Putting Things Together

Then I remembered the ginger ale.

I was just about to put the cabbage in.  I had plenty of butter in the pan and the pancetta had rendered out its fat, but I still needed some braising liquid.  We're out of the frozen cubes of stock that Lynn makes when we've finished a rotisserie chicken or I would've used a couple of those.  I was about to give up and grab the vermouth when I gave the carrots and onions and garlic and pancetta one more stir.  The carrots' orange was bright and glistening in the butter and fat and I remembered the carrots braised in butter and ginger ale that I'd fixed some months ago.  Happy boy, now.  That's it.  Hint of ginger and a touch of sweet.  Lynn keeps a rack of soda cans there near the kitchen door.  Splash some in.  Ten minutes covered, then a minute more for the last of the liquid to cook off.  Finished with a few dashes of sherry vinegar.  

The plan had evolved during the day.  There's quite a bit in the refrigerator to work with and now that I'm taking on another meal each week I was mulling menus.  Three-quarters of a head of cabbage in the lower drawer.  That'd be easy with a bit of onion.  I asked Lynn if she'd get a kielbasa out of the freezer.  I could steam chunks of that in with the cabbage and onion.

Then, after I'd gone upstairs and was doing the morning exercising, I thought of the pancetta.  I'd been musing about an amatriciana or a carbonara later in the week, but the pancetta would go well with the cabbage.  I finished my stretches and sent a text to Lynn -- leave the kielbasa, I'll use up the pancetta.  Later on decided that garlic was now in order and that carrots would add some color and heft.  I was still making it up all the way to the moment I remembered the ginger ale.

This is my favorite way of working in the kitchen.  No recipe.  No measuring.  A notion of a plan.  I'll browse recipes online for ideas (that's where the sherry vinegar came from).  Then I'll try to turn myself loose.

It comes from being decades in the kitchen.  Some good cookbooks that teach technique and not just following recipes.  (Thank you, Jack Bishop.)  Paying close attention when we're out to eat at the way our favorite chefs find balance in the unusual.  (Praises to Duane Nutter.)  

And then there's the competition with Lynn.

In the years before the short circuit, when I was responsible for getting supper on every weeknight, I loved the chopping and combining and stirring.  It was so wonderfully concrete after another day spent planning and cajoling and nudging and trying to help the people I worked with accomplish things.  I was good at that and it was marvelously rewarding but there was rarely a sense of accomplishment that felt like completion.  Opening the wine and putting the plates on the table gave me that.

Then the years when I was incapable.  Dragging myself exhausted after working through the day, hands enfeebled, not able to stand for more than a few minutes at a time.  Lynn had to take on all the daily cooking.  It was years before I was able to do more than the very occasional special meal or my pasta lunch on Saturdays.  The Christmas spaghetti.  Josie helping me with potato pancakes.

Slowly it came back.  Truly, the competition with Lynn helped.  She expanded her repertoire, continued to hone her skills, increase her knowledge (thanks in no small part to her "beloved Kenji") and emphasize appearance as much as flavor and balance.  I'd always relished the fact that we were equal partners in the kitchen, albeit with very different styles.  Now I was clearly falling behind.

A meal like last night's, the pleasure that came from fixing it and eating it, reassures me.  I don't think I'll ever be her equal in presentation.  I just don't have that visual sense.  But I'm back to doing my share.


What Comes Next

"Are you moving?"

It's a common question when I tell people I'm retiring from UAB this fall.

I explain that we moved into Lynn's dreamhouse 17 years ago, that it's stuffed with artwork and books, perched up above a pretty little lake with swans and great blue herons, that Marian and Josie live just 20 minutes away, and that for all of our state's flaws, we're very happy in Alabama.  Plus, Lynn just installed a touch-action faucet in the kitchen.  She's quite giddy about it.

So no, we're not moving.

"What are you going to do?"

