31 August 2011

That Which Fills The Cracks In Our Foundations

August 21st, 2011 3:53 pm

"I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering..." sang the Beatles.  In the aftermath of the storms we have been having I need to get on that.  I've rain coming in through the chimney and rain seeping through the walls in the basement and it needs to stop.

But how do I let my mind continue wandering?  It sees the rain coming in and wants to fix it but wants to run, to hide, to not have to deal with disruption yet again.  The disruption never stops, it seems.  Rain makes the flowers grow, but other things grow, too, and if the water freezes in the cracks it will only get worse.  That is, if the damp and the seep don't crumble the foundations first.

I've been inspecting my foundations on a regular basis as of late.  They still hold but there are some cracks to fix and holes to plug.  Problem is, I haven't been able to fight the urge to just pull up a chair and watch the water well up or the cracks widen.  Weariness plays a role, I'm sure.  Sort of like life's version of the old defragmenter screen on some computers I use to use.  You turn the thing on and then sit slackjawed, watching the little boxes blink and shift, not getting any real work done but convincing yourself it is necessary, plus you wouldn't want to miss anything, in those blinking little boxes.

I do know this:  it is time for me to move off center, stop staring at the cracks in the wall and the water seeping through the joints.  I'll have the stem the split, mop up the spill.  Far too often in my past life I've been content to watch the houses slowly slide into the sinkhole, and it is high time that stopped.

It has to.  I have things to do, people to see, and places to go.  Especially home.  I need to go home and fix the leaks, shore up the foundation.  It's around here somewhere, I can feel it, I have touched it...now I have to hold onto it.  This time, I will.

30 August 2011

New for 2012: The 2-Door (Hatch) Back Spasm!

Maybe its just me.  Whenever I see the little car known as the Fit (by a car maker whose name rhymes with "Rhonda"), I cannot help but laugh.

You see, when I read the word Fit, I don't think of it in the senses of "appropriate for the circumstances" or "suiting the dimensions and shape of something".  I mean, I do, but not when I see that word applied to car.  When I see it capitalized and in a logo, my mind automatically leaps to the definition of fit as in "having a tantrum" or "a state of being characterized by involuntary spasms, tics or outbursts, and usually associated with extreme emotional upset".

So when I see the Fit on the roadways?  I laugh, and I hope there won't be a fit.  What about you?

29 August 2011

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

I have to write this from the dude POV, because, well...I'm a dude, and that is somewhat critical to the premise of this post.  So there's that.

Anyway...

The TV was on the other morning, because the Wee Lass was here.  I was listening to it while doing a little web-based chore minding, and a commercial came on for a car insurance company.  At the end of the commercial the perky (and if I'm being honest, cute) spokeswoman says to the dancing guy dressed up as dollar signs, "Really, go, honey, it's your break!".

Something about the word "honey" in her mouth made me sit up and take notice.  I felt a twinge of light-headedness and realized that, for all my facades of dude-ness, I like it when a woman calls me "Honey".

Or "Sugar". Or "Sweetie".  (sigh)  I'm such a violin.

I know in the current climate of Political Correctness and Gender Distinction Awareness and Avoidance of (possibly) Patronizing Forms of Address Awareness, it can be a slippery slope to use terms of endearment in a public venue and addressed to someone we barely know or do not know at all.  That's why I don't do it with women I do not know, and rarely if ever in a public setting with women I do not know well or only in a professional* sense.  It's best for everyone, that way.  Especially if you ask the legal folks in human resources.

But when I hear it applied to me in a more informal setting (the office is not such a place) like a restaurant or in a store...I usually get that puppy-dog sensation in my gut and I immediately relax a little.  I think its because I grew up in a different climate of male-female relations, one that was further along than most of the neanderthal-ish antics I remember hearing about from my elders (and which have not completely disappeared today), but certainly a little more traditional than today.  That was a time when it was much more common in my experience to hear those terms bandied back and forth and no one, male or female, thought much of it.

As I have evolved, and as things have changed, I realize that we all have to be much more careful about how casual we treat others, especially when affection can too easily be misconstrued for disrespect.  I certainly don't advocate calling colleagues "darlin'" or "honey" (male or female) in business meetings or in places where focus and respect are key to getting things done.

But sometimes?  I don't mind being called "Hon" or "Sugar", especially when I can tell someone is being nice because nice is the normal way to be.

And when it comes from the lips of someone you love?  Well, that's just the cat's meow.


*Note:  By 'professional' I mean in a career or workplace-based setting, not in the informal slang of a (ahem) prostitute.  Get your heads out of the gutter.

28 August 2011

Sunday Meditation #3: Everything I Want Is Obsolete

In the fading nickel-silver light of a Saturday afternoon, I saw a herd of deer cropping the grass down on the flood plain of a small river.  I do not know how many there were, my guess is at least ten.  I was driving past them, and the road was some tens of feet higher than the flat ground upon which they stood.  The ground itself was behind a house just ahead, tucked into one corner of the T- intersection of the road.  I gasped in delight.  I would have liked to stop and take their picture, but I was driving to dinner and I needed to devote my attention to the road.

Still, the image stayed with me throughout the meal.  I wondered what kind of picture I would have been able to take.  The camera that was with me, a Nikon EM, has become my favorite new road trip companion.  I had it loaded with black and white film, a medium I have come to enjoy quite much.  The pictures it takes aren't perfect, but they are lovely and they comfort me.

