Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Senior Citizen at the Beach

Like venom is to serum, my melanoma cures me of my sun lust.

The remainder of my zeal for sunshine vanished beneath the 50 extra pounds hidden beneath the T-shirt I now wear when I swim.

The sun's too hot for my head now ... thus the hat.

No running for a football pass anymore ... plantar faciitis.

And the sunscreen ... block 45 ... makes me feel like a pig destined for the spit.

PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE. Tell me that I will never wear a Speedo!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing Pigs

I was at the base of an enormous mountain, heading inside through a series of tunnels and small rooms. It wasn’t like an ordinary mountain though… it was more like the big top candy mountain in the song. I had watched an old western movie on TV starring a very young Burl Ives before going to bed. No doubt, that led to the mountain. Alongside the passageways were numerous bins of candies and chocolates in wire baskets stacked two and three high.

Louis and Susan were with me, but somewhat ahead. I recall them bending over the bins shoveling up double handfuls of M&M’s. I figured the candy was there for the taking and reached down and scooped out a handful for myself and ate them as I walked along.

The next thing I knew, I was outside on a very steep grade of the mountain. Louis and Susan were gone and someone else was there telling me that the police were after me. It seems that they had identified the hand-scoop pattern in the M&M bin as belonging to me and were looking for me everywhere. They were driving police cars, but there was no road or path wide enough for them to drive the cars. I decided to head back down the mountain to turn myself in and to let them know that I thought the candy was free.

I headed down the mountain in a freefall. It was like I was in an elevator on the side of a sheer dropoff from the top of the mountain falling at a tremendous speed … actually not falling as much as a controlled rapid decent with no visible means of attachment to the mountainside.

Then, it was over. I discovered that the policeman had been attacked and was no longer looking for me. I found myself standing beside an open field, yet it was far too steep for me to actually stand there. I noticed a dog running around, excitedly sniffing as it searched the field. There was no explanation how the dog was able to stand where a person could not. Suddenly, it stopped and furiously began to dig. To my amazement, it dug up a small piglet. Although the moment felt surreal, I knew immediately what had transpired. The dog had dug up one of the pigs that the farmers on the mountain had planted. I realized that since the land was too steep to work regular crops, they had resorted to planting piglets ( like you do seed potatoes ) in order to grow a crop of hogs. They were harvesting a small piglet like you would a new potato in the early summer. Since a man could not stand on the steep hillside, they were using tracking dogs to find and retrieve the pigs in the same way farmers in France use pigs to sniff out truffles or morels.

I had just begun to ponder the idea that the piglets were only planted up to their necks in order to keep them from rolling down the mountainside and were instead grazing on grass within their reach instead of growing like potatoes. The thought occurred to me, however, that pigs don’t graze like cows.

I reluctantly woke up. It was 3:15 AM.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Unspoken Eulogy

Marshall’s. We are not much for eulogies ...not much for the public outpouring of our deepest feelings or grief. We were taught long ago that feelings had a place … they belong inside ... out of sight … private … hidden. Feelings are something to be endured,not displayed. Except, of course, anger. Anger, which is to be worn on the sleeve … proudly.

Point being that none of us could delivery a eulogy. Problem is that there are expectations that accompany delivering a eulogy … such as, being eloquent, and insightful, and providing the outpouring of our deep-seated, raw emotions for the funeral gathering. Conversely, the eulogy is no place to air anger, old grievances and baggage. Here in lies the paradox. The expectation is to publicly display that which we had been taught to hide since childhood and hide what we had been taught to display. Display the feelings and hide the anger.

Anger is the key word here. We couldn’t do the eulogy for fear the anger would creep in. Anger is what we share in lieu of brotherhood. I know some of the reasons that I was angry at dad, but not all of it. I don’t know what my brothers’ issues actually are. I can speculate for sure and strongly believe that they had good reasons to be angry. I don’t know because Marshall’s don’t talk. We don't talk because feelings might emerge and we don’t discuss them. We don’t talk about them because doing so stirs up the anger. Marshall’s shout and curse their anger. We don’t talk.

Letting go is hard for Marshall’s. I was angry at dad for a very long time,but somehow managed to let it go. I made my peace. Not with him though … with me. I think my brothers are still angry. Each has his own reason. When I was angry at dad, I desperately clung to the anger. It was like my best friend. I hated it, but it was what I had. I grew up hiding to cry … hiding to be afraid … hiding to feel inadequate. Hiding and being best friends with your anger is not compatible.

