What I Shed Today

a year of lightening up

run to the sea

The curtains have been mostly drawn here at WIST the last couple of weeks. I haven’t given up on the project, but I likely won’t be posting much for several days more.

Three weeks ago my father was enrolled in hospice care. He didn’t have a progressive terminal disease so much as his body just wore out after 91 years. Nimue and I have been going back and forth between our home in Georgia and Mom and Dad’s in East Tennessee, taking turns with my siblings and their spouses as we’ve helped Mom with Dad’s care.

Yesterday morning, in the thin hours before dawn, he left this life.

What I shed today is about letting go … can there be any greater? WIST is also about gaining something. There’s gain, I’m learning, in every release.

Sometime on Saturday or Sunday, Nimue thought she heard Dad murmur, “It’s time to go back to the beginning and start again.”

20141216-dlj-DSC_8071-eBack when they were still young men, U2 wrote a song for a funeral of a friend. In it Bono sings, “You run like a river to the sea.” I thought of that yesterday as I returned to my parent’s home that sits by an old mill dam on Jockey Creek. It flows on to Big Limestone Creek, which joins the Nolichucky River, which drains into the French Broad. The French Broad conflows with the Holston to form the Tennessee. That long waterway touches four states before it finally empties into the Ohio. The generous Ohio gives its waters to the mighty Mississippi.

Does a drop of water know where it’s going when it falls over the dam? Does it dream of, at long last, reaching la Mer?

Bye, Dad. I hope to see you when I come to my time of letting go of the limits of temporality. Till then, though we commend your spirit to God, we keep your life in the salty waters of our memories and love.

Oh, great ocean
Oh, great sea
Run to the ocean
Run to the sea

―U2, “One Tree Hill”


- any desire at all to own a handgun

Sweet Jesus of Nazareth, why?



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+ reverse progress

revdarkwater goes to his Mom and Dad’s home. See revdarkwater go!

He sheds stuff for them. Shed, revdarkwater, shed!

More stuff rains down into his cluttered life.


Sigh, revdarkwater, sigh!

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+ persimmons

I didn’t shed anything today, but in the late afternoon I went for a walk. To stay whole, I need regular visits with the wide world spread under the sky. Across the highway and past the old B & M Milling Company mill, good views of the mountains open up. They were blue at that hour, reserved and removed. I followed Jockey Creek to its mouth at Big Limestone Creek. The waters flow on to the Nolichucky River, but I turned away onto a road that jumps up onto a low ridge. Across from the little geodesic dome house at its crest grow some American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana). I like to visit them in autumn after a few frosts. It looked like they’ve had a good year; lots of flat brown seeds lay by the road. I didn’t see any fruits, though.

I walked along the slowly descending road to another that leads back toward home. Just beyond the railroad crossing, my eyes fell on orange and blue-purple fruits on the ground: persimmons! I’d forgotten that particular tree. I ate two and gathered a handful.

A ripe persimmon is a little scary on a first trial, because it looks and feels like it might have gotten a step too close to spoiled. But each is a bite-sized custard that tastes subtly sweet and of the earth. I’d felt a bit depleted when I set out. I returned nourished on sunshine, rain, and old, old hills.

Mom says if you open a persimmon seed, you may find a picture of a fork, knife, or spoon. A fork predicts a mild winter, a knife a cold and icy trial, and a spoon lots of snow to shovel.

Mom says if you open a persimmon seed, you may find a picture of a fork, knife, or spoon. A fork predicts a mild winter, a knife a cold and icy trial, and a spoon lots of snow to shovel.

Comments welcome … what have you found in a fruit?

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My parents and I are eating our way through Thanksgiving leftovers. In the outbuilding we call the “tool barn,” I’m sorting through leftovers of Dad’s many decades of home improvement and yard care. I made one trip with a trunk-full today to what the county calls a “solid waste convenience center”: rows of dumpsters for materials that can be recycled and a big hydraulic compactor for what can’t.


Our family has always saved extra screws, sawn-off ends of conduit, and broken broom handles for repairs and projects. It was good, I affirm, to be resourceful and frugal. But it seems strange that all that care has come now to shelves and drawers overflowing with odd ends, and no place to go with them but an outpost of the dump.