It was the deer and the light and the camera that led me to ruminate on the things that bring me peace, that make me understand the joy in this life.  Nature, photography, thinking, writing...all pursuits that anchor and exhilarate me.  These are the things that bring me peace.  I find myself recharged after walking in the woods, or by a lake, or even just somewhere among green, growing things.  The sight of deer makes me happy; the sight of construction cranes and chewed-up landscapes leave me uneasy and sometimes sad.

Nature seems to get short shrift these days.  It isn't sexy enough, it doesn't have enough volume or makeup.  The only time people seem to care about it is when it gets in the way of building something or it unleashes violence upon civilization.  Nature in an old-fashioned sense, seems to be getting obsolete.

Increasingly I find myself drawn to old-fashioned Nature as a restorative.  I feel the same about photography and writing.  But not just any writing.  As much as the computer facilitates getting these thoughts out of my head, I still get a lot of juice out of dragging pen across paper.   Letters, notes, thoughts...some days I wonder if I had been a professional scribe in a past life.  But pen and paper, they too, seem to be getting obsolete.  This to me is a saddening turn of events.

Photography, well, is another creature altogether.  I credit the purchase of a digital camera nearly two years ago with reawakening my interest in the art form.  I finally found a way to get to the core of issue, the output, so much faster than before.  This was revelatory, and led me to a sustained burst of picture taking, the echoes of which have yet to fade.  But, still, something was coming up short.

It amused me to discover that while I enjoyed the immediacy and the clarity of digital photography, it was the slow pace and fuzziness of film photography that had a grip on my imagination.  I think this goes back to the root inspiration of this post.  I discovered that I need the slower pace, the contemplative turn of the mind, the measured consideration of the act and the output to truly feel at peace in this world.  This leads me to walks in the woods, quiet conversations founded in love, the cameras that take film, and the page with watermarks that come clear when held to the light.  Soon, I will purchase a fountain pen, probably with an honest-to-god brass nib and filled with ink out of a little glass jar.  These are the things I want.

And the things I want seem to be obsolete, with the possible exception of love.  I see the deer, chase the light knowing full well I may be pursuing an archaic notion of beauty.  But I continue to hold out the hope that love, in the quiet bloom of sustaining the soul, will never be obsolete.  If it does, then I too will be obsolete.  Stubbornly, uselessly, beautiful obsolete, perhaps, but still believing in love and beauty that can be enjoyed without having to be possessed.

27 August 2011

It Ain't Easy Being Mahayana

Wasn't that what Kermit really meant?

Ah...probably not.  Maybe.  I don't know.  It could be that our little green frog friend was more prescient than he knew.  I was singing that song recently, but 'green' wasn't the word that I was looking for during my day.  The world, it seems, wants too much from me and I don't know if I can maintain my composure.

It may have been the cars on the road what made me think it.

Events in my life over the past decade have changed me, at least a little.  I have striven to be more patient, tolerant, understanding and compassionate.  The increase in this learning rate jumped when my daughter was born, and then increased sharply within the last three years.

But, still, I gripe.  I curse.  I question the motives and intelligence of my fellow human beings on a far too regular basis.  I cannot seem to break the habit.  This troubles me, because to maintain the cynicism and 'worldiness' that passes for social aptitude in this modern world is increasingly beyond my pale.  I can do it.  But it degrades me and exhausts me.

I know because of the irritation I feel at the idiocy I witness on the road, the overbearing demands of a service oriented industry (in which service sometimes is confused with 'servitude'), the numbing over stimulation of a 24/7 news/entertainment complex, the sheer restlessness of highly populated areas always under construction...

Increasingly I feel disconnected from that modern life, because of the crassness, vapidity and anxiety it cannot seem to do without.

Gah.  Look what I have written.  Sometimes, dear readers, I see my words, know them to be a reflection of my mind, and I cannot escape the notion that I am a foolish man.  Foolish, maybe, because I expect the world to be something other than what it is.  If only, if only, I could tell you what it should be.

Then, perhaps, enlightenment would be close behind.

26 August 2011

Schlubs

I'll own up now, I am not a fashion plate.  Never have been, probably never will be.  I clean up well but sartorial endeavors are generally not on my screen for most of daily life.  So I'm not sure just how much credibility I have in this particular area of human interest.

This is not to say I am completely ignorant of how to dress, or what to wear, or at least how to put on clothes and not look like a dweeb when I leave the house.  Most of the time I do want to maintain a minimum standard of neatness and decorum, just by personal inclination.  What that means is that sometimes I even tuck in my t-shirts.  And I don't go grocery shopping in flip flops and cutoffs.

Which brings me to the subject of this post:  Schlubs, and the women they inflict themselves upon.

I took Wee Lass out for dinner over the weekend, after which we went for a stroll down the main street to window shop and have ice cream.  Something was bugging me, though, something that started during dinner and came into full bloom while we were out walking.  There were an unusual number of schlubs out that evening.  It started with the guy in the restaurant who was wearing a tank top and what looked like satin basketball shorts, along with bizarro black tennis shoes complete with red piping.  He looked like he had just crawled out of a hamper.

His wife (I assume she was his wife, they were eating together with two kids and behaving like a family unit) on the other hand was dressed casually, too, but so much more put together.  Simple black top with white capri pants and canvas deck shoes.  Maybe not knock-'em-dead elegant, but it looked good.  It looked like she gave a hoot about simple things like matching! and neat! and 'I didn't just get up!'.

