Today In Former Years

This section of my website traces a day, or related set of days, from my diary over a span of years. Each change to a different year is marked by a yellow highlight. -- jwc

Excerpts From John Cowart’s Journals:

May 11th, 1991 to 2002


John W. Cowart

May 11, 1991

Miss Eve Cowart

Happening 45

Camp Weed

Live Oak, Fla.

Dearest Eve,

When you were born, as soon as I saw you, right off I realized that you were the best baby I'd ever seen. I was right. You were.

From that great start you have spent 16 years improving!

You get better and better.

You delight me.

I am very pleased with you. I am proud to be your father. Daily you bring me joy.

You are super smart. Yes, I know your brother is a genius but I also know that before you even started kindergarten he brought his homework in from school and you did it for him!

And you are super nice. When you did start to school, the crossing guard nicknamed you "Smiley" because you were such a happy, friendly, good-natured child. And those qualities have matured in you.

And you are super beautiful.

One of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen in my life was a few weeks ago when I chanced to see you at St. Vincent's Hospital dancing on the green grass beside the river. You danced for your own pleasure, your hair blowing in the wind, your skirts swirling, your heart soaring higher than the sea gulls. When you saw me watching, you grinned, and ran to meet me with arms outstretched. Charming. Hauntingly beautiful.

And you are super compassionate. You care for hurt, unhappy people and creatures (Of course I think you overdo it when you cry for ugly cats) and that is a quality I love in you. God really made a prize when He created you.

Now, I understand that we are supposed to give you a caritas, a personal sacrifice, a spiritual gift of love. Some people will give you biggies like sleeping on a bed of nails for ten years or never eating another Twinky in their whole lives. Wonderful! It shows they care.

Well, Baby, I care too. But I'm not much for big stuff so my caritas for you is to go without smoking my pipe for one whole hour today and I will pray for you during that hour. Hey, we both know this is not much of a gift, but who else in the world would I do this for?

I love you, Eve.




Monday, May 11, 1992:

Sick all day.

Studied Block's Writing The Novel From Plot To Print. I see that one problem I have with all my stories is that there is little or no external conflict; my protagonist battles impersonal circumstances rather than another person with a conflicting will. Also my characters do not ring true because I myself care little for people and don't give much of a damn about what happens to them.

These character faults of the writer carry over in to the material I write; if I cared, then my readers might care. Most of the people I write about are cannon fodder; I set them up to be victims of larger, impersonal forces which sweep them away. Since I believe that people have little or no free will, then what will happen to them will happen no matter what choices they make. For there to be a story, the choices of the characters must influence the outcome of the events. If I can overcome these faults in my own world view, then perhaps I can finish one of these damn novels -- of course, I believe that it does not matter what I do, I'm still destined to continue to fail miserably in my life. I have the legendary Reverse Midas Touch -- i.e. anything I touch turns to shit.

Tuesday, May 11, 1993:

I spent today outlining plans for my prospective future work and reading the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality making notes related to both the Cook's Book and the book on God's leading.

The switch on my desk lamp broke and I could hear it sparking inside; tore apart three old lamps trying to cannibalize parts to get the one workings.


Now I work in partial darkness. What a bitch.

In the evening Gin and I stayed up late repairing rips in the shrimp net I'd found crossing that same bridge a few months ago.

Between the lamp and the monofilament line, my hands are in shreds.

Wednesday, May  11, 1994:

More colonial research on Brainerd and Edwards; I have not been able to locate quotes I half-remember from reading their works long ago. Wadding though molasses. I got side tracked in a history of the Church Of God denomination: lots of interesting stuff but nothing for the divine guidance chapter. I don't know is such research is time wasted or if the material will crop up again later for use with something else.

Sunday, May 11, 1997, MOTHERS DAY:

No journal entry.

Summary of May, 1999

On May 4th, Ken, our church administrator, hired me to chop weeds around the church for $55 per day.

For the first two weeks I literally crawled on my hands and knees around the half city block the church grounds cover and hand pulled many, many weeds. This job has not been done for years and the courtyard, gardens and grounds are a mess filled with smilax, poison ivy, nut grass and dollar weed.

After my crawling and hand-pulling made no headway against the weeds, Church bought a weed-eater string trimmer and now I spend one or two days each week walking around chopping weeds... To further demean me, The Lord thought it necessary that I be listed in the church news letter and on the bulletin’s staff listings as: Weedman, John Cowart. Good to know that one of my accomplishments has made the church newsletter.

