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February 01, 2012


You make your January slow-down sound interesting and not so bad, in fact you have still kept quite busy. I'm still in a slump energy-wise and therefore creatively as well, but I accept it now as part of life and the movement of the seasons and the body's way of dealing with it. As the days get longer and brighter the focus will move from inwards to outwards, from laziness to activity.

Sorry to hear about the flood in your apartment. Hope the renos will be clean and efficient without too much disruption. Here our eyes are growing bigger as we watch the construction begin next door, and wondering if we may have to escape somewhere during the worst time.

Apartment flooding sucks but good to hear there is movement to resolution.Just back from climbing in Patagonia and when we exchanged emails about this and Chilean writer Pablo Neruda earlier you recommended his "The Heights of Macchu Picchu" A few of us before heading home spent a couple of days in Santiago from which we did a day trip to the seaside resort of Valparaiso.There,on a hill overlooking the harbour,sits one of the great writer's houses which has been turned into a museum.I bought a copy of his Memoirs in the gift shop.Later I ducked into a restaurant off main square where an elderly waiter and I,me with no spanish, and he with halting english,fashioned a conversation.We spoke a little of Pablo Neruda as he saw I had his Memoirs out.Then he told me if I wanted to understand the dictatoria of the Pinochet years i needed to read Isabel Allende starting with her " House of the Spirits" I told him of the time in 2009 i stopped by a bakery in a small village in the Italian Dolomites and there in big letters on a wall was a quote by her in spanish which i had later translated to read "The Baker and the Poet are brothers in the work of feeding the soul" Shaking hands as i was leaving I promised i would read this author and I reminded myself I need to speak to more waiters.So an elevating conclusion to January and a welcome counterpoint to my earlier in the trip failure to summit.I had been weighed down by the realization i may be getting too old for this type of mountaineering.Self pity had been nibbling at the edges.

Dear John -- very good to hear from you, I had been thinking about you and your trip and our conversation about books, so this is a happy continuation of that. By all means, do read "The House of the Spirits" -- I still think it's her best book and one that I really enjoyed. I envy your stay in Santiago and Valparaiso and the visit to one of Neruda's homes. "Macchu Picchu" aside, my favorite book of his is probably the Love Sonnets, though I think he would have been a difficult husband to have! For those of us who find echoes of everything human in nature, these poems express a great deal about love. My edition has the Spanish on one side and the English on the other -- I don't really know Spanish but have enjoyed reading the originals aloud to myself. Meanwhile, your quote about the Baker and the Poet is one to remember.

Getting older is no fun in lots of ways, and accepting new physical limitations is especially hard. I sympathize and have felt those nibbles of self-pity too. I'll be 60 in September and am not looking forward to it but trying to devote some time to developing an attitude that will help instead of hinder as we head into the years ahead. Humor, and continuing to do as much as possible seem to be at the head of the list, but having companions on the journey is the best --

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying a change of pace and the tests were all for the good. I'm thinking about aging, too. My skin suddenly feels different. It doesn't happen at a steady rate, it seems to come in leaps, just like the leaps I see in my kids' growth, only the other way. I can't help but think that it's making us ready to leave the earth, to recognize what matters and cherish it, to let everything else go, to let go of some things we cherish, too--because in the end, we're leaving it and going on.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.