“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain

Everything you love today will be one day thrown off, cast in a heap, stolen or forgotten. You may write your mementos into a will, put your signature upon books you’ve written, and, in the case of your very body, have portraits done to capture who you once appeared to be.

An old wise owl as writing partner sits upon my desk.
As a man came from his mother’s womb, so he will depart again, naked as he arrived. He takes nothing for his labor to carry in his hands. This too is a grievous evil: Exactly as a man is born, so he will depart. What does he gain as he toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness, with much sorrow, sickness, and anger.

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of life that God has given him—for this is his lot. Ecclesiastes 

Antique fairs are like walking through graveyards but with less respect and order. Attendees remind me of grave robbers on battlefields (in a small way) though I very much enjoy being one of them. The dead are not quite so fresh at a county fairground, and we have no idea in most cases what the original owners died of. Let’s hope all in their sleep and at ripe old ages.

Last year the fair was cancelled, along with most everything that makes life worth living so this year the line to get in to see dead people’s stuff was easily a football field long. Everyone was commenting about it as they stood surveying who wore the mask correctly or not-at-all, obviously that person over there was not up-to-date on the latest studies, etc — so many studies! At least as we stood (at less than six feet apart) we were getting a good dose of Vitamin D.

Anyway, despite knowing I’ll die one day, I still love collecting old stuff. I love imagining the original owners and wonder am I imagining or tapping into their memories — it’s hard to know for sure, but I’m leaning toward objects granting the seeker a knowledge, a hint of something more. It’s the same way with writing. The muses, the spirits are there inviting you to see things, to take a chance. Where might these glimpses and promptings lead?

“One must really be brave to choose love or writing as one’s guides, because they may lead one to the space in which the meaning of our life is hidden — and who can say that this space may not be the land of death.”

Demetrios Capetenakis

I think of the Catholic Sisters of Charity who ran toward the battlefields and hospitals and died (of disease and exhaustion) for the love of many soldiers during the Civil War who would otherwise have died without names. Or the soldiers themselves who found purpose in loving their country, or comrades or family back home. Nowadays we see all death as the worst possible outcome. I think this is because we have given up on the idea of eternity.

A wonderful etching of the best and worst of life.

For the life of me I can’t keep death from my novels. I don’t even want to, I guess. I’ve made peace with what the muses say must be done. I’ll be happy if one day, for the love of my mission here, I am able to completely let my ego die and get down to just loving the people and things before me. The more I write, the more I love the characters, come what may. The fear of them leading to bad reviews or just plain bad endings diminishes the more I accept death as part of creation.

Do you know what this badge is? It’s a Grand Army of the Republic grave marker for a Civil War veteran. Somewhere a grave goes without its marker. I can’t imagine why, but I couldn’t very well leave it at the fair.

Again I think of the soldiers who died and were buried on plantations or in mass graves or even lovingly by their comrades. The men would often do their best to leave markers made of whatever they had available, most of it not holding up in the weather.

It was the evening before Cold Harbor when an officer spied all of his men crouched over sewing their names written on little sheets of paper to the backs of their jackets so sure they were of the hopelessness of their situation.

My idea is to plant a small garden for this relic of a brave soul’s life, to me unknown, but not really.

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Sunday at Middlemay Farm

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“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it.

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Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

 

The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

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

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

“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