After I died
     it was easier to focus
          and pretend I was

But I was having trouble
         to breathe
Then you passed your magic

     Over me

Aces and Eights
     made me gasp

I survived

Gained my new life

And another chance

The dice were tossed
     to make us a new pair



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   give it back

to the backs

Who carried



   Stand with 



   I can not




                           Forest glen



               of hope

Of promise



   Let fly


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“Citius, Altius, Fortius—Communiter”

I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics.  Watching the world’s best athletes push the limits of human achievement in sports is thrilling.  Throughout my own life I have tested myself physically.  As a teen I participated in the local swim team and tried my hand at the usual high school sports.  In my thirties I was a bit of a tri-athlete.  I’ve never been a great athlete, but I like to push myself.  Even now in my early seventies I exercise almost daily, mostly to stay in shape for skiing.

In addition to watching in wonder at the abilities of the athletes, I have always liked the idea of the countries of the world coming together in friendly competition.  Of course, there have been times when others have gotten in the way of this.  To my knowledge, interruptions (and tragedies) have never been the result of the inability of the athletes to get along with one another.

I read with some humor about Jesse Owens, in borrowed shoes and mis-matched socks, symbolically thumbing his nose at Hitler and racial inequality in the 1936 competitions in Berlin.  It was a shame that the 1916, 1940, and 1944 games were canceled due to World Wars I and II.  The tragedies of Munich in 1976 and Atlanta in 1996 were especially awful.  The Tokyo events were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even that, I think, had as much to do with politics as the disease.  Rarely have the athletes themselves protested in any way more than symbolically.  The most well-known was the Black Power salutes in Mexico City in 1968.  I know there are other, less publicized protests.  Athletes from persecuted minorities have made statements that typically have been ignored by all but their own governments.  It’s such a big stage, however, that some have been denied the chance to compete because of their protests.  The Chinese government issued an edict that any protests this year would be met with more than a slap on the wrist or disbarment!

To me, the games should simply be those contests that evince the elements of the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius—Faster, Higher, Stronger!  Because I love skiing, the Winter Olympics have always been my favorite examples of this.  I am amazed at the downhill skiers and their ability to just stay upright at almost 90 miles per hour!  Ski jumping and now the Big Air competitions are amazing.  When I was younger, I sometimes was able to “get air” off some bumps, but never twenty or thirty or more feet in the air…or doing multiple spins and somersaults.  I know, too, the strength it takes to make the turns in slalom or moguls or holding on when you hit the ground at high speed.  I’ve also had some rather colorful bruises when I couldn’t hold on, or a ski fell off, and presented my fellow skiers with a “yard sale” (a crash that sends skis and poles, and sometimes hats and gloves, flying everywhere).  A few years ago a skier cut me off and I hit the snow hard, separating my left shoulder.  Not good.

We’ve been watching some of this year’s events.  Our schedules have had us watching a good bit of snowboarding.  I’m not a rider and never will be.  My knees couldn’t take it.  On the slopes or on TV, they’re fun to watch.  I’ve spent some time just watching at the terrain park in Keystone.  I can also see most of it as I pass over on one of the lifts.  Those kids are incredible!

The other night we were watching the Women’s Slope Style Snowboarding competition.  Their feats of daring are absolutely jaw-dropping.  They get three tries to make the medal stand and each one gave it everything she had to make it.  A few of them “crashed and burned.”  The finals were inspiring in several ways.  We were cheering for the riders from the U.S., of course, but I was taken by the way the young women cheered and encouraged one another.  I’ve seen that camaraderie among snowboarders on the mountain.  They’re a community all to themselves, it seems.  Those who compete at the international level and end up at the Olympics have known one another for years, and some of them are in their early teens!

The finals came down to the very last run.  Zoi Sadowski Synott of New Zealand gave the run of her life to take the Gold medal, bumping Julia Marino of the U.S. into Silver and Australian Tess Coady to Bronze.  When Synott finished her run, Marino and Coady rushed to her, hugging her and taking her to the snow.  When they had regained their feet, the nine other finalists joined in a “group hug,” jumping up and down and reveling in their shared achievements.

