Philip Weiss,

Philip Weiss,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Aug. 8 1998 3:30 AM

Philip Weiss,

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       I got home to the Hudson Valley yesterday afternoon in a typical post-vacation state, nerve-racked and full of stories to tell my wife. Also a couple of dreams for her to interpret.
       My wife lay on the green couch, regarding me warily. I know she likes it when I go away--quiet at last!--and finds my return jarring. I need so much attention; and while her conversational style is epigrammatic, I go in for long, humorous narratives that sometimes cause her to raise her hand and clap fingers against thumb in the international flap-lip symbol. Or she responds to my chatter by saying something like "You don't know who I am." There are times when I have to agree.
       Yesterday she announced that she had started a new relationship: with "Morgan," she said tantalizingly.
       It turned out this meant E.M. Forster. She was halfway through Howards End and delighting in it and looking into Forster's involvement with the Bloomsburyites, whose values and households are an area of interest for her.
       I managed to tell one story she liked. For an hour at dusk on Lac La Croix in the Minnesota wilderness, my camping buddies and I had watched birds gathering near the fish guts and heads we had left on the cleaning rock, 50 yards from camp. First a gull landed in the water 70 feet from the rock and summoned another gull with high-pitched calls. Then a bald eagle on a neighboring shore swung massive-shouldered through the air to a tree on our island (sorry, flag-wavers; the emblem is a scavenger). Four crows crowded another tree near the guts.
       All were waiting for the right moment. All were scared. After a nervous half-hour, a gull charged and flew off with the intestines. Its friend swung in for a fish head. Wild animals are wary, my friend Tony said. Opportunities are filled with danger and fight.
       My wife, who loves a good lesson, leaped up from the couch to grab a green book--Maurice. She read out a passage about careers. The most unsuccessful career is not the man who failed to prepare for opportunity but the man who "has prepared and is never taken."
       So, the eagle and crows in the trees were fully prepared for the opportunity but could not take it. They were, in Forster's words, "staggering through life fully armed."
       My wings felt pretty draggy after that, and I wandered into the yard to look at flowers. My wife watched me from the deck with an amused expression. I sensed she was about ready for me to leave again.