Life thoughts—Musing

Hunter Thompson once said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving in a pretty well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a ride!””

 Not too long after that, if I recall, he had his ashes blasted into space, actually just the air, by some homemade cannon all to the cheers of a few friends. Believe me he was worn out. Admittedly, drinking off a bottle of Wild Turkey while campaigning for the mayor of Aspen added to being thoroughly used up.

I rather thought, maybe even today, that this attitude might have some merit but possibly slightly toned back. I know I’m down to puttering around the holdings, maybe flopping my one-man craft into the local lake for an afternoon of fishing, or sitting leisurely by an evening fire tipping back a fine beverage, or just sitting by the old stove reading my latest book Portrait of Ignorance. Certainly none of these acts in and of themselves could be deemed “in a cloud of smoke” but not bad for an aging dude who might be feeling sorry for himself.

 I guess what I am up to is a little self-evaluation, maybe reflection on how this ‘trip’ has gone down. I know ‘trip’ is rather a hippy thing but then, I was sorta there, on a trip by all measure down Twain’s metaphorical river.

Looking toward the Never-Summers. Photo Trudy Haines

I’m not pontificating on my final cannon shot, nor on my visit to the back side of the moon, not even a dirt nap, but just thinking about the ‘ride’ the wonderful ride I, and I should say we have been on. Having just spent ten days frolicking in the Never Summer Mountains of Northern Colorado, and maybe more importantly, picking apples and putting the garden away right here in the backyard, I’m feeling pretty good even if the grand kid did ask me to go for a limp, which is his way of saying a hike but making a reference to my mode of movement.

No sooner after spending a few moments staring mindlessly into space, my wife recited a quote from Epicurus.

“It is not the young man who should be considered fortunate, but the old man who has lived well, because the young man in his prime wanders much by chance, vacillating in his beliefs, while the old man has docked in the harbor, having safeguarded his true happiness.”

I’m not sure I related to ‘docked in the harbor’, I definitely like to think I have rustled up some true happiness but I am still on the ‘move’, but then it is not at any great speed nor drowned in a cloud of dust, maybe skidding broadside though.

After more reflection on my ‘trip’, I saw myself as Marlin Brando in On the Waterfront, when with his brother he passionately said, “I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody. “  Things were getting rough around here, not only because I ain’t no Brando, but now I seemed to be questioning myself while ‘safeguarding my true happiness’. Oh, I guess I was somebody, maybe not a contender but I was a second team all-conference football player and I have been to a few county fairs—and to the arctic. Most importantly I had fun.

But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs and it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year.”

Frank sang that one and I guess it is rather summing it up right now as the sun shines on a glorious 73 degree day in late October right here Amherst.

Not so funny but I thought I would throw it in.


The young, helpless bird was brought to us by way of compassion, I guess. Dropped off by the grandkid and a friend not knowing what to do with this pathetic gray, beak-agape fledgling. Turned out it was hardly a fledgling but more like a runt pushed out of the nest to make room for the more robust.

Being human with humane intentions, the hardly-feathered desperado was brought inside because we were not about to just shove it ’out on the ice’ like past primitive peoples might have done to members of our own species.

It had the usually act of opening its rather large mouth the minute any one passed. Like good parents, he was offered handouts ranging from apples to hamburger but ultimately settled for puppy food. Didn’t take long before he was imprinted on us.

Now, initially we thought of the efforts made by the Crane Foundation where the surrogate parents, compassionate humans, would do everything from dressing up like cranes to making crane puppets for feeding so the birds didn’t get to thinking humans really amounted to something. In the end, we settled for making squawks because we ultimately learned he was a blue jay. There was no way we could look like a jay, even though we had been warned about jay walking.

It grew, and squawked and eventually, maybe two weeks, learned to fly but once out of its youthful-home laundry basket, his navigational skills appeared limited but not unlike some nature-bound fledgling one sees careening through late summer bushes. Of course, it had no fear of us and even appeared to appreciate just hanging out listening to cool jazz.

Ann would eventually round him up and plop him back in the basket thinking he might, with his tiny brain, identify this as a ‘natural’ home environment.

By now Jayzee was flying around the house, testing wings, exploring places to hang out maybe actually looking for a safe havens. Still, the laundry basket was home, and the locale for comfy food where he took to hankering for the $10 dried meal worms and suet balls, but would also eat seeds and other human leftovers.

Eventually, maybe three weeks into this surrogate blue-jaying, the basket home was put outside to see if Jayzee might relate to nature and maybe find a few relatives to listen to. But, we were his food source, and unlike chickens, he had no food gathering skills of his own but depended on our handouts. Man, even young children would do better than this thing.

He became noisier, demanded attention, acted like a teenager and did grab food wherever we placed it on cupboard tops or sideboards. We really wanted him to feed himself.

After a month, he was free to fly about outside and appreciated the freedom like any teenager but always came back at dinner time like any child would. He was in the trees, on the roofs, in the grapes but not hanging with the other jays, just us even as we tried to eat outside to encourage him. He’d sit by the fire, talk, listen to rap music and seemed very vulnerable, maybe an easy mark for every predator.

One night we let him out to see if he might survive in the wilds of the backyard. In the morning, he showed up in my workshop where I had left the door open. He squawked when I walked in excitedly announcimg his presence.

Clearly, he had become human and we had not become blue jays—even though my brother’s name is Crow. Also, Jayzee could really squawk, mostly at his patient ‘parents’.  Just endless open-mouth squawking. Delighted, we noticed he was picking up the tasty meal worms and suet balls carefully placed around. Maybe this was sort of ‘in the wild’. We just couldn’t seem to think of a way to get him to leave ‘home’. We couldn’t just buy him a car, or send him off to college, or introduce him to some delightful, attractive Ms. Jaylow.

After having a fireside discussion one evening, he shot off through the back trees for what we considered to be a night out. In the morning, he did not return, which surprised us. He was gone. Either found a better hand out, or actually got his act together. Oddly, it was hard to take. One month and gone. No good-byes.

We kept hearing squawks that sounded like him but no intimate visitors. He had flown the coop. We were chest fallen to say the least because it seemed so abrupt, maybe dangerous. But then I thought of my grandmother who left Sweden when she was 16 and came to America alone, I thought of the Irish, who out of necessity fled Ireland never to return. The civil war soldiers who at 16 or 17 went off to war.

What we did seem to notice was the local area now appears to be almost over-run by jays squawking endlessly as if they had been trained by Jayzee as a way of getting attention. Maybe that was his legacy. Was it him, was this just us?