The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.



I recently moved and in the process came across a folder of things I’d written some years ago for a class in Creative Writing I took at the U of Chicago. Some of the pieces had favorable comments written on them by the professor and I decided to rework a few.  Most were of  personal reflection nature: some wee fiction.  One was an exercise in dialogue. I laughed when I read it. Perhaps it will bring a smile to your face too.


  “The back yard looks like shit,” he said.

“I was beginning to think the same thing. But this afternoon I was sitting on the patio and  I rather enjoyed the privacy of the forest that’s growing out there.”

“The weeds are going to kill the bushes.”

“So, pull the weeds.”

“The dead branches of the lilac tree need to be cut out.”

“So do it. Don’t do it. I don’t care. There’s a nice natural earthy feel about it now. I can’t even see the neighbor’s house anymore. I like it.”

“Maybe we should call a landscaper out for a day.”

“You won the lottery and didn’t tell me?”

No silly. But we can’t just let it got to hell.”

“We can as far as I’m concerned. I’ve better things to do than pull weeds.”

“I didn’t ask you to pull weeds.”

“I know  you didn’t. But if you’re going to pay someone to do it, you might as well pay me and then I can pay the butcher and we can have steak one day next week – right on the patio in the middle of the weeds.”

“You’re eight months pregnant. You’re not going out there to pull weeds!”

“I need the exercise and the butcher needs to be paid.”

“Screw the butcher. As for the exercise, let’s take a walk.”

“I did that this morning. Ellen and I walked four miles”

“Good for you. Tired?”

“Not particularly. And speaking of exercise, my dear. You could use a little of that yourself. You really need to do something about those extra pounds accumulating around what was your waist.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ll go on a diet tomorrow. I only need to drop about ten pounds. I’ll start swimming again. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Good. And when you come home from the pool, you can get a little more exercise if you pull the weeds, cut the grass and trim the bushes,” she said.


  “The kids are both going to be gone this weekend and it’s going to be nice out. Let’s do something special.”

“It’s supposed to storm tonight and half the day tomorrow.”

“You’re listening to the wrong weatherman.”

“What do you have in mid?”

“I don’t know. You come up with an idea.”

“We sit on the patio, split a bottle of wine and go to bed early.”

“Oh, how exciting. I can hardly wait.”

“Don’t be snide.”

You’re imagination leaves a lot to be desired dear.”

“I never claimed to have an imagination.”

“Good thing you didn’t ‘cause you don’t.”

“Now you’re getting nasty.”

“I’m not nasty.”

“Critical then.”

“Come on, Archie. Surely you can do better than that.”

“I made my suggestion. What’s yours?

“Book a room in a hotel downtown – go to some fancy restaurant for dinner – take a tour of the Art Institute.”

“I don’t like art.”

“No taste, either.”

“What did you say?”

“Your cultural tastes are on a par with your imagination.”

“So go find yourself some English gentleman who rides to the hounds. carries a walking stick, wears suede jackets and tams, and plays polo.”

“Horses scare the shit out of me.”

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course . . . “

“Highly unlikely but that’s an interesting idea and you can’t sing either – you’re off  key. Okay, how about an overnight trip on a riverboat?”

“Does it have a casino?


“I’d do that if you can find one.”

“I don’t gamble. I don’t know how.”

“I’ll teach you.”

“I don’t want to learn.”

“Any idiot can pull the handle of a slot machine.”

“I’m not an idiot. Okay. I’ll take my quarter jar. When it’s half empty I’ll quit. What will you do?”

“Me?  I’ll trip the hostess, order a drink, and play some Blackjack.”

“You get $100 bucks. That’s all. Promise me you’ll quit when it’s gone.”

“You’re cheap but I promise.”

“I’m not cheap. I’m frugal.”


“Well, dinner was decent and I liked the rag-time band. How’d you do at the Blackjack table?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Did you keep your promise?”

“I couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Had three aces and was sure the pot was mine so I raised. Some bastard had a full house.”

“How much?”

“Shut up. How about you? Bet you lost all your quarters.”

“Nope. Sit down.”


“I said sit.” (he sat) I got down to about ½ my quarters and then . .. “

“Then what?”

“Then I hit the jackpot.”

“How much?”

“Sure you want to hear this?”

“I’m about to smack you.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“How much?”

“Jackpot paid   eight thousand, eight hundred and twenty five dollars.”

“Holy shit. Gonna teach you to play Blackjack.”


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AT THE CLEARING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

            In the process of packing to move I discovered a folder containing about twenty short pieces I wrote several years ago for a creative writing class I took at the U. of Chicago.  Among them was a description of The Clearing, an adult retreat center for those who want to spend some time working in a creative area be it writing, woodworking or spinning yarn.  Driving home from a week I spent there, I had written something about that idyllic place and there it was, in the forgotten folder. See my post, “A Memorable Time.”  Here it is.  I wish you such an experience.