When we left the restaurant I was sensitized to the phenomenon, as I really started to notice the walking fashion victims attached to arms of (for the most part) much more 'with it' lady companions.  Wrinkled t-shirts, river rat shoes, baggy cargo shorts, ragged jeans with flip-flops and far too many logos for beer and cars and drinking establishments.  All of these contrasted with nice summer dresses, well-fitting shorts, interesting shoes (I confess, my knowledge of womens shoe etiquette is sketchy), even just simple tops and intriguing accessories.  While it wasn't a top hat and tails evening, just a casual weekend night out, the ladies looked a lot better than the dudes.  Like they actually thought about it.  The guys, they made me wonder in some cases if they had scintillating personalities (or money) or if maybe they were just plain lucky to be in the company of the women with them.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was wearing a plain tan t-shirt (tucked in), off white shorts and canvas tan casual shoes with light brown laces.  I wouldn't have won any awards for world-class casual dress, no doubt, I felt I could hold my own against the Larry, Darryl and Darryls out that night.  My daughter was wearing a casual summer top over flower-patterned shorts, along with her favorite golden sandals

To paraphrase Al Pacino in And Justice For All..."Don't you care, guys?  don't you even care?".

I know it isn't earth-shattering, maybe even flirts with shallowness, but I bring this up because I didn't used to care. And now?  I do.  I don't know why, I just do.  While I'm not so much a block head that I would try to outshine the sun, I do want feel like I belong in the same part of the sky.  And that means, for better or worse, that I have to care about how I shine.

25 August 2011

Scent of Canini

They were back, briefly.  Their scent raised the hackles on my neck.  My stomach still flutters.

I wasn't expecting them, although to be fair I rarely do.  They tend to show up unannounced, by stealth.  Its what makes them successful at their what they do.  I know it isn't personal.  It would be foolish and dangerous to take it personally.  After all, we are all part of the same mental ecosystem, aren't we?  We are all fulfilling our niche in the system, right?  Then I shall not fight it.  I shall attempt to deal with them with as much aplomb and dignity I can muster.  They are not my enemies.  They are simply part of me that occasionally takes leave of the wilderness within, to arrive in my backyard.  Hungry, maybe.  Watching.  Waiting.

This time, I felt them before I saw them.  Silently padding out to the edge of the woods that ring the safe haven in my mind.  I was thinking about change in my life.  I was thinking about pasts and futures and the Now in between.  The bridge of the Now.  I had my eyes closed at first.  But then that scent crept into my nostrils, that peculiar combination of musk and iron and anxiety.  The breath caught in my throat and I had to force myself to swallow and open my lungs.  Months since the last visit and I had no desire to see them again.  A deep breath and I told myself to not panic.  I would not run.  I would not cower.  I would deal with them straight away.

The eyes in the theater of my mind snapped open.  I rose from my chair, in the shade of the trees where I also hang the mental hammock.  Gazing across the meadow of my mind, the wolves were there arrayed against the tree line like soldiers, low-slung and furry.  They had been padding forward, but stopped when they saw me get up.  I took a step or two forward, and they stopped.  They all sat down on their haunches, eyes clear and bright and fixed on me.

I may have trembled, briefly.

For a score of heartbeats, we stared at one another, the wolves and I.  I stood still as I could manage.  They sat, placid in their presence.  Sweat trickled from my brow.  My legs twitched, as did their flanks.  This Now would be different.  I would not run.

I took a step toward them.  And another.  They began to rise to their feet.  I kept going.  My furred visitors backed away.  I broke into a jog, and they turned away suddenly, pausing at the edge of the woods.  I actually laughed, at which point the pack bolted into the woods.

The Fear ebbed away.  It was there, like a whisper, but not so insistent.   The wolves and I, we have an understanding.  Sometimes, they get me.

But sometimes, I get them.

24 August 2011

Song 1

Aureate bars on the walls
Sol peeking in to rouse,
to stir the blood
that filters through
the wetlands of my soul
wild places, and green
reached by invisible paths
known only to myself
and then only sometimes,
because they shift, no warning,
I relearn the quivering map
to find those growing things
under a sky of azure
in an atrial silence, silver water
where the ripples of you
break the surface

23 August 2011

The Tearing Of The Bagels

Friday morning is bagel time with my daughter.  The ritual began soon after she was big enough to toddle.  She was once enthusiastic, even demanding, when it was still fresh and new to her.  Lately, she likes to go, but she often seems noncommittal.

Me, I don't want to give it up yet.  The capstone to my week, and my girl she is growing swiftly.

One aspect that took root early on was that the plain bagel she always requested had to be rendered into smaller bits, to fit her wee mouth.  It was done out of necessity when she was much smaller.  At first I had to cut the bagel into pieces, she insisted, and they had to be wedge shaped.  She would use them as tiny shovels to scoop cream cheese out of the container and into her mouth.  Later, I convinced her that tearing the bagel into bite-sized pieces was better (have you ever tried to saw apart a chewy bagel with a bendy plastic knife? Tedious and tiresome), and much to my delight she agreed.  So for the longest time I would tear the bagel into bites, and she would eat.

As with many of these things we do for our children because they can't do for themselves, there comes a time when we grow tired of performing these tasks.  That time usually occurs about the time the kids can manage these things for themselves.  Seat belt fastening and bagel tearing, yeah, I've hit limit.

