Summer zipped by like a drunken monkey on a unicycle and the fall semester smacked me right between the eyes before I realized September was going postless. If you have missed my rants and fictional accounts of the facts of life, this post has something for everyone. First, samples of bad poetry written in the wee hours of the morning in June.

My Neighbor’s House Blocks The Sun

His roof is high. Mine is not. I often wonder what he’s got under that high, high roof. I neither envy nor begrudge his treasure. I only long for the simple pleasure of warming my stiffened limbs while sipping a bubbly beverage, wishing I could get some leverage to lift my life back into the light that’s been blocked by the eyesore next door. Gone are the days when golden rays graced the daisies near my garden gate. Now I wait in the night.

Jealousy Loves Enmity

Stroll you two, you wicked two, off into the night.

I’m happy that you’ve gone.

No more wanting.

No more venom.

No more waiting by the phone.

You deserve each other.

I hope you drown. No, I hope you smother.

Never show yourselves around here again.

Get out of my head, you dead bastards!


Two beers and half a bag of oyster crackers later Later that same day…The first draft of another excerpt from the story of Pauline is all that stood between me and my garden plan. I knew I should be writing, so I took my iPad out to the porch swing. This is the result.

The article, one of dozens Walter had submitted, was rejected. Again. Walter was a private person. He would never dream of disclosing his intimate life. The title, “My Sister Married a Murderer and So Did I” was supposed to grab the editor’s attention. Instead it secured Walter a permanent spot on the magazine’s Do Not Respond list.

The final form letter read:

Dear Mr. Morton,

Once again, the content of your article does not seem to agree with its title. Perhaps you sent it to our office in error. Future submissions will not be considered and no further communications will be sent from our office. This is our final notice to you.


Herman B. Chaste, Editor

Who Wants To Be King Magazine

To which Walter replied.

Dear Mr. Chaste,

Final notice? You haven’t noticed anything. You’re too busy feeding everyone’s addictions to notice my article is about managing expectations. Did you even read it? The last paragraph is brilliant.

“If we intend politicians to disclose their foibles for our judgment, we shall never elect a leader. If we expect actors to value conscience above the play, we shall never be entertained. If we prefer businessmen to adopt every belief we hold dear, we shall go naked and hungry.”

Perhaps you didn’t understand what I meant by “neighboring nations go to war until nothing’s left worth fighting for. Allied forces on stolen horses shout, “Believe what we believe or else!” Occupiers and gun suppliers increase the body count and offer mothers nothing to remove the stains for which they grieve.”

Your rejection is not the insult you believe it to be!

Most Certainly,

Walter Morton

Pauline’s brother, Walter, was always scribbling something to people too important to care what he had to say. Walter thought of himself as a public servant, warning of the thought recovery and sensory collection that was happening right under everyone’s noses at TRASC Systems International where he had been a computer engineer for five years. Pauline didn’t believe anything Walter said. She knew something terrible had happened. She knew Walter was her responsibility now. One she took grudgingly. One she would gladly give up any moment should Walter decide to make good on his threat to disappear and never come back.

“I’m outta beer, Pauline! I need more beer or I’m outta here. Bring me another beer! I mean it, I’ll be gone and you will never see me again.” Walter shouted from his permanent spot on the front steps.

“Stop shouting Walter. I heard you the first time.” Pauline pressed her knee between Walter’s shoulder blades as she bent down to hand him the can.

“This isn’t the right brand.”

“It’s the brand we can afford. Now, stop shouting at me and eat your crackers.”

Walter poured the beer slowly onto the grass, being careful not to splash his shoes. The beer, you see, wasn’t for Walter to drink. It was for him to pour.

“The earth needs to drink until it is drunk,” Walter said.

“I wish you would drink it and pass out!”

“I am passed out, Pauline. You are too, only you don’t know it yet. Just wait. One day it will hit you too, and you will never recover. Just ask that boyfriend of yours. He knows EPS gives you ESP. Ask him about it. Ask him about old time religion. They make you believe it’s in your nature, that you don’t have a choice.”

“Shut up, Walter!”

Pauline sighed and went back into the house. This was their afternoon ritual, Walter eating oyster crackers and pouring beer into the grass, her waiting for her boyfriend to drop by after work. Soon she would long for these days of insane boredom. Soon she would discover something that would make her life anything but boring.

