Sunday, August 23, 2015

riding out of the sunset

Within the last couple of months, I treated myself to a re-read of the plump novel of the old west, "Lonesome Dove." Its pages went by in smooth succession: Reading it was like lolling purposefully in some summer hammock.

And it was a short step -- or so it seemed -- to the sequel called "The Streets of Laredo," which took up some of the same characters as "Lonesome Dove" and introduced some new ones. But about 200 pages in, I'd had enough and stopped reading it. I tried to winkle out what made me stop. The book was OK, but something felt as if it were missing ... or maybe I had just run out of old-west steam.

One of the thoughts that occurred to me was this: People are interesting when they plan and make efforts to accomplish, but once having accomplished or failed to accomplish, the eye and focus wanders away from the scene.

And maybe it's the same in life: What is yet to be done is full of lively, edgy sparks -- wrong turns, revived effort and the like; what has been done is dying embers even on the best of days. Living on the past is like a baby with a binkie ... pacified, perhaps, but diaphanous and, somehow, inconsequential. Even the aging accomplisher knows this.

Great accomplishment or small -- what is interesting is the willingness and energy to reenter the fray and, perhaps, move a cattle herd from Texas to Montana, or realize a dearly-desired dream that is "out there" rather than "back there."

Resting on these laurels is impossible, but more than that, it simply isn't very interesting. And the capacity to be interesting wanes together with a fading musculature and, more important, a mind that has been-there-done-that enough times so that lolling in a hammock, while lonely on occasion, is the only thing that works ... or doesn't.

I always wondered what happened after the guy and gal rode off into the sunset, what happened after some soaring victory or smithereens defeat ... what happened then? But when someone offers to tell me, the fact is -- even in my own life -- I'm not really as interested as I would like to be.

The best I can do is borrow someone else's words ... in this case, Dylan Thomas: "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."

Riding out of the sunset.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (edited this time to look not so stupider)
    I tried a few "jobs", working for other people, sweeping dirt in a circle was what it felt like. Construction and being my own boss allowed me a sense of accomplishment now and then. Playing music for myself was gray compared to the technicolor of stirring an audience. And writing, sometimes discovering new dirt, but mostly just putting the mind dust in a particular order, an exercise in OCD.

    But a hammock under a cloudy sky, well the sky is never the same from one moment to the next. Even a clear sky offers more discovery for a careful viewer than all else. The sky shows you the passage of time without the shining new or grungy old. Now is pretty intense.

  3. Which is why Romeo and Juliet couldn't possibly have been allowed to live by any author worth his/her salt.

  4. Not sure if you're aware of this or not. But the guy who wrote Lonesome Dove has a son who is quite a songwriter. Has a real way with lyrics.

  5. Thanks anonymous ... that was fun and I look forward to hearing more.

  6. I really thought you would like that. I've actually thought about sending you some links to his stuff prior to you posting about Lonesome Dove. Try these 2: - this one reminds me of your personality.

    And this one reminds me of your politics, although as a song, it's a little bit on the nose.

  7. Thanks for the music, though it is the same song twice.

  8. Whoops. This is his most popular one. The one I said was "on the nose". Still pretty good tho.

  9. Pretty good. Tnx. I grew up on Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers ... the sometimes bloody times.