The night before my brother Ron died on the surgeon’s table, I told him that I loved him. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. Letting go of my anger toward dad was a close second. In the aftermath of dad’s funeral, I have had to face another challenge that may have topped them both. Now is not the time to discuss that though.

Where is all of this leading? To this.

An Unspoken Eulogy for Earl Marshall

Dad was a product of his times. It colored both who he became as a person and as a parent.

He was a man of strong opinion. Opinion that he did not mind sharing.

He wasn’t much on talking,but he had a PHD in telling ... in no uncertain terms.

For dad, things were pretty much black or white, right or wrong. Right, of course, being his view on a topic and wrong being the rest of the world.

Dad believed strongly in minding his own business. As any of the sons can attest, his business when it came to his sons was liberally defined. I am sure each of us is quite familiar with the statement, “It is none of my business but …”

Dad was not much on change. Thus he stayed with the same job, lived in the same place, and went few new places. I butted heads with him on this topic when I tried to grow my hair longer. He thought I was insane when I went to Europe, He nearly had a stroke when I pierced by ear. And he just shook his head when I got my first tattoo.

Dad was a fighter and had a temper of legendary proportion.

He was a worker. “We were put in this world to work”, he would say.

Although his actions sometimes seemed otherwise, I believe his intentions were good.

- I believe he did the best he knew how.
- I believe he wanted us to be good, honest people.
- I believe he wanted us to love and care for our families.
- I believe he wanted us to be hard workers.

I’m not sure any of us can truly “know” a person … people at just too complex. However, I think I do know two things for sure about dad.

- Dad loved his family … all of us.
- Dad never wanted to be a burden to anyone.

Maybe now he can rest.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Quite a few years ago, I started leaving special rock sculptures when I traveled, or when I hiked on special trails. The sculptures were made from stones out of the Rock River an d generally also had a feather, a bead, and a coil of copper wire as a part of the construction. each sculpture had a laminated message on it indicating what it was and my address in case the finder wished to contact me. To date I have hung about 80 of them in around 15 states and 11 or 12 countries. I also gave them as gifts to people I met in my travels ( three in China, one in Ecuador, and one in Istanbul. I like to revisit sites where a sculpture was hung and if it is no longer there, a speculate on who may have found it and where it has gone. Over the years, I have received several letters from people who have discovered the sculptures. Below are some of the letters.

Dec 4, 2006

From Olen of Brattleboro, VT


Hi. I was hiking up Mount Wontastiquett yesterday. It was a beautiful day to be alone with Gods handiwork. When I got to the top I saw your beautiful “Hiking Stone” It was very unique and lovely. I do; “however”. Think it; as a work of human concept, is out of place in the nature preserve. Please concider this. Your art is very nice. I too am a artist. I do glass.



P.S. Merry Christmass! Peace to you.

[Generally, people who write to me are not the greatest spellers. Not sure why. This guy might have a point about appropriateness of my placement. However, at the time, I wondered why the tranquility he was seeking was not disturbed by the presence of the radio tower just behing where I hung my sculpture, but it was disturbed by my stone.]

On three different occasions, I hung a stone in Ogunquit, Maine along a hiking trail called "the Marginal Way" which overlooked the ocean. One of the teachers in my school came to me to let me know that he and his daughter had found one of the stones and he and his group of cross country runners checked out the sculpture later as well. Subsequently, I got the letter below.

Dec 20, 2006

Xmas card from Roger L - Artist from Gardner , MA

Notes on card –

The weight of stone?
The weight of a feather?
They do go together.

From Roger L
My Dog – Rambo Diesal

Hi Bruce Marshell,

My couriosity introduced me to an hanging sculpture (Nov 6) on “Marginal Way” at “Beautiful Place By the Sea” = Ogunquit. After reading the attached the note and my having lived in Montreal, Tell me is my gess right in thinking that you Bruce hung a sculpture of yours on “Mount Royal”? I too have Metals in RUST sulporting each from a tree in my back yard. It’s the Balance, Wgt, Sun of Orange – colours soon the snow will play on our amazement.

I drove to Williamsville, VT this past Nov 26. All seemed still at your home. I did like “The Top Hat “. Noted your sculptures at home at the barn across the street. It was already darkening. Would like very much to make a return visit, say next summer. Earlyer in the day. Although I have not painted , W/C for a few years. I’ll always feel rewarded that a gallery accepted 50+ of my works for an exhibit on Rue St Paul in Old Montreal. That is B/4 I went o Gardner in 1985 after 13 years in Montreal.

