Blue-er


"I settle for accepting this tiny overwhelming one."

The sky 'turns' blue after the snowstorm passes. During the storm, the sky disappears, moving so close to the ground that it essentially leaves. Ground and what used to be sky turn into one indistinguishable entity. Up falls down and down slowly moves up as snow accumulates. Outside loses a dimension. Even sideways takes a hit as horizon shrinks to barely across the street. I stand imbedded in a snow globe where the dimensions of the globe, of the entire world, shrink to barely arm's length. Inside, the rooms seem smaller, too. The house suddenly more homey, I feel warmly contained. The world seems almost understandable then, complexity reduced to the near absolute simplicity of accumulation. I ask myself, "How deep is it now?" Depth easily and unambiguously determined, I hold no further questions. I shovel off the latest layer completely satisfied, knowing full well that I'll need to shovel off subsequent layers before the storm passes. I seem reduced to mere observer, appreciative of the narrowing obligations. I'm out of toothpaste and try to drive out, but turn around in a preponderance of caution, relieved to return unharmed. I find my travel stash and conclude that I moved on false fears, and that maybe I could accept that my responsibilities lie right here and nowhere else for now.

Acceptance seems a terrible burden. Even grace, that most under-appreciated gift, wants nothing more complicated than acknowledgement.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CityLegs


" … feeling about half the man I fondly remembered that I used to be."

In cities, people live on sidewalks. In suburbs, cars. When not on sidewalks, city people might hop a bus or the subway, sometimes even grab an Uber between neighborhoods, exiting onto yet another sidewalk again. In suburbs, it's cars all the way down. When the suburban visits the city, they drive their car, which they are shackled to for the duration of the trip. Should the suburban find themselves fortunate enough to find a place to park their car, they also find good reason to grumble about the price for parking, then still find themselves shackled to wherever they parked the damned thing, carefully monitoring how far they've wandered lest they find themselves cut off from their hasty escape. City people develop CityLegs, ones accustomed to a twelve block stroll. Suburbanites might notice blisters forming on their feet after four or five blocks. And the blocks seem so big, littered with distractions, shops for every faction living there; with curious customs. The proprietor might want to chat. What should a puzzled suburbanite think of that?

The urban/rural divide isn't a simple six of one versus a half dozen of another. It's long division, requiring some heavy lifting to carry remainders across columns separated by wholly different dimensions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Armistice


"Let us bless each other, then, for nobody else could ever be qualified to."

I wasn't there, a hundred years ago today. Neither was my maternal grandfather, though he was in uniform sitting on a troopship in New York Harbor, halfway there from home. Amy's grand uncle wasn't there, either, for he had become a casualty of that last big push along the Marne, mired in mud and insanity like this world had never before imagined, and can hardly remember after. Twenty million, probably many more, had been disqualified from attending, too, having become casualties before hostilities could cease. A few millions more, who might have attended but didn't, and a few who did show up, would fall prey to the Spanish Flu within the following year or so. It was a time when on any day, someone might simply go away as if they'd never even been here. They sang that they were over there though none knew where over there was or would be.

Last year, The Muse and I were honored to visit the cemetery where her great uncle lies, a stunningly beautiful park.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DazeOff


"Forced into mindfulness, we muddle around hoping to stumble back into our familiar habituals again."

Years ago, The Insurance Company where I worked distributed Covey's Seven Habits to all management, strongly encouraging each recipient to carefully read the book, for it described how the company would henceforth operate. This title remains the only book I've ever felt moved to burn after reading. It helped accelerate my timetable for leaving the company and not only because it described a manner of living utterly alien and repulsive to me. One may not prescribe any habit without bumping one's head on a low-hanging Be Spontaneous! Paradox. Habits remain the antithesis of mindfulness, more indicative of obsession or compulsion than choice. The author described what seemed to me like a two dimensional solution for an n-dimensional difficulty, a superficial strategy for inducing some sort of pseudo-significant effect, affects too-desperately seeking causes. I felt crazy reading it, so I figured the very best service I could provide to the world would be to eliminate any possibility that my copy might infect anyone else, so I built a fine fire and threw that sucker in there.

Books don't burn all that easily. It seems as though they resist actually burning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

VoeTing

"What we choose to do with the result determines its meaning as well as its significance."

In his Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, whenever author Douglas Adams' protagonist Arthur Dent found himself in serious peril, an impossibility generator would shift the plot into something completely different, if not always any less threatening. I think of voting as just such an invocation. Some mistake it as a referendum on knowledge or intelligence, and understandably so, but improbability generators hardly ever produce logical or rational (knowledgeable) results, but usually unlikely ones. Before the election, pollsters and pundits carefully take the electorate's pulse, just as if an electorate possessed such a thing, then project results with appropriate-seeming ranges of probability. Sometimes these predictions turn out to be true, though nobody ever investigates the root cause of their seeming accuracy when they are right. Folks seem altogether too busy failing to explain instead why they were wrong when they turn out to be wrong, the correct answer finally becoming beside anyone's point. This practice only seems smart, and might actually be smart, but how smart is smart in practice?

My point about voting might be that it is almost but not completely unlike
(to borrow another Adams phrase) an exam. It was never intended to survey for correct responses, though each voter might well hold convictions about right and wrong for themselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wealth


"I am a serial offender against the Law of Attraction."

As I neared graduation from my undergraduate studies, envoys from the Business School started asking me to coffee. Some of these had served as my instructors through my three years of university study. They described the turbo boost that a Master's would add to my upcoming career, and the B-school would finance it all if I agreed to teach classes while I studied. The two year commitment would guarantee me sixty or more hour weeks. By then, I was holding down a full time job and a little more than a full load of classes, burning myself out trying to rid myself of the damnable anvil of schoolwork. I had a family by then, a newborn son and a wife with clear and undeflectable intentions of of bearing a second child shortly thereafter. We'd just been displaced from our rental by a landlord who chose to raise the rent monthly to keep up with the fifteen plus percent annual inflation rate. We'd borrowed from family to buy our first house, a place that we didn't know would quickly lose twenty percent of its value, in the hopes of at least stabilizing housing costs. My job paid for my books and tuition as an employee benefit, but I had to work full time to collect the benefit. My life already seemed plenty turbo-charged at that moment.

I declined the opportunity to pursue my MBA, reasoning that my time spent with my newborns would not be deferrable until any later date. I simply didn't want an MBA enough to sacrifice what I was already barely holding onto.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DaylightEnslavementTime


"I'll probably recover."

Once there was a time before time, before we managed to finely measure it. Then, all time was approximate, never exact, or never more exact than a cast shadow. When the sun stood directly overhead, one could say, "It's noon," without receiving a bunch of guff in return. A mile down the road, noon arrived at a different time than it did here; a constant difference, but nonetheless a difference. When mankind still moved at the speed of a walking horse, these differences didn't matter to anyone. The telegraph and steam-powered transportation changed everything. Once train passengers needed to make connections with steam ships, it became a lot more difficult to determine the time. The mighty Union Pacific operated on Omaha time, two hours ahead of Oakland time. A steamship might maintain its schedule according to its headquarter's time, meaning that Omaha time and Cherbourg time collided there. Modernists finally managed to negotiate an international treaty which calibrated standard times relative to Greenwich Mean Time, an act that infuriated farmers and fundamentalists worldwide.

During WWI, various national governments took exception to their earlier agreements, instituting a more thoroughly modern Daylight Savings Time, reportedly to provide more daylight to aid in the manufacture of war materiel.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LarderFridge


"Certain ethics govern the acquisition of a LarderFridge."

Three and a half years have passed since we last owned a LarderFridge, a ramshackle second refrigerator intended to hold overflows. leftovers, and beer. It's been a genuine ordeal. In Winter, of course, we enjoyed the walk-out refrigeration services the weather delivers directly to our deck. Last week, the pot of leftover pozole and a nearly full gallon of sweet cider sat knee deep in fresh snow, though by Friday that snow had melted and I had to direct the refrigerator's contents to scrunch up so those babies would fit inside. Late in the week, The Ever-Vigilant Muse noticed another refrigerator give-away on the local listserv and she immediately contacted the owner. We'd been trolling for a free fridge for three and a half years, narrowly missing more than a few. This time, the owner replied that she'd already found a taker, though she'd leave us in the queue. Friday, she contacted us again, saying that the first taker had declined the offer. We readily and unconditionally accepted, sight unseen. We were that desperate for an "extra" fridge.

Certain ethics govern the acquisition of a LarderFridge. One may not, for instance, just go buy one, for that would demonstrate both a lack of faith in providence and a demeaning over-eagerness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MisterCommunication


"Maybe we could muster a week-long workshop on interpersonal miscommunication."

I think of myself as a solid journeyman communicator, certainly not a master. I've studiously avoided delving too awfully deeply into any of the many linguistic theories and practices. Neuro-Linguistic Programming gives me the creeps. Noam Chomsky reliably puts me to sleep. Formal grammar simply seems beyond me. I navigate language employing a mostly-reliable felt sense. I generally manage to make myself understood. I'm quick with words, skilled as producing the encapsulating phrase, and, though a lousy speller, a half-way decent writer. I still surprise myself, though, when rediscovering the first principle of communication, that it's often the illusion that it's occurred. I'm perfectly capable of flowing along convinced that I'm on the same page before shockingly catching on that I'm not even in the same library as my counterpart. I'm growing toward accepting these disconnects as imperfectly normal, though they still shock me every time.

I learned last night that The Muse will be heading out to attend a week-long workshop in New Orleans on Monday morning.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

FallowTime


"Nothing like that looms until planning season comes."

Long planned, I quickly executed the work in four days spread over three weeks, owing to the weather and my personal preference for procrastination. Too much sun or two much wind and I figured I was better off waiting for some better moment. The final push, two frenzied days, occurred as they always seem to, in a blur. Once I allowed myself permission to finish, goosed by the clear threat of an impending snow squall, I left my senses behind, immersing myself into the job at hand. Those final few sandings, several squirts of supplemental caulking, some final perfunctory smoothings of unredeemably rough surfaces, and I started opening paint cans. Oil based primer for the bare spots, a thick acrylic to smooth over gouges and caulkings. The acrylic dried to the mottled patina of Elmer's® glue. This first frenzy left me with nothing to do until the next day.

The next day, I debated whether the final day had actually, finally, arrived. By mid-morning, having finished my writing for the day and feeling terribly ill-at-ease, I finally surrendered to the inevitable.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Complicity


"Life amounts to endless lessons in humility."

In his book Seeing Systems, Author Barry Oshrey describes what he calls The Blindnesses. I am unavoidably blind because I'm here, not there, like you are inescapably blind because you are there and not here. We're also mostly blind to the fact that we are blind. In my Seven Ethical Responsibilities, I name Conscious Blindness as an ethical matter. I believe that I hold the ethical responsibility to not space out the fact that I cannot see everything around me, and to remember that nobody else can see everything surrounding them, either. This reminder encourages a certain generosity of spirit. I cannot credibly hold anyone responsible to be fully clued in, including myself, not to make whiny excuses, but to better understand and appreciate.

All that said, I'm coming to a renewed recognition that to live is to be complicit.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DiffsGiftering


"The difference finally starts feeling like a gift rather than a curse …"

Those of us born with few natural gifts might understand better than those born with an abundance of them. We learned to hide them lest they expose us as different, for as we all learned in Junior High, different is bad, sameness, much better. Some of us struggled to fit in without noticing that we worked much harder to cloak our differences than we would have ever had to work to embrace them. School, which might be best understood as a systematic process for instilling self-consciousness, reinforced the notion that different was at best a difficulty. So much easier and more efficient if everyone could just color within prescribed lines. At the end of the year, if I'd successfully respected the edges, my teachers declared that I'd passed, which meant that they hadn't found me out; a victory … of sorts.

Junior High provided an exquisite introduction into the fine art of passing, an invaluable ability as one sought to enter ever higher levels of self-consciousness: university and the working world beyond.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SchKnowDay


" …to those affecting the flat American dialect, … I'm forever Smaltz and The Muse, Swab …"

The rumor starts a few days before. By the time it becomes a genuine forecast signified by the red triangle with the exclamation point inside, it's already arrived. Our behavior changes long before the first snow falls, though. I'm up and out, driving in pre-dawn darkness to the closest supermarket to restock the larder lest we get snowed in and starve. Neither The Muse nor I have been in any real danger of starvation since Reagan was President, but one never knows. I suspect that vestigial memories linger from that terrible Autumn of 1804 when our ancestors barely survived to carry forward our DNA. We know how to prepare for snow.

I try to talk The Muse out of going into the lab today, thinking myself just acting prudently.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Jigs


'They've figured out our shortcut and know how handy we aren't.'

The jig serves as the craftsperson's secret weapon. The sculptor, the painter, the quilter, the woodworker each employ special-purpose tool-guiding tools which remain almost unknown to the casual hobbyist. The master's freehand work might not produce anything any finer than any rank amateur could muster, but on the master's way to mastering their craft, they first mastered crafting the lowly jig, which could more consistently guide their hands guiding their tools. The absence of jigs in my toolbox clearly demonstrates that I am not a master of very many crafts. My father's old carpenter's square helps me mark true perpendiculars. A scrap of tape on a drill bit helps me avoid drilling holes too deeply. The pilot holes I drill before setting long screws not only prevent splitting the stock but guides the screws better than could my naked eye and unassisted hand.

Writers employ a variety of jigs, too, most of these almost invisible in the finished work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PrepWork


"Are we there yet? Probably not."

Outside of industrial mass production, most work seems properly classified under the label PrepWork. Cooking supper mostly amounts to waiting for the oven to finish. Prepping whatever's cooking might have needed hours of concerted effort to process without producing anything more than supper's components, which the oven will finish without any active cook's intervention. Planting a garden's about 80% securing and schlepping supplies. Even mopping the kitchen floor involves much more moving chairs and Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's feeding station than actual mopping. Because of this feature, I understand that most chores have been mislabeled, and this leads folks to misinterpret what tasks entail. Painting's almost entirely PrepWork. Even laundry requires more sorting than washing, yet nobody declares that they're off to sort laundry, but to wash it. The machine does the washing. No machine knows how to properly sort laundry.

PrepWork seems the source of much of my frustration as I rediscover that the effort I anticipated hardly resembles the work I find I must do before I can do the work I expected to be doing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Debasedball


" … no further injections needed or wanted until Spring."

Post-season Major League Baseball offers a final opportunity to shed the seasonal obsession before the playing ends. Without it, a fan might face a cold turkey withdrawal from a dependency not yet overcome. After, a fog of distain remains, a gratitude for evenings returned, a deep appreciation for the absence of a long-lingering obligation. Fans seem superstitious folk, ones who firmly believe that the simple act of listening in to the proceedings assists the beloved home team. They can't hardly stand to miss a single outing, they hold their deluded responsibility so dear. By the end of the regular season, a definite parting begins. The home team hasn't made the playoffs again, in spite of the fan's unflagging long-distance support, and no team making the playoffs seems nearly as dear. The fan makes it clear to anyone within hearing distance that all joy has already left Mudville, though they'll consent to dabbling in a likely mediocre witnessing of the remainders, but only for old time tradition's sake.

The playoffs bring fresh underdogs needing someone to root for them, and the fan eventually complies, choosing a least likely but somehow most lovable from each league's roster.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SlowNewsDay


"Only the paint ever knows how to dry."

I hold the strong opinion that watching paint dry has been unfairly denigrated, for few experiences match the subtle satisfaction, after a few hours spent applying paint, of simply sitting back and watching it dry. During those times, the Earth seems solid, the sky blue, and the universe in good working order. The fresh paint scents the scene with cleanliness, even godliness. All's right with the world. A freshly mowed lawn comes in at a close second place, the activity having raised a slight glow of sweat which evaporates off with a soul-cleansing psychic sigh. The satisfying payoff might be the explicit permission to revel in doing nothing at all, watching paint dry being a dodge and not really a producing activity at all. Give the same guy placidly watching his freshly applied paint dry the opportunity to sit like some Zen monk in any other context and he'd likely fidget nervously in place, self-consciousness subsuming the opportunity for enlightenment. Focusing on that paint, though, the same man experiences true transcendence.

I open the paper, hoping for a SlowNewsDay.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LongDay


" … sleep decided to stay out all night carousing with unreputable friends."

The Hunter's Moon, the final full moon before we set about setting back time this season, introduces a sort of circadian arrhythmia. It's a relatively bright moon, given that night has already fallen by the time it shows up. The Autumn air seems thinner and shadows streak the neighborhood until just before dawn. The nightlight seems particularly bright and sleep grows disinterested in her usual engagement. I lie awake lying to myself, pretending to feel sleepy, closing my eyes without amping down my suddenly hyperactive brain even a tiny bit. I'm raring to go with nowhere to go, playing solitaire charades until I finally just abandon the ruse. Not yet two am, but I'm up and wandering the halls already.

I search for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, concerned that she might have slipped into some inescapable corner of the place. She hadn't shown up for last call.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HitHard


" I suppose that it's nobody's fault."

On August 24, 2018, Geoffrey Weglarz (alias Geoffrey Corbis) drove into New York City from his home in Connecticut to sell a camera tripod at a photography shop. They gave him a check for $275. He next went to his bank to cash that check. The bank had a policy of calling the source to confirm that the check was good, but the shop had closed for the day so the bank refused to cash the check. Geoffrey drove to the Lower East Side, parked his car, and drank a vial of poison he'd acquired on the dark web. He texted his sister in Florida saying that the stuff tasted every bit as terrible as he'd feared, then he died sitting in the driver's seat of his car. His family contacted the NYPD several times over the following week seeking their help in locating Geoffrey. The found him a week later, still sitting behind the wheel of his car.

Geoffrey started his adult life as a dinner theater actor, a passion he continued to pursue until shortly before he took his own life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GooDooding


" …I'm likely to just give her what I think she wants to receive in return,
and that without even asking her what answer she wants."

A quarter of a century or so ago, my dear friend Wayne Strider caught me inflicting help. He patiently explained to me that most help works better if one remembers to first ask the target if they want help. Simply seeming to need help doesn't mean that someone wants it. He'd caught me presuming. I think of myself as a helpful do-gooder type, delighted to assist, sometimes altogether too delighted to just jump in and assist without first asking for permission. Maybe that kind of help might be better classified as self-help, the sort of help one provides to feed their own need to feel helpful. It's one of the more popular ways to drive others crazy, a benevolent double-bind, like insisting that another put on their sweater because I'M cold.

Let's call this curious assistance GooDooding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SafeSpaces


"Places without SafeSpaces seem miserable places, indeed."

I've recently seen a lot of commentary complaining about SafeSpaces. The complainants seem to subscribe to the What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger school of social advancement, as if an absence of safety toughens people, encourages bravery, and yields straighter backbones. I'm of the opposite ilk. In my experience, the absence of safety brings out some of the worst in people. It might shut them down or set them off, neither state terribly conducive to full engagement. If I've got one eye employed to keep a watch out for someone sneaking up to get me from behind, I can't hardly keep both eyes peering ahead. For me, SafeSpaces seem fundamental to any endeavor.

Not that any of us should avoid at least preemptory preparations for the odd worst case scenario, but worst case scenarios so rarely occur that it seems pointless to over-prepare for them.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AmNot


"I'd find the controversy laughable if it weren't so damned serious."

I am not a Capitalist, a Christian, or a Conservative. I accept that these nots alone render me a shadow in this culture. Add to these deficits the fact that I'm also not a chauvinist of any color and therefore decidedly not a patriot, and I essentially become an anathema of an American, though the original charter guarantees me the full freedom to embrace whatever beliefs I feel moved to hold. The freedom of speech does not guarantee anyone the right to scream Fire! in any crowded theater, and being no dummy, I remain mostly mute when it comes to my true beliefs. Culture, whatever that might be, always seems to retain a dominant perspective along with the will to squelch and smother those failing to subscribe to that outlook.

