Blogging can take one in some different directions. I posted a couple chapters from a book that I tried to write, never finished, and never did anything with. Looking at those old chapters reminded me of one of the books that I had read 20 years ago that had inspired me to write, Stonework by John Jerome. It has been a long time since I read the book and I can't remember much of it, but it was an accounting of rebuilding old stone walls on his farm in New England, perhaps a Zen and the Art of Wall Building (minus the Greek philosophy BS). The labor of the wall was a framework around which Jerome built the remainder of the book which had little to do with walls and much to do with broad observations of life, the natural world, and a philosophy for making a better life through simplicity. Stonework was one of those books that inspired course corrections in the navigation of my life. If nothing else, it inspired within me a deep desire to write.
Looking at my old chapters, prompted me to have a look on Amazon for Jerome's books. I found immediately On Turning Sixty-Five, Notes From The Field. Although I have several years until I arrive at that age, my recent decision to retire from work and approaching the magic age of 62 seemed close enough. Since I made the choice to retire, which is about 89.33% finalized, I have been in something of a mental tizzy. I have not been able to sit and read a book or even finish a magazine article. My head seems a swirling mass of worries and concerns. Jerome had provided direction in my life once before, the midlife crises part of my life, perhaps he could do it again as I step across the threshold of the merely middle aged to the elderly.
I am not aging with grace. I despise what I have seen of old age from my parents and my entry into it is not promising. So I thought Jerome's book just may be the ticket. I have read the first few chapters and the magic of Jerome is definitely apparent. He has a clarity of thought and calls a spade a spade or a god damned shovel as the situation demands. Minor profanities pepper his writing as they do mine, we talk each other's language, although Jerome is far more grounded in reality and does not share my dreamy romantic bullshit.
So I have been enjoying Jerome's book, and this morning I decided to see if he has a web page or blog. I was shocked to find out that he had died of lung cancer in 2002, two years after On Turning Sixty-Five was published. I was not expecting that. John Jerome was into fitness, healthy living, and a healthy attitude. Although I have only read one of his books and a few chapters of a second, I felt that I lost a personal friend...eight years ago. Last night I read Jerome discussing his brother's death from cancer, and this morning I discover two years later he succumbed to it himself.
I, in some fashion, feel that emotion which Paul Olum said of Richard Feynman...how can he be dead? I seek solace from a man's words only to find out that he died two years after writing them. He was not supposed to have died. I was supposed to find a website and read some bit of stoney wisdom, not an obituary. There are times when I feel that death cheats us and John Jerome is such a loss.
To better understand John Jerome read the obituaries, especially Bruce McCall's touching piece here:
In Memory Of John Jerome
Jerome's Books At Amazon:
On Turning Sixty-Five
His other books can be found on Amazon's John Jerome page:
John Jerome At Amazon
Random House, On Turning Sixty-Five
Edit 11-14-10: I found this quote from A Writer's Trade, a book Jerome published in the mid 90s about the craft of writing.
After hearing someone on the radio mention that every word is a metaphor Jerome writes:The above quote is from:
[page 215] Not a terribly original observation, but it struck home: here we are with this capacity for language, the tool with which we've built this incredible civilization. And yet the capacity for language itself specifically freezes us at the symbolic level, permanently divorced from the experience of the real world. We are incurably afloat in a sea of words, of symbolic representation, and can't cut through to the thing itself. It is the Word that makes us so powerful, and that prevents us from seeing the actuality that the Word represents.
A Reader's Journal, By Bobby Matherne
You can read all of my retirement related posts at: