The Abyss

Mary Bowers

I’ve known most of the crew for around ten to twelve years, others fewer than that. Morrey, for instance, was the first of the coordinators of Life Story Writing classes that I took. I poured my heart out in those stories about growing up in a small midwestern town, where everyone’s life was similar to everyone else’s: white, Christian, poor (only most of us weren’t aware of how poor we were), and anxiously awaiting to see what the future had in store for us. Few of us had any real plans for the future; we just waited for Fate to allow us to go wherever. That is what most of you first learned about me. Now you know that I got lucky when a family friend herded me into college, when I got lucky in love for forty-some years, when my children were healthy and happy, and so was I.

Dear Readers: Now you are about to learn the story of my former life – one that was not so lucky.

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Moral Courage In U.S. Politics

Don Menzel
Joyce Carpenter

Here at OLLI Connects, just as everywhere else in our country, we recognize that 2024 is shaping up to be a watershed year. Economic insecurity, international conflicts, climate fears, border chaos and our polarized, explosive electorate will influence life for the foreseeable future. And while we are fortunate that OLLI offers each of us opportunities to engage in learning and activities that provide welcome distraction, the outer world continues to churn with disturbing events that must be dealt with. And so to begin the year, we address the concept of moral courage; and we hope to hear more from you about the important issues of our day throughout the coming year. It is our goal to listen to you, to give you a safe place to express your thoughts, your fears, and your hopes for the future in an occasional series of articles. More on that later. But for today, the first entry written by Don Menzel acknowledges courageous individuals who stepped up in 2023. And Joyce Carpenter invites you to attend a lecture on the same theme.

We begin with …. Moral Courage in U.S. Politics—Editors

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2023—A Look Back

As the editors of OLLI Connects, we love to take one week each year to simply reflect on the stories and articles that you, our members, have shared over the previous twelve months. This year is no exception. Moreover, 2023 distinguished itself from others due to the sheer diversity of material we were able to publish.

So we invite you to take a little trip down memory lane and revisit the riches our subscribers and authors shared every week. You might even find a few stories you missed! The links provided in the body of this story will bring you to specific stories or categories; you can also use our search box to find specific authors or topics in the complete archive. Or….you can just look at the images.

We hope you enjoy the journey—Editors

Force Majeure

Nancy Wileden
Colletta G. Rose

We’re always excited when we find a new author, and in today’s issue we have two! Without intending to, they’ve both written about what insurance companies now call a “Force Majeure”, an event, often catastrophic, beyond human control.

Nancy Wileden describes one that happens to us all. One that approaches us stealthily and gradually, incrementally, inexorably steals our powers and abilities.

Colletta G. Rose describes a more immediate and more Florida-specific “force majeure”. One that we anticipate and prepare for but are still unable to defend ourselves against, if it is determined to destroy us.—Editors

To meet our two new authors and enjoy their stories ……. Read more

A Hidden World Under the Skin

Junia Ancaya

Florida, spring 1980

I was in for a surprise on that warm central Florida afternoon. I had just returned from a trip to Canada with numerous black fly bites on my face and neck: large, painful, bright red bumps impossible to camouflage. In this deplorable condition, I entered the examining room in my office.

A couple of patients in their sixties, small and plump, sat holding hands. She had her silvery hair in a long braid flowing down her shoulder and tied with a rubber band. So did he. They were dressed in long-sleeved plaid shirts and overalls. Wore baseball caps and leather boots.  In one word, they had the typical country-folk looks. I sensed in them a nervous anticipation.

The woman checked my face, turned to her companion, and said with a surprised look, “Honey, it seems like the doctor has them too.”

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Three Vivid Memories

Jerry Noland
Susan Harrison
Andy Mohr

Jerry Noland, Susan Harrison, and Andy Mohr – members of OLLI’s Shared Interest Group Community of Readers and Writers share three short memoir personal essays as part of a project of Vivid Memories. Creating layers of meaning and weaving images in a limited number of words (under 500) seems to bring out the best in their writing. You, too, are welcome to send your vivid memories, even a prose/poem, (under 500 words, please) to the group for feedback and tips for editing at readersandwriters.too@gmail.com.

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The Case of the Gruesome Grizzly

Bruce Zimmerman

“Hey man, pull over wherever you can. You can’t see shit in this weather. Turn on those flashers and the strobe. Base, this here’s Steve; I’m with the rookie,” he said shielding the mike against his chest.

“What’s your name son?”

“William, but everyone calls me Billy Boy.”

(Cough) “Billy Boy… Visibility zero, squall winds, lightning striking trees everywhere.”

Then as if orchestrated, there was hostile stillness.

In an instant, it turned dead calm. Just like the eye of a hurricane. Eerie and chilling silence. Hell, you could almost hear the fish fart. No birds chirping, no crickets or love calls. No animals rustling along the leaf carpeted paths.

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Mémoire de l’esprit

Peter Terzian

A while back we issued our “Memoir Challenge” and invited you to tell us about that moment when something happened that changed the course of your life. Several of you responded, and we shared your stories here in OLLI Connects. One of our respondents was Peter Terzian, and while his memoir fit the criteria of the challenge, he and we agreed that it lacked the drama essential to a compelling story.  Fortunately, Pete’s imagination is not constrained by the events of his real life, and it has produced a fascinating and, of course, yet-to-be-completed memoir. We’ve shared pieces of it in past issues. This time around we’ve put it all together for you.  Enjoy! — Editors

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Becoming

Patricia R. Antolino

I remember meeting her. It was the beginning of September when the days are starting to gently shift into the Fall season. Mark had just broken my heart. He decided having a girlfriend our last year in college was just not doable and, well, sent me on my way. Five years, and he sends me a text saying we were done. As I look back, I know that was a gift, but right then … when it happened … my heart broke. I felt the shards ripping my insides apart. The text came when I was just about to walk through the park to meet him at the fountain … what we called ‘our fountain.’ Overly dramatic I may have been, but at that age, it definitely felt appropriate. The tears just came. Full on sobbing, nose running, tissues all balled up in my hands. I sat down on the nearest bench and was relieved that no one else was around to witness my breakdown. Just me and my broken heart and snotty tissues.

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Here’s Looking at You, New Yorker Poems

Robert Strozier

Last October Cath Mason and Bob Strozier taught an OLLI course on “New Yorker Poetry,” and this year they’re back with a sequel, “Here We Come! More Poems from the New Yorker,” on Thursday, October 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the Compton Park Azalea Room. (Call 813-974-5848 to enroll.)

Bob wrote the following introduction to last year’s course, and we offer it here as both a stand-alone love letter to the magazine and as an enticement to enroll in the upcoming course. — Editors

Growing up, I don’t remember reading much poetry in the The New Yorker unless it was by Ogden Nash, high priest of light verse. Remembered, among other things, for:
“Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker.”

And “The Cow.”
“The cow is of the bovine ilk/One end is moo, the other, milk.”

Speaking of farm animals, in March of 1976 I happened across a New Yorker poem about a pig that caught me completely off-guard and left me in tears. It was “St. Francis and the Sow,” by Pulitzer Prize winner, Galway Kinnell, which turned out to be one of his greatest poems. I still get teary when I read it.

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