During the American Revolution, no more than a third of the population supported the uprising. A third firmly supported the king, while another third refused to take a side, viewing the resulting war as an unfortunate choice.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Loaves&Flinches


"One startled flinch in preparation could have ruined the whole enterprise."

Back in Jesus' time, when the odd multitude showed up for supper, loaves and fishes were the popular response. Bordering The Sea of Galilee, fishes were common as pebbles then, and once you get started making pita loaves, you can't hardly stop, reliably producing dozens more than intended every time, so loaves were always in surplus, too. Another positive aspect of this menu was the Wow! factor, as one could plate it almost as if by magic. Everyone at table couldn't help but feel as though they'd been especially blessed and had witnessed a miracle of sorts. In those days before the invention of Miracle Whip®, a host, even the host of hosts, could not rely upon store bought to beatify any guest.

These days, mac and cheese fills the multitude menu slot. Macaroni drenched in a cheese sauce comes about as close to fully fungible as one can get without a handy Galilee and a neighborhood of over-achieving bakers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Errants


" … a whole five days will stretch to the horizon to promise fresh errants needing my attention."

The Muse and I live in a neighborhood from which we cannot walk to anywhere. Though we're plopped in the middle of a wildlife refuge, the only trails seem more suited to game and dog walkers than any through hikers. Even the village center lies a mile and a half away along a narrow-shouldered two-lane that feels equally dangerous to traverse by either foot or bike. Consequently, errands require driving, belying the rugged outdoors cache this conclave carries. The Muse was raised ten miles from anywhere on a South Dakota farmstead, so the commuting seems more wired into her system than into my own town-bred DNA. I'd much rather walk there and back again, but groceries wait ten miles away, uphill both ways, and I haven't figured out how to carry a couple of shopping bags there and back again. I'm married to the car.

I try to plan ahead, to limit the number of outings necessary to satisfy the list. I plot paths between the various purveyors as carefully as any knight Errant might, employing shortcuts and secret passages to reduce overall transit time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Illiberation


My hero: Henry L. Gantt

" … the utter subjugation of every individual contributor to the will of the machine."

Henry was a very smart bear working for a very powerful man. The powerful man was an authoritarian, convinced of his own genius, who strong-armed his way into giant corporations, gaining permission to implement tactics the owners lacked the hutzpah to introduce themselves. He called himself a scientist, though he was more Puritan than professor. He touted The One Best Way, and was so convinced of the righteousness of his cause that he infected others with his zealotry. He believed in First Class Men, those who exceeded his expectations. All others, he believed, lacked sufficient motivation to succeed and were therefore unworthy of receiving anything.

Henry worked as a sort of chief of staff to his patron.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Recovery


"A glass of beer's hardly worth the risk of a long night spent freezing in the backseat of some stranger's car or a crudely sliced artery leaking life."

Autumn along Colorado's Front Range feels volatile, like a slow-motion drunken bar fight. Nobody ever explains what sets off this country grown complacent from months of placidly sweet weather punctuated with no more than a few much-needed showers and the occasional thrilling hail storm, but by October, the situation turns deadly serious. The sharp edge of a Canadian cold front slips into the fray and everything instantaneously changes. A quiet threat's exchanged which almost nobody takes very seriously, the sun still shining warmly and a breeze hardly ruffles barely turning cottonwoods and aspens. When the slash comes, it takes me by surprise. I'd forgotten how savage that first swipe could be and my native generosity takes the first cut. I flee inside and start plotting my own demise, certain that I'll be sequestered there for the better part of the next half year.

The following day, the damnation seems permanent.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Figure/Ground


"Which it really was never really mattered."

I believe that I live in a holographic universe where what I see ain't exactly what's there. This belief could certainly drive me crazy if I took it too seriously; for instance, if I believed that something of genuine substance really should be there. I understand that my first pratfall should have persuaded me to take these holograms seriously, but sensation also seems rather holographic, transitory by nature, there then gone. This whole place seems like a figure/ground projection where whatever's attracting my attention amounts to the figure and everything else, backdrop ground, hardly perceived, so hardly there. Both the figure and the ground also seem continually present, only distinguished by where I'm focusing. How real is real? Not terribly, I say.

Physics seems to stack up on my side of this controversy, explaining as it does how everything's composed of stuff we cannot perceive in its native atomic state.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ShowFall


"I spent the longest time timeless there."

The snow day came on a Sunday, seventeen degrees and snowing like a Son of a Bitch outside. The weather reporter insisted that it had never been this cold here this early in the season, the previous record low only in the mid-thirties. We were headed for single digits overnight. The paper never came, though the roads remained bare, still holding heat leftover from yesterday's nearly seventy degree sunshine. The neighbor kids were out in it, screaming down the steep sidehill, scraping it bare before the snow could gain any real depth. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat huddled so close to the gas fireplace that she seemed to steam as she slept. I grabbed the latest John Sanford Freaking Flowers novel, a serendipitous find at the library the morning before, and retreated to the master bedroom to read and revel in the sublimely isolating weather. Neither The Muse nor I were gonna spoil that fifteen dollar car wash sloshing around through snow.

By the next morning, the roads would likely be bare and dry. At this altitude, nearly eight thousand feet, once the snow stops and the temperature drops, moisture evaporates off the asphalt so quickly the roads swirl with steam, ice never getting a chance to set.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheLastDayOfSpring


"I smile myself to sleep …"

The Muse and I celebrate, truly celebrate, two days each year: The First Day Of Summer and The Last Day Of Spring. The First Day of Summer arrives sometime in late May or early June on the first weekend following what seems likely to be the very last Winter frost, the day when we pull out all the pots and plant what will become our Summer garden on the deck, out of reach of the scavenging deer. The Last Day Of Spring comes the weekend before the first heavy snowfall of Winter, usually in early October, when we tear down our summer refuge. These days carry deep significance for us. The First Day Of Summer represents our active resistance to the degrading effects of seven or eight months of sequestration. The Last Day Of Spring represents our active acceptance of entering hibernation again. The First Day Of Summer lets come. The Last Day Of Spring lets go.

We exhibit great energy on these days, facing a body of physical labor greater than any we will enjoy on any other day of the year. I'll schlepp and scrub while The Muse plants or repots.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Copyediting


" … sit me down to copyedit and I seize up."

I drag both feet when it comes to copyediting what I've written. I write in three month batches, finishing each piece to a readable state, then collate the heap into a contiguous form before carefully re-reading to make final improvements. The whole parses differently than individual pieces and copyediting hardly encourages itself the way writing does. It's picky work, the sort requiring focused attention. I can't get too caught up in the content or I lose the necessary broader focus, but I dare not get so elevated within any broader focus that I cannot catch the tiniest necessary correction. I find this work to be endlessly boring, nap-inducing, and infinitely unsatisfying. I engage in it only in very small
sessions, twenty minutes or a half hour, before I find I simply must focus upon something, anything else. I exit feeling emptied.

Every time I exit feeling emptied, I feel less motivated to re-enter and finish this scut work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ZeroSum


" … a winner of sorts sitting there all alone."

The conservative worldview seems to embrace the notion that zero-sum rules govern this world. It perceives this world as distinctly divided into winners and losers. Those who win, win. Those who do not win, lose. Progressives seem to perceive the world differently, as if this were an abundant place where winners need not produce losers; where win/win outcomes remain possible if not always likely, where ingenuity and persistence have pretty reliably produced some semblance of better for all: abundance. The world itself seems indifferent to which perspective anyone takes. It seems to produce whatever any perspective insists upon. If you believe in a zero-sum world, the world will not disappoint your expectation. If you believe in an abundant one, it might well satisfy you, too. The outcome seems sealed by the tenacity with which one holds their particular belief. The world might be a self-fulfilling sort of place, a medium capable of delivering upon anyone's convictions about it.

Many of us aren't terribly experienced with abundance. We honed our economic chops playing Monopoly®, a zero-sum board game promising to reveal the secrets of the rich and famous.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheAverageOfOne


" … every single human being is also above average … "

In Garrison Keillor's mythical Midwestern town of Lake Woebegone, " … all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Of course, in any discrete population, not everyone can possibly end up above the average for anything. Call this The Law of Averages. In any population, whatever the purpose for sampling, some will fall below and others above the designated midpoint. A few might classify as spot-on average, but no group can possibly be comprised of entirely above averages. This small fact has yet to dissuade organizations from carefully recruiting only The Best and the Brightest, to attempt to violate The Law of Averages and produce a high performing Lake Woebegone sort of operation. This strategy hasn't worked yet. Yet.

I can, however, inhabit a real-life Lake Woebegone.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reasoning


" … survival of The People seems to find in favor of those few."

Like many in my generation, I first encountered logic in an algebra class. I didn't understand that I was encountering logic at the time, so I struggled to remember all the strange new rules. My teachers treated these curiosities as simple extensions of the trivial principles governing arithmetic, but they seemed much more complicated, so complicated that I never managed to fully sort out or assimilate them. I experienced endless Easter Eggs, imbedded practices not obvious upon initial scrutiny and apparently only discoverable when the instructor judged my answer wrong. The gists never popped for me, so I learned to fake it, to work backwards from the answers in the back of the book or demonstrate my faith in an invisible higher power when taking an exam. I faked well enough to eventually earn a university degree, though the logical reasoning underpinning at least the mathematical part of that certification still escapes me.

My second encounter with logic came when I sat down to take the SAT exam.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Silenced


Tomato plant succumbing to snowfall

"I have nothing left to say about anything."

The weather reporter insisted that it wouldn't snow until tomorrow, most probably over tomorrow night. I figured I'd have the whole day to watch the summer flowers bask in their last day gracing the back of the place. Yesterday, the fog hung low like on some backlot from an old Sherlock Holmes movie, humidity hovering in the nineties all day. I brought inside the huge three and a half year old geranium, and the half dozen basil plants so The Muse could make one last big batch of fresh pesto, along with the hibiscus, even though I know the hibiscus won't like it one bit in the house. It was still blooming, still late Spring in its head, and I felt it only decent to at least try to extend its life, even though I well understood the futility involved. The months of tender care, the casual evening fare grilled out there almost every night, are gone now. Silenced by the first Fall snow.

Autumn arrives abruptly here along the Front Range.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

WorkSing


"If you ever meet me on a golf course, shoot me. You'll be doing us both a great favor."

I have a difficult time envisioning my great grandparents hanging out. I'm uncertain if hanging out had even been invented then. They busted their humps for their entire ninety year-and-then-some lifespans. Even in retirement, they hardly slowed, having mouths to feed and a small home to maintain. They just kept at it until they were no more. I suppose that the notion of leisure as a just reward for labor originated with people who had insufficient work to keep them entertained, potentates and such. Later, it was sold as a promise, perhaps to mollify those who labored at the more exhausting jobs. Keep your nose clean and you could be playing golf on Saturday. In the mean time, tote that damned bale, slave.

I think the smooth transfer of the desire for leisure failed for me. I understand that it has now become an imbedded part of the amended American Dream, but it seems a more nightmarish threat to me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Crapmanship


"I'd better find my satisfaction in accepting that I fooled at least those eyes."

Replacing three sun-rotted window frames, I couldn't avoid encountering evidence of Crapmanship in their original fabrication. This sort of discovery doesn't qualify as in any way unusual, for stuff has always featured mixes of Crapmanship and craftsmanship. Exteriors tend to look as though they were painstakingly put together, but beneath any surface, which might have been no more than expertly painted, some real crap work likely lurks. I'm still learning not to become all indignant about this apparently eternal feature of this world. I understand that internal workings might not really require fine-looking construction to serve an intended purpose. We all seem to cut corners that don't seem to matter much. We hack, therefore we are.

I've of course added my own unique brand of shoddy into my fixes. I'm not the finish carpenter my grandfather was, so I improvise.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Tolerence


"I wonder where our underlying Polity lies."

The Puritan Roger Williams founded his Rhode Island colony on the principle of tolerance. The Massachusetts Bay Colony had earlier drummed Williams out of their society, which they'd founded upon the principle of extreme intolerance, as though he had failed to demonstrate true Puritan values. He had. Williams welcomed all comers, Muslims, Jews, even agnostics, though he never actively supported any of their ideals. He explained that tolerance does not extend to supporting anyone's beliefs, but only as far as supporting the right to hold any belief. He thought Muslims and Jews damned, but he also considered their damnation to be their own damned business. Williams was fortunate that his principle of tolerance failed to attract many intolerant Puritans to Rhode Island, for even a minority, dedicated to promoting intolerance, can utterly destroy any tolerant society.

Karl Popper reflecting upon Germany's initial tolerance of the Nazi movement, coined the term The Paradox of Tolerance.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Manliness


"Manliness might qualify as the most misunderstood identity."


I always wondered how one becomes One Of The Guys or A Good Old Boy. Maybe my invitation got lost in the mail or perhaps I (gulp!) never qualified. I know that I never submitted an application, but I sort of expected someone to approach me with an invitation. After all, I am a guy, a good guy; aging, perhaps even old, though admittedly no longer a boy. Can I confess that I never fully identified with the gender stereotypes supposedly appropriate for a person of my gender and my age? I look ridiculous in a hard hat and feel simply silly behind the wheel of any truck. I fear all power tools. I don't hunt. I do drink beer, though. Doesn't that count?

I proved to be an unreliable breadwinner, but tried not to take that very personally. I've lived exclusively with strong-willed women, each of whom proved to be more than a counterbalance for any deficiency I contributed to the unions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Humility


Walt Whitman washing the feet of former slave; illustration by Lewis C. Daniel
"I learned almost by accident that my words inspired someone yesterday.
How humbling was that?"


What big, hairy, audacious things have I done in my life? I sincerely hope my answer will continue to be, "Nothing." Not that I've achieved nothing, just nothing that might be construed as big, hairy, or audacious. I've done my work, but hardly ever with the intention of cornering any market, making any kind of a killing, or achieving fame or fortune. I thought once that I might get discovered and gain wide popularity, just like every baby boomer did, for we were the first generation raised in the proximity of celebrity. Prior generations read about the rich and famous or heard them speak on the radio, but our generation invited them into our living rooms where they dazzled us with their mastery, brightening our otherwise drab existences. That these demonstrations were heavily produced and edited to ensure that only the best of the best ever showed, was not obvious to us casual observers. We thought pure talent poured out the ends of these performers' fingers. We marveled at their skill.

We learned that popularity might just be the purpose of life, that we should rightly strive for broad audiences.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trolling


"Maybe I'll eventually learn to give up these ghosts more quickly."

I do not get where they're coming from. They arrive like non-sequiturs into the conversation, off-topic, sometimes even off-color. I at first think I've tumbled into a simple misunderstanding. I might take almost forever to finally figure out that this was never a misunderstanding. It was sabotage, clear and simple. Well, not clear to me at first, but ultimately simple. They seem to take some strange kind of power from diverting the flow. Their superpower seems to be the curious ability to undermine any flow. I finally exhaust my ability to make anything like a Most Generous Interpretation because I finally figure out that generosity isn't part of any troll's vocabulary. They specialize in leaping into a Least Generous Interpretation. They parse an analogy literally, then head off to rebut a comment never actually made. They seem to love being maddening.

My earliest attempt at social media, a wiki called PureSchmaltz, was ultimately brought low by anonymous posters who sprinkled obscene photographs throughout the content.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CarSpooling


William G.R. Hind, oil painting, “Breaking a Road in Manitoba,”

" … there's really no place I need to be (or really want to be) except right here at home."

The Muse and I operate a one horse town, by which I mean we own a single car between us. Each of our neighbors own at least two, and one owns four that I know of, all more or less trucks. Each morning, we decide who will get the car that day. Usually, I insist that The Muse take it, that I don't have anyplace pressing to go. Some days I slip out for a few minutes to fetch a gallon of milk or some hardware for a project before she leaves, but most days, I'm left without transportation, save my ancient one speed bike and my two left feet. We live in a neighborhood which calls itself a village, and it might well qualify as a village because it sits in a rather remote location without supplemental public transportation. Without a car, I might just as well be in an isolated cabin, which suits me fine.

I might be the primary reason we have one car rather than two. I hold strong opinions about how many cars our family should own.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trans-It-Shuns


"I seem to know nothing of what lurks beyond."

On the morning of the last day of baseball season, I'm already grieving. Our team didn't play that well this year, hampered by early season injuries and tenaciously poor management, the opening day promise extended less than a month before fairly certain disaster loomed. It took me almost a month to figure out the new roster, one missing a couple of last year's favorites, and the last six weeks have seen so many upstarts elevated from the Minors that I've been unable to tell who's who, who's home team and who's visitor. By the last game of the regular season, I struggle to care about who wins any contest. Winning and losing doesn't matter very much. How each player engages with the game matters more.

The Muse and I will attend the last game of the season, a rare match between our home teams, the team that stole our hearts during early exile days and the one that has failed to attract our interest since moving here. We're visitors in both venues now,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnderSitting


"This is that unlikely place, I suspect."

I say that I understand, but I probably don't. Maybe I could understand, I might even be on my way toward understanding, but I've yet to sit down and deeply consider the situation. I seem to have something more like a strolling-by-ing. I haven't yet slowed down quite enough to stand with this perspective long enough to look it squarely in the eye. Even then, I'm still upright, still in mobile mode, not quite at my ease. I'm balancing on my heels, eyeing the surroundings, half distracted while failing to fully absorb. Understanding only gets me so far. A deeper comprehension requires me to sit a spell: Undersitting.

Undersitting seems a choice rarely proffered. I do drive-by comprehension, slowing just long enough to grasp some gist, but hardly long enough to recognize any whole concept or how it might fit together with other ideas.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Be-Leaves


"I believe in the inherent goodness of people without holding anybody but myself accountable for living up to that belief."

Humans seem the most remarkable beings. We believe, belief being a kind of conviction requiring no supporting factual evidence. The highest, most treasured beliefs, insist upon, even brag about, being utterly unsupported, and necessarily so. Two generations ago, Stafford Beer named Firm Belief as one of the four antagonisms encumbering a firm's success; as with the firm, so also with the individual therein (and thereout.) We easily victimize ourselves with our beliefs, fueling certainty with the equivalent of gold-plated air. I'm not knocking this curious ability, but rather noting just how curious it seems. My more reverent friends seem especially blessed with their firm beliefs, confidently striding through a world that seems mostly overwhelming to the rest of us. The more self-aware of these readily admit that their doxology contains hefty bits of pure fantasy, easily disproven by even the most ineptly skeptical observer, and they also recognize the evident power their belief brings them.

The rest of us seem to struggle along beneath leaky balloons imperfectly elevating us. We seem to lose more altitude than we ever gain and scrape ground with some regularity.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnCertainTea


"If I want everyone to win, I might consider how I chose who loses."

I want everyone to win. Still, I seek resolution. I despise the unresolved. Encountering an 80/20, I'll give the eighty the benefit of little doubt and just disregard the dangling twenty as irrelevant. Encountering a 50/50, I'll switch to gut feel, discounting the whole concept of more quantitative evaluation. I will rarely leave any issue unresolved in my head. I develop a sort of spontaneous amnesia, quickly forgetting any controversy I could not very quickly resolve. I say all this while fully convinced that certainty seems to be the root cause of nearly every ill. Were I able to hold the exquisite tension between the thises and the thats, between the eithers and the ors, I might well leave myself better off in nearly every instance, but I seem unable to forestall the short-term simpler pseudo-resolutions attracting me. I create losers in this way while I say I want everyone to win.

I see them in fields of different-seeming us-es, missing the connecting structures. I sense almost exclusively superficially, quickly sorting to identify my tribe.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Passsst


"They mostly only ever show through sometimes."

Some of the past never fully passes. A bit of it turns into legend, some of it into infamy, and the tiniest bit becomes deep, dark secrets over time. Even the secret seems more present than it should. No matter how many decades accrete on top of the original experience, it stays kind of close to the surface. A small scratch might reincarnate it at any time no matter how far out of mind it slips in the intervening years. A scent, a sound, a whisper from a dark alleyway as I pass, and that particular past, a Passsst, spontaneously reincarnates. Whether sweet or savory, bitter or sour, I re-experience the original sensations regardless of what I was just in the middle of doing.

