By Jack Sheedy
Snow and more snow, with wind and more wind. Windows frosted and covered in white, turning vision inward. Tobacco and pipe, solitary reflections on life. Days of inactivity, searching for deeper meaning. Youth ascending, toward the sun like Icarus, triumph unimpeded. Middle age descending, toward waxen earth, a hard landing indeed.
Thomas J. McSheey (1899-1939) wrote the above passage one January day in his late-30’s as he was contemplating the fact that he had turned his back on the world, allowing it to pass him by. He had not played along, burning a number of bridges along the way, ultimately residing outside the “inner circle,” like a distant asteroid drifting further and further from relevance, not rotating and revolving according to the rules of gravity like the planets in orbit around the sun.
Likewise, I, too, have turned my back on this modern day world, drifting further and further out into space, far from the sun’s warmth and its gravitational pull, in a form of self-imposed exile. With no cell phone, no smartphone, I live in another world or better still, in another time. I do not operate at the same pace as others, out of touch, removed somewhat from society, my only link with technology of any kind being this blog. In a sense, this recent snowstorm levels the playing field as for the past couple of days we’ve all been reduced to a snow shovel in terms of a “handheld device.”
But enough about snow. Let us cast back to the colorful days of autumn:
September and October were McSheey’s favorite months of the year as imprinted both upon his calendar and upon his soul. There was a cleansing that came with the autumn time. A cleansing of mind and of spirit. A time of education and of beauty. A changing of views and a turning of leaves. A turning of pages and a changing of hues. And it was during this blessed autumn period that he attended a harvest festival and happened upon a band called Thorns & Thickets playing traditional medieval instruments.
That’s as far as I got with that particular blog entry, which I was in the process of writing months ago in order to add another layer to the continuing story of my hero, Thomas John McSheey. Since then I’ve completed my “research” on the misunderstood poet and have compiled my entries into a tidy manuscript several hundred pages in length which I am in the process of editing. Except for perhaps an odd blog entry in the future, I have put McSheey to bed with a glass of warm milk and a sugar cookie.
Yet, autumn is but a golden memory and we are now blanketed beneath a cold and white January of a new year – 2015 – which, by the way, marks my 10th anniversary of writing this blog, Off-the-Shelf, for the Cape Cod Today website. Ten years. A fifth of my life. That’s a rather lengthy relationship, and I am thankful to have this outlet for my writing. And as I move forward with Off-the-Shelf I realize I need to establish a new direction now that McSheey has been tucked into bed with his milk and cookie.
So, as I consider which way this blog will turn in the future, I leave my devoted readers (yes, all three of you) with one last McSheey entry that did not find its way into a blog:
McSheey, though heterosexual by most accounts, had a number of friends and acquaintances in his literary and artistic circles that were homosexual. This, of course, was in an age (during the 1920’s and 30’s) when such sexual orientation was not accepted in mainstream society. By this association, some scholars have questioned McSheey’s sexual orientation. Regardless, he adopted a stance of “tolerance and courtesy toward everyone,” as he scribbled in the margin of his lecture notes one October day while serving as an adjunct professor of Creative Writing at his alma mater. Unfortunately, McSheey’s penmanship was largely illegible, and that quote was incorrectly transcribed as “tuna fish and cucumber for everyone,” which raised eyebrows when the English department secretary arrived at noontime with his typed lecture and with tuna salad sandwiches for the entire department.
Jack Sheedy is the author of six books, including Cape Odd and Cape Cod Harvest, and is currently working on a new Cape Cod-related book toward a spring publication.