Led-Gend

Led-Gend
Illustration from Legends of Charlemagne by Thomas Bullfinch, Illustration by N. C. Wyeth, 1950
"What fantastic mural might W. C. Wyeth have produced to depict MY story?"

Mary Colter, famed designer for the Fred Harvey hotel chain, always began her work by creating a rich fantasy about the building she intended to design. These fantasies had nothing to do with historical accuracy, but with design coherence. When faced, as designers inevitably are, with trade-offs, she'd refer to her fantasy to determine which alternative most closely cohered with her underlying story. Her La Posada in Winslow, Arizona, though partially dismantled into railroad offices in the sixties, still exudes a fantastic attention to small detail. A guest feels a sense of every element being precisely in its place, right for its purpose. From the wide hacienda porch around back to the great room tucked between the first and second floors, even down to the inconveniencing absence of an elevator, the place seems to be precisely what it purports to be, the legacy of a childless Spanish land-grant holder who bequeathed his inherited one hundred fifty year old home. It was none of that, of course, except Colter's Fantasy Led-Gend seems to have made it so.

I had concluded that a guiding vision needed some grounding in reality, but I might have wrongly concluded.

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ComingIn

ComingIn
"Living suddenly amounts to observing the passionate play and finding myself in it."

An average of a hundred and twenty-five unique page views passed through the PureSchmaltz Facebook Group each day last week. I find myself struggling to maintain my reputation as a loner and outsider with such crowds observing me. I've long identified with the old Five of Pentangles Tarot Card, where two street urchins pass by a warmly lit church window in the snow. The Muse always asks why I don't just go inside where it's warm. I usually respond that I do not know why. Perhaps I felt myself in the middle of my metaphorical forty days wandering through wilderness or had not dressed myself properly for entering a church, but I'd insist that I felt as though I could not belong, regardless of how warm of a welcome I might receive there. I'd continue trudging. Trudging can become habit-forming, a genuine addiction, and I might have grown to serve as its poster boy, for I have nurtured my trudge and grown accustomed to my place in society, but trudgers require a certain anonymity if they are to maintain their lowly social status. Surrounded by appreciative throngs, even a champion trudger seems a tragic parody.

I CameIn over the last week, an act almost entirely but not completely the opposite of Coming Out.

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ReEntries

ReEntering1
"We arrive home just to feel gone all over again."

ReEntering exacts the full price of absence. The longer-anticipated any repatriation, the greater that price. Twelve days gone returns to find a backlog. The place smells odd. The cat-sitter didn't take out the garbage. The dishwasher we thought we'd left running had not been turned on and had become a smelly science project in our absence. The place seemed knee-deep in cat fur. I lit a stick of that piñon incense The Muse had found in Arizona, though The Muse cautioned me to burn only one because it kicked up her allergies. Better to offload the suitcases in the laundry room rather than schlepp them upstairs full of stuff that would just need carting downstairs again. The Muse sets to sorting laundry, an activity I've learned to avoid lest I offend her delicate and mysterious sensibilities. She's still never successfully explained her sorting algorithm to me. I unload the car, perfectly packed after so many days on the road, a precise place for everything and not a single item out of place. A great undoing commences.

The kittens, predictably, do not rush to greet us.

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ColoradoWelcome

ColoradoWelcome
Building the New Road (mural study, Golden, Colorado Post Office), Kenneth Evett, 1941: Smithsonian American Art Museum
"The asylum doors once again successfully breached."

A ColoradoWelcome seems similar to a Bronx Cheer in that both terms describe the opposite of lived experience. A Bronx Cheer turns out to be nothing more than a slobbery demeaning jeer, more mocking than welcoming. A ColoradoWelcome works more like a prolonged dedication test seemingly intended to determine whether an arrival can be broken before allowing entry. Both localities prove to be tough places to live, let alone to visit, so the local Welcome Wagon® tries its darndest to chase off that newcomer or returning resident to either keep the riffraff out or, perhaps, to preserve the place exclusively for the riffraff already there. Try entering Colorado by air and you'll experience turbulence like you never imagined possible, deplaning to swear to never set foot onto another airplane again. Attempt entry by road and you'll come to experience more than you ever wanted to know about harrowing. No road leads directly to Colorado but must pass through some deeply discouraging buffer zone first. Once inside, something will encumber your passage. Escaping's every bit as daunting as gaining entry.

