Cloister Commentary, Day 262: That’s the Way I Remember Her Best

Nicole enjoys memorizing classic poems, and last night she asked me to test her on Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life”–she nailed everything, including the quality of the reading. If you don’t know it, you should look it up: it’s one of the good ones. Anyway, she told me Bob Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is next on this list–a worthy challenge–and we traded our Top 5 Dylan songs. Nicole didn’t even know about yesterday’s news: that Dylan had sold the rights to all his songs so far to Universal for $300 million. That triggered an evening of reading and browsing to the tune of those Top Fives, among them “Every Grain of Sand,” “Visions of Johanna,” “High Water,” “Only a Pawn in Their Game”–and “Girl from the North Country,” much loved by Nicole’s mom Lynda Jo, who passed away seven years ago today. I find it interesting how spontaneous choices frequently lead us to where we really need to be.

In other news, I had to do a sleep study, so Nicole helped me get outfitted so as not to screw that up. Her very pretty face smiling as she straightened my nasal and oral cannulas helped ease my anxiety about having a black box strapped to my chest, plastic tubes wrapped around me, and sensors in my nose and mouth. Thinking about that helped me actually sleep six hours, despite cat distractions.

Streaming for Strivers:

One of the great unsung Dylan tributes. Maria’s more than “Midnight at the Oasis.”

Cloister Commentary, Day 131: Pass. Pass. Pass.

Haircut. Bloodwork. Colonoscopy. Pass. Pass. Pass. It’s the way that it is in a state that’s setting a new record every day.

Did some dropping off: the dog at The All Creatures Hotel, a humane trap at the Spay & Neuter Project. Did some picking up: some Everclear at, what is it, Be Best or Be Good or Be Well? Don’t worry about the latter; Nicole’s simply making her quarterly bottle of limoncello, which studies have shown ward off the ‘rona spell. Not really.

Would anyone like a free download of the new Bob Dylan album, which is quite good and I already have a copy of? Go to and enter the following code: X7M2QB6G7. It’s a pretty good pandemic record, as it faces up to mortality and history with a tight-lipped grin and an eye-twinkle. He’s our Ol’ Blue Eyes. (If the code doesn’t work, someone beat you to it. But don’t give up on it.)

Took two naps again today. Maybe it was the four-leaf strength cup of Twining’s I had before each. Maybe I’m malaised. Didn’t Paul McCartney write that one?

Streaming for Survivors:

We spent the evening with the Old Masters. Should you like to do the same, here.

Cloister Commentary, Day 97: Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Mafia Members

My students gave presentations yesterday, the first I’d assigned on Zoom. Actually, with everyone but the speaker fully muted, they weren’t wholly unenjoyable. One gave hers accompanied by her dog and standing outside a stable (she had to work but didn’t want to miss class), and neither augmentation was a distraction. Also, I’d assigned an excerpt from Lars Eighner’s Travels with Lizbeth that I’ve always loved as an expository writing model but students have always hated, and all of these humans chose it as their favorite from among three. I wish I could teach them this fall, too.

Though it was released Friday, I had not been able to get to Bob Dylan’s new album My Rough and Rowdy Ways until yesterday. My expectations were a little low, though he has long been a very important voice in my life. Hot take: his most nuanced singing in a long time (yes, he can squeeze nuance out of those destroyed cords), sly, funny, allusive, and wise writing–and some tuff blues ‘n’ roll. Like my friend Whitney, I’d like to think the finale might really be the finale: “Murder Most Foul.” It’s hard to know when exactly to wave bye-bye, but Bowie’s showed us. Not that Bob’s dying.

Nicole drove to Roaring River State Park to take a meditative hike and commune with nature. I’d liked to have accompanied her, but we plan to return together with our friend Candace.

Speaking of, my father’s service is today, and my aunts and uncles and members of their families arrived at Mom’s yesterday. Jane is one of nine; five of her siblings still walk the earth. My uncle Larry, a skilled craftsman, made two wooden urns for us to choose from for Dad’s cremains; the funeral director was rendered almost speechless examining them. We had fried chicken and mashed potatoes provided by Monett’s Cox Hospital Auxiliary volunteers and got caught up. A couple founding members of my brother Brian’s Monett Mafia dropped by to pay their respects. We closed the day by showing Mom an episode of Gavin & Stacey with English subtitles.

We are doing our best to keep everyone safe as possible at the service, which is coinciding with other news that is definitely not great. Everyone must mask.

Streaming for Survivors:

A voice out of Texas crying holy unto its lord.

Cloister Commentary, Day 29: Grit ‘N’ Grind

Successful grocery runs: Moser’s on Business Loop (Wickle’s replenished!), Gerbes.

Successful Zooms: So long and good luck to my two student teaching interns, Morgan and Kristen. May the opening of public school in the fall be closer to normal for you.

Successful daily goals (we have been a little erratic as the “grit ‘n’ grind phase” has kicked in): meditation ; cat time ; reading (finished Sandburg’s “Chicago Poems”) ; check in on someone you care about (Bob Dylan is apparently live and enigmatically kicking, though the new single that dropped is not brand-new) ; hug and kiss Nicole ; refusing to let powerful person yelling “Fire!” in a metaphorical crowded theater on Twitter make me give up . Sorry, but this stuff is more important than it might look.

Successful Culinary Experiment: Tried a meatless version of Tony’s Pizza Palace’s great “Zeus” pie–it’s basically a gyro pizza (so rich and delicious, especially with the feta!), so without the gyro meat I call it the “Hera.” Not only was it outstanding, but I got to pick it up curbside, wear a mask, and hand Kristen our money! Why am I excited about that? I am not entirely trustworthy in these circumstances, as I plunge headlong into in-person social interactions, and that tendency can cause me to black out on the new rules. Thus, Nicole has handled almost all of the out-of-house missions. Is this stuff stressful for anyone else? I needed a Tecate and a shot of tequila when we got home.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

Something to play if you’re eating pizza tonight. Dedicated to my departed friend Bernard Watts, who first played it for me.