I might then feel transported into another place and time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ancienting


" … old treasure like me would never come up for auction, anyway."

The Antique Road Show appraisers speak of patina, and seem to worship it. The hapless owner's grandmother refinished the piece eighty years ago and stripped off at least ninety percent of the chair's value. In its present refurbished state, it might garner no more than a few hundred bucks. Had grandma been less of a go-getter, a few tens of thousands, maybe a hundred grand on a good day. What was once a treasure will now remain kitsch, authenticity forever compromised.

More than half of what some derisively refer to as The Aging Process involves retaining the deepening patina despite pressures to refurbish.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Progressing


" … progress can be beyond even the the most watchful beholder's eye."

Ten years ago on this date, The Muse and I declared personal and professional bankruptcy. Lehman Brothers beat us to it by two weeks, and we'd lost a whole lot less they they did when we finally admitted to ourselves and to the world that we'd lost everything. We had not speculated in junk derivative bonds. The economy dried up and our business evaporated. Two weeks before we filed, my father died after a long summer of declining health. Those final six weeks or so, I'd manned the overnight watch. Both The Muse and I were ragged by then, frantic, then accepting, then finally simply dazed. We thought we'd probably lose the house, though bankruptcy allowed us to retain ownership in that one asset if we could wrangle some way to retain it; but with no work, no income, no savings, and little hope, other than a hopeful candidate running to replace the disastrous president, we finally admitted that we'd gone bust.

This experience represented real progress, as unlikely as it seemed at the time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LateralSlide


"Hail Mary, full of grace …"

Back when I was still a wannabe, I agreed to deliver a presentation at a prestigious conference. I'd successfully swallowed my insecurities and submitted the proposal, the organizers accepted it, then I was left with the small matter of preparing the paper and producing the actual presentation. As usual, I'd jumped with little idea where my leap might land me, so I found myself attempting to invent a parachute as I plummeted downward. I quickly realized that I'd jumped before possessing one critical bit of information. I had no clue what this information might entail, but nonetheless felt confident that if only I could somehow gain access to it, me presentation might succeed. Without it, I felt clearly doomed.

I fled to the library, a refuge which might at least open some possibilities. I mean, libraries are filled with information. Right?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DifferentLies


"I was there all along …"

On the last day of summer, change does not seem like the universal positive anymore. This culture worships change. We each seem to fervently believe in it as the ultimate redeemer, which means that we subtly despise stasis. We think that if we're not growing, not continuously on some trajectory or another, that we're as good as dead, or, more, precisely, as bad as dead. Dead is the worst condition in our panoply of possible states. Forward, backward, sideways, we're a kinetic species, always supposed to be on the move somewhere, heading. We're quickly dissatisfied with any accomplishment, shortly bored by any status quo. About a quarter of the people who paid a minimum of forty bucks to attend the game will leave before the game ends, saying that they wish to avoid the heavy traffic on their way to somewhere else. We can't seem to find satisfaction standing still.

Still, for all of our movement, all of our building momentum, things don't often seem that much different. It's as if our collective motion somehow sums to little or to even no motion at all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Inter-gritty


"I can see you only through the indistinguishable blemishes in the mirror and on your face."

Nobody ever respects a braggart. Shameless self-promotion seems more an act of shameful self-degradation. The real authority speaks humbly rather than haughtily, seeming to acknowledge that not even she has ever been party to any ultimate truth, and she seems to still be sorting through the odd unreconciled bits. She acknowledges her own fallibility to demonstrate her personal reliability. She might efface herself and thereby amplify her presence. Anyone pounding upon any podium undermines their preaching. The more emphatic, the less truthfully it rings. People will think she insists altogether too dramatically. Big sticks might work as stage props without improving anyone's delivery.

'They' say that what one does when nobody's looking creates integrity. If this statement is true, and it might well be, how, then, could anyone not looking ever come to know another's integrity, not looking being the essential element enabling its emergence and all?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Allegations


"I admit to being clueless some of the time, but not yet incapable of learning."

I was rushing home via the shortcut when my accuser waylaid me. "You've been disrespecting my sister," he proclaimed.

"Huh? What??," I cleverly retorted, gobsmacked by his accusation.

He repeated his earlier insistence. I knew this guy's name but nothing more about him. I'd until then been unaware that he even
had a sister. I explained the facts as I understood them. (These might have seemed like a lame dismissal to him.) He escalated, insisting that he was honor-bound to fight me to regain his sister's honor. I'm thinking, "Really? What IS this, King Arthur and his Round Table?" He would not let me pass, finally throwing a frenzied punch which mostly missed me.

Still stunned with disbelief, I tried to just go around him, but he continued the assault. I finally deigned to engage, throwing my first punch in anger (more like in goaded frustration, really), which connected enough to yield a bloody nose for him and an early end to hostilities. He went home crying. I went home feeling guilty.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Liberty


" … it shades no one unless it intends to shade us all."

Liberty seems more a collective than individual property. Our forebears fought to secure the opportunity to govern themselves, not to ensure that any individual could just do whatever they want. There were innies and outies, of course, so some felt oppressed under the yoke of 'their' so-called freedoms. The conflict was not settled when the British retreated. It simmers, occasionally boiling over, even today, perhaps because of this one complication, that liberty never was and never could have been the property of any individual. It must belong to all.

Free speech, for instance, never was the same as loose talk. The guarantee to say whatever I want does not extend to yelling fire in any crowded theater or cursing at grandma's table.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Evil


The Banality of the Banality of Evil by Banksy


"We're better than that, even after we catch ourselves having been no better than that."

Seeing it probably won't enable you to know it, or even recognize its presence. Understanding lags considerably, and acceptance lags even further behind. Its presence will likely startle you. Its influence will already be draining your life force before you catch on that you're being had, or have already been had. Evil does not at first organize any occupation parade, no show of overwhelming force. It seems to first seep in, putrefying from the inside out, leaving the peach apparently pristine until you try to pick it up. It will seem banality incarnate, more banal even than that, imminently ignorable until it becomes nearly inexorable.

It will not be dismissed. You will need to forcefully escort it to the door, so it remains essential that you always remember where to locate the door and to remain mindful of the conditions necessitating removal.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HealthScare


"Maybe what doesn't kill me might make me stronger, or insolvent, one of those."

I'd find it difficult to converse with my tax accountant if she wore a face mask. Maybe an early exposure to Beagle Boys comics left me with an unnatural fear of anyone wearing a mask, but I find health care professionals inherently terrifying. I understand that they're trying to limit my exposure to their germs and their exposure to mine, but the affect leaves me more wary that wide open. Our exchanges, otherworldly. My defenses immediately stand up taller. I'm on-guard. I might suffer from White Coat Syndrome, a tension encouraging higher than normal blood pressure readings when I'm in the presence of anyone who might be able to reasonably interpret those readings. It's a double bind.

I have no clue how our health care system works. The Muse seems to have at least the patter down. She can spout 'out of network' and 'copay' as if she understands the theory and the practice. I fumble for the insurance card, clear that I understand nothing printed on the face of it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Impossibility



"A spare ounce of acceptance seems to achieve more than any metric ton of impossibility."

Writer Molly Backes recently tweeted about what she calls “The Impossible Task." The Impossible Task might appear perfectly pedestrian unless considered by someone suffering from depression. Under the influence of depression, pretty much any aspiration might appear impossible to achieve. The lofty desire to refill a prescription or the Utopian urge to mow the lawn today might qualify as functionally impossible to achieve. Theoretically and even practically, these objectives might appear perfectly possible, but functionally, they might lie far beyond my reach. The old self-helpless adage which insists that the impossible just takes a little longer seems silly for anyone feeling as though the touted 'a little longer' amounts to infinity.

I fully understand that in this culture, my culture, we presume a positive outlook. Any welcoming embrace of any standard impossibility seems to qualify as evidence of the presence of a positive outlook, even should the objective fully qualify as theoretically or functionally impossible. We do not normally consider anyone exhibiting symptoms of positive outlook delusional, but plucky.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rhythm


" … the poem comes out as if missing all the spaces between the words …"

When she was in high school, The Muse played drums in a garage band. She's always had a more sensitive rhythm sense than I. As my songwriting and performing matured, I grew to appreciate rhythm as the cohering force. A song properly backbeat can hardly go wrong, while one losing its thumps can hardly sound right, however otherwise precisely I might play the notes. The rhythm, almost always much less intricate than the melody, subtly rules the whole performance without anyone hardly noticing. The drummer and the base hold the foundation, wherever the primary and descant instruments might wander. They'd be utterly lost without them.

I believe that every activity holds a natural rhythm. Find it and, like the soaring piccolo, I'll remain at least in step, an essential congruence one mostly only notices when it's absent. Lose it and nothing I might try will seem to work.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Becoming


"Becoming seems to be what we really are when we insist that we are anything at all."

Defining "done" was one enduring difficulty every project I ever worked on, lead, or consulted with experienced. Some adopted the curious First Customer Shipped metric, which insisted that the project was done when the first customer's order was free on board a truck. Others presumed that when they'd successfully tested fixes for and integrated all critical bug reports, the project had ended. In actual experience, though, the project team inevitably continued their efforts long after the designated completion date, for that first customer, upon receiving the first instance of final product would experience unanticipated difficulties that only the development team could resolve and additional critical bugs would emerge even after testing and integration were successfully completed. Eventually, the end product would be more or less integrated into the finished product maintenance stream, though members of the original development team might never completely divorce themselves from the product.

I learned that whatever the product developed, it never left a state of becoming.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MeaningsFul


"Not a problem for any of us, but a feature of us all instead."

The truly clueless seem stuck on literal meanings, as if any word could be delivered without nuance or subtext, when every utterance comes cloaked in some sort of ambiguity. It's a wonder anyone can ever communicate anything to anyone else. Different people employ different encoding tactics some of which instantly impart meaning while others only begrudgingly disclose it. While I might never reliably interpret the contents of any book by its title, considering the many elements present on the cover often helps me feel as though I do understand what I stoop to pick up off the shelf. The design says more than the title, but without words. The designer chose the color for its reliability in inducing a certain attraction within the prospective reader. I might identify a thousand interacting elements there, each sufficiently ambiguous to leave me either wondering or certain. Taken together, these design elements make a statement beyond, beneath, and behind what the title might impart. All communication seems to work like this.

On days where my awareness seems especially tuned in, I might consciously catch one in a hundred or a thousand of these cues.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MakingADifference


"Just being here seems to spawn more difference than anyone could ever comprehend."

A Difference seems to stand at the very top of the list of 'things' people say they want to make, well above 'supper' and even 'trouble.' The statement itself strikes me as banal, though I know it's supposed to seem supremely inspirational. I, myself, think of myself as a difference skeptic. When comparing myself with the context within which I stand, I see little leverage. I'm a small guy imbedded in infinite infinities, tiny in comparison with almost everything else. Sure, I hold BIG ideas and sometimes even great notions, but the possibilities seem the very opposite of endless, even before I add in the insidious effects of time. I figure that if I really want to make a difference, I just need to close my eyes for an instant, then open them up again. The challenge seems to lie in noticing what's different then.

Even when I accept that I might make some difference, I tend to think in inappropriately grandiose terms. I want to make a BIG difference, so I start gnawing on something much bigger than anyone could effectively chew, let alone eventually swallow.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Ninny



"I pray that no one will take me very seriously."

I consider myself to be at root a ninny, and not a particularly apologetic one, neither. As the ninny I consider myself to be, I fail to fully qualify as a coward, for I am known to stand up and be counted on some occasions, but I hold few strong convictions. I keep a low-ish profile. If you want to pass me, be my guest. I'll even slow down to make it easier for you. If you want to take advantage of me, I'm wide open. Not naturally suspicious of my fellows, I'd rather anticipate the best than the worst of everyone. I prefer avoiding competitive games, and not just because I hate to lose, but because I hate to see anyone lose. Winning zero sum games offends me, even when I win.

I figure that there's not really any leverage in being pushy or shove-y. Better approaches exist.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGoodCitizen


"We seem destined to continually surprise each other."

Any conversation broaching the topic of good citizenship seems destined to follow the same sorry trail that conversations about being a good christian usually take, and that trail tends to terminate in irresolvable recriminations within which no citizen, good or otherwise, ever feels very good about themselves. They lean toward the Thou Shalts, which all by themselves seem antithetical to anything other than the dominion of some authority over everyone else; hardly anyone's idea of civility. When I speak of good citizenship, I intend to speak more of the I Wills, the rather personal covenants I hold myself responsible for abiding by, whether or not anyone else even knows that I hold them. For citizenship seems a painfully personal proposition, the never fully resolved answers to the question, "What will I agree to do for the mutual benefit of everyone else?", not what society demands that I contribute. Good citizenship never was a matter of simply obeying the law, but of abiding within it, which sometimes seems to demand working hard to change it or even to civilly disobey it. Like I said, it's a personal thing, but a personal thing writ larger than any individual.

It's a personal thing in context, that context being innumerable others also pursuing their personal things, the boundaries of each person's pursuit essentially undefinable but not necessarily indiscernible, for each individual seems first free to attend to those surrounding them, to respect their space and reasonably expect them to respect your space in return.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Master-re-re-re-re


"The end does, indeed, come like a thief in the night, but then so do new beginnings."

We all understand what to do if, when, at first, we fail to succeed. We try, try again. But what should one do when failing after achieving a certain degree of mastery? Regardless of the previous level of play, failure always remains a possibility. In the early years, the budding apprentice grows to accept that some percentage of his efforts will very likely prove fruitless. The journeyman grows to increasingly rely upon success to manifest, and might even explain these wins as evidence of his growing skill. The master, though, tends to perform in front of larger crowds who amplify his own anticipation of success. Then, a stumble disappoints others, too. We all know what that can do to you.

The blithe response to a master failing tends to be, indeed, a blithe response, a faux-cheerful, aw-shucks chuckle. At least that's the way it might appear on the outside.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheTruth


"Just like life. Exactly like living."

I do not ever speak TheTruth. I almost always speak MyTruth, and almost never tell an outright lie. I might fudge details to impart a higher-quality story, but I only very rarely embellish anything into its opposite, at least that's what this guy admitting that he never speaks TheTruth insists. I seem to me to be the only difference between TheTruth and MyTruth, for MyTruth appears to accurately represent only me to myself, never everyone to anyone else. Others might perceive something less than genuine in my confessions, yielding TheirTruth, which might seem considerably less than genuine to me. Nothing irks me more than someone contradicting my characterizations of MyTruth, as if they could possibly know better than I what only I could possibly know. Bottom line: I am not now nor will I ever be (nor do I aspire to ever become) the holder of TheTruth. You might as well entrust the family jewels to the tender care of a cranky two year old.

MyTruth seems slippery enough for a guy like me to handle.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Probl'ms


" … clinging remnants of our previous naivety about the nature of a difficulty …"

Can we all agree that we're surrounded by problems? Might we agree that they seem to be getting ever worse, more intractable? Certainly, the vocabulary of the times seems infused with problem language. The casual invocation of this 'P' word might have, at least to my mind, became a fresh category of problem, for many of the difficulties described as problems really hardly satisfy the criteria for problem-ness. I believe that if we could just clean up our language a bit, many of our most intractable-seeming 'problems' would cease to remain problems. I'm not saying that they might not still exhibit the troubling characteristics of genuine difficulties, but at least, perhaps, we could reduce the overload of problems haunting us.

There's something about a problem that seeks a solution.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Opiniums


"a recipe for creating dystopia"

Karl Marx insisted that religion was the opium of the people. These days, though, I think that opinions have replaced religion as the opium of the people, or maybe, to wax more thoroughly modern, the Oxycodone of the people now. I call them Opinums in side-smirking homage to their addictive presence.

The phone rings and it's someone seeking my opinion on the subject of Death Taxes. I ask what the heck he means by Death Taxes and he sounds a little stunned by my question.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CircadianClueless


"I figure a pot of beans probably won't do any harm."

I've never lived a particularly well-regulated existence. I've never had a difficult time making it on time to any job I held, usually arriving early and staying late. I burned midnight oil for more than the first half of my life and lit the predawn lamp through the other half so far. I do more than get by on fewer than the recommended hours of sleep. I serve no meal at any regular time, breakfasting five or more hours after rising in the morning and rarely sitting down to supper until well after seven at night. I've grown to despise regular hours, which seem more designed for the convenience of farmers and industrialists than for the benefit of hunter-gatherers like me.

The rhythms persist, however.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SquarePeg


"a breath of breeze through glistening trees."

I think of myself as a square peg. Always have. Likely always will. I seem to thrive only in bespoke contexts, ones custom made to house my particular eccentricities. When someone asks me who I am, I think to myself, "What an exquisitely impossible question to answer." However I might search the standard stereotype archive, I seem to come up empty-handed. Even constructing an N-dimensional Venn diagram of overlaps seems simply impossible, resulting only in odd lot, ant/elephant combinations, almost but not entirely unlike whatever I might reference within it. My favorite response has usually been, "David," which, of course, amounts to no response at all, for we live in a time immersed in BIG 'I' Identity, where to fail to identify with at least one of the more popular stereotypes renders one essentially irrelevant. It's as if the 'I' in identity must associate with an even larger 'O' in Others for an individual to be considered even relevant.

It's a fine paradox, and one complicit in much of the depressively low self-esteem floating around society. If I am not you, or at least an awful lot like you, why should you like me?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Competition


"I consider competition to be a mental illness,
hell bent to destroy all who engage, a snake eating its own tail."

Competition is a form of self destruction. Initially, it might seem designed to merely conquer competitors, but repeated, it turns into the opposite of its original intention, ultimately undermining the competitor himself. Even the Ancient Greeks recognized this subtle curse, and counseled great caution whenever engaging as if competition might accomplish something positive in the longer term. How much better to cooperate, though people being people, we seem more than capable of turning even generous cooperation into some form of a Holier Than Thou competition.

The contest seems necessary, though, so we struggle hard to get ahead, to leave the weaker sisters in our dust. Then, of course, we hold culpability for the violence visited upon our weaker sisters.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reflecting


"They're already loosing steam."

If you want to learn what I think, ask me, then wait, perhaps for a very long time. If you want to know how I feel, ask, then prepare to wait even longer. I am a walking echo chamber, filled to the brim with contradictory, often conflicting perspectives. I remain steadfastly uncertain, humbled in my acceptance of the tenacious indecipherable surrounding me, eternally teetering on the forward edge of another great unknowable. In lieu of knowing for sure, I question. Of course I exhibit preconscious, essentially autonomous behaviors, though I'm hardly aware enough of them to explain them to myself, let alone to anyone else. On the scale of the grand action/reflection dichotomy, I'm sitting somewhere inside the mirror, considering.

My preference for reflection makes me a lousy fascist, for fascists value action, even reaction, above all else.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MagicUnderpants


"I ain't telling nobody."

I knew today would become extraordinary the moment I reached into my underwear drawer and found my MagicUnderpants on top. I don't know how this pair earned its designation. Perhaps they just look more distinguished than all the others, but I knew when I purchased them that they would become my favorite. And the have. When wearing these babies, I fly confident that my airplane can't possibly fall out of the sky. I sense that parking karma will lead me around all day, leaving empty parking spots adjacent to front doors. Good things happen to me every day I wear my MagicUnderpants.

My other pairs just don't seem to do the trick and I do not know why.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Religion


"Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless."

Like most of the people inhabiting this world, I don't consider myself religious. I was raised in white middle class America which some report as not possessing a culture. I attended a white bread, right of center Christian church in my youth but never noticed Jesus attending. I identified as more a Just Visiting distant relation than a full member of the congregation, though I'd always volunteer to help set up or tear down the multi-purpose room. The doctrine eschewed smoking, but my dad smoked. My mom could wax irreverent about the dichotomies between what was preached and what was practiced and I guess I considered church as somehow distinct from religion, certainly from spirituality.

