Last night (or, more precisely, early this morning,
just before waking)
I dreamed about a student I once taught,
one I had recently learned had died
several years back.

In the dream, I took from my wall
two photocopied pages,
captured against the drywall with a push pin,
telling how he’d died in the fiery hold
of a cargo ship. It was a terrible accident;
the photos were all black and white.

In truth, I don’t know how he died.

What did he leave undone?

I ask this, having passed half a century of life some years ago.
Having lived longer than friends, children I knew,
some family.

What did they leave undone?

This morning, I ask myself
What do I have to do today that I cannot do?
Weeding and planting new ferns?
I can do that.
Reseeding and watering a patch of lawn?
I can do that.
Some minor plumbing, walking down to the garden
and picking or digging, then cleaning the vegetables
I’ll cook for our dinner?
Correspondence, accounts?
I can do all that.

Catching up on everything I have left undone?
Not now.
Not today.

"Such Dreams"


James Barron, Peter Matthiessen, Florida, and more

This episode of Average Mortal Radio is rated R, for Rain, like the rain which is, at this moment, lashing icy and hard as a swung plank out of the north and west. In our latest episode we talk about Peter Matthiessen and artist James Barron, and their connection with us here on our gray and silver windblown island home, as well as an earlier incarnation of ourselves, a one-point-oh version, if you will, a version raised in Florida and who lived there many, many years, many, many years ago.

This is not about the Florida of condominium-stuttered coasts or drive-through Margarita palaces or even the Florida of the Mouse Who Ate Orlando or old people fitness stepping around the malls every morning. It is the Florida that inspired Peter Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy, which culminated in The Shadow Country, his single volume retelling of the tough people who inhabited the swamps, riverbanks, and boggy mosquitoy mangrove thickets.

I sent James a copy of The Shadow Country last week when I learned he was living in an old river house on the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe figures prominently in Matthiessen’s Watson novels and here is Matthiessen himself, in a passage that might serve as an introduction to James’ art: Color can threaten, overwhelm, whirling like that – an ant in a kaleidoscope might sense the problem.

James Barron, my cousin, my friend, for too brief a time my neighbor here on Lopez Island, can easily overwhelm with his whirling colors. To see what I mean, go to his website and look at his paintings, drawings, sculpture, and furniture.

And read Peter Matthiessen, look at the colors swirling around you, be drawn into the kaleidoscope, yes, like an ant.