at the stupid things that will happen to us today. Some of us will have car accidents. Some will sit across from the doctor and hear unexpected diagnoses. Others will lose their jobs or start new ones. Loved ones will leave us, people will disappoint us. Yes, others will delight us, and humor will surprise us.

Meanwhile, the young man stands in the bus station parking lot wearing a tophat. I know I love finding meaning in things that are random. It seems like a metaphor to me, though. I can’t shake it. I’ll have another cup of coffee and ponder the sonder of all of us.

Love, X

Red Snow Bothers No One

justice delayed is justice denied
victims remain, anxious prey,
each precious life adjourned

it was an accident, they intoned, shyly winking
he resisted and found himself restrained
cuffs on the cold bumper
he was an unrepentant menace
who found his home along the road

red snow bothers no one

the inevitable thaw comes
erasing all vestige of his faint echo

everyone sighs, alive and free

red snow bothers no one

Coincidental Joy

There are days when coincidences flood my life. Because we are thinking animals, it’s easy to find a nexus and connections where there are none. Other days, the barrage is so consistent and overwhelming that I feel like I’m the titular character in a Richard Bach novel. I stop and pet a dog and look up to see that owner bundled in warm clothing is someone I once knew. That a new neighbor gives me a stack of t-shirts and one of them is a green Spongebob-inspired one. (That’s a more complicated story.) A stranger writes me on Ancestry to tell me that they read about one of their ancestors on my blog. A DM of words to tell me that something I wrote five years about my personal history gave them hope that anything can become a story and not a constant reminder of pain. Another to tell me they’d read about 400 of my blog posts and told me he didn’t realize that he could just write about anything he wanted to. Or that he could be honest about the things he was not proud of, a couple of which he shared with me. I got a quick peek at what my life would look like in a year. A succession of hugs, causing laughter and a little bit of merriment. Some hugs are built from scratch and others feel like comfort. I won’t detail all the coincidences, but it was a minor crescendo as the day progressed.

I hear the mockingbird, too, in my head. When I wrote this line, A small bird flew up to my feeder, singing as he ate absurdly large suet balls. My window blinds are open, of course, so that I can watch the world whiz by with ridiculous speed out on Gregg. My feeder is less than five feet away from me, directly in my line of sight. My cat Güino is laying on the extra-wide windowsill I installed, even though the air is chilly through the window. I hear him chirp in response to the small bird, though he doesn’t jump to nuzzle and nose at the window as I expect.

I went for a haircut today, too. I sat and joked with the duo of older barbers. I’m guessing they are unaccustomed to rapid-fire humor. Instead of telling my barber how to cut my hair, I asked him to cut mine as if he were doing “The Ugly Bruce Willis special.” I waited. “How the Jason Statham one where he looks like he lost his mind. Can you do that?” And then I relented and told him that my haircut was the easiest in the world. “#1 attachment and do the rest any damned way you’d like.” He laughed. “Well, I guess you’re right. That is the easiest.” When he was done, he started to hand me a mirror to examine the cut. “Are you kidding? Where’s your self-confidence?” He laughed again. “My Grandpa told me that you should never paint a burned house. Whatever happened here, it’s on me.”

As I left, I asked them where the special bottles of spray were. The older of the two said, “What spray are you talking about.” I smiled. “The one that really good-looking men use to keep the women at bay.” They paused and then cackled. “Oh, it’s not for me. It’s a gift for a friend!”

During my errands, I encountered a few more coincidences. At Peace at Home Shelter Thrift Store, at Harps, and even on the drive home. I felt like a special filter had been placed on my brain.

The brooch is one of several I made for my sister. I have a small collection of both meaningful ones – and lunacy-inspired ones, too.

I chose joy today, even though I had a couple of moments that were like running on a treadmill, blindfolded, and in reverse. But I felt myself insisting on pushing aside the indifference and negativity from the world.

Even as I write this, I know I’m going to have a couple of more coincidences happen. I can feel their scratches at the door of my life.

