RoeDayOh

RowDayOh
" … us Townies will never understand."

I grew up in a town with a RoeDayOh, but I'd never attended one until last night because I was a 'townie.' Townies live in the small city adjacent to ranches, but live utterly separate lives from those lived by cowboys and ranch hands. Townies do not wear Wranglers, but Levi's, and eschew almost everything to do with the covertly effeminate cowboy boots, snap-front shirts, and mangled broad-brimmed cardboard cowboy hats. Townies name their offspring Bill, Bob, or Joe, not Yancy or Wade, and not one of us ever even think of wearing fancy belt buckles or getting any closer to a live bull than a very rare steak, let alone attempting to ride on one's bucking back. Townies pray that they do not win the door prize of a $75,000 diesel Dodge Ram pick-up. We think of cowboys as overly-committed throwback cosplay characters, mimicking a history that never was. Townies maintain their own delusions every bit as alienating as any cowboy's or cowgirl's, my point being that we're cut from different cloth, fabric with little middle ground upon which to meet.

Back in the 1930s, when Hollywood discovered The West, the standard plot line would feature city slickers visiting a dude ranch where they'd be introduced to authentic Americana replete with ballet-dancing cowboys and small symphony orchestras performing impromptu Gershwin productions.

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Shakedown

shakedown
"Few of us ever read the small print."

In Manhattan, the Shakedown exists as an art form. Nobody expects to find a bargain there. The very hotel which touts its dedication to serving clients won't blush when demanding thirty or forty bucks for a substandard Continental-Style breakfast. The client will hold his cool, understanding that the place has him over a barrel. They will levy spurious service charges simply because they can. Nobody seems to pass up an opportunity to take their piece of the action. The price of admission won't actually bankrupt you over the duration of your short stay, but it might get you thinking about staying away the next time you're enticed to visit.

My Subaru dealer makes more subtle threats.

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Waiting

Waiting ...
Waiting for Legal Advice, 1857, James Campbell (1828 - 1893) (British)
" … the machine will continue to grind …"

I think of waiting as an adult time out. Most delays amount to SmallThings, a few realigning moments between actual destinations, and I'm learning to simply accept them for what they are, which is never defining, a small interruption to the regularly scheduled programming. A brief respite between some here and there no matter how interminable each might seem. A challenge to cobble together a short alternate to the expected experience. I keep an audio book enqueued on my iPhone or some other worthy distraction which I access to fill in the space. Now that we all have smart phones, every waiting moment quickly transforms into a Facebook or email scan, we're rarely truly idle. Most of our interactions with our government seem to become exercises in patience, at the post office, the DMV, the title registrar, or some other outpost of our humblingly huge bureaucracy. We anticipate these waits, bringing along a newspaper or a book with which to entertain ourselves as we idle. I prefer to watch the machine working in the same way that I gawk at the automated tortilla machine or the juice squeezing juke box when waiting for a restaurant table.

The machine seems to never idle, whether present as a single inadequately-staffed post office window or a dozen numbered windows around a waiting area with actual seating.

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DreadOfWinter

DreadOfWinter
Dead Man Alley-Winter, Millard Donald Everingham, 1940
" …Nothing to dread but dread itself."

Ennui follows Epiphany like a baby elephant follows its mother, tiny trunk grasping reassuring tail, for this world seems especially forbidding then with redeeming Spring just as far away as it will ever be this year. Self confidence falls to its lowest recorded readings since this time last year as nights infinitesimally shorten and days drag themselves through unremitting self-similarity. The New Year, so promising just a fortnight ago, seems prematurely spoiled, already past its pull date while hardly even begun. Hollows hold snow frozen into alabaster insults, lawns a uniformly unpromising beige again. I dutifully light my luminarias each dusk and retrieve the candles each dawn, attempting to demonstrate the single watt of faith remaining from Christmastime. I maintain my schedule, some days kicking and screaming myself back into the yolk, where considerable pushing and shoving ensues. Each essay breach birthed with the inept assistance of an incompetent and uncaring midwife. Such is mid-January life.

If it would only snow to seal the conviction that there's really no place to go and no reasonable way to get there if there were, but the sky remains indifferent with unpromising clouds and fierce winds pushing backwards toward the East.

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DoctorVisit

DoctorVisit
" Modern medicine seems almost identical to medieval medicine, except the leeches are larger and more impersonal. "

The Muse and I belong to a Health Network, a common modern American euphemism which means 'limited monopoly.' Once 'enrolled' and accepted, a Health Network combines with insurance coverage to become a client's one-stop service center for all things medical, from check-ups to diagnostic procedures to prescribing. Ours features a patient Portal which was obviously designed to try our patience. It looks just like an early Windoze app and performs like one, too. All communication gets funneled through this needle's eye which might send a text message reporting that new information's been posted before denying access. What was that Pastword again?

The Network suffers from all the shortcomings common to transactional associations gussied up to appear relational. I, for instance, don't actually have a doctor but a nurse practitioner, which seems fine with me. Any deeper diagnostics, she refers to actual doctors which I never actually meet since other nurse practitioners perform actual procedures. Later, the doctor will post conclusions to the Portal which might deny me access again. Every encounter with The Network finds me repeating my birthdate, address, and the last four digits of my social security number, just to confirm that I am who I purport to be. I have been known to leave a waiting room if the questioning becomes too onerous. They always ask me to report The Muse's birthdate, too, which I tell them that I do not know precisely. They've allowed me entrance anyway, so far.

My Portal record, once I access it, always insists that I have not fully completed my personal patient history paperwork, though I have completed it to the very best of my ability.

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NoGoNegation

NegNoTiation
"A day without engagement might turn into a week, then a month, then a season, and finally a year or two or three. Who would I become then?"

Some Mornings, not even deeply ingrained habit can move me off the starting line. Most days, I'm up and running without a first thought inhibiting me, but those Some Mornings resist my lead. I would much rather veg out binge-watching a police procedural, lose my soul to an audio book, so just flip through the news, not an ounce of ambition egging me forward. I almost never completely submit to these slothful enticements, though. Rather than slip under that self-negating spell, I enter into a very specialized form of negotiation, NoGoNegation. My goal seems to be the most primitive form of mastery, the motive energy to move off a single stuck dime. I need not talk myself into any but SmallThings, since even imagining accomplishing any GreatThings seems to only further demotivate me then. One tiny excuse, one modest objective and the inertia of stuckness quite literally slips into its kinetic counterpart.

I'd think that after decades of practice and consequent experience, I would have become something of an expert in this field of NoGoNegation, but I seem to start as a novice every time.

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GroanUp

GroanUp
"I'm in a much bigger body now, but more of a kid than ever."

Maturation might involve little more than repeatedly catching one's self engaging in ridiculous actions; SmallThings which, when later tallied, amount to huge differences. Youth imparts a sense of invulnerability which experience shatters, and rightfully should. Even the wins might manage to impart a few of humility's finer points. Accumulated losses might convince anyone that they're a fool a heart. I'm now a grandfather of considerable experience, The GrandOtter now present as a twenty-one year old, though I suspect that I'll forever relate to her as though she was still about eight. The ensuing years have humbled us both without making either of us particularly wiser. We share mutual respect though my advancing age tips presumptions in my favor. I am, after all, the presumptive grownup in the relationship, though I experience my self as most frequently a GroanUp.

A GroanUp has made a fool of himself frequently enough to sincerely question his own authority and omniscience.

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Wariness

wariness
"The hopeful believe in Archimedean physics yet still persistently tug on their own bootstraps …"

I feel a certain Wariness after reading the newspaper, a SmallThing. I can no longer bear to tune into the network nightly news broadcast, and even NPR has recently shifted to the edge of the bearly bearable. I never did watch Faux or listen to Limbaugh or subscribe to any of the innumerable conspiracy theories which over-populate social media, all of which seem to thrive on vague generalities, if not intended to induce paranoid feelings, fairly successfully manage to routinely do so. I firmly believe that the second amendment remains widely misinterpreted for the most cynical of reasons. I favor a wide-spread freedom from religion more than I support the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of religion, and that mixing politics and religion inescapably poisons both.