I thought bible lessons allegorical, unconvincing as literal truth, useful perspectives but certainly not holy writ. I thought that if The Bible was the literal word of God, God needed a decent copy editor.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Thinking


"I grab just where I think it is only to find that it must be somewhere else instead."


Before you begin reading this posting, please reference Google (or even Bing!) and look up the definition of Thinking.

I'm fairly certain that most readers did not accept this invitation, but it hardly matters. Had you refreshed your memory with the formal definition of Thinking, I doubt that you came away any clearer about the meaning of the term. Google or Bing! Images related to the term Thinking, and you'd be no better off. Light bulbs, empty dialogue clouds, and photos of people scratching their heads greeted you, didn't they? If effective communication relies upon those involved sharing a common understanding of the topic's meaning, we seem to be sunk before we've even begun considering Thinking as our topic of the day, but since I'm really investigating the many facets of cluelessness, we might be starting at something close to exactly the proper spot. At least I think we might be.

I've thought of myself as a thinker all my life. I hold no advanced degree in thinking, mind you, but I've nonetheless thought of myself as more of a thinker than anything else.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Feyness


"The net result of learning should properly be a slightly higher class of cluelessness, never Feyness."

In the days when The Muse and I facilitated workshops, we studiously avoided introducing any sort of lifeboat drill-type exercises into the curriculum. These were the sorts of games requiring the group to expel someone from the group, the kind of "play" we commonly see on so-called reality television programs. We never believed that these simulations very accurately portrayed real-world situations. Quite the opposite, we thought them suggestive of tactics relatively useless in anyone's real world workplace. Besides, they tended to make the learning space unsafe, and our primary watchwords for our workshops were, "Safety First." If we could not create a safe learning environment, we would be culpable for inhibiting deep learning, and nobody attends any workshop so that they can hold their facilitators culpable for inhibiting their deep learning.

Learning seems to require some sense on the part of the aspiring learner that they might have a decent chance of actually learning something, that they could not possibly leave the experience without having found something useful for themselves.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Vastnesses

vast
"We seem imbedded in Vastnesses wherever we stand."

The Muse and I live in The American West, a territory defined by its vastness. She hails from the Upper Midwest, also vast, but more two-dimensionally so, though the sky there amply fills in for soaring snow-covered peaks when galleons of thunderstorms spewing lightening float overhead. We lived for a time just over the Maryland line from Washington, DC, in a tiny municipality shoehorned into scores of small towns and aging neighborhoods which summed into a claustrophobic kind of vast. We currently live in a small village poised upon so-called foothills which almost anywhere else in this world would easily qualify as a vast mountain range. We seem imbedded in Vastnesses wherever we stand.

I was born in a small town and raised in a small city, each of which passed for vast for me in their time, later to find themselves relegated to some more minor classification.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Grudges

grudges
"I finally decided that maybe I could live with myself again, so I did."

Grudges have become badges of honor, honoring some past insult. We wear them like deep sea diving boots, hardly handy for tap dancing, or even walking around. They seem to ground us but tend to sink us instead. Still, social and political movements feature grudges as a part of members' required uniform. One cannot join without prominently displaying their grudge. Stadiums fill with supporters seemingly present to show off their personal grudge to others, some competing to demonstrate that their grudge is bigger than anyone else's. Just as if they could fix the past by dragging a particularly wounding part of it around with them, they engage in a kind of group primal therapy, howling at their common misbegotten moon.

It might be that nurturing the memory prolongs the past slight's life.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Mediocrity

Mediocracy
"To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it."

Throughout recorded history, mankind's unending quest for good enough has been goobered up by a few over-achievers, who, having reached a perfectly satisfying meadow halfway up the mountain, insisted upon turning their walk in the woods into some kind of extreme sporting event. They pine after that rarified, stony space above the tree line, where winds whip around lightening bolts. They want excellence. Their search seems endless, their lifestyles, downright obsessive. They become relentlessly proud owners of dissatisfaction, ever ranging even further upward. The rest of us, perhaps a little cowed in the presence of such seemingly misguided determination, feel moved to move no further. We're suddenly much more attracted to gratitude for what we've already achieved and acceptance of the way things currently are. We'd rather nap on our already acquired bed of laurel than go searching for unlikely eagle feathers.

I've noticed that business seems to have gone downhill since embracing the theology of excellence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Breaking

breaking
"I figure the whole truth will be better approximated in a volume to be published ten years from now and surrounded by enough context to bring today into clearer perspective."

Early yesterday afternoon, my Facebook Feed announced the latest breaking news. I followed the link to learn that this particular piece of breaking news was a lengthy analysis of news expected to break later that afternoon. Experts waded in to explain background and foreground, some even projecting the effects this impending breaking news might have once it actually broke. I wasted five unredeemable minutes of my afternoon on this floss. Later, the news the earlier announcement predicted, came to pass as breaking news, which washed over the late afternoon as no surprise, an anti-climax whetted by overlong anticipation. The earlier broadcast captured the gist of the actual event, with some details probably unavoidably miscast. The final breaking story, though, had by then lost much of its potential impact. I caught myself skimming through the details, more seeking to confirm the earlier implanted news than to broaden my understanding.

Breaking news might by necessity be about ninety percent distraction.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Convictions

convictions
"As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either."

I'm driving that car you're trying to pass. Yes, I know the road looks clear ahead. It's a clear, sunny day. You zoomed up to ride my rear bumper and you're gesturing with both hands in frustration. I know you want me to drive faster. I'm not trying to act as obstinately as I must appear. What's wrong with me? A grave shortcoming. I'm driving at the speed limit. We've passed two speed limit signs since you started crawling up my tailpipe. Perhaps you were too distracted to notice? I'm noticing for you, I guess.

Why? Why can't you coerce me into driving more recklessly?

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Paradox

paradoxelephant
"I consider an improvement anything that might shift it into even a slightly more malleable form…"

Paradoxes can make us stupid, but also uncommonly wise. Alexander demonstrated great wisdom when encountering that stupid knot prophesied as determining his fate. Rather than choose to untie or not, he rent the knot in two, rendering it absolutely irrelevant, forever thereafter neither tied nor untied. Few of us show such presence of mind when finding ourselves in a paradox's grip. Few of us ever seem to realize just what we're dealing with, so we trot out one of our half dozen or so trusty problem solving strategies, none of which could possibly produce the faintest twitch of surrender in even a low-order, run-of-the-mill paradox. The paradox is never the problem not realizing what we're facing turns out to be.

Damned if you do and also damned if you don't hardly circumscribes the range of available choices, of which there exist in any instant an infinite number from which to choose.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dichotomy

zenos-dichotomy-e1515427608294
" … it's subsequent sortings all the way from every here to every there, to the end of every line"

With his Dichotomy (illustrated above) the Ancient Greek Mathematician Zeno proved long before any of us were born, the logical impossibility of moving between any here and any there. While his logic was sound, his conclusion, curiously, was not, as I just demonstrated by walking all the way downstairs AND BACK! Logic works like this sometimes.

In my youth, I took a job as a bull hand dancer in an asparagus factory. My job involved performing the first sort on freshly blanched asparagus passing along a conveyor belt. Lift truck drivers in blue hard hats would dump huge steaming bins of the stuff replete with everything from chunks of fence post to freshly steamed snake and mouse carcasses which needed to be removed from the stream, and not only because they wouldn't fit into the little white containers which would later be flash frozen, labeled, and rushed to the frozen food section of local grocery stores. The first sort was rough, nothing like fine finish work. I'd yank out the obviously awful and line up as many spears as I could given the conveyor's speed. A long line of secondary sorters beneath my position on the conveyor performed ever finer sorts, resulting in containers capable of passing the quality control inspector's gimlet eye at the far end of the line.
Dichotomy works like this.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Expectations

Expectation-Quotes-1
"They're disposable just after they seemed like the only possible One Best Way."

The above quote might qualify as one of the most clueless utterances ever. To act without expectations seems to be a recipe for not acting, but then I might not quite be Zen enough to comment. I cannot imagine acting without expectation though I recognize that expectations probably encourage most of the cluelessness in the universe. Still, expecting seems a perfectly human feature that leads us all into considerable trouble. I doubt that just omitting the expecting amounts to anything like sage advice. We are the ones who lead ourselves into the bulk of the temptations we encounter, but I can't quite believe that we're automatically screwed because we continually expect.

Like with cluelessness, the problem might not very fairly represent the problem. How we cope with this feature might hold some clue about what to do short of stifling one of our primary motive forces.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Presuppositions

bmatebwcover
"… they still bite more than they ever bark."

When did you finally stop beating your dog? The best accusations come imbedded with presuppositions, unstated premises, darned near impossible to counter. This dog accusation "presupposes" both that you have a dog and that you sometime in the past started beating it, for how could you possibly stop beating your dog if you'd never started beating it in the first place? But wait! You say you do not now nor have you ever owned a dog? So much the better for the accuser, who can play The Denial Card. I mean, if you won't even admit to having a dog, how much further from repentance could you possibly be?

I frequently see this dance initiated as a means for tangling rather than resolving differences. Notice how the accuser avoided making any actual accusation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SmartVSDumb

dumb-vs.-smart
"Like Mad Magazine, but, you know, real."

I've learned more in my life so far from Alfred E. Neuman than I have from Albert Einstein, and Neuman is a fictional character. I sometimes fancy myself a smart person. Just how dumb is that? I might conclude my summertime inquiry into cluelessness right here. Einstein, as insightful as he doubtless was, couldn't hold a half-melted birthday candle to Neuman, entertainment-wise. Can you imagine Spy vs. Spy in the hands of the celebrated physicist? People seem to require some absolute stupidity to attract their attention. A graphic novel about the history of 20th century physics was stickier than everything else I'd ever read on the subject. Eggheads love to read comix. What do stupid people read? Oh, the really stupid ones don't read, or … can't … read, which renders them social pariahs to all those to can and do read.

Some of the stupidest people I've met in this life held advanced degrees from prominent universities. Some of the smartest, failed to graduate high school.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EditingAuthenticity

genomeediting-pencil-01
"I wonder some days when human existence will be edited out as altogether too messy."

I recently read about some study suggesting that gene editing doesn't work quite the way I'd thought it does. It's not a simple matter of snipping and pasting. Genes resonate changes more deeply than a simple delete or paste metaphor might suggest. Unanticipated mutations sometimes result. The connections appear to be much more complicated than our present understanding leads us to believe. Our modern day gene splicers might in the future seem no more skilled or insightful than a medieval medicine man does to us today, all leaches and humors and stuff.

We live in The Age of Editing. Forget about original content, repurposed content reigns now.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Song-righting

song-righting
"They only ever seem right after seeming just wrong for the longest time."

I wrote my first song when I was in the 4th grade. It was stupid and derivative and absurdly simple, but I'd just taken up playing a guitar and like everyone else in my generation who came into close contact with a guitar, I found that it magically turned me into an accomplished poet and brilliant social commentator, at least in my own mind. The trance quickly became self-reinforcing. The more songs I wrote, the more I wanted to write, with no saturation point visible or audible from within the spell. I thought myself doing very well. I grew up to "be" a musician or, more accurately, I grew up to be a song-righter. I was never that accomplished at playing the guitar, avoided covering others' tunes, and stayed close to my own songbook. I never was anything like a human jukebox but I always wrote songs.

My earliest songs seemed indescribably precious to me then. I've forgotten most of 'em. A few through the years, though, seemed to stick and became an alternate identity for me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Conditions

conditions
"What in the heck am I supposed to do here?"

I swear that there's nothing I can't do if the conditions are right. When the conditions are wrong, though, it seems that there's hardly anything that I can do, or at least that I can do right. Now, if my nose were more sensitive to sniffing out right conditions, I'd belly flop much less. I belly flop plenty. I'll own this little inability, though I might claim that my training's been complicit in complicating my life. I've been more trained in how to do things than I was ever oriented in how to sniff out conditions, even necessary pre-conditions. Conditions seem to take up their position out on the far perimeter of my activities. I often forget to check for their presence before I begin and even when I remember to check, they're likely to slip past me.

Gregory Bateson spoke eloquently about context, the great unseen influence. He claimed that one could arrange a space such that the arrangement itself subliminally informed those who entered it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SubjectivelyClueless

subjective
" …reviews prove unreliably subjective …"

The eyeglass fitter at my optometrist recounted how she's worn these contact lenses designed to reshape her eyes while she slept. They worked, eventually reshaping her eyes to 20/30 acuity, which objectively rates as even better than the normal 20/20. Having had glasses since she was a little girl, the fresh correction left her feeling disoriented. She could not imagine how she could drive a car with vision like that. Her eyes finally corrected themselves to something more like 20/20 and she could see just fine again. Her story highlights the difference between the objective and the subjective worlds we simultaneously inhabit. The quants calculate best while the rest of us rely upon fuzzy felt-senses, which might well uniquely interpret for each observer. Perspective matters to us who live in the subjective world. We're extremely context-sensitive in ways the quants could never calculate.

The Style section provides lists enumerating various bests: best movie, best bagel, best baseball player. Your preferences might well vary unless you've figured out how to subjugate your tastes in preference to the popular ones, a slick trick, indeed, and one the media seems determined to help each of us master.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

A Mentor Passing

jerry_weinberg
"He didn't need to say anything else."

I suppose that Estranged stands as a valid phase of every mentoring relationship, for these sorts of associations were never chartered to become eternally continuous. They serve as leg-ups, nudges to help someone over some hump and somehow putrefy if overly prolonged. I think that both parties understand from the inception that the terms of engagement won't allow for real friendship to emerge, though the exchanges always seem warm enough.

My relationship with Jerry Weinberg, who passed yesterday, lasted about fifteen years, which is long by any mentoring standard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Truth-ish

TheWholeTruth
" Truth was never as popular in junior high as most every lie, and so grew up rather shy about its native social acceptance."

Would you prefer that I lie and promise to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when the whole truth usually has a few elements besides the truth imbedded within it? The truth of the matter might be (must be?) that it's never wholly whole, but only because it can't be. It can't be because us humans tend to be unreliable recording instruments. We seem prone to seeing what we anticipate rather than what's actually there. We remember what doesn't shut us down rather than what we experienced. We are subjective beings, never objective observers, and so prove unreliable conveyors of any absolute, truth being prominent among them.

Yet we still, sometimes smugly, believe ourselves capable of discriminating between a truth and a bold-faced lie, and we are not always incorrect in our assessments.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Electronics

bm-01-9780080519944
" In trust we trust. Amen."

Our new car, The Schooner, has very few moving parts. I expect in a few years to be able to buy a car with absolutely no moving parts. Once, cars were mostly moving mechanical parts. No longer! Now they're smart, or at least much smarter. Many of the formerly laboring mechanical parts have up-sold themselves into management positions thanks to the marvels of electronics. Our new car is a thinking car. It anticipates for us so we don't have to. It's not rocket-scientist brilliant or anything. It just maintains vigilance where ours might wane. It helps keep us safer and just that little bit saner, too. It almost seems benevolent, a friend.

A friend until something goes wrong

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Books

Books_0
"I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else."

I read a lot of books, well over a hundred a year, maybe twice that. I rarely remember anything I read, not in any detail, but then I try to avoid the types of books requiring me to remember much. I almost exclusively read fiction because it seems much more real, although there's not really any genre BUT fiction since even so-called non-fiction gets filtered through authors who perhaps unavoidably fictionalize whatever they put down, wrapping their stories in the trappings considered appropriate to "real" storytelling: hero, journey, challenges, and triumphant return. I consider myself an exacting reader in that I only rarely finish a book unless its prose pleases me, either in construction or concept. I consider myself to be a prose chameleon, my own writing quietly influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time, so I'm careful to quickly discard trash. I read all the time.

I'm in and out of the library several times each week, often daily. I scrupulously return any book I've finished the same day I finish it or the very next day at the latest. I always figure someone might be waiting for me to put it back into circulation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Whom

belltolls
"Never give them a passing thought," …

This week, a Facebook friend (a designation with which I intend no derision) asked me who I wrote for, by which I interpreted him to mean, who do I imagine reading my stuff. His question sparked quite a bit of old tinder because I never could find an answer to that seemingly perfectly uncontroversial question. I once again encountered what I consider for me to be a fundamentally unanswerable question, though it gets down on one knee and seemingly begs for a response, and a straightforward one at that. Certainly, if I write, an object of my efforts must be present, if only in my mind. There isn't and I don't.

I realize that by admitting this omission, I might be violating a first principle of marketing: Thou Shalt Have A Target Market, except I'm not marketing, but writing.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NothingMuch

zeroinfinity
"We're here in the middle, comforted by the edges we imagine constraining us."

I understand nothing about as well as I understand infinity, by which I mean, hardly at all. Like infinity, nothing can appear in a surprising variety of quantities. I can experience Plenty of Nothing as well as NothingMuch. Likewise, infinity can come in any of, dare I suggest, an infinite number of discrete forms. Even Forever After might hold a shorter shelf life than Ever And Ever, for instance. The concept that neither nothing nor everything comes in specific single-serving packets should set me back on my heels. It might be that this explosion of variety never comes into play until one thinks they're experiencing nothing or everything. Then, a multiverse appears.

Some mornings, I rise convinced that I have nothing to say.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TwistedMetaphors

Metaphor1
" … seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones."

The VP of HR called me into his office to discuss a troubling complaint he'd received following my last workshop. Two participants had taken umbrage at a metaphor I'd employed, insisting that it clearly demonstrated that I was racist. Pretty certain that I could not possibly be fairly characterized as racist and curious about where this conversation might go, I showed up, though I arrived wary. I'd gotten tangled up around misunderstood metaphors before and felt fairly certain that I understood where this conversation would go, for there's no counter-argument to anyone's firm conviction. There's also no way to fix this sort of past. I sat quietly as the VP failed to explain my error to me. I hardly mounted any defense. I knew before I showed up that I would not be asked back to deliver another workshop.

I permanently deleted that metaphor from my patter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeesBall

baseball2
"We love who we love."

If you want to experience the human condition, watch sports. It hardly matters which one. Baseball works best for me because I naively presume to understand the game, but soccer or football or golf will suffice. Each relies upon the fan believing that they know something about the game, though the numbers strongly suggest that they could not possibly know very much. The baseball fan up in the cheap seats wearing the porkpie hat and holding a kraut-smothered dog in one hand and a frosty Iron City in the other, could hardly be expected to grasp the statistical swirl they witness. They, like me, focus upon probably irrelevant elements, fully expecting that they can predict what might happen next. That home run hitter, coming up to the plate, brings with him the strong statistical probability that he will return to the dugout deeply disappointed, but the fan sees the opportunity to pull ahead in a lurch.

I guess it does't matter how many times the fan's expectations end up being disappointed. Enough homers happen to encourage that hope essential to encourage any supporter to hope yet again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MondayMorning

MondayMorning
"I remain an apprentice in this life …"

Somebody wiped the slate clean overnight. Whatever had backed up and accumulated over the last week simply disappeared. By the end of this week, another clog will have appeared, detritus remaining from the fresh aspirations coloring this sunrise and the few to follow. For one moment, I feel as though I've caught up. I leave The Villa refreshed. On the drive down to the lab, The Muse muses over the clog before her. Everything coming due at exactly the same time. No time in reserve for her upcoming week. It's spent before it's lent.

I've got my circuit. Gas up the car. Stop at the hardware store for parts to fix The Muse's leaky toilet. Pick up that special roast the coffee shop agreed to make up for me.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MidLife

MidLife
"A degree of difference, persisted over time and distance, results in a lot of difference …"

By the middle of summer I start to catch on that this season ain't gonna quite turn out the way I'd envisioned it. This recognition should come as no real surprise because 'not turning out as expected' might simply be the nature of things as they've always been and therefore most probably always will be. I still plan ahead, anticipating some facility never before in evidence. I stop near the middle, taking stock of my progress to always find it wanting in some material way. I have even shown myself capable of chewing on myself for failing to achieve whatever it was I'd earlier convinced myself that I would have achieved by now. It all seems such a ridiculous swirl.

