31 January 2011

A Stalk of Grace

I'm sorry, I know I have been ungrateful, frightfully so.  All that time inside my head, driven there by the cold and the weather and general disconnect between my body and my mind and them to the universe at large.

It makes me distracted, distracted I am a walking ball of distractedness.  Crow-mind amongst the glittery things that draw my attention, I let them draw my attention in a desperate bid to draw attention away from myself.  Because I'm tired of thinking about myself.  Look, a bird!

I said to me "I'll allot you five minutes to find some grace, and don't come back empty handed!" ending in a yell.  A quiet yell, but a yell nonetheless.

I took to the kitchen as I often do, because cooking good things to eat gives me focus and a way to slip out the back door and let go for a bit, focus, focus.  You know, like the Zen monks do when they chop wood, carry water.

Grace.  Grace?  Where in the world was I going to find grace?  I haven't had grace in the house since...well, it feels like just shy of forever.  Remain calm, no freaking out, just breathe, cut, stir, simmer, taste.  That's all I needed to do.  While leaning against the counter, in a lull between stirring and adding the next set of ingredients to the pot, I found grace.

It consisted of a stalk of celery, slathered with some peanut butter.  Just like my G-maw used to make for me when I was a kid, at her house for dinner.  It was simply good.

I hadn't thought of that particular taste treat in years, don't know what made me think of it then.  All I know is, standing there in the pearly north light coming through my kitchen windows, I felt warm and content, and I was thinking that, somewhere in this universe, someone wanted me to be happy.

Grace, stay with me.

30 January 2011

Call to Arms

Oy.  I came home and realize that I must write, yet again.

This blogging thing.  It has its own reality, yes?

I had an epiphany, dear readers, tonight while chatting with the ladies behind the bar.

I have written of many things here on this, my blog.  Tell me, dear readers, what have I not  written of?  What can I write about, that I have not yet addressed?

And yes, this is a request of you.  Send me a topic or idea you would like me to write about.

29 January 2011

Crocus Dream

Snow melting, crows call,
Sun nudging its way through clouds
as we dream of spring

28 January 2011

On The Art of Eating Alone

I have noticed them
glancing at me from the corners
of my eyes

I wonder if it is curiosity
or pity or anthropology
that makes them look

Almost certainly, not intrigue,
not desire, maybe just wondering
what it feels like

to know the only mouth
at the table
is your own

27 January 2011

Fell From The Sky

The trip home took about an hour, when it usually took a quarter of that, and you weren't on my mind when I slid the car to the curb two blocks from home.  Sumbitch freezing rain and snow generally made a mess of things, and do you know this is the first time I've ever had to abandon my car?  Ever?  Hope it doesn't get towed.  Tomorrow is going to be a bitch getting out.

Where was I?  Oh, right, "parking" the car.  I resolved that I would have to leave it, so I grabbed my briefcase and lunch bag, the telescoping ice scraper, and stepped out into the snow.  The squeak of it beneath my boots set my teeth on edge.  Nothing for it but home.

It was while walking up the hill, on the main street that intersects mine that I first thought of you.  Well, not a thought so much as a feeling, if I am being accurate.  You know what reminded me of you?  It was the streetlights, in the snow.  The glow from them seemed particularly yellow, each surrounded by a flickering ruff of snowflakes tumbling through the air.  Trudging up the street, I felt a warm surge of deja vu course through me, and I looked up into the light, and there we were, trudging down City Park Avenue that one winter where we got a lot of snow and we were both in our teens.

Do you remember that, my brother?  You with the Miami Dolphins toboggan hat, and me wearing that ski jacket.  I think it was the one that made us look like the Michelin Man after a roll through through the remains of a campfire.  Man, that jacket ended up dirty.  That's what we got for delivering newspapers while wearing it, and generally behaving like adolescent males do.  Which is to say, with vigor and boisterousness, but rarely with common sense.

But we didn't need common sense, did we, Big Bro?

That's what led us to wander out in that snowfall, you and me and Carl.  Was it Carl that was with us?  I think so.  We ambled down Johnson Avenue, over to the avenue, making snowballs and trying to hit streetlights.  We all tried to catch flakes on our tongue.  And walking down the middle of the street, because there was no traffic!  Rebels, we were!

I remember walking up to Vick Street, no real destination in mind, and on the way we looked up into the ocher sky, not really watching where we were walking.  We stopped near a streetlight, and one thing that still sticks in my mind after all these years, is standing there with you in that sodium vapor glare with back lit snowflakes cascading down before us.  I remember that quite well, brother.