I was born into These Paranoid States of America, where victory in WWII and a humiliating draw on the Korean Peninsula left this country too wary by half.

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ReasoningAgain

Thinking1
"What we do when we encounter these outcomes probably determines whether we drive ourselves crazy or sane."

I think, therefore I feel confused. Descartes apparently presumed much when proposing his now nearly infamous "I think, therefore I am" notion, for 'am-ing' seems to include much more than what might be properly represented in the Predicate Calculus. More people now deeply understand and employ logic than at any time in the history of the world so far, and what has that wash of Reasoning bought us? It does not seem to have brought us anything like the much-touted heaven on Earth early logicians might have presumed it might, for we seem to have neglected to purchase the Absurd Syllogism Insurance Rider which might have better protected us from ridiculous constructions leading to absurd conclusions. They say that we're all about data now and we increasingly seek computationally verifiable paths which seem to just about as reliably as prior methods, lead us into genuine Old Testament-quality temptation, even evil. Much of what I witness seems determined to defy any and all Reasoning, including but not exclusively those philosophies most firmly rooted in Reasoning. Our computers might be on the fritz.

While we might properly deduce much about our situations, much more remains beyond Reasoning.

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Rhyming

rhyming
"She quickly learned to sing along."

The most memorable poems leave behind the most curious images. A dish credibly runs away with a spoon. A huge egg tumbles off a high wall. An eensy-weensy spider, not a small or tiny one, climbs up the water spout. Tigers burn bright. Roses are roses are roses, and this otherwise redundant, tautological description stands, and taller than most every other attempt to memorialize the rose. Poetry often rhymes, but even when it fails to rhyme, it almost always exudes a rhythm scheme, a cadence which compellingly pulls the reader along. Nothing need be terribly exact unless engaging in some specialized sonnet, restrictive haiku, or bawdy limerick. The so-called nursery rhyme, many of which persist as familiar and reassuring ear worms throughout even long lifetimes, exemplify poetry for me, or po'ms, as I've grown to call these silly little spoutings to better suggest that something's missing but not forgotten from them. They might lack a scholarly decorum but compensate with a warming silliness.

Writing po'ms demands an unteachable skill.

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Timing

Timing
"This shift fools me every time."

A New Year induces an arrhythmia into the proceedings, for my life, every life, amounts to proceeding. Whether this forward momentum smoothly flows or jerks me around depends upon a seemingly subtle coherence. I mostly feel no need to fine tune my presence. It is, and is just as it is, background silence, a deeply muffled cadence. I might continue without considering my propulsion until some milestone steps into the middle of my road. Year End and New Year reliably disrupt my sublime unconsciousness, seeming to force more deliberate reflection. My reliables seize up on me and I'm unwillingly forced to rethink what I hadn't sensed myself thinking about in ages. My motions lose their continuity and my thoughts pace without concluding anything. I become a steam engine who's lost my tracks.

The past week amply illustrates this rethinking phase. My PureSchmaltz Facebook Group attracted 784 unique page views, some of which I can doubtless attribute to you and your presence here, a single point of continuity for me and I hope for you, too.

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Lying

lying
"I don't lie to myself about lying to myself."

In the beginning was a small misrepresentation, a truly SmallThing. Nothing vicious or deliberate, just a little attempt to improve the quality of my story. It exacted a small toll, a tiny tariff, and I moved on. I moved on mindful that I'd need to remember that deviation or risk my story seeming to slip into question in the future. I could over time become inured to even making distinctions between absolute truth and comparative fiction and increasingly trade in legend, like any name-brand product's advertising. Truth seems alluring only in theory. In practice, our stories need heroes and villains, damsels and dragons, disturbing beginnings and reassuring endings, not the unending ambiguity simple truth provides. I too easily justify my immersion, insisting to myself that any version providing a more easily accepted meaning might make even the occasional egregious lie totally acceptable, an improvement over an uninspiring truth.

Every great civilization was founded upon a fundamental lie, a probably deliberate inflation of potential or heritage, similar to the motivational stories each of us told to reassure ourselves that we might actually achieve what we naively aspired for.

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Squeezed

squeezed
"Take us aside and we'll register no real complaint, except for the nagging squeeze which seems as though it simply must be at root unnecessary when it might qualify as the very essence of life."

The Muse returns from work and recounts a meeting where everyone reported great satisfaction with their work, except everyone said that they felt Squeezed. Too much worthwhile work, but too little time to complete it properly, the eternal complain of the gainfully employed. The squeeze had been on since forever ago, for there never was a time where available time very closely matched expectations. This seems to be an Old Testament Problem, one that probably pre-dates recorded history. Writing that history was most likely delayed due to a lack of schedule time with competing expectations, trade-offs were made and written history deferred until more pressing business could be concluded. We're all squeezed. Even if no discrete expectations scrunched up the horizon before us, we'd still feel time pressure and wish for a tad fewer demands on our time.

I can foist a piece of this difficulty off onto human anticipation.

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Coping

Coping2
Vincent Van Gogh: Old Man in Sorrow. On the Threshold of Eternity, 1890
"We do just what we do, which might be the very wisest response any clueless anyone could ever muster."

I consider coping to be more emotional than any learned skill, and resilience, more a matter of personal pattern. Lose someone and one does what they do, and might not even notice what they're doing then. Coping amounts to one of those responses that don't necessarily register as a response. Given a significant-enough loss and a sort of auto-pilot seems to kick in without cluing in the pilot. I remember when my sister Susan died in a car accident, my youngest sister flew in for the services and I spent a long day tour-guiding her around the town I lived in. Only later did the excursion seem in any way questionable to me and she just numbly followed along. I was numbly leading, coping as I now recognize that I cope.

In the Midwest where The Muse grew up, a death prompts all the women to start cooking, usually scalloped potatoes.

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Seizing

Seizing
"As we speak cruel time is fleeing. Seize the day, believing as little as possible in tomorrow." Horace
(Historically bad advice better suited to epic works of fiction.)

"Seizings are a class of stopping knots used to semi-permanently bind together two ropes, two parts of the same rope, or rope and another object. Akin to lashings, they use string or small-stuff to produce friction and leverage to immobilize larger ropes. Seizings are not recommended for heavy loads for critical use as strain reduces the diameter of the main rope and can permit slippage even with proper construction." Wikipedia

Seizing the day does not seem to insist upon what I though it did. For me, I've long considered Seizing akin to grabbing and holding on, damn the consequences, but Seizing seems more nuanced in practice. It involves connecting, sure, but connecting with purpose and with acknowledgment of likely future stresses and strains. It is definitely not a cavalier grab, but a strategic connecting often employing small-stuff.

"Small-stuff is a nautical and knot-tying term for thin string or twine, as opposed to the thick, heavy ropes that are more often used in sailing. It is commonly used in a whipping to bind the ends of ropes to prevent fraying.

"Historically, the term referred to cordage less than one inch in circumference. Much of the small-stuff onboard ships, especially that used for decorative or fancy ropework, was made by the sailors themselves reusing materials unlaid from old and leftover pieces of larger rope and cable." Wikipedia

I sometimes watch a day slip away and chide myself for not authoritatively Seizing the damned thing before it slipped away from me, a strategy which sometimes seems more inherently self-destructive than in any way helpful.

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Scribbler

scribbling
"I might be writing a script … "

My ancient oak desktop holds two old notebooks. Its drawers hold several more. A pile of papers two feet tall sits atop the old steamer trunk across the room. My dresser top holds a couple more old notebooks, and a bookshelf holds more than a dozen completed journals. I carry a small Moleskin® in my back pocket wherever I go, and a pen in my right front pocket, for I am a Scribbler. I'm more inclined to jot down a short descriptive phrase than to snap a quick cellphone photo, for I more meaningfully retain my experiences with words than with pictures. I'm just wired that way.

My son's a Scribbler, too, though as a trained fine artist, he scribbles sketches, genuine visual images.

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Hubris

hubris
"The one who cried wolf might be tainted forever for demonstrating the audacity to confront the Hubris."

