Shorter Days, Reflections On A Year


Photo by me, January 2023.

The shorter days of fall and winter are my favorite days. I like the late morning sunrise and the growing darkness that begins by four thirty in the afternoon when the sun slides behind the tall trees downhill toward the river. Inside our cozy homes with lamplight, some of us hibernate behind books or for others, in front of a glowing television or phone. I have mostly been ensconced at a computer screen, finishing the first draft of my third novel. I completed that this month.

It is thirty-seven degrees on the fence underneath the crepe myrtle as I sit at my desk and write this at eight o'clock at night with a hole in my sweater. The roses are finished for another year and they bow their last blooms to the morning frost. Shorter days and longer nights - I like the trade.

2023 has gotten away from me like a misplaced sock hiding somewhere underneath a bed. I rambled around the South with trips across Georgia and out of state to North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. Mississippi was neglected this year, but that is usually the case. There was no long-distance trip to some unfamiliar place this year, but I did not have that most precious commodity known as time. 

Thoughts have turned inward to reveal what was underneath the fleece throw of the mind. 

It is perilous to think that with the aches and pains of age, experience and the nectar of knowledge that we have it all figured out or that we know the truth that others do not, but that is complacency fooling us into having too much self-confidence. Sometimes there is little difference between the blinders affixed to a horse and the ego of the human mind. One lesson that life teaches us over and over is that we do not know everything. Life is good at humbling reminders. Every person is a student from birth until death.

The approach that works best for me is to go through life with the perspective that I know less each year, I am less certain of my beliefs and it is best to try and retain a childlike sense of wonder.


The caught off guard me. Charleston. August 2023.

I thought a lot (what's new?) in 2023. I wrote through most of the year, excluding my summer blockade. I had serious doubts about whether I wanted to write this novel. It is complicated, it is sad and it is full of tragedy and stupidity. The humor and the high moments are scaled before gravity says not so fast. A number of years ago, there was a public service campaign with the slogan, "it gets better." Maybe it does for some and maybe we all get there in our own time, but I would be dishonest to say that it always does. 


What was the solution in these years that I have written about and was the escape foiled again? Did I keep running like the boy at the beginning of Dweller On The Boundary or keep driving like my mother and me in Uncivil X? The escape route was planned, but my shoe was untied and I tripped and my mother and I turned around. 


In Shadow's Gravity, that is the title of the third novel, does the man stop resisting or break free? Did he make the wrong decision atop the levee in Indiana with the Louisville skyline and a different future staring him in the face? Did he get on the plane to Asia?

I know the answers. I was him.


Suddenly I'm on the street. Seven years disappear below my feet. Been breaking down. Freedy Johnston's Bad Reputation

I do not spread my heart like butter on an English muffin with social media, but I went through a serious period of depression this year. Somewhere I took a wrong turn, stepped into it and it was stuck to my shoes. I could attribute it to swimming in the territorial waters of the past to write a book, but I do not know. It could have been as simple as reading too much news or listening to too much Radiohead. As much as we sometimes want answers, we might never have them. Maybe that is why I liked that television show In Search Of as a kid.


That is life at the end of 2023 - another year closing, a sentence written and an additional mile walked. It is nothing to be maudlin about; people came and went, there were chance meetings with long-lost faces, lengthy emails, hours-long phone conversations and text chats and in between all of that, I became a great uncle as I watched the sunset from the beach.


The Christmas decorations are up, the lights are on and the cards posted. The sounds of the Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas and Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas album from 1984 are the soundtrack to washing dishes, getting the mail, making notes, sitting at a traffic light or sipping coffee. Life has settled here between the Egyptian cotton sheets, the wool socks and crossing off the last days on the calendar before it begins again. Somewhere in time, I am sliding around on the leather backseat of my father's Cadillac and Paul McCartney sings my favorite Christmas song. It is cold and I cannot wait to get home and sit in front of the fireplace. Heavy-lidded and drowsy, tired I am and in need of a good sleep. The life has been drained from another year.

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a merry Christmas, happy holidays and I wish you the best for 2024.



The planned, the unplanned and a few moments I shared and did not in 2023.

Some place far from anywhere that I'll probably never write about in detail.

The favorite moments of 2023 occurred in the absence of social media. Driving down a gravel and sometimes rutted dirt road in search of a ghost town on a March afternoon was one. It was overwhelming silence standing there with no phone signal, the mind alert to only that moment and that moment only. Life used to be like that, do you remember?

Somewhere in South Carolina. August 2023.

The same enjoyment occurred in another desolate place in the ruins of a church in the low country of South Carolina. This time was down a road, somewhat paved, but guarded by oaks with Spanish moss draped overhead.

Pensacola. September 2023.
Alas, I love a good ruin. 


Chenocetah Mountain. March 2023.

And foggy days.

Birmingham. August 2023.

I spent a lot of time in places that looked like this.

Greenville, South Carolina. August 2023.

You can try many things in a small town, but I don't recommend a certain country song. Try John Mellencamp instead, from a person that actually grew up in a small town. Greensboro, Georgia. March 2023.

Miles were walked in cities, small towns and woods.


February 2023.


I returned to horseback riding for the first time in twenty-five years.


Athens is always good for people watching. June 2023.

There were festivals and some were good and others bad.

Spy the rainbow? August 2023.

I stood on a roof at a private event and no longer recognized an old neighborhood where I had lived.


April 2023.
I became obsessed with an abandoned plantation. 

June 2023.
There were botanical gardens.

I spent plenty of time in bookstores and drinking coffee. I listened to stories from others and told a few.

Somewhere in South Florida. April 2023.

 I napped on an island and swam too far out. 


Asheville, North Carolina. March 2023.

I discovered invisibility in Asheville. Listened to Bach. An ex emailed me out of the blue while I made hotel coffee. A long lost friend appeared. I bought a gigantic book of old New Yorker cartoons.


I returned to New Hope for the first time in almost twenty years.