The depth of our own natures

A friend who lives in the wilds of transcendentalism, in the land of Thoreau and Emerson, told me not too long ago that his daily run sometimes took him on the path that circles Walden Pond. This same friend and his older brother were with me when I visited that pond for the very first time.

Here’s what I remember. I was disappointed to find a public beach at Walden Pond. I enjoyed the stroll around the pond. I saw the marker at the site where Thoreau’s hut once stood. I think I even remember seeing the railroad tracks mentioned by Thoreau, and being surprised that they were so close to the pond and to Thoreau’s retreat — come to think of it, I remember being surprised that this symbol of blessed solitude was so close to the town of Concord itself.

But what I remember most of all was when my friend’s brother took off his shirt and shoes, then leaped with a great splash into the pond, which great splash was followed by a great scream as his foot landed on a broken beer bottle.

A broken bottle — trash — tossed into the last place in the world where trash should be tossed — tossed into the holy waters of Walden Pond.

Flash forward a few decades — plenty of time for my friend’s brother’s foot to have healed — but also plenty of time for man to do even more permanent damage to Walden and the woods around it. According to a Harvard University research team,  climate change is the likely culprit in the disappearance of more than 25 percent of the flowers and plants documented by Thoreau in the mid-1800s; another 36 percent “exist there in such small numbers that their disappearance may be imminent.” According to the study, the mean temperature in Thoreau’s old neighborhood has risen more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century.

Here’s the bathing beach at Walden Pond:

Here’s what the pond and its surroundings looked like around 1900:

Thoreau declared: “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” But Thoreau, if he still “traveled extensively” in Concord and its environs, would now have to look long and hard to find the violets, wild orchids, lilies, buttercups, anemones and wild roses once so prolific around Walden, into which waters the great philosopher and naturalist gazed long and hard in order to measure “the depth of his own nature.”

Noodle the Poodle

A while back, I promised to write about my daughter’s poodle, Noodle. I hadn’t done it yet, and my daughter reminded me of this again last night, when she proudly told me over the phone that Noodle, just a few weeks past her first birthday) had graduated that morning from obedience school.

When I asked what Noodle had learned at obedience school, my daughter replied: “Noodle’s gotten much better when it comes to impulse control.”

Here’s a photo of Noodle, taken a month or so ago, before she learned to control her impulses:



Anyway, this obedience-school stuff makes me uneasy.

What I’ve come to like most about Noodle is her enthusiasm — the way she rushes to the door whenever someone arrives, and jumps up and down like it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to her –even if you just walked out of the house five minutes ago to get something out of your car — and then runs around the house for two minutes celebrating your return until finally screeching to a stop right where you’re standing to have you either (in order of Noodle’s preferences) 1) Throw a ball for her to chase and catch, 2) take her for a walk or 3) give her a treat.

I’ve also come to like her innocent and endearing lack of poise. An example: A few weeks ago, when Noodle stayed with us for a few days, I was walking her on a leash in our backyard. Our neighbors have a horse, a big horse. Noodle looked up and noticed this huge animal walking toward us, and suddenly changed from a poodle into a greyhound as she dashed back to the safety of our house.

Most of all, I’ve been charmed by Noodle’s inability to control her impulses. I’m not talking about her occasional inability to resist the urge to crap on the living room floor instead of going on the pad in the kitchen or, even better, waiting until she goes for a walk. I’m talking about Noodle’s compulsion to wake me up in the morning by climbing up near my pillow and licking my face. I’m talking about how Noodle melts like butter and sprawls on her back, legs akimbo, smiling a dog smile, when someone rubs her belly; I’m talking about how she can’t resist the impulse to run at full speed to chase any tossed bouncing object and my admiration for how she’s become so adept at the chase that she’s even learned to catch balls mid-bounce, in mid-air.