A certain Hubris seems to come with owning a system. It's yours, after all, and reason insists that it should attend to you by providing that which its designers intended it to provide for you, except systems don't actually work like that and never have. To own a system seems to be the equivalent of being owned by that system, in all the nuanced ways being owned entails. It's always got your number and always did. You quite understandably expected toast from your toaster but instead received a three smoke alarm wake-up call. Blame the toaster and see what that gets you. Resolution will demand inconvenience. You or some service representative (or, more probably, your spouse) will roll up their sleeves and get to the bottom of the difficulty, presumably forestalling any repeat performances. You'd be wise to anticipate repeat performances, though, because your toaster isn't so much first a toaster, but a system, and all systems come with unintended consequences built right in, albeit often unwittingly. A system, you see, remains capable of outwitting even its designers, for once that system roams free in the world, it will no longer find itself constrained by the breadth of its designers' imaginations. It seems to develop a conniving mind of its own.

Systems seem to insist upon a certain level of humility on the part of their owners, a wariness, a caution.

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ForeignTerritory

ForeignTerritory
"… my mind's still unlearning its preconscious tendency to date stamp everything as if it were still a year ago."

I didn't take a thousand mile train ride precariously balanced atop a freight car while fighting off muggers, nor did I swim across an unwatched patch of an icy stream or hike for days across trackless desert to arrive here, but I nonetheless feel every bit like an undocumented alien. My passage seemed precarious enough without all the pitfalls any decent Central American would have to overcome, and I feel as though I haven't quite mastered the languages and customs here, though I'm clearly on the other side of a contentious border and insecurely in ForeignTerritory now. Every New Year arrives like this, and perhaps it's the new year feeling queer around me and not dear old me to blame. Something significant's changed. I reflect that this fresh year has no experience here, either, and that I might be experiencing a contact buzz without having swallowed any of the new Kool Aid® myself. Whatever the cause, I feel at least as different as the surrounding territory seems. For now, I seem to have been passing. Now that I've disclosed my internal state, Immigration might jump my butt.

The first week of any new year used to feature mis-headed homework papers dated the year before or checks pre-dated by precisely twelve months, but nobody manually date stamps homework or even writes checks anymore, our smart appliances automatically fill in today's date on the appropriate line on every form.

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ArtificialEverything

artificial
Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet, 1854. A Realist painting by Gustave Courbet
" … a small town that grew up to still be small, but somehow less of a town for it."

South Table Mountain juts up as backdrop to the small town of Golden, Colorado. Its basalt rimrock crowns unpromising grades, draws, and washes still frequented by bear, bobcat, and small deer who browse surrounded by more rattlesnakes than I like to think about. Years ago, circa WWI, the Army built a base up against one side of it, but the rattlesnakes chased them off. A minimum security prison camp now inhabits what of that camp not ceded to the snakes, and The National Renewable Energy Lab sits just next door. High tension power line towers run across the top of South Table Mountain to service the largest beer manufacturing plant in the world along Clear Creek below. Failed attempts to build roads to the top remain as overgrown scars along all sides of the prominence. People ride horses up there, and mountain bikes, and even hike, though there's more to trip over than actually see up there. It seems a genuine bit of nowhere, offering views of Downtown Denver, not anybody's idea of a sight to treasure beholding, though the locals think of it as nature just out their backdoors.

I sat in a Starbucks, sucking down a china cup of decaf and staring up toward the top of that small mountain, realizing that almost nothing I could see bore much resemblance to nature.

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Predicting

Predicting
"The future seems perfectly capable of taking care of itself."

I woke up this morning with the genuine sense that I was suddenly inhabiting the future. The New Year arrived overnight and as usual, I couldn't quite keep my eyes open long enough to witness the fateful transition, so I faced this future in the early morning, all by myself, while the rest of the household slept. I remembered pondering this very future back when I attended elementary school, employing my newly gained arithmetic skills to calculate how old I'd be when, and the year twenty twenty always crept into my pondering. I figured that the future would very likely be much different from what my then present had been. I would be a fully-grown man by then, old, even, by my rough approximation, maybe even dead. I considered those I knew who were as old as I would be then and strained to imagine myself as how I might turn out. I never once suspected that I might still be striving and still not quite settled on who I would be when I finally grew up in the year twenty twenty, but here I am.

Almost every prediction I remember making then turned out quite differently than I'd projected.

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TheDailyRumpus

TheDailyRumpus
Le Derby de 1821 à Epsom,1821, Théodore Géricault
" … I once found it perfectly acceptable to start the day with a placid perusal of the paper."

Days begin with a thump now, the muffled sort of crash a kitten makes after misjudging a pounce, followed by a few moments of almost frantic pounding. The Daily Rumpus usually starts without me as witness. I enter the arena well after the start of the festivities to find another ornament down and the dining room table's cloth hanging at an odd angle. They've also displaced the carpet runners, making the room look like it belongs in one of those Vortex House tourist traps us kids used to plead to stop at when my dad was trying to make time on our summer vacation drive to Southern California. The food bowls will have been picked clean and the water bowl nearing empty. A plant might have been mysteriously tipped over, throw rugs knotted where they lay. Doilies lay like crumpled butterflies in the seat bottoms beneath their usual display positions along the tops of chairs. The wicker rocker will have lost its throw blanket and all will seem right with the world.

The celebration will continue for the next few hours, re-enouraged by the presence of an appreciative audience.

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Lags

Lags
" … it contains an adequate number of warts and surface imperfections …"

I hand-tooled my Production Process. I started it before I'd mastered my tools and well before I'd settled on what I would be producing. My process as well as my product have been evolving over time. Some of my process was obsoleted when Adobe® acquired FrameMaker® and decided to suspend support for the Mac version of their once-fine product. Several other pieces of the machinery became inoperable over time. There being no adequate replacements, I discovered little sneaker-net workarounds, creating a process that both defies logic and also fairly reliably produces output, as it's called. I've avoided any MicroSoft® product, finding them uniformly unusable, user hostile, and I never got over the anti-trust action that vividly described how they'd come to dominate the corporate computing market. I understood that I could definitely get better elsewhere, but that I'd never pay more, and since I was only sometimes a corporation in name only, I could not and didn't really aspire to compete in that realm. I cobbled together thises and thats and managed to produce close to what I intended.

Somedays, my hand-crafted system seems composed of Lags connected by no more than stepping stones.

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A Double Handful Of Coal

TheIdea
"Maybe I'll write two today, just to maintain my usual pace, if an additional Idea emerges."

In the beginning, there was nothing but void, and since void amounts to nothing, in the beginning there was nothing; no originating idea. Voids offer little in the way of leverage. Eventually, an Idea tottered into what had been the void's nothingness, temporarily voiding the void and leaving a sense of something in its place. Something, but nothing much more than the roughest raw material: a double handful of coal: Greater potential, yea, but little more. Few substances carry more potential and less promise than a double handful of coal, for coal, like any Idea, needs a lot of conditioning to amount to anything, and even when it amounts to something powerful, it only manages to achieve anything with great supplemental support and it leaves behind clinkers and nasty smoke; powerful perhaps for a time, but always producing nasty externalities.

Ideas seem to come in flurries when they come, if they come.

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Partum

Partum
"The creative act always retrospectively seems like a SmallThing …"

Fridays come but seem to mostly go, ever receding. A week starts, filled with promise, then ends, sometimes with the promise fulfilled, though even when fulfilled, it seems a strange sort of promise, for an aspiration never quite qualifies as a promise, it being more crap-shooty than any promise really should be. I work from Friday to Friday, with no weekends or holidays off, and at the beginning of a fresh Friday—my Monday as well as my Friday, both the beginning of a fresh week and the ending of an expended one (a Begending)—I feel more reflective than anticipatory, last Friday being my work year's sole exception. Last Friday ended my last creative cycle, GlancingKnow, marked the beginning boundary of my next cycle, SmallThings, and also heralded the start of my annual Christmas Po'm-writing cycle, wherein I write just as many fresh seasonal poems as I can in the time between Solstice and Christmas morning, this period marking my most intentionally creative week of the year.

As I noted in last Friday's reflection,
SmallerThings, rather than expanding my reach, my GlancingKnow three month enquiry left me feeling smaller, more tightly focused.

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Shaving

Shaving
"Some days, it seems to be the only thing that really matters."