So it was last Friday at the bagel shop.  Bagels arrived at the table and as usual before I could sink teeth into my hot, crispy, fresh bagel, Her Royal Cuteness asked me to tear up the bagel.  I was annoyed, more so than the situation warranted.  But I complied as I always do.  I did wonder when she was going to start doing this for herself.

I watched her as she ate.  She seemed content, scooping cream cheese like a boss, and pushing the fragments of the now sundered bagel around the napkin on the table.  She didn't eat that much.  I polished off my bagel and wondered at this progeny of mine, and why it has to be my hands that tear the bagel.

It became clear to me, when she looked up at me with those stained glass eyes of hers and a small grin on her face.  This thing we have, the trip we take every Friday morning for the ritual "Tearing Of The Bagel"...maybe it matters to her.  Maybe it isn't so much that she doesn't want to do it herself.  Maybe she thinks this time we share together is incomplete if Daddy doesn't make the big things small.  Because that's what daddies do.  They help make the big things small for their precious ones, and that is as it should be.  I look on that angel face and believe it to be true.

I wish I could tell her, explain so that she may understand, that I may make the big things small for her...but by her presence sharing this ritual, I am a bigger man.

22 August 2011

Magpie Tales #79: Uncle Jack

Image courtesy of Tess at Magpie Tales

It was a cool summer, that year we lost Uncle Jack.  Bess, Margie and I were off to a week long family reunion, and Uncle Jack had been kind enough to lend us his car.  He didn't know or didn't care that non of us knew really how to drive.  I suspect he did know, but "Unka" as we called him was a kind soul, and tolerant of us young 'uns.  We drove off into that Missouri summer without a care in the world, not knowing that Unka would never need his car back after that.  He stood at the end of the drive, leaning on his cane, and waving with that small, sad smile on his face.

We drove up and over to Nebraska, just outside of Lincoln, to join the largest gathering of DeWitts in ten years.  Hard times and the war had put a stop to the yearlies Mama told us about that she had attended almost religiously.  Papa went but as it wasn't his blood kin, he never seemed to work up the enthusiasm of Mama.  Still, he loved her, so he had gone.  Except this year.  Papa had said something about wanting to keep an eye on Unka, said something didn't seem right, so he wanted to stay behind and check in on Jack.  Jack was his only brother.

We were there on the third day, over at Sister Loretta's place, outside in the back yard under the elms, when the screen door slammed and Loretta come running out to the picnic tables, breathing hard and tears running down her face.  Everybody wanted to know what was going on, and she broke into sobs.  Papa had called; Uncle Jack was dead.  Papa found him slumped over his desk in the front room of the cottage he called home.  What happened? we all asked.  Loretta stopped crying, abruptly.  Her face went scary blank and she said in a voice so flat it makes me shiver to this day, that Unka had shot himself in the head.

I went numb.  Bess burst into tears, and Margie just sat there with her mouth working like a fish out of water, gasping frantically.  Mama didn't seem to know what to do, until Loretta said Papa had asked her to come home.  As we all came in the same car, Unka's car, we all decided to go together.  It was too far to go alone.

I don't remember the drive much.  It had gotten warmer, there was a lot of dust in the air.  The fields and the grass flew by, cows dotting the land and one stalk pretty much like the other.  When we finally got home, Papa stood in the door looking disheveled and red-eyed.  He looked tired.  Mama just took him inside and put him to bed, while we all floundered around trying to figure out what to do.

Days later after the funeral, Papa and I had gone over to Unka's cottage to take stock of what he had left behind.  There weren't much, one suit and some other worn-looking trousers and such.  His old service uniform still hung in the closet, wrapped in a bag and smelling of mothballs.  Papa had taken the gun away, and it mostly just books left.  The last thing I picked up was Uncle Jack's old camera, the one I remembered him always having and the one he used to snap a few shots the day we left for the reunion.  Papa saw me holding it, and he said Go on, take it, Jack would have probably liked you to have it anyway.

I took it home, set it on the bookshelf in my room, and wondered what to do with it.  Aboyt a week later, it occurred to me to check if it had film in it.  It did, and it looked like the last frame had been snapped.  I carefully unloaded it, and the next day went into town to get the pictures developed.

The waiting made me nervous and curious.  I reckoned I had no idea what was on that film, except maybe any pictures he took of me and the girls.  When I got the prints, I leafed through the stack.  Mostly it was slightly blurry shots of birds and fence posts, and closeups of cornstalks in the morning and at sundown.  I had a flash of recognition, that these were the kind of prints that Unka had all over his home, framed with dark wood and under glass.  There were at least thirty or so we had taken from the walls, and put away in boxes.

It was the last one that jolted me, though.  It was the picture of Bess, Margie and I on that morning we borrowed his car.  It was the only one of people in the camera, and to see our faces all smiling, not knowing what was to come, really hit me in the gut.  I sobbed, and put a hand to my face to wipe away tears.  The picture came a little more in focus, and it was them I saw it.  My mind reeled, thinking it was a ghost, but, no, I quickly figured out it was Unka's reflection, there on the side of the car.  I could see the outline of his hand, and the shape of the camera there held up to his face.  It was the last picture we ever had of him.