The American Kennel Club has this to say about poodles:

The Poodle, though often equated to the beauty with no brains, is exceptionally smart, active and excels in obedience training. A very active, intelligent and elegant-appearing dog, squarely built, well proportioned, moving soundly and carrying himself proudly. Properly clipped in the traditional fashion and carefully groomed, the Poodle has about him an air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself. The poodle has about him an air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself. Major fault (tends to be) shyness or sharpness.

The AKC’s experts know their poodles. All of those good qualities apply, amply, to Noodle.

In conclusion I must note…

*that the references to poodles as “him” can be blamed not on me, but on the very traditional and slightly stuffy American Kennel Club.

*that Noodle, as it happens, is purebred AKC herself, thank you. Her father was a purebred but a commoner. But there’s a pretty impressive line on Noodle’s mother’s side, with AKC champions going back a few generations.

*that I definitely would not like Noodle nearly as much if my daughter ever lost her senses and gave Noodle one of those goofy poodle haircuts so she looks like the French poodle Pepe Le Pew falls in love with in the classic cartoon “Little Beau Pepé” —

Pepe Le Pew leers at a French poodle

Pepe Le Pew leers at a French poodle

And so, while I’m certain this will not be my final word on Noodle, I do have these parting words about the obedience school training that threatens to erase Noodle’s charm and perhaps even destroy the essence of what I might describe as “Noodle being Noodle.”

Just two parting words, as a matter of fact, and those words are: FREE NOODLE!!!

It’s unbelievable…

Sometimes there’s more bad news than good news. Sometimes there’s more good news than bad news. Sometimes it’s pretty much a 50-50 balance and then it’s a question of whether you see the glass as half and empty or or half full. 

Today’s good news is that Obama’s still apparently got a comfortable lead over McPalin, according to the polls, and that the Anchorage Daily News has endorsed the Democratic candidate for president. That’s right, Anchorage, as in Alaska, as in the state where Sarah Palin will hopefully returned in less than two weeks.

The bad news, on the other hand, is really bad, and it’s that the glass has overflowed and this great land is awash with yahoos, lunatics, bigots, dolts, crazies and Fox News “reporters,” and my fellow Americans at the fringe group calling itself is posting dangerous and scary crap like this on its Web site:

Scary stuff. So let’s watch and listen to Bob Dylan’s video for a song from his album “Under the Red Sky:”

It’s unbelievable.


The secret artist

I talked to my mother on the phone last night and she said: “I have a surprise for you.”


My father died six years ago, just in his late 60s. He was in declining health for the last 10 years of his life, and retired early, and during those final years he did a few paintings.

They were good. They were terrible. Depends on what standards you apply.

He did some copies of classic Renaissance era religious art. Yes, that was sort of a weird thing to do. Yes, it hints at some serious lack of imagination. But it was also sort of touching — we’re talking about a man who was slowly dying and knew it, so he copied religious art. What’s more, the drawings showed he had some technical talent — we’re not talking Leonardo da Vinci here, but they’re  pretty fair copies for amateur copies.

He also painted a winter scene, which I’m guessing he must have copied from a photo or maybe even a greeting card illustration, which is really what it looks like. It depicts a cluster of cozy little cottages in some snow-covered wooded hills. Same verdict: They were pretty good, just in terms of drawing ability, and certainly way better than anything I could ever dream of doing.

But everything my father drew or painted lacked that spark. There was no art to his art.


When my father was a young man, he dreamed of becoming an architect. His idol was Frank Lloyd Wright. And so my father took classes in architectural draftsmanship at Saunders Trade and Technical High School in our hometown of Yonkers. After he married my mother, after high school and a stint in the Air Force, I believe he also took some related night classes at the famed Cooper Union in New York. He actually worked for 10 years or so as a draftsman for a couple of architectural firms in New York City. But my father never became an architect. He quit his dream.