I'm not very goal-oriented. I do not now nor have I ever maintained a bucket list. I hold my aspirations rather loosely.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

KnowingBetter

knowingbetter
"Acceptance speaks loudest of all."

What better demonstrates cluelessness than KnowingBetter? I suspect that it's not the knowing that contributes to the sense of cluelessness but the bettering. KnowingBetter seems to set up a sort of competition, a one-up, which easily sours any encounter. The intended betterment encourages a kind of resentment from the one being bettered at, or from the one being battered by the attempted betterment, for no one actually achieves the objective of demonstrating that they KnowBetter. They achieve at best a tentative nomination for inclusion in the Asshole Hall Of Infamy instead, for turning what might have been a collegial sharing of knowledge into a pissing contest.

I've noticed that I feel smarter when in the presence of a genuinely smart person.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lieberry

lieberry1
"It's become the Go space on the seemingly otherwise completely built out Monopoly® board …"

When Ben Franklin first proposed the creation of the US Postal Service, the now-humbled post office, he envisioned a strategy for instilling the presence of the federal government in every town and hamlet in what until then had been a divided collection of colonies. The postmaster would be the duly selected representative of that far distant machine which remained otherwise invisible to the average citizen. Over the past thirty years, successive attempts to manage our postal service as though it was the business its founders never intended have left it no better off than any under-inventoried K-mart awaiting closure. What once carried a grave sense of place and authority now holds all the ambience of an ill-maintained men's room. It's still a go-to starting place to receive a raft of government services, but one feels as though you really need to squint hard and use both hands pulling those services to the surface.

As one after another government service has been slight-sized, many needs now go begging.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pre-living

Preliving
"The Plan Says rarely qualifies as a good excuse."

I've spent most of my working life so far anticipating futures. I advanced in my career to the point where I was sought after as a teacher of the dark art of projecting useful shadows on far walls. I eventually realized that I paid for every moment I spent planning for any future by forfeiting my present; my presence. I became an acknowledged expert at pre-living life, but remained a rather rank amateur at actually living it.

I believe that I understand that no existence could hope to be complete without balancing some mix of presence and absence, whether that absence be spent in review or anticipation. Obsessing over the past seems somehow equivalent to obsessing about any future,

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CluelessLove

LoveClueless
"I only know it when I feel it."

Many seem to conflate love and like. I'd love to tell you why, but I don't know why. I think, perhaps, I'd really rather like to tell you, but the common idiom insists that I oversell my motivation by insisting that I'd love to tell you. I would if I could but I can't. Perhaps such conflations originate in our inability to properly define the term love. Love fails the noun test—it's clearly neither person, place, nor thing—though everyone uses it as a noun. It seems to be a terribly personal emotion without a specific universal referent. Ask what it's like and you'll receive a flood of profound banality in return. Some say that God is love, which, by The Commutative Law Of Is, means that love is also God. Go figure.

Fall in love and lose your mind, though losing your mind has never been shown to be a clear path to God.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Democracy

Democracy
"It's messy here, but human."

Democracy seems as if it might be a terrific way to govern the clueless. After centuries of spotty results presuming divine rights and absolute authorities of kings, popes, and potentates, The Founders chiseled out a radical alternative: Hows about we ask The People what they want and focus the government on achieving that? Version 1.0 seems rather crude to our eyes, a couple of centuries and change after the founding of this republic. Version 2.0 seemed better, at least more promising, though some of the new promises faced steep opposition by foot-and knuckle-draggers who struggled with the realities of equal justice for all. They'd apparently become accustomed to unequal justice, where their thumbs weighed more on those revered blind scales of justice.

We're eyes wide open now, I think, ever more closely scrutinizing our intentions against our delivery. We inevitably fall short, though finding that we're still falling short seems a perfectly normal and expected outcome for the avowedly clueless.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheFonderHeart

absence3
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

I think of myself as a great proponent of folk wisdoms. They tend to be tricky, though, with unexpected nuance lurking behind what everyone automatically takes for granted by the five thousandth time they've heard it. Absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? But this chestnut applies to more than separated lovers. I've noticed that the very best moment in the life cycle of any project tends to happen around the very start of the effort, when the outcome still seems glowy and perfect, before the accumulated disappointments and compromises have had their way with the originating big, bright idea. Before emerging knowledge had grounded the balloon. Nearer the end, familiarity tends to have bred considerable contempt, and by then even the early champions would drive a stake through the effort's heart, given half a chance.

TheFonderHeart might prove to be a tell, an indicator of considerable cluelessness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AbsentEye

Eyeballs
" …the long-banished philosopher, our long-lost best friend."

About a decade ago, while browsing in The Library of Congress, I happened upon a field of study I'd not previously encountered, The Philosophy of Science. I ordered up a pile of books on the subject to my study desk and over the following weeks, read through several of them. Since Descartes, the philosopher, once one of the principals of scientific enquiry, had been more or less banished from the laboratory in favor of more physically-oriented observers. The practice of I Think, Therefore I Am might be better characterized by the phrase I See, Therefore I Am. The philosopher might bring unseeable into the conversation, muddying otherwise clear inquiry. Heck, the philosopher might rail on about the nature of 'is-ness' itself, seemingly endlessly questioning the very base of observation as the principle tool of enquiry. Objective assessment nudged out the subjective.

I over-simplify, for living, breathing, thinking, actively observing people populated the ranks of science, and so the philosophical never fell too far beneath the surface, like one of those public secrets needing no confirmation or commentary.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TooMuch

TMInformation
" … either overwhelmed by Too Much Information or underwhelmed by far too little."

Cluelessness carries a paradox. Too little information cannot always be resolved by simply providing more, like water resolves thirst or food, hunger. Too Much Information can induce cluelessness every bit as vacuous as too little. The detailed specification might leave the fabricator overwhelmed. On the other hand, mere rumor probably won't suffice as meaningful instruction, either. The more anal systems analyst might insist upon producing essentially executable pseudo-code while the more cavalier coder prefers to iteratively refactor, no sweet spot seems to exist in the middle of this eternal muddle.

The Bible opts for analogy and metaphor, seeking to induce rather than instruct, but then many insist upon interpreting as if they were not interpreting at all, sticking to the literal meanings as if those weren't interpretations, then blaming the resulting tangles on heresy and worse.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGreatMystery

TheGreatMystery
"Some desires seem best served by being denied their denouement."

Pagans, philosophers, scientists, and poets have been diligently considering TheGreatMystery at least since the beginning of recorded history, and probably much longer. While great progress seems to have been made, our inability to report that we're even close to solving TheGreatMystery might say most about the nature of that mystery. TheGreatMystery persists, perhaps more amused by our machinations than informed by them. Competing theories seem to simply thicken the plot.

I greatly admire the Jewish Talmudic tradition, where sacred texts are endlessly studied and discussed with the intention of gaining greater insight but without the expectation that TheGreatMystery encoded there might ever be resolved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Deception

sleepingdogs
"If I deceive myself, and I do, how inhuman would it be to exclude you from my grand Deception?"

I consider myself a fundamentally honest person, perhaps because my many false pretenses have migrated into spaces I rarely ever think about anymore. I doubt that even I know the truth about myself now, if I ever did. I question what utility complete authenticity might buy me. I am not quite what I appear to be. Confessing just how deceptive my appearances might be seems to offer little utility for anyone. I'm not sitting on a murder most foul, committed in passionate insanity, but where should I draw the line? As a somewhat public persona, I studied the arts of clever projection. I understand that appearances matter and that people tend to judge harshly when their unconscious expectations get disappointed. For appearances' sake, I deceive, and quite deliberately.

Some forms of cluelessness seem absolutely benign, unlikely to wound anyone involved.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Telling

telling
"My elementary school teachers unwittingly taught me that Nobody Can Tell Nobody Nuthin' …"

I hold the firm conviction that nobody can tell nobody nuthin'. In this case, the double negative works both ways, and I fully intend it to carry the apparently contradictory message. Part of the phrase insists that nobody can tell anyone else anything. The other, that one cannot ever fail to communicate something when trying to tell another something. Pundits persist, though, trying to convince the dedicatedly disbelieving. I believe that they fall into a shallow cognitive trap when thinking that they might hold the power to clue in others. Though their words are unlikely to be interpreted in any way they anticipate, so thick the membrane protecting people from unexpected information, they (we!) persist.

Our elementary school teachers might have taught us something, demonstrating a curious superpower whenever they'd call on us to respond to their trick question with a simple response while the whole danged class watched.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EmotionalIntelligence

emotionalintelligence
"Our spontaneity IS our superpower."

I decided to write about Cluelessness because I'm not that bright, myself. I often feel stumped enough to conclude that I might justifiably claim that I'm not quite bright enough to qualify as not that bright. The Muse insists that I complicate my life by over-thinking it. I can appear aloof and dismissive even when I try to appear engaged and inclusive. I read others poorly, which means, in my experience, I read others about as well as they read me. Being a cypher to myself, being misread by someone else fails to very deeply disturb me. I figure that some things aren't really meant to be read.

I've delved into several self-assessment instruments, managing to keep a straight face through most of my delving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Unlearning

unlearn
"Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions."

Given the difficulties learning brings, I do not wonder why I seem to hold tenaciously to whatever I've managed to absorb. Letting go and letting something new come in feels like an exercise in unflushing a troublesome toilet. Once that shit's sorted and gone, I won't ever want to reexamine it. My attitude stems not from sloth but prudence. If learning's risky, unlearning might well raise merely risky to some obscene exponent of itself. I've seen what I've seen and cannot blithely ever unsee it. My initial impression, which sunk deeply into bedrock, does not seem to simply wash away with a light bleach solution. I've got what I've got.

Advertisers rely upon this understandable reticence to engage in unlearning. They project memorable impressions which they know you won't be able to easily, if ever, shake.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AffordingToKnow

t_logo_291_black
" … I work diligently to stay within budget …"

I warily read my Times each morning, choosing what to expose myself to, and, perhaps more importantly, carefully, mindfully, avoiding what I do not feel I can "Afford To Know", to use my friend David Thompson's descriptive term. I suspect that we're each selective when subjecting ourselves to potentially disruptive information, the news that might well be "fit to print," as The Times touts, but somehow nonetheless, too personally costly to actually read. Go ahead and accuse me of overly-carefully tending to my cocoon. Dirty Harry insisted that a man has to know his limits, and while I can't exactly describe where my limits lie, I carry deep notions about what sort of company they keep.

Whole areas of subject matter, in this way, fall outside my range of interest.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheHunt

TheHunt
"… leaving the possibility for great delight to emerge
from an otherwise completely pedestrian activity."

Every Saturday morning, The Muse and I go on TheHunt. We explain that we head out to restock the larder, but we're actually on The Hunt. Nobody could reasonably label this activity shopping because, while we maintain an indistinct list of aspired-tos, we have little idea if we might find those or where we might find them. We do have a route, an old and largely reliable route, culminating at a supermarket, which serves as the source of last appeal, where what we were not fortunate enough to find might be approximated. TheHunt exists because we don't actually know or, perhaps more accurately, we refuse to accept good enough as good enough.

We know some who religiously head for Costco because they can reliably acquire their heart's desire.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StudiedCluelessness

positivefeedback
" … defensiveness, too, eventually becomes an exclusively positive feedback loop,
an a priori universal, StudiedCluelessness."

Maintaining some cluelessnesses requires focused study. Given the proliferation of contradictory information floating around, defending any perspective against discouraging intrusions seems an inevitably hopeless undertaking. We live and we learn. Learning unavoidably entails reconfiguring earlier convictions to construct ever fresher understandings, some of which might well later prove misguided. We live and learn just how full of shit we used to be. Some, though, seem relatively invulnerable to the vagaries of the learning cycle, sticking by earlier guns as if they represented inviolable truth in spite of the presence of heavy conflicting evidence.

If your livelihood depends upon swallowing bullshit, you'll likely swallow bullshit. You might not appreciate the mouthfeel, but you will be forgiven for at least pretending that you savor it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HighSummer

HighSummer
"Gilded clouds greet each sunrise and surrender every evening."

Lupin blossoms creep up the small hill out back, starting at the bottom in late June. By mid-July, they've moved into the backyard. Yarrow stretches out of the garden bed. The damned deer have been gnawing off the rhubarb leaves again. Conifers finished their pollen throwing to settle into being background again. Rabbits wander freely. A gang of turkey vultures wheels overhead searching for untimely death. Grasses recently greening from the ground up have set this year's seed and begun their browning from the top down. I set my sprinklers in pre-dawn darkness before the breeze kicks in.

Windows stay wide open day and night. We chase the few flies that enter through the screen door we cannot seem to remember to close behind us.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Jam

Choke-Point
"I might settle into this fresh reality, but probably not."

The Muse and I call a narrow convergence home. Several busy roads merge into a single six-lane vulnerable to all the usual vagaries. I often choose to take one of the two most prominent two-lane alternatives rather than try to drive my camel through that needle's eye, though sometimes, even the back routes close down. A surprise Spring snowstorm can shut down the whole shebang, leaving us stranded along the way. Clogs are common, flow disruptions expected, except when they aren't. It seems to be the nature of traffic jams that they only occur when least expected and therefore least prepared for. We can't live in a constant state of readiness, and the demon traffic gods understand this, waiting for peak inattention to strike.

A seemingly small slowdown.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StewPidity

stupid1
"What if authenticity was the coin of this realm …?"

I hold beliefs that make no logical sense. I have no clear sense of what constitutes logical sense. I am easily confused. I can't tell you how anything works. I'm often surprised. I make mistakes multiple times each day. I cannot seem to write legibly. I cannot sort laundry in a way that satisfies The Muse, who holds a laundry sorting algorithm which she cannot coherently explain. I have relatives who believe that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old. I do not 'know' how to write, type, or read, though I write, type, and read every day. I once scored well on an IQ test without knowing for sure what most of the correct answers were. I can only barely pass a driver's license test, but I fancy myself to be a good driver.

I'm always with stupid. I am an extremely mobile universal stupidity machine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Figuring

figuring
"They count on fingers unimaginable to me and perhaps unimaginable to them as well."

I consider myself to be a counting-on-my-fingers type guy. This self-image supported most all of my pursuits until about fifth grade. Long division won't yield to finger power. Neither will most of the most troubling difficulties (aka "problems") I encounter in this life. What smug scientists label 'higher level' thinking seems necessary to crack more advanced mathematics and most other truly troublesome questions. Two plus two almost never equals four anymore. Neither does seven minus three. I seem to need to stumble into some alternate strategy besides counting on my fingers to successfully unwind even the most seemingly pedestrian problem these days.

I suspect that simply classifying myself as a counting on my fingers type guy nudges me about halfway toward resolution, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Salvation

save
"I'm more of a browser, myself."

At thirteen, I agreed to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had no idea at the time what that agreement entailed or, indeed, what it might mean. Even today, a lifetime later, I still can't grok what it means. I had not been a hellion in my youth and carried no deep regrets or vile misdemeanors into my teen-aged years. Indeed, I've rather naturally not strayed too awfully far into the venial as an adult, never really attracted to the low life. I don't have to try too terribly hard to behave decently. Not that I'd ever consider holding myself up as any sort of exemplar, but I'm an indifferent sinner if, indeed, I really qualify as a sinner at all. Not that I'm a saint, either. I can carry murder in my heart for careless drivers, heartless landlords, and the more studiedly clueless, though I can't really see myself carrying out the crime.

I imagine Personal Lord and Savior to be a kind of superhuman personal shopper sort of role.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Wind

wind
"Curtains turn frantic whenever someone slides open the door again."

The wind in "Sou' Dakoda" is nobody's friend and everyone's near constant companion. The Muse insists that it doesn't so much blow as suck, nothing standing in its way from Northern Saskatchewan, Western Wyoming, or the Gulf of Freaking Mexico. It rarely sucks west. A still day hardly ever visits and never comes anywhere near to wearing out its welcome when it does, leaving with the familiar groaning weather vane in the night. The ground's usually firmly enough tacked down to prevent blinding dust, but a fine gritty film seeps in around every window's trim. The porch feels like sandpaper underfoot. Wind turbines spin effortlessly, endlessly.

The Schooner nudges along, goosed or rudely shoved aside. Verges ripple like shimmering grease as the sidewind screams through the grasses there.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Howdish

howdish
" …a simple flexing finger might welcome even a stranger home."

Section roads checkerboard the state of "Sou' Dakoda." East River—that is, east of the Missouri—where the land lies essentially flat, section roads seem to run in an expansive one mile grid; every mile, another section road appears. Most are gravel and provide access to cropland and farmsteads. They're numbered according to their distance from the state's borders. This morning, I'm writing near the intersection of 139th Street and 412th Avenue. It's not uncommon to find section roads numbered in 1/2 increments. This whole state, however lonely it might seem, has been thoroughly surveyed and settled.

The dust reappeared yesterday.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CellAbrasion

cellabrasion
"Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration."

Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration. Each to their own. Some only find satisfaction with a big brass band; others, a quiet beer. Cheer's in the ear of the one who's cheering, never the one's who's jeering. Your hip-hop sounds like noise to me. So much the worse for me. Holidays bring the need for genuine tolerance. Some just seem to need to celebrate by disrupting their neighbor's tranquility. Accusing someone of making war on Christmas only further fuels the presumed conflict into perhaps a genuine one.

Some say the world will end with a firecracker, others, with an ice chest overfilled with beer.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Monumental


monument
" …traces of their passage still remain."

As we neared Watertown, The Muse started musing about her grandmother's heritage. Her mom's mother's birth family had lived in and around Watertown for a few decades around the turn of the last century, and since we were in the area and running early, she proposed that we exit from the eighty mile per hour rat race route and toodle over to see what we could find while she reconstructed some history. That side of her family were what was then derisively referred to as bohunks, Sudaten German Catholics displaced from Germany following religious wars a couple of hundred years before. They'd immigrated in through Baltimore then migrated inland to central Minnesota before settling into what was then Dakota Territory, before statehood. We don't know exactly what these people did for a living, but it's a good bet that they were laborers. Most migrants into this area at the time worked at least part time for the railroads who had recruited laborers by the thousands from their home countries.

The South Dakota countryside on the third of July easily passes for an extended park stretching further than any eye can see.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ChurchLeague

churchleague
" …the sort of ball Jesus would play."

Over root beer floats at the Dairy Queen after the game, I asked why they did this, this being ChurchLeague slow pitch softball. "Why wouldn't you?", was the response. Never having belonged to any church in my entire adult life, the idea had never occurred to me. My team sport of choice has always been solo yard work, being the extreme introvert and homebody that I am. I have trouble meeting up with myself, so the idea that a dozen folks might manage to converge at the same place at the same time throughout an early summer season to play a series of weeknight and weekend games baffles me. In theory, it seems possible, but in practice, impractical, but in this small midwestern city, impracticality seems little encumbrance to actually pulling off such an unlikely anything.

My brother-in-law and I had just watched a double-header, home team losing both games. The play seemed baseball-ish, varying only in degree from the baseball I'm accustomed to. The balls are day glow yellow

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BackHome

stillhere
"It gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts …"

The prairie hasn't read the memo yet. It still thinks it's Spring though Summer's nearly two weeks on. Eight inches of rain in the last week has left the corn tall and deep green with muddy feet. Wildflowers smear expanses of prairie grass coming into full fuzzy head now. The thermostat hasn't found its upper reaches and we run with the sun roof and side windows wide open, more ambient than we had any reason to expect. We both seem born to this place. The Muse because she was born to here, me, I suppose, because some of my forebears homesteaded just south of here. The Muse is headed BackHome.

