Countdown to The ‘Mud-Luscious’ Season

For my friends in California—or other mythical lands to the far west and South where the winter climate can’t actually kill you— this is to remind you why you live in California—or other mythical lands to the far west and South. I wish I were there, too. But it’s much worse north and east of us. (I haven’t forgotten you, Canada and Boston! Bet you were worried…. Stay tuned for stories of massive flooding in a couple of weeks.)

The mountains I’m looking at about a mile away are freighted with white still, as they have been since before Christmas. It was 0-degree F. this morning. We have learned that 29F isn’t really so bad after a month of gawdawful below zero overnight temperatures, too. Everything’s relative. But the dreariness will pass away soon.

The countdown begins.

ee cummings

ee cummings

In Just-

in Just-

spring          when the world is mud-

luscious the little

lame balloonman
whistles          far          and wee
and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it’s


when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer

old balloonman whistles

far          and             wee

and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and







balloonMan          whistles





"Vikings" is back, on the History Channel

“Vikings” is back, on the History Channel

Yay! The boys (and girls) are back. 

This from the first episode, one of the best definitions of power I’ve ever heard. And on a cable TV series, no less.:

“Power is always dangerous. It attracts the worst. And corrupts the best. I never asked for power. Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.“

Ragnar Lothbrok, Viking King talking with his son on the eve of invading England. “Vikings” on History Channel

Satisfied With Mystery


“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Albert Einstein (signature)

La Lune, La Lune

anigif_enhanced-9757-1420559103-7 Above the night she sails austere,
Chill face hides peaks forlorn;
Alone she rises from the edge,
Alone she lights the sky.

Beneath her rolls a world asleep,
Or lonely loves’ distress;
Or skein of geese, for Southland bound,
Wing blackly ‘cross her track.

Three hundred million years from now,
When you and I have gone,
And insects rule what once was ours,
Will they remember us?

Will they build moonships to La Lune,
And scramble ‘cross her skin?
Will they find bootprints we left there,
And wonder how we fell?

©Hemmingplay 2015


Pungent Valentine


I hope the author won’t mind me sharing this here, especially since I do it because she’s come up with an unexpected and fresh image or two, and that’s a hard thing to do. That last line is a surprise that hides some troubled days in the past, I suspect. There will be plenty of cloying and sweet sentiments flying about, and Hallmark will make a killing, in any case. (I put the link where you can buy her book. There’s that, too. :-) )

by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

“Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy, from Mean Time. © Anvil Press, 2004.  (buy now)

We’ve Done What Was Asked



Prow’s on the horizon, wake’s a long bubbling flow,
Storms uncounted I weathered, bleak terrors I know.
My passage, it seems, leaves no mark at all.
I glance back in sadness, then say: “let it go.”

The ship presses onward, destination unknown,
Taut cables around me mutter, sing, snap and moan,
The mast tip groans forward as new gusts arrive,
Her sleekness leaps gladly, the sea’s deep her own.

Through the darkness she takes me, my eyes cursed and blind,
Brine coats me, it seems, for three times out of mind.
I pray for the sight of rare stars cloaked in mist,
And dream, wistfully, of old friends left behind.

Each dawn brings the thought, despite what is past,
That this day will bless me with shore at long last.
Still, my body is one with the ship ‘neath my hand,
Both battered and worn, we’ve done what was asked.

©Hemmingplay 2015


*Inspired by the rhyming pattern of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By A Woods On A Snowy Evening,” although a pale imitation of that.


Old Roses

This is terrific. A small image that opens a door onto something big.

Life, no matter how sweet, is still  temporary

Life, no matter how sweet, is still temporary

by Donald Hall

White roses, tiny and old, flare among thorns
by the barn door.

For a hundred years
under the June elm, under the gaze
of seven generations,
they lived briefly
like this, in the month of roses,
by the fields
stout with corn, or with clover and timothy
making thick hay,
grown over, now,
with milkweed, sumac, paintbrush.
roses survive
winter drifts, the melt in April, August
and men and women
who sniffed roses in spring and called them pretty
as we call them now,
walking beside the barn
on a day that perishes.

“Old Roses” by Donald Hall, from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin, 2006. (buy now)


The Third Twenty Years

Courtesy Deviant Art

Pablo Casals, Courtesy Deviant Art

Pablo Casals had this to say about age and excellence: “The first twenty years you learn. The second twenty years you practice. The third twenty years you perform. And the fourth twenty years you play.”

