Friday Firesmith – November the 13th

Back in late October of 1983, I answered the phone at our battalion headquarters at three in the morning. A clearly terrified officer  gave me orders to awaken my unit, and to call him back to tell him I understood and had received the orders. 

“This isn’t an exercise is it, sir?” I asked. 

“I wish it was,” he said. 

The next twenty-four or so hours were chaotic. We didn’t have the internet, no cell phones, no way to find out what was happening out there in the world, and we didn’t have televisions in the barracks or even in the offices. No one knew anything. We loaded all our gear, were given live ammunition, and waited on the tarmac of the airfield, to either go or not go, to where and to fight who we had no idea. 

As it turned out, we had invaded the tiny island of Grenada, which was poorly defended, and the whole operation was over in a day or so. 

It rattled me, and other soldiers as well, for we had no idea something like this was going to happen, and we witnessed some very serious flaws in our chains of command. A dozen or so soldiers deserted rather than take that first step by going to the airport, and all of them were very quietly discharged. 

One of my main drinking buddies was a guy from the Seattle area. His sister was barely eighteen, and she sent letters to him expressing fear from a serial killer, a man they called “The Green River Killer” who preyed mostly on prostitutes but to be a young woman in that part of the world was frightening. There was a correlation, we decided while drinking, between the chain of command we suffered under, and that of a police department who couldn’t catch a man who had killed at least ten women, and likely more. 

Suddenly, and without warning, it’s 2022. 

I was listening to an audio book, last Sunday, November the 13th.  “The Search for the Green River Killer: The True Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

by Carlton Smith, and Tomas Guillen” and the story arrived at a part where a young woman was trying to catch a snake in a vacant lot, when she uncovered a bone, and then a human skull. The date she found the body was Sunday, November 13th, 1983, about the same time I was sitting, drinking, and talking about the Green River Killer. 

The irony here, is America loss nineteen dead in the invasion of Grenada, and Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, was convicted in 48 deaths, and likely murdered even more than that. We put an incredible amount of effort into that battle, hundreds of men, millions of dollars, and it was over in a couple of days, while at one point, two detectives were everyone assigned to catch a serial killer. 

Coincidence brings this together today, decades old memories, and long lost friends. Murder and war, terrified women on the streets trying to survive, and young men, staring down the second oldest profession, that of a soldier, wondering if they have what it takes to prove themselves in battle. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, you know. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – 62 Today

“Most Likely to Die Before 21” was the running joke in high school as to where my future lay. I was eighteen when I graduated, and no one really thought I would live to see the year after high school, much less three years later. 

I turn sixty-two as I write this. November the 9th is my birthday.

If you have never felt old, wait until you apply for Social Security. I applied when I could, in case it doesn’t exist anymore in a few years. My first check will be here next month. Spending my social security check is going to be epic. I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I’ll make it interesting. 

More than a few people I have known in life, I have outlived. There were some surprises. Others expected. Cancer has taken more people I’ve known than any other means of death. There’s been a murder, car crashes, heart attacks, and drug overdoses, including alcohol. 

People I grew up with are great grand parents now. That’s scary. People I grew up with are overweight, dying, addicted, and some are broke, too. That’s also scary, even more so than having three generations to deal with. 

Since moving out here to Hickory Head, Bert, Sam, Lucas have died, and Tyger Linn was killed. I’ve been married and divorced since moving out here. I had one truck taken from in a divorce, one truck traded in for a better one, and one killed in a wreck. I’ve had the same one now for ten years. 

Both my parents are alive, as are both my siblings. 

I can still run a mile in nine minutes, twenty seconds. 

I quit smoking in 2005. 

I’ve lived long enough to see humans land on the moon, the first black president, the reunification of Germany, the eradication of Small Pox, watched a modern day plague envelope the whole world, and the Atlanta Braves win the World Series twice. 

Things I am unlikely to live to see is humans landing on Mars, a woman president, the reunification of Korea, and the Atlanta Falcons winning the Super Bowl. As the Falcons are nearly one hundred games under .500 I can’t even hope to see them break even before I die of old age. 

But there is always hope. Unless we can’t get climate change under control. 