That memory, those snowflakes...you came back to me tonight, as I shoveled off the walk in front of my gate.  I paused briefly to rest, and as I did my gaze wandered up to the streetlight across the road.  The shape of the light, the yellowy glare...and snow drifting down like flakes of memory from the sodium sky.

I closed my eyes, a little upwelling of liquid heat making me gasp against the cold wind.  I heard, or thought I heard, the faint squeak of footsteps behind me.  For a few precious heartbeats, I was home again and we were walking down the middle of the road, secure in the knowledge that we would catch some snow on our tongues, and that we would live forever.

And you do, my brother.  Because my heart still beats, you do.

26 January 2011

Love Lies Bleeding

The winter garden lies in silence
upon a carpet of withered memories,
petals that once simmered crimson,
emerald lushness, crumbling, faded,
into parchment upon the wind

If the heart had known
its greatest love was destined
to be an annual,
would it have planted the seed,
to blossom, only to fade?

25 January 2011

Ice Station Ego

It was one of those days when feet hit the floor, oystery light seeping through the blinds, and there is a staggering realization that today won't be much different than yesterday.  Yesterday, reflection of all the days before, a rippling countenance the color of an ashtray filled with water.

The faint metallic tang of desperation gently poisons the air.  Breathing suddenly becomes a weightlifting contest, as the sluggish eddying in the lungs attempts to shrug off something that feels like diver's weights around the neck.  Hands involuntarily reach for the throat, grasping and pulling, only to drop rapidly at the embarrassment of finding nothing there.

How can that be?  It was so hard to sit upright, waking from a feverish dream of predator and prey.  The dream dissolved into the fog of half-sleep, and the nacreous light made it impossible to drift backwards.  So habit takes over, the limbs move, the mouth widens in a yawn...the brain recoils at the thought of lather, rinse, repeat.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

For a long minute of vertigo, the body screams to be back under the sheets, head under the pillows.  As if goose down could be like the tin-foil hats deranged people wear to keep out the mind-reading waves.  Only this time, they would keep out the Fear and the Panic, that insidious reality that sometimes leads one to believe that, in some ways, life is over.  It isn't dead, it's just over.

There is nothing quite so heavy on the head as the crown of thorns one creates for oneself, crafted from the thorny vines of insecurities that thrive in the dark, and tied together with the barbed wire made of that peculiar fear that says "There are things you may never feel or experience again."

That itself creates an ice-water bolus through the heart and into the gut.  Fall forward or backward, perhaps it doesn't matter, but the consequences are not so harsh if inertia is allowed to take over, forcing the body up and off the bed.

The cold is sharp, insinuative.  It bites, gently, and never seems to let go.

A few turns of the blinds rod, and the slats are open to allow the thick winter light to ooze into the room.  The scene gets brighter, but oddly not clearer.  Four heartbeats' worth of staring out the window confirms what the heart knew before the brain pretended to be awake.

It's just another day here, at Ice Station Ego.  Time to check the instruments, record the data and pretend that heat and warmth are more than just memories.

24 January 2011


Radiating power, softly, unaware,
she sat across from my eyes
at the table in the center of the universe

Her laughter stretched out a blanket
around my shoulders, indestructible, fireproof,
rendering my heart a living diamond

23 January 2011

Next There Will Be a 'No Cough' List

Warning:  This post has been floating around for a few days, always had something better to post up.  I wrote it in a fit of pique.  But even second-string work eventually makes it to the top of the slush pile, and sometimes it is better to just publish and get it out of the way.  I promise, better things are on the way.

Almost two weeks ago in Arizona, a person who had no business to possess firearms easily purchases equipment to make a deadly device even deadlier.  As we know, tragedy ensued.

This past Sunday in my home state of Maryland, I was asked to show my driver's license to purchase one bottle of over-the-counter liquid cold and flu medicine, from a large, national retailer (rhymes with "Arrgh-het!).  Not only that, I was told by the cashier that she couldn't just look at in while it was still in my wallet.  She had to scan it.

Scan it. At the register.  I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.  (whistling)

Seriously?  They think I might be trying to get high, or make my own narcotics?  Really?  This 40-ish guy with a salt and pepper beard who was also purchasing paper towels, windshield washer fluid and a box of Band-Aids?

It was one bottle.  Good thing they checked, because otherwise I might do something dangerous and irresponsible...like take it as directed, and then fall asleep.

No wonder things seem so out of kilter these days.

22 January 2011

Fuel In A State of Combustion

The weather is bitter cold here, or what passes for that in this neck of the Old Line State.  The temperature will drop to what may be its lowest reading yet this winter, and never has the ticking of the radiator pipes ever sounded so good...

