Into the Woods

The following is a sequel to a story posted by The Ceaseless Reader. It’s titled Sick Day. I recommend you check out other posts from his blog.

The dim light of a gray dawn failed to elevate my mood as I locked my door then turned toward my car, and a sudden cloudburst doused what little cheer I had begun trying to muster.

As I exited the highway and turned onto the treacherous county road winding through the rocky hills on my final approach to work, I found myself once again bemused by how I’d arrived there.  The drive had become so routine that my mind disengages, and muscle memory takes over.

But when a sudden, stentorian ripping sound drew my eyes skyward as I approached the tunnel bored through Crummer’s Knob, and I saw an enormous, hairy arm begin to emerge from the slit in the torn clouds, I was instantly present.  Heart pounding and coated in a sheen of chill sweat, I entered the tunnel, pulled to the side, killed the ignition, and reached for my phone.  “B-Boss,”  I stammered, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it in today.”

My Sequel:

In my rearview mirror, I watched the arm crash to the ground. Silence. Then I heard a faint whimpering sound.

Oh, no, I thought, that giant arm has landed on someone. I have to check it out.

“Er, Boss, I might not make it in at all.” Like forever.

I eased out of the car and crept to the edge of the tunnel. The whimpering grew louder; it was coming from the direction of the arm. I looked around and MY CRIMINY! That arm was just an arm! I mean, that was all there was to it! No body attached to it! OH, MY OTHER CRIMINY! It was the arm that was crying!

Now I’m telling you, if you have never heard an arm cry, the sound is downright heartbreaking. I tiptoed closer until I was near the hand.

“Er, Mr. Arm,” I began; then I noticed the fingernails.

“Er, Ms. Arm,” I said, “are you alright?”

The hand started horribly at the sound of my voice and began to shake.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” I said. “I’m here to help.”

Oh boy, I thought, how do you help a disembodied arm? And a very large one at that!



The Time Project: Journey


On March 31, 2017, The Book of Rhino ~ The Revelation was released on Amazon. What began several years ago, as a single sentence, was now a 372-page novel. The elation I felt at the time was tempered by a feeling of sadness that the writing process was finished. It has always been that way whenever I finish a writing project because, when it comes to writing, I enjoy the process more than the product. In a broader sense, I enjoy the journey more than the destination. I prefer a road trip to an airplane ride whenever I take a travel vacation.

When I was a young girl, my sister and I made an occasional trip to “Paris” (my parents’ bedroom.) It was always a special treat to load up our slippers with Skunk, Mole, Troll, and Mountain Horse (the trio) and take them on a journey through our house. Each room was a different country with its own geography and scenic areas to explore. Each country had its own delights and dangers. It took us all day, and when we reached our final destination, all the people rejoiced.

What I think is most illuminating about our journeys is how infrequently we made them. However much we treasured those trips, we did not make them very often. Perhaps some childhood instinct warned us that what made our trips to Paris so precious was their rarity.

The other day I happened upon a website with the following article posted: “How to Write a Book: The Secret to a Super-Fast First Draft.” While I am sure that there are reasons for wanting to write a super-fast first draft, they are a mystery to me–especially if one has a choice in the matter. I have had to write quickly under time constraints. I have had to produce a first draft and a finished product in a matter of days, but I did not enjoy it. It was like flying from California to Colorado in a few hours. Certainly you arrive at our destination, but you bypass the wild canyons and cliffs of Utah.

I have once again started another writing project. Everyday I write and write and write. I am once again on a road trip, passing through other countries in which people whom I don’t know live and move and have their being. Along the way I will stop and look at canyons and cliffs. I will eat lunch in places like McFarland and Lodi, or at Jack Ranch near the curve that took James Dean’s life.

In his essay Odyssey, Aldo Leopold describes the journey of a single atom that, in a year’s time, helps build a flower, which becomes an acorn, which fattens a deer, which feeds a hunter. My current writing project began with a single word Time and is flowering before my eyes. I do not know what it will become; perhaps it will remain a flower. It that is all it does, it will have been a wonderful journey.


About Adjectives

The Word-of-the-Day is Cozy, an adjective meaning to give a warm, comfortable feeling. Cozy is great for words like room, fire, cabin. It’s probably not so great for other words. For example, the following is a description of the book Rooster Bar by John Grisham.

“Three law students at a sleazy for-profit law school hope to expose the student-loan banker who runs it.”