A hundred years ago, Colorado experienced one of those periodic squirts of All American optimism so common to the nation's history.

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Redemption

NewMexico_Spot_Alligators_1_134a5614-9ac1-4012-b9b6-0e297463a15c
"May our former blockages find peace rusting beneath a wind-whipped Southwestern sun."

Home seems unfamiliar now. Twelve days toodling around The Great American Southwest has left us accustomed to continual difference. We stage for our attempted homecoming in the most alienating place in The Great American Southwest: Los Alamos, New Mexico. This state, the quirkiest in the lower forty-eight, is neither new nor Mexico, but New Mexico, more a state of consciousness than geographic territory. Here, desert turns back into verdant mountains again. The Sangre de Cristo burn crimson each sunset. A frigid wind reminds us that we left the South behind some time ago and that we're nearer the Midwest now. We're apparently headed home.

I've dreaded this last day since the day we left, expecting a mad scramble through the Cimarron, over a treacherous Raton Pass, and along the sleezy western extent of the Eastern Plains to reach home, but our dear friends Mark and Rita reminded us of US 285, a more civilized two-lane alternative which sneaks up through the middle of Colorado, an hours-shorter and seemingly less-harrowing alternative to the most primitive of the unimproved Interstates.

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Reconnection

reconnecting
"The School of Athens" by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino
"Bad fences eventually fall, leaving the finest neighbors of all."

If I could receive my druthers, there would be no divorce, dislocation, dismemberment, or death. I do not always get my way. Some separation naturally occurs. Someone moves away. A phone number goes missing. Another commits Facebook Suicide and falls off that corner of my Earth. I slip into one of my signature periodic depressions and consume my presence with paranoia. Any of at least ten thousand individual causes might conspire to separate one from another, and once unbound, that once thriving relationship stays unfound, sometimes permanently, or seemingly so. We live in big ruts, unable to even imagine up and over the sides. We stay inside rather than venturing out. I hermit, and claim to prefer the lifestyle. The Muse might know better. She forces me up and out to wander about, to see what I might otherwise never even imagine seeing.

I'm at root a big chicken.

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WhyFidelity

WhyFidelity
The (Great) Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder - c. 1563
"One day, we'll plug ourselves into a recharge cord as soon as we sit in the driver's seat …"

My iPhone features so many settings that it's a genuine wonder why it works at all. I don't often use it to make or receive calls, for even with the speaker turned up just as loud as it goes, it whispers at me. Further, when traveling, I find myself more often out of range than anywhere within it. Whole cities like Tucson seem mostly comprised of dead zones. Heaven help anyone seeking a wi-fi connection, for these seem few and very far between. Starbucks® remains the travelers old reliable, though, offering clean rest rooms and decent wi-fi almost everywhere. They serve the traveler like Kinko's® used to before FedEx® took them over. The Muse downloads maps of the region to her iPhone because otherwise GoogleMaps® would mostly remain inaccessible. I tend to ignore my iPhone when traveling, so complicated does connecting become. The Muse and The Otter mysteriously remain somewhat online regardless, probably because they've mastered their settings in ways that I most certainly never will. We hop from HotSpot to HotSpot seeking to stay connected.

I can't remember how I stayed connected before cell phones, even though my connection today seems spotty and intermittent.

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Timelessnesses

Timelessness1
The Dance, Henri Matisse, 1910
"On brothers, sisters, and friends."

I firmly believe that we live in communion with others, not so much isolated beings but interconnected ones. What passes for individuality describes slight variations on a very common theme, and could not exist at all were it not for our fellows surrounding us, yet I spend much of my time alone, in at least the convincing appearance of hermit-like isolation. I know my neighbors to nod to. I know librarians, store clerks, and shopkeepers more intimately than I know anyone else living close to me. I pretty much keep to myself, or did until The GrandOtter moved in a few weeks ago and before Max and Molly, our kitten siblings, took up residence a few weeks before that. I maintain a long list of social media friends, many of whom I know more about than I know about my siblings. I see The Muse mornings, evenings, and most weekends, but we keep different daily schedules which leaves me plenty of 'alone time,' which might not count as time at all.

I've seen more close friends on this now ten day toodle through The Great American Southwest than I usually see in many, many months.