In our part of this culture we say that we "go BackHome." Most of our generation moved away somewhere. The prior generation was no different.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Denial

denial
"I'll be gone until I'm not gone anymore."

Denial is the first stage of vacation. The few days leading up to departure swell with stiff-arming tactics. The list of preparatory must-dos grows as one thing, then another blunts apparent progress. By the morning before, I face a numbing blank wall of possibilities I feel certain might hang us up for at least a day. By the night before, that list reduced to a final one or two, I resign myself to the high likelihood that we might even leave on time.

I figure the unknown blunts me. It slows me down, disabling whatever others experience as excitement at the prospect.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Up-Out

up&out
"tomorrow will deliver a fresh faced opening in the turmoil"

I have no more than an hour each day I can call my own. Though I might spend most of every day alone, save for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's ever watchful eye, only that brief time really feels as though it completely belongs to me. Just after sunrise, I'm the only one moving. The yappy neighbor dogs still snooze. Even the freeway across the gulch fairly whispers at that hour. The Times hasn't yet arrived. The Muse wraps herself in emphatic covers, sucking every second out of her last hour of sleep. I've been up puttering for over an hour by then and feeling restless.

I step outside to immerse myself in the moist, cool stillness. Even in the middle of a heatwave, that early morning hour caresses. I'm up and just have to get out.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Entrope

entrope
"I could swear that an early summer morning is more eternal and more designed than a statistically accidental convergence …"

Things fall apart. More than ninety percent of stuff purchased today will be discarded as garbage within a month. Everything displayed within the BIG box store has the same destination. Energy, while conserved, is also more or less continuously disbursed into higher forms of entropy: heat, wind, tidal motion, photosynthesis; each further disbursing energy until indistinguishable, unmeasurable. We retain memories of lower forms of entropy and hardly sense the higher forms. What's here today continues its inexorable run, each tree temporarily suspended between seedling and dust. Nothing ever stays the same.

We speak of change as though it were the exception rather than the continuous norm.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheThirdPerson

eyeinthesky
" … you might as just well be mumbling."

Me, myself, and I never considered becoming a trio, for we are one and the same perspective using three different names. I can describe you, from my perspective, and you, me, from yours, each fulfilling the role of second person, like a back-up. Me and my shadow have always been two distinct entities, speaking not as one but as opposites. While me, myself, and I speak from personal experience, like me and you do, explicitly owning the perspective we share, my shadow, whom I refer to as TheThirdPerson, exclusively speaks as though he were not there. Instead of proclaiming that he saw something, he hints that something was seen, leaving nothing more than an innuendo of ownership behind. Product descriptions and scholarly papers read as though nobody wrote them, an anonymous voice mouthing hollowed-out phrases.

Such writing works far more effectively than knock-out pills.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CluelessCookery

questionmarkpan
" … by the last guest's departure, I will have somehow managed to have done it again."

The night before, sleep won't come. My mind had become a nattering checklist ticking off items while I tossed and turned. The Muse had invited twenty or thirty, more or less, over for a supper the following evening and I, as usual, assumed my proper role as cook. The "Pork Shoulder Butt Roast" had been soaking in its sou vide bath for a day and a half, to be finished off over a slow, smoky hickory fire the following day. Two chickens were marinating in lemon/herb d'provence goop. A whole steelhead fillet waited attention in the cold corner of the fridge. Two dozen San Marzano tomatoes and a couple of Vidalia sweets were queued up, destined for salsa. A hearty half dozen different beers hovered in the garage, awaiting ice. I would be prepping all the following day.

I think it axiomatic that all great work emerges from some annoying disadvantage, sleep deprivation most common and cluelessness not unknown. No well-rested adventurer ever achieved anything, only the stupidly yawning, painfully limping, and disturbingly impaired even need apply.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Besting

blessed1
"I could have had plenty good enough, but dug in my danged heels insisting upon The Best instead."

Nothing better encourages the human comedy than the concept of best. Whenever it enters a conversation, meaning flees to be replaced by abstraction. Ask someone to recommend The Best place for dinner and they might provide an opinion. Take that advice and you'll learn to question their perspective in the future. Many companies self-proclaim themselves to be The Best. Some rating agency, that is, a company in the business of absolutely discerning The Best, will publish their annual top ten best places to work list. If you'd ever worked inside any of those places, you'd deeply question the findings. Our search for best might be inbred, instinctive, but innate capacity does little to inoculate against the resulting obvious cluelessness.

Best exists as a comparator, not an absolute designation.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Rumors

saltspiral
"Maybe I could blame the sugar high."

Before any truth becomes substantiated, it seems to exist in tentative suspension, a rumor-like state awaiting validation. Most of us don't hardly wait. Screw the grain of salt, we're wide open and suggestible. We believe what attracts our ear and reject what repels it. The freshest news seems to ache for echoing. By the time it's become fully validated, it's already anchoring the fifteenth page of the Times. The cover screams for attention. We rarely see the back pages where the details emerge.

It seems that those most up on the breaking news exude a particularly clever kind of cluelessness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SecurelyClueless

securityline
"I live close to home …"

I cope with living in the Greater Denver/Front Range region by mentally cordoning off parts of it. Early on, as we explored the area, I silently swore to myself that I would thereafter make it my business to ensure that I would never return to this or that neighborhood or town. I could not have explained exactly why some places failed to pass muster, and I'm uncertain if I even now could explain my exclusion process, but I've come to realize that I'd roughly marked off what I would think of as "my" territory. I would never have to learn about or overly concern myself with any of the area outside of my selected territory, for I would maintain it as more than simply unfamiliar, but unknowable. I would remain clueless about them.

Most of the Denver Metro area now lies within my temporal no-man's land.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TooClued

rtoo-many-clues_shop_preview
"I generally find that I can well afford to continue with my cluelessness …"

I sometimes use the term Clueless to mean the opposite of its denotive meaning. I can certainly seem clueless because of an obvious lack of clues, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by a rather un-obvious abundance of them, especially subtle ones. In retrospect, by gazing into my rearview mirror (the one where things sure do appear to be a whole lot closer than they are), I finally register what seems like should have been obvious before, when I wandered as if clueless when merely unable to see forest for the proliferation of trees. I believe that clueless only rarely means an absolute absence of clues, but rather a curious inability to winnow them down into any immediately useful form. I focus upon foreground when the real story's unfolding in background or I'm simply not paying close enough attention, or even too close of attention.

When I observe another wallowing in obvious cluelessness, I often wonder how it could be that they cannot see all the feedback trying to inform them. The inability seems willful.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SelfDeception

Fields
"I've been deceiving myself through the worst of it
just hoping to make the best of this someday …"

I will excuse you if you mistakenly conclude that I know what I'm doing here. I have been what I consider fairly diligent in my pursuit of the various masteries of life, but I know without even delving very deeply down that I've yet to realize my aspirations. Decades ago, I quite deliberately chose to just get on with my life rather than wait around for any mastery to appear. I was aching to get moving and not so much impatient, for I'd idled a considerable time, but disgusted with inaction. This decision brought with it the apparent necessity of deceiving myself, for my sense of being an imposter could otherwise overwhelm me. I proceeded as if I were capable when I knew with certainty that I wasn't, not yet.

I still don't know how else one might pursue mastery without beginning that pursuit long before having achieved what one pursues.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

UnintendedConsequences

"I firmly believe that there's always a pony in there somewhere,
no matter how much horse shit fills the stall."

Because I inhabit a tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe with only my sense-making apparatus with which to comprehend, I don't always understand what's going on around me. Or maybe I should say that I too often believe that I understand when I could not possibly understand. My dilemma doesn't make me in any way special, for it seems that each of us inhabits the same (or very similar) tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe and we each possess roughly similar sense-making capabilities, so we're all pretty much in the same boat. Sure, we each consider someone a whole lot stupider than us and also a few we consider much smarter, but our senses seem puny when compared with the surrounding universe. Our shared inheritance might be best characterized as Cluelessness. For all we know, all we couldn't possibly know looms far larger around us. Always.

I can't quite bring myself to characterize our native Cluelessness as in any way a problem. It's just the way it is, and it brings with it certain advantages as well as disadvantages.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Destructions

structions
"So it goes."

My friend Wayner calls them "destructions." Those step-by-step illustrations printed on the back of the box, that box you inadvertently pulverized when opening, before you realized there were destructions printed on the back. He calls them "destructions" because he insists that even if you hadn't pulverized the box when opening it, the illustration on the back probably wouldn't have helped you assemble the fine product within. The destructions almost always appear to have been produced by someone for whom your native language isn't native. Also by someone other than anyone who might have actually assembled the fine product inside. They hire copywriters, out-sourcing this sort of work. It's cheaper that way.

I almost always end up assembling the fine product exactly one more time than I disassemble it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Trolls

tomten
"Those who seem to have no interest in hearing generously, probably forfeit their right to speak."

The Muse can tell you that I rarely read the reactions to my postings on our neighborhood listserv. Something about the context seems to encourage people to drop their pants and lead with their least attractive profile when responding. Many tend toward a scolding stance. Some delve into the demeaning. Of course I feel goaded and sorely tempted to respond, if only to set the record straight. I'm learning that it's probably not my responsibility to set straight any record deliberately twisted through less than generous interpretation. Sure it feels as though I've just been ripped a new one and of course I really want to defend my integrity, but jumping into the pig wallow, even if explicitly invited, won't improve any argument, though the pigs seem certain to enjoy the spectacle of any high-minded anyone self-debasing themselves into to the troll's native environment. The Muse reads them. I don't usually.

My next door neighbor sent a text message regretting the latest savaging of which I'd been blissfully unaware. I appreciated him with a grateful reply. A few more personal messages arrived, each appreciative and generous.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PeakingParanoia

peekingparanoia
"I'm wary, on the look-out, peeking over one shoulder every step of every way."

I have heard about an alien concept I'll call ConfidentStrides. This term describes a totally mythical state where a person moves forward without hesitation, said to accompany personal conviction. The literature speaks of revelatory insights inducing such a sense of certainty that ConfidentStrides result. The hero or heroine marches into their future, utterly transformed, unstoppable. I refer to this state as alien and mythical because, while I've heard that such a state exists, I've never personally experienced it. Further, recognizing that I have not yet experienced it has sometimes encouraged me not to act, to sit tacitly by rather than to move forward and engage. I've yet to achieve anything by means of ConfidentStrides, which is not to say that I've never accomplished anything. I'm apparently more of a PeakingParanoia sort of person, I guess.

When challenged to do some right thing, I notice my paranoia peaking. I would, in that moment, much prefer to take a break, take a nap, perhaps cower beneath my bed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Distressed

upside-down-flag2
"We cannot possess what we cannot share."

I humbly post this brief explanation. You might have noticed that I've hung an American flag upside down from my deck. No, I didn't accidentally string it backwards. This was a willing, willful act, one intended to express the extreme distress my house, my home, and my country currently experience. When I read in the paper that border agents play a cruel bait and switch with the children of those seeking asylum in my country by explaining that they're just taking the child for a bath, only later taunting the helpless parent by saying that they might never see their child again. This report distresses me.

Illegally crossing the border for the purposes of seeking asylum never was a felony. It would until recently garner an infraction about as damning as a speeding ticket, a misdemeanor easily dispatched with a couple of hundred dollars, a few days in jail, and/or a ride back from whence you came.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

DiningDown

Mead-St-Station-1000x500
" …home food seems better suited to our temperaments."

The place looked okay when I spotted it from across the street. Early Friday evening, seventy eight sweet degrees, and The Muse and I are out to do something with the tail end of our week. She suggested Highlands, a neighborhood of over-priced crumbling shotgun houses with a definite yuppie vibe: dog spas, yoga studios, cafes with sidewalk seating. I agreed. We found a place to park just a block down from the main commercial strip and strolled up to see what had changed since last time. We'd both sworn to not choose that pseudo Italian place we'd visited a few times, each dinner intended to convince us not to come back. Denver doesn't seem like much of a restaurant town, so choices limit our choices.

Not that we know the place. We're true exurbans now. We complain about the lack of urban services in our exurban neighborhood, but we seem as lost as if we were from rural Kansas whenever we near the South Platte, the seasonal stream separating Downtown (both upper and lower, LoDo) from its residential counterweight to the West.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Lottery

lottery2
"We're lucky and cursed not by the lottery gods, but by ourselves."

I don't play the state lottery, mostly because I don't know how to play it. When I stop into our local inconvenience store, I usually find somebody buying a ticket, often several. I don't know what they do with them or how winners get selected. I do know that the odds of winning seem infinitesimal, and that I'm too embarrassed to ask how one 'plays' the game. I figure that if I was meant to know how to do that, I would have already learned how. I figure that I automatically win another sort of lottery by not knowing how to play the lottery, my lottery prevents me from ever losing a dime playing that other lottery. My ignorance serves as an insurance policy against the almost certain prospect of losing whatever I spend playing that other lottery.

I suppose that I play in many different lotteries. So far, I'm winning the health lottery, though I expect to eventually lose it. That's the thing about lotteries, play one long enough and you're guaranteed to lose.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Relevance

relevance
"I gain fresh appreciation that anything perceived to be beyond this moment
might be aching after irrelevance."

Aging might be a process by which we learn how to cope with encroaching irrelevance. What I twenty years ago thought might liberate some oppressed class, helped only a few find their innate freedom, and even then, I quake at the thought of ascribing anything I did to their discoveries. I at most served as a medium for any message I believed I carried, my audacity perhaps communicating most clearly whatever I was trying to say. I would stand up and speak. I often felt eloquent then, sometimes insightful. Those insights seem irrelevant now. Civilization seems to progress by going backwards to relearn what prior scholars and philosophers firmly believed they'd cleanly resolved. Fresh generations enter skeptical of their elders, and honor most of them by assuming they were at least misguided, but probably wrong.

Yet we, as a society, persist in sharing our insights, of audaciously standing up even when we should know that we'll later be found misguided, rightly or wrongly, it will not matter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TMI

flickr-amattox_mattox-neurons-20141223
"Maybe one or two of those delights might stick to you in turn."

Writers feed the monster, though we are no less susceptible to it than the least of our readers. Though not all readers consider themselves to be writers, all writers are also readers, taking in many multiples of what they ever produce. Any writer's output seems paltry when compared with the fire hose volume continually spewed in their direction. No self-respecting writer could ever let all that goody gush by without trying to take a few swallows. For a writer, the antidote for Too Much Information seems to be creating Even More Information, but, you know, a somewhat better class of it.

We serve foie gras by the spare ounce because a ton of it too closely resembles what the sous chef calls it: goose shit. Served sparingly, it's transcendently wonderful stuff. In excess, it turns to crap.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SwingArm

swingarm
"I washed my hands with Lava® soap after I finished the job, just like a real handyman would."

My readers know me to be nobody's handyman. Sure, I sometimes dress the part, hoping that my threadbare work clothes might somehow set a context within which I might manage to select the proper screwdriver for once, but handiwork requires some content behind the context. I'm learning, but I seem to have started way behind on the grand learning curve of handyman life, so I doubt that I'll ever catch up. My workbench tends toward cluttered. The sloping garage floor leaves me struggling to prevent my handyman chair from rolling down and into my work table. I seem to be at least one tool short of completing any project, almost invariably finishing by ineptly applying some lame hack. Usually.

The Muse's swing-arm floor lamp went bzzzzzt a few weeks ago. I'm no electrician, but even I could tell that the light bulb socket looked kind of fried. I wasn't that surprised.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Dirt

dirt
"Dirt lies in that thin layer between bedrock and sky where, on my knees, all things seem possible."

I figure anything really worth doing deserves my attentive procrastination. I'd dedicated nearly two full weeks to circling this effort, maybe closing in on starting, maybe deferring imagined agony. I kneel before the space as if performing some ritual, and perhaps I am performing a ritual, one I've repeated many times before, each instance different enough to carry great uncertainty. The sod needs removing. I don't know for sure what lies beneath it, though I imagine bedrock. Once I scratch this surface, I've committed myself to follow through whatever I might uncover there.

I fill a five gallon paint bucket with rocks for every yard I cultivate. The dirt itself seems fine, surprisingly so, featuring earthworms and decent soil. I'm surprised, maybe delighted. My muscles remember the routine.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

CleanSweep

sweep
"We can breathe again. Not necessarily breathe any more easily, but breathe."

I've never thought of myself as a slob. Few of us believe that we're the mess makers we turn out to be for everyone else. I maintain my tidinesses quite compulsively, if quietly. My "orderly" piles of books ready to my hand. My shoes lined up just so serve me just as I intended. The Muse maintains her order, too, mysterious (to me) central organizing principles and all. Tidy for me might well constitute a mess for anyone else. I stumble over The Muse's carefully placed shoes, too. The tangles between us remain largely inadvertent, preconscious resonance of a sense of order we each absorbed long before we suspected we were absorbing anything.

Cleaning, too, echoes traditions probably predating great grand parents. The Muse's sensitivity to dust and my tenacious inability to see dust might have each originated in some pioneer days survival strategy.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

ConverSayShuns

cat-and-mouse
"Rose probably knows more about me
than any other living being
and she still consents to sit on my lap
for almost ten minutes at a time …"

I most days spend more time talking to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat than to any other living being, other than myself. Many have written on the so-called art of human-to-human conversation, but I've found little advice on chatting with my most common companions. I've never really subscribed to the notion that one should converse in strategic ways, preparing as if for a debate competition and progressing as if engaged in chess. I'm more of the dialogue sort, engaging more to see what might emerge than to demonstrate how clever or well-prepared I could be. To my mind, no one ever wins a conversation, so I never worry about whether I've succeeded in scoring my points. I believe that real conversation has no point, so I might usefully engage with Rose The Skittish or even with myself without feeling as if I'm necessarily lonely or degrading my sociability by doing so.

"Hey, Weasel Head," I often begin when conversing with Rose, for she seems to undoubtedly embody the moniker. She sort of barks in response.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Noteworthy

Coors2
"Feels like home to me."

The town smells of roasted barley malt this morning. Home to Coors brewery for nearly a century and a half, Golden, CO often carries the signature aroma of brewing, proudly off-gassed directly into the neighborhood. Tourists travel from all over to visit the plant, a dystopian hulk of glowering towers and steaming chimneys straddling Clear Creek and stretching downstream for miles of barren warehouses and railroad-sided grain silos. I've never taken the tour myself, having a local address and all. I frequent the less known but perhaps more noteworthy Second Largest Brewery in Golden, housed in a neighborhood alley pole building and ancient milk house behind a small brick Victorian home just three blocks off the main drag. There, they pass pints and pitchers through a window in the milk house and patrons imbibe in a year-around, dog-friendly open air beer garden while seated at communal picnic tables. I'm likely to meet somebody I never met before while drinking there. The beer's also clearly distinguishable from Clear Creek's water, too, unlike the stuff Coors produces.

I'm not very attracted to the biggest and self-proclaimed best of anything, but much more to the second best, or third, or fourth, or even lower on the pecking order. The best seems a notorious self-designation, unseemly in its self regard.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Grumbling

thunder
"Around four this afternoon, the sky should commence to grumbling again."

The summer-ish sky starts darkening by four. I notice one towering thunderhead already east of me, moving like a single advance galleon leading a following armada. Then I notice a much larger fleet wallowing in to the north. Once I slip down into the valley, I see a dark smoke-screen smear obscuring the western horizon. More sails appear. It might already be raining up at the house. The Muse dawdles leaving the lab again. My mind generates alternative scenarios for skirting mindless freeway traffic, which instantly turns stupid with the arrival of any rain. The invaders depend upon our over-confidence and I refuse to fall prey and so I freely catastrophize while waiting on The Muse.

We make home before the storm makes landfall, though distant rumbling comes from the west, up and over the mountain separating us from the true west.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Audience

Photos_space_high_res_file_5
"If I am powerful, I am powerful not because stars speak to me,
but because I emphatically speak to stars."

