Life With Horace

poetry & essays


afterbirth: seeing with new eyes

The light was different this morning. Early sunlight was streaming through my neighbor’s woods across the road, and I could see the shape of her hill through the trees, glowing with its blanket of leaves and humus.

I wondered if I’d have seen it a year ago. Probably not. Last July I started to morph yet again, not really aware of what was happening at first. Whatever you want to call it: morphing, shape shifting, rebirth, I’ve been through it before. A simple event can lead to profound change.

Encouraged by a wonderful illustrator friend, in 1973 I picked up a dip pen to draw a Christmas card. A connection to the creative part of me that I had ignored for way too long. That card led to other drawings, a calendar, a series of notecards, spot illustrations in the Washington Post, some editorial illustration, house and building drawings all over the DC area, illustrations for the Guide to the Smithsonian, book illustrations.

After ten years in the graphics department of the international organization I worked for I volunteered to take over the fledgling corporate website from the engineer who started it. Those were the early days of html and hand coding websites (1996), and I had to learn everything. Fast. Two euphoric, exhausting months later the new site was up, and I was off to the races.

By the time I took early retirement in 2005 I was running all three of the corporate websites, with one foot in marketing, one in IT, both sides of my brain firing at warp speed. I thought of my work as the perfect melding of technology and design, and could literally “see” how the code that we wrote functioned and fitted together.

Oh, and the engineer, a deceptively mild former South African Recce who left his country for the US rather than use force against his own countrymen, became a good friend, along with his girlfriend.

He encouraged me to go back to skydiving (after a single static line jump in college). For one wonderful, summer weekend boogie in 1997 I jumped out of planes again, out of my mind with excitement, and passed the first two freefall levels. Then I stopped, cold, when he had a near-fatal parachute failure the next summer. I had a family that needed me alive. No question.

Rebirth hasn’t always been about creativity, or work. Two years ago next month, after a lifetime of wanting proof that a higher power truly existed before I could believe, I went to church one Sunday and God more or less said “shazaam!”. Not to be flip about it, but it was that sudden, and that obvious. I hold this precious gift close, amazed and grateful.

So last summer. Morphing. Again. It started when I joined a creative group on Facebook started by the author Jon Katz. As I wrote last September:

The result …. has been a miracle. That’s how I think of it. Like this came along and opened up a worm hole into a new place, a safe place to create and express and fall flat on your face, and get wonderful feedback from the rest of the inhabitants.

Yes. I love the group, and the folks in it. I see something like my neighbor’s woods and think about photo shoots, or drawings, or poems.

Especially poems. That completely blindsided me. Writing poetry. I never expected it, sort of like the Spanish Inquisition, happy edition. It feels good, really really good.

I’d like to think that Fordy, dear long suffering Miss Ford, who took me through Hardy, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats et al with great patience at school in England, is probably not surprised.