The days where I've shaved before heading out the door seem to unfold differently than those days when I do not. For me, Shaving's like suiting up before entering the game. The uniform should properly not in any way affect the quality of my play, but it sure seems to. Shaved, I feel as though I'm putting forward my best face. Grisly, I know that I'm most certainly not looking my best. However mediocre my best might seem to anyone else, my less than best can't hope to compete. I feel complete after shaving, though I know I've just scraped off a fine skin layer and might reasonably feel a little less for the exercise.

I think the ritual, small though it might seem, makes the real difference.

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Kittens

Kittens
Mother Love - Paul Peel (1860 – 1892, Canadian)
" … they carry within them some innate skill to reset the rhythm of the place …"

I hold the strong opinion that every place holds a rhythm. Think of this beat as the baseline supporting the foreground melody. We more than inhabit our digs, they also invade us with the rhythm they induce. For the ten months we went without pets, much of the rhythm of our lives relied upon us to pound the drum. Aside from the magpies arriving each dawn and the weekly familiar sounds of the garbage collection trucks, The Villa's rhythms relied upon the recycling heating system to reset the tone. Sure, supper prep always reset the cadence of a day, as does cleaning up in its own curious way, but without the rhythms of a pet, it's very difficult to engage in even the more familiar melodies.

A life needs disruption, what Douglas Adams referred to as an Improbability Generator, some force to force-feed a different rhythm into the same-old status quo.

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Fulfillment

fulfillment
Laundress. This fragment is an artwork by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin
"As long as I could maintain this slight fiction, I remained golden."

However long any effort takes to accomplish its aspiration, the accomplishment seems to manifest in a moment. Before that point, it's not quite done and after, it's clearly over and I'm on toward the next enqueued accomplishment. The weeks of preparation leading up to Christmas will condense into a single moment on the blessed morn. We work so hard to achieve something as if it might bring salvation, but the best it ever, ever brings seems to be a quick moment of satisfaction. Immediately after, the internal critic probably resumes, and later, the hamster wheel starts squeaking again. Living seems largely soundtracked by the squeaking wheel that no lubricant could ever adequately grease. Peace comes in a moment, though it departs just as quickly.

Some of us, myself included, find our fulfillments in starting fresh stuff.

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Mattering

Mattering
Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
"I'm not supposed to know beforehand, but propel my work with faith, …"

I seem to seek significance here, where meaning is king and obscurity dear. My reputation sticks to my heels like shadows and my futures sometimes seem so uncertain and shallow. I seek some opening, an opportunity to shine, while I seem most afraid that someone else might get 'mine.' I sometimes shimmer green-eyed jealous, zero-sum at some level, as I seek my salvation with the help of some devils. It's a tough row to hoe here, of that I've no doubt, but I still hold enough promise to believe in myself. Have I built myself a set of wings set in wax or just plowed rocky fields while surveying the hind end of an ass? I'm engaged in my business, whatever that might be besides waxing and promoting a brand you'd call me. I'm not just in this for myself, though, for I engage in the kind of work that doesn't make much dough.

Oh, some mornings I'd certainly gladly pretend to be striving and driving as I once did back when.

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ChristmasPo'ms

townsled
"These are infinitesimally SmallThings, but nonetheless infinitely significant ones for me."

It's been a couple of decades now since I took up this practice. I've never reveled, as some certainly seem to, in bestowing gifts, though I mostly object to the shopping. The mind reading or the sheer presumption that someone should heed a list someone gave them, and then become the wish fulfiller. That's a spirit killer, in my humbled estimation. Humbled because there's something about shopping that utterly erases any intention I might have carried into the shop with me. I remain capable of inspiration, but usually of the distinctly lower order variety. I cannot seem to imagine what my loved ones might appreciate from me. In the old days, I'd eventually acquiesce the buy something inappropriate and not fish that vigorously for any complements afterward. I'd hold onto the receipt, too, because it might need returning to the store. In short, Christmas bored me, all sentiments aside, so after fifty Christmases or so, I decided to do the unthinkable instead.

Well, I'm still not beyond purchasing a small gift or two, but I now focus upon creating a dozen or so little tuneless Christmas songs instead, in the form of Christmas Po'ms.

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SmallThings

SmallThing
"The greatest sin might be the belief that our reach exceeds our grasp …"

Yesterday, I completed my Autumn's work, GlancingKnow, with a post entitled SmallerThings. I'd realized that my perspective had been shrinking and that this focus had provided useful insights. Like you, I often feel overwhelmed by the apparent magnitude of difficulties surrounding me. Everything seems to have gone global in scale, yet I am little larger than I've ever been. I've expanded my coping skills, but my power and authority over the huge issues confronting me has changed little since I started out as an ignorant and disoriented little boy. Now, it often seems, I've grown to become an ignorant and disoriented bigger boy, but hardly wiser and rarely well-oriented. I seem to bounce from concern to concern, concluding that most of them exceed far beyond my reach. I some days wonder why I haven't surrendered and stopped caring so danged much about all I seem so powerless to influence.

I might represent a unique case, but I doubt it. I carry a growing suspicion that a root difficulty might be tied to my growing aspirations and awarenesses.

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SmallerThings

smallerthings
Johannes Vermeer, Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1664, oil on canvas
"Small then even SmallerThings eventually amounting to something, which isn't really a thing at all."

Rather than strive to achieve BIG things, I seem to strive to more fully acknowledge smaller ones. Tiny yet influential seems more achievable than huge and consequential. Worlds move by comparative microns, yet manage to traverse vast spaces. Ideas spark in less than an instant yet utterly transform the person holding them. How finely am I capable of perceiving? Insignificance seems first a product of my own inattention. My salvation might stand right here in the palm of my hand, and releasing its beneficence might require a hero's journey no less daunting than any undertaken out into greater-seeming unknowns. Both journeys begin with denial and offer trials to test the hero's dedication. Both feature dragons and such, and each brings out characteristics the hero always held, implicit becoming more explicit in dispatching each challenge. Heroes aren't so much made as discovered, they emerge through unanticipated recognition. Look, there s/he is, right there. No more than a GlancingKnow ever confirms it.

Understanding serves as a condensation of more vaporous information and experience.

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WindingDown

windingdown
" …nobody waves to anyone passing from the back porch of this caboose."

It seems as if a giant clockwork finally began WindingDown this week. Reliable to a split-second throughout the year, as the Solstice draws nearer, its purpose loses clarity, perhaps a gear's gone rusty. The whole mechanism will most certainly receive a reprieve come Saturday, when a new astronomical year will begin an instant after the tired, now ancient one disappears. These last few days became abstractions of themselves. The more deeply I delved into their nature, the less I seemed to understand. The more I came to understand, the less I seemed to know, even Glancingly.

The snow grows tired and gritty after two weeks and more on the ground.

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BeansForBreakfast

BeansForBreakfast
"Makes me a musical SOB …"

Most Americans interpret the phrase BeansForBreakfast as a reference to coffee. Brits might envision a can of those ubiquitous Heinz beans served over toast as a part of the Full English. I take the term literally, for beans constitute my favorite breakfast food. With The Muse traveling this week, I can partake of my favorite every meal, repeatedly reheating the pot until nothing but a few hock bones remain in the bottom of it. I proudly possess a peasant's palate, one more pleased by simplicity than by complication. Subtlety's usually lost on me. Even when I create one of my artful-looking supper dishes, each remains shit simple inside. I leave a slow oven or flaming cast iron to do most of my heavy lifting in the kitchen. My beans seem simplicity personified.

John Steinbeck insisted in his Travels With Charlie that it was possible to find a decent breakfast in every American town. Fifty some years later, this assertion no longer holds true.

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AnImpossibleRecipe

ImpossibleRecipe2
"My meal was in the making of the meal …"

I think that people think I'm simply playing coy when I cannot crisply recount for them a recipe. I honestly never really quite remember, for I rarely follow a recipe and I never take notes. I follow my instincts instead, always starting with something threatening to spoil. I'm a little girl when it comes to throwing out food, so the edgy and almost questionable serves as the basis of all my food. This time, like almost every time before, our guests at last weekend's supper simply insisted upon knowing. The Muse further reinforced their requests when she reported that her boss had reported that the soup was simply the best ever, so The Muse suggested that I might at least try to recount how I'd made what I made.