Replace the word “sleazy” with the word “cozy.” It’s just not the same story. Some adjectives go with some nouns but not others. Consider the word “rugged.” This is an adjective that easily fits the noun “individualist.” However, a cozy individualist or a fluffy individualist does not have the same magic.

(Note to self: I would be curious to  read a book about a cozy individualist just to see what he or she would be like.)

Adjectives are important. The following is a description of the book Origin by Dan Brown.

“A symbology professor goes on a perilous mission with a beautiful museum director.”

In the first place, the mission must be perilous, not cozy, and in the second place, the museum director must be beautiful. If she isn’t, then forget it. There is no story. Who wants to read about a plain museum director? Why would the symbology professor risk his life on a perilous mission if his partner was not beautiful?

I did find a book description in which the adjective “cozy” might work. It’s about the book The Midnight Line by Lee Child.

“Jack Reacher tracks down the owner of a pawned West Point ring and stumbles upon a large criminal enterprise.”

I think it could be rewritten as:

“Jack Reacher tracks down the owner of a pawned West Point ring and stumbles upon a cozy enterprise.”

That works for me; that is, if I were interested in the exploits of a pawned West Point ring.

Hiding Inside a Laugh

Parrish-Pierrots Lanterns

And I’ll find a place inside a laugh,
To separate the wheat from the chaff.
I feel that I owe it to someone.

David Crosby ~ Almost Cut My Hair


One of challenges adults face is being torn between two choices when neither of which is obviously superior to the other. I am referring to the essential life-changing questions that I think we all face at some time in our lives.

Essential Questions

Which college should I attend? Should I go to a trade school or a traditional school? Should I go into business for myself?

Do I want to have a life partner? Should we get married? Where should I/we live? Do I want to buy a house or rent? What can I afford?

The Affective Filter

Experience has taught me that I make my best decisions when my mind, body, and heart are in agreement and are residing in a low-stress place, that is, when my affective filter is low. To lower my affective filter, I “find a place inside a laugh.” Then I am better able to separate the wheat from the chaff in making life decisions. I owe it to myself.

In the Classroom

I used laughter nearly everyday in the classroom when I was teaching. I told stories, I sang songs, I caught every little joke that wandered by and waved it in front of the students. I knew that if the students were smiling or laughing (even at me), they would be more relaxed and their minds more accepting of the mathematics they were required to learn. It worked. One of my classroom mottos came from Oscar Wilde:  “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

Finding a Good Laugh

I recently came across a blog about dangling modifiers that gave me a good laugh. I am linking to North of Andover in the hope that next time you encounter a laugh that has lost its way, you can revive it with a dangling modifier. Then the two of you can go to a safe place together and make a life-changing decision.

Daily Prompt:Torn

When Music Calls You


Knowledge enormous makes a God of me.
Names, deeds, gray legends, dire events, rebellions,
Majesties, sovran voices, agonies,
Creations and destroyings, all at once
Pour into the wide hollows of my brain,
And deify me, as if some blithe wine
Or bright elixir peerless I had drunk,
And so became immortal
John KeatsThe Fall of Hyperion: A Dream

Rhino noticed that Trevor seemed more distracted than usual. He cornered him after supper one evening and asked him what was the matter. At first, Trevor made no response; he merely looked at Rhino and then at the floor.

“Come now, Trev,” said Rhino. “I know something is bothering you. You may as well tell me ‘cause whether or not you do, it will still bother you.”

Trevor glanced around to make sure they were alone.

“If I tell you, you must promise not to tell anyone else,” he said.”

“I promise,” said Rhino.

“All right, then.” Trevor took a deep breath.

“Two nights ago, I dreamed I was on top of a hill overlooking a large city,” he said. “Somehow I knew it was Rome. In the distance I could just make out the outline of the coliseum. The next instant I was inside its arena; the place was filled to capacity. I was on some kind of raised platform looking down on the crowd. There were shouts, cries, laughter, and whistles intermingled with the smell of smoke, food, perfume, and sweat. The crowd lay below me like a restless beast; occasionally it raised its great head and bellowed for the sheer pleasure of it. Suddenly the roar of the crowd intensified as a lone figure stepped onto a stage in the center of the area. It was a young man. He raised one hand and the place fell silent. Hoisting a harp in his arms, he plucked a string or two, and began to sing.”

