All great and precious things

Lately my eye has been drawn to images of loneliness. Like this guy who sits on our railing and coos all day long. For a long time I thought I was hearing owls but then I caught him in the act.

According to the experts, owls hoot for a variety of reasons but the mourning dove, well, he’s just horny. According to my husband, who also loves to postulate about animal behavior, this guy’s beloved mate was chased into a window by a hawk. She broke her neck and died and he’s not horny; he’s in deep mourning and will be for the rest of his life.

North by Northwest – probably my favorite movie by Hitchcock

These two guys are not cooing at each other. The man on the left is wondering if the man on the right is the person responsible for upending his well-ordered life. Not on purpose but as the result of poor timing; the wrong word said at the wrong time. In the above scene, for over four minutes there’s no dialogue or music. Just scenes of a wasteland through the eyes of a doomed man. And then Cary Grant (as Roger Thornhill) crosses the damn road and the action begins again.

Next to our house is a vacant lot with a lone birdbath. When we first moved in there was a teepee village next to the birdbath only we never caught a glimpse of any children at play. But we had nine to five jobs and teen age children to keep us hopping and thus no time to get to know the neighbors.

Then one day I was gardening when I heard a child’s voice: “You’re not supposed to go barefoot in the garden.” I looked over to see a girl of about eight draped in the fence. “Where’s Betty?” she asked. Betty was the previous owner of our house. I explained that Betty had remarried and moved away. “I liked Betty,” she said in a way that made it clear she could never warm up to someone stupid enough to go barefoot in the garden. I didn’t find out until years later that the little girl’s mother was dying of cancer and that Betty was someone she could confide in.

I never saw her again. She abandoned the teepee village. Years went by, the teepees fell apart and someone started dumping tree trimmings on the lot. The swimming pool behind the house next door filled with algae and the property became run over with weeds and overgrown bushes. However every summer someone comes by to trim the weeds around the birdbath and where the teepees once stood.

At some point this little maple will probably grow large enough to disguise the rather odd architectural feature behind it. Right now, it just looks lonely to me. Which is okay. Far by better to be lonely and know you have a purpose than surrounded and lost.

All great and precious things are lonely.”

John Steinbeck

41 thoughts on “All great and precious things

  1. A poignant story about the girl next door. I like the image of the little maple tree. We have lots and lots of mourning doves around us and they coo all the time. 🙂 I hope you’re not feeling too lonely.

  2. Hi Jan, it is very sad about that little girl. I think that what John Steinbeck has said about loneliness is true. It applies to gifted people too. Creatives and highly intelligent people are nearly always deeply lonely.

    1. I agree – you have to have the courage to do your art despite what well meaning friends and associates have to say. Which can indeed feel lonely. That’s why the blogging community is such a blessing.

  3. JT – such a unique and inspired post – you tugged at my heart a few times and really liked this that you said
    “Far by better to be lonely and know you have a purpose than surrounded and lost”

    1. Thanks Yvonne. The pictures really inspired me – along with happening upon a re-showing of North by Northwest. Maybe doing the income taxes dragged me down a bit!

      1. I have seen north by northwest but it has been a while – I might just check it out
        And side note
        I wanted to see if you would be interested in doing a mini interview for my blog for the fall series?
        You can pick the “the questions with” format or we can do it custom – but both will be short –
        No worries if not – but wanted to ask

      2. Sure! That sounds like fun. I haven’t done an interview in quite a while. Of course I haven’t published anything I’ve written since 2017! Except for blog posts, of course.

      3. Well it is not about promoting anything your published (but we could mention whatever you have) it is really just about getting together for a a chat
        And I would like to maybe feature some of the street art you share on your blog….

  4. I love this essay and visuals on loneliness, JT. I understand the attraction to somber images…somehow they convey strength in the simplicity? And the story of the neighbor girl looking for Betty? Oh my…a reminder of how special small moments can be…and how we carry them with us. ❤

  5. What a touching post about a subject I think many of us fear.

    I love the story about the neighbour’s child looking for Betty. It could almost be a ghost story. I wonder what ever happened to her and why the house was allowed to remain empty. But somebody must still love that house if they return every summer to tend to the garden.

    1. I heard that the man became a recluse and hoarder after his wife’s death. He died a few years back and now the home is being remodeled presumably for sale. The girl is now a young woman – hopefully doing okay.

  6. That is very touching story Jan as you say it’s a shame really but how could you of . I think we call mourning doves, pigeons over here they often look lonely .
    I love the tree it looks beautiful.💜

  7. I agree: “… better to be lonely and know you have a purpose than surrounded and lost.” I’ve never articulated that idea this well, but I feel understood. Thanks.

  8. A piquing post, Jan.
    I’m feeling a bit lonely myself, right now, especially learning about the dove, the birdbath & the little girl.
    Then, the pink maple picked me up big time, even though it is alone.
    I should watch North by Northwest again. I didn’t make it through it.
    Perhaps it was too, deep for me. I do adore Hitchcock’s work.
    The John Steinbeck quote is perfect!
    Happy weekend!

  9. Doves are too good eating to let them drone on and on about how life let them down. But then, I’d have to offer myself up for slaughter and consumption were that true across species. I doubt I’d be as tasty as a bacon wrapped dove breast, broiled crisp.

    “Alone with my thoughts I’m content.” — Anonymole

      1. Hunting, in general, is a legacy of antiquated traditions. Upland hunting no doubt descends from the aristocracy’s possession of lands and weapons. It’s a challenging, if pointless sport. Shooting pheasants, quail, woodcock, doves & pigeons provides little nutritional return. But it wasn’t always that way. The tens of millions of passenger pigeons of the East Coast provided cheap food for many. Apparently Native Americans ate them. All good until they went extinct.
        I grew up eating wild game. Part of my own vain legacy I suppose.

      2. Pain seems to be a fundamental part of life.
        One of the reasons I doubt that AI will attain any human like consciousness. The lowliest creature experiences pain (or its analog). How might we translate that to a machine?
        Hunting these days is celebrated cruelty. Par for humanity’s course, I’d say.

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