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Cordiality

cordiality
The Inn Keeper by Edward Charles Barnes, before 1882
"Cordiality makes our world go 'round square, with hardly a wobble."

The Iron John Brew Pub in old downtown Tucson sells beer in minimalist surroundings. The bartender greets me cordially, just what I need as I lead The Otter and The Muse into the place. I feel initially dissatisfied with the offerings, a collection of burnts and sours, but quickly enough winnow options down to a choice. The Muse chooses a Licorice Stout which she doesn't care for, though I'm intrigued by its odd herbal loading. The Otter chooses a juicy guest tap IPA. I select a Black IPA and we settle in to recover from a fragmented day, one without the benefit of lunch. Recovering from multiple traumas, The Otter experiences good and bad days, just like the rest of us, though hers seem to carry stronger amplitudes; higher ups and lower downs. She sometimes feels as though she's drowning, and this had been one of those days. The Muse and I provide what support we can, and though drowning never qualified as a spectator sport, we're certain that we cannot swim for her. We had more or less managed to drag ourselves through the day, though at times, barely. We needed cordiality.

Throughout this trip around The Great American Southwest, we've quietly relied upon Cordiality to pull us along.

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ConspicuousPresumption

conspicupuspresumption
"The most conspicuous consumption leaves one utterly depleted at the end."

The Leisure Classes escaped to The Great American Southwest, where the great American presumption of infinite resource finally came into its own. There, everything necessary to sustain life would have to be imported at considerable inconvenience, for not even water could be counted on locally. The beleaguered Colorado River, hardly a decent creek coming down out of the Rockies, quenches thirsts and greens golf courses across the region. Rich in mineral resources, Arizona naturally features vast spaces, but virtually none of the supporting resources for maintaining even a modicum of modern life. Its comparative advantage seems to be winter sunshine, of which it provides plenty, but everything else arrives by rail, semi-truck trailer, or air. Phoenix freeways reliably clog at least twice each day as commuters cross this former wasteland to travel from home to work and back. Homes here tend to be modest one-bedroom structures, with little high-rise construction. Suburbs, though, stretch beyond scorched surrounding mountains into verdant desert where cactus thrives among low-rise hacienda-style homes of every size, from cinderblock shack to extravagant cliff-dwelling. Everyone drives everywhere.

Close in, barrios dominate. Further out, huge homes.

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As-Iffing

As-If
The School Exam, 1859, Friedrich Peter Hiddemann
"Reality seems a belief-based initiative, or so our scientists insist."

Sedona sits nestled beside the seemingly insignificant Oak Creek, a watercourse which has over countless millennia carved an admirable red rock canyon, leaving soaring sandstone spires surrounding it. It seems both the most unlikely and dramatic setting for a small city. Its airport sits atop a mesa. It's reputed to hold several 'vortexes,' places where mysterious energies converge to impart special powers upon those who can tap them. Tourists—as near as I could tell in passing, the same tourists we encountered at The Grand Canyon—flock to these special spots, climbing red rock trails to bask in something not immediately obvious. The Muse, The Otter, and I slid up a slippery rock trail to find what, precisely, at the top? As Mad Magazine used to proclaim about its writing staff, The Usual Gang Of Idiots, ourselves prominently among them. A small plane practiced touch-and-goes out of the adjacent airport, buzzing the crowd of seekers. It felt like a cut-rate Lourdes without the water source. We, and supposedly everyone around us, stumbled back to our cars underwhelmed by our brush with touted greatness. We climbed up there As-If we might experience something life-changing but left feeling as though we'd suckered ourselves. As-Iffing sometimes works like this.

We returned to the car, then headed ourselves in the general direction of Phoenix, just As-If we might actually be able to drive there.

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Cantilevered

cantilievered
"Rocks can't care."

The GrandOtter and I shrank back from that first cliff edge. The Muse strolled right up to it, leaning out, peering down. Two thousand feet below, scree validated that gravity had been working there since before time began. I stood well back, finding some solid ground to sit down upon. The Otter warily edged closer. One dizzying glimpse over that precipice had satisfied all the curiosity I might ever muster. The Otter edged even closer. The Muse wanted to hop over the retaining wall so she could see even deeper down. The Otter finally edged right up to the wall. I walked back to wait in the car, unwilling to watch these darlings dangle so danged close to eternity.