Snow still dusts the ground, my daughter and I are warm and safe in the house, and in the echoing silence after I put her to bed, I had some time to meditate a bit.  What came up, unbidden in my head, was another Jack London flashback.  I have had it off and on ever since I read his story, To Build A Fire, many years ago when I was a younger, dumber Gumbo.  The cold does that to me.  

In the story, its the part where the protagonist has burned up all his matches and is struggling to build a fire with hands gone numb from cold beyond imagination.  To watch your last best hopes go up in a choking burst of acrid smoke, to see the flames sputter out...that scene is what plays out in my head.

Sitting on the couch, staring up at the ceiling, I can see myself in that snow, feel the ice on my hands.  I poke, I prod, I scramble for fuel.  It makes me wonder: am I building fires, or putting them out?

Can someone lend me some kindling?  It's a little chilly...

21 January 2011

Orchid Heart

I'm not a hothouse flower
because I'm weak, or timid,
or need constant attention

That's not it at all.

It's that my heart can only flourish
under certain conditions, attenuated weather
and intentional soil in which to rest

So please shut the door.

Keep in the heat, wrap me up in mist
please jesus god don't tell me,
I'll blossom only once in a lifetime.

20 January 2011

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Malaise.  Ennui.  Apathy, even.  I sat down to write tonight, because that is what I do, being the alone-type loner that I am, and tired.  Oh, and short on cash.  So a big night out is not in the cards.

But it has been difficult lately.  I like, no, I LOVE to write.  Probably explains why I am so good at putting together business letters and reports and clever memos on topics big and small.  I actually enjoy that sort of thing.  Especially if it involves pure research.

I love to write for the sheer joy of it, too.  More so than just plain writing for mundane purposes.  I feel the pressure in my head daily, ebbing and flowing throughout the day.  It tracks closely with my mood and energy level, and my internal "weather".

But lately, my friends, it has been a bit of a strain.  It has been like having a fistful of kindling but no matches, and realizing that maybe you didn't want the hassle of starting a fire anyway.  But you know you need the heat, so you try rubbing sticks together just the same.

An even better analogy just occurred to me, because I just had a serious plumbing problem occur, and I have pipes on the mind.*  Lately for me, writing has been like turning the taps on to a slow drip to keep the water moving so the pipes don't freeze.  No one likes to waste the water (especially those who have to pay the bill) but it sure beats burst plumbing.

Maybe its the winter doldrums.  Maybe its the slow thinking brought on by cold and stress and fatigue.  All I know is that, as much as I would like sometimes to just put the pen down or the keyboard away and rest a bit, I feel like I would burst if I didn't write something.

So this is it for the night.  Too tired for a political rant, too dulled for a zingy comedy bit, even a little too worn out to write about how I think I may have (sort of, maybe) flirted with the waitress as I ate dinner tonight** (I was too tired and lazy to cook), this will have to do.

The pipes may be really cold, but the important thing is to keep them flowing.  Write, write, write...if you want to be a writer.  That's what I tell myself.

*It involved three drains, a sluggish garbage disposal, one tub besmirched by backed-up tea leaves and egg shells, one gallon of Drano and vigorous plunging.  I hope I got it all.
**Perhaps another time.

19 January 2011

Icefall in the Valley Of The Kings

Longer days still have their nights
laying under sheets becoming shrouds
while little claws tick the windowpanes

Forecast said a wintry mix, treacherous morning,
but it is the night and hidden moon, imps together,
whispering doubts over a thudding heart

Semi-living pharaoh turns in his wrappings,
runs a hand through stiffening hair, to wonder,
how to stop the ice from crashing through the roof

18 January 2011

White Bowl

Animal sounds, jawbone working
and noises echo off the plaster,
reverb for the solitary eater

Mopping the remains with bread,
uncovering a field of snowy white
tasting faintly of memories unswallowed

leaden spoon cracks the bell
shattering a porcelain heart once held
by hands that once held his own

17 January 2011

The Brighter Side We Also May View

Reading over my previous post, it struck me straight up that it was not the post I meant to write.  I don't know quite how that happened, other than to say that I sat down to write what I thought was in my head, and that story is what came out instead.

I have mentioned recently some episodes of unbloggableness.  Or unbloggability.  Or something like it.  I have been dealing with more of it lately than I care for.  Any amount is bad, really, but it has been piling up.  Events like the shootings in Tucson only serve to make it worse, external stressors added to an already high-temperature internal environment.