Thanks Bruce for making my trip to Ogunquit an added touch.


[For a while there, I thought Roger might be a stalker. Interestingly enough, he referenced a stone hung at Mont Royal in Montreal. I had hung a stone there. He had found stones in both Montreal an in Maine.Roger also sent a xmas card the next year with information on a wall mural in MA that he had recently restored.]

From the ladies bridge group of Sunbury, OH
October 26, 2007

Dear Mr. Marshall,

On October 24, 2007, our ladies bridge group of Sundry, OH took advantage of Skybus Airway’s $10 flights to Portsmouth, NH. As we walked the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine, guess what we found! Thank you for adding to our lovely trip.

The ladies from Sunbury

[These ladies also sent a picture of the sculpture that they had taken.]

From the residents of Ogunquit
November 17, 2007

The two rock, feather, wire and bead sculptures that you left hanging on trees along Ogunquit’s Marginal Way have been removed. We ask that you not place any more of your sculptures along our public footpath. The vegetation along the Marginal Way is very important, because it controls erosion. Wires wrapped around tree limbs cut into the park, opening the trees up to insects and disease.

We do not wish to have our visitors leave anything along our Marginal Way. If every artist who visits and loves Ogunquit left his or her work on the Marginal Way, it would soon be spoiled.

Please respect our town property. We are happy to have you visit and refresh yourself by walking the Marginal Way or the main beach, but we ask that you leave nothing behind after your visits.


Ogunquit Residents

[Of course they are right. I should not leave things behind. But, I do!]

Anne and I visited Mt. Agamenticus near York, Maine and I left a stone in the park there. I received this post card.

From Mt Agamenticus Conservation Program of York ME
June 2, 2008

Hi there –
Thanks for visiting Mt. A. Your Rock River stone has been relocated to our conservation office and is on display there, and has inspired intriguing conversation. It was moved to further our “leave no trace” mission. Any questions call Robin.

[I can never go there again. I envision a huge glass case with my stone and a big picture of me with a sign saying "Defiler of this beautiful park. Do you recognize this man?"]

I used to do a lot of hiking around Kilburn Pond near Hinsdale, NH. I think one of the sculptures that I left there is the one this letter is referencing.

October 5, 2009

From Sheila in Antrim, NH

Hello Bruce,

A few years ago my stepson,Jon, found one of your hanging sculptures in Hinsdale, NH. While painting his room after he left for college, I found the sculpture and your address. I thought I would write to you to let you know it had been found!

We do very much enjoy it and it now hangs in the window of his newly painted room in Antrim, NH.

Thank you for this creative art!


Anne and I visited San Antonio this February and I left a sculpture on the museum grounds at the McNay Art Museum.

30 March 2911
San Antonio, TX

I am writing to let you know that I found one of your sculptures. I found it on the grounds of the McNay Art Museum where I work as a security guard. I was thrilled to find it and when I read that it came from Vermont, I was even more amazed. I was born in Rutland, Vermont and lived there until I was 5 years old, last place being Brattleboro, VT. I feel like I was meant to find it. I felt maybe it belonged to a Vermont girl and I took it home. I was actually having some yearning for New England for a few weeks (I lived in CT until I was 23). Now I have it in my bedroom and I see Vermont every day. I love it and I love they way you are leaving them all over for others to find. I love rocks and have them spread all over my house but this is the best rock I will ever have because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford a trip to Vermont again – this will be my Vermont forever.

Thanks again

Ruth W

[How incredible that she used to live in Brattleboro.]

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Old Wounds

Today, I discovered what I already knew. I found what had never been lost. I revisited a place I had never left.

Today, I peeked under the bandage of a 45-year old wound. And I found the underside of the bandage dripping with blood and the wound gaping. Such wounds, wounds to a fragile self cannot be healed. A self caressed with a skin, paper thin and vulnerable. Penetrable. Potential blood fountains!

In fear, I shield myself with an umbrella of melancholy and am soaked for my effort. I slather the wounds with medicinal forgetting, but remembrances of phantom limbs invade my thoughts.

I bathe my wounds in the light of day and wince. Unbearable. I return to my old friend darkness. The pain is familiar … rhythmic and measured once again.