That's the other obvious question.  I point out that I'm retiring from UAB, but not from the rest of my life.  I'm still on the editorial boards of several journals and I enjoy that quite a bit.  I'll be able to spend more time on OSI.  There's the steering committee for Metadata 2020, a project that I think is very important.  I'll keep pushing for open data and a more open, affordable and transparent scholarly communication ecosystem.  I'm not going to go looking for consulting gigs, but if some interesting projects came my way, I'd certainly be open to them.

I hope to do more writing, both professional and personal, starting with posting on the blog more often.  And see what else develops.

I'll gradually increase my daily exercising.  I'm very consistently doing 25-30 minutes a day of stretching and leg strengthening and it makes a tremendous difference.  I'd like to increase that to an hour.  My goal is to walk with confidence for two to three blocks using only the walking stick for support.  That won't happen soon, but there's no reason to think I can't get there eventually.  "Neuroplasticity."  My favorite word.

I'll have more time for guitar and harmonica.  I can awkwardly strum my way through Helpless and Bird On A Wire now, although I wouldn't want to do it in public.  That's another goal.

I'll pick up making dinner another night each week (I do two nights a week now) and I'll take over most of the kitchen cleanup.  I still don't have enough touch sensitivity and hand dexterity to trust myself with the good glassware, but I can handle the rest and it's a chore that Lynn really hates.

All that being said, having watched a good number of my friends retire in the past few years the one constant seems to be that the reality is different from whatever it is they thought it would be.  So I have plans -- I don't want to wake up one morning wondering, what now?  But I'm not going to hold myself too tightly to any of them.

Except that I did promise Lynn about the dishes.

 


This Is Me

Invited to contribute a piece to the latest issue of Against the Grain, I wrote a short essay on The Insufficiency of Facts.  I'm reasonably pleased with it.  There's also this brief author profile -- one of those where you supply answers to prefab questions.  It was fun.  And the answers turned out to be true!

Born and lived: Born in the little paper mill town of Kaukauna, Wisconsin and lived there until college.  Then other towns in Wisconsin, on to Washington DC and St. Louis before landing in Birmingham over 20 years ago.

Early life: A precocious and reckless reader, writer from an early age, guitar player, philosophy student, poet and long-haired denizen of the counter culture.  Factory worker and forklift driver until libraries got their hooks in me.

Professional career and activities: Post-grad associate at the National Library of Medicine, medical library director in St. Louis & Birmingham, now data strategist.  Editor, essayist, itinerant speaker.  Dweller in the nexus where library interests and publisher interests intersect.  Open access heretic who believes there’s more for librarians and publishers to agree on than to fight about – if we’re willing to listen.

Family: Lynn, Marian & Josie – the three generations of women who illuminate my life.

In my spare time: A persistent and reckless reader, writer in the early morning, guitar & harmonica player, student of philosophy & poems, bald & bearded iconoclast.

Favorite books: Joyce’s Ulysses, all of Herriman’s Krazy Kat comix, anything/everything by Jim Harrison, Rainer Rilke, Seamus Heaney. After that my list would change every week.

Pet peeves: People so sure of themselves that they think they have nothing to learn from people who disagree with them.

Most memorable career achievement: Report and Recommendations From The Scholarly Publishing Roundtable.

Goal I hope to achieve in five years:  I am remarkably bad at five year goals.

How/where do I see the industry in five years:  A fool’s game, but since you insist:  The major developments of significance will be happening at the edges of contemporary library and publishing organizations.  They’ll have to do with slowly emerging standards for handling open data, a shift in repository focus from copies of peer reviewed articles to other scholarly outputs, a general shift within the academy toward evaluation of scholarly output that doesn’t rely primarily on peer reviewed articles, and increasingly robust discovery tools for identifying info resources of interest regardless of format and location.  The people working in contemporary library and publishing organizations will struggle to adapt to these changes.  Some few will manage to get out in front.


You Work For Us Now

Poor Donald.  If he's going to feel compelled to tweet his annoyance every time someone reminds him that he's going to be held to account for fulfilling his pledge to be president of all the people, he's going to have very busy little thumbs.