Eventually, someone will ask the question wondering after your audience. Who do you think can hear you from where you stand? Whom do you intend to hear you? To whom do you imagine yourself speaking when you open your big yap? These are terrific questions and not simply because they border on the fundamentally unanswerable, the only questions really worthy of human consideration. For me, I never find a snappy answer to any of them, perhaps because of a little understood yet fundamental law of human communication. The most powerful messages come from those one never suspects capable of delivering powerful messages. We could call this The Bushwhack Principle. We easily filter out familiar sources, somehow second-guessing what they're gonna say and hearing what we anticipated rather than what was passed. How insightful could those messages likely be?

The Earth sits, from our perspective, in the middle of an apparently infinite number of light points surrounding us. Some rather close by, but most, millions of miles away. Let's say that those stars and pulsars and such represent our audience.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

TheGreatAmericanSongbook

TheGAP
"That's where our innate greatness always resided."

When my contemporaries were busy imprinting on GlamRock and headbanger Southern blues, I was distracted listening to old Frank Sinatra tapes, imprinting on the music made for a generation or two before mine; The Great American Songbook. I studied the life of Jimmy Van Heusen, the songwriter that The Chairman of the Board wanted to be when he grew up, memorized Johnny Mercer lyrics, collected Cole Porter records, and pined after the long lost nineteen thirties, a time a couple of decades before I was even born. I instantly recognize Dinah Washington's voice, pitch perfect and reputed to never, ever having required more than a single take to make a perfect rendition. I listen to Hot Jazz Saturday Night on Washington DC's venerable public radio station WAMU almost every Saturday evening and tune in to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey's Radio Deluxe every week.

When some popular recording artist of the seventies, eighties, nineties and so on passes on, I invariably never heard a thing they recorded.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gardening

handplow
"I refuse to leave remaining roots to serve as witnesses to any inept beheading of weed tops."

I consider myself a student of gardening. Not a grad student, either. I'm still struggling to learn my way around soil, water, plants, and light. True, I have recovered several gardens in my time, each different, results personally paved with many, many grievous errors along the way. My greatest influence might have been an early and repeated exposure to The Victory Garden, a PBS series filmed on a former heavily compacted clay parking lot turned into an immaculate acre of garden, complete with greenhouse and a host with seventy years of experience. It all looked so easy and fulfilling, with no episodes focusing upon endless weeding and broken turning forks. Heck, that garden hardly attracted any weeds at all.

I never tried to transform a heavily compacted clay parking lot into an immaculate acre, but I have amended soil with peat, perlite, sweat, and love.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MannersOfThinking

MannersOfThinking
" …his students can stumble upon a MannerOfThinking which might enable them to save themselves,
if only they'll stick with the pursuit."

To my mind, the greatest sin lies in telling people what they should do. Especially if I'm convinced that I really do know better. First of all, adults, even children, seem nearly immune to any sort of good advice and potentially hostile toward any intended to be good for them. We seem to want to discover and know for ourselves and when we don't, we really probably should. Much of what matters can't be transmitted as advice, no matter how good it might otherwise be. Still, many of us were early on convinced that we might usefully tap another's knowledge and somehow make it our own, either as passive witnesses like in school or as active inquisitors like in a court of law. How we come to know baffles most all of us sometimes.

Much of what we seem to know hardly qualifies as knowledge, anyway.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EarlyDark

flowermoon
"I have some places to go where I seem to need to carry the places I've been."

My internal alarm clock rouses me before the mechanical ones set for four am. I called The Muse out to the driveway last night to witness the moonrise, a fine, fat Flower Moon, the last full moon of Spring. By three thirty, the neighborhood lies bathed in deep velvet green, an almost glaringly subtle brightness subsuming what might otherwise have been merely dark of night. Night's darkness has already begun to recede, replaced with EarlyDark, a softer and gentler form of night. Morning hasn't quite yet shown her cards. The birds won't start twittering for another hour or so. Stillness reigns. Whatever outrage might rampage through the upcoming day still slumbers, catching up on her beauty sleep before inevitably turning ugly again after breakfast. The world seems gleefully solemn, satisfied with herself, and should be.

We leave the windows open all night, fumigating the whole house with flower freshness.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StormyWeather

stormyweather
" …the day hardly warrants remembering.
I hate it when that happens."

I knew perfectly well why there was no sun up in the sky. I'd been tracking lightening strikes for the prior couple of hours on the WeatherBug app. The line of storms had been moving steadily north and east, heading right for us. I mowed the lawn early. By the time I'd finished the chore, the temperature had dropped ten degrees and a gusty late March morning had emerged from the nearly-summer one. I'd hardly broken a sweat shoving that ancient push mower around the yard. I took this as a sign that I had been growing stronger for all my physical exertion this season, but I suspected the cooling wind. I'd opted to delay watering since the sky seemed as though it was aching to save me the trouble of hauling hose and placing sprinklers. It does little good to water when it's windy here, anyway.

The storm took her own sweet time arriving.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

AuntDavid

eyepatch
" …I insisted that I was henceforth Aunt David to him …"

Andrew, who must be eight now, always wants to take the steepest trail. Christopher, a couple of years older, insists upon zooming ahead of everyone else, blazing the trail, leaving the rest of us in his dust. Lilly stays close, intermittently screaming at Chris to slow down. I cede the lead, though I'm the only one who knows the way to the top of the peak. Everyone becomes just who they are when hiking.

I'd suggested a hike to the top of the mountain with the three middle kids, nephews and a niece, to fill that awkward hour between their arrival and supper time.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

EgyptianWalkingOnion

Egyptian Walking Onion sets -  summer
" … still actively aspiring, still learning, preserving the potential for if not better, at least different, later on."

The Muse and I cover the nearly twenty miles down to the Union Station Farmers' Market most summer-ish Saturday mornings, timing our arrival with the opening; easier parking, fewer people, more opportunities to chat with the farmers. Each week, something "new" appears on offer, or something new to me. This week's newby turned out to be Egyptian Walking Onions. I'd never seen them before, so I asked and got a long, nearly scholarly dissertation sprinkled with philosophy. These onions, like all onions, produce 'sets' atop their stalks, Eventually, these sets outweigh the stalks, causing them to fold over, placing the sets in proximity to the ground. There, the sets take root to grow a next generation. Over time, this repeated folding over to grow a next generation can result in the onions "walking" across a field, hence the name.

These onions aren't much to talk about.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Hallmark®Holidays

Hallmark
"Today, Wikipedia informs me, is World Thyroid Day, …"

My friend Franklin recently recounted his family's Mother's Day fiasco. They'd intended to do brunch at a fine Italian restaurant, but arrived to learn that they'd already sold out of everything Franklin's lovely wife Monica wanted, so they went strolling around the neighborhood, figuring a second best would quickly appear. Every place was booked solid with reservations. They finally settled for a seventies-era steak house where they served Corn Chex® as salad croutons. Monica teaches people how to cook like their grandmothers cooked and reviles "cereal" like Corn Chex® as the embodiment of everything evil with the industrial food system. Happy Mother's Day anyway!

Franklin reported that HallMark®Holidays seem to be the most troublesome ones.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

MayAM

MayAM
"I shy away from my shovel, knowing I will barely scratch the surface of this place."

By the last week in May, the sun finally gets around to rising at a decent hour, even encumbered by daylight saving time. By five, it's hardly dark anymore. By six, the sun's well up. The mornings will lengthen for the next month or so before starting to recede back into themselves again. This final month of Spring brings seven hour mornings and eight hour afternoons. Evening arrives just before bedtime. Morning's the choice time through this month. Afternoons can slump into thundershowers, naps, and tedium, but mornings vibrate with promise and possibility.

Aspen and cottonwood finally figure out how to fluff up their leaf cover again, hardly luffing in the languid breeze.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reticence

reticence
"Anyone not reticent about starting a new adventure
will end up with a lot more adventure than they bargained for."

I become reticent when facing a new challenge. I understand that this culture better appreciates those who at least appear decisive, but I have never been one of those hard charging full-speed-ahead kinds of people. Even hastening slowly seems to me to exceed a reasonable speed limit at the beginning. I become reflective, sensing an impending disruption more than any possible improvement. I'm not so much interested in or obsessed with whatever end state my actions might induce, but with the beginning state they will insist upon. Who must I become to begin? What must I leave behind to start?

I call this time The Essential Milling Around Period. No project schedule ever represents this useful activity because it seems useless, trying the patience of the more decisive, apparently producing nothing of real value; no measurable deliverable, no fluff of wind in anyone's hair to represent progress, which as General Electric used to proudly proclaim, "is our most important product."

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

HistoryLessen

JuneMorning
June Morning, Thomas Hart Benton

"It's a HistoryLessen to recognize how little anyone eventually knows."

When I peer into the portraits of my great great grandparents, I find the most superficial representation of these two people frozen in a forgotten moment in time. When were the photographs taken? I'm uncertain. Possibly eighteen ninety, give or take a decade. I know some of their backstory. My grandfather Elza's parents grew up on adjacent spreads in the dryland wheat country of Eastern Oregon's Gilliam County. He, on the top of Hale Ridge, some of the last land grant ground left by the 1880s. She, at the bottom of that ridge beside a year round stream. My great grandfather Nathaniel's chore as the oldest boy left after diptheria took his two older brothers involved herding his family's livestock to the stream at the bottom of that dry ridge to water them and to fetch water for household use, since their property had no water, no well, given that several thousand feet of basalt sat between it and the water table. My to-be great great grandmother Clara's family lived near the watering hole.

That story represents a kind of history which projects whatever image I might choose to infuse it with.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

PlantingSeason

PloughingItUnder
" … we've made another successful passage through the barren months."

Somewhere South of Mother's Day, PlantingSeason arrives. Sure, I'd been poking around the yard since March, but the containers which comprise most of our garden (thanks to the deer and elk, who seem to eat anything) have remained in garage storage until we could become reasonably certain the snow's finished with us for the season. The chokecherry tree's in glorious bloom, scenting the front yard with an aroma far sweeter than its fruit will ever become, or so I suppose since we've yet to see fruit on those trees. A killing frost or thunderous hail storm has managed to strike each year just as the trees reach full bloom, withering or bludgeoning the blossoms before fruit could set. This year might be different.

The bulk of our garden lives in containers on the back deck

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

InstantFamily

instantfamily
"a stop just about halfway between there and somewhere else"

Families don't happen in an instant. They are the oldest and most permanent part of our lives. They predate any particular member and so far, for The Muse and I, have always succeeded in outliving any individual member. The Muse and I have never grown accustomed to living separate from family, though it seems as if the last twenty years have been for us an extended exercise in living separate from family. We hold family in our hearts much more often than we ever hold them physically near. When we come into now rare proximity with our family, our hearts sing.

The Muse's brother Carl, his wife Louise, and five of their eight kids stopped for lunch yesterday on their way to Arizona to visit her ailing parents. They'd left the evening before in their shiny new Suburban Subdivision

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Neighbors

yappy-dog
"I guess the subtlety undermined the message."


I try to comport myself as a good neighbor. Honestly I do, but I can become yippie sometimes if provoked. It takes quite a lot to provoke me. Yesterday, after about eight hours either on a ladder or crouched low on my knees painting, I'd just settled into a camp chair on my freshly painted deck to reflect on a job well done when a yippie dog somewhere down the lane commenced to yipping. It was fairly emphatic, whatever the provocation. I figured it might quiet down after a few minutes, but I was mistaken. I leaned back to meditate for a few minutes, figuring I could probably repel the aural assault by focusing my mind. Let's just say that my mind has nothing on any duck's back. Later, I was moved to write a short vituperation and post it on our neighborhood list serve. I know, unrequested advice. Now, of course, I'm crouching, fairly terrified to see what feedback I've received.

The Muse serves as translator when one of these things happens, and she read back a few of the many responses.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Asympbotic

asymptotic
"I don't know what could possibly replace a sincere lack of foresight. "
Beware the wily asymptote,
he only knows how to run.
He quickly secures essential funding,
then never gets a hundred percent done.


Unlike the wily asymptote, I manage to get things done. Unlike him, my completions tend to happen quickly. My beginnings seem to take forever, though. I operate asympbotically, which is pretty much the opposite of the way our wily asymptote runs. He takes forever to never get completely done while I seem to take forever just getting started. Once started, I quickly complete the task, like a slacker rabbit racing a diligent but slightly misguided tortoise. Many physical operations follow the wily asymptote's path, so many that we generally forgive the asymptote's inevitable shortfall, ascribing it to nature, God's will, or plenty good enough for whatever kind of work we're engaged in. Who are we to insist upon an unnatural outcome?

For about 90% of the duration of any project, I'm convinced that it will never get completed.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Handyman Dave

Handyman
"I become a disciplined robot for the duration."

I doubt that any military campaign ever received more detailed planning. Logistics have been swirling around unresolved in my brain for days. This morning, the wet weather finally broke, the humidity dropped twenty percentage points, and the forecast predicts no chance of rain for the next two days. I can put on the two top coats of paint on the deck railing today and even slop over into tomorrow if I must. I linger in bed, running through more obscure details, the order of application seems to trouble me most. What sequence will minimize wait time between coats? Should I mount the ladder or squat on the deck first? I suppose I should apply that annealing primer to the top rail first. It's likely to take longest to dry.

I wear a uniform every bit as steeped in tradition as any general's.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

How To Create A Vatta Schmaltz

vatta
" I imagine that I'll stand a little taller even after I climb down from the precarious rung …"

I began writing this essay three days ago, but deleted it on the first re-read, before even posting it anywhere. This act seemed perfectly congruent with the weather, which had served up sequential foggy days with intermittent showers. Little light filtered through the low-hanging clouds and little light seemed to escape through it, either. I've felt suspended here, my latest painting project sidelined until the prep coat can thoroughly dry. I read some and snoozed a little, and for the first time since last June, nearly eleven months, I finished no new piece of writing for two consecutive days. Today, I'm attempting to slip back into my groove again.

The Muse and I had no idea when we relocated here three years ago this month, that we'd barely skirted the tail end of winter.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Gluten

gluten
"The sermon, repeated each visit, is delivered olfactorily, in glory and excelsis, a cloud of nearly overwhelming sweetness, brimming with righteousness and salvation."

I heard this week that the Potomac (Maryland) Nationals, a minor league franchise of the National League's Washington Nationals, hosts periodic peanut-free baseball nights, so those allergic to peanuts but addicted to live baseball can exercise their addiction while respecting their allergy. Allergies can sometimes seem like a laughing matter until you discover that you've contracted one. I, over the last few years, seem to have become allergic to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat. I consider my newly-acquired affliction ironic. My daughter has a gluten allergy severe enough to remind her with headaches whenever she decides to go ahead and eat the wheat bread before her. She tries to stay with the spelt stuff, which can be decent when properly prepared.

I am an unapologetic member of the local Gluten Appreciation Society. We meet each Saturday morning in a nondescript small industrial park in Golden, Colorado, the home of the snarkily-named Grateful Bread Company, a wholesale purveyor of high-end breads that opens for retail sales only on Saturday mornings.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Civility

civility1
"Even Slugbug can be enjoyably played without resorting to slugging anybody."

Yes, The Muse and I continue to enthusiastically play Slugbug every time we're traveling together in the car, but we maintain a certain civility when engaging. We do not, for instance, actually slug each other, like a six year old might. Yes, we do observe the catechism, "Slugbug, no slug back," but only to preserve the essential form of play. Some days, The Muse quite joyfully skunks me, spotting a hot half dozen before I spy my first. Other days, it's me holding her underwater, reveling in my easy accumulation. Honest, there's no underlying malice. It's just a game for us.

I hold open doors for whomever follows me inside. If an adjacent driver signals to change lanes, I make it my business to open enough space for their shift. I expect similar civility from those around me, but I won't hold my breath until I receive it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

OldFashioned

oldfashioned
"All things considered, I'd rather ride the bus."

I'm old-fashioned in the way that thirties black and white films are old fashioned, unselfconsciously. I do not paint my deck while wearing a suit, tie, and broad-brimmed fedora, though I do have a deck, something almost nobody had in the thirties. I'm also familiar with more modern scientific concepts. I no longer smoke. I never could dance, but I never couldn't enviously eye Fred Astaire's smooth moves. I suspect any store larger than a mom and pop shop. I despise freeways. I don't believe in microwaves. I prefer black and white photography, including films. Current movies and music baffle me. I still listen to old radio serials on Sunday nights and hot thirties jazz on Saturday nights, finding them preferable and far superior to anything of more recent vintage, with the occasional exception of baseball.

I read a lot, something of a lost art after alternative medias elbowed their way into the arena. I'd really rather stay in an old hotel, with the bathroom down the hall, than in another anonymous Marriott.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Suddenlies

suddenly
"I grieved the end of summer last year but hardly prepared for its eventual return …"

This world trades in Suddenlies. For the longest time, stuff stays the same, as if stuck. Then suddenly, everything changes. Spring this year seemed to take her own sweet time to come, carrying Winter's frozen water for weeks and weeks before finally melting into herself. Likewise, Spring has suddenly become Summer six full weeks before Summer was scheduled to arrive. The neighbor kids run barefoot down the same street snow covered just a week ago. The yard, dormant then, turned bright green overnight. The season hasn't changed yet, but some Suddenlies sure showed up.

Boredom might be a natural manifestation of a deep disbelief in Suddenlies.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Chislic

chislic
"Life goes on a little richer. Bring a Pepcid®"

The Muse explains as I wonder what the heck chislic is. The menu describes what sounds like chicken fingers, breaded, deep fat fried, except with "finger steak", whatever that is. She says that it's a South Dakota thing, common bar food, a dish she's known about all of her life. I'd never heard of it. In deference to me, she orders some so I can taste without committing to a full order. I nibble a piece and gratefully leave the rest for her. Some will remain after we've both finished our meal.

The Muse pulls up the Wikipedia page describing the many variations on the dish.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Plotting

30_plotting
" … we're leaving with the destination unknown, but only because it's properly unknowable now."

I'm up early this morning, plotting the course for the start of the return trip. I learned on the way up that The Muse had planned for a two day run back home, which took me by surprise. I'd thought we'd tuck down our heads and drive the seven hundred miles in a single day, but she insists upon toodling back like we toodled up, and I'm more than agreeable. I texted the cat sitter to please put out the garbage on Tuesday morning and set about considering how we might spent that extra day. Distances seem so vast here that we tend to stay within the same narrow escape and reentry paths, struggling to justify the additional hours any alternate might demand, but with a whole extra day to play with, plenty of choices emerge. Too many choices emerge.

If the purpose of plotting is to pre-determine how we'll go, I'm not really plotting at all.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Birdlife

Birdlife
"Forces marshaling before the great reconquering and resettling begins."

The ruckus starts early, before the sun crests the low eastern hills, and continues well into the morning. A slow decrescendo continues until later afternoon, when the ruckus starts again. Mourning doves count continuous cadence against which grackles chitter. Robins hop nearly ten feet in the air before returning to their relentless stalking. Swallows silently swoop through. Sparrows by the dozens fine groom unturned soil. Redwing black birds noisily defend territory. Hawks and turkey buzzards surveil from a few hundred feet above. Canada geese point out every imperfection troubling their passage, leaving behind cigar butt trails. The prairie blooms first in bird life. Before dandelion and quince, before tulip and cherry, birdsong breaks the long winter silence with exuberance, the soundtrack of budding life.

The passenger jets from Minneapolis fly over a fly zone that extends clear down to the ground.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

NotGoingHome

NotHome
"We must be heading somewhere else."

The map doesn't hint at the disparity between what it represents for us and what we'll find there. The roads seem unchanged, though a few new businesses have sprouted up along the still familiar route. My first visit, twenty years ago now, and The Muse's childhood here moved away long ago, leaving what was then the future in their wake. We, hampered by memories and lingering, long-lost first impressions, reenter for the first time again. We wade through what we expected to find, hardly able to see what we find. Old relationships have become history. Relatives still familiar, though everyone's been constantly changing since the last time we came. Us, too. We feel no more than almost familiar to ourselves here now.

