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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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