The message from the Hamilton cast to the VP elect was perfectly respectful and entirely appropriate.  The show itself is a stirring evocation of the wonder  that is the American experiment -- that people from all backgrounds, from all over the world, can come together and create a nation, create community based on an idea -- freedom of thought and belief, based on mutual caring and respect.  As Jon Stewart said in his recent CBS interview, this ain't natural.  It goes against our tribal instincts.  It's hard work.  And it's work that never ends.  But it's the work that keeps America great.

I spent some time this afternoon watching Sharon Jones videos.  Amidst the messages of people mourning her loss, I wanted to be reminded of how intensely alive she was. Watch her in Paris, taking the crowd through the Soul Train dances.  A slim figure in an orange hoodie sneaks out from the wings with a guitar.  Prince couldn't stay away.

I keep a picture of Bowie on my desk, one of those last promo shots of him, taken just weeks before he died, jaunty in his fedora, brilliant grin on his face.  The pictures were released on his birthday.  Of course he knew what he was facing.  If he  could grin like that, so can we.

Face it.  We all die.  Nobody's figured out how to avoid it.  What counts is the joy and creation with which we live.  The ways in which we reach out and care for each other.  Our artists do it the most directly, but it's in our grasp every day, in every human encounter.  That's what keeps us going, even though we know we're going into the dark.

Brandon Dixon told the audience to stop booing before he read the statement.  "There's nothing to boo here. ... We're all here sharing a story of love..."  He knows that love wins.  Even when it's not easy.  Maybe especially when it's not easy.

The President-elect and the crew he's gathering around him don't understand that.  They think that strength comes from being hard.  That greatness comes from smashing your enemies.  And that your enemies are those who disagree with you, who will remind you of the depth of the responsibilities that you've taken on.

Poor Donald.  Sad to be so disconnected from the joy and passion that makes life worth living, that defeats death, in the end.  He's in for a rough four years.  He needs to be reminded every day that he's taken on a sacred trust.  That he's going to be held to account.  It can be done respectfully, as the Hamilton cast did.  But it will be done relentlessly.  He's not going to like it.  But he's working for us now.


Data and the Librarians

It was the launch of the first publicly available bibliographic database, the very beginning of online search.  And it led some librarians to think it was time to leave the profession.

In her monthly column in the MLA News, the sage Lucretia McClure points us to Irwin Pizer's 1994 Doe Lecture where he describes the launch of the SUNY Biomedical Communication Network in 1968.  I've always been quite proud of the fact that online searching was invented by medical librarians.  Without Irwin Pizer (and others) there'd've been no Sergey Brin.

While it's true that online searching was scary enough to drive some librarians into early retirement, others (as Lucretia says) "could not wait to dive into the automation revolution."  By the time I entered the profession a decade and a half later, online searching was shifting from being a specialized skill to a basic proficiency that all librarians were expected to have.  Then came the World Wide Web and librarians who based their sense of their professional selves on their competence in searching the Dialog databases or MEDLINE felt the ground lurch beneath them once again.  I believe there may have been a few more early retirements.

But of course there were more librarians who were excited about it all.  And I noticed to my delight, as the decade of the nineties wound on, that at conferences it was easy to see more new graduates of library schools eager to make their mark in the online world.  Librarians knew how to surf the web.  Librarians were cool.  Pizer's BCN was ancient history.

It was timely for me to be reminded of this this morning as I'm getting ready to review a couple of data management books: Lisa Federer's edited collection, The Medical Library Association Guide to Data Management For Librarians and Margaret Henderson's Data Management: A Practical Guide for Librarians.  The shift into developing data management services that we're seeing in academic libraries across the country promises to be at least as radical and disruptive as the invention of online searching fifty years ago.

I'm sure there are some librarians who are watching "big data" conversations taking over conferences and discussion lists and thinking this may be a good time to get out.  But the webinar I attended this morning,"Creating a Campus-wide Research Data Services Committee: The Good, The Bad, and The…" makes it clear that just as in those earlier upheavals, there are smart and energetic librarians eager to take it on. (This was part one -- part two is Thursday morning, 11/17).