It was a week of t-shirt days and sweat suit nights

Watching the Artist scarlet the maples.

It was logs and stone and pine needles and glistening red berries;

Morning sunshine filtered through pine trees

And white birch trees that marched forth

From a black forest ‘neath the moon’s spotlight.


The bay, a smooth blanket of sapphire,

A lone sailboat drifted by.

Rolling green hills, blackberry bushes,

White clouds webbing the sky;

Bright new condos along the shore

Like sea gulls facing the wind;

Weathered log cabins hiding deep in the woods.


Red barns, blue silos, white lighthouses,

purple asters, pink mums, goldenrod,

Hummingbirds and screeching crows;

A rocky cliff, a sawdust path, a white-tailed doe.


A time to share the joy of a woodcarver

Caressing his first sandpiper into being;

To hear a poet bring her soul to light.

A time for such stillness only birds bickered in the trees

And the sea lapped gently at the shore.

It was new faces, new voices and oatmeal with raisins;

A small room and thick wooly blankets and loons on the water.


It was mood-setting Chopin on the way,

And Charlie Parker on the way home,

And me in the middle

Stretching, sinking, swallowing.

It was all of that and more.

Don’t ask me what I did there.

I was.


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Julie Rose


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My thoughts began to drift as I was driving home today and a question popped up. Aside from some family members, to whom, and for what, am I grateful?  Only a few came to mind and I started to feel – I don’t know- cheated, I guess. I trembled to think that at my age there should have been far more   Nonetheless, I’m grateful to these few.

I am grateful for having had the experience of interacting with two learned professors. One had the patience to plough through all of Shakespeare’s sonnets with me and introduced me to Plato, Socrates and a chunk of ancient Greek history. The second, a professor of linguistics as well as an artist, daily provides my brain with the manna it craves and challenges me.

I’m grateful for one friend who, in ten words, once said something to me that resulted in sending my children to an excellent Jewish Day School from which they graduated as knowledgeable, committed Jews.

I’m grateful to Helene Hanff, author of 84 Charing Cross Road, who not only amused me but introduced me to Quiller whose lectures on the Art of Reading and The Art of Writing taught me much.

I’m grateful for people like Mother Teresa who remind me how good man can be and for those like Elie Wiesel who don’t let me forget how evil man can be.

I’m grateful for having had a seventh grade English teacher who provided me with a thorough grounding in the art of writing and instilled in me a love of   books, as well as a teacher who gave me an appreciation for the beauty of the Hebrew language.

I’m grateful to two people who consistently tolerate me at the Bridge table and continually teach me more about the game.

I’m grateful to one man who taught me how to laugh again, gave me a love of gardening, and opened my eyes to the extraordinary ability of very young children to learn.

I’m grateful for having grown up at a time when Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole and ‘Ole Blue Eyes filled my head with lyrics I’ll never forget.

And I’m grateful to all libraries which give me access to the world’s knowledge: books to entertain, teach, challenge me.

This seems a paltry list. Certainly I could mention Martin Luther King and others who stood for equality and human rights; Jonas Salk and his ilk who gave us solutions to medical problems; those who invented a myriad of things that enhance our lives, but I am not here speaking of humanity at large – only of those who  touched me personally.

For whom, for what, are you grateful?

Julie Rose


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Over time I have collected some quotes about the craft of writing which I think are worth sharing with others who write. It’s questionable whether to call writing a craft, an art, a talent  or an obsession but that is another matter.

“Writing is a journey into memory and the soul . . . after a few months without writing I fear going deaf, not being able to hear the silence.”  Isabel Allende

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” Isaac Asimov

“When you make music or write it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about.” Lady Gaga

“Minds so small you could put them in a gnat’s navel with room left over for two caraway seeds and an agent’s heart.” Fred Allen

“Writers will go to stupefying lengths to get the infernal roar of words out of their skulls and onto paper.”  Barbara Kingsolver

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  Cyril Connolly

“There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.” John Fowles

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you, I am here to live out loud.” Emile Zola

“It’s tougher than yak jerky in January, but as any creative person will tell  you, there are days when there’s absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing.” Richard Krzemien

“Detail makes the difference between boring and terrific writing . . .  As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors.” Rhys Alexander 

“I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.”   Stephen King.

“If  you have any young friends who aspire to be a writer, the second best thing you can do is to present them with The Elements of Style.  The best thing  you can do is to shoot them while they’re still happy.” Dorothy Parker

And finally, my favorite quote about writing:

“It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind,  the words my people uttered….”  Gustave Flaubert

Which one really screams at you?

Julie Rose





Aside from the good guy characteristics – kindness, consideration, generosity –  there are two characteristics I value above all others.  One is creativity; the other is imagination. Discipline runs a close third – discipline of both mind and body. I sometimes wonder if imagination and creativity are one and the same.  If not, where is the line that differentiates them?

