Stephen Victor

The Earth Laughs in Flowers

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Live your life. Live your life. Live your life. —Maurice Sendak

In a workshop early in my career, a recently retired navy captain whose resignation had been compulsory, was angry. Hurt.

While he served, the military was criticized. Members disparaged. Veterans inadequately attended. Denigrators were at odds with political folly, the war in Viet Nam — with governmental policies being insulated from politics.

Yet, in dark nights, dogs are known for barking at shadows — too infrequently their causes.

The captain realized he was heart and soul a sailor. Not a lawyer. Law was but what he did. In his forgetting, he told others — and himself — he was a lawyer — who — as it happened — practiced in the Navy.

Accurate? Yes. Honest? No.

His statement misrepresented the truth of his subjective experience. He said such things to garner acceptance — belonging.

In so characterizing himself his passion went underground — alienating self from self and self from passion. As consequence, on the inside, dissonant factions protested. These he became inured to.

Only now could he see through the mask of his discontent and recognize his angst’s elusive source. Now he can take leave of the ballast of self deception and disingenuousness. Now he can grieve — if he will.

People seeking buoyancy after their ship has taken on water seal flooded compartments. They counterbalance with more water — ballast — relieving the ship of its list — leveling its decks. Less seaworthy, they sail on.

The captain’s and our own self deceptions provide necessary but temporary stability. If indulged too long, we forget. As consequence, we no longer live genuinely. Become unwell albeit unawares.

Hearing the captain, my breath caught: after my Navy discharge I attended university and worked as a cop. I told others I worked my way through school. Yet — inside — I had been a cop — who also attended university. I too — until this moment had misrepresented myself. Equally disingenuously.

How did James Joyce describe his protagonist in his short story? A Difficult Case — “A man who lived a short distance from himself.”

I had two rose bushes in terra cotta pots my Bedouin-like-self ruthlessly dragged to and from places I bivouacked or lived. One failed to survive my inattentiveness. Four or five years ago I removed the remaining intrepid soul from the brig of its solitary confinement placing it in the soil adjacent to my front porch. I cut it back severely.

The next year it revealed no obvious above ground changes.

The following spring, while keeping deer at bay I fed it pureed banana peels and coffee grounds. I loved and watered it. In the past its branches bore large properly domesticated and commonplace yellow corollas. Now it festooned a profusion of lovely fragrant small red roses — wild ones!

Garden variety roses are derived from wild root stock. Culture and commerce favor calmness and domesticity — sameness: thus today’s garden variety roses — having received their uniform marching orders — are rife with roses in lock step bearing no redolence.

It’s strange to be here. The Mystery never leaves you alone. —John O’Donohue

If I may? The Mystery is our root stock…


Photo: Stephen Victor
I heard a short story, whether real or apocryphal who knows. It went like this: A woman whose circumstance and those of

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