Something that happened Saturday afternoon was the trigger for what I was going to write about.  When I say 'write about' what I really mean is an attempt to deal with the triggers, not a description of the triggers themselves.  The ways I have been attempting to deal with stuff lately is through writing and photography.  Listening to music is a big part of it, too, but listening is passive in comparison to the other two.

So this is what was going on that afternoon.  I had woken up that morning in a bit of a funk, felt the walls closing in and the beasts stirring in my mind.  I have been writing every day now for a long time, but it had been some time since I had gone on a photo safari, so I reckoned the antidote to the Funk was an excursion with my digital and film cameras.  After breakfast, I bundled up in some warm layers, loaded the cameras and tripod into the car, and headed out the door.  I went to a favorite photography spot of mine, and set to.

My intuition was correct.  A few hours traipsing around outside, chasing trains and cool shadows, did wonders for my mental outlook.  Didn't make everything disappear or bloggable, but it eased the pressure.  At home, while listening to some Uncle Tupelo on the stereo, I happened to look in the mirror at my plaid-shirted, scruffy bearded self, and it hit me:  Things have changed tremendously for me in the recent past, more so than I have been able to handle gracefully...and things are still in flux.  I don't do well with flux.

Of the many things in my aching headbone, two in particular stand out, primarily because they are proof that things aren't all heavy.

First, a cousin of mine is due to have a baby real soon.  Second, my nephew is getting married later this year.  Out of all the 'rocks in the pond' of my mind, these two have created the biggest ripples, and I'm sort of at a loss to explain why.  They both have affected me more than I expected, and mostly to the good.

There is a bit of the "Well, how did I get here?" to all of this.  Both my cousin and nephew are young (ha! They are 20-somethings, yet I'm thinking 'kids'...yikes!) which has left me wondering here did the time go.  I think that is because the calamities of my own life, losing my twin babies and the disintegration of my marriage, have made me cautious and cynical about new lives and new beginnings.  Achieving grace is the exception rather than the rule, and the risk of heartbreak is tremendous, as I so well know.  When I think about my cousin and her baby, and my nephew and his bride-to-be, I do get scared.  So many things rush to my lips, things I don't say, because they are grounded in my own harsh experiences.

But, then, I see there pictures and read their messages and hear their voices...and something melts.  Something finally penetrates that lump of stone I call a heart, and I understand that good things do happen in this universe.

So I stared at that jaded fellow in the mirror while Jeff Tweedy warbled life lessons in the background.  My mind was clear and bright, in a stolen moment when I contemplated that brightness remains, and there are few things more optimistic and joyful than creating a new life, or uniting two existing ones.  Especially when those lives are your kin; no sweeter music than blood music, than love.

"So open up those curtains
And drink up the daylight
Just by the brightness
Open your doors wide
'Cause things don't get better
but some people do

There's darkness in this life,
but the brighter side we also may view
There's darkness in this life,

but the brighter side we also may view."

Lyrics quoted from "Flatness", on the Album No Depression, by Uncle Tupelo

16 January 2011

Winter Walk, With Blood and Ice

Walking up the snow-covered track, gravel surfacing through the pack and digging into his feet, Henry David took it as a reminder that he needed new boots.  He thought of how far a walk it would be to get those boots, and a cold laugh burst from his chapped and broken lips.

"Damnation", he said to the ice-tinged air, "my feet be frozen off 'fore I get to the boot maker."  He laughed again, and dissolved into a fit of coughing.  The harshness of the air lanced into his lungs; he coughed convulsively, sputtering and retching into the snow at his feet as he doubled over trying to catch his breath.

Stars danced before his eyes, and for a few moments he wondered if it were best to just lay down and sleep.

The wind gusted, a giant's puff blowing snow over his shaking body.  The powder drifted down his neck, and the small shock of cold made him grunt.  From off in the snow-laden pines, the squeaks of a field mouse drifted to Henry's ears, as the mouse lost its bid for survival to what Henry imagined to be an owl.  The sound made him sad, a reminder of his own precarious position.  The thought galvanized him and he stood up as fast as he could manage, swaying from the dizziness of hunger and lost blood.  He squinted into the sunlight sparkling off the track as it wound its way up a low hill.

"One foot, one foot, in front of the other, Henry" he muttered.  He struggled up the hill.  To his surprise, the trees abruptly thinned out and Henry found himself in a narrow clearing.  Stretched out before him, heading off to disappear into the forest to either side was a set of rails, peeking out from under the snow. 