The end isn't coming because it already came, elbowed aside by new beginnings again.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Reveal

reveal
"… keep the roads clearer for those of us who come here for the reveals."

Top a hill or round a bend and experience another reveal. Driving across Nebraska, off the Interstate, produces a recursive kinescope of the state. Each hill, every damned turn and twist in the road, reveals a similar yet quite different perspective. I feel as if I'm delving ever deeper into what those who observe while flying over from thirty six thousand feet see as simply flat. True, with the exception of Scott's Bluff, nothing but ghostly grain elevators loom against any horizon here. Quite false that the country is flat, or even seriously flat-ish, for it rolls and seems to swirl as we top another hill and round yet another bend.

Difference, those of us blessed or cursed to have been raised in mountain country, seems to require altogether much more drama than it actually needs.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blogging

blogging
"I write, therefore I blog."

I posted my first blog entry on January 12, 2006. I labeled it The Autistic Organization. My editor at the time had taken great offense at its content so it had proven unsuitable for formal publication. I figured it qualified as blog material, so I started this blog called PureSchmaltz. Choosing a 'platform' proved nearly overwhelming, a road paved with more good advice than I could use. Many strongly recommended WordPress, but I could not figure out how to navigate around in it. It seemed to have been designed for people who learned to use computers using MicroSoft software on a Windows machine, two mediums I never could figure out. I decided to limit my search to native Apple apps, and found a start-up called RapidWeaver. I've been using their software for eleven years. Not all those years have been pleasant, as this software, like all software, occasionally suffers from improvements, aka upgrades, which usually degrade the quality of operation for a few days or a few months. Still, I've found nothing better suited to me.

I'm no computer wiz.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SouDakoda

SouthDakota
"In Sou'Dakoda, though everyone seems to drive with a lead right foot,
time isn't so conveniently hurried away."

The Muse and I are fixin' to take a toodle northeast tomorrow, heading toward Sou'Dakoda, which we should enter the morning after. We're heading up there for a family event, one of those one-of-a-kind sort of gatherings we've mostly missed in recent years. The Muse especially feels those twinges pulling her back toward her home country from this latter-day homeland. The road between here and there runs through some of the most diversely interesting territory in the nation and also some of the most mind-numbingly uninteresting spaces. The Eastern Plains of Colorado fall under the latter category. I consider them a three hundred mile long dedication test, a gauntlet sometimes featuring fierce sidewinds, monster commercial semi-truck rallies, and undifferentiated khaki-colored prairie. Even with the willows finally showing some soft green along the riverbanks, that part of the trip promises distracting desolation.

Once in Nebraska, the Sand Hills add some variety to the panorama. We'll wend our way up into and through Nebraska, for there's no other way to cross the place. Grant Wood would have felt right at home there where the two lane black top twists and twirls through rough cut gullies and draws.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Blah!

blah1jpg
"Maybe, just maybe, a total lack of inspiration might prove to be inspiring enough today."

Boredom might be the single unforgivable sin in our chirpy, self-help society. Each of us has been schooled in the doctrine of self-determination, in at least the rudiments of self-promotion, and with plenty of positive self-regard crammed in the few remaining spaces. We are not allowed Blah! days and we are not supposed to talk about them if we experience them, for they admit to the most personal sort of failure, the kind no one can credibly claim that the dog or anybody else committed. These are all on old number one.

They tried to teach me. Perhaps I wasn't listening. Maybe I didn't want to listen.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

GoodNeighbors

derelectfence
"We all live in glassier houses than we imagine …"

I suppose that Robert Frost waxed ironic when he proclaimed that good fences make good neighbors. In my experience, good fences distance neighbors, separating more than property. I've had good neighbors and not so good ones, great fences and crappy ones, even sometimes no fence at all. I built one from scratch nearly forty years ago that still stands as sturdily as when I first set it, pressure-treated posts encased in concrete and cedar pickets painstakingly set. Somebody built a house on what was then an empty field next door, an out-sized place now glowering down on my modest little fence which I only intended to contain the kids when they were small. The kids are long grown. It's somebody else's neighborhood now.

Our latest neighborhood doesn't allow fences, this to allow the free passage of elk and deer through yards that are more mountain meadow than finely-groomed turf, though some persist in presenting the grand illusion that only a closely-cropped green expanse can offer in an arid climate. They're welcome to their water bills.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pegboard

pegboard1
"I find myself at peace."

I sit in the yard sale office chair with my feet up on my workbench. I just finished restaining the deck while listening to a baseball game. The home team ignominiously lost in ten innings. After four hours on my knees with paint brush and roller, I'm grateful to simply sit but still jazzed up enough to not quite want to sit still. I survey the garage in the late afternoon sun, getting up to perform some little chore before sitting back down again. I'm burning piñon incense in the background, the smoke somehow purifying the place. I've cleaned up the brushes and tray, hanging the brushes to dry. My eye wanders to my pegboard wall, the first "improvement" I added after we moved in here.

Maybe it's only the after work beer thinking, but I consider that pegboard a fine self-portrait, one perhaps improved by the fact that I constructed it without the notion that I might have been engaged in self-portraiture, completely unselfconsciously.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Aren't

aren't
"The way things aren't might not matter much at all."

The Muse reports that she's been on a tear at work lately, fed up with what she sees as an unhealthy fixation upon the way things aren't. It's a common and powerful seduction, to parse the surrounding territory as what it most clearly isn't. Look out the window on a rainy morning and characterize the view as "not sunny." This perspective almost guarantees disappointment. More importantly, it separates the observer from the way it is. If all change rests upon the full , albeit temporary, acknowledgement of the way things are, this sort of perceiving seems to guarantee that nothing will change. How it should be, with the addition of bus fare, will get you a ride downtown. Absent that bus fare, you'll likely just get to watch the bus head downtown without you.

So much energy these days seems to be expended describing how things aren't.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Anonymity

anonymity-1
"It seems as if nobody knows anybody anymore."

At the time of The Dismemberment, our personal and professional bankruptcies, we relocated to Washington, DC, where The Muse had found work. The settling in felt incredibly sad, with us initially sequestered in a high-rise overlooking the Roslyn, Virginia, fire station and directly beneath the approach path to National Airport. Planes passed just overhead every forty five seconds between six am and ten pm, and several sirens-blaring responses screamed out of the firehouse each day. The cats never adjusted to that apartment where the only ground they could see lay a dozen floors beneath them. They'd hop onto the railing, peer down, and scream in abject frustration. Back home, before The Dismemberment, even the cats maintained a certain reputation around the neighborhood, but none of any of that transferred for any of us. We'd become anonymous.

Anonymity imparts a ghost-like presence.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Bottomless

bottomless
"If I burn myself out now, I might be right on time."

In my relative youth, I tried to learn how to parcel out my efforts, lest the old well run dry. The well never once ran dry, but I remained cautious of over-doing, understanding somehow that excess might bring a bill greater than I was prepared to pay. I avoided becoming a burn-out, one of those geezers mumbling into his beard, his penny spent on some youthful excess or another. I wouldn't push myself to write, for instance, but favored the old 'let it come' approach, figuring I could rely upon inspiration to fuel my progress. I used to write a song a month, or try to. Now, I meet songwriters taking a challenge to write a song a day for a month, and they do it. I can say that not every song produced in this way achieves the quality one might hope for any tune, but it's nonetheless quite an accomplishment. I can't see myself agreeing to so engage, though.

It's true that I write at least a short essay every day, but I don't think of myself as necessarily going for volume.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SockedIn

SockedIn
"I appreciate the fog over the curious clarity of the properly formed plot line."

Living at seven thousand eight hundred feet above sea level, I sometimes find more than my head in the clouds. Here, I might wake up to a full body immersion in the clouds, absolutely SockedIn. The usual modest level of background sounds muffle to almost nothing save the screech of delighted magpies when they somehow find that bowl filled with the spoiled batch of quinoa or the crusty cat food I left out for them the night before. Trucks on I-70 disappear in the haze, their noise contained, even their headlights mere whispered hints of their passage. The dog walkers come out around sunrise regardless of the weather, the yippie pups grumbling under their breath, a welcome reprieve from their usual snippy snarling.

My head seems filled with clouds, too, fat insulating ones as my sinuses adjust to the altitude's pervasive aridity again and with my reintroduction to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's incessant shedding.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Betweenings

betweening
"It's so quiet here."

For a while, everything seems like a dream. I become a rather distant observer of my own activities, separate and dispassionate. I greet the flight attendant who probably doesn't recognize that I'm disconnected, hardly present. The turbulence seems like it's happening to somebody else. I change planes in a daze, surprised to find myself at the departure gate and finding my seat just as if I knew what I was doing. I read my book and refuse sustenance, a ghost on a plane. I'm in no hurry, neither the first nor the last to board the tram to baggage claim. My bag arrives soon enough. I text The Muse to tell her that I'm on my way to the passenger pickup area, then simply wait until she arrives.

An observer might say that I'd arrived home, though my internal experience feels less definite than that.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Endings

Endings1
"A week later, perhaps more, some fresh bright shiny will attract my attention
and I'll find myself facing forward again."

I'm not looking to watch angels dancing on the head of any pin, but I was wondering when the end began and when it might end. Mid-afternoon, my niece's husband, our contractor for the remodel, packed up and left me to prune out the apricot tree and trumpet vine, all alone in the emptier driveway. Earlier my step son helped me disassemble the jury-rigged paint shed, my home away from home for much of the effort, and haul it away to the dump. I packed the Blue Box with the surviving brushes and other supplies, stacked the keeper paint cans together, took off my smocky painting shirt, now smeared with a fresh palette of color, removed my spattered painting shoes, and closed that garage door one final time.

Dearest old friends had invited me to supper, so I timed my washing up so I wouldn't arrive late. Downtown roared with activity. I had to park two whole blocks from the restaurant. Wine bars overflowed patrons out onto the sidewalks. Music, or the rougher equivalent of it, echoed down Main Street with competing tunes. Sidewalk tables filled. It seemed like the old days again, when every Friday night was shopping night as Dam Workers with fresh paychecks filled the streets of this small city, and families sauntered through Wards, Sears, Newberries, and J. C. Penney's, fingering dry goods with buttered popcorn-slick fingers.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SittingWithTheMess

Its-a-mess.
" … moving at the approximate speed of drying paint."

This, too, shall pass, I suppose. The final touches come more like desperate throat grabs, determined to strangle the liveliness out of the effort. Unforeseen complications reverberate through the whole structure this late in the project, after the hip bone's connected to every other danged bone in the body. Tiny discoveries set back the projected end by two days in just four days. My job as the owner/observer remains to provide some relative unflappability. I dare not lose my cool.

One of my Seven Ethical Responsibilities insists that I hold the responsibility to SitWithTheMess. Not IN the mess, for that would simply taint my presence. Not simply beside it, but With it, fully acknowledging its potentially poisoning presence without tumbling to its continuing attempts to seduce me into sitting in the middle of it. The mess might even be my friend.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

SomethingNew

woodchips
"A truly terrible influence, indeed."

Usually, when The Grand Other, our eight year old granddaughter, arrives home from school, she wants to plug into MindCrap, some sort of video game that has completely enthralled her. She will insist upon reading with her dad, a homework assignment but also, for her, more of a sacred obligation. This week, though, we've been walking down to the park to swing. Not too many years ago, she struggled to develop the coordination to properly swing, but now she quickly gains the stratosphere. This week, she's become more interested in the curly slide; more precisely, in climbing up the curly slide backwards.

She hesitantly approached the challenge, confiding that climbing the slide backwards was against the rules at school. I argued that the park wasn't school and she reluctantly tried then quickly failed to make it more than halfway up.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Untiming

frozen-in-time-gothicolors-with-crows
" … a fool's mission, but nonetheless our only mission now."

Time slows rapidly as the end of any project nears. Gravity seems to work harder and even the simplest task takes multiples more time than expected, as if the project was trying to deflect completion. Supplies go missing. Backlogs shrink but only under ever increasing effort. Momentum stalls and a different physics takes over, one not subject to familiar universal laws. Mastery reverts into apparent naivety again. Almost any effort utterly exhausts. The tiniest task takes forever to get started and even longer to clean up after. Done hovers just out of reach, chuckling malevolently. I put my head down and continue moving forward against obviously insurmountable odds.

We could just declare the whole thing finished as it is and most would never notice the absent final polishing, but we would.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Waiting ...

waiting1
"I'm certainly a sucker for the technology I carry around in my pocket."

I might be addicted to weather prediction. I find myself continuously checking WeatherUnderground then following up by double checking WeatherBug, comparing their predictions against each other. WU predicts light showers to start at six am. WeatherBug reports that the closest lightening strike in the last thirty minutes occurred twenty one hundred and three miles away. No need for me to duck and cover this morning. The current radar shows a snow cloud moving toward my current location. I wonder if I'll be painting shoe molding this morning or waiting for the rain to arrive instead.

The ninety percent chance of wind and rain yesterday turned out to produce a passably perfect April day with bright sun speckled with mildly threatening clouds which hopped right over us.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

StillLearningAgain

child-reading-a-book-650x400
" …all the way down and back again."

Few people learn how to play a musical instrument as adults, perhaps because once musical taste develops beyond a certain (rather uncertain) point, those initial squawky sounds stop sounding like progress but more like failure to the budding virtuoso's ear. When I first picked up that old Washburn guitar when I was in the fourth grade, every sound that emanated from that instrument sounded like sweet music to me, not like the cacophony the rest of the family heard. I "played" until the ends of my fingers blistered, then continued playing until they bled. Then I'd patch them with Band-Aids® and continue playing some more. This story perfectly encapsulates learning for me. For me, it requires a certain (rather uncertain) amount of delusion which fuels an appearance of dedication. I couldn't stop trying to play that old guitar. I remember having little choice in the matter.

Some learning requires real dedication, though.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

BeadBoard

06-beadboard
"May they grace the space … for another hundred and ten."

The bead board first appeared as an inspiration. We'd started removing that regrettable seventies wallpaper and sheetrock to find bead board beneath. Original to the house, much of it remained in near pristine condition. The Muse and I considered this find to be one of those serendipitous symbols that simply insist upon catching our attention, a once in a lifetime opportunity we 'daresn't' ignore, so we changed the plan. Rather than simply refinish the walls with newer sheetrock, we'd use the bead board to create wainscoting which would highlight the kitchen and its half bath while showcasing some of the place's heritage, a prototypical Bright Idea. "I know, we could put on a show!"

Like in the old Andy Hardy movies, turning the derelict barn into a Broadway theater for a single amateur performance turned out to be a tad bit more work than the originating Bright Idea anticipated, but the kids channel their considerable talent as well as their all-consuming delusion to, in short time, create a stage worthy of a Busby Berkeley production.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

High February

HighFebruary
"August will eventually arrive and offer no February,
high or low,
and little respite on the other side."

I imagine this season to constitute a steady progression toward summertime, but it takes wild divergences along the way. I might wake up one morning to find May outside, and another, walk smack into High February. The last few days have felt more like February than April, cold rain slipping out of low scudding cloud. The rain seems to amount to almost nothing, but accumulates in every hollow depression. The damp pervades, penetrating even my waterproof jacket and quickly seeps into my shoes. I squish around in damp socks, trying to maintain some semblance of a cheerful, seasonal Springtime attitude, but the effort exhausts me. The weather report predicts more "light rain," but it seems more like dark matter than uplifting light.

The roses and flowering crabapple were fooled, too, for they came dressed up to receive swarms of nectar-seeking bees rather than chilling rain.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Closure

closure
"A pocket full of Closure seems a poor reward for touching the face of God."

As a project nears completion, as the long-anticipated moment of Closure nears, nobody's planning any ticker tape parades down Fifth Avenue; quite the opposite. A creeping sense of imminent demise stalks the effort, gravity works overtime while everyone else arrives late and leaves early. The workspace seems increasingly flatter, as each completed component subtracts from the breadth and width of the small universe the project unavoidably created when it began. Infinite aspiration recedes into all-too finite acceptance and the almost begrudging acknowledgement that the adventure portion of the program has ended. All the significant choices having already been made, the world no longer stretches before anybody, but shrinks around what only those who were there will ever fully appreciate. We feel somehow smaller than we thought we would. Ready the fork. We're nearly done.

In this culture, we talk as if completion was somehow the purpose of activity, as if effort were the medium and Closure better embodies the "real." The remaining artifact never fairly represents the effort invested in producing it.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Pastwords

erase-the-past
"A quietly malevolent voice seeps from the shadows velcoming me home."

One day, little of this will matter. Maybe not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but one day. Yesterday, it seemed to matter a whole lot more than it does this morning. Perhaps tomorrow, it will slip across the boundary into not much mattering anymore. For now, it's a toleration, an experience which falls South of anything one aspires to be mindful about but which nonetheless cannot seem to be purged from foreground awareness and therefore simply screams to be tolerated instead. I'm holding my breath rather than deeply inhaling. I cower rather than standing tall. I anticipate worse than will probably occur. I've lost my password, leaving less than nothing in its place. No, I didn't forget. I never knew but was unaware that I was unaware. Now, that Pastword stares me down, double dog daring me to think back to an event I doubt ever even happened as a condition of my continuing access. I shiver along cold curbstone, in exile for now.

Let's say that I did forget my password.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

LastClass

lastclass


"I think the experience improves as one moves toward the back of the queue,
the LastClass on the plane."

In my relative youth, when I seemed to be on an airplane at least twice a week, I guarded my frequent flier status as if it was the crown jewels. I'd call thirty seconds after the earliest possible moment allowed to request upgrades and carted around a treasured pile of upgrade coupons in my knapsack. I'd board the plane first, settling into a leather seat to sip a complementary beverage before the rest of the passengers even boarded. I could lounge around in the first class lounge before the flight, though nowhere else in my life did the concept of lounging ever come up. I imagined myself living the good life, though off airplane, my life seemed basically pedestrian. I was a minor king in the air.

When I stopped traveling so much, my frequent flier status plummeted.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Swirl

flowing-ink
"C'est la vie."

While working in the garage yesterday, I quite suddenly noticed an obstruction in my left eye, as if a long lock of hair had fallen over it. My hair's not that long anymore. I brushed whatever it was aside, or tried to, but it wouldn't leave. I sat for a moment, covering my eyes with my palms, to no avail. The swirl remained. I thought that maybe I'd just suffered a stroke, but no numbness appeared. I thought for a moment that This Was It, the great exiting wave, overcoming me when I least expected it. This really pissed me off. I felt myself prepared for a lingering death, one where I could at least showcase my detachment, but a squirt of squid ink in my dominant eye, that I had not considered and I felt completely unprepared, insulted, really.

I begged off the dinner date The Muse had scheduled with our friend and hovered around home, lying quietly listening to a baseball game and pondering my imminent demise.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments

Vortexting

vortex
"The price of living might not be the soul, which seems pretty securely attached, but the spirit …"

I'm scheduled to be on an airplane morning after tomorrow and I already feel the pull. I have grown to despise flying. I suspect this feeling represents an intimation of encroaching old age, for I used to love to fly, even commuting to and from one job by air: down on Monday morning, back home Thursday or Friday night, but only for three years. Then, too, I'd retire somewhere on Sunday night and attempt to collect my spirit for the upcoming week, for flying discombobulates the spirit, even if one finds the experience uplifting, which I no longer do. I've long believed that the human spirit moves, through long tradition, at about the speed of a walking horse. Of course airplanes move a couple of orders of magnitude faster, which means that the spirit ends up chasing after the passenger until said passenger manages to sit still long enough for said spirit to catch up and reconnect. I'm reasonably certain that my spirit will be playing frantic catch-up until at least fifty years after I'm planted without this week's impending departure. I can feel the pull.

The pull comes from opposite directions.

Slip over here for more ...
Comments