This was a perfect example of why I love the idea of the Olympics.  This is what the games are supposed to be—friendly competition and relishing human achievement.  It’s also why the International Olympic Committee changed the motto in 2021, adding Communiter to Citius, Altius, Fortius.  Faster, Higher, Stronger—Together.  I approve.



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“Friends Old and Young”

My former students will probably be surprised to hear that I consider myself to be an introvert.  They really only saw me “on stage” in the classroom, essentially playing the role of my profession.  Even in my social life I feel as if I play different roles.  I’ve even been on stage in a couple of community theatre productions, and in leading or major roles, as well.  My wife and I go out quite a bit and interact with all sorts of people.  For me it’s still an act.  Getting dressed is putting on a costume.

When I was a kid, I spent most of my time alone with my books or wandering around in the woods of the river bluffs near my home.  My earliest friends were my two younger brothers, of course, but like many siblings who are close in age, we truly didn’t become good friends until we were adults.  I had some close friends as I was growing up.  Although we had our share of disagreements—and sometimes outright fist fights—we learned a great deal from one another.  It was fifty years after high school graduation before I attended a reunion, but reconnecting with some of my old buddies has been good.  It’s about the only thing I like about Facebook.

My best friends are people I met in college or after.  Even that was forty-plus years ago.  They’re folk, male and female, who fit into the mold of “no matter how long it’s been, we pick right up where we left off.”  We’ve shared all of the coming-of-age trauma, marriages, parenting, loss of loved ones.  I still get a message now and then from someone with whom I haven’t been in contact for years and it’s like nothing has changed.  I just the other day had one of those text message exchanges with a fraternity brother I hadn’t been in touch with for a good forty years.  Reminiscing is fun most of the time.  Since I’m well into my seventh decade, however, the sad reality is that some of our reunions are at funerals.  Because of that I think I’ll try to do a better job at communicating with the living.

My good wife is my opposite.  A definite extrovert.  She’s introduced me to neighbors I hadn’t met in the twenty-plus years I’ve lived here.  We’ve also had many new couples and families move onto our block-long street, so we’ve been getting to know the young people and their children.  They’re all much, much younger.  Several are the same age or younger than our youngest sons and daughters.  Of course, most of my teaching colleagues were younger, also, and we’ve become good friends with some of them.

These young friends bring a much different perspective to my life.  Some of that is, as my wife says, that I’m always teaching.  Now and then someone will ask for my opinion or advice or help with something, and I’m always open to helping out in any way I can.  Experience is a good teacher, but the tests are tough.  It’s better to get some guidance.  So we are the resident grandparents on our street and the “older couple” some of our younger friends turn to now and then.  Believe me, it’s not a one-way flow of benefits.

We love interacting with the little ones.  They are so full of energy and wonder.  I’ve always been one who is aware of the natural world, but nothing is so beautiful and exciting as it is through the eyes of a child.  The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year, and our young neighbors allow me to indulge myself and do lots of decorating and enjoyment of the traditions.  Yes, I have a Santa suit!  They know me as one of Santa’s helpers: “Danta”!  It’s great fun.

Their young parents and the other young adults we know have filled the hole in my life where my high school students used to be.  I hear of their hopes and dreams, trials and tribulations, and they don’t flinch too much when they hear me say, “Well, when I was your age…,” or some variation thereof.  I used to tell stories to my students, too.  At least I think I made them relevant and instructive and helpful.  Haven’t seen any eye rolls.

They keep me in touch with the world.  Oh, I read the paper every morning and watch the news and try not to become too depressed.  Remember, I’m an introvert.  It’s easy for me to withdraw.  I need my friends, young and old, to keep me connected.  If not for my very best friend, my wife, I would have become a real hermit.