In a way, it is reassuring. It reminds me that I am alive.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sleepless Nights

Generally speaking, I do not have a problem sleeping. I attribute this to my clean living and crystal clear conscience. Every so often though, I wake up in the night with a thought that I can’t let go of to save my life. Last night, I spent from 3:01 AM - 3:35 AM dwelling on the word “Orangey”. Not orangey, the adjective. I can deal with that. It was orangey, the noun … which, as you well know, does not exist. I vaguely remember dreaming before I awakened about a parade of figures shaped like oranges, with human legs, marching down a street. No more.

I have tried to look at this from many directions. And I have some theories. Is my brain wordsmithing? Since I am not sure that wordsmithing is a word either, there is a strong likelihood that my brain is to blame. That is, if wordsmithing actually means to create words, which is what I take it to mean. However, if this definition is not generally accepted in the public realm, the theory falls completely apart. That would indicate the word is not a word at all and that my brain is generating the pseudo words and accompanying definitions for use only within the domain of my cranium. To confuse me and amuse itself I assume.

I had a second theory. There is an internal language of the brain used primarily when we are sleeping. Or, used in some multiple reality of which I am not aware. I am receptive to such a possibility, but I find it perplexing to understand why I would not be told about such a thing. After all, I am a confidential secretary … duh! If this is the case and the language does exit, what would be the purpose of awakening me in the middle of the night to converse in a language that I do not understand?

Theory three … and I am going with this one … is that this is a clear example of the concept of mythical reality. Simply put, a mythical reality speaks to the existence of a duality of reality. Let me explain. It is generally accepted that Bigfoot does not exist … generally . Therefore, in reality, Bigfoot is a myth. However, if it is proven that Bigfoot is a reality … as many claim … then Bigfoot is not a myth. So, logic tells me that in order for my brain to converse with me in a language that is not real, but in reality does exist, both myth and reality must co-exist in the same space … mythical reality.

It is so simple … why couldn’t I sleep?

3:35 AM. I am awake and have been. One might think I have been perseverating over the orangey thing. But, that‘s not true. I have been profoundly and persistently pondering since 3:01 AM to the detriment of my sleep. But, I let go of it … I moved on.

A thought occurred to me … Ken and Barbie … their relationship … is it really what it seems to be? Idyllic? Take Ken … the button-downed shirts … Izod … the blazers … not a JC Penny Fox in sight. And Barbie … oh my … an endless supply of outfits … more shoes than the wife of a Philippines President … not to mention the pink Corvette. It makes me wonder. Is the real Ken a Sleaseball ? Ken and Barbie. Wonder why no last names? Untraceable ? So perfect … so squeaky clean! To me, it’s too perfect to be true. Surreal is a better word. Ken and Barbie … it all seems so … plastic.

I wonder how it looks from the other side of the door … the closed door. Are the names different on the street. I’m thinking AKA “Pimp Daddy” … pimping Barbie out at $300 a pop. On the street, the word is “in the Pink”. Or do I have it all turned around? Man eyes can do that to you. More likely , she is walking him like a dog on a leash, bitch-slapping him like an angry Housewife of Orange County.

I just don’t know. But, I let go … I moved on … at 4:00 AM, I wondered if it was snowing. So, I cut on the light to see. It was

… and I went to sleep.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Same Cake ... Different Frosting

We were visiting the Market Square in San Antonio. As we walked around a corner, I accidentally bumped into a man heading in the opposite direction and pushing a small cart. I virtually did not see him and could not describe him to you in any way. The bump was no more than my backpack grazing him.

"Sorry" was my instinctive reply.

Immediately, the vendor from the booth at the corner we were rounding spoke up. "That guy is always doing that. He just tries to see how close he can come to people with that cart to aggravate someone" he stated. He looked me straight in the eye and gave me that wink and a nod look and said, "Damned Mexican!. What are you going to do? Damned Mexicans are all the same" "Hey, where y'all from anyway"?

Anne and I looked at one another. I know we were thinking the same thing.

Same cake ... different frosting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

And if You Aren't a Reader

I have a confession … a secret ... buried bones in the garden. Some unlucky soul stuck a spade in the ground hoping for a potato, but got Mr. Potato Head instead. It’s bone on bone in the family closet and I have to tell. It has to come out. It’s not what’s behind the green door. There is not incest in the family, at least to my knowledge. I am who I say I am and am not in a witness protection program. My secret … I am a horrible reader. I do not blame my teachers. In fact, I managed to maneuver myself into easier classes in high school. We did tracking back in those days. I hid behind a bush. Today, the fact is that I am a poor reader and yes, it does bother me.