I’m realizing I have a few more performances to go yet, and am looking forward to the play time. Every day starts with the thought “time to quit screwing around.”

Death of the King of Terrors

It is sometimes strange how something comes to us only when we can hear it. The dark wings are whispering closer to people I know and love, and it’s time.

“Death is nothing at all.

It does not count.

I have only slipped away into the next room.

Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let my name be spoken without effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before, only better; infinitely happier and forever.”



Henry Scott Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He was also a canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

While at St Paul’s Cathedral Holland delivered a sermon in May 1910 following the death of King Edward VII, titled “Death the King of Terrors”, in which he explores the natural but seemingly contradictory responses to death: the fear of the unexplained and the belief in continuity. It is from his discussion of the latter that perhaps his best-known writing,  

We Have Been Here Before

Twitter sent this to me this morning, and it struck me that the same could be said of life in 2015. We are not getting better at this task of being fully human, are we?


We had fed the heart on fantasies,

The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;

More substance in our enmities

Than in our love;

William Butler Yeats (/ˈjts/; 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923. 

Big I’s


I’m pleased to share this recent post from a friend. She’s a talented artist and writer, and I owe her big time ’cause she voluntarily did necessary surgery on “Running Girl.” Thanks, AM. Please check out her site sometime.

Originally posted on anntogether:

My Friends,

Big I’s
I wish I had miles of long hair to toss out a tower window.
I wish I knew my children when I was a kid.
I wish I kept the little black motorcycle I never stayed upright on.
I wish I had a spotted cow in my backyard.
I wish I could wear a silver ball gown and waltz.
I wish stars were close enough to taste.
I wish I felt this young when I was.
I wish beds were made of clouds.
I wish I could share all my thoughts.
I wish I could wear night as a pair of mismatched socks.
I wish the sun set on my shoulder.
I wish words were made of water.
I wish dreams fit inside my secret decoder ring.
I wish I had a secret decoder ring.

Big Eyes And yes, my post title was inspired by the movie, Big Eyes which sadly I haven’t ‘scene’ yet…

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Dance The Dawn

Art of War by Akira Enzeru


Awake ye fertile spirit: Rise!

Dance us the dawn, ignite fire with your eyes.

Conjure the face of the sleeping sun,

Dance away Darkness; expose all her lies.

©Hemmingplay 2014*

*This is written in the Persian Rubyi’a form, which is one stanza of four lines and the  last words rhyme in the AABA pattern. This particular poem started with the picture I found somewhere. If I were to add more stanzas, it would be called a Rubyi’at. 

Take the Shot


You few, you happy few who spent time in the purgatory of a newspaper news desk writing headlines on deadline will see this and feel a pang of joy and jealousy. “Lucky bastard,” you may mutter.

For a desk editor, this is the equivalent of the hanging fastball over the middle of the plate. This is better than Babe Ruth pointing to the center field wall with his bat, challenging the pitcher to bring the heat.  This is better than Yukon Pete hitting a gold nugget the size of a Volkswagon Beetle with his pick.

One of these can make your month—or more. And your colleagues will clip it out and put it up on the office bulletin board and you can bask in the acclaim for a while—almost long enough to make up for the lousy hours, illiterate junior flip reporters, starvation wages and insane managing editors.

But while it lasts….. ahhhhh…

Gearing Up… Again… It’s Always About That

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

The work must be done. It must be done and all the tricks to avoid starting eventually have to be unmasked and ignored.

The beginning of the new year is as good a time as any to make promises to myself. Most of my promises are bullshit, and I know that about me. But I can’t let my self-deceptions keep me immobilized. So, the work must be done.

The feeling I have brings up an image of a cat, muscles twitching and bunching, feet feeling for purchase, something to push off of. You know the look of coiling springs when a cat is about to launch itself at something? That’s how this feels. We all have our own rituals. One of mine is to read good writing, sometimes for days, and letting the ideas and the words wrap themselves around something inside and get it excited.

So it is when the work must be done. I find words like these and use them to pull me back to the chair, fight the resistance with action, ignore my own whining, and pounce.

Hello again, “Running Girl”. Let’s go do interesting things to each other, shall we?

Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.