And he also abandoned any notion of becoming an artist. When he was a young man, he did sketches, portraits, some of which I’ve seen — of my cigar-chomping grandfather and of my very young mother. These sketches show not a little talent, are clearly heartfelt, and hint at some perception beyond just what my father’s eyes could see. The sketch of my Grandpa Nash, my mother’s father, captures a man who was simple, quiet and gentle but was also a little jaunty. And the sketches of my mother, done when they were both in their 20s, are adoring and romantic and show clearly that my young father enthralled by his pretty young wife.


Anyway, back to the egg: My mother told me last night that she had a surprise for me. And the surprise was that she had gone down into her basement and cleaned out some stuff in a file cabinet my father once used. “There were a lot of old architectural magazines from the 1960s,” my mother said. “I was just going to throw them out but it’s a good thing I looked first, because you know what I found? I found a drawing your father did of you when you were very young, a toddler. I’m going to get a frame for it and give it to you. I thought you’d want to have it. It really looks just like you!”

Now, of course, I’m anxious to see this drawing. What did my father see when he did that sketch of his first-born son? Did he simply see a cute little boy? Or did he see something in my eyes? Did he detect even just a little of my soul? Was he thinking that my blood was his blood? Did he feel love or pride? Did those feeling pour from his heart into the drawing he created?

Did he really draw me? Or does the drawing just really look like me?

Sarah Palin, Bob Dylan and the Federation of Light (and, oh, did I mention the Apocalypse?)

OK. I admit it. My name is Nicholas D. and I am addicted to continually checking to see how many daily, weekly and monthly visits have been recorded by the ever-increasing legion of fans who faithfully read World of Wonders.

OK. I’m indulging in a bit of hyperbole. “Legion” might be a stretch and “fans” might be overstating my case. But I started this blog and this Web site just about three months ago, and all I can say is I’ll be damned — hundreds and hundreds of people have found this site and taken the time to read my writing, and the number (and this I’m not exaggerating) of visitors has ALREADY DOUBLED for the month of October.

Doubled? Doubled! How did that happen? I’d like to think it has something to do with a spreading public perception that I’m a provocative, witty, entertaining and shockingly under-published writer of essays and fiction.

But I also know that whenever I write about certain topics, search-engine generated visits soar. A lot of people google various terms and expressions and topics related to death, for example. A decent number of people have found my site when they looking for information about my old hometown of Yonkers, N.Y.  A lot of “hits” have resulted when I wrote about the great singer and activist Pete Seeger or when I’ve described my travels in the great state of Vermont.

But four topics have proven to be the hottest topics of all: Bob Dylan, UFO visits by the Federation of Light, Sarah Palin and the Book of Revelation’s description of the Apocalypse. Anytime I mention one of those topics, I generate hundreds more visits to my Web site.

So that’s why it’s incredibly fortunate that I just happened be browsing the Web and found this news report that I’m sure everyone’s already talking about:

Sarah Palin has announced that she’s left Todd Palin, and is moving out of their home in Alaska, and is moving to Malibu to live with her new boyfriend Bob Dylan. What’s more, when Bob Dylan and Sarah Palin held a joint conference this morning in Alabama, where Dylan was performing and Palin was campaigning, they also announced that Palin had been appointed ruler “of Alaska and Russia and all of the rest of those other countries that I know are out there” by the leaders of our great alien masters, the Federation of Light, and that Dylan had been give the job of writing the new world anthem.  Palin also added, and I quote,”Thanks to the great folks with the Federation of Light, and I’d specifically like to mention Andy the Alien and Eddie the E.T. and Ray the Ray Gun Operator, those great alien mavericks, we’ve also managed to postpone what would have been the Apocalypse if we hadn’t complied with our alien friends of the Federation of Light!”

Don’t believe me? Can thousands of readers of Nicholas DiGiovanni’s World of Wonders be wrong?

O great leaders of the Federation of Light…

Yesterday I posted a brief commentary on Blossom Goodchild and the Federation of Light, and the former’s prediction that spaceships operated by the latter would appear over Alabama on Tuesday.