When you are a poor reader, you mask and cope. Here is the best way to accomplish that … don’t read. It was my way. I became a teacher (purely by accident and circumstance). My conscience got the best of me. How can someone be a teacher and not read. To do so seems to me to be a betrayal. I felt like a liar when I encouraged the students to read. I decided that I had to do something about it. So, for me, reading became a task! A chore!

Okay, I would make myself read. But, there were rules. I refused to read fiction. If I had to read, then it must be to “gain knowledge”. I made that one up myself and for about three years that is what I did. I actually read (and highlighted) computer instructional manuals. Geek, geek, geek. I read about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nerd, nerd, nerd. I read the Bible. (Back then, I did not consider it to be fiction.) I do not believe that I gained much in the way of usable knowledge. Any gain was not visible to those around. Worse yet, there was no pleasure in reading.

One day while in Burlington, I wandered into a bookstore and struck up a conversation with an employee there. I explained that I only read non-fiction, but that I was totally bored with the materials that I was reading. I hinted that I might give fiction a try, but it had to be “out there” to capture my attention. Thus began a wonderful relationship with that bookstore. Their first recommendation was “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn. It was about a traveling geek show. I was told that if I could get past the story line it was a great read for character development and relationships. I was hooked. I went on to read a variety of fiction recommended by the staff, focusing mostly on female authors. I continued to dabble with non-fiction as well. On two occasions, I went to the staff there with the question “How can I decide how I feel about a situation when I really don’t know anything about it? Recommendations for specific selections as well as anthologies for the topics of the feminist movement and homosexuality soon followed. Best of all, I was reading all the time. I was never without a book close by.

Things happen. For some reason, I drifted away from my newfound habit of reading. Maybe, I just didn’t find the right book. No excuse. It bugs me to think that I am not a reader. Reading and intelligence are Siamese twins. I think that is what scares me. I may have been separated at birth. Self-inflicted ignorance is not acceptable. People know … and they reference great literature to test you. Call me Ishmael.

With Anne’s help, a strategy emerged. She found lists for me of the 100 greatest works of literature. She even bought me the first book to read … Brothers Karamazov. One look at the book and I knew it would be the last book I would ever read. It was the size of a cinderblock and would take me a lifetime to complete. Although I soon gave up on it, I did not abandon the idea. Instead, I switched to Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. It puzzles me why the great writers cannot get it said in a shorter book and why they are all so tragic. Much of what I am trying to read is tedious … at least for me. To cope, I have developed a strategy of reading up to three books at a time so I can continuously switch gears. At one point, I was fighting the Trojan War with the Iliad while visiting the deeps of hell with Dante’s Inferno, and lightening up things in between with Alice in Wonderland. From there, I tried dealing with racism as portrayed in Faulkner’s Absalom , Absalom, ventured into Joyce’s Ulysses , mistakenly thinking it would be about Greece, and for a lighter diet chose a study of a trash dump in Maine by an artist/author named Rosamond Purcell.

In some ways, it all seems schizophrenic. But, who knows, maybe I am hearing voices … maybe the voices I hear are really the great writer’s of the world speaking to me through their books.

And maybe I am freaking insane …

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Thursday was a difficult day. On Thursday, I watched a friend being led away to jail. And, I am glad. Glad, because it was right. He deserved to go to jail. He forgot that he is an adult. I don’t mean that he acted childlike and carefree. I mean that he forgot that with adulthood comes responsibility … the responsibility to protect children.

I didn’t lose a friend. Surprisingly, I don’t really feel very differently towards him. I don’t think that he is muchdifferent now than before. When the police led him away, he looked like a sad version of himself. I feel disappointed and betrayed in a way. What he did makes us all look bad. I can’t make decisions for him. Each of us has to make incredibly difficult decisions every day. And we have to live with the consequences of those decisions. Unfortunately, he crossed the line. He let desire make his decision for him. He confused what is really important ... who you really are. He betrayed the trust of someone too young to make the decision … someone he should have been helping to learn how to handle difficult decisions.

Today, one of my friends is a child molester … a predator. I am glad that he is in jail. I am glad that actions have consequences. It would be easier, I think, if I could just hate him and be done with it.

Friendship, unfortunately, is not a light switch. You can’t just turn it off.

Today, I have a friend. He is a child molester and is in jail.