Be Careful What You Wish For


I posted this in June, during recovery. I apologize for the repeat, but this is one of two things I’m adding today in honor of the New Year. I don’t usually wish a Happy New Year, since nothing really is predictable. But I do hope that we all get some wishes answered, and pray you all wish well.

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to see my future, to know what was to be. In my arrogance, I thought I knew everything, and as it turns out, I know next to nothing.  Less than nothing sometimes. My ignorance grows with age.

Now, looking back at what things litter the path of my personal journey, the triumphs and the broken bodies, I’m thankful that I didn’t know what was to come. Even the good things, but most certainly the bad. It would have been too much. It would have destroyed me, and, I suspect, it would destroy most of us.

I don’t know much, but think this much is true. We’re here to get through it somehow, and to learn what we can, but only one day at a time. Or, sometimes, just one hour at a time. That, and it’s important to learn how to be kind.

More knowing would fill us with grief and fear and tear us apart. We just aren’t strong enough to handle it.

Let the young believe that they know everything, though. We need their optimism and energy. Life will teach them too. It always does. But we should not wish to see the future. We should wish to live each day to the hilt, we should hope we have the courage to face what comes, and the future will take care of itself.

From a scene in “The Passenger”, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Jack Nicholson as reporter named Locke:

Locke repeatedly asks the girl, as she looks out the window, “what can you see? what can you see now?”
And he tells her this story:
“I knew a man who was blind. When he was nearly 40 years old he had an operation and regained his sight….At first he was elated, really high—faces, colors, landscapes. But then everything began to change. The world was much poorer than he had imagined. No one had ever told him how much dirt there was, how much ugliness. He noticed ugliness everywhere. When he was blind, he used to cross the street alone with a stick. After he regained his sight, he became afraid, he began to live in darkness, he never left his room.
After three years he killed himself.”

Eight Months

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

It just occurred to me that it’s been eight months and three days since the stroke. What a strange eight months and three days it has been.

The flurry of Christmas stuff made me forget the anniversary… plus, I don’t really want to dwell on it in a sentimental way. But I wanted to mark the date with a ‘thank you’ to everyone here, and those in my immediate life of flesh and corn flakes and gas bills. You all have meant a lot over the months, especially in the first 3-4 when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to write again.

I was lucky, though. Despite some lingering numbness here and there, I never had the kind of paralysis that kept me from using my right hand after the first week, and I never had the kind of damage that causes aphasia. I could still think of words and I could still type.

The latter wasn’t guaranteed, as my right side, including my arm and hand, were affected. I asked my wife to bring my laptop to the ICU the first night. I spent every second when the nurses left me alone typing, typing, typing. The idea of losing that ability was frightening. But despite some clumsiness and slowness at first, it went away fairly soon. I got tired easily, and sitting at a desk was a strain after 30 minutes. I still have reminders when I try to reach for something and I feel a catch in my back, but the new year will see a rowing machine put to good use, and it’s time to make some other changes.

But the blog kept me going, coming back, and for that I have you to thank. I’ve been able to tap into a part of me that I had thought long dead.

Now I just wish, along with Roger McGough, to ‘die a young man’s death’, where my mistress dispatches me when she finds me in bed with her daughter. :-)

Now all I have to do is finish that goddamned novel.


A Civilization Has the Morals It Can Afford: Static Rules and Social Shifts



Originally posted on Being Southern Somewhere Else:


The holidays are such a special time.  As usual, it offered me the opportunity to enhance my understanding of the blatant lack of understanding held by those closest to me, genetically speaking.  This isn’t a comfortable segment for me to write, but it’s something I feel I need to address, especially given the increasing evidence that I am witnessing a broken culture pretending it isn’t broken.  Perhaps a bit of a disclaimer is in order, so that we don’t get off on completely the wrong foot here.

I’m not suggesting that all the needs of life be offered free of charge.  Everything costs something–whether we count the cost in currency or in productivity.  What I am suggesting is a bit of closer scrutiny for the “way things are.”  Because the way they are is fucked up, not just for me, nor even for a small percentage of the population.  An…

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A Cool Way to Go

To the Threshold of Silence, by Karezoid Michal Karcz
“To the threshold of silence” by karezoid michal karcz

Imagine the fun it would be,
If, on my last journey (which I trust is far in the future),
I could order up my final ride…
Whether with wheels or wings, with keel or hoof,
With steel on steel rail, or teleporting onboard the
Starship Enterprise…

And a British racing green ’63 Shelby Cobra (with the small-block Ford V-8) would definitely be on the list, too….

or even, or EVEN…

By God! An antigrav surfboard with a built-in wet bar and
wi-fi all the way into the great beyond…. 