I worked with men who were bitter at this stage of their lives. They retired without vision or a plan, and seemed to think retirement would make them young again, but alas! This is not to be. Getting older only means you are not dead yet. It means working harder to stay alive. It means the wisdom you’ve collected over the decades might be less relevant. It means the pool of people who find you irresistibly sexy is getting smaller each year. It means watching people die, because you outlived them. But this is exactly how things are, and how they should be, and if you are smart, or stubborn, you’ll find joy in these years, and you’ll find a place of being where happiness thrives. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – A Time to Dry

I’ve drank 12 beers in the last two plus months, and not drinking has made a difference in my life. I sleep better without alcohol, it’s easier to lose weight, and my energy level is up. Of course, I’m eating better, and working out almost every day, so there is that, too. But there is no one magic bullet to better health. It’s a process, as most things are. 

When I peaked out at 183 pounds, I was running out of clothes. I had bought a couple of pairs of cheap jeans that had 34 inch waists on them, but my 33’s and 32’s were way too tight. 34’s were heading in that direction. I looked puffy and felt sluggish all the time. 

I cut out all junk food, beer, and started eating kale. I dropped five pounds quickly. Ten pounds went down in the first three weeks, and now the scales seem happy to hang around between 168 and 170 pounds. My 32’s fit again. 

The first surprise at losing weight and talking about it on social media is how many people out there get sarcastic and defensive when it comes to other people’s successes. I’ve always been supportive of my online friends, and would never dream of telling someone they shouldn’t talk about losing weight because there are some people who can’t seem to do it. 

I had a woman tell me that bragging about weight loss was hurtful. I wasn’t bragging. I was relating the happenings of my life on a day to day basis, and hopefully, inspiring others who are trying to reach their own goals. Those people who understand this gathered to share their stories. We talked health while the others complained. 

Potato chips, potatoes in general, mac and cheese, pasta, bread, and a host of other beloved foods are gone now. I’m doing Yoga three times a week, I’m running and walking, lifting weights, and taking cardio classes. I’m training to run a 5K. This is hard work for me. The fact that I have the time to do this is the function of twenty-seven years of my life working on the road. 

I don’t have to be quiet about my accomplishments. I hope they are an inspiration. 

But alcohol. It was easier to stop drinking than I thought it would be. I drink during football games now, if I plan to watch the whole game, and that’s about it. If you have a drinking problem, and I mean a serious one, seek help rather than trying to cowboy it out. Understand why you were drinking when you were. But find someone who knows what they’re talking about. 

I’ve been drinking since 1973, when I was thirteen years old. Almost every important event in my life included alcohol, and some of the worst moments of my life were alcohol related incidents. The idea that I might simply walk away from it, possibly forever, has an appeal that has never been there before. It’s time, I think. 

I suspect there will be, always will be, those people who want to argue this, or tell me if I have to talk about it I’m not going to really do it, and that’s okay. 

This may or may not inspire you, and that, too, is okay. It’s just what’s happening to me, right now. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Oh Well! A Deep Love Story

When my heat pump died two years ago, the decision to replace it rather than opt for repair was simple; the machine was twenty-five years old. I called the company who sold the original, and they were surprised it had lasted so long. I’ve spent most of the twenty years here alone, so I always waited until it was really hot or really cold to burn the electricity to heat, or cool, the whole house. Having large dogs on the bed reduces heating costs. When I had The Three, there was room for me, and three, and it was always warm and toasty. 

When Mom moved in all of that changed. She’s in her mid-eighties, and so there must be cool air when it’s hot, and warm air when it’s cold. The heat pump survived a year with Mom, and that was that. Not that Mom caused the demise of a heat pump older than most college graduates for its time was certainly overdue. 

So late Sunday afternoon, the water pump submerged deep in the ground was humming but no water was being issued forth. Not a drop. I called around, got answering machines and no humans. Finally, I did reach a guy who was a young owner of a well business he and his wife started. “First thing tomorrow morning” he told me, and the clock was ticking. I suspected they would come out, assess the damage, tell us what needed to be done, and then we would wait until they got all their stuff together and came back. Whenever that might be. 