“I watched in amazement as the singer played the crowd as deftly as he played his instrument. Everyone listened in rapturous silence. Their faces were masks of worship, and their bodies vibrated with devotion. The beast lay belly up before the hand of its god. Suddenly the singer waved his arms and yelled and the throng of people went wild. Women began screaming and weeping, waving their arms and dancing ecstatically. Men joined them, leaping and twisting in frenzy.”

Trevor hung his head, his face flushed.

“I began to envy the singer,” he said. “He seemed to be everything I wanted to be. Suddenly he leaped into the air and was caught by a group of women. They jostled him over their heads, and they tore his clothes. His naked body lay spread-eagle above them. I watched in horror as the women began tearing the hair from the singer’s head. They scratched out his eyes, they raked long claws down his bare chest, and finally, in a fierce frenzy, they tore his limbs and his head from his body. With a look of triumph, one of the women tossed the singer’s bloodied head at my feet. Its few remaining wisps of hair were long and golden…”

Trevor’s eyes filled with tears.
“Rhino, do you think that is me? Is the dream a warning? Perhaps music is not my calling after all.”

Rhino looked thoughtfully at his friend. Then he shook his head.

“I don’t think so, but what do I know? I’m no musician. I think you need to talk to Malcolm the bard. He’s had a lot of experience in that area. I’ll bet he would know how to interpret your dream. Let’s go.”

Daily Prompt:Calling

The Difference Between a Dolphin and a Porpoise

Pier Dolphin

“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Bill Wilson

A Moral Compass

Donald Trump has over forty million followers on Twitter, yet he cannot get a single Democratic senator to support his agenda. Why is that? I think one of the reasons is that he and the Republicans in Congress have a defective moral compass. They are so single-minded on what they want to do and how they want to do it that they have overlooked the “why.”

(Note: “For the American people” is not a valid reason. That trite phrase is used to justify almost everything that comes out of Washington these days.
“Mr. Grinch, why did you steal Christmas?”
“It was for the American people.”)

A moral compass is a set of values that directs a person to make ethical decisions. A moral compass points to the truth. A moral compass is based on simple principles, not complicated rules.

Principles Over Personalities

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, its only two members. After a few years, its membership increased as its message began to spread by word-of-mouth. Thinking that method too limited, Bill Wilson considered publicizing their work. Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and the Saturday Evening Post ran articles about Alcoholics Anonymous (A. A.) which dramatically increased its membership.

Bill Wilson wrote that “other newspapers and magazines wanted A.A. stories. Film companies wanted to photograph us. Radio, and finally television, besieged us with requests for appearances. What should we do? As this tide of offering public approval swept in, we realized that it could do us incalculable good or great harm.”

Bill and Dr. Bob decided to adhere to A. A.’s underlying principle of anonymity, even if it cost them publicity and popularity. They trusted in their moral compass to guide them, at the risk of losing members. They said no to the media and publicity; nevertheless, A.A. membership continued to grow. At the time of Bill’s death in 1971, there were over 300,000 members of A.A. meeting in over 16,000 groups. Today there are over two million members of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A moral compass weighs decisions in terms of long-term consequences. It seeks the good of the many over the few. It invests for the future good instead of the present expediency. It represents the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise.

Dolphin or Porpoise

Both dolphins and porpoises are highly intelligent creatures. The navy has been able to train dolphins to find and rescue lost swimmers. But they do not train porpoises. As intelligent as porpoises are, they are not worth taking the time to train because they do not live as long as dolphins. Dolphins live an average of forty years; porpoises live an average of nine. A dolphin is a better investment of time and effort.

A moral compass is a worthwhile investment with benefits lasting a lifetime. Anyone at any time and at any age can develop a effective moral compass. It is like a dolphin.

Essential Questions

What do I want? Why do I want it? Who will benefit? Who will not? What will be the result ten years from now? twenty years from now? fifty years from now? Is what I want a dolphin or a porpoise? Is it worth it?

“Visions and dreams are the language of the soul; the true heart hears and understands.”
The Book of Rhino

Daily Prompt:Compass



What a knack there is to that
Acting like a born aristocrat
We got elegance, if you ain’t got elegance
ou can never ever carry it off.
(Excerpt from the song “Elegance” by Jerry Herman from the musical Hello, Dolly!)

Elegance is defined as the quality of being graceful or stylish in appearance or manner. I wonder how important it is to the human race. Are people more likely to value others for how elegant they consider them? Can elegant people carry off behavior that non-elegant people cannot? Are some people naturally elegant? Can elegance be acquired?