Whoever they are, friends young and old, near and far, I value them immensely. They are more than mere ornaments in my existence.  They are my true connections to life.  I only hope I can be of some value to them.

It’s an old saw, but quite true: If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.

Have we met?


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A noiseless, patient spider,

I mark’d, where, on a little promontory; it stood, isolated;

Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;

Ever unreeling them– ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my soul, where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,– seeking the spheres, to connect them;

Till the bridge you will need, be form’d– till the ductile anchor hold;

Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my soul.

Walt Whitman 1868

This is one of my favorite Whitman poems.  Like Walt, I have watched a spider sailing along through the air on a gossamer thread glistening in the sun.  I remember wondering at its audacity and bravery, loosening itself to the whims of the air; truly a daring, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” endeavor.  Think of the dangers inherent in its rudderless flight: ravenous birds and reptiles, tumultuous waters, fickle winds, sterile landing places.

Whitman’s metaphoric second stanza refers to those ill chances even we humans face, yet we remain optimistic that somewhere, sometime there will be a fortunate connection.  How many of us drift along, emotionally, mystically detached, feeling lonesome, isolated, forlorn…solitary and unaided…while pining for the anchors of friendship, family, purpose, love?

I keep reading dire assessments and predictions from mental health experts that many of us, our young people in particular, are falling victim to terrible feelings of aloneness and abandonment due to the ravages of the plague we are experiencing.  The disease has become not only a physical corruption but an emotional and mental maleficence.  People are feeling disconnected because we are.  We are missing the social connections we didn’t realize are so important to our well-being.

This lack of togetherness is possibly the most dangerous aspect of our situation.  It is a two-edged sword.  If we congregate, we run the risk of infection, sickness, death.  If we remain isolated, we fall into treacherous despondence that is causing some to be so disconsolate that they take their own lives.  The increasing suicide rate is frightening.  If you need help, please call: 800-273-8255  The National Suicide Prevention Hotline!!

We all need connections.

I think we need to remember the connections we already have…or could have.

Reach out, both for yourself and the others you might touch.  Connect with family and friends.  Make phone calls, send messages.  Write a letter!  Just tell them you’re thinking of them.  The very act of communication will help you and those with whom you interact.  If you were lucky enough to get together for the holidays, you felt the togetherness you and they need.  Some of us have trouble this time of year without the addition of worries about illness.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real.  This is my favorite time of the year, especially when snow falls, but even I have felt SAD at times.  Those phone calls and texts are heartwarming and healing!

My wife and I have been fortunate not only in staying healthy but also throughout this pandemic in making connections with our neighbors.  We’ve gathered weekly for a Tuesday “happy hour” around our fire pit in the back yard.  Sometimes there have been three or four; sometimes a couple of dozen.  It’s been amazing to watch the kids play in the yard and so uplifting just to sit and chat about the week.  We’ve taken care of one another at other times, as well: mowing the lawn, raking leaves, shoveling snow, running errands for those who need our help.

One of my favorite daily connections is simply hugging my dear wife every day.  You’ve undoubtedly heard this before, but a good long hug (that’s only about thirty seconds!) can do wonders for your mental and physical health.  It’s like a warm salve for the soul that radiates throughout your body, and it works for both of you!  We’re both “huggers” anyway, and my grandkids know Grandpa is going to squeeze them hard.  For my vaccinated friends a handshake doesn’t cut it, either.

Don’t forget to connect with yourself!  Take the time daily to sit and contemplate your universe.  Be still.  Listen to the world around you and within you.  Know yourself.  How do you feel?  Why?  What would make you feel better?  Where can you get it?  No, I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol or more pie or chocolate ice cream.  If you can’t answer those questions yourself, look elsewhere.

Those everyday connections are priceless and essential for our mental and physical health, but sometimes just a friendly smile or even a hug isn’t enough.  Sometimes they’re not possible.  Remember that we are blessed in this country to have access to professional counselors and doctors who can take the next steps with us.  The need for mental health services has come into the national spotlight, particularly after the Tokyo Olympics.  There is no stigma about needing and seeking help when you need it.  Recognize the need.  Get the help you need.

