Friday Five (Vol. 52): Good Things edition

Friday Five_notepad

This past Wednesday I left the downtown office at 6pm. When I pulled into my driveway around 25 minutes later it was dark outside and the full moon was rising high above my home’s roofline on a crisp, autumn evening. A few minutes prior to my arrival an old favorite by the BoDeans queued up in my car’s CD player and with the engine off I sat back to listen.

I was there for three minutes before a gentle tapping at my window brought me back to 2012. It was my wife, standing there with a smile and informing me that while it was a good song the neighbors were probably enjoying the quiet before I came home. “And,” she said, “if you hurry in you can still catch the end of the cycle.”

— 1 —

Sunlight fall down on the fields
Sunlight fall down over me
Work all day, be all that I can be
Say I can say words only simple
Say I can say words only clear
But, oh, I can feel your heart is beating near.

A few hours earlier the large, local appliance store had delivered a new washer and dryer. Five days before the ones that we had purchased nineteen Thanksgivings ago had finally collapsed in exhaustion. During those nineteen years we’d only called the repairman out twice, both times in the past three years. But the dryer has been making noises that resemble a 757 on the runway before takeoff and on Saturday night the washing machine had gasped its last with a drum full of water and soapy clothes. So for the second time in our married life we went in search of a modern necessity. The cycle to which my wife was referring was, of course, the time left for a load in each machine. We had opted for a top-load washer and each machine has a clear glass door. And so it was that for fifteen minutes yours truly stood watching clothes swish around in a large silver drum and others tumble dry.

For the first six months of our marriage we had traveled together to the small laundromat in Sidney, Nebraska, to do our weekly load of clothes. In late November of 1993 we made our first major purchase: a set of Maytags. We bought them because her mom, a farm wife with six kids, had a set of Maytags that lasted for twenty years. While standing still and watching clothes flop themselves dry through the glass window a rush of memories came back for fifteen minutes. Memories of a newly married couple sharing their loads of clothes together while sitting in the warm, stale air of a humming Laundromat, of a Tupperware container full of quarters, and of moving that set of Maytags several times over the years to new homes.

I was brought further back into the recesses of my childhood. I think the glass dryer door is what did it, but the thought of the quarters solidified the memory. For when I was growing up in Yankton, South Dakota, my mom had taken me each week with her for laundry day to the rounded metal building that served as the local laundromat. As a four year old I spent countless hours reading picture books, watching the Daddy long-legs spiders in the back parking lot, or watching clothes spin endlessly in the dryers. When I was six and we moved an hour north to Fedora (a small town of 50 people) we’d drive west seven miles to Artesian (population 200) to wash clothes in their laundromat. Here we boys could get a bottle of soda pop for a dime and play Superman in the phone booth on the corner. My brother and I would giggle in fascination at a sight that made my mom blush. Some high school pranksters had scaled the corner light pole and attached a stuffed bra some 25 feet in the air, suspended for all to see: a beacon at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 34. We lived in Fedora for two years and moved to Artesian for the next two. That bra remained for the four years I lived in the area.

It’s amazing what will flood back into your head while watching clothes tumble through a dryer window for a few minutes.

— 2 —

Haunted love is all that I feel, when you’re passing by
Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you

I am nothing if not a creature of habit. For almost five years the CD selection in my truck’s multi-disc player has remained the same:

  • Don Henley – Inside Job
  • U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  • Cowboy Junkies –Trinity Revisited
  • The Blessing – Prince of the Deep Water
  • BoDeans – Homebrewed: Live from the Pabst (2 discs)

The remaining CD slot above the radio is the one that changes from time to time, though it mostly remains empty. At one time I owned a music collection with over 1000 titles. It’s now down to about a quarter of that, and I probably listen to only 10-15% of what remains. I’m slowly liquidating it and as I do I’ve found that these five titles encompass most of what I desire to hear. In other words: they never get old.

