A retired professor shares his reflections on life in this collection of short pieces in various genres including fiction, memoir, photography, and poetry.
In his eclectic debut, Windisch, a retired professor of psychology and counseling, touches on many subjects: “sadness and gladness and change and beauty and paradox. And choosing.” Whatever their genre, the sections all share similar themes, as well as the author’s distinctive voice. The title story is described as science fiction but has few of the familiar hallmarks of the genre, other than that it’s set in the future, starting on June 13, 2033. The narrative tracks the development of Alpha, a newly conceived child, and the thoughts of her great-grandfather, Dr. Omega Steed, nicknamed “Ohmee.” Ohmee, like the author, is a retired professor of psychology and counseling; he also has “a huge round belly” and loves beauty and mysticism. He’s delighted to learn that Mary, his granddaughter, is pregnant. Sometimes Ohmee dreams of death—a dark owl he calls “Mort,” who merely hoots at Ohmee’s searching questions. When Ohmee’s doctor tells him that he’s dying, he feels both a longing for release and anguish that his death will cause suffering to loved ones. Meanwhile, Alpha grows and dreams—of previous lives, of her mother’s childhood, and of Ohmee enjoying an autumn day. Sitting in his “most sacred” spot above the Green River Gorge, Ohmee finally finds peace and learns his great-granddaughter will soon be born. As Ohmee dies, Alpha arrives: “He smiled at her beginning. She smiled at his. They blew kisses across the ether.” The writing is occasionally broad or clumsy, as when the doctor is identified as “Ima Mortal II (or I’m a mortal too).” But the story can also be subtle and tender; the owl of death, for example, is a powerful image.
“Paradox and Choosing: Creative Nonfiction” aims to help readers choose “how you want to live” through four paradoxes, although these are so confusingly phrased that it’s hard to see how they meet this definition. For example, “Paradox 2” reads: “We, You, I, judge EVERYTHING, all the time, but judgment separates. At the same time, there is non-judgment, love, and beauty, and connection.” If it’s possible to be nonjudgmental, then it’s untrue to say that people judge all the time; this is a manufactured paradox, if it is one at all. Windisch writes that “love and compassion” are the opposite of “judgment, hate, fear,” but opposites don’t constitute a paradox, unless they’re mutually exclusive. The ensuing discussions don’t clarify these contradictions, but they do underscore Windisch’s values regarding beauty, humor, mysticism, kindness, and connection. Three photograph and poetry combinations follow; the images are well-composed and compassionate, capturing telling moments, and the poems are a bit sprawling but heartfelt. However, the book as a whole would have benefited from a stronger edit to clean up some distracting errors (“doesn’t knows it”; “80 organ all woven together”; “Who, do you judge?”).
An uneven collection, but one with much feeling and moments of poetic insight.