I kept that picture, through three jobs, two wives and a lifetimes' worth of hard work.  I have it still, on the wall of my study where I can see it from my desk.  I look up and wonder where Uncle Jack had gone in his life where he didn't or couldn't go back to.  I wondered where he was now.  Some day, I reckon I might find out, and I'll ask him.

21 August 2011

Sunday Meditation #2: On The Problem Of Weeds

I look out my kitchen window at the riotous growth of the crepe myrtle in the corner of the yard, the almost tree-like bush resembling a prideful lion's head with its spray of mane-like branches.  The branches festooned with magenta blossoms.  The wild roses, like lion cubs, crouch at its feet, peeking their little leaves out from the protection of the myrtle.  It makes me smile and remember G-maw, my maternal grandmother.  She had a crepe myrtle in her yard, a large one, and I always remember that one as a tree.

The weeds, too, that desecrate the planting beds ringing my house, they remind me also of G-maw.  Not for any direct resemblance, no, but only the absence of weeds in my grandmother's presence.  She was a gardener, with a plot behind her house in which she grew flowers and tomatoes and other beautiful, tasty things to eat.  She had little patience for weeds, mostly.  She often tended the large, impromptu garden that sprang up behind my boyhood home, on a patch of land bordered by the neighbor's houses.  Many good things came from that plot, and G-maw helped them grow.  She was formed in a time where it was necessary for you to grow the things you ate, because if you didn't you might not eat.

The garden of my youth, the flower plot of my grandmother's home, has begun to fade somewhat under the pressure of time.  Fade is perhaps not the exact word, as I sit here and contemplate the setting sun. Blurred or softened is perhaps a better choice.  A view through thick panes of glass abraded by sand on the winds of time, the memories achieve a certain glow on the screen of my mind.

I remember the weeds, also, as I look out the window.  The weeds have grown fast and thick this summer, fattening their stems and fleshly leaves while I wasn't looking, or was distracted by the noise and clatter of the modern world.  I see the weeds, and I feel unsettled, because I know I have let some things get away from me.  Weeds are something my G-maw would have taken care of, right away, as she often did when she was still of this mortal coil.

Me, I dither too much, crow mind distracted by the shiny things.

I stand at the window and sip my glass of tea.  Silently, I send up a prayer, a request, or maybe just an ethereal "hello" to my G-maw, asking her to come visit, offer some advice.

There are weeds around me, G-maw, and I want to know what to do.  You knew what to do, always.

20 August 2011

The Secret Life of Vinegar

Hey, everyone!

Recall if you will my post of Tuesday in which I expressed some uneasiness and dismay of the appearance of certain...old-fashioned..."feminine hygiene" products in the sidebar ads on my email.  Well, we can all rest easy now, folks, as I discovered the missing link.

It was buried in an older email, at the bottom of a 'conversation', from a friend.  The friend in question had used the phrase 'douche bag'* in the conversation, so naturally, which word did the all-mighty G.oo.gle decide to glom onto when tricking up the ads?  The D word, of course.

So there you have it.  Mystery solved!  Now I can go back to eating my fries, shudder-free!

19 August 2011

Eating Balance

A pound of linguica, cut in half, then into half-inch pieces
one green bell pepper, coarse chopped
one orange bell pepper, coarse chopped
one yellow onion, cut in half, then cut 'wedge-style'
about a quarter-pound of wide egg noodles
bay leaf
four whole black peppercorns
olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
dried oregano,
minced garlic
aleppo pepper flakes
dried thyme
tomato paste, 2-3 tablespoons

In a large skillet (one with a lid)
over medium high heat
Saute the linguica in a little olive oil
until it colors and renders some fat
then put in the peppers and onion
and saute those until they start to color

and meanwhile bring water to boil
with the bay leaf, peppercorns
and a pinch of garlic
when it boils put in the noodles
and then sprinkle the linguica
peppers

and onions
with ground black pepper to taste
a big pinch of oregano
a small pinch of thyme
and just enough aleppo pepper
to make things interesting

then spoon the tomato paste into the skillet
followed by almost a cup of water from the noodle pot
stir the skillet a few times (take a sniff)
then put the lid on the skillet
turn down the heat
and wait for the noodles to cook

stir
drain
put the noodles
in the skillet
and stir again
warm it all through

Take a simple white porcelain bowl
and a simple fork and a spoon that fits
sit at the table and gaze out the window
to be content, to be thankful for providence
and know in your heart, head and stomach,
it wasn't a recipe, it was a way to regain balance

18 August 2011

I Am Both

The physicist Murray Gell-Mann wrote an entire book about systems simple and complex, entitled The Quark and The Jaguar, and I rediscovered it recently, sitting on the bookshelf where I stored it many months ago.  The cover is adorned with a marvelous photograph of a jaguar.  I like to take the book out and look at the picture, occasionally.

I needed to look up a word, so I was standing at the shelf with the dictionary in hand when I absentmindedly picked up the Gell-Mann book.  The eyes of the jaguar flashed in the low light of the wall sconce, and I imagined a growl in my mind...

...the fatigue of recent days carried me off in a swirl of memories and questions and wondering just how I got to be Here, as I Am, in this Now.  Right Here.  Wondering how, what, why. And who.

The notion came to mind that I am the simple, and the complex.  The quantam wavefronts that coalesced into the pattern of Me is what makes me Me.

I am the quark and the jaguar.

