23 December 2013

We Do Not Wish to Sing a Requiem for Bees

If it can ever be said that I have evidence of the Divine in this world, surely it resides in a spoonful of tupelo honey. To paraphrase the 17th century English physician William Butler, doubtless God could have made a better honey, but doubtless God never did.

The estimable Dr. Butler was referring to strawberries in his original remark, but the principle easily extends to tupelo honey. I am not, by nature, overly drawn to sweet things but tupelo honey has a hold on the imagination of my palate that I cannot explain. The only other sweetener that is on par with it is sorghum. I love sorghum, but that is a story for another time.

In recent months it has become my evening custom to have a mug of chamomile tea before retiring for the evening. Its soothing, soporific effects have done much to assuage my difficulties in easily falling asleep. For this I am grateful.

It is with the flavor of chamomile that I am somewhat less than enthralled. For months I drank it straight up, convincing myself that the salubrious effects of the infusion outweighed the medicinal taste of it. The conceit wore thin and I ceased my nightcap for a short time.

The hiatus ended the evening a jar of tupelo honey landed on kitchen counter. As luck had it, I found it in a local grocery store for not too much money. This, after some months without, as the last jar I had seemed to be exorbitantly priced.

Such are the penalties we pay for our appetites.

So with this windfall of honey, I found myself once again in need of a mug of chamomile tea, but with little enthusiasm to drink it. It was then that the inspiration came upon me to lace my cup with a generous dollop of tupelo honey. The effect, I must say, was damn near magical.

I sat down on the couch to enjoy my drink, and as the first warm sips slid down my gullet I could not help my meditation on tupelo honey and what makes its existence possible. Trees and bees. Specifically, tupelo gum trees and honey bees.

But especially bees. The news of recent die-offs and colony collapse disorder had me unsettled. It boggles the mind to think that so much of the good things we take for granted depend on healthy bees. Fruits, vegetables and all the things that flow from them, like honey. They could all disappear if the bees die and do not come back.

The thought of it makes me sad. That night I added tupelo honey to my chamomile tea I leaned back on the couch and said aloud "Lord, I hope the bees don't die." The winter chill seeping through the walls raced up my spine as I voiced those words. I shivered slightly, sipped a gift from the Divine, and meditated on the miracle of the honeybee and its dance with the tupelo gum tree. To sing a requiem for them seemed an offense to the universe, one that I cannot bring myself to commit.


20 December 2013

Missing Blood

She looked at me and said "I have a sad thing in my life, too."

Cards for a game lay crooked upon the hotel bed. The television muttered in the background. A man on the screen had just finished telling us that, at a young age, he had lost his father.

"What's that, sweetie?"

Her eyes were shining, diamonds of liquid blue. "My brother and sister. When people ask me if I have any brothers or sisters, I get sad because I miss them."

My heart hollowed itself out. I reached out a shaky hand, touching her gently upon her knee. She covered her mouth with her hand, stifling a tiny sob.

"It's okay to feel that way." Long pause.
"I know, but it makes me upset. That's why I have to say I don't want to talk about it ."
"It's okay to feel that way, too, sweet pea."

I swallowed the slight bitterness of telling myself it was okay. I sat there thinking "There are days, my girl, so many days where I don't want to talk about it, either. Yet every chamber of my heart echoes with plaintive cries that refuse to be unheard." I smiled, wanly, silent.

She nodded her head. I squeezed her hand. We went back to our game, shrouded in echoes.

11 December 2013


Jonas felt his hands getting numb. Too much driving with a balky heater left the cab of the truck warm only in name. The truck, like the man, was getting old. With age came the pains that took up residence in the bones. They waxed and waned, but never quite left. Good news that always made Jonas grin was that he owned both the truck and his bones. Nobody but God could take them away from him now. The old man had no idea that God was thinking the same thing.

Jee-sus, I don't wanna die alone, 
Jesus, oh, Jesus, I don't wanna die alone,
My love wasn't true,
Now all I have is you...

The words spilled, tinny and faint, from the radio on the dash. Jonas sucked in a lungful of cold Nebraska air to say "No, sir, Mr. Cash I don't wanna die alone neither. Nothin' good to come of that, I reckon." Highway 26 stretched out under the dead January sky. The snow stuck to the windshield had the glow of pearly ashes. The wipers had gone on strike miles back, working in fits and starts. Jonas thought he might stop soon to brush the glass clean.