What happened instead was a couple came out, man and wife, with a nicely stocked derrick truck, arriving early, and smiling. They searched for simple fixes, loose wires, the pressure switch, the electrical connections, and then told me, yes, it was the pump. One hundred and twenty feet deep, they pulled out section after section of casing to get to the pump. The shaft of the pump had sheared. It’s dead, Jim. 

At the end of the day, my fellow travelers, this might have been a simple description of the trials of getting water restored to my Mom. It was an interesting process. Yet what I would like to relate to you, is the teamwork of the man and wife. They worked with little excess talk, almost no wasted motion, and the conversation between the two was polite, respectful, and easy on the soul to watch. Like dancers who knew their music and moves, these two glided through removing the casing, pulling the pump out, showing me what was wrong, explaining which of the models they had with them would work and why, and then putting it all back together again. Neither appeared to be in charge more than the other, and not one harsh word left the other’s lips, despite the difficulty of their work. 

I have a new pump, Mom has water, all is, no pun intended, well. Yet I was moved by the depth of the relationship between these two people, how they interacted as if in a world of their own, of their own creation, and how much they seemed to enjoy one another. 

Words fail this task, and they should, for something this rare ought to be experienced in person, and hopefully, with someone equal to the opportunity. Love, true love, deeper than any well, might be found anywhere, true, but it is more often not. I learned much about wells yesterday, but in the actions of a man and his wife, I learned more than I had before. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Putin’s Problem

Putin’s biggest problem is he is losing a war that was supposed to be a cake walk. Then again, both sides in the American Civil War thought the conflict would last a month or so, and both sides were convinced they would win. Four years and 600,000 dead soldiers later, the war did end, but no one was happy about how it was fought, or what it cost. There’s a lesson here.  

Here’s Putin’s Problem: He’s losing a conventional war. He cannot afford to escalate the conflict to the point other nations night join in, because even against the smaller and less powerful Ukrainian military, Russia is suffering catastrophic losses. His calling up more troops has led to an exodus of men of military age from Russia.  Putin’s citizens do not have the will to keep fighting this war, and he knows it. 

But no one wins a nuclear war, and Putin has to see the truth in this as well. Even if, and this is the biggest if you will ever see in print, the use of nukes doesn’t wind up wiping out all life on this planet, it will leave deep and red hot scars on where they are used. If Ukraine gets nuked, Putin can bet the Ukrainian people will hate him for generations, and their war with him will never end. You can look for a world wide grain shortages even in the best case here. 

There’s a subarine gap in the Russian navy. From 1989 to somewhere around the year 2012, the American navy was still in the game, and still building and upgrading their sub fleet. Russia got behind, and they aren’t up to speed even now. The quieter and deadly attack subs the Americans have stalking the Russian missile sub fleet is going to extract a terrible price in the first moments of a nuclear war. If America goes after Russian submarines, it will be ruinous for Putin. 

Look for the Americans to strike not at political targets in Russia, but at oil fields, dams, bridges, and military airfields. Don’t discount the idea NATO might drive deep into Russia, and the Russian military might welcome them if Putin drops a nuke. 

Then again, you have one nuke, then another, and then two or three more, all sorts of hell breaking loose, and suddenly it’s the day after a nukefest, and no one is left with a country worth trying to save. 

At the end of the day, Putin just might be bluffing, hoping that the rest of the world fears a nuclear holocaust far more than they care about Ukraine. But this is a desperate gamble, and with Russia losing territory to a military it thought it could crush, and its men running for the border, Putin may have no other cards to play. 

Putin might do well to remember while he is trying to hold things together, there may be someone, or a group, who would like to see him fail, and then remove him. 

But the war is lost, and has been for quite some time. What else Putin loses in the process will be interesting, to say the least. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Pot for sale

Coyotes can coexist with human beings because they are smart, fast, and they know how to disappear. Charles Manson once said Coyotes were the ultimate embodiment of paranoia, and I think he was wrong about this, and a hell of a lot of other stuff, too. I think Coyotes are just more aware of their surroundings, their human surroundings, than even humans are. 

When I sold pot for a living, I kept up with who bought from me, and who they hung around with. It was easy in a town like Valdosta to lose track of where your product went, but over time, people tend to smoke with the same people. When you sell pot, you’re trusting the person you sold it to, and whoever they tell. That was the rub. 