 

17 August 2011

Eventide Reverie

Caress of bright bee,
Snowy blossom bows its head
Calling me to pray

16 August 2011

Now I Don't Know What To Put On My French Fries

WTH, G**gl*?

The targeted ads?  You think you could improve the algorithms that govern how the sidebar ads get selected?  Because I've seem some bizarro stuff in my sidebar, but this takes the cake.

Right now, on the side of my email window are four ads.  Three of them are for new cars.  Nothing in the email that was on display said anything about new cars, but not so out there, ya know?

The fourth ad?

It says "Vinegar Douche: Learn about new ways to freshness."

I didn't see any references to condiments, seasonings or flavorings.  How does this even happen?

(sigh)

I'm feeling a little uncomfortable about my next order of fries.  Thanks, G**gl*.

15 August 2011

Magpie Tales #78: Stripper


It probably never occurs to anyone that they'll end up being a painter at some point in their life.  Yet it does, just like that and maybe without being aware that it happened.  One day we look up at the walls closing in around, and say to ourselves that something has to change.  Now.

This is followed by a flurry if ideas, grandiose schemes of saunas and sunrooms, master baths and master chef kitchens.  There is a burst of exhilaration, of zeal, of visions of the high life.  So we reach for the wallet, a mental slapping of pockets and overturning of couch cushions to find out just where the damn money went.  It is at that moment the realization kicks in that, there is no money, not enough anyway, to finance the mental mansion of our dreams.  We sigh, and know that, like in the past, we can paint.

There is a shuffling off to the basement or tool shed, to sort through the pile of clutter in the corner where we buried the paint trays and stiffened brushes from the last time.  Drop cloths thick with dust and so stiff from paint spatter they crack when bent.  The rollers are there, too, bedewed with dust and the carcasses of small insects mummified from years trapped in the fibers.  Oh, and don't forget that last can of paint, the one that was two-thirds empty, but we told ourselves we'd keep it for "touching up" and subsequently was left to molder under the decades of other paint supplies we heaped atop it.

Opening up that can of paint releases a burst of sour air, like long and best forgotten memories.  The paint is hopeless.  A stiff layer of congealed pigments floating over the sludgy remnants of the binder, binder which looks all the world like blood plasma.  We shudder and put the lid back on.  Time to go to the store.

So its another trip to paint shop or home store, buying all the tools we bought before but forgot we had. A few gallons of paint releases a small cloud of good feeling, because we tell ourselves it will be good, it will be different and it will be fine.

Back to the house.  Lay down the cloth. Open the can. Fill the tray.  Brush. Roll. Clean.  It looks great, doesn't it?  But the weight of years comes crashing in as we paint the trim, or try to paint the trim and we can't hold the brush still and we hit the glass on the window and goddamnit there's another drop on the one speck of the hardwood floor that wasn't covered by the cloth and the paint is our eyes and the trim has been painted so many times the outlines are soft and blurred and we can't be sure the trim is there maybe its just a trim-shaped lump of paint where the wood disappeared so many years ago and we fall off the ladder to collapse in the corner with head in hands and we realize that no amount of paint is going to change the bones of this place the bones we can't see anymore and that's when we see it...

...We look up, across the room, at the glint of sunlight on the blade of the scraper, and the jug of liquid sandpaper we forgot we bought...

...and we know what we must do.  Set down the brush.  Put away the roller.  Forget about a bright new color that can't hide the layers underneath, no matter how hard we try.  The layers...the layers must go.

We pick up the blade, put on the goggles and lay steel to the surface of our lives.  The chips fly, the paint curls and our arms and back hurt like hell.  But it must be done, this exposing the substrate of our lives.  It has to be done, it will be done.

We strip it down to the soul, laying it bare to new light of an old sun, and renew ourselves.

14 August 2011

Sunday Meditation #1: Mystery And The Man

I am not a religious man, although sometimes I wish I could say that was true.  This tug, this pull that I feel in my heart some days, where I marvel at the beauty of the world and wonder if it really is the grace of God speaking mutely to my soul.  Such wonder!  Such mystery!  And I do not say that lightly.  The skeptic in me that so often rears his suspicious face fights hard with the naive innocent that still exists somewhere in my heart.  But I try.  I try so hard to cast off the jaundice induced by a world that so often seems bent it putting everyone through the fire or on the anvil, to hammer out of us the juices of life.  Were that this not so!  It appears to be, however, and the task for the jaded such as myself, and perhaps the innocents who still believe, is to maintain that sense of wonder that makes the world so fresh and new.

I cannot pretend to be a child any longer.  The number of summers that have passed since I could lay claim to the moniker far outnumbers the summers I actually spent as a child.  The weary adult in me is wistful, perhaps, for that refreshing lack of affection. Or perhaps for the bright, sharp edges of my soul that used to be, now ground down by the grit blown in the winds of time.  It is enough to make one want to run and hide, should one feel overrun by the vagaries of this kaleidoscope trip we call life.

Enough.  Enough of the slightly sour melancholy of the "grown-up".  I have wisdom now, but that does not mean I can no longer enjoy the sound of crickets or the syrupy lassitude of a cat sleeping in a warm spot on the neighbor's porch.  These things had their origins in something mysterious, whether God or the accidents of physics.  Some day I may kneel before an altar and declare myself open to a Creator.  Until then, it is enough to sit in a chair on the porch, breathe the perfumed air of the evening and know that I am whole in the world.

