The Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This is her picture as she was:
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass
Should tarry when myself am gone.
I gaze until she seems to stir,—
Until mine eyes almost aver
That now, even now, the sweet lips part
To breathe the words of the sweet heart:—
And yet the earth is over her.

Alas! even such the thin-drawn ray
That makes the prison-depths more rude,—
The drip of water night and day
Giving a tongue to solitude.
Yet only this, of love's whole prize,
Remains; save what in mournful guise
Takes counsel with my soul alone,—
Save what is secret and unknown,
Below the earth, above the skies.

In painting her I shrin'd her face
Mid mystic trees, where light falls in
Hardly at all; a covert place
Where you might think to find a din
Of doubtful talk, and a live flame
Wandering, and many a shape whose name
Not itself knoweth, and old dew,
And your own footsteps meeting you,
And all things going as they came.

A deep dim wood; and there she stands
As in that wood that day: for so
Was the still movement of her hands
And such the pure line's gracious flow.
And passing fair the type must seem,
Unknown the presence and the dream.
'Tis she: though of herself, alas!
Less than her shadow on the grass
Or than her image in the stream.

That day we met there, I and she
One with the other all alone;
And we were blithe; yet memory
Saddens those hours, as when the moon
Looks upon daylight. And with her
I stoop'd to drink the spring-water,
Athirst where other waters sprang;
And where the echo is, she sang,—
My soul another echo there.

But when that hour my soul won strength
For words whose silence wastes and kills,
Dull raindrops smote us, and at length
Thunder'd the heat within the hills.
That eve I spoke those words again
Beside the pelted window-pane;
And there she hearken'd what I said,
With under-glances that survey'd
The empty pastures blind with rain.

Next day the memories of these things,
Like leaves through which a bird has flown,
Still vibrated with Love's warm wings;
Till I must make them all my own
And paint this picture. So, 'twixt ease
Of talk and sweet long silences,
She stood among the plants in bloom
At windows of a summer room,
To feign the shadow of the trees.

And as I wrought, while all above
And all around was fragrant air,
In the sick burthen of my love
It seem'd each sun-thrill'd blossom there
Beat like a heart among the leaves.
O heart that never beats nor heaves,
In that one darkness lying still,
What now to thee my love's great will
Or the fine web the sunshine weaves?

For now doth daylight disavow
Those days,—nought left to see or hear.
Only in solemn whispers now
At night-time these things reach mine ear;
When the leaf-shadows at a breath
Shrink in the road, and all the heath,
Forest and water, far and wide,
In limpid starlight glorified,
Lie like the mystery of death.

Last night at last I could have slept,
And yet delay'd my sleep till dawn,
Still wandering. Then it was I wept:
For unawares I came upon
Those glades where once she walk'd with me:
And as I stood there suddenly,
All wan with traversing the night,
Upon the desolate verge of light
Yearn'd loud the iron-bosom'd sea.

Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears
The beating heart of Love's own breast,—
Where round the secret of all spheres
All angels lay their wings to rest,—
How shall my soul stand rapt and aw'd,
When, by the new birth borne abroad
Throughout the music of the suns,
It enters in her soul at once
And knows the silence there for God!

Here with her face doth memory sit
Meanwhile, and wait the day's decline,
Till other eyes shall look from it,
Eyes of the spirit's Palestine,
Even than the old gaze tenderer:
While hopes and aims long lost with her
Stand round her image side by side,
Like tombs of pilgrims that have died
About the Holy Sepulchre.

Painting: Ophelia by Arthur Hughes 1863 (Public Domain)

Lake George: The Queen of American Lakes

“Lake George is without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw; formed by a contour of mountains into a basin… finely interspersed with islands, its water limpid as crystal, and the mountain sides covered with rich groves… down to the water-edge: here and there precipices of rock to checker the scene and save it from monotony.”
— Thomas Jefferson, May 31, 1791






Lake George by John Casilear


Tolkien: Creating Middle-earth

On Creating Middle-earth:

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.” JRR TOLKIEN

Civil War Art

The Brush Harrow 1865

Boys without fathers … some heroic men come home broken or not at all. Some battlefields are revisited from one year to the next. Veterans tease new recruits on spring campaigns with the bones of men left to winter over in thick forests.