I made a soup. I wanted something hearty but also something which would not offend all those with dietary restrictions.

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Fealty

fealty
The Accolade, Edmund Leighton, 1901
"Might just as well accede to this inevitability."

We speak of fidelity in marriages, but rarely if ever mention Fealty, a term sharing the same Latin root but which seems so steeped in medieval lore as to be useless to describe any modern phenomenon. The covenant underlying every marriage contract insists upon a form of Fealty, though, a set of tacit understandings delimiting subtly significant aspects of any such union. No formal agreement ever describes these responsibilities, yet failing to fulfill them provides grounds for eternally complicating conditions. Pouting might result. A poorly suppressed rage might even build over time, leaving the infractor feeling puzzled and isolated within the union. The aggrieved party might never find words to express the depth of their disappointment, though it will quite obviously be present. Typically, neither party will discover that this class of shortcoming lies beyond words. No apology ever quite repays the debt incurred when Fealty fails to manifest. Though both parties understand that a sin has been committed, neither will find any way to adequately atone. It should have never happened and can never be undone. These little crimes undermine domestic tranquility more effectively than mid-life drum lessons ever could.

When the spouse asks whether you're driving them to the airport in the predawn hours tomorrow, the canny spouse immediately recognizes an opportunity to demonstrate Fealty to, if not the spouse, then at least to the relationship.

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EndOfTheEvening

endoftheevening
"No, it's not Christmas yet, but this EndOfTheEvening I'll not soon forget."

By TheEndOfTheEvening, The Villa's ours again. Our guests, warmly welcomed, have wandered homeward. I salted the sidewalk when I realized they'd been walking the entryway gauntlet on fresh ice glaze. Snow fell as they arrived, and with the two luminaria lighting the end of our driveway and the glittering tree in the window, the place looked perfectly seasonally festive. The house smelled warm and spicy with my kick-butt soup simmering and my Veloute Mac and Cheese slowly baking. The cheese platter covered a quarter of the kitchen table, with sparkly wine glasses lined up like patriotic soldiers beside their respective bottles while crackers covered their flank. Everyone quickly gathered in the kitchen space while The Muse and I endlessly excused ourselves, stirring soup, warming bread, checking the Mac, and somehow tearing the chickories for salad. The Brit warmly accepts a fifty degree Oatmeal Stout while his wife holds up that smokey old red, her eyes pleading for my corkscrew. I open that bottle, pour her a glassful, then settle back into distracted preparation.

More people showed up than we have places to sit in the house, not an unusual situation and nothing for anyone to complain about.

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GamingASystem

GamingASystem
The Phrenologist (1874). Lucius Rossi (Italian, 1846-1913). Oil on panel.
" … but I also sidestep the apparent necessity of learning the dodgy skill of GamingASystem, which, for me, seems its own alluring reward."

Every system, the clever ones insist, consists of a game. The purpose of play might not always be to win or to lose, they say, but it is always, always, always to learn how to "game" that system. One need never break any formal rules when GamingASystem. The most skilled play with the rules, interpreting figuratively those regulations intended to be interpreted literally, and vice versa. One might most accurately explain that they play around the rules, practices, and traditions. One counts cards or reads other players' expressions, looking for tells, hardly attending to the formalities. Hoyle might find these gamers uncouth, though truth be told, they seem to win more than their fair share of the hands without ever getting called out for violating any rules. Some insist that those GamingASystem play a much broader game, a more or less moral imperative if the goal remains eventual dominion, for without these tactics, the odds of winning rely upon actual skill in the game, or worse, random selection, as the game designer might have intended.

The Muse insists that she was gifted with an intuition which enables her to test well.

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Realizing

Realizing
Diego Rivera, Man Controller of the Universe (or Man in the Time Machine), 1934
"Vive La DIFFERENCE. Vive the same-old, too."

Once any significant change occurs, I'm usually shocked by how little actually changes as a result. Last week, I learned my literary genre, as significant a realization as I've experienced all year, and yet the following week plodded along remarkably unchanged. Sure, I felt, and deeply, a closer connection to whatever I'm actually up to, but the old time machine marched on. This past week, PureSchmaltz attracted 678 individual views, a slight reduction from the previous week's volume. (Hey, it's a metric. It's supposed to be fundamentally meaningless.) I appreciate your continued interest.

The week began with my announcing my
If-ification, that realization that I might have a normalizing, even civilizing classification after all.

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Fog

fog
"I might be embodying one of those wise men before he found his trail …"

I can tell that Christmas is coming because I'm five days into trying to locate the wreath hanger without having found it yet. Each year, the wreath hanger proves to be the last of the decorations in use. The rest of the trimmings have already been tucked away into that location in the deepest corner of the basement, so rather than re-open that closet, I find some clever little tucked away spot to store the wreath hanger, a spot so intuitive and obvious that I most certainly will not repeat the lengthy search for it next season, only to always find myself searching again the following year. This is one reliable, certain sign of impending Christmas, though, so I suppose I should be grateful for the reminder.

I was fortunate to grow up in a part of the country where this season brought dense freezing fogs.

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FalsePremises

falsepremises
"We know what work faces us now."

It doesn't take much to fool an eye. At first glance, false perspective seems true. Following the lines quickly leaves one tangled, though, and unbelieving. That initial impression sticks through a few disconfirming iterations. The image starts to seem both wrong and right, with right holding his thumb on the scale. Poisoned by the imbedded FalsePremises, judgment struggles. My eyes seem to be lying to me. How very clever of the artist to turn me against myself, to compromise my formerly reliable perspective. I've been fooled and I feel every inch the fool. How easily a single falsehood compromises anyone receiving it! A series of falsehoods produce even worse results.

I'm a sworn enemy of cynicism, yet I seem to collect more evidence to support it than I do to encourage my optimism.

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Almost-ish

Almost
"I sense that this one's Almost-ish done, though I cannot definitely say."

It's almost Christmas this morning, two weeks away from 'Eve and I haven't really started thinking about it yet. I could say that I'm almost ready to start thinking about it because Almost-ish describes the highest state of readiness I ever achieve. I can't remember ever feeling ready for anything. None of my greatest life changes were in any way preceded by adequate preparation. I led each with my left foot, departing at least a day later than planned, yet still arrived within at least one standard deviation of On Time. I subscribe to the defining tenet that there's never any adequate replacement for a sincere lack of preparation. Almost-ish represents as close as I ever get to being ready for anything.

My status quos feature elongated tails. I despise letting go.

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TrustingThisWorld

TrustingThisWorld
" … Me and this world somewhere in-between."

I watch our new kitten Molly and I wonder how she might come to trust this world, for her world seems eminently trustworthy now, yet she still lives by tooth and claw. She defends every inch of territory against even her greatest benefactors, her true champions. She has not yet come to know the reassurance a petting hand might impart or the comfort of a languid lap stretch. True, this world stands as a convicted serial son of a bitch, with a long history of betraying anyone who would ever trust in it. It seems more indifferent than deliberate, though, a blundering behemoth perfectly capable of continuing inadvertences, but probably rarely on purpose, for this world has no real need of purpose. It need never justify itself. However cruel it might seem, it merely mirrors its inhabitants.

We discover the rules we must live by, never writing them for ourselves.

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SundayDread

NewYorkTimesTruthOOH
"I dread the responsibility this practice places on me …"

I pride myself on being well read. Most mornings, I warmly anticipate fetching my New York Times from the driveway. It's part of my ritual to peel off the protective plastic bag and spread the four or five sections across the kitchen table, ready for breakfast perusing. I've already read one or two of that day's op/eds online, but I tear into the paper paper anyway. I scan the front page then delve more deeply into the back pages, looking for stories that might help me make sense of what without some inside analysis, probably wouldn't make any sense to me. I'm a paper guy from my earliest age. When I delivered these pages, I poured through each edition. They were my primary source of education, so I revere them and the journalists who produce them, except on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, a behemoth paper awaits me in the driveway.