I bought my pot from a woman named Sherry, and she had a lot of contacts, some of them shady. Her roommate was dating a married man from east Georgia, and I always assumed he was Sherry’s connection. He would come to see his illicit girlfriend, and the next day, Sherry would have pot. 

Sherry had another connection, Alf, everyone knew about him because he talked too much. Alf looked a lot like the character from the show by the same name. Alf wasn’t careful at all. When he was busted with a half pound of pot, I shut down selling, and wouldn’t even speak to anyone I knew had bought from him. A month later, three people inside his circle were busted. 

Three months without the extra income was painful, but at the same time, inexpensive compared to the fines associated with possession with intent. Alf was too mouthy to have picked up a new connection, unless that’s why a new connection picked him up, but I settled in to figure out who had once bought from Alf, and were now looking for a new connection. 

Sherry and I had something going, but we were just friends. Trusting no one I bought or sold too, fully, once thing I noticed was Sherry never seemed to take any of the precautions other dealers did. When I shut down buying, Sherry was still selling, which drew in customers from other guys like me, who were being careful. 

Six months passed, and just as I was about to get back into the game, Sherry told me she couldn’t find so much as a stem and a half dozen seeds. The market had changed, and that made me nervous. Two or three other people I knew had gotten busted, and as someone who knew busted people, I felt exposed. My name, very likely, had come up in conversations. Yet I needed the income, and pot was getting scarce. It was a seller’s market, but I had nothing to sell. 

The sweep was comprehensive. Parties were busted, apartments were raided, people were pulled over after buys, the pot market in Valdosta went to hell over the period of two weekends. I had nothing I had bought and nothing to sell. I watched from the cheap seats.

Sherry graduated in two months and left town, never to be heard from again. Her roomie and the married boyfriend left, too. I got out of the business entirely, because I realized had Sherry sold me pot, I would have been carrying when all hell broke loose. It wasn’t love, no, not that, but somehow, Sherry decided not to take me down with everyone else, and I knew it. I never saw it coming, never suspected it was really Sherry, until it was too late. The question is never if you’re paranoid, it is always is “Are you paranoid enough?” or in this case, aware. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – The General is coming to inspect us

I spent twenty-two months, seventeen days, and ten hours in the Army.

Towards the end of my enlistment, “The General is coming to inspect us,” was something we heard, so the entire battalion began the process of getting ready for inspection. This meant we spent most of the day cleaning the already clean barracks, painting our commo shop, polishing everything that could be polished, trying to make the jeep look like it hadn’t died of old age in one of the World Wars, and rolling our socks and underwear into neat little rolls that tucked into themselves. There was a guy who knew how to do this, so we all had to learn how. All the wall lockers had to look like the same guy set it up. We painted fences, handrails, and scrubbed the sidewalks with Clorox. We washed buildings by hand.

Our efforts were orchestrated by Maddog Murray Murdock, our Platoon Sergeant, and our Squad leader, Sergeant Terry, who was a racist to the core of his bones, and a couple of other Sergeants, all of whom gave conflicting orders as to how we were supposed to get ready because “The General is coming to inspect us.”

We rolled and re-rolled our underwear and socks. We polished our boots until they glowed. We took down light fixtures and cleaned them. We rented a carpet cleaner and tried to clean the carpet but it was too old and parts of it came up. We even painted the trash cans.

Meanwhile, Maddog Murray Murdock was losing his mind. We were not ready. We were the worst ever. And this was the mindset you got used to in training, but we all had long since left training. Murray would arrive before breakfast and he would stick around until ten at night because “The General is coming to inspect us.”

D-Day rolled around. We rolled our underwear even tighter than Murray’s was on a bad day. The inspection was at seven in the morning, or 0700. Then, at the appointed hour, it was pushed back to nine, then ten, then eleven. Then, suddenly, the inspection wasn’t going to happen in the barracks, oh no, it was going to take place in the parking lot. Three hundred men scrambled to get their gear laid out in the parking lot. We skipped lunch. Murray and Terry were losing their minds, and even the captain seemed unhinged. By one, that’s 1300 hours for you military people, we were as ready as we could get. And we waited, because “The General is coming to inspect us.”