12 August 2011

Piper Nigrum: A Love Story

Have you bitten into a whole peppercorn?
Or even a big chunk, one stuck between
the teeth to be found later by an absent-minded
pinky nail probing the gaps between?
You have, yes you have, because that taste
that mineral spice gets under your skin
bitter and hot melting into tangy and warm
just like that first kiss, that first taste under
an adolescent sun, you swore you would,
you would spit it out, back of the hand
swipes at the tingling lips, not understanding
why anyone would do such a thing,
want such a thing, until the afternoon
you woke up with the sense memory
of your lips and tongue pressing the other
with spice and warmth there for the taking
the lapping up, while the sun striped your face
streaked with tears to know you had it once,
and it left you hungry for more

11 August 2011

Fearless Leader

Last Saturday, the Wee Lass and I were enjoying a stroll through a favorite park, down by the Patapsco River.  We had reversed course, as Her Royal Cuteness had declared, loudly, that she needed to void the royal bladder.  Well, what she said was "I gotta go potty, Daddy!", but you get the idea.

As we hoofed down the path on the way to the loo,  she announced that she was the leader, and that she should be in front.  So she increased her pace.  She looked over her shoulder to see how close I was getting.  When she saw me gaining on her, she knitted her brow, looked at me and quipped:

"I should be the leader, 'cause I'm a girl!"

She then turned her head forward and took off down the path, leaving me with jaw agape.

I had no ready reply or refutation.  Her logic was inescapable, and my only response was to grin and try to keep up with Fearless Leader.

10 August 2011

Magpie Tales 77: Ignorance Can Get You Hurt

Image courtesy of Tess at Magpie Tales
If only Johnny Park had been paying attention,
that sultry summer evening, to the look on her face
he wouldn't have forced the issue, sealing a fate
of twenty-seven years later, when Imelda May
had decided she'd had enough, too much,
and Johnny wouldn't have found out the hard way
Imelda had been watching carefully,
when she took off the safety, and paid him back

09 August 2011

Dog Days of the Soul

I once was possessed of the notion that I was a tough guy.  Not in the sense of looking to get into fights, or crush beer cans on my forehead or any such nonsense.  I thought I was tough that I could take anything the universe could throw at me.  It was a conceit that sustained me for quite a long time in my life.  The shame of it is that it was simply not true.  The universe, as only it can, disabused me of that notion in a manner most violent, then kicked me while I was struggling to stand up.

My Big Bro has been gone two years now.  I thought of him today, and realized what it was that had been nagging me a little since mid-July.

Remembering him reminded me that, really, I'm not as tough as I like to think.

Remembering him reminds me that I am human, as was he.  Beautiful, sad, flawed but ultimately worthy of love.  

This is a gift worth far more than being a tough guy.  I remember you, my brother, and rejoice in being human.

08 August 2011

Anniversarequiem

Sunrise as always
for millenia of an Earth
in ceaseless spinning
cosmic mirror of a heart
sore from pounding
beating, pushing thin blood
through weary veins
writing the meaning
of sorrow, of grief
on the palimpsest soul
with a story writing
and rewriting itself

Gilded children playing
in the Eden of the heart
Wondering who they would
have been had they lived,
What they would have said;
And watching that sunrise
on just another day
that means nothing to many
but everything to eyes
of the beholder, the heart
who holds them dear
and will never let them go.


In honor of my two children, who left this world in a summer so bright, and me in a fall hard upon a winter that began in August 2003.  The sun is out now, but my bones will never forget the meaning of cold.  It never ceases to amaze me that two creatures so small and so brief in time could teach me just about everything I needed to know about fatherhood.

07 August 2011

For The Love Of God In The Eyes Of A Cat

Cat's eyes, blinking gold,
Summer gaze holding me still
in the grace of God

06 August 2011

05 August 2011

The Lotus On The Other Side Of The Universe

It is night, and the creature is standing in the yard.  The yard is ringed with spectral trees and funereal flowers. The air is thick, wet.  A vegetal perfume wafts through the air in the eddying breezes that languidly cross the space on an erratic schedule.  The creature does not seem to notice beyond a pushing out of the chest and a flaring of the nostrils.  Its back brain registers the scent of magnolia and lilac, rose and lavender.   It breathes and stares into the milk-spattered dome of the sky.

Above him in the black velvet dome lie a pointillist fantasy of diamond-hard stars, strewn about as from the hands of a forgetful god.  Faintly, galaxy and nebulae pinwheel through the ether.  The creature spies the dim smudges.  Its brow knits in concentration as a trace of a ghost of sliver of an idea forms in its overheating mind.  The gauzy light entrances and seduces the creature.  It feels something welling up in its heart. 

At that moment, almost dead center to the creature's field of vision, a supernova flares into life.  It blossoms in the sky, a slow-moving jellyfish in an ocean of air.  The creature gasped, falling to its knees in the grass.  The sensation on its heart grows stronger, making the creature cry out softly and clutch its chest.  The feeling spreads outward in warm, liquid waves.  The creature lies prostrate in the grass, marveling at the light in the sky.  It, too, has grown stronger and warmer.  The supernova continued to unfold, coalescing into a lotus blossom covering half the sky.  The creature gaped, and something resembling a smile broke out on its face.  It looked up at the lotus, and sang.

Centuries later, the creature put down its books, unbuttoned its collar, and wept to finally realize that the word he had been searching for all those years, to describe the light of which he had memory...was love.