Love, X

Evenfall’s Arrival

Though I start by talking about a movie, these words aren’t really about the movie. Most of the things that strike a chord in us are really about recognizing something magical or true in ourselves as if we’re hearing an old truth in a new way.

“Arrival” is already a thought-provoking movie about language, time, and destiny. I loved that the main character was seeing her own bitter future and lived it anyway.

Last night, I watched “Arrival” again, this time in Spanish. I intended to spend just a few minutes immersed in it. Instead, I watched a movie that initially fascinated me in its approach to language. Ingesting it in Spanish lit my curiosity zone on fire. Before I knew it, the film was over. I curled up with my bear Azon as my cat Güino laid next to my hip, an unusual place for him. Dreams hit me like an avalanche.

All of the evenfall (another word I love) and the penumbra of the night held me captive, my dreams bursting in Spanish. In one of the best parts, my Grandma Nellie and I sat in her house on Shumard Street in Brinkley, both of us speaking only Spanish. She’d scoff at the idea of her ever speaking another tongue. But our conversation was about life and love and a little bit about salt pork and bacon for breakfast. (She was one to concern herself that no one was starving in her house – or so full we could barely walk to the front door, for that matter.) Though I knew I was dreaming, my heart sang as I sat with her. She died in 2000, at 91. It’s been a while since I dreamed about her or heard her voice so expressively in my head. Though she would have never done so in life, she asked me to drive her to Monroe to see the old haunts. As we drove, my dream shifted to early morning. As we neared Rich and Monroe, I noticed that we’d moved in time, too, traveling through an odd mix of several decades. Monroe was once again a bustling place, with farmers and passersby everywhere. We stopped at the Mercantile, once a hub of life in the small community. “I’m going to get out here if you don’t mind. I need to visit. Call me when you get home!” she said, always one to insist that we let her know we’d arrived at home alive. “If I’m dead on the roadside, how will I call you?” I asked her. It was an old joke that I loved telling her.

When Grandma exited the car and shut the door, I woke up. A few tears pooled in my eyes. It was 12:15 a.m. I felt like I’d lived a year in the dream. Güino was still next to me, his body heat oddly comforting.

This morning, I wandered around the apartment, my brain still in a slight fog, listening to my internal voice whisper to me in Spanish.

Even though I did so inexpertly, I attempted to colorize a picture of her and my Aunt Betty. I love that it’s not complete; it’s an evocative mix of black and white and color. I let my imperfections have the last word. But Grandma’s face is revived, so many decades later. The picture was probably taken 60 or 70 years ago. For a moment, last night, time became a bridge, and I walked across it.

I feel like a little bit of me is still back there in the imaginary place where time and geography became fluid.

Love, X

Crepuscular X

One of the dualities I struggle with is how beautiful the afternoons are here, despite the fact that I live in an aging apartment simplex. Amidst the traffic and people winding down from their days of obligatory toil and commerce, light and birdsong fill this place. It’s a time for introspection and casual hellos. I smell beans, pasta, undefined meat, and like most evenings, cannabis and cigarette smoke. I listen to the insects; even they know fall is carpeting itself around them. I saw only one hummingbird this evening. It flew down to the railing near me and then darted two feet above, perching on one of the two craft hooks I left hanging on the upper canopy. It remained for at least two minutes. When it left, it flew down a foot away from my face, humming and hovering before it made its departure.

I watch. I listen. I think.

If I go back inside, I’ll hear the backward clock ticking. I love backward clocks, but even the fact that they run in reverse is some sort of metaphor.

Evenings are the time for togetherness. It’s been that way for millennia. The sun’s slow surrender signals a retreat into homes and shared spaces.

I misjudged the quiet tonight. It is a blessing and it is a vexation.

My usual tactics of a long midnight walk or of untold pushups are out of reach, at least for the near future. I got great news from my doctor today. As contradictory as it sounds, the good news in some way amplified my need to be surrounded by sound, voices, and touch.