Now you know what I did the first day of my summer hiatus.

Foxy II

This grey fox showed up again yesterday, cruising my backyard, looking for a spot to call home for the winter, no doubt. Here’s how the place transformed over the summer.

Stage One

First I roped the pathway. Then came the stake out.

Stage One Part Two

Stake Out IIThe DigStage One Part Three



Then the fun began. Raised stone beds make the space seem larger than it is. The grass paths took a beating, but they quickly recovered. A truck load of soil and many bags of compost later…


A few trees and shrubs, things begin to take shape.


Then it rained…1-DSC_0370

…and as it always does, the sun came out again.

Rose of Sharon

Spring bloomers and summer stunners need to go in the ground this month. So, I will be busy getting bulbs planted and wildflower seeds scattered. Oh yeah, and writing essays, grant proposals, and research papers…and possibly some blog posts.

best seat in the house

All from the best seat in the house, of course. There will be more garden photos as soon as I tidy up a bit. And finish my homework!

41 thoughts on “If You’re Reading This, I Must Still Be Alive

  1. Impower You says:

    A intriguing story and beautiful backyard transformation. It’s good to see you again.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hi Leah. Hope you are enjoying your epic travels.

  2. Wow! Good job with the yard.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks. It’s a work in progress. Truly a labor of love.

  3. Helen Ross says:

    Hi Honie. Nice to have you back (or semi-back). Your ‘story of Pauline’ has me hooked. I’m looking forward to reading more. As usual, love your photos.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Pauline is a hard one to write unless I find time to write when I have a lot of energy, and lately I don’t have any energy. She needs to be explosive and combative. I am drained after I spend time on that character. I try to think about it in the car. That’s usually works.

  4. artsifrtsy says:

    I love that lyric paragraph! Your garden is stunning and I love the gallery you shot for the Dallas Morning News. I have been enjoying a trio of red foxes all summer – they seem to have no fear of me or the neighbors. I love your captures of the grey – lovely creatures. Good to see you back. Maybe I’ll go write a post 🙂

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Hey! The house two doors down from me is under construction. It was the inspiration even though nobody lives there yet. How do your dogs respond to having foxes around?

      1. artsifrtsy says:

        Foxes dare not enter my yard – but there is a den about a mile from the house on a golf course – two will play in front of me while I take photos while the third will sneak up behind me to check me out. So curious and so sweet.

  5. swlothian says:

    Loud cheers from down under YAAAYYYYYYY
    I’ve often pondered the missing Honie, and without a lie, my most recent ponder was yesterday. Perhaps it was in the wind and I sensed your resurrection. So glad to have you back on the radar.
    I’m traveling to the U.S. next month so I’ll look out for you as I wander around the cities I visit.
    Great job on your garden too.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thank you for the warm reception. You can find me in one of three places from now until the end of the year, in front of the computer, in the back yard, or in class. So, if you show up in any of those places, I’ll greet you with a smile and a beverage. If you travel to a city near Dallas/Fort Worth, you MUST let me know.

      1. swlothian says:

        You’re welcome. The closest we’ll be is the airport in Austin, between Orlando and LA. I’ll look out the plane window for your garden edging if we go by Dallas.

  6. It sounds like soon, very soon your garden will match your colorful pillows.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      So far yellow, red and purple are the main colors. I forgot to mention bog sage and mealy cup sage, two blue bloomers given to me by gardening friends. Day lilies are orange/yellow/purple/red. There are touches of white here and there with the desert willow, tea olive, and rose of Sharon. I’m holding off on planting any roses until this rose rosette problem in our area is resolved. Many of my friends have lost roses to the disease. Next year it should be very colorful around here.

  7. amac says:

    Good to see you back. Your excavation makes me feel really lazy; my yard is a mess. But honestly, I have no desire. My sympathies on the back to school routine. My mind is permanently shot now that I’m done.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      AH! You’re done!! That is awesome. Congratulations. I am so happy for you. Hey, don’t feel lazy. I had a crew to do the stone work. Yeah, I think I finally hit my stride with all of the writing assignments. So, I decided to add blogging back into my schedule. Of course, that could change any day now. This semester is an ass kicker.

      1. amac says:

        Yes. It’s a weird but freeing Feeling to be DONE. I’m still not sure what to do with my time. You don’t realize how much stress and mind space school is until you step away from it. I’m actually sleeping more than three hours a night. It’s odd to just work 40 hours and that’s it!! Good luck. Sorry it’s an ass kicker.