But it's a huge undertaking and while there are many reasons that it makes sense for librarians to take on these roles, few practicing librarians have the day-to-day skills that are necessary.  There's a huge learning curve.  And this morning's presentations make clear how very far we have yet to go.

Those earlier revolutions, online database searching and navigating the World Wide Web, applied technology to the traditional domain of the reference librarian.  They vastly expanded the information resources available, with a concomitant increase in the challenge of acquiring mastery, but it was still fundamentally the librarian in the library, working with students and faculty, helping them find and use the information resources they required.

The challenges of data management might seem similar, calling on the skills of the cataloger and indexer to provide metadata and context for datasets.  But the shift is more radical.  It requires a new kind of partnership between the librarian and the researcher and new forms of organization and collaboration between the library and the other components of the institution.  What is apparent from this morning's presentations and is a theme that runs through most of what I see as librarians work to develop data management services, is how isolated librarians typically are from understanding the range of work and activity that makes up the days of the average faculty researcher.  It's not really surprising.  Although librarians work with people from all across campus, our interactions with them usually touch only a very small part of their daily activity.  And because we are so focused on providing a particular library service to them, we can miss their bigger picture.  This myopia affects the development of data management services.  The natural tendency, because this is the way we've always operated, is to define and develop a set of services that we think researchers need, and then try to figure out how to get them to use those services.

I touched on this in my recent essay in JeSLIB.  As I've been thinking about the challenges of data management over the past two years I've had two significant advantages for developing what I've come to believe is a necessary perspective.  First, I'm operating out of the Provost's Office rather than the library.  This is incredibly useful in keeping me focused on what researchers need, rather than what the library can provide.  Second, I come to this after nineteen years as director of the health sciences library, where I operated as a member of the Council of Deans, part of the senior leadership of the university.  I know the people, I know the issues, I know the politics.  In too many libraries, the primary responsibility for developing data management services has been turned over to a mid-level librarian who usually has other responsibilities as well.  But to have the kind of impact that is necessary, these services have to be collaborations with the Research office, Offices of Sponsored Programs, research centers, IT and others.  Mid-level librarians generally don't even know what all these entities are, much less who are the people in them and what challenges they face.  Doing that kind of outreach is going to require that the senior people in the library do some of the heavy lifting, opening doors and clearing the way for those smart and energetic data librarians that they're hiring and training.

Fifteen years ago it was common to see ads for electronic resources librarians.  I'd look at these ads and tell my staff, if we're not all becoming electronic resources librarians to some degree, we're not doing the job that our communities need us to do.  I feel the same way about data management librarians.  Just as online database searching and WWW navigation became bread and butter services for libraries, helping the institution do a better job of managing research data will become just a regular thing that librarians do.

For now, though, those pioneering librarians are like Pizer's crew at SUNY, half a century ago, inventing the future without a map, with only a sketch of a plan, but with great enthusiasm and, as Pizer said, thinking back on his career, "a sense of wonder."  What a fabulous time to be a librarian!


Trustworthiness in the Post-Fact World

How long will it take for the Trump voters to realize they've been conned?

Among the most confounding items in the avalanche of pre-election polls was the finding that Americans viewed Trump as significantly more trustworthy than Clinton. For those of us still living in the fact-based world, this was incomprehensible. Trump's penchant for brazen lying has been well documented. His willingness to say things that are clearly not true, even when there's easily controvertible video evidence baffled observers who looked to past campaigns and saw how quickly a candidate foundered when confronted with misstatements far less blatant than those Trump makes on a daily basis. Clinton, on the other hand, was rated the second most truthful politician of the dozen or so that Politifact rated over the course of the long campaign.  Despite the non-stop chanting by Trump's supporters, Clinton's lies were far, far fewer and of much less consequence than Trump's.  How could it be that most Americans viewed Trump as more trustworthy?

Elizabeth Kolbert pointed the way in a piece in the New Yorker. We now live in a post-fact world (as Ron Suskind explained when reporting on the Bush White House more than a decade ago).  Facts are mushy, malleable things.  Everybody lies and everybody throws "facts" around as weapons to prove their own points of view.  All media are biased, so you're foolish to take at face value anything that you see.  You can't base your trust on "facts."