I am grateful to be here. So many others are facing ridiculous obstacles and certainties. I got a temporary pass.

The train arrives, claxons, stopping traffic for ninety-four seconds, the red alternating warning lights shining and reflecting on each car as it passes, the two opposing left-turn lanes backing up in frustration. Its siren recedes until I can hear it no longer. It’s replaced by the echoing barks of dogs, in homes I can’t quite picture.

I count sirens and ambulances. With so many people around me, both are inexorable.

I’m already futurizing, thinking of tomorrow. I’ll get to see the sunrise and feel the chill that’s predicted. My shoes are already laid out, socks on top, inviting me to go find a new adventure.

I can’t be me without all of y’all. And if you think of it for a moment, ask that the sunrise greet me in relative minutes.

Love, X

It’s All Around Us

There are so many beautiful houses near my apartment. I especially admire the ones packed with a variety of plants and foliage and a little bit of carelessness regarding the lawn. It’s easy to lose track of time wandering the streets, especially when I’m not attentive to how the byways interconnect. Streets with names like Elm, Poplar, Baker, Erstan, and Green Acres. One of the things about running is that I don’t have enough time to appreciate the gentle breeze, the wall of scents emanating from some of the yards, or give the inhabitants of some of these houses time enough to see me and greet me. If I’m walking, I take a moment to tell them how beautiful their yards are. One of the truths of life is that people forget the beauty around them; they go environmentally blind. I’ve noted the addresses a few times and sent them an anonymous postcard to let them know that the time, money, and effort are observable and appreciated. I don’t know if ironic is the right word. Still, it always occurs to me that most of the beauty in a yard tends to be enjoyed and observed by passersby rather than the owners.

There’s a metaphor there, one you should remember as you look at yourself in the mirror or wonder if you’ve added any value to people’s lives. The tentacles of who we are tend to be vast, though invisible. I continue to learn that we seldom know or recognize when people appreciate us. It is common for me to consider how ridiculous it is that we don’t take the time to be vulnerable.

The passenger train is running a little late as I finish my run. The blare of the horn is deafening. Oddly though, even as I wince a little, it is comforting. I wave with a little bit too much enthusiasm at the passengers; they watch me, I observe them. Several return my wave.

I’ve been using the dryer timer cycle as a bell to start my run a few times lately. It limits my burst of energy. I use the law of increments to my advantage. I can’t promise to run miles each day. But I can harness the enthusiasm that sometimes grips me and commit myself to do what I can now, today. Now that I’ve cooled off a little, I’ll return to my apartment. But I have snapshots in my head of this morning’s breeze, the walkers and the runners, and of the beautiful yards.

P.S. I found the flower art in the middle of the road. Whatever was connected to it is gone. I’m assuming it fell from a passing vehicle. I wonder what was attached at the top.

I’m reluctant to share it, but someone wrote and gave me one of the best compliments ever:

What are you DOING?
Sometimes I don’t quite get what you’re writing about, but I always feel what you’re saying.
I wonder what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
Whatever it is, I wish you’d figure it out and channel your interests.
It would be amazing.
Write a wanderer post this weekend if you can.
Signed, A Lurker”

Love, X


Stolen Thunder

I stood under the canopy watching the lightning streaks. I held a cup of delicious dark bitter coffee in my hand, my first cup of the day. I was already drenched, so it didn’t matter whether I was protected from the rain or not. There aren’t a lot of instances when you have the premonition that you might easily recall the moment later. The place was mundane – but they all are, really. I took a little bit of delight and traced it in my memory. A few seconds after the next big streak of lightning, a huge boom echoed and somewhere in the distance someone gave a little shout and said, “Let’s go in!” Apparently, not everyone takes delight in drinking their coffee during a torrential downpour. There is no accounting for taste, is there?

Nearby, the traffic light seemed more vibrant in the dense rain and early morning light. The rain and thunder had attempted to veto my walk. I ignored the imposition and set out anyway. Who knows how many more times I’ll have the opportunity to watch the world duck and run simply because it’s raining. For that matter, or watching people pay $8 for a dessert disguised as coffee.