It seems to me that one can possess imagination without being creative but I don’t think one can be creative without imagination. Consider an artist.  Certainly his imagination combined with creativity to produce  a painting. Is it possible to produce a  painting without exercising some  imagination?  I think so.   A woodworker can build a birdhouse – a creative talent – without imagination.

I can be imaginative in the kitchen – change a recipe, play around with various spices – but that is not creativity.  It becomes creative when I develop an entirely new recipe. Conversely, the act of assembling a 500 piece puzzle demands some creativity, but no imagination.

Are we born with those characteristics or can they be learned? Handed a box of crayons a toddler will begin to scribble all over a sheet of paper.  His ‘picture’ may be indecipherable but his creativity was in full gear while he scribbled. Was he imagining something when he drew that picture?

Whether innate or learned I think either characteristic can be drummed out of a child. When that happens a child grows up to be a robot, a turnip.  Only when our teachers’ colleges and curricula recognize the value of creativity and imagination and are taught how to encourage those traits will people benefit from life-saving and labor saving devices, and a new galaxy found, for progress is not made by one lacking those traits.

What is creativity?  Imagination?  William Plomer (?) describes creativity as “. . . the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” Einstein calls imagination “…everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” I’ve also seen creativity described as: “…. Your job is to have mind-blowing , irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about.”  Don’t laugh. Applaud the writer’s creativity.

Both, I think, call upon one’s ability to squint: to see beyond the black and white of things: to experience the many shades of gray; to visualize a rainbow as a lasso, a plate of spaghetti as a confused mind, a garden hose as a snake.  Squinting is exercise of the brain in a manner that feeds one’s creativity and imagination. Go outdoors and look at a tree with a squint. What do you see?

See previous posts:  Flying High and Squinting.

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Julie Rose


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          This verse is dedicated to all writers, whether of fiction or poetry, who struggle mightily to find the right words every time they sit down to write.   The right words don’t come swooping down, unbidden, and land just where a writer wants them on a page.  They play hide-and-seek; they elude the writer; they challenge him.  Only the best of writers can find them 100% of the time.

          Sometimes the writer depends on Webster or Roget to help him out. Sometime he searches for what others have had to say about his subject. Sometimes he tries half a dozen words before deciding which to use. And sometimes he crushes the paper into a ball, throws it into a wastebasket and goes for a walk or pours himself  healthy dose of Jack Daniels.   

          Despite their elusiveness writers happily face the challenge of ferreting the right words out of their corners. It’s a game writers must play. They’ve been roped in – there’s no choice, no escape.


In vain do I search for honeyed words;

Melodious, thoughtful, and warm.

Metaphors, similes, hidden from me.

If I try to write of hate and desertion

Rancor, and two-timing souls

I’ve nothing with which to compare.

Nor can I convey the feelings evoked

When writing of friendship and love.

Elusive the words that picture their spirit,

Fleeting, skybound, hidden in clouds.

Wispy are they to capture in prose or verse,

To write of a loved one, a worthy friend,

 a lesson learned, a truth uncovered.

A challenge to my leaky pen.

Yet can I write of trees and tulips,

Describe gardens in bloom,

Sand castles and sailboats.

Where are the words that evoke

smiles, delight, understanding

When I try to paint pictures of anger or peace?

I search long, dig deep, for words

That  do not betray my intent.

With envy, regret, I face the truth

No Shakespeare, Steinbeck,

Michener, Allende

Nor Plato  am I.


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Julie Rose


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I cannot tell you why I write. There is nothing to be gained by doing so. I’m not gong to win a Nobel Prize or retire on the royalties from my novels. So why do I do it? Why am I compelled to write almost to the exclusion of doing anything else?


Perhaps the answer is that writing like talking without being interrupted. And why is it that you an search for an idea until your brain bleeds, then suddenly one comes rushing in unbidden and you dash to your desk, all else forgotten? The writer can no more stop the words from flowing than he can stop the snow from falling. The difference between writers and others is that writers have a lot on the inside they need to get on the outside and it’s the same with dancers and artists.


When I decided to try my hand at some poetry I discovered I had a head full of ideas and thought I’d never given voice to .  You don’t normally say to someone “Do you think imagination is the highest kite you can fly,” do you?  Or “Do you know what I mean when I ask you if you can squint?”  Ideas like that came pouring out in the form of rather pediatric poetry.


I don’t expect that anything I write will win a blue ribbon but it seems to me that I have succeeded if my words are found to be interesting, challenging or inspiring. If they raise a question in the mind of the reader that’s a plus.  If they send the reader in search of more information or inspire his curiosity that’s better than a gold medal as far as I’m concerned.


Isaac Asimov summed up his passion for writing, saying, “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”

Julie Rose


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