"I'll be goddamned," he swore, "A railroad!".  He managed a smile, which quickly faded as it cracked the corners of his mouth.  Staring both ways, he began to walk in what he assumed was a southerly course.  One direction was just as good as another, he thought, but he had no desire to go farther north.

The light began to fade, a blueness on the air as the sun fell behind the ridge line to the west.  A low sound came to Henry's ears, like a saw cutting through wood...or a mountain lion.  The thought stopped him in his tracks, ice water seeping through his hollow gut.  He held his breath.

The sound came again, and this time he knew for certain it was a mountain lion.  It sounded close by.

He was too tired and cold to swear. "Well, I'm for it", he said.  He pulled what was left of his coat around his thin and bloodied body, head down as he trudged further into the gloom.

15 January 2011


Silicon glow marred by the flow
of words, and pictures, cascading
down eyes gone glassy, seen too much

Sad guitar warbles across empty rooms,
I know sometimes it gets too much
But tell me baby, have you had enough

Hands pause, cradling head and smoothing hair
he thinks, yeah, it gets too much, this searching,
stirring of the silt in the memory tank

Invisible engines make it so easy, and so hard
to stop, when the past is lying in wait
just clicks away, under trembling fingers

And I know sometimes I can be too much
No, no, he whispers, you were never too much;
This electronic memory web, baby, it drowns me

Lines in italics were quoted from the song "Tell Me Baby (Have You Had Enough)" by Phosphorescent, on the album Here's To Taking It Easy, a mighty fine indie/alt-country work of art.

14 January 2011

Winter Meditation: Chasing Peace

Misty, freezing spume,
Breakers curl around my feet.
Moon shatters, rejoins

13 January 2011

Extreme Translucency

I just learned the secret of invisibility,
its a lot easier than you think
even if the cost is something
you cannot afford, do not want to afford

All it takes is bad luck, a sunny day,
and a simple inability to run fast,
to duck the path of evil hurtling along
faster than the speed of sound

Put yourself in the center of that vortex,
walk close to someone more famous than you
wait for Lucifer's hammer to fall, hard,
then listen to the voices make you an "Other"

wearing your cloak of extreme translucency.

12 January 2011

Weapons Grade Stupidity

I apologize for the following post. I'm sailing another sea of unbloggableness, and the political slant is something that won't leave me alone, so I must purge. Like kidney stones and bad dreams, this too shall pass. Thank you for your patience...

There is a bit of conventional wisdom that goes something like this:
If the person you are having dinner with is nice to you but rude to the waiter, that person is not a nice person.  Avoid that person.
I think there is a corollary to that advice, and it goes something like this:
If a public figure emphatically claims something to be that which it never was, and their claim can easily be refuted, they are insulting the intelligence of the listener.  And that figure is not a nice person.
On January 8th, Rebecca Mansour, an official for the Sarah Palin PAC, appeared on the Tammy Bruce* radio show, claiming that the symbols on that infamous map of theirs were never intended to be gun sights.  Laughably, at Tammy Bruce's suggestion, Ms. Mansour agreed that they weren't gun sights, they were "surveyor's marks".

Surveyor's marks.   Really.  And I suppose "Don't retreat, RELOAD!" really meant "Don't back up the minivan, just rearrange the luggage!"

I really cannot fathom why so many people seem to think that Sarah Palin and others of the same mindset are worthy of our votes for public office.  Not only are they blind to their own shortcomings, they expect us to be blind as well.  

These people aren't exhibiting much intelligence of their own, and they are blatantly insulting our collective intelligence.  Would you really want them in positions of power?

They are not nice people.  Don't have dinner with them.

*To be fair, I was only vaguely familiar with Tammy Bruce before this past weekend.  The miracle of the Interwebs made it easy to rectify that, although now I'm ambivalent about the knowledge.  Ms. Bruce has described herself as "a gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, Tea Party Independent Conservative", with her show promoted as "a chick with a gun and a microphone."  That kind of glib, moronic attempt at a 'ballsy' persona is just as unimpressive coming from a woman as it is coming from a man.  Too bad she doesn't take that gun and shoot her microphone, thus sparing us all the irritation of another oxygen thief befouling the airwaves.

To those who left comments on my "Politics and Violence" post of January 9th, thank you. It's nice to know I was not alone.

11 January 2011

My Skill Set Has A Few Holes

Revelations, brothers and sisters!  This week, I was brought up short at the end of the chain.  Yes, indeed, the light of Mildly Bothersome Truth has glared into the Shed of Secrets that resides in the back yard of my mind.  Consequently, there is a vexation upon my heart.  Ladies and gentlemen, there are two things I cannot do.