Despite the intense dark of the sky, I stole a long walk from this morning. During the first part of my walk, I stayed urban; for the second part I abandoned all concern about the weather and rain. Being somewhere new affords a different pleasure and I don’t need to be somewhere exotic to feel alive. (A truth I should learned more distinctly when I was younger.) I could share several pictures, ones I grabbed each time I took my phone out of the ziplock bag I had tucked into my pocket. But these would not be shared memories, and often that makes all the difference. It is why we feel a little empty looking at other people’s vacation photos, especially when the people we love are not in them.It is our presence and our memories that add value to a place or a vista.

So I’ll use my words to futilely attempt a description: I walk alone on this wide expanse of trail.To one side, the angry creek roars. The sky intermittently opens up and drenches me but fails to touch my enthusiasm. The birds carry on their business, and I watch a hawk on the edge of the farm and rows of test corn, probably searching for mice. It feels like I could walk forever, and possibly without encountering other people. The thunder is my applause. Somewhere out here with me there must be a touch of the ordinary. But I don’t see it.

Red is for stop
green is for go
Add this small thing
To the list of things
I do not need to know
PS Lest you think everything is rainbows and butterflies… toward the presumptive end of my walk, I watched a bitter domestic fight in one of the single story apartments dotting my return. The woman stood outside screaming obscenities and threats as someone inside through her belongings out onto the wet sidewalk. Though she doesn’t know it, her life is both ending and beginning. Worse still, because of my life experience I can mentally chart out the rest of her life. As several of the neighbors stood outside in the light rain to watch the drama, I couldn’t help but think about how needless it all was. Needless and probably inescapable.

How strange to consider how enjoyable of a morning I had just walking, one of the simplest things in the world – while the woman in question probably was having the worst morning she’s had in years.

I’m going to go back to my regular morning, and if I’m lucky, like all of us, I might experience another touch of the divine. And another cup of coffee, one without the kiss of rain.

Love, X

The Last Hug

It was a beautiful moment, one whose aura has not been extinguished, despite the hurt. It was a moment of bliss. He had no way of knowing it would be the last time that he would touch her. Thanks to the picture, he now measured all pleasures and memories by that standard: was it a great movie, especially if it were his last? Would the knowledge of its numeracy trace an additional groove of recognition in his brain? Because he practiced this often, he learned that knowing one’s time to pass would render all moments useless. Nothing could be enjoyed in and of itself. The approaching darkness of a loss would cloak everything in its shadow. If you knew that your next cup of coffee would be your last, he guessed that you might never take a sip of it all.

But he sometimes looks at the picture and can’t help but get trapped in a labyrinth of what might have been. It’s a quintessential human emotion. Not regret precisely. It’s impossible to slice away the happiness that envelops the memory, just as it’s difficult not to take a moment to consider the pain that resulted from it. It’s an endless war with neither side of the emotional scale winning. He nevertheless gets comfortable and takes a minute to think back while looking at the picture. At times, he’s left with a light buoyancy, one derived from lingering happiness that he had the experience at all. At other times, he feels as if someone punched him while he was napping. “We always take away something from our moments,” he thought. “Why must we insist on a polarizing method to evaluate our experiences and memories?” Of course, he didn’t have an answer, so he did what we all do and came up with a temporary distraction, one which would occupy him until the next time he visited the memory.

He could only hope that time might continue to help him clear his mind.

He sat on the couch, his legs folded under him, the picture held between his curled fingers.

It wouldn’t matter if he slipped the picture back inside the book on the discolored end table. The image was graphed in his brain, now complexly tied to the emotions he felt during and after the hug and the picture.

When he dreamed, the picture became fragmented, polychromatic, and elusive. While he could no longer see the picture, he could feel it, like the hug itself, one radiating presence and acceptance. He put the picture aside and laid down on the couch, welcoming the dreams that might come.