But I think there’d be nothing grander than
A long slow ascent up the face of one of
Nature’s most awesome sights,

A slow goodbye to soak in the immensity,
One last time.

And rising higher and higher, seeing further and further all around, when it finally all makes sense… then pinioned by the stabbing light of eternity, up… up there, growing slowly closer…

Imagine the fun of that.

© Hemmingplay 2014

I Don’t Remember My Name

The old one,
Resting on the sand for 1,200 years, gazes
Up through the murk,
At a world that
Does not know him, or care.

“I was a pharaoh … but what was my name?”
And so all greatness is forgotten.

Fish swim by, the sun’s brightness rolls by overhead,
Day after day,

The dead pharaoh lies invisible on the sand,
Watching memory flee with the tides.


Riding the Wind


Pushed to starboard,

Her gunn’l kissing the vast wet,

Bow digging in, shaking it off, spray flying.

Blue-green foam hisses past her hull,

Tackle creaks and groans,

Pushed taut and dangerous by a hectoring,

Keening wind rising on our stern quarter.

The rudder bucks but holds us true to sou’-southeast and home.

She rises on the nearside swell and swoops down the back of

Waves stirred and provoked to 20 feet by a restless air.

She’s a sleek hound that’s caught a scent of

Something dark and thrilling in the lowering clouds ahead,

And we either ride her or die.

©Hemmingplay 2014

The Sound of Silence

Admiring the Silence_by Serban Bogdan

One step into the powder,
The air glints with drifting crystal, the trees silent.

Two steps into the powder, then three, then more.
I stop and still my breathing.

My ears strain to find a sound in the
Presence, the white silence,
The thing that shrouds the world.

Frozen trees dusted in white, dark underneath,
Mark my passing not at all.

But these are my tracks in the powder,
Drawn deeper into the empty frozen silence,
The swishing sound of my boots in the powder
My only companion.


Hemmingplay 2014

Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief

I seem to be looking for my voice in others…for now

by Maxine Kumin

Blue landing lights make
nail holes in the dark.
A fine snow falls. We sit
on the tarmac taking on
the mail, quick freight,
trays of laboratory mice,
coffee and Danish for
the passengers.

Wherever we’re going
is Monday morning.
Wherever we’re coming from
is Mother’s lap.
On the cloud-pack above, strewn
as loosely as parsnip
or celery seeds, lie
the souls of the unborn:

my children’s children’s
children and their father.
We gather speed for the last run
and lift off into the weather.

“Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief” by Maxine Kumin from Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief. © Penguin, 1989.


Out there, in here

MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

The Awesomeness We Seldom See


The sun does not move, we wrongly think.
Our eyes just show us what we wish.

We know the Earth rolls around it, though,
Tilted this way and that;
The days and months, the seasons, we’ve been taught,
Are the proofs of something we are too limited to see.

We feel the invisible attraction of rock and dirt
From the instant of conception.
Sperm and egg swim and dance in the grip of gravity.
We never know anything else.

Yet we please ourselves to believe that
Our world is one solid thing, unchangeable,
When in truth, we’re bound with atomic chains
to a whirling ball of temporary matter, itself
Caught in the invisible embrace of vast, eternal destruction,
Pulling, pulling, pulling against the death song of
A black hole  of cosmic suck, built to twist time itself
at unimaginable distances, but all-powerful.
And most of what we’ve thought for 10,000 years or more
Is no better than a child’s bedtime story.

Lord, what fools we mortals be.

As the Earth rolls around—half a face always bathed in the the furnace of judgement—
The dark half peers into the infinite emptiness, out where
A trillion-trillion-trillion billion stars burn, out where light grows old and dies, alone, cold.
Mindless nuclear furnaces rage in silence, balls of fusion blaze in emptiness,
Racing around ultimate darkness,
Multicolored alien majesties spread across time, on scales beyond imagining.

But we cannot see, and think this dirt beneath our feet is all permanent.
The vasty deep is, to us,
Just twinkles and glints through the haze,
More than all the grains of sand in the world, a million worlds,

Other Earths
Go rolling about their own furnaces, racing through darkness and light and ultimate cold,
Torn between capture and escape.
And among them, trillions of beings live and die, each thinking
It is the center of everything, fixed in place on
something that does not move.