You go with your gut.  When Trump contradicts himself, it still feels like he means exactly what he says in the moment that he says it.  It doesn't matter if he says something different the next day or the next hour.  Those are just "facts."  His willingness to say horrifying things is evidence that he "tells it like it is."  He's not going to modify his language to appease some PC norms about what it's okay for a candidate to say.  Clinton, on the other hand, appeared to be always hedging, always carefully thinking about the impact of what she was going to say before she said it.  Even if she was saying true things, how could you tell if she really believed it?  And that's what counts -- belief, not facts.  Belief is all you can trust.

On the internet, an article in the New York Times and a piece on Breitbart carry the same weight.  How do you choose?  Whose biases line up with your own?  Who gives you more comfort and reassures you that they see the world the way you do?  "Trustworthiness" in the post-fact world has nothing to do with an adherence to things that are true.  What matters are the words that justify and confirm.  Trump has been so good at that.

So how long will it take for the Trump voters to realize they've been conned?  The Donald is loading his transition team with the Washington insiders, lobbyists and plutocrats he railed against (along with his adorable children, of course).  Drain the swamp?  Hah!  McConnell's cynical strategy appears to have worked.  The Kentucky Tortoise smiles his oily smile at the President-elect and thinks, "You're my bitch now."

The Republicans aren't going to allow 35% tariffs on companies moving operations out of the U.S.  They have corporate profits to protect.  Coal is not coming back unless natural gas production is squelched.  The markets won't let that happen.  Now Trump thinks some pieces of Obamacare are worth keeping.  He says he hasn't given much thought to a special prosecutor to lock up Hillary.  He won't answer questions about banning Muslims.  Parts of the wall will be a fence and he's going to start discussions with Mexico on how it'll be paid for.  He might deport as many undocumented as Obama has, but he's not focused on that right now.  So how long will it take for the Trump voters to realize they've been conned?

That Trump won't be able to actualize some of his most egregious slogans should give comfort to no one.  The viciousness that he's unleashed won't be easily restrained.  When the WSJ asked him if some of his campaign rhetoric had gone too far he said, "No. I won."  He tells Leslie Stahl that he's "surprised" and "so saddened" to hear about the violence committed in his name.  But hatred works for him.  And when the Trump voters finally do realize they've been conned and try to call him to account, he'll turn the blame elsewhere.  His failures have always been someone else's fault.  He'll resort to stirring up the rage and resentment that has worked for him so well this year and direct it at those who've been his targets all along.  He's very good at that.

He's betting that in the post-fact world he can keep saying the things that energize his supporters and garner him the praise and adulation he seeks above all else, no matter what his administration actually does or doesn't do.  He might be right.

I'm not giving up on facts.  But with Bannon in the White House the American Experiment has a fierce and formidable adversary.  Facts won't be enough.  We need to tell better stories.  Trump will rely on hatred and fear because that works for him.  Those who oppose him have to be better than that.  The opposition stories have to speak to what is best about America.  Stories that are true.  That greatness comes when we lift each other, when we listen to each other, when we take each other in.  I still believe that the arc of history bends toward justice.  But it demands that we work for it.

 


One Day At A Time

I empathize with the shock and anger of the many who say they are determined to oppose everything that President Trump does.  I get it.  He's demonstrated over and over again that he's a ghastly human being.  He has the potential to do tremendous damage to everything I hold dear about the American experiment.  I expect that I will vigorously oppose most of what he tries to implement.  But vow to oppose him on everything?  I'm not going to go there.

When Mitch McConnell announced his determination to make Obama a one-term president and quickly made it clear that he would lead the opposition to everything Obama proposed, (even if, like much of the initial healthcare proposals, those policies were rooted in ideas that Republicans had long favored), Democrats and those on the left howled that he was abdicating his responsibilities.  Rather than governing, he was acting solely in favor of his parochial political interest.  We were right to do so.  The unyielding blanket opposition to everything Obama did was shameful.  We shouldn't let our anger and fear bring us to the same low point.