The next morning, visiting another precipice, The Otter stood on a cantilevered boxcar-sized boulder snapping a 360 degree photo of the display.

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PassersBy

Passersby
Quirky building at Meteor City, AZ
" … while passing by another hundred or three distractions we won't actually stop and see."

We drive past a hundred places for every one we stop to see. We say that we're toodling, but we do a lot more passing by than stopping to see. The Great American Southwest features no shortage of roadside attractions. From rickety little Navajo kiosks to a giant meteor crater, each attraction features some sort of sign intended to attract eye and interest, and each looks genuinely interesting in its way. We've chosen the destination or two for the day, and these diversions hector us every inch of the way. Were we to stop at each, we'd never make headway, so we become PassersBy rather than visitors. By the end of the day, we'll alight somewhere and linger long enough to feel as though we've developed a feel for the place, but our experiences will remain on the superficial side of staying, hardly even visiting at all.

When I was a kid, my family would collect bumper advertising proclaiming that we'd visited Sea Lion Caves or Trees of Mystery.

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ADifferentMan

ADifferentMan
Portrait of a Merchant - Jan Gossaert - [c.1530]
"Neither are any of us."

"What's changed for you in the almost three days we've been traveling into The Great American Southwest," I asked The GrandOtter as she deftly demonstrated how to drive across a Navajo Reservation.

"
I've started learning to just F*C#IN' DO IT," She exclaimed! (The Otter's language can at times emerge sprinkled rather liberally with a backstreet French dialect.)

Once I'd ceded driving duties to this sometimes presumed overly-brittle young woman, relegating myself to the significantly lowlier role of backseat passenger, her former brittleness utterly disappeared. Certainly, mine seemed to increase, as if to maintain constant the net mass of brittleness in the universe, but hers simply disappeared. She confided that she could feel me stiffening in the seat behind her, vibrating as I held myself back from butting in too awfully much, but she'd decided to continue as if my sensibilities didn't matter. She, after all, HAD the freaking wheel. What could I do about it? Nothing, she presumed, and so she drove as if she were fully competent and eminently capable of fulfilling that critical role, critics be damned, and so she proved to be.

Over the following three hours, I gnawed a fresh hold in my tongue, but we both held fast, and it's seductive to presume that The Otter had become ADifferentPerson by the time we'd arrived, though I suspect that she had not. Not really.

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ButtClenching

ButtClenchers
Deadhorse Lookout, Utah
"Surrounded by alien territory, greater authenticity could emerge."

The Muse travels well, she of the ungainly pile of tour guides and carefully curated maps maintains our places in spaces and times. I simply drive. Having successfully fled winter dread into ParadoxCountry, we find our collective ButtClenching as we investigate sentiment and erosion on the grandest possible scale. Much accretes over the course of a typical planet's entire history, and some leavings can't help but wash away over time. This washing away displaces original deposits, leaving behind the most curious structures and shapes, just like our lives seem to do. We live on time scales insignificant when compared to the total history of this planet. Modern geologists conclude with ranges multiple times the merely unthinkable, or within a few odd million years or so. We think ourselves senior in our sixties, not a paltry sixty million, but a sixty-some single years. We stand clueless but still curious, interested in observing, though looking over and into even finite eternity can produce some serious ButtClenching.

I suspect that ancient man sought out ButtClenching as a handy antidote to ennui.

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ParadoxCountry

ParadoxCountry
Job and His Friends, 1869, Ilya Repin (1844–1930)
"I suspect that it will always be too early to tell what the outcome might become."

Winter eventually becomes too predictable, with each day bringing a wearying self-sameness. The yard remains either a steadfast beige or a persistent white, and the kitchen produces endless braises and bean pots. There are only so many variations, and those differences eventually melt into no variation at all. Foot-dragging ensues. Whatever's doing, it seems a struggle to start and an utter impossibility to complete. Frozen in place, little change or growth or improvement seems likely to emerge. Animation seems to suspend for the duration, and the duration approaches the infinite, for the more familiar spring, summer, and autumn reference points sit beneath a snowbank likely to remain in place until after Memorial Day. Getting away seems necessary, though unlikely. The Muse insists. Who would anyone have to become to effectively resist her?