One interesting and frustrating incident related to my job involves a classic problem in communications.

Ken is a yankee and does not talk good English like we Southerners do.

He kept a-telling me about weeds I'd missed.

This made me angry because I pulled every weed I saw.

He grew frustrated thinking I was being rebellious; I grew frustrated thinking he was being overly demanding.

On the next to the last day of my two week marathon weed pulling expedition ,we went round and round about the weeds... Ken is a golfer not a gardener. I am a Southerner. To me the word weeds means smilax vines, scrub oaks and camphor trees growing through the church hedges; to me the word lawn means St. Augustine grass; the word grass means any other breed of grass; the word weed means dollar weed, nut grass, sandspurs, smilax, poison ivy, etc...

Well, I finally came to realize that Ken uses the word weed to designate the very same plants I call grass!

To him, if it's not St. Augustine grass, it's weed: to me, it’s not weed but grass.

No wonder we went round and round – We have each used the same word to mean two very different types of green growth!

 Once I realized what the poor ignorant yankee was talking about, I was able to chop down to bare dirt the areas of GRASS that were upsetting him.

On the other hand, he did not realize that the hedges were full of vines and trash trees; he looked at them, saw green, and assumed it was all supposed to be there as part of the hedges. He couldn’t understand why I spent so much time working in the hedges; he saw no need of it.

This differing use of the word weed was on the point of straining our friendship.

I'm sure glad we straightened it out.

But I recon that I’m gonna I have to ‘splain to him what grits is!

And I’m going to need to take a course in conversational yankee as a second language.

On May 20th, as Gin & I walked home from the bus stop, a lady we have never spoken to but seen around in the neighborhood rushed out of her house waving her arms and yelling for us to wait and yelling back toward her house for “Lloyd”.

I thought there had been some kind of medical emergency and she needed help.

Not exactly...

Lucille, who lives on the corner, has watched Ginny and me as we walk to the bus stop, grocery store, church, etc. We hardly notice but it is often our custom to stroll along holding hands; and we almost always kiss hello and goodbye at the bus stop.

Therefore this lady, Lucille, has decided that we are the most loving people she has ever seen and she wanted to photograph us!

I felt so stupid and embarrassed standing in her yard against a background of flowering bushes while her husband, Lloyd (who was just as embarrassed as I was) had to find their camera, focus and snap pictures of me and Ginny.

Oh well, I supposed there are worse reasons to be photographed.

When I told the couple that any love we enjoy is just a reflection of the love that Jesus shows towards people, Lucille nudged Lloyd in the ribs and said, "See there. I tolt you it was something like that"!


Friday, May 11, 2001:

Cleaned yard in preparation for weekend and Mother's Day.

Met Gin's bus with a wheelbarrow to lug home a potted tree she was bringing home from the office to nurse back to health in her plant nursery.

After coffee we walked to Glen's house for his wonderful fish fry. We stuffed ourselves.

On arriving home I returned a call from Wes (who teaches an Adult Bible class which the pastor wants disbanded having written a letter saying, “the teaching of the Bible from a creationist viewpoint will not be tolerated at Good Shepherd”. ) … Wes is very discouraged.

 I'm, intellectually, more philosophical about it: God can manage to get along without this class and glorify His name through other means. The Holy Spirit can teach His people without our help. God does know His own and He can act through and in spite of our liberal Episcopal church. He does not need our defense. He is capable. The battle is not ours but His -- Besides, if the class does get disbanded, Gin and I will have more time to enjoy our garden.

Wes hurts emotionally and physically over this, as do I.

Our church appears to have betrayed and rejected the gift of teaching we offered it.

I wonder if Jesus knows how that feels.


Saturday,  May 11,  2002

We chose to work in our yard all day today. Gin worked on potted plants; I mowed grass and reconfigured the swimming pool pump, tearing out a rotten wood platform and replacing it with a new, stable one…


Sunday, May 11, 2003

Earlier this week the girls had called inviting us to lunch for Mother’s Day and asking Gin where she’d like to eat. She chose Piccadilly….

After enduring the crowds and noise and confusion and people bumbling into our backs during the luncheon, when we finally got back home, we both went into hibernation mode with our books.

After gaining space after all the people contact today, we watched ET on tv all evening.


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