Make the connections.  Have a Happy and Healthy New Year, my friends!

“Fear builds its phantoms which are more fearsome than reality itself.”  Jawaharlal Nehru


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It’s that time of year again.  One ending; another beginning.  Perfect time to reflect on what happened—or didn’t—in the year passing and prepare for new opportunities in the year to come.  I’ve already decided that I want to publish some of what I’ve written in the last eight years and do more writing in 2022.

I’ve never been one to promise the old standbys: lose weight, get fit, quit smoking and drinking so much, be a better partner or father/grandfather.  I mean, I’ve lost about 95 pounds in the last eight years and put in a home gym where I seem to spend most of every morning.  I’m always trying to stay away from my pipe and cigars a bit more.  I really do need to limit my alcohol intake, but it’s hard to make pledges like that at the holidays.  Maybe in January….  Honestly, I don’t know what more I can do for my wife and sons, steps, and grandkids.  I love them all to distraction and feel like I’m doing what I can.  I suppose I could look a little harder for ways to help them all.  I’ve not heard any complaints.

Those really aren’t things that need a special “commitment ceremony” on January first.  Actually, I tend to think about them all just about every morning as I’m trying to wake up and get the day started.  My daily “To Do List” generally includes something for everyone, one way or another.  One of the best things about retirement is being able to schedule my life as I see fit.  All too frequently these days, however, I have to work around doctor’s appointments and repair people.  On the other hand, my wife and I keep ourselves pretty busy enjoying life, too.

Maybe my New Year’s resolutions should be to do that more.  More travel to places I’ve never been or return to places I’ve loved.  More concerts and shows.  More hikes in the wild corners.  More time with family and friends.

I don’t feel like I’m shirking my civic duties or tarnishing any legacy I might have when I’m “just having fun.”  I wrote some time ago that this is my “selfish time.”  At my age I need to pack as much living as I can into every minute, don’t you think?

Part of my enjoyment in life now is also being able to help with some projects that are near and dear to my heart.  True, I do tend to avoid anything that smacks of work, but I also work hard at those projects that I want to bring to fruition, whether it’s things around the house or in my family or community.

When I was a young man just beginning my career and family, my unstated resolution for my life was to help people.  I tried to do that in my teaching career and with my spouse and children and friends and in my community wherever I was living or working.  I like to think I’ve been successful.  I’m not going to go into specifics, but most of the projects with which I’ve been involved are going great.  I have former students who are changing the world, literally.  My sons and their spouses, my step-daughters and their husbands, are amazing.  My grandchildren are so full of promise and talents that it’s hard to keep from bragging on them. (OK, I do it anyway.)  I like to think I’ve had some influence on all of these.

Maybe my resolution is to try and be an example for others of how to enjoy life.  I do that very, very well!  Here’s a tip.  Every now and then, stop.  Take some time to just look at the world around you.  I know it’s cliché, but stop and smell the roses, and the coffee, and new-mown grass, and your granddaughter’s hair, and snowfall or rain.  Stop and listen to the breeze and the birds and children’s laughter.  Stop and think about where you’ve been and how you’ve succeeded in getting to that point.  Just stop and take a deep breath.  I think that’s one of the things I enjoy most in my retirement.  It’s easier for me just to sit and think.  Or just sit.

I guess that’s my New Year’s resolution: Live.  I was at a point a few years ago where I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that.  Now it’s what I enjoy most.  I made my motto then, when I decided that I’d keep going, to live: Do It Now!

Feel free to borrow it for yourself.  Life is a wonderful thing if you live it!!


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“Back at It”

It’s been a while since I’ve done much writing.  My wife and I have been too busy enjoying ourselves for me to sit and comment on much of anything.  My creative juices seem to have gone more into perfecting my golf game (ha), watching our grandchildren grow, and finding ways to spend time with friends and neighbors.  Of course, dealing with the pandemic has been both depressing and debilitating.  Recently I’ve decided that my 71st birthday would be a good time to get back to being more productive with my writing.