— 3 —

Give I can give love and attention
Give I can give all time away
Only to one heart I can give today.
Be I can be man full of color
Be I can be man black or white
But only to one heart I can be tonight

On the same day that the new washer/dryer arrived I also received an order from that contained an electronics gift for my daughter along with a few “stocking stuffers” for me. The two books at the bottom of this stack (Brideshead Revisited and The Cantata of Love: A Verse by Verse Reading of the Song of Songs) are ones I’ve previously purchased and are the next rungs on my reading ladder. Praying the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours is a final book for use in researching a project, Cosmas is from the brilliant Loyala Classics series and that latest that I have chosen to read, and A Father’s Legacy is a journal I’d first found at a Walgreen’s store next to the Hallmark cards and had to order almost a decade later from a used bookseller through Amazon. I won’t be writing in this book but will be using its writing prompts to write a book for my children and (hopefully) grandchildren over the next two years.


— 4 —

Haunted love is all that I feel, when you’re passing by
Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you

The last book in that stack that I wanted to mention is a little gem I didn’t even know existed until earlier this week when Heather King mentioned it on her blog. If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland looks to be just what the doctor ordered as I’ve been struggling with how, or whether, to continue in this endeavor.

Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express. Try not expressing anything for twenty-four hours and see what happens. You will nearly explode. You will want to write a long letter or draw a picture or sing or make a dress or plant a garden. Religious men used to go into the wilderness to impose silence on themselves; but really it was so that they would talk to God. They needed to express something; that is to say, they had thoughts welling up in them and the thoughts went out to someone, whether silently or aloud.

Writing or painting is putting thoughts on paper. Music is singing them. That’s all there is to it.

—    From If You Want to Write, pp. 9, 10.

I haven’t read the book yet obviously but have thumbed through it. I love what I see so far. I do not have the mailing address of a friend of mine who is a much more talented writer than myself. But if you’re reading this Ms. C, I believe this just may be a book for you to add to your own writer’s shelf. A quick read at 168 pages, it is presently available for $8.45 on Amazon and the Kindle version is $3.99.

PS: I also highly highly recommend Heather King’s blog Shirt of Flame. Do yourself a favor and check her out. As she describes herself:

I’m an ex-barfly, ex-lawyer, Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (my year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. “with” St. Therese of Lisieux, a cloistered 19th-c. French nun).

I write, I speak, I teach, I explore the confluence of creativity and transcendence; the sacred and the profane; the weird, the wonderful, and the wacky.

I wasn’t kidding. Go now.

— 5 —

Haunted love is all that I see, it’s there in your eyes
And I say
No, no, no, don’t pass me over No, no, no, don’t pass me by
See I can see good things for you and I
Yeah, good things for you

And so we come to the end of the fifty-second edition of this weekly series. It would normally signify a one-year birthday celebration but I skipped a few weeks here and there due to other commitments. There is no cake this week.

I had actually planned to stop after a year, thinking fifty-two editions of this weekly exercise would be enough. But I don’t think it is and the truth is I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. For while I’m in the process of closing this blog’s Facebook page and eliminating a few other time vampires while I focus on two writing projects for the new year, I plan to keep this little corner of my world going. I like it here. It’s home. And whether it entertains only myself, one or two other readers, or a house-party full of guests, I do enjoy time spent here. I hope you do too.

Brenda Ueland (again):

My explanation of it is that when I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes.

Of course all through your day, however busy you are, these little times come. But they are very short in most lives. We are always doing something—talking, reading, listening to the radio, planning what to do next. The mind is kept naggingly busy on some easy, unimportant, external thing all day.

That is why most people are so afraid of being alone. For after a few minutes of unpleasant mental vacancy, the creative thoughts begin to come. And these thoughts at first are bound to be depressing, because the first thing they say is what a senseless thing life is with nothing but talk, meals, reading, uninteresting work and listening to the radio. But that is the beginning. It is just where your imagination is leading you to see how life can better.

But if you would only persist. If you would continue to be alone for a long time, amblingly swinging your legs for many miles and living in the present, then you will be rewarded: thoughts, good ideas, plots for novels, longings, decisions, revelations will come to you.

— From If You Want to Write, pp. 42-44

The BoDeans sang that “you have to sleep with your decisions” and my decision is to continue this series for at least a while longer. In the meantime you will find me sitting on a tall chair in my basement, “amblingly swinging” my legs, and watching clothes toss and turn through the dryer window. All while thinking of good things.


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