About 625,000 men died in the Civil War. That’s more Americans than died in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. This amounted to 2 percent of the population at the time, which would be the equivalent to about 6 million Americans dying today. Battles weren’t as deadly as disease, however..

An estimated 40% of the dead were never identified.”[1]

A Visit from the Old Mistress 1876

Slavery is a human condition we have not come even close to eradicating. Sex trafficking in children is alive and well.  Where are the abolitionists now? There are some brave souls but mostly we are just as ignorant of human suffering as we ever were. Willfully so.

Civil War Art

The picture above is so ambiguous. Are the former slaves happy to see their former mistress? Are they ashamed that with freedom not much seems to have changed for them?  Were any of them house slaves who saw themselves as superior to field hands?

And what of the mistress? Is she visiting old friends? Is she discussing payment for field work? Did they once pray together? Are they all victims of a world system they did not create? I’ve often heard that impoverished people enjoy life more. I think people are people. We live in a spiritually impoverished world.

Cotton Pickers 1864

There is a war somewhere out there. There is a war in our hearts right here. Freedom is a wonderful but scary thing. Is this beautiful woman brooding about her present? Is she anxious about her future? Is she bitter? Will she forgive life’s unfairness? Choices we all must make.

prisoners from the front winslow homer
Prisoners from the Front 1866

Surrender. Surrender is not about giving up. At war are powers greater than humans can usually perceive. We are all slaves to a master. We choose the master no matter our place in this material world. Sometimes we are victims, but if we are honest with ourselves, we realize we are so often making war with others for our own selfish desires and out of a place of fear.

“There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18








Fiction: A Doctor’s Mistakes

Graham wiped his eyes. “That watch … the one I gave you … it was for Nathan—my younger brother first — during the war. You are the light of the world like a city on a mountain … Nathan was the light of my family. Something about him—we could all love him without embarrassment—he was soft and pampered. My brother Luce was the hero, but Nathan was the light.

“Seeing Fahy—my God! So many men just like him. I cut them apart—for their own good, but my stupid brother Luce! I was still so angry at him for taking my girl! And there he comes wandering into camp. He’d walked for miles! Thought I could keep his leg—thought I was a miracle worker. Did I tell you about the time he baled all the hay on three farms, saved a girl from drowning in the Hackensack, and won the turkey shoot all in one summer?”

Buck shook his head.

“Luce was a winner. He was a god to me and I was damned jealous. And there he was lying there on the table, his leg shattered, and he’s telling me no heroic measures—don’t take the leg. But it had to go! And I couldn’t find the bullet. I could barely stop the bleeding once it really got going. There was a bleeder, Buck. I found it and tied it shut.” Graham stared at Buck, but his eyes saw into an unknowable past. “When Luce woke up, he told me about a girl he had. Some other girl and Mai, his wife, home with his baby. That asshole had everything and screwed it all up.”

“We have a cousin?” Buck asked.

“Yes.” Graham mopped his forehead.

“So then what happened?”

“I was given time off—I was ordered to take some time. I left Luce at the hospital tent. Last I heard, Nate had taken ill—hadn’t made it into battle and I’d been glad—he was no soldier. I decided to go visit him, thinking he’d be with his unit, but he wasn’t. Nate left with a few other sick men to a makeshift hospital on a derelict farm. You should have seen the place. Flies—so many flies. And Nathan was dead.”

Buck stayed quiet.

“He died of dysentery. If I’d have got there sooner, I could have taken him from that God forsaken place. The surgeon in charge should have been hung for what he let those men go through. He said Nate helped the others till he got too weak himself. He handed me back the watch I’d given Nate for good luck. The watch I gave you.”

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“When I got back to camp, Luce gave me hell for not going to Nate as soon as I got word he’d fallen ill. We were fighting as I checked on the artery—the one I’d tied. I moved it only slightly, but something let go. I just couldn’t stop the blood and he just lay there looking at me and then he was gone. The other soldiers—they just looked at me like I was the worst sort of man.” Graham wiped his head again. “Buck, I wanted you to have a piece of me.”

“Father, it wasn’t your fault—about your brothers.”

“I’m sorry.” Graham ran his hand over his heart. “I lied when I said that only your mother wanted all of you. I did too. I wanted enough so if anything happened I wouldn’t lose all of you at once. Look at the unhappiness I bring into people’s lives. Look at your mother. Oh, look at you all!”