I did quite a bit of writing in 2014.  It was therapy after the trauma of 2013.  Many of you don’t know that in the beginning of that year I lost my wife of forty years to a brain tumor.  That was just a week or so after my father passed.  Later that year my mother finally succumbed to the stroke that had kept her in a nursing home for ten years.  All of that was also the reason I retired from forty-one years of teaching.  Lots of changes.  In order to deal with those events, I wrote.

With the help of Michael Campbell (MC Writing) I published my first book, Dandelions and Other Flowers, a collection of poems from my college years in the late 1960s through early 2014.  This month I published Howling at the Moon—Blood Moon, a few poems and short stories inspired by my affection and affinity with wolves and other canines.  (Both are available from Amazon.)  I’m working on another collection of pieces—blog posts and short stories—that I hope to have finished early in 2022.  The whole self-publishing process is interesting.

I’m using Kindle Direct Publishing.  It has been quite the learning experience.  I think I had to re-submit my text four times before I got it where I wanted it.  At least for this one.  I’d like to do an e-book with Kindle, but the formatting for poetry has me stumped.  Word placement is very important to my poetry, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to get that to happen with the KDP software.

My wife keeps prodding me to finish the novel I started several years ago.  That’s another project I hope to get back to soon.  We’ll see how it goes.  In the meantime I plan to keep busy with golf, camping, grandkid sporting events, holidays, hiking, exercising, going to live music events, opera, ballet, symphony, neighborhood gatherings.  Something in that mix will surely give me inspiration for writing…if I can find the time.

Stay with me.  I might write something interesting.

We managed to survive the “flash” storm on 12-15-2021.  Had to hunker in the basement for a while as the wind howled.  We had gusts in Omaha over 80 mph.  No real damage at our home except for Christmas decorations.  I have about 20 strands of snowflakes high in the trees in our back yard.  I knew some would come down and was prepared to put them back up (it took me two hours just before Thanksgiving to get them up), but the stress of the winds seems to have short circuited some of them.  Most of them.  I think maybe four are still working.  Oh, well.  My three reindeer were blown over, and three of my oversized ornaments were blown out of a tree.  It’s frustrating, but I don’t have a tree in my living room and the roof is still intact.

The worst outcome of the storm is that my Internet seems to have short circuited somehow.  I spent almost all day on the 16th trying to get a human from CenturyLink to interact so that I could schedule a technician to come and figure out what was going on.  I hate the AI “help” systems.  Even so, when I finally got to talk with a tech, he said “your modem is working, so I can’t authorize someone to go to your residence.”  BestBuy and the Geek Squad was much more accommodating.  Bourbon was even better.

Surely there’s inspiration for writing in all of that….

The Christmas season—and my birthday—are always my special time of the year.  Unfortunately, it also seems to be a season of loss.  A couple of months ago one of my first cousins didn’t wake up from an afternoon nap.  Last week his twin brother passed from suddenly-discovered esophageal cancer.  All around us people are suffering from the ravages of this damned plague.  Despite it all, I keep my optimism, or try to.  I am lucky in that I am surrounded by people I love.  To paraphrase Clarence, I am the wealthy man who has many friends.

All of these things about living this life I’ve been given will keep inspiring me.  Maybe some of it will become topics for writing.  Keep checking, if you’re interested.  Look at my author page on Facebook and my blog at drdancox.me.


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“70 Goin’ on 16”

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I crossed the road

                  To the other side

Of course

The bus went the other way


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Inauguration Day


The fuse was lit

          by lies

                      and hatred

                                  and delusion


      E  X  P  L  O  D  E  D

into chaos




Heralds of war.

The fuse was lit

          by truth

                      and love

                                  and reality


      E  X  P  L  O  D  E  D

in unity




Pyrotechnics of celebration.

          Daniel J. Cox 01-20-2021

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