I dream of establishing Little Free Hardware Stores, modeled on the Little Free Libraries, where extra fasteners and building supplies could be given and gotten for the coin of generosity and gratitude alone. My reality today, though, was that I participated in what I call “the toss.” Not all that long ago, consumption was the name of a dreaded disease. People died of it … still do.

shedding style: recycle, throw away
destination: recycling stream, landfill

Comments welcome … what were you compelled to shed today?

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Like a rolling stone, I’m not gathering any just now. I left our family celebration of Thanksgiving in East Tennessee on Friday afternoon, ricocheted off home and work, and returned to my parents’s home in Limestone before the sheets on the bed in the Noah’s Ark room cooled. (Yeah … all the decorations combine a nautical and zoological theme.) The parental health crises are coming closer together. But what shakes us up helps us move on sometimes. That’s a thought I don’t want to shed along the way.


historical marker just outside Limestone, Tennessee, about its most famous son

shedding style: release

Comments welcome … do you think the journey is the destination?

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My Starbucks Rewards

I don’t have a particular antipathy toward Starbucks. On the other hand, I doubt Leviathan will miss my morsel if I decline to feed it. At home, I patronize our local coffeeshops, but away, I appreciate Starbucks sometimes because I know what to expect from the experience. And occasionally I’ll buy a bag of their beans at the grocery store. But I used to do so more often.

Regular readers of WIST will, I hope, favor me with a smile at my admission I can be kind of cheap. I liked that, until the offer ended, I could turn in an empty bag at any Starbucks location and get a free tall coffee. No longer; now purchase of a bag earns a “star” in the My Starbucks Rewards loyalty program. Well, I joined, entered a bunch of letters and numbers to claim my stars from coffee bags, installed the Starbucks app on my Android phone … somewhere in there unsubbed from the flood of e-mails I started getting … and have yet to earn enough stars for even one cup of coffee. It’s not much positive reinforcement. Consequently one of the postage-stamp-sized “star” coupons has lingered on my desk for weeks, waiting for me to open my password safe to retrieve the key to sign in to my account to enter a long string to take one more step to getting a coffee.

Thinking about it makes me tired. So today I’m shedding My Starbucks Rewards and gaining one fewer claim on my attention. —Wow, having less relationship with Starbucks makes me feel better about our relationship!

shedding style: refuse

Comments welcome … does any customer loyalty program really earn it?

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Fourteen years ago, on a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, Nimue and I visited the Crayola Cafe and Crayola Store. We came away with a serious box of crayons. I liked it because it reminded me of the cigar boxes in which I kept treasures when I was a kid. They spoke to Nimue because the child in her heart dreams of drawing, painting, and generally making art.


But not one of the 120 colors has been put on paper in a waxy trail. The crayons still have all their sharp, fresh-from-the-factory edges. They haven’t even lost their new crayon smell. I felt sad when Nimue said, “If I haven’t used them in 14 years, I’m not likely to now.” But I respect her right to shed. We took them to my family Thanksgiving gathering to offer them to our artsy nieces.

Wonderniece the Sequel said they have a tub of crayons big enough to bathe in. She graciously declined to take any more. Bless her, she shares our values.

So back to Casa de WIST the crayons came today. Next I’ll try to present them to a friend who’s a middle school art teacher. Most of her students get free or reduced-cost school lunches. I think maybe they’d like to have some new crayons, even if they’re 14 years old.

shedding style: give away
destination: art classroom

Comments welcome … are you ever surprised at how much grieving the process of simplifying demands?


a thanksgiving for what I shall not shed

I don’t make them just the way my great-grandmother did, and she almost certainly didn’t cook hers in vegetable broth. But, continuing decades of tradition, homemade noodles will appear at my family’s Thanksgiving meal!


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fear of pastry crusts

“I don’t know why I don’t make pie crust more often,” I said as I cut butter into flour early this morning. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, and we’re making the pies for my family’s feast. Nimue roasted three butternut squash from our garden and prepared a custard of them last night.

“It has a reputation for being difficult,” she answered, “but it’s really not, is it?”

“No,” I agreed, eyeing the wrappers from two full quarters of butter. “On the other hand, maybe I do know why. I never want to stop at a single slice of quiche.”

Whatever I decide and do about that, I’m satisfied with our squash pies so far. I think I’ll shed my fear of making pie crusts.

I could cycle to my parents's house on the calories in that bowl.

I could cycle to my parents’s house on the calories in that bowl.

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Update: our pies turned darker than I expected (perhaps the color came from the spices) but are quite tasty.


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