I cannot sew on a button, and I cannot make a balloon animal.  Specifically, a dog.  I live in small shame at these revelations.

Why does this matter?  Recently, I have encountered situations where possession of those particular skills would have served me well.  In the case of buttons, it would save me some trouble.  In the case of balloon animals, it would have made my Wee Lass all the happier.  (sigh).

The buttons I can live without a little longer, but being able to make my daughter smile by fixing a balloon animal?  Well, that would be the bees' knees.

Time to man up, I guess, and get that "Balloon Animals for Dummies" manual.

10 January 2011

Little Acorns

A finer scene I am unsure I could have made up, playing out on the couch in my living-dining room combo space, as the Wee Lass and I sat side by side on a fine Sunday morning.  It is that special time of year for those of us who are, or like to pretend they are, gardeners what can grow the good stuff.

You know what I'm talking about: that is right, the seed catalogs are here!  You remember that scene in "The Jerk" when the new phone books arrive?  Yeah, that's what it is like.  This year, anyway.

I get two seed catalogs* from major suppliers, and I look forward to perusing them at my leisure in the depths of winter.  Now that the Lass is a little older and enjoys plants and flowers, we have started what looks to be an annual tradition of our own.  When the seed catalogs arrive, she and I set aside some time to leaf (leaf: get it? ha!) through them to pick out stuff to grow in the spring and summer.

Our interests are complementary in that I am drawn strongly to the Things That Are Good To Eat, and she is drawn to the Things That Make Pretty Flowers/Have Pretty Names.  I like flowers too, but can't help the appetite.  If I can find something that looks great and produces tasty stuff, well that is just double plus good for me.  The Wee Lass is on a pink kick, and she is drawn like a bee to the flowers that do just that.  She also likes big showy ones like sunflowers and marigolds.

So this past Sunday morning, we parked ourselves on the couch, catalogs in hand and sticky note tabs at the ready.  I had some music playing, streaming on the laptop, mug of tea nearby.  She snuggled up to me and we set to.  

Fruits and vegetables came first, followed by the flowers.  As we made our way through the peppers and tomatoes, impatiens and sunflowers, Wee Lass carefully wrote our first initial followed by either 'V' for vegetable or 'F' for flower on each tab, and we affixed the note to each seed we liked.  In the end of course,  we ended up with far more selections than we could possibly manage, but it sure was great fun.

This year was extra special, because of what happened as we searched and marked.  Shortly after we started, I noticed Wee Lass bobbing and moving to the music.  It was either "The Long Cut" or "Chickamauga" off of the Anodyne album by Uncle Tupelo.  She seemed to really be getting into it, and I was amazed.  I didn't say anything because I didn't want to make her self-conscious about it.  A short while later, the song "We've Been Had" came on, and she started a little seat dancing.  I couldn't help but grin and laugh, and I asked if she liked this music.  She said yes, and wanted to know the title of the song and who it was by.  She kept it up into the next song, "Fifteen Keys", and I thought my heart was going to overflow, it was so full.

It felt so good sitting there in the sunlight bouncing from her bedroom windows and into the living room, sharing some things I care about with the vein of my heart, and basking in the wonder and joy of her discoveries.  We have something we can grow together, literally and figuratively.  We will plant some seeds later in the early spring, and maybe learn some new songs along the way as well.

We will grow together, and sing the joy of sunlight and music.  We will know love.

*Fedco and Burpee.  I am not receiving compensation of any kind from either company, I just like them.  I have had great success with Fedco seeds (love their catalog in particular) and I even have a cool Fedco shirt.  Burpee was my late G-maw's seed purveyor of choice.  When I was a boy I avidly looked forward to reading the catalogs when they arrived at her house.

09 January 2011

Sick Of Politics and Violence

I am aghast at the latest violent tragedy bleed all over our collective consciousness: the shooting of those unfortunates in Tucson last Saturday.  So many victims, so much pain and trauma.  Already the jackals of the left and the right have started to mine it for political gain, or just plain 'spreading the hate'.

It's probably safe to say that no one in their right mind would agree that the shootings were justifiable or explainable in the context of political beliefs.  This horrible crime was most likely perpetrated by someone who truly had lost their mental bearings, their ability to understand the difference between right and wrong.  Suggesting or implying violence against others to resolve political differences would never occur to someone in their right mind to begin with, would it?  Sadly, no:
"Don't retreat, reload!"
- Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska
"If this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies."
- Sharron Angle, former member of the Nevada State Assembly
"If ballots don't work, bullets will."
- Joyce Kaufman, Radio host, Tea Party activist
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
- Currently serving United States Congresswoman from Minnesota, leader of the Tea Party Caucus, paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson
"Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action."
- Currently serving Congresswoman from Arizona Gabrielle Giffords
I know, I know, it's just words and they really didn't have anything to do with the shootings.  But it does make one wonder when bloviating hate-mongers like Sarah Palin start backpedaling so fast (like removing this map from her PAC website) it is amazing they haven't broken their ankles.