Across the miles, a lotus awakes, setting in motion its destiny to unfold in the hearts ready to receive it.

04 August 2011

Not The Bed For Me

It happened again.  That thing, with the word.  You know, a word that just pops up in your head, maybe you don't know what it means, maybe you do, but the point is, it won't leave you alone until you do something with it.  My most famous example to date is lachrymose, meaning "given to tears or weeping" or "tending to cause tears".  That humdinger seized hold of my brain in the depths of an all-nighter I pulled in my college days.  It looped and looped until I had to go look it up, and say it out loud.

Well, a similar thing happened today.  This time the word was catafalque.  It means "an ornamental structure sometimes used in funerals for the lying in state of the body" or "a pall-covered coffin-shaped structure used at requiem masses celebrated after burial".

Whew.  That is a big one.  This one came to me as I was working through my lunch hour, sandwich in one hand and the other shuffling papers and pecking at the keyboard.  It had nothing to do with the tasks at hand, nor was it a descriptor for any projects I was working on.  In my career as an architect, I have never once designed a catafalque.  Probably never will.  I have no frickin' clue why I thought of the word.  I was unsure if it was even a real word, until I arrived home and looked it up.  It was then I realized I had more than likely read it somewhere, possibly years ago, and it decided to come back. Now I have to do something with it.  Write a poem or a story.

Because if I don't, it will nag me until I do.  

(sigh)

Why is my brain so weird?

03 August 2011

It's Making Me Wait, But I Wait Serenely

"How long, how long
Until anything sets me on fire
How long, how long
Until I know
Possession from desire"*
To sit at the table and gaze into the pearly north light, this is ambition enough for the end of a long day.  Dinner is over, the milk-glass plate a fitting bier to the remains of yet another sandwich downed.  The pickle is a fading memory with only a solitary cucumber seed stuck to the napkin to mark its passing.  It occurs to me that sandwiches, in my day-to-day existence, now carry a faint air of sadness about them.  Even the good ones, like the BLT that marked this night's sacrificial victim, taste slightly of melancholy.  Perhaps this is because I eat so many of them, dictated by necessity and circumstance.

Bah.  I shake the feeling off.  It will not serve me well to pity myself my choice of victuals.  Instead, I lean back in the chair, hands laced across the full belly, and consider my true station in life.  Stuff and things are keeping me busy, some godd and some not-so-good, but mostly good.  I am experiencing a stability and a general contentment that had been eluding me in the past year.  Dare I say, things are on the uptick.

The words of Jeffrey Foucault, the opener to this humble rambling that I offer to you, dear ones, have been echoing in my head frequently in the past month.  As I sat at the table this evening, practicing the 'no-mind' of Buddhism as best I could, those words positively swirled through my brain.  It is an excellent question, Jeffrey asked, one that I had not been able to answer for myself in years.

The sky dimmed, blue-silver fading into pewter and blue lead.  Crickets thrummed counterpoint to the muffled rumbles of distant motorcycles.  Stars began to peer dimly down at me through the slats of my windows.  They smiled, and sang, and the answer began to gather form.

Possession from desire?  The taste of it is mist on my tongue...it is close, so close.  I sit patiently and wait, knowing it will come to me.  The stars tell me so.

Italicized passage from 'Buckshot Moon' by Jeffrey Foucault

02 August 2011

Magpie Tales 76: Dust Bowl Memory



Image courtesy of Tess at Magpie Tales

Mimic of the sun
Spinning to ward off heat
With promises of water
Based on faith of industry

But the sky turned,
it was the color of dirt
The dirt choked out life
A fallout of broken dreams

The blades turned
life moved on, until the sun rose on
another set of hands lifting the vanes
and daring to dream of a different life

01 August 2011

This Hemic Burn

I questioned myself, tonight, if my heart was really in the writing.  I have been on a quest, informal, to post something every day for a year.  I am just under two months away from achieving that goal. This quest came about accidentally, as I had made no plans to do such a thing.  Now, I wonder if it matters for any reason at all.

That is not to say I have no wish to write.  Quite the contrary.  The path of my life as of late has been such that the creativity and the ideas, that noise which drives me to distraction when the demands of the real world come calling, have been building up faster than I can process them.  Even when I sit at my desk at my day job, my back brain is whispering new things that must see the electronic and paper pages that wrap my life.  My mind's eye sees things that beg to be photographed, to be recorded in that fleeting moment of light and shadow in which beauty or truth can be found.

But tonight, I sat down at my desk and felt the imp of the perverse tugging at my ambitions.  The weekend, much to my chagrin, was over.  The crickets outside I can hear faintly over the hum of the air conditioning, and there seemed to be faint music coming from somewhere.

Perhaps the music was all in my head.  My tired and dizzy head.

In the light of my banker's lamp, here next to the keyboard and journal which seem to be the palimpsests of my heart, I rubbed my temples and wondered where next for my wandering mind.  I could feel the veil of weariness descending upon my eyes as thoughts of bed and rest crept in on little cats' feet.  Unbidden, a small smile came to my lips. I listened to the susurrus of blood wending through my skin in threadlets of soft fire.  Feeling the warmth of the hemic burn radiating outward through the canopy of my veins, I knew that whatever my heart has in store for me, it is and will be good.  It will be the stuff of life.

The words will take care of themselves.