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TheBug

TheBug
"I remain no more prepared to battle The Bug than I ever was …"

The Muse had plans for us to meet-up after work and attend the annual Candlelight Walk, to stroll down Golden's Washington Street, sing a few carols, and maybe grab a bite after, but I'd woken with a sore throat and a fuzzy head. I promised to lie low close to the bed and assess how fit I felt nearer the end of the day. I slept a bit and wandered around the place feeling distinctly displaced before texting her around four to report that I still felt shaky. Nothing especially alarming, just a touch of The Bug, though no Bug was likely involved. Maybe the sore throat resulted from breathing incredibly arid cat fur-infused air. I blamed The Bug but quickly recovered from what first felt like a scare. I wasn't scared for long. I'm blessed with good health. I rarely feel in any way ill and perhaps because of that, I can't seem to very easily tell if I'm ailing. My normal ranges over a wide variety of states from manic to despondent, but I do not usually describe any of them as sick. When I finally, rarely, ascribe my state to the influence of The Bug (not, notice, A Bug, but The Bug), I'm usually about half a day away from full recovery. So far.

Thanks to my nurse practitioner's prescription pad, my bathroom counter's suddenly full of plastic pill bottles, each with its own regimen printed on its label.

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If-ification

Classification
"… maybe next week will turn into being all about doing for a change."

Friday arrives again, time to look back over the past week to see what might be derived from the last seven days of PureSchmaltz' GlancingKnows. It was a tumultuous week for me, for this week my writing finally found an identity, an If-ification. I'd persisted in producing—going on ten manuscripts over the prior two and a half years—without possessing a crisp response to the apparently fundamental question: "What sort of books do you write?" I'd tried a string of cute, generally self-effacing responses, but to little benefit and perhaps inflicting some harm, but a precise classification had eluded me. Those who know would innocently ask what my works were similar to, an impossible question for any author to answer. I only manage to read three books per week, so my bibliography seems pretty thin. I do not have access to the population of potential comparable works.

Part of my difficulty seemed rooted in the great variety of classes from which to choose, which the existence of most I remain unaware.

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SchlockyEditing

schlockyediting
"Maybe I should be grateful that it seems to slow down this progression."

If I can write a book in three months, how long should it take me to edit the resulting manuscript? The correct answer turns out to be 'a lot longer than three months.' I don't know precisely how much longer, but it's definitely longer. Once completed, the editing shows that the first draft was pretty close to finish-quality from the outset, hardly more than moving the occasional dangling modifier or correcting the usual 'that' in lieu of an intended 'than.' The effort falls far short of any contemporary understanding of what constitutes work, yet it takes a very long time for me to complete it. Between compiling the pieces, properly formatting them, printing them out, reading and marking up, updating the original soft copy, then distilling into a fresh copyedited work, months might pass, much of the time spent procrastinating from the task at hand. Procrastination constitutes at least ninety percent of the effort, and it's by far the most exhausting and depleting part.

The chief difficulty lies in the inescapable fact that I'm one Schlocky editor.

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Dawning

Dawning
"Neither of us will wear western-cut slacks or string ties."

The sun seems a son of Kansas. It crawls across the sky, casting shadows for a living, before retiring to California. I know altogether too much to believably spin fresh creation myths, though I swear that I could use a few. Maybe we all could. Once I know better, I don't seem to imagine better. I adopt my reality and pretty much stick with it, no matter how poorly it serves my vitality. I feel attracted to the idea that the sun hails from Kansas, just another exported offspring of that windy weed patch of a place. I like the idea that it retires to California to wear western-cut slacks and sport a string tie, and drive a 1953 Ford station wagon with clothes pins on the fuel line.

The magpies serve as the most viable community in my neighborhood.

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Literally...

literally
Andre Derain - Three Trees, 1906
"I'm mostly focused upon the quality of your story …"

I suppose I should affix a little warning "Do not interpret any of the following Literally" on everything I write. I'm no journalist and never really aspired to become one. I do not trade in objective facts but subjective description. I appreciate that this convention relies upon my readers to perform some cursory interpretation, especially if they're expecting just the facts, but so be it. Fix those expectations first. I do not have access to the facts, and even if I did, I'm experienced enough to understand that I can't usually combine facts to produce a decent punchline. I'm not dealing in fake news. I'm not dealing in news at all. My purpose lies closer to attempting to induce insight more than knowledge, enjoyment more than education, and perspective more than acuity. Some truths lie more deeply than any fact. Some facts materially misrepresent experience.

Writing seems most often about inducing a felt sense.

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Snidely

snidely
"I'm always free to interpret a tad more generously …"

I remain surprised by how quickly even animals jump to conclusions about others. People seem infamous for our ability to conclude with almost no supporting evidence. The merest glance informs many of our actions, often resulting in anything but equal opposing reactions. Even I frequently jump first and only rarely ask questions after because my reaction seemed to need nothing more than the barest supporting evidence, if even that. I have no idea how often I'm wrong because I only very rarely find reason to second guess my instantaneously drawn conclusions. They imprint immediately and persist in spite of refuting evidence or experience. The GlancingKnow behaves as if it actually does know all.

I suppose that this facility results in certain efficiencies, but evolution never was an efficiency-seeking undertaking.

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DoubleStock

doublestock
" … nectar only fully appreciable by gods."

The Muse and I must own almost a dozen stock pots. These range from huge to mid-sized, and we regularly, as in weekly, use about half of them. We employ them for more than making stock, but we make a lot of stock. Every blessed bit of veg trim goes into an ever-burgeoning baggy in the freezer. Same with meat trim, leftover bones, and even over-ripe fruit. About a quarter of the kitchen freezer always seems filled with bits awaiting transformation in a stock pot. It doesn't ever take much material: a chicken carcass or two, a couple of quarts of veg bits, a few herbs and spices, water, heat, and time, and I'm making stock again. I might make up a small batch just for a single dish, but I most often roast up larger batches for pressure canning and longer-term use. Replacing stock when a recipe calls for water dramatically improves the resulting dish. We're stock people.

I could not seem to learn how to make delicate stock like consumme, and not only because delicate dishes do not please my palate.

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Weighting

Weighting
Norman Rockwell Visits a Ration Board, Norman Rockwell, 1944, The Saturday Evening Post

"I'll probably never learn."

The queue seems endless, progressing painfully slowly. I'm suddenly uncertain what brought me here. If I expected service, I know for sure that I have not found it yet or it has not yet found me. The system might have been designed to extract blood as a prerequisite for being allowed to donate blood. I feel like a shriveling turnip, but I will not leave. Once in line, and once hemmed in on either side, I hold territory which seems to need defending. I will not surrender, no matter how inconvenienced I feel. I hold a waning faith, but still some small potential for grace, a hope with most of its shine dulled to buff. I've already had enough but I will not be shouting "Uncle!" just yet, if ever. Probably never!

Some waits weigh more heavily than others.

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Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

PreparationPrep
"The dinner, like my GlancingKnow Story week beside it, came off like a dream …"

The Muse and I tend to spend the week before any holiday in preparation. The key to holiday satisfaction seems to be paved with Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. We need to secure little nit-picky items like Pomegranate Molasses as well as the over-sized fowl. The Muse takes the lead preparing for Thanksgiving, for she follows recipes and respects her food heritage enough to try to recreate it for holidays. I try to support her efforts by washing pots and pans AND my presence seems to throw off her rhythm, just as her presence in my prep kitchen throws off mine. She maintains a backward sink discipline to mine, for instance, as she insists on putting her dirty dishes into the clean dish sink and vice versa. She blocks off access to the disposal and completely complicates any attempt I might make to assist, as I simply must clean up her organization before I can help clean up her pots and pans, and my reorganizing her organization throws hers into arrhythmia. I'm forever walking on some tacit plot line she's following and so I eventually retreat to the further corners of the Villa and let her have her way. I justify this by saying to myself that I carry the bulk of the prep work on ferial days, so she can carry that weight on festal ones.

Last week, I started a fresh tradition, one with no cobwebs on it yet, the practice of briefly summarizing the prior week's postings.

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LearningToPlay

LearningToPlay
Baby at Play by Thomas Eakins,1876, National Gallery of Art
" … we're still managing the odd, awkward, occasional pet and heart-melting purring."