He drove on, drifting into a daze. The truck stayed straight. Not hard to do out here where the flatness was damn near end all and be all. No traffic for what seemed like hours, unless the snow snakes whipping across the road counted. Not much in the way of animals except for the rare bird or two that telegraphed across the sky. He thought he saw an antelope, once, but it was too far away to be sure.

The featureless gray of the clouds made a riddle of time. The light came from everywhere and nowhere but it did seem to be getting fainter. His belly grumbled, as if to confirm his suspicions about the lateness of the day. There was a thermos jammed into the passenger side seat, wedged in the crease between the back and the upright. It was half-full of tepid coffee leftover from the last century when he had left his trailer, perhaps for good. The only food in the truck was half a cheese sandwich and a almost new box of beef jerky laying on the dash.

Jonas. sighed and belched. The sandwich, entombed in a crumbled paper bag along with a crushed empty beer can, lay down on the opposite floor board. He could not reach it without ducking so far down he would lose sight of the road. The thought of it made him really tired. He surprised himself at how lazy he felt. Unusual for a man that had near wrecked his body working hard, hard, for most of his adult life.

The ache in his knees and wrists never let him forget. But he had to eat something. The plains stretched out for miles around him, empty, lonely, with no signs of hospitality anywhere in sight. It could hours, or never, until he might find a place to stop, get warm and fill his belly. Resignation wheezed out between his chapped lips. He reached out for the beef jerky. Setting the box on the seat beside him, Jonas slid one of the strips out of the pack, fumbling with the plastic wrap.

The jerky filled his mouth, salt mixing with grease and a low tang of rough chilies. The meat was blood warm from having sat on the defroster. The warmth momentarily threw the old man, reminding him too much of a punch to the mouth he took one night long ago, in a bar the name of which had faded from memory. Blood and two teeth, shiny on the winter gravel and looking garish in the neon of the sign. He grinned and laughed to dispel the ghosts. "Hell, man," he cackled, "that fella's fist looked ten time worse!" His voice got swallowed up by the close air.

He swallowed hard. It was getting dark. Crinkles on the horizon told him that Wyoming was getting close. Or was it Colorado? Smile collapsed from his face, and sadness took its place. He knew now he had lost track of where he was, and sure as hell was not turning around.

Light drained from the sky. Wind buffeted the weathered truck, shoving it gently from side to side in the lane. Jonas cut on his lights and sent up a prayer. Miles ahead, the temperature was dropping further. The clouds unfolded into rain. Night fell, and with it black ice lay claim to the road.

03 December 2013

Mañana Blues

The problem it seems may be one of self-priming. Without priming, the well will not flow free. Without free flow, the energy goes to waste or is never expended at all. Energy without expenditure is simply potential. Potential and a few dollars will buy a large cup of coffee.

All of the above explains the paucity of posts on this blog. It explains the dearth of worthwhile photography over the recent months. It is a condition of my creative existence that I have momentum, that I actualize the latent forces within my brain. Momentum breeds momentum. Once I get going, I find it very hard to stop. Witness the time not so long ago where on this very blog I posted and entry a day for over one year.

That is a lot of posting. While some of it was fluff and fill, much of it was inspired and heartening to me. I wonder if I ever again can achieve a similar feat.

The reason this matters is because as of late the tasks of writing and photography have acquired a difficulty I struggle mightily to overcome. The energy to get started rarely manifests for long, and I wrestle with bouts of angst triggered by comparison to my past efforts. It is the feeling of "I should be writing!" that gets me all wound up.

It is a mystery to me why creatively speaking things should be so difficult. I know the conventional wisdom is that one should write/draw/photograph/paint etc every day even when you do not feel like it, to keep the discipline up and the energy flowing. I do recall that feeling of engagement and satisfaction I get when I do get going, when the ball is rolling, when the mojo is workin'.

That feeling is wonderful. Now to overcome the lassitude between me and it.

It is no good thing to think of yourself as lazy, unambitious or lacking in imagination, but that is precisely what troubles me during these short fall days. The notion that I am waiting for something to come along and knock me out of my complacency seems all too real. "Carpe diem!" shouts my conscience, and I would, if only I could get myself off the couch.