Part of what is trainwreck fascinating about the Donald is that we really have no idea what he will actually try to enact.  He has contradicted himself so many times that any attempt to discern actual policy proposals from his statements of the past year is a fool's game.  Yesterday he praised Hillary for her campaign.  This morning, at the White House, he spoke of his great respect for President Obama (I note that he did have a bit of a deer in the headlights look at finding himself finally in this position).  Does that mean he won't appoint a special prosecutor to Lock Her Up?  Has he changed his mind about Obama founding ISIS?  I don't believe what he said yesterday or today any more than I believe anything else he's said during the campaign.  And that's the point.  I won't know what to oppose until he actually, finally, has to do something.

Here's one example -- he's talked about a massive infrastructure overhaul to create jobs and refurbish roads and bridges.  This is something we've desperately needed for many years.   If a solid sensible proposal that looks like it could get through Congress and actually accomplish something were to appear, I'd support it, even if it originated from the Trump White House.  I'd expect Chuck Schumer to lend his weight in getting it through.

I don't expect there to be many opportunities like that.  I expect that most of what he tries to enact will require my full-throated opposition.  But I'm not going to declare my "principled" opposition to everything he might do just because I'm horrified that we elected him.  

We've had eight miserable years of obstructionist politics.  I'm sick of it, and I won't be a part of it.

 


Dialectic: The Aims of Institutional Repositories

Being asked to be a "Vision Speaker" leaves me only slightly less queasy than being called a "thought-leader" (what an awful phrase that is!), but there I was in Albuquerque this past June, kicking off the annual NASIG conference.  Fortunately, I was in good company. Heather Joseph, from SPARC, opened up day 2, and James J. O'Donnell, my favorite Renaissance man, spoke eloquently and with real vision on Sunday. (And yes, Jim, I realize that the Renaissance is several centuries more recent than your heart's true professional home).

The videos of the talks are now up on the NASIG YouTube channel.  Next spring the lightly edited transcripts will be published as part of the conference proceedings.  I think we each had some worthwhile things to say, but if you're only going to take the time to watch one of them, I'd recommend Jim's, just because his delivery is so good. 

For my part,  I argued that efforts to fill IRs with copies of peer reviewed papers that are already available OA somewhere else, such as the publisher's site or a repository like PubMed Central, are misguided.  Such efforts, which consume a considerable amount of energy for some IR managers, have not achieved their intended benefits, and they divert resources from other activities that would have a much greater benefit.  I suggest that we take a deep breath, reassess what's working and what we're trying to achieve, and, for at least some IRs, shift priorities. 

Here's my transcript and slides.  (And many thanks to Kate Moore for doing such a fine job with the transcript).

Download Dialectic-The Aims of Institutional Repositories TSP with Bibliography

Download NASIG June 2016

 


Once In A Lifetime

"Is this really the last time?" SG asked me during one of the breaks.  

Somebody else at the party says, "I heard this is the last one!  Tell me you'll be back!"

How should I know?  The first time we talked about gathering The Bearded Pigs in Memphis we thought it'd be a once in a lifetime event if we could actually get everyone's schedules to mesh.  Then we went back six years in a row.  Every time we gave it everything we had, 'cause it might never happen again.   Marriages came and went.  Loved ones died.  People retired.  Age and illness took their toll.  After Boston in 2013 we decided to stop playing the annual MLA gig.  But I never said the band was finished.

After I blew a fuse in my spinal cord I couldn't play guitar anymore.  But I could still sing and Boston was one of our best performances ever.  Russell picked up my rhythm guitar parts and on we went.  More of the same in Memphis a month later.  Then Sue fell ill.  The pigs rested in their various thickets.

Last year we had dinner in San Antonio with Singarella.  He was grieving Sue's loss, but he'd been thinking maybe it was time to have us come to Memphis again.  He was thinking of The Band's Last Waltz.  I told him I'd check with BeardedPigs_WaltzPoster_FINALhim again at the end of the year.  If he was still in the mood, I'd see if we could pull everybody together.  If we could, we'd call it, "When Pigs Waltz."