Molly spent her first few days with us cowering in the furthest back corner of the most remote room in the house, the cold and drafty room at the very end of the ductwork. I'd crawl back in there to point my finger at her nose while she eyed me sullenly at first, then suspiciously, occasionally permitting me to touch her head, sometimes even submitting to a seemingly welcome neck scratching which usually ended with her startling out of her budding delight before administering a scratching swipe and trying to take a bite out of the hand that had just been stroking her. She seemed sullen in the shelter before we'd brought her here and after hearing her life story from her caretaker there, I concluded that she'd earned her sour mood in the oldest of old fashioned ways. She could still technically pass for a kitten, though I doubted if she'd ever spent a day or even an odd morning at play. Her feral parents taught her what they could, a strong sense of self combined with powerful defensive survival skills, but between being trapped, neutered, ill and recovering from what I understood to have been two bouts of serious feral diseases, she'd apparently never learned to play.

I know, LearningToPlay seems the most oxymoronic of phrases, for play seems as though it really should be more spontaneous than learned, and needing to learn it seems at best likely to result in some wooden analogue of the genuine McCoy.

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GivenIn

acquiesce
"I suppose that I'll need to be generous toward myself; not giving up, but GivenIn for now."

I arose early thinking that I would head right out to scrape off the overnight snowfall, but the snow still fell at a forty-five degree angle and the back deck drift looked close to two feet deep. I can't really tell in the dark, but my intentions conflicted with one of my more deeply-held convictions: one should never start shoving snow until the snow has pretty much petered out. This snowfall showed no signs of petering anytime soon. I peeked out the front and found our two step entryway an alabaster impressionistic sculpture of its usual self; a Brancusi, perhaps, concrete smoothed and implacable. Arming myself with my snow shovel against this monster would be worse than a soldier heading into battle armed with a twig. I'd have to sit and watch.

My acquiescence came easily, perhaps too easily for my Take Charge snow day attitude.

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Impending

impending
"I know no company will come."

A giddiness takes over the place. Even Max The Ever-Curious Kitten senses it. Something's up, or, more properly, almost up. Everything appears perfectly normal as of this moment, perfectly normal and also odd. I know, though the sky hasn't started showing any sign yet, that a snowstorm's been moving in our direction for the last couple of days. It's slated to hit this evening, so this day already carries a last day aura, as if it offers a final chance or two. By this time tomorrow, travel will have become difficult to perhaps impossible. A gallon of milk might just as well sit on Alpha Centauri as on the shelf of the village inconvenience mart; both will become equally inaccessible by then. My mind races trying to remember what I need to do before, because there will be no doing after this storm hits.

Of course there will still be doing then, but this Impending upends my sense of continuity.

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SchlemielTime

GimpelTheFool-970x710

A portion of the cover art from a 1957 edition of Gimpel The Fool, a short story collection by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated by Saul Bellow: Noonday Press

"A well-stocked larder seems the source of most of my supper-related satisfaction."

I have been repeatedly accused of publishing food porn photographs to my social media feeds. I suppose that I am guilty as charged, but I never post the deeper and more representative portrait of my food life. I am mostly a schlemiel in the kitchen. I cannot for the life of me follow even simple recipes. I have not yet learned how to replicate a single dish, each one a genuine original, turning out as it turns out, with repeated practice, if anything, leading me further from a perfection than my initial accidental outcome suggested I might possess the skill to produce. I cannot seem to understand all the theories governing food preparation and do not reliably intuit oven temperatures, grill heat zones, or ratios. My meals are almost universally accidental convergences, relying much more upon luck and quality ingredients than upon my skill. Still, I've accreted somewhat of a reputation as a cook, one which has done nothing to blunt my ever-deepening sense that I remain an apron-wearing imposter holding a spatula just off camera.

The Muse seems nonetheless appreciative, if only because I remain mostly a reliable preparer.

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SeasonalSourcing

SeasonalSourcing
"Our holiday tables will not feature that summer vegetable again this year, which might be Thanksgiving enough for me."

I asked the produce clerk when Buddha Hands would be on the shelf. He looked up surprised, reporting that they'd come in that morning. "We weren't gonna put them on display until tomorrow," he replied, "but I'll be happy to bring them out for you now." The Muse and I twittered in the aisle, barely able to believe our good fortune. In past years, our seasonal search for this distinctive fruit took us further than far and wide. One year, when we lived just outside Washington DC, we must have clocked well over a hundred miles on failed Buddha Hand forays, returning empty handed day after day after freaking day. This year, we happened upon a virgin stash. We'd get first dibs on a fresh boxful of these babies. The holidays began that instant.

The arrival of this fabled fruit always kickstarts a season of baking and rendering.

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DerivingWisdom

DerivingWisdom
The Court Jester Stanczyk Receives News of the Loss of Smolensk During a Ball at Queen Bona's Court (Matejko,1862).

“I see no reason to turn down any DerivedWisdom, especially if I discovered it myself.”


This week, I wrote essays which garnered 504 individual views, on a curious variety of topics, totaling just over five thousand words if I don't count the individual introductions. What do you suppose those words meant? I mean really? Individually, I might summarize them like this:

•I spoke of how I could not honestly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even with the intercession of an insistently supportive god. (
MyTruth)

•I then switched to speaking about my long and largely uninterrupted twice-daily meditation practice, admitting that I feel no closer to enlightenment (whatever THAT is) than when I started, but how I still feel enormous pride in and deep satisfaction with my discipline. (
TabulaRascal)

•I wrote about the inequality money seems to inject into our justice system, perhaps disclosing how little I understand about gilt and the nature of G(u)ilt. (
G(u)ilt)

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PhysicsLesson

CatPhysics
"I needed to no more than generally understand how the slope of my stance might influence my ability to respond …"

Since our new kitten Max arrived three weeks ago, he has slowly expanded to fill every square inch of The Villa. Wherever I go, he's already there, though often hidden until I pass, whereby he pounces, perhaps targeting the leather laces on my slippers, which long ago proved themselves capable of untying themselves, though they seem to welcome a cat claw's assistance. Each pounce seems a PhysicsLesson involving opposing forces, vectors, and gravity. Always gravity. Max, who weighs only a pound or two encased in fluffy fur, executes many pratfalls, none seeming to leave any lasting damage and none dissuading him from additional attempts to understand how the physical world surrounding him works. It's one PhysicsLesson after another from long before dawn until an hour or more after I've laid my own burden down in bed.

I woke a few nights ago to find him sleeping on my head, though I didn't immediately understanding that I'd been shanghaied into the role of lab rat in yet another PhysicsLesson.

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GodSends

GodSend
"I try to remember that each initial provocation might well have come from the hand of some curiously benevolent God …"

Good fortune moves in mysterious ways. Nothing says how any experience might turn out. An apparently advantageous first move might turn south without warning. An obvious initial disadvantage might likewise at any time seem to turn itself around. How any experience turns out depends upon where I decide to place the punctuation. It ain't over until I apply the hard stop designating the end. Many of my experience extend like run-on sentences, featuring more commas and semi-colons that words, it sometimes seems, continuing until some favorable twist renders a favorable outcome. Then and only then might I feel deeply moved to stop the progression. It's all progression, no matter the number of obvious regressions appear between here and that ever-emerging there. Even the fabled fat lady might have this once chosen to sing during an uneasy intermission rather than wait clear until the end.

GodSends might not appear to have originated in the hand of any recognizable God.

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Means&Ends

Means&Ends
"Where would my dignity reside if I didn't have to try so damned hard?"

Ends never justify means. Means usually, if not justify, then certainly serve to validate whatever ends eventually emerge. Those who cut corners on their way to the top inherit a legacy of continuing paranoia. Sure, they achieved the top, but their top can never actually belong to them and they understand that they do not quite belong up there, either. Their imposter syndrome isn't delusional, but well-deserved. But, you might ask, how might one compete if the world contains plenty of cheats who don't seem to carry remorse about their underhanded techniques? Everyone else is speeding. Why shouldn't I? Discarding the decorum erodes something significant, yet subtle. One refrains from ignoring the law not because of the associated penalties, but because respecting the law serves as a means for preserving one's self respect.

