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Wanderings by Daniel Paul Thomas
Series of essays taking the reader into author's youth and what he now loves most

"I was a senior in high school," writes Daniel Thomas, "when Dwight Eisenhower was elected to a second term, the musical Carousel was playing at local theatres, the stock market had surpassed 500 for the first time, and Elvis Presley was singing 'Heartbreak Hotel.' It was also the year my dad asked me if I would be interested in becoming a full partner in his neighborhood grocery store, Tommy's Superette."

Daniel said no because he wanted to teach. "Looking back," he says, "I suppose that it was juts as well that I was ignorant of the struggles my parents were having, or I might never have left Willows."

Wanderings: Book Five In A Series Of Essays ($9.95 in paperback from Stansbury Publishing) presents brief reflections on some of things that happened next, including an Army stint in Germany. Thomas' previous books (Essays From The Ten, Evening Country, 100 Miles, and Pastiche: An Essayist In Search Of A Theme) have looked outward. Wanderings looks back and takes stock.

It was a circuitous route to a career as a teacher and high school principal, winding through marriages and divorces, Amtrack travels ("an opiate separating me from a reality that I chose to ignore"), bouts with the bottle and ill health, and feelings of worthlessness and loneliness.

Yet resilience pervades these essays, especially in a piece called "Hey, He's Seventy!!" "As my life continues to unfold," Daniele writes, "I find myself focusing more on what is good and less and less about my setbacks. I had my first heart attack when I was forty-seven and retired from my professional life much earlier than most. I consider myself fortunate that, by moving away from what was a hectic, demanding lifestyle, I was able to 'reboot' my goals in life." Though increasingly suspicious of those who "gain immense power however and wherever fear is pedaled for their own aggrandizement," he can still pause to celebrate a rainy Valentine's Day with his wife, Marilyn, at Broadway Heights.

He ends with questions: "Who called me to be seduced by ambition?" "Who called me to discover the gift of adversity?" "Who calls me now that I, a season older, want far more than to silently expire from the starvation of an undernourished soul?" --Dan Barnett, "Bibliofile," Chico Enterprise-Record

In the beginning there is everything: youth is like the proverbial tabula rasa. It’s a time when your whole life lies ahead of you but because you are so young, you have little idea of the importance of all that untapped potential. Or maybe you did and had already begun to chart your own course. 

I didn’t even know what the word potential meant, but I knew I was young because that’s how everyone treated me, a fact confirmed when I looked in the mirror and saw a sandy-haired skinny kid with a childish smile whose nose was much too big, something my mother never failed to point out. When I told her that some of my friends thought that I was “kind of cute” she quickly reminded me of my big nose but then proceeded to tell me that she loved me even if I was awfully “homely.” In retrospect I think she was concerned that I would get a “big head” and felt a maternal need to not allow that to happen. And it worked. I’ll never fully understand why my mother seemed more intent on pointing out my flaws than she was in giving me the confidence every child needs. Fortunately, I also remember her many hugs; so I felt loved, inadequate, but loved. Sadly I took far too long to rid myself of an underlying sense of inferiority which at times caused me to back off instead of moving forward as I should have.

A seed sowed, when carefully tended, might reap a beautiful flower, or, in time, become the tallest tree. A seed neglected is a seed lost. That stipulated, I begin this personal reflection of the many roads I’ve taken and those I’ve not. Many of the following essays document some my life’s most important choices. They also reflect the complexity of events leading to such choices. Sometimes the consequences were good, and sometimes they were simply awful.

Robert Frost famously described his own experience of coming to a place where, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one less traveled by and that made all the difference.” Few of us have but two roads from which to choose, and that too, makes all the difference. --from first chapter of Wanderings by Daniel Paul Thomas

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