“But Father, it’s not up to you to make us happy. You did your best, I suppose. And you’re forgiven your mistakes if you have faith.”

Graham stared at his son. “I want to believe you. I’d like to have the assurance you suddenly have—but frankly your behavior frightens me.”

“Sometimes God’s hand in my life is very frightening,” Buck admitted. “I don’t know what He’s up to, but at times I feel—I don’t know—pulled into this perfect love beyond my comprehension. I can’t figure out how to say things yet. When I read the Bible now it’s as if I’ve stumbled upon long lost relatives and I’m happy.”

“So you like the saints?”

“I like all the imperfection. All the stumbling toward God. I like how God reaches first and knows our hearts and refines them if we let Him,” Buck said. “Father, it’s God’s hope that you’ll come when He calls.”

“I’m happy enough that you’ve softened your heart to me. Maybe that’s all I’m ready for.” Graham stood and patted Buck’s shoulder.

“I’ll keep praying for you, Father,” Buck promised.

Graham studied his son with suspicion, but Buck’s smile from beneath the tight bandage disarmed him.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Featured Image: Home Sweet Home by Winslow Homer

Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him. —Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Massacre at Chios by Eugene Delacroix

“In March 1822, as the Greek revolt gathered strength on the mainland, several hundred armed Greeks from the neighbouring island of Samos landed in Chios. They attacked the Turks, who retreated to the citadel. Many islanders also decided to join the revolution.[2] However, the vast majority of the population had by all accounts done nothing to provoke the reprisals, and had not joined other Greeks in their revolt against the Ottoman Empire.[5]

Reinforcements in the form of a Turkish fleet under the Kapudan Pasha Nasuhzade Ali Pasha arrived on the island on 22 March. They quickly pillaged and looted the town. On 31 March, orders were given to burn down the town, and over the next four months, an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops arrived.

In addition to setting fires, the troops were ordered to kill all infants under three years old, all males 12 years and older, and all females 40 and older, except those willing to convert to Islam.[6]

Approximately three-quarters of the population of 120,000 were killed, enslaved or died of disease.[7][8] It is estimated that 2,000 people remained on the island after 21,000 managed to flee, 52,000 were enslaved and 52,000 massacred.[9] Tens of thousands of survivors dispersed throughout Europe and became part of the Chian Diaspora. Another source says that approximately 20,000[10][11][12] Chians were killed or starved to death. Some young Greeks enslaved during the massacre were adopted by wealthy Ottomans and converted to Islam. Some rose to levels of prominence in the Ottoman Empire, such as Georgios Stravelakis (later renamed Mustapha Khaznadar) and Ibrahim Edhem Pasha.[13]

There was outrage when the events were reported in Europe[14] and French painter Eugène Delacroix created a painting depicting the events that occurred; his painting was named Scenes from the Massacres of Chios. Wikipedia

Healing a Midwesterner

A bullet through the skull is a quick way to end the life of a suffering animal but things aren’t as easy when it comes to old people. Not that I think we should kill old people, but after a week of watching my failing father-in-law endure many an indignity I wish there were a more graceful way to exit the world.

Last spring when my favorite goat was slowly wasting away and unable to fight a staph infection it didn’t take long to realize that not only did she suffer but she also endangered the herd. We played God. I didn’t like it, but when the sound of the gun reverberated across our property at least I could be certain the pain was over.

But pain returns again and again in our lives. I panicked when my husband called me from the Midwest.

“Are you ready for a bombshell?”

“No … not really.”

“I’ve convinced my parents to come live with us for a while. In the basement.”

I’d met these parents once. For three days. Five years ago. Now they were older and sicker. Cancer and hip replacements. Bouts of insanity possibly brought on by organs unable to process morphine for pain.

“Okay, I’m not letting your parents sleep in the basement,” I said, imagining them calling up the stairs for water and a crust of bread.

They now have our room and so far so good. We’re all getting along, but it’s so hard to watch people lose their autonomy. Joe is frail. He has cancer and back problems. He needs hearing aids that don’t really work. He has eyes that don’t really see. Yesterday he slipped out of his chair. I heard his wife telling him to get on his knees in hushed tones and wondered what was going on in their room but didn’t feel comfortable asking.  Finally they asked for help. when my son and I entered the room Joe lay on his side.