  8. That garden looks spectacular…can’t wait to see more pictures.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Next week the bulbs go in and then I can mulch properly. Once that is done, more pics.

  9. acflory says:

    I love the curves! There are no straight lines in what passes for my garden either. I can hardly wait to see how those gorgeous flower beds develop and mature. Oh and welcome back. 😀

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Me too, Meeks. Fall bulb planting commences soon, then…I wait for spring! So far I’ve planted day lilies, iris, columbine, mums, oxblood lilies, English lavender, zinnias, lantana, rose of Sharon, desert willow, tea olive, sun flowers, coreopsis, some shrubs, vines, veggies and herbs. It will look like a completely different place by this time next year.

      1. acflory says:

        Oh it sounds so lush, Honie. I know it’s not there yet but it will be.
        I don’t have lush but I do have a second crop of gourmet lettuce varieties growing in the pots on my deck. I let a couple of each plant go to see last year and they’ve self-sown beautifully. I harvested some last night to go with dinner. In a few months you’ll be doing the same I’m sure. 😀

  10. Nice to have you back!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Thanks. I noticed you had some pretty amazing culinary adventures over the summer.

  11. Lyle Krahn says:

    Wow that was a bit of a whirl wind. Glad you’re back. Given my hopeless addiction, is it OK if Iiked the fox the best?

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Absolutely, Lyle. I could not believe it when just after I’d commented on your post about the fox sighting, he showed up again. Seriously. I’d walked outside only moments after to see him slinking around the bird feeder. Crazy!

      1. Lyle Krahn says:

        Maybe you have a new friend.

  12. Wyrd Smythe says:

    She’s baaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaaack! Amazing yard project! (Give that poor fox a home! 🙂 )

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      Yeah, the natural habitat around here is G O N E. I would happily give that fox a place to hang out with all his foxy friends. Their urine keeps away the armadillos, you know. 😉

      1. Wyrd Smythe says:

        I did not know that! If I ever go exploring armadillo country, I’ll be sure to carry a vial of fox urine with me!

  13. Carrie Rubin says:

    Wow, that second poem is intense. Remind me never to tick you off. 😉

    Your yard looks great. Quite the accomplishment. Hope your classes are going well. Have fun with those online chatroom discussions!

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      HA! The yard is becoming a garden bit by bit. I’m so grateful for the mild weather we had this summer, or it might not have come along so fast. Classes are intense. I’m loving every minute of it. Well, except for when I get called on the spot to answer a question! GAAAHH! That, I did not love.

      1. Carrie Rubin says:

        Yep. I know that feeling.

  14. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I am glad that you are back and that your back is still glad. The garden looks fabulous and the story is very engaging. Just when I started to get a handle on it, off it went with some more interesting, yet-to-be-explained plot. I like it.

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      That’s the way it seems to go these days, something always “yet-to-be-explained.” I’m glad you like the story. There is a point to it, I promise. Lots of progress over the summer has come to a screeching halt now that classes are in full swing. I noticed you didn’t skip a beat while I was lollygagging. It’s good to be back, well, semi-back.

  15. That is one beautiful animal. I’ve never seen anything like it before.

    Welcome back! Why do you suppose they call them oyster crackers when you generally eat them with chowder, rather than oysters? Perhaps a bad poem exploring that topic is in order…

    1. Honie Briggs says:

      He posed for several minutes. It was crazy, he looked like he was smiling at me a couple of times. Isn’t that just like a fox, trying to get his picture on the internet!!
      Here you go, Mr. Petruska, An Ode to Oyster Crackers:

      Bite-sized blandness clears the pallet
      After excess drinking
      Nicely pairs with broth or chowdah
      Humbly helps my thinking
      Absently they soothe the senses
      Fill my keyboard with their crumbs
      Oyster Crackers how I love thee
      Sticking steadfast to my gums

      1. Brilliant! I’m impressed. 🙂

        1. Honie Briggs says:

          That is the second time this week someone has called me brilliant. I kinda like it. I need to hear that more often! 🙂 What are the odds of that though, really?

          1. See? Blogging is good for the ego. Glad to have you back!

            1. Honie Briggs says:

              Yeah, good for the ego, but so many other things cancel it out.

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