From the moment The Muse, The Otter, and I pull away from our freshly snow-spackled driveway, we feel more at home.

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TheRuleOfLawyers

RuleOfLawyers
"Decency demands no less of us or of them."

We insist that we, unlike many countries, live by The Rule of Law, though it seems as though we increasingly live under The RuleOfLawyers. The law stands for what has been legislated by duly elected representatives. Lawyers stand for anything, for they trained as advocates capable of arguing any side of any issue. They seem to seek something other than truth or justice, the oft-touted American Way, but their way instead. They shamelessly shave pigs, split hairs, and boldly dare to support any position they're being paid to support. A beleaguered corp of public defenders, underfunded and over-scheduled, seem to stand alone against well-entrenched forces dedicated to denying anything they choose to deny. Absurdity reigns. Inequality under the law prevails. Respect for the law seems neigh-on to impossible.

A democracy seems at root a faith-based form of government.

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RoadTricks

RoadTricks
Grant Wood, New Road, 1939
"I imagine Kokopelli, the Road Trickster, will be guiding our way."

The Muse has been hankering after a road trip to The Great Southwest ever since we relocated to Colorado. She figures that once we finally move back to The Great Northwest, we'll live far enough away from those vast and fascinating wastelands that we'll never feel moved to visit, so she's created a deadline of sorts. If not now, then when? She holds a short list of spots she'd like to visit. As usual, I feel relatively disinterested in the undertaking. I approach long road trips with the same enthusiasm I employ for root canal surgeries. I dread them beforehand, though I usually manage to click into some semblance of a spirit somewhere along the way. I'll go, but I'll drag both feet before we leave.

I understand that I'm nobody's great gift to driving. I don't exactly hate driving, but I'd rather take a train.

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HardLabor

HardLabor
Walker Evans, The Breadline, 1933
"You're just the care-giver."

The hardest work I've ever done didn't look like HardLabor. No muscle straining resulted. It was not accomplished beneath an unforgiving sun. Nor was it undertaken under the threat of a gun bull's steely eye, and not to take anything away from all those who have suffered so, I didn't really know I was laboring hard until I was somewhere into the middle of the effort, already having bitten off more than I might reasonably chew, and destined to one day swallow. Divorce was harder than bucking bales. Quitting cigarettes nearly killed me, but quietly, in the most nerve-wracking way imaginable before then. Losing dear friends hurt worse than my muscle groups ever have. Recovering from trauma punishes more than the original trama ever thought to punish. Helping another recover from trauma seems even harder than recovering from trauma since the work's necessarily arm's length and guided by unreliable supervisors. Progress seems unlikely for the longest time.

HardLabor seems fueled by faith, a firm yet quivering belief that the effort might one day seem worth it.

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SelfWorth

selfworth
Luis Jiménez y Aranda (1845-1928) - The Bibliophiles (1879)
"Maybe value's all in other peoples' heads, but not in mine."

It's tax season so I've been reassessing my SelfWorth. I'm unsure what currency to use to calculate this value, or even if I should employ currency at all, for I'm not now and never have been a money guy. I've never had a portfolio and The Muse has kept me well away from all household accounting since she watched me attempt to balance a checkbook decades ago. Two days of frantic effort left the result inconclusive, her appalled, and me exhausted. She claimed that she could have arrived at an indisputable outcome in a few minutes. I realized that I'd always reinvented my methodology every time I attempted to balance the books, imagining complicated schemas for creating whatever might constitute balance. However otherwise exemplary my university education might have once been, Accounting had been a definite low point, since none of it made any sense to me. I queried my professors, hoping that they might be able to explain the logic behind the much-revered Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, and they told me something like, "Abandon all logic, ye who enter here," for the principles had been founded by general agreement, not logic. They quite literally made no sense and could only be conquered by rote memorization and practice, practice, practice. The university bookstore refused to repurchase my accounting texts at the end of the semester because their covers had accidentally come off due to my repeatedly throwing them against brick walls in lieu of pounding my head against them. Accounting remains a deep and uninteresting mystery to me.

But if I were to attempt to calculate my SelfWorth, what besides the unholy GAAP might I use?

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Blocked

blocked
"They've got your number, remember your name, and ultimately tame themselves."