But I'm digressing from my point.  The fact remains that people got killed (including a 9-year old girl) for no good reason, and no matter where you stand in the political spectrum, this is a horrible, horrible crime.  I can only hope that, in your prayers tonight, you pray for everyone involved.

08 January 2011

Creature Comforts

A cool wall to nap against on a hot summer day.

The scent of line-dried sheets when drifting off to sleep.

Sweet ripe apple taste on a fine fall afternoon.

To those I would add these:  slipping into socks and undies toasty from laying on the radiator, on a cold winter morning.  Simple pleasures, my friends, are often the best.

06 January 2011

Belly Full of Clementines, Head Full of Rocks

Just a little update on the miracles:  For the first time EVER, I managed to eat an entire box of clementines before they started to rot.  There were about 24 to 26 clementines in that box, and I finished it off just shy of
1-1/2 weeks.  Whew!

Now I'm feelin' all orangey and stuff.

My next challenge: eat an entire cantaloupe all by myself before it goes bad.  I tell, this 'eating healthier' kick is turning out to be more strenuous than I imagined...

05 January 2011

River on Fire

Far bank quivering from heat-haze,
her profile etched on aureate air
turned to glass from a liquid inferno
flowing unchecked beneath the deck

She turns away, he groans, animal howl,
hands raised to cheeks tortured cheeks,
palms come away filled with fire that
tracks down their bodies, into the water

Tolling hearts become broken bells
and speakers for the dead, who understand
bridges burn but cannot accept tears
setting the river afire that they may not cross

04 January 2011

Stoneground Road Grits Blues

"More coffee, darlin'?"

The question came innocently enough.  The waitress was standing almost at his elbow, but Harlan Lewell hadn't seen her approach.  He jerked a little, making the fork rattle against the plate in front of him.  Harlan swung his gaze away from the window to peer blankly up at the waitress.  She smiled patiently, one hand on her hip and the other holding a carafe full of coffee.  He shook his head to clear it.

"Yes, yes, thank you."

She leaned over to pour.  Young, brown-haired, Harlan thought she was pretty and that she smelled like vanilla and cinnamon.  He swallowed hard, the scent stirring up ghosts in the back rooms of his mind.  He flicked his eyes back to the window, staring down the street.  His breakfast, a "hog and hominy" affair of bacon, sausage biscuit with gravy, and grits, was only half eaten.  His appetite had drained away, floating on a flood tide of fatigue and bittersweet memories.  The waitress topped off his cup.

"You okay, hon?  You look a little pale, and that breakfast hasn't gotten much smaller."

She was watching him as she spoke.  Harlan looked back at her, her hazel eyes showing what he thought was genuine concern.  He mustered up a weak smile.

"I'm fine, really.  I'm just...tired.  Been on a week long business trip, supposed to be home in two days."  He picked up his fork in an effort to show some spirit, scooping up a big lump of grits.  "I'll be right as rain once I get some more of these in my belly."  He pushed the grits into his mouth, chewing mechanically while maintaining the grin.  The waitress flashed her own smile.

"Okay," she said, turning to go, "take your time.  I'll check up on you in a bit."

Harlan watched her walk away, his jaw moving slowly as he struggled to swallow the grits.  They were good, but felt like he had swallowed a whole walnut as they made their way to his stomach.  He looked out the window and down the street.  The cafe in which he had once relinquished his heart and soul to the greatest love he had ever known was just down the street.  The sign hung out over the roadway, and he could feel the condensed heat of their past rippling over the pavement, through the glass behind which he sat, and coiling around his heart.

She wasn't here, he well knew, but he felt her presence.

Harlan sucked in a breath.  The smell of coffee and butter, and he was there again, leaning across the table with her hand on his head and a gentle kiss on his mouth.  She was smiling, eyes shining, as she ran a thumb across his lips to rub a small blot of jelly away.  He sat, stunned at the kiss, as she daintily licked the tip of her thumb while sitting back in her chair.  A low laugh escaped her perfect mouth, bells from the cathedral.