“Are you okay, Grandpa?” my son asked.

“Oh, I’m fine. Could you do me a favor and help me up?”

We joked about the situation a little uneasily. Later I overheard him talking with my husband.

“I used to love reading. I used to love listening.”

My husband does many things for his father that neither of them would want me to talk about.

Once we went to have our auras read for fun. The woman we paid told me I was a drama queen and creative. No shock there. She told my rigid, military husband that his true calling was healing. I see it now as he kneels before his father to assure him that he’s no burden.

Joe expresses regrets. “No, I wasn’t a good father. I didn’t do shit.”

My husband’s reply is waved off impatiently.

Joe falls asleep every few minutes. His wife of sixty years has been his caretaker for the last ten. After breaking her hip she had to swallow her pride and ask for help. She reassures my husband that every time Joe closes his eyes he’s not dying. But he is. Maybe it’s the Midwest in them all but as a family they hang on. Joe lustily enjoys a piece of blueberry-lemon cheesecake or a salty joke. He has a mischievous smile and bright, soulful eyes in those moments but the moments abruptly come to an end. His jaw goes slack, his eyes go vacant.

My husband drove his parents eighteen hours from Illinois because he couldn’t think of anything else to do with them. Joe said the drive was the only bit of hope he’d had in years.

My husband hopes he can save his father somehow. He fills the calendar with appointments. He researches medical marijuana. He wants to make his father’s ride easier. He wants to prolong life. I think in the end he may only be able to heal that part of Joe that believes his life was a series of failures. “You’re actually a good son, aren’t you.” Joe says as if it surprises him.

Featured Image: Evangelist Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

The Passing Train

On the Departure Platform

We kissed at the barrier; and passing through
She left me, and moment by moment got
Smaller and smaller, until to my view
She was but a spot;

A wee white spot of muslin fluff
That down the diminishing platform bore
Through hustling crowds of gentle and rough
To the carriage door.

Under the lamplight’s fitful glowers,
Behind dark groups from far and near,
Whose interests were apart from ours,
She would disappear,

Then show again, till I ceased to see
That flexible form, that nebulous white;
And she who was more than my life to me
Had vanished quite . . .

We have penned new plans since that fair fond day,
And in season she will appear again –
Perhaps in the same soft white array –
But never as then!

– “And why, young man, must eternally fly
A joy you’ll repeat, if you love her well?”
– O friend, nought happens twice thus; why,
I cannot tell!

Thomas Hardy






Featured Image: The Passing Train by Marianne Stokes

“Frame your mind to mirth and merriment which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.” William Shakespeare

“The certain prospect of death could sweeten every life with a precious and fragrant drop of levity; and now you strange apothecary souls have turned it into an ill-tasting drop of poison that makes the whole of life repulsive.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Featured Image: What Freedom! by Ilya Repin

Fiction: Faith

The doctor led Thankful and Buck through the short, cool hallway to the adjacent room reserved for hopeless cases. There lay the lieutenant asleep.

“He’s not dead, is he?” Buck asked from the doorway, craning his neck to see.

“No, Buck,” the doctor replied and turned to Thankful. “You may want to say your last goodbyes—just in case.” The doctor left them alone.

Buck squeezed Thankful’s hand. “We must try to have faith.”

Thankful glanced his way. He brought her to the top of the bed and spotted a chair around the other side to sit in himself.

“He looks perfectly well, doesn’t he, Buck?” Thankful asked and ran her fingers along his face. “What shall we do?”

“I guess we could pray or something,” Buck suggested, his color rising.

Thankful looked up at him in surprise. He shrugged in embarrassment.

“You lead us. I’d feel, well, idiotic,” Buck said.

Thankful took his extended hands. “Buck Crenshaw, you begin to worry me,” she said, regarding him with skepticism.

They bowed their heads. Buck concentrated hard to keep his head from spinning.

Thankful began, “Dear Lord …”

“Jaysus! God almighty! What’s all this?” Fahy suddenly shouted.

The Crenshaws jumped and Thankful screamed. “Oh, dear! We thought you were sleeping! Oh, lieutenant, this is awful!” Thankful cried. “Don’t you dare go and die on me! I’m going to have your little baby. I was saving it as a surprise, my sweetheart!”