I refuse to imitate elegance in order to be socially acceptable. I expect to be valued for qualities such as honesty, integrity, kindness, and good table manners. When I am in public, I take care to avoid any behavior that makes other people uncomfortable; I don’t shout, burp, throw things, or overturn apple carts in the hope that my efforts are enough be agreeable. I was at a nice restaurant one time, dancing on the dance floor, when a woman, for some reason, lifted her top, exposing her breasts bouncing around in time to the beat. I don’t do things like that. To attempt to be elegant is, for me, an exercise in disingenuousness. I have not been born with outward elegance, and I’m not going to fake it.

On the other hand, elegance is also defined as the quality of being ingenious in function and/or design. I love that kind of elegance. I rejoice in the elegance of a mathematical proof. If someone finds an elegant solution to a complex problem, I kiss the hem of his or her garment. An elegant thought process is enough to herald the Rapture. That’s the kind of elegance I can sink my teeth into.

(Note to self: Can one sink one’s teeth–figuratively speaking– into the elegance of ingenuity? Re-read Nisbett’s book Intelligence and How to Get It for some ideas.)

But, on the other hand, what do I know? I suspect that being elegant is related to being beautiful. It may be that elegance, like beauty, is a superficial quality that a select few are born with. Or not. I am going to have to think about it. Perhaps I will formulate an elegant hypothesis and proof. I would love that!

Daily Prompt:Elegance

Saints and Aints

Homer-Beach Boys

(Rhino Between the Lines)

“What does it mean to be saintly?” asked Amalia.

“It means to be like a saint,” Elbert replied.

“What’s a saint?”

“What! Don’t you know what a saint it?” said Skandar. “I thought everyone knew that.”

Amalia shrugged.

“A saint is a holy person, someone real religious. They pray and fast all the time and do good works.”

“How can they survive if they fast all the time?”

“Well, they don’t do it all the time; they just do it enough so everyone knows they are saints.”

“If course,” said Elbert, “people usually aren’t considered saints until after they’re dead. You have to look at how they lived over their entire lifetime.”

“Then are some people born saints? I mean, how do you know? Can someone not be born a saint and turn into one later on?”

“I guess so,” said Wilfred. “You see, there are saints and there are ‘ain’ts’. If at first you ain’t a saint, you could become one later if you work at it. On the other hand, you could start off like a saint and end up like an ‘ain’t.”

Amalia laughed.

“That’s funny,” she said. “Which would you rather be?”

“Right now, I would rather be an ‘ain’t’,” said Skandar, “’cause I smell fresh-baked buns. That puts a fellow off fasting for a while.”

“Do you have to fast to be a saint?”

“Well…it does help,” said Elbert, “but I think you can make up for it by doing extra good works.”

“Great! I will share my buns with all of you,” said Skandar. “Just make sure you record it somewhere so people will think I’m a saint.”

“You ain’t a saint just because you share a bun or two,” said Wilfred. “You have to do something good every day for the rest of your life. You would have to share your buns everyday until you die.”

“All right, I will. Wilfred, Amalia, and Elbert, you may have whatever buns life sends my way.”

“So, you promise to give away all your buns?” asked Amalia. “You won’t save any for yourself?”

“I won’t need to,” said Skandar. “Saint Amalia, Saint Elbert, and Saint Wilfred will all share their buns with me.”

Daily Prompt:Saintly

Old Sole

Route 66 Car

I have been young, and now I am old, old enough to tell my story, old enough to have a story to tell. When I was young, I saw my life running along a familiar route; but now I see that I have been traveling along a curve of unique and unexpected twists.

Age, with all its wrinkles, dings, and scratches, has at least one advantage over youth. Age wears the Patina of accumulated years, years which give an old soul greater perspective based on experience. I know the road. It’s worn me down a bit, but I ain’t dead yet.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What about the thousands of words a picture inspires? I think they would be interesting to read.
The Book of Rhino

Performing Selves

The Daily Prompt is the word Sparkle. For some reason, it reminded me of something Susan Cain wrote in her book Quiet regarding the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.

Around the turn of the twentieth century…America had shifted from what influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up a Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never recover.

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a personality” was not widespread until the twentieth.

But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.

“The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”

Personally, I do not mind all the “performing selfs” out there. What I do mind is my expected participation in the performance. I will sparkle in no one’s play.

My ship is sailing to Byzantium. It may even have landed there. But I am not going to live in the city. I will build myself a little hut on the shore and watch the waves.
The Book of Rhino

Driftwood House