Harlan cast his eyes downward, and made another half-hearted attempt to finish the breakfast.  It was no good.  He was exhausted, his heart and his mind arguing with one another, and it was time to go home.  His mind had said it was foolish to detour an extra day out of his way to come here.  The heart had other ideas, looking for any straw to grasp when it came to finding her, getting her back.  Ultimately, he hadn't the courage to go into the cafe; he knew she was gone, but lacked the backbone to confirm the truth.  That realization had led him to the diner in which he sat.  Harlan set the fork down and reached into his travel bag for the map.

The grits sat, growing cold and forgotten while he tried to find his way back home.

03 January 2011

Rock and Roll Animal

New Year's Eve, 2010, I attended my first rock and roll club show in years.  Many, many years.  I wanted to see J. Roddy Walston & The Business, a group whose debut album has been in heavy rotation on my iPod since it came out earlier in the year.  I had missed them at a previous show, in a smaller venue, and reckoned now was the time.  Carpe diem, and all that.

The band went on at midnight, right after the ball dropped.  It was like opening the door into a hurricane.  A loud, raucous and just-this-side-of-controlled hurricane.

Standing there, about four people back from the stage, stomping my feet, pumping my fist and shouting choruses at the top of my lungs, I felt something wake up inside.  Something that had been asleep for a long, long time: the animal, and it felt good.  It was like watching a jaguar stretch, flex and growl.  It makes the blood run hot, and alive.

The tired, run-down me shook hands with the rock star me, and together we pushed back the great gray walls of the universe.  The volume knob on life went to eleven.

And it was good.

02 January 2011

I Dub Thee "Bouncin' Gumbo"

Take a good, long look at that there bowl o' goodness.  It's not just a bowl of beans and greens, it is a Grand Slam of New Years' Day feasting wonderfulness.  I'm happy to say I made it myself, and it was excellent.

There are a lot of ritual foods to celebrate New Years Day, not the least of which is Hoppin' John, that traditional Southern rice and beans dish which is supposed to bring a prosperous New Year if eaten on the first day.  While I have never had a true version of Hoppin' John, the idea of it has never been far from my mind, especially this year.  I told myself I would make it, or a version of it, because I liked the idea of a ritual.  Plus I was hungry.

Problem is, I had no black-eyed peas or field peas (for the true Low Country experience), and while at the grocery store, discovered they were all out.  I didn't want to try it with canned peas (not yet, anyway), so I reckoned I could rig up a substitute of sorts with the bag of pinto beans I had in the pantry.  This was diversion #1.

Diversion #2, I wanted some greens in my beans, something I believe is more of a side to accompany the Hoppin' John.  But I had the idea of gumbo z'herbes rattling around in the back of my head, so the greens were going in the pot.  Problem:  The grocery store was also out of most of the greens that would have been appropriate for the dish.  The best I could come up with was a big bunch of red Swiss chard.  I reckoned I could combine the chard with a small head of romaine lettuce I had in the refrigerator.

Finally, I found the last pack of smoked ham hocks in the meats section.  Seriously, they had one left*.  So I took that, figured I was done and went home, treasures in hand.

On New Years Day, the weather was looking a little gray, so it seemed perfect beans weather.  After soaking the pintos in water for a few hours, I simmered the hocks for ten minutes in my dutch oven, in about 6 cups of water.  I put in the beans, half a large onion, and two small bay leaves.  I let them simmer for about 1-1/2 hours, at which the beans were just about the right kind of tender.  I cut the chard and the romaine into bite-sized pieces, put them in the pot along with a liberal sprinkling of cayenne pepper, and let them cook down for another 10-15 minutes.

Let me tell you, this pot of beans taught me a lesson.  I've cooked beans before, written about that experience even, but I realize now what I thought were good beans were really just okay beans.  Ladies and gentlemen, I must have done something truly right, because this pot of beans and greens was out-of-the-park good.  I've often read that beans cooked just right have a nice firmness until the exact moment you bite down, then they sort of collapse into melty goodness.  I know now what that means.  I hit it.  The beans, they are beautiful in the mouth.

I suppose if I hadn't forgotten to make some cornbread, the meal would have been truly complete.  But as it was, it was still so good "ya hurt yaself".  Something about it was exactly what I wanted, and a great, great way to start off the New Year.  The beans were perfect, and the greens were a tonic for my thin winter blood.

Pretty high bar there, 2011: you've got some work to do!  Now, about that cornbread...

*I did my shopping on the afternoon of December 31st.  Apparently a lot of other folks had the same idea about a good luck dish for New Years Day, because the shelves were bare in a few key areas.  Next year, I'll lay in some supplies on the 30th!