For a second, Fahy forgot himself and a flush of excitement coursed the lines of his weather-beaten face until the reality of his situation came back. “But, Thankful, you wanted lots of children …”

“No, dear, that was you. You’re all I need. We’ll be all right. How are you feeling?”

“I don’t feel a damned thing,” he said. “I’m fucked in a cocked hat.”

Thankful kissed his forehead. “I wish you would mind your language, Mr. Fahy. You’ll always be a hero to me—the hero who saved my brother!”

Buck spoke. “Well, Fahy was drunk when he did it, and really, we were fine.”

“Buck Crenshaw!” Thankful cried.

“What is he doing here? Haven’t you done enough damage?” Fahy shouted.

“Only as much as you’ve done yourself!”

“Buck, now’s not the time!” Thankful sobbed. “Poor Mr. Fahy—Willy and Buck have been immature and reckless. Please don’t judge them harshly. We must focus on getting you well.” Thankful took his hand in hers and kissed it.

“Thankful, where’s your ring?” Fahy asked.

“Oh, it’s not important.”

“Of course it is!”

“Where is it, sis?” Buck pressed.

“Lieutenant, the ring you gave me … well, it was stolen. Of course no one believes that you had anything to do with it. When the men from the 24th Infantry came into camp, an officer from Fort Sill recognized the ring as the very one taken from his wife only last year.”

Buck whispered, “Fahy, you scoundrel, you said it was all the way from Ireland!”

“Yes, yes! It was! That’s what I was told—when I bought it!” Fahy said. “Thankful, please, believe me.”

“Buck, you’re behaving shamefully! Of course I believe you, lieutenant. I don’t give a fig about expensive things.”

Fahy glared at Buck. “You bastard.”

“Seems the army knows about the fixed scales and such,” Buck said. “I’m sure nothing will come of it though.” He stalked off. His first venture out of bed brought him into struggle and strife.

Thankful turned to Fahy. “Oh, I had so hoped that Buck had changed. I’m sorry I ever let him come visit you. I suppose I thought he might be inspired by you—a real and true officer.”

“You’ve thought too much of me, lovey. And now look—I’m useless. They say I’ll never walk!” Fahy cried.

“Never?” Thankful gasped, but regained her composure. “My sweet, we’ll make do somehow. My father will help. We’ll go back home.”

“No! How can I meet your family this way? And you with child and starting to show! They’ll figure what we’ve done and they’ll blame me.”

“Buck knows, and he’s still speaking to me—after the initial shock …”

“You told Buck? When?”

“Before …”

“Does anyone else know?”

“Well, William—”

Bill Weldon knew before me?”

“Miss Peckham, I think, told him.”

Miss Peckham knew? For Christ’s sake! When were you going to tell me?”

“You were distracted by Miss Peckham and then your trip. I wanted it to be special—so I waited.”

“Well, now it’s goddamned special, isn’t it? I can’t support you or a child! Why did this have to happen to me? Why do I always get the short end of the stick?”

“Oh lieutenant, but I love you.”

“You don’t love me! You never have. If you could, you’d escape but for the baby.”

“Pierce Fahy, don’t dare say it! Don’t lie!” Thankful began sobbing.

“I have nothing to offer you now.”

“But surely the army will take care of you.”

“A lieutenant’s pay at half is nothing … and the scales—those bloody scales!”

“Scales? You make no sense,” Thankful said.

“Those damned savages had it in for me from the start! Now they accuse me of fixing the scales—it’s that missionary Kenyon’s doing. I know it!”

“Mr. Kenyon?”

“He’s dodgy, Thankful. Kenyon’s turned everyone against me. Sure, he’s admitted to all sorts of perversions and crimes. But he puts people like your William under his spell. I only tried to help Bill out the other night—to get him from under Kenyon, but in the end they were all against me.”

“Please, quiet down. You must stay peaceful. No one wants to hurt you—you’re just upset—rightly so. We must believe in miracles.” She wiped his brow “You’ll be healed.”

“And how many other spontaneous healings have you been witness to?” Fahy asked tenderly and wept.



“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”



Featured Image: Edward Burne-Jones – The Beguiling of Merlin