At four in the afternoon, that 1600 for you people who did your time, the General cancelled out. The inspection was called off. Everyone cheered. Except for Maddog Murray Murdock. If the General was not going to inspect our platoon, Sergeant Murray would. As the other companies and other platoons gathered up all their gear and headed in, Murray spent the next hour tearing our stuff apart. He unrolled every sock and every piece of underwear. He went through every piece of gear. He inspected every item, every item he had already inspected twenty times in the last week. It looked like a tornado hit us. I prayed the General would show up.

We finally picked up our gear and headed into the barracks, with just enough time to grab some chow before it closed. Everyone was furious. Everyone was pissed off and alcohol was on everyone’s mind.

I got ready for the inspection that was going to happen at five in the morning, that’s 0500, because I knew Maddog Murray Murrdock was the world biggest jerk, and that was exactly the type of thing he would do. Everyone booed at me, telling me I was nuts, but as I drank, I rolled socks and underwear, and made ready my wall locker, because if there was anything Murray could do to prove he was the world’s biggest jerk, he was going to do it.

At zero five the next morning, I had my uniform on, my bed was made, and I was ready.

Murray banged on our door like he was a pregnant woman about to give birth to twin donkeys. No one was ready in the whole platoon, but me.

I got a three day pass, and the ire of everyone else, even though I had warned them. Murray went to a meeting and told the other Sergeants what he had done, and told them only one soldier was ready. They laughed at him. The officers laughed at him. The CO laughed at him.

They laughed at me.

That was my military skill set. I knew when a jerk was going to be an even bigger jerk than ever before. That was me being all I could be, Specialist Firesmith, the Jerk Whisperer.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – The Rescue of Oscar, the Anole

Anoles are those ubiquitous green, or brown lizards that adorn the sides of houses and sheds, prowling the shrubbery for insects, doing push-ups and spreading their crimson throat patches trying to attract mates. My childhood was spent chasing them, catching them, and turning them loose again. Mostly, they are green, unless they are defeated in battle, caught, or cold. They do not, however, change colors to match their surroundings. 

Sunday, Mom and I had just settled down for lunch when I noticed on the window, outside, an anole, and it seemed to have caught something, or had been caught. The struggle was real, but finally, the lizard went limp, and hung there, its feet not touching the glass. I was curious as to what sort of creature might have caught the poor anole. 

Once outside, I discovered it had, somehow, gotten its snout firmly wedged into between the frame where the windows meet. Gently, I pulled, but the fear of harming the hapless reptile kept me from freeing the trapped anole. I got a screwdriver and pushed the metal pieces apart, and once freed, I place him in one of mom’s hanging baskets, then misted it with a water bottle in case it was dehydrated. And there, I thought, the story would end, a rescued anole, and a hanging basket which now had pest control. 

The next day, I went out to put a bag of trash in the two wheeled cart, and who knows what to call these things, really, and suddenly, I felt something land on my back, and then the anole appeared as it jumped off my back, and onto the two wheeled trash cart that has no name. I named it Oscar. And at that point, realized it was not afraid of me, and liked hanging around the two wheeled thing I put trash in. 

It might have been a different lizard, this is true, but Oscar is large for his species. Normally, males are not only larger, but they tend not to allow trespass into their territory.  I felt certain this was the same creature that required rescue on my part. Perhaps, however, Oscar was going to hang around, drift to some other location, who knows? 

Yesterday, I discovered Oscar huddled on the lip of the lid of the trash can, and that’s what I’m calling it from now on, and he leapt away, but did not run from me, but sat there, head cocked, looking at me. And this morning, there Oscar was again, on the window, searching for prey, and he moved away from me slowly, as I tried to take a photo.

It’s true, the world may not be made a better place by the rescue of a lizard. But my world is a better place when I rescue lizards. There are fewer insects, there is that of course, but at the end of the day, no animal ought to die of thirst or starvation for the lack of effort on my part, near where I can assist the creature. This is how I view my place in this world. 