My grandson Roman, who turned eight last week, has grown into an aspiring writer. My son Wilder reports that he's been struggling with intermittent writer's block and asked if I might give him a gift of insight into this most distressing element of every writer's existence, so here goes:

Of course writers only come in the aspiring form, because aspiration forms the soul of even very experienced writers, who seem eternally no better than their
next production. Writing brings no residuals, no resting on past laurels, not in the writer's mind, which endlessly roams ahead. A finished piece does not continue as a work in process, but extinguishes the fire that forged it shortly after it's finished. Finished pieces hold little interest for the creator, and the writer might not very well remember the details about even a piece widely recognized as a signature one. Writing serves as an extractive effort, intended to discard/ Not a building up activity creating a body of work, but a disposal activity intending to make space for something else. Writers leave the critics and fans to accumulate. The writer eliminates.

The urge to create seems most similar to the urge to take a poop.

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Out

Out
"Would I become a better man once I can tranquilly stand to spend extended isolated time with myself?"

After the fifth sequential snow day, even an experienced meditating monk aches to get Out. He'd trade nirvana for a stroll around even a usually reviled well-heated shopping mall. He might even consent to a Cinnabon® just for the sheer variety it might bring, because he's been further away from Springtime than he remembers ever being and the serene snow seems simply tedious now. Somehow, some way, he's simply got to get away, just Go. What first seemed comforting and close became almost smothering, way too close for even the comfort a warming fire might bring. He'd consent to supper at that little place in the village where the food has always been consistently lousy and the service much worse, where a simple supper won't be served until two full hours after he takes his seat, where only two employees managed to make it to work that shift and the bartender's doing the cooking. Lord knows who's tending bar. That's how far down this latest storm's taken our humble monk.

Others, ordinary folk without the monk's extraordinary ability to discipline themselves, seem mad with bottled up frenzy.

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Impressioning

RegularShapes
Claude Monet, Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872
"I do not remember this familiar ever before being precisely like this."

We remember Claude Monet as the original impressionist. He was widely reviled in his time, for his work seemed to violate the rules for what had constituted valid. His first impressionist image, shown above, seemed out of focus, as if the subject was moving rather than static, more smear than clear imprint. Nobody could precisely state what it represented without reading the title, and even then, critics disagreed over whether Monet had faithfully executed his label-implied intention. Today, we conveniently say that Impressionism more faithfully represents lived experience, for nothing in this life exists in so-called regular shapes or sits still while a photograph gets taken, and resulting photographs seem small and flat compared to lived experience. The photographic-quality image seems most impressionistic to our more modern eye which has grown to accept every captured image materially misrepresenting the originating visual experience.

Some seem set upon insisting that photographs are more real than any impressionist's painting, though their insistence seems overly dependant upon how one defines 'real.'

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MisConnected

DisConnected
Snap The Whip, Winslow Homer, 1872
"We can create vast networks dedicated to delivering on a fundamentally foolish notion and produce its opposite instead."

Our Internet was supposed to connect us all but seems to have achieved the opposite effect. The Greeks labeled this phenomena Enantiodromia, and considered it a natural result, that things tend to run counter to original intent. Obsession explains some of this. Over-focus easily blinds one to creeping counter influences, leaving an over-passionate pursuer vulnerable to normal stumbling blocks. Ideation, initial envisioning, tends toward idealization, so we quite naturally imagine utter impossibilities and produce opposites instead. Given free reign, we seem fully capable of running anything into the ground. Judicious constraining might seem to blunt possibility, but it also buffers against catastrophic reversals. Modesty seems more likely to produce positive results than audacity might.

The trades insist that everyone's ordering online now because it's more convenient. I live well behind this curve

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TheChat

TheChat
The Glass of Wine, Johannes Vermeer, c.1658 - c.1660
" … one of those pleasingly notorious SmallThings we maintain between us."

Deliver me, please, from the ponderous conversation. Protect me from the onerous plea. Free me from all stentorious presentations. A chat seems what I need. A rambling one without apparent purpose. I trivial one where nothing gets disclosed. I cheering one where no-one gets derided. A hopeful one where we're clearly glad to see each other up close. One devoid of discomfiting revelations, a modest meeting of the most immodest minds. A face-to-face without verbal competition, a simple sit-down around a pot of tea ,or beer, or one of those clear cocktails you sometimes seem to prefer. A "what's new' unlikely to grown older. A "not much" serious sort of chat. A plain-old ennobling fresh engagement where no demons seem welcome to unfold. A meeting without an underlying purpose. A connection intended to lead nowhere. A brief breath of sorely needed fresh air, just the two or three or four of us there.

