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Henry James, Mardi Gras beads and skin tags

Scarlet Stone
Posted 2/24/21

Last Sunday evening, I was convalescing in my green leather recliner after a busy day. I was hoping the subject for this week’s column would drop into my lap. It seemed to be one of those …

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Henry James, Mardi Gras beads and skin tags


Last Sunday evening, I was convalescing in my green leather recliner after a busy day. I was hoping the subject for this week’s column would drop into my lap. It seemed to be one of those stretches where there wasn’t anything hilariously funny happening, obviously interesting, or even scandalous to write about. I’d been thinking about being an empty-nester and the approach of my only son’s twenty-fourth birthday at the end of the month. I was thinking that being an off-duty mom coasting towards the finish line is underwhelming, to say the least. Add to it being a single senior after the lively clutter of husbands and loves in a life leaves me in a tizzy as if I am looking for the other shoe sometimes and can’t find it. It is all a bit like having a one-way blood transfusion...all going out and nothing new coming in. In many ways, life has plunked me into a “time-out.” I was ruminating about all of these cheery things and deciding on whether I would fix myself a salad or keep eating from the eternal kettle of boiled dinner that has gone into overtime in the fridge...when all of a sudden my iPhone went ding...someone had sent me a message. “Oh, maybe it’s my son wanting me to cook a birthday dinner or calling to tell me a funny story.” It was a text message from an old “friend.” She was more of a friend of another friend, who isn’t even my friend anymore because I think she decided along the way that my occasional over-serving of alcohol to myself, and the subsequent effects, were much worse than her dancing on bar tables or being hauled out of bars when her legs wouldn’t work. Well, here’s what I have to say...“That’s the spittoon calling the ashtray foul!”
So anyhow, this message I received from the “friend,” was to inform me that a fellow attendee from a summer ladies cocktail group I had attended thirty years ago had recently died. Not the cheer I was hoping for, but I was empathetic none the less. I wanted to consider the deceased and have a brief exchange. After all, the “friend” had taken time to message me. I innocently replied, “Oh wow, she wasn’t very old.” I expected something like, “No she wasn’t, or she was only sixty-nine” or something and maybe learn the cause of death. The response was, “Dah.” Now, what the heck was that for? It could have been COVID or a car accident or anything that caused her untimely death...right? Why toss me a bloody, snarky... “Dah”?  I looked it up on google. “Dah,” actually spelled “Duh,” according to is an interjection used to express annoyance or banality, obviousness, or stupidity.
Feeling a bit out of sorts anyhow, I now could feel another layer of outta-sortness being smeared over me like eighty-degree cream cheese at the end of a summer picnic. With lips in a twisted purse, and eyes fixed on my naked bunions ahead on the footrest, I wanted to say, “F-off!”  But I shock-collared myself and asked, “What happened?” Now this wasn’t too intellectual or insincere, and still I received a string of question marks as a response, “???” Gee whiz, I thought, “what part of “What happened?” don’t you understand? I let out a sigh and considered a second self-administered shock-collar treatment, but I simply responded, “Take care.” In other words... “I’m not a fly on that cream cheese, don’t pull my wings off or bully me.”  I’m done dealing with bouts of rudeness from this “friend” and have decided to “cut her off like a skin tag.” I love being a “Pre-Golden!” It is a right of passage, born of age and insults to decide... no more, and to be continued on my merry way.....bunions and all! There is the saying, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” In my case it is more like, “Don’t toss your colorful Mardi Gras beads to alligators.” So many people just want to bite and snap.
So, these incidents involving human behavior are writing material for me, stirring my passion.... and that’s a good thing. We can all relate to feeling insulted. I do remember, as a young person, being afraid to open my mouth for fear I’d sound stupid. We all go through that.... “Oh wait, I just went through it again!” The eternal leveling, then we pick ourselves up and continue to make sense of it all. I am sensitive and that most likely won’t change.
My older brother, a college English professor, recently gifted me with a small, framed quote by writer Henry James that sits next to me on a small semi-circle wall shelf at one end of my floral loveseat in my living room. Other useful things are nearby too, such as my iPad, a pill strip of vitamins, toenail fungus oil, the cat’s laser light toy and a couple of plastic toothpicks that follow me wherever I go in life. The James quote I have been digesting all week.
“We work in the dark.
We do what we can.
We give what we have.
Our doubt is our passion.
Our passion is our task.
The rest is the madness of art.”
This came out of a conversation with my brother about writing, but it speaks to life in general, I think. We both attended Bemidji State University and had the same English professor, but my brother had graduated a few years prior. The professor told me at one point that I had missed out on getting the writing skills and should stick to my art. Well....that did affect me. My brother is the Dr., but I do NOT believe I am the “Dah”.
I eventually tossed it into the basket of bad advice given by puff-heads who aren’t being valued teachers but rather are busy feathering their own pompous hats. My interest in writing was born years before I ever attended college. It started in the sod-roof cabin in the woods near Delta Junction, Alaska where I lived with my first husband in 1980. There was no running water or electricity and we had no TV or phone to consume our time. We wrote letters or used a pay phone in town if we needed to make a call to loved ones down in the lower forty-eight. Add being homesick to the mix, and the interest in writing was born. I wrote long descriptive letters to my parents, sharing the details of the experiences I was having up in the far north. My dad was a mechanical engineer at Erie Mining Company and would actually bring my letters to work to share with the department secretary.
Years later, a senior co-worker at a marketing firm also implied my writing rather “sucked.” She was more starched in her presentation, but the message got through when she gave me a writing assignment and then told me she had to rewrite the entire piece. That was kind of a “Dah” sort of thing too.  At the time I was not employed as a writer, but was a secretary and wondered why she expected me to do more than answer phones and make coffee. I guess I am not a technical, follow-the-recipe kinda gal with writing or life, but I do what I can, I give what I have. At the Timberjay, I am not employed as a writer either. I am the graphic designer and have worked in sales but enjoy doing this column and an occasional story that doesn’t restrict me to “who, what where, when and why.”  The most important task I have at the newspaper in my heart on many days is sharing my lunch with Loki, the sweet-spirited dog, and helping keep his water dish filled. There is nothing “Dah” about that.