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – As Summer Dies

I’ve got the back door open, and a window in my bedroom letting in the cool air upon this writing. The temps will be up in the 90’s today, scorching hot once again, but the length of the days is shortening now, the day and night are even on this very day, and heat is not ruling the land as it did just a couple of weeks ago. 

The garden is the surest sign of the decline, with the explosion of color of flowers and blooms, the fruit ripening in the sun, and the expectations of fresh food replaced with slowly dying plants, and flowers who have clearly seen their best days last month. There are fewer wasps on their nests now, and soon they will become homeless drifters, bereft of their need to defend their homes made of cells. They will swarm in benign groups, seeking out strangers to spend their last days with, and one cold night they will be killed. 

All of this is subtle, as the vines and autumn plants return, life is leaving for the most part, being replaced by the temporary residents, and even here in the Deep South, there are more and more leaves on the ground, even as Summer refuses eviction. 

A gray squirrel is harvesting acorns in a limb over the metal roof. Like plant based hail, the oak fruit play a discordant song against the steel, calling the dogs to chorus. The tree rat is indifferent to the barking of tame wolves, as his kind will ever be. The Big Oak in the back of the property will feed squirrels, deer, all manner of small mammals, as it has done of hundreds of years. I may try to sprout some of her fruit, and plant more live oaks out here. What better way to honor such a giant, than to ensure her generations? I would have to clear out the lesser beings, the water oaks and the bramble, create space for the saplings and guard them while they were young. Perhaps, if I am exceptionally lucky, I could tend them for twenty years, likely less, before I must leave. Then, like the giant on my property, fate would take over, and perhaps be kind to one or two of them.

It is an odd farmer, who plants without hope of seeing the fruit of his labor, nor would a generation of humans, and perhaps three or four generations removed, would see the trees here and wonder how such things came to be? Yet I would be long gone, remembered by none, except the trees.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

Friday Firesmith – Signs of Life

I belonged to a gym for a couple of years, whose name I won’t mention, and superficially, it was a great place. Large, spacious, with brand new equipment, it seemed perfect. I wanted to run more, lift weights, and take Yoga classes. But the classes were sporadic, and the instructors seemed out of synch with what they were supposed to be doing. I realized that at my age, Yoga is the only thing I can count on to slow down the erosion of time. 

The local Y is more expensive, but their fitness classes are more or less set in stone. If an instructor is out a substitute will be there, count on it. Three weeks ago, I returned to the Y, and signed up for my first Yoga class, an adventure at 7:20 in the morning. It was a painful lesson that sloth is expensive and will result in humility. 

The first week I took five Yoga classes. The second week I slowed down, listened more closely to my body, and narrowed down my exertion to three classes. There was no point in wearing my body down to the point of injury, and the instructors recommended I not try to undo years of not exercising with a month of damage. 

One of the instructors, who was filling in for the morning teacher, asked me what I was looking for, and I told her simply, “More.” She recommended I come to the afternoon “Power Yoga” class which provides core exercises, strength training, as well as the traditional stretching and balance of Yoga. 

The class began slowly, but the pace picked up, I began to sweat. Repetitive positions, stretching the legs, opening the hips, pushing endurance, and moving the body more quickly from one position to another, began to wear me out. Push ups, balance, move, hold this pose, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, and halfway through the class I realized the water was over my head, the level of skill was beyond my physical ability, and my endurance was not up to this sort of thing. 

But my body remembered. It remembered the positions it once could hold. It remembered the pain of beginning is rewarded with the pleasure of muscles built, and confidence renewed. This is the body that can still wield an axe with proficiency, this is a body that can turn compost in the heat of the day, and this is the only body I have. Breathe, Mike, breathe, keep going, do not quit, do not falter, and every moment of this class, do everything you can do, the best you can do it. 

Suddenly, it was over, and the cool down positions began, slowing to relaxation, and finally, rest. 

As the oldest person in the class, I looked around to see younger people, much younger, sweating, panting, and they looked at me, and wondered how it is I am still smiling. Where they see struggle, I see Signs of Life. I feel it. I breathe it. I embrace the tension between being able to do something and not being able, yet. Each class, each hour, each moment and second are Signs of Life. 

You have only to live. 

Take Care,




Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

 I am the captain of my soul.

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.