Let Presidents and politics lie their fool heads off while we engender sweet respite.

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-Bound

-Bound
N. C. Wyeth, Snowbound
"I'm sitting by the fire looking out while also peering within."

My dearly departed friend III insisted that Boundary Was Everything, an apparently paradoxical statement in a world more recently interested in everything out-of-the-box, where boundaries exist only to be ignored. Get yourself snowed in, though, and my friend's assertion comes into sharper focus. Snowbound serves as a sort of instant self-discipline. If you can't go anywhere, you suddenly have no place to go. Whims simply stifle themselves. Whatever else my heart might desire, we're eating in again tonight. Like always, there's nothing actually on the television tonight. The fireplace shows better movies no matter how many times we've seen this one before. The cats curl up close as if trying to catch their fur on fire when the temperature difference between inside and out hangs in the upper sixties Fahrenheit. Snow continues falling after the first great shoveling. Candles glow half buried beneath that snow.

It's darker outside than almost any other night of the year. I cannot hear anything. Even the plow mumbles as it passes.

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DItY

DItY
"Done in by a tiny recalcitrant sheet metal screw."

Paleo-man did everything himself because the specialist phase of social development had yet to arrive. For eons, generations of our predecessors never thought to ask for help from any factory-trained specialist. This was a presumably proud species, self-reliant and skilled enough, though none ever once encountered even the smallest of our modern conundrums, like the justifiably terrifying tiny hex-headed sheet metal screw. Their world featured rock, wood, and leather, wild beasts and flint-prompted fire. They had no crawl space fans needing replacing. They owned no socket set with three dozen differently-sized attachments. They never watched themselves schlump back up the basement stairs to fetch that tool they'd earlier felt certain that this job wouldn't need. They had no neighbor egging them on, boasting about how easy replacing that fan would be. They never experienced DItY, the harsh reality of our modern Do It Yourself craze, for it is certainly a craze, a crazy-making preoccupation wherein an otherwise self-respecting fellow's self-esteem takes it in the shorts again and again and again. DIT, properly translated, means not Doing It Yourself, but DYtI, Doing It to Yourself.

Two little letters, one almost insignificant word, 'to,' the difference between a job well done and doing another job on one's self.

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MyBetters

MyBetters
The Beggar Maid, German school, 19th c.
"We remain more equal than we can possibly know, let alone understand."

Declaring superiority carries its own disqualification. How smart could it possibly be to declare yourself smarter than another? Likewise with beauty and every other comparator known to humankind. Humans don't seem all that kind up close. We break ranks to stack ourselves like cordwood, judging our position relative to others', taking either solace or frustration depending upon how we, as the saying goes, "stack up." The self-proclaimed morally superior stack their cards in favor of their own positioning, looking down their long noses at all those so-called "beneath" them. The Founders of our once-great republic were exclusively of a single so-called superior class. They preached an equality their lives seemed not to afford them, hoping, perhaps, to level a mountain they stood atop, for there were others on higher peaks than they could ever aspire to, divinely righted to dominate over those less than themselves. By the divinely-righted's accounting, everyone was a lesser.

White Supremacists seem like so many misguided clowns failing to catch themselves parsing the world upside down.

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AbsoluteMagic

absolutemagic
Henry Gillard Glindoni (1042-1913): John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I.
"I don't quite know as little as she did … yet."

Knowing seems the most over-rated ability. Not to denigrate folks who know a lot, they're welcome to their achievements, but I speak here of what we believe we need to know. This belief seems like AbsoluteMagic. The stories I tell myself, explaining why I can't do, seem to anchor what I don't yet know, as if my lack of knowing reasonably prevented me from certain doing. In practice, this insistence rarely proves true. Most of what I've actually done seemed more fueled by desire than by knowledge, the knowing emerging after or along the way toward actually having done. Certainly, I usually struggled before achieving any desired end, but most of these complications seemed beyond knowing until the moment I encountered them then figured 'em out. No amount of preparation could have helped me avoid complications, or so I conclude.

My ability to assert what I could not possibly know serves as AbsoluteMagic.

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