The next evening, at the Armadillo Ball, Boutch gave me his traveling harmonica, the one he kept with him on the road.  He said, "Maybe you won't be able to play guitar again.  But don't ever stop making music."  A few months later, Boutch was dead, too.  So I learned to play the harmonica.

TomCat pointed out that we've never quite had the same configuration twice, the same people on the same instruments.  And in Memphis, SG was back, for the first time in years.  It was like he'd always been there.  TomCat played mandolin.  I played harmonica.  A new band every time.  Cogman was in Germany, but really, he was in Memphis, too.

On Thursday, we were terrible.  That was as it should be.  Friday we started to fall into place and by Saturday night the pieces all fit.  I even played guitar on "Helpless" (Tambourine Grrl softly harmonizing, "You're not...")  I called songs that only one or  two of us knew and somehow we played them.  I have no idea how this happens.  I just know that when we get The Bearded Pigs together, it does.

We put pictures of the gig up on Facebook.  Someone commented that it was "the end of an era."  Nonsense.  

So no, I don't have plans for when we're going to get together again, but I'm not foolish enough to say this was the end.

For each of us, when we step into each new day, the rest of our life will be very long or very short.  If it's very short, the future doesn't matter.  If it's very long, anything is possible.

 

 


...gently, as if you loved her

Tomatoes, apples, the day he fell from a tree, the fifty years of dogs,

dogs and children and the far wide country.

The poem ends,

Seize the day gently as if you loved her.

Carpe Diem, we say, ready to do battle, steeling ourselves to march into the world once again, to bend it, to grapple with the fears and insecurities, to make of our lives something wonderful in the face of all of the adversities, inward and outward, that cover us in the hours before dawn, making us fearful to ever risk getting up again.  Seize the day, we tell ourselves, gritting our teeth and putting the game face on.

But then comes an age where one can become quietly grateful, if one pays attention.  Now we might be astonished at the depth of memory, cherishing our losses, amused and amazed that

So far the days keep coming.

So far.  When Harrison wrote the poem he knew his days were coming to an end. He knew the days that remained would be stuffed with doctor visits and physical pain and at every turn the reminder of loss.  He still found time to write as he always has, astonished with wonder at finding himself in this world.

Jessica Lange, getting ready for her Tony award winning role in the current revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" said she was eager to step into Mary Tyrone again, after playing her last in 2000.  "...at this point in my life, there’s so much more loss that I just knew that, if I came back to Mary, there would be much more resonance."  So much more loss.  So much more to work with.

Lynn and I were at the Coyote Cantina a few weeks ago.  She'd pushed me there, in Lightnin' McQueen, the trusty wheelchair, from the train station half a mile away.  Then I'd struggled my way up the few steps to a shaded table overlooking the streets of Santa Fe on a lovely Saturday afternoon.  I was alarmed at how flushed her face was, but we ordered margaritas and the cool drinks soothed and relaxed us and her color came back to normal.

And I was amazed and grateful that we were there, a spot we'd each been to in the past, thinking of each other, but never there together.  Although in my memory she's almost there with me, because I would've written her a letter from here on one of my road trips, telling her what I was eating and that I'd checked into the St. Francis hotel after several days camping in the Utah high desert and that I'd be bringing my guitar to El Paseo later on for the open mike.  I can see her sitting there.

"Are you sure we haven't been here together?"  And she just laughed at me because we've had versions of this conversation before, me so sure she was sitting across from me at a particular place in time, but then the evidence of the notes proving that it was just me and the pen and the paper conjuring her up.

But not this time.  Not this day and this place.  Improbably, here we were, together in a place I would never have expected to get to again. Loss and gratitude, bound inextricably together, welling up, as they do, until they have to leak out of the corners of your eyes.

The days are fragile, just as we are now.  Easily broken, yet stronger than we think.  Seize them with all of the tenderness you can muster.  Love them. Gently.