I noted, about halfway through the day Tuesday, that the federation’s spaceship had not yet arrived, and so was hedging my bets — I wrote one commentary for use if and when the Federation’s starfleet failed to appear and another for use if and when the Federation’s starfleet did indeed appear.

What’s more, I promised my faithful readers, that if the Federation of Light visit predicted by Blossom Goodchild did indeed take place, I would, as they say here on the third planet from the star we call the Sun, log back on to this Web site and provide a much more detailed commentary and explanation of why I adhere without question to all of the teachings and obey without hesitation all instructions received from the great and wise leaders of the Federation.

So here’s the commentary I must now publish by way of this primitive device called by the human creatures by the name computer and transmitted by primitive electrical pulses referred to as a god named In-Ter-Net who is worshiped in a temples called by the humans by the name Web of the World Wide:

Dear Great Leader of the Federation of Light:

Welcome to our planet. Please understand that my previous feeble attempts at humor and satire — which you with your much greater intelligence easily understood to be thinly veiled mockery of you and your beautiful daughter and wise messenger Blossom Goodchild — were the product of my ignorance, not my disrespect, O great rulers, O great lords of the universe to whom I bow in gratitude for your decision to not incinerate me instantly with your death ray, I offer all praise and humbly remain…

Your obedient servant,


And here is a photo taken yesterday of me as I sat at my computer and met the Federation’s great and benevolent leader for the very first time:

A message to The Federation of Light

Look, I’m no fool, as readers of this Web site may or may not attest.

I can read and interpret statistics, especially when they pertain to me. So the way I interpret the hundreds of visits to my Web site to read a blog entry I posted last week about the impending visit by a space ship operated by the Federation of Light is that it’s in my best interests to write ANOTHER entry about the visit by the Federation of Light.

Which is supposed to happen today, when a huge spacecraft is predicted to appear in the skies over ALABAMA and stay there for three days and three nights.

Look, I’m no fool. I know that the day’s half done and so far no flying saucers have been reported over Alabama. I checked both CNN and Fox News, and neither one reported the arrival of the Federation’s ship.

But I also realize that the day’s still young. It’s too early to mock all of the folks who actually believed the message delivered by the seeress Blossom Goodchild.

So I’m hedging my bets. I’ve written two comments, and I’ll use the appropriate one after we see what happens today in Alabama.

Here’s the first one:

Dear Blossom Goodchild:

You do, realize, of course, that you’re totally what we used to call a space cadet? What do you say for yourself now that tens of thousands of gullible people who heard and believed your message are out on the street, have cashed in what’s left of their meager retirement nest eggs, are fearful about the future, and were looking to you and the Federation for….

Wait a minute. Wrong message. That’s the letter I planned to send to President Bush and The Congress…But you get my drift…

Here’s the second letter I’ve prepared:

Dear Great Leaders of the Federation of Light:

Welcome to our planet. Please understand that my previous feeble attempts at humor and satire — which you with your much greater intelligence easily understood to be thinly veiled mockery of you and your beautiful daughter and wise messenger Blossom Goodchild — were the product of my ignorance, not my disrespect, O great rulers, O great lords of the universe to whom I bow in gratitude for your decision to not incinerate me instantly with your death ray, I offer all praise and humbly remain…

Your obedient servant,




If the Federation of Light spaceships do not appear in the skies over (of all the places they could choose why would they choose) Alabama, then chances are excellent you’ll be reading something I’ve written about my daughter’s poodle, Noodle, and what Noodle has to do with the embarassing fact that yesterday I actually went to see the movie “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”

If, on the other hand, Blossom Goodchild was right, and assuming I have not been vaporized by a heat ray, I will be here tomorrow with a much more detailed commentary and explanation of why I ashere without question all of the teachings and obey without hesitation all instructions from the great and wise leaders of The Federation of Light.