Our Sun pours radiation alike on the just and the unjust, the worthy and the unworthy,
Without a care for which it nurtures and which it burns.
We, who arrived as the last link of cosmic unpredictability and take our
Turn squinting at the light that just now comes above the edge
Of our rolling world, must wonder:
What does this day require of me?


by Ann Harrington

I woke to the sound of shovels scraping the sidewalk:
More snow.
Son of a snowplow driver,
shoveling was one of your specialties,
like rising at five to feed the cats,
filling the bird feeder,
making the coffee,
charging my phone—
a catalog of kindnesses
I mostly slept through.
You were the constant one, the unapologetic booster, the besotted.
I was the strategist, the asker of difficult questions, the beloved.

We chose the old house on the corner
not knowing what we were in for. (Whoever does?)
We battled, together,
but cancer made you old too soon
and left me, the independent one, suddenly alone.
Now the years stretch ahead of me
like an endless sidewalk, filled with snow.
I shuffle into your old jacket, hat,
and too-big boots,
grab a shovel and get to work,
hoping some of you
will rub off on me.

“Shoveling” by Ann Harrington. © Ann Harrington.

Saving Grace

“One time around the block 

Two times around the clock 
Three times, don’t cross the little lady (lady) So pretty and, oh, so bold 
Got a heart full of gold on a lonely road 
She said, “I don’t even think that God can save me” (save me) (Am I) gainin’ ground 
(Am I) losin’ face 
(Have I) lost and found my saving grace 
Thankful for the gift my angels gave me 

Born alone, we die alone 
‘n’ I’m just sittin’ here by the phone 
Waitin’ for the Lord to send my callin’ 

Street wise from the boulevard 
Jesus only knows that she tries too hard 
She’s only tryin’ to keep the sky from fallin’ 

Any man who says it’s Heaven and Hell 
Prob’ly got somethin’ useless to sell 
You ask me if I’m saved, but what’s it to ya? 

Blow a quarter, cop another eight 
You’re runnin’ out of high, you’re losin’ your faith 
Throw your hands up and scream, “Hallelujah” 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah 
Hallelujah, Hallelujah 

One time around the sun 
Another year older and my work ain’t done 
It’s time for me to write the final chapter (chapter) 

Deal the cards and roll the dice 
Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are my only vice 
Tryin’ to figure out just what’s here after (here after) 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah 
Hallelujah, Hallelujah 
Hallelujah, Hallelujah 

Writer(s): Erik Schrody
Copyright: Tcf Music Publishing Inc.

Dokkōdō: The Way of Walking Alone


Stumbling around waiting for the coffee to kick in, I stumbled across this. I’d never heard of this. Then… I wondered what I would write a week before I died: The ultimate solitary journey.

The “Dokkōdō” (Japanese: 独行道?) (“The Path of Aloneness”, “The Way to Go Forth Alone”, or “The Way of Walking Alone”), is a short work written by Miyamoto Musashi (宮本 武蔵) a week before he died in 1645.

  1. Accept everything just the way it is.
  2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
  4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
  5. Be detached from desire your whole life.
  6. Do not regret what you have done.
  7. Never be jealous.
  8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
  9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor others.
  10. Do not let yourself be guided by the feeling of lust or love.
  11. In all things, have no preferences.
  12. Be indifferent to where you live.
  13. Do not pursue the taste of good food.
  14. Do not hold on to possessions you no longer need.
  15. Do not act following customary beliefs.
  16. Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.
  17. Do not fear death.
  18. Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.
  19. Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.
  20. You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honor.
  21. Never stray from the way.

A Woman’s Mind



I won’t lie.

We like the slope of a shoulder, the lips, the eyes, the breast, the neck, the legs. We like the way your hips flare and grab our attention as you walk away with that special, unconscious sway. The glance, the flush of emotion, the smile.

The elegant variety of the female form is intoxicating. There is no one perfect one; each is her own expression of the grand design. Ah, what a grand design it is, too.

But there is more, when you let us see it. It can be frustrating, or enchanting—or both. …That surprising way your mind works, the way you see things we don’t—which is sometimes inconvenient, sometimes infuriating, but never boring.

When you live from a confident core, when this is all natural and unforced, it is the most enchanting thing of all.


©Hemmingplay 2014