If preserving this self respect seems like a shallow payoff in a venial world, you've encountered the dilemma.

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Appreciations

appreciations
Wheat field With Crows, Van Gogh, 1890 (believed to be Van Gogh's last painting)
" … you probably don't know what I would say."

I speak today of Appreciations, those most curious of the many human expressions. A single appreciation, properly done between a single one and a single other, cannot scale, though some of us more shy ones will attempt to execute a blanket appreciation addressed to "You Guys" or "everyone." These fail to satisfy the underlying purpose of an appreciation because they are at root and inescapably an expression of a personal relationship. Any relationship seems threatened by being taken for granted. Continuing proximity need not necessarily breed contempt, but more often a certain complacency, an apparent indifference to its own continuation, a natural by-product of familiarity. Eventually, repeated, such casual interaction might easily spark certain questions such as, "Does he even care that I'm here?" The universal cure for such conditions lies in the skillful application of Appreciations.

Not that Appreciating's all skill, quite the opposite.

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G(u)ilt

G(u)ilt
"The g(u)ilty seem more likely to walk away free to commit their crime again."

Our criminal justice system struggles to treat everyone equally under the law. Those who can afford expensive delaying actions tend to invoke them, deferring justice if not thereby outright denying it. Years later, the urgency of meting out justice erodes and the well-heeled defendant might find the charges dropped or simply turning moot. The poorer defendants might find admission more attractive, throwing themselves on the supposed mercy of the court or hoping to bid down the damage through sincere contrition. The merely guilty and the more g(u)ilty experience really different days in court. The guilty might hang their heads in shame while the g(u)ilty might find any of an array of deflecting blames to hide behind. Until the jury's finished deliberations and the judge pounds his gavel, all seem equal under the law. Once that gavel sounds, the g(u)ilty will more likely walk away free.

The G(u)ilt seems obvious on the wealthy man's face, but it's a face more belligerent than contrite.

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TabulaRascal

TabulaRascal
"Meditation might be my very best imaginary friend."

As a twice-daily meditator over the last forty-five years, I feel somewhat competent to speak about the practice. First, it's not what you've heard. For me, there never was any sense of Tabula Rasa, no emptying of the mind. My mind might even slip into a sort of overdrive when I meditate, more TabulaRascal than empty and open. I might even be doing it wrong, but I figure that I've been doing it my way for long enough that I might have gained license to do it however I damned well please, to accept it however it seems to come to me. For me, it requires no more than an ounce or two of light discipline, just enough to encourage me to sit and do nothing for twenty minutes at a time with no soothing background music or expressed purpose in mind. I consider this my repayment in kind, a tithe of my available time. I read in the press that few people feel comfortable sitting with nothing to do for more than five minutes. The fidgets take over and nervous energy expresses itself. I would consider even this an acceptable form of meditation rather than an example of how not to successfully engage. It's at root an exercise in simple acceptance for me.

Whatever happens, happens.

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MyTruth

TheTruth
"Anyone bringing dog shit to a Stone Soup party should be forced to swallow the resulting soup themselves …"


"Do you swear to tell The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth?" No, I'd feel compelled to decline this common invitation, and not only because I could not possibly have access to The Truth, let alone The Whole Truth, not to mention possess the superpower to access Nuthing But The Truth. This oath seems altogether too absolute, for I (along with every other human) can only access an offshoot truth, one I think of as my own: My Truth. I expect My Truth to be riddled with inadvertence, misconceptions which I have probably conflated as truth, but which perhaps represent common cognitive mistakes. I might have misunderstood an implication or two. I probably assumed some portion of My Truth to be utterly self-evident, when it doesn't seem to be self-evident to you. My beliefs and expectations likely affected not only what I perceived but also how I interpreted, catalogued, and stored my sensory experience. On close reflection, I realize that I don't feel nearly as confident of what I witnessed. I can offer only my impressions.

My impressions might well prove useful, however, even if they cannot quite meet the standards of genuine The Truths, The Whole Truths, or Nothing But The Truths.

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Doltdrums

DoltDrums
"We both want family for the holidays, but we're settling for turkey again."

By mid-November I've grown weary of braises. My larder looks like a mid-winter Moravian supermarket with overflowing bins of carrot, parsnip, turnip, celery root, potato, garlic, and onion aching for another long, slow, covered bake. I can't bare to bake anything anymore. The quick chop chore, the boring obligatory stock pour-over, the tough cut tucked in underneath, with a splash of wine or cider. This all seemed wilder and more attractive back when it was just an emerging seasonal alternative. Now, it seems like the only game in town and I know for certain, before the first die roll, that Colonel Mustard will have done the deed in the drawing room with the freaking candlestick. Not an ounce of mystery or discovery to be found within any of it.

My menu leaves me feeling stupid, uninspired.

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InFLUence

inFLUential
Eugène Delacroix - La liberté guidant le peuple
"We live almost exclusively by anonymous association."

Who's following who? Fergetabout leadership, whatever that was, we've traded in that weary old meme in favor of being seen with someone truly inFLUential. I follow, therefore I am. I must seek first to inFLUence, to infect others with my opinions, delivered so subtly and forcefully that few can resist my call. Is this really all that came of the great revolution, not so much a chain of relationships but a gaggle of clans, each following their man or woman, no longer even desiring to think for them self. I shamelessly footnote, citing some source more reliable than little old me, someone genuinely in the know, someone genuinely worthy of me following? How many followers must one have to be widely considered a thought leader? Lead me, please, not into temptation and deliver us all from evil.

Which side should I be on?

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TheOppositeOf

opposite
"Our dichotomies seem to be trying to define us …"

Opposites distract. Absolute opposites distract absolutely, dangling modifier and all. The chief difficulty with opposites lies in the simple fact that they almost never exist except as placeholders for an absolute absence. The opposite of a tree seems easy enough to conjure. It's no-tree, isn't it? But what precisely (or even imprecisely) entails a no-tree? Every blessed thing except a tree? Hardly definitive. In mathematics, opposites emerge with the simple flip of a sign, except when encountering a nothing zero or a confounding square root. Sometimes, an absolute opposite amounts to just the same thing as its opposite, flash and bone, glimpsed unreversed mirror images which might make anyone's head hurt to consider. It might be that all opposites qualify as completely imaginary, useful perhaps for comparison, a defining opposition, but nothing much beyond that.

We inhabit a world which sometimes seems floundering on a surfeit of opposites.

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BetterByes

petunia#2
Petunias #2, Georgia O'Keefe 1924

"Flipping off winter won't slow it down, …"

You might have noticed that season ends almost always offend me. They come too early or too late to properly please me, yet I strive to be prepared when the actual shift occurs. I never complain about how early winter leaves, no matter how rainy the early spring. Likewise, I usually embrace summer when it finally arrives, though fading daffodils and tulips turn that experience bittersweet. I'm usually unprepared to let go so that the following season might simply come. I am never the one discarding perfectly matured petunias just because an overnight freeze impends. You can depend on me to hatch some season-extending scheme to defer an inevitable season end. One year, I tarped up the whole deck garden to defend against an intruding frost, and the tactic worked, extending blossoms another full two weeks before a more insistent freeze finally settled in. This year, I chose the best and brightest for sequestering in a corner of the garage, and I've extended their lives at least an additional month. I've dutifully carry their pots and planters out into the bright sun on clement days and left them tucked away through now the fifth snow event of this season.

I've been secretly hoping that the bastard deer would find them and provide a demise worthy of them.

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Demoncracy

demoncracy
"The Hapsburgs were plenty happy enough. Their ungrateful peasants, not so much."

Some insist that we have the best democracy money can buy, though our Founders did not originally intend our Big D Democracy to belong within the set of purchasable things. They'd naively intended it to be differently participatory, open to all free, landowning white males. Oh, sorry. They designed it as a plutocracy, ruled by the wealthiest, which historically has usually translated into a de facto kakistocracy, government by those least suitable and capable of governing. The majority who might actually depend upon what a Big D Democracy might deliver, those not male, landowning, or free, could go piss up a tree to realize their liberty, or so sayeth our heralded Founders, who turned out to be more eloquent than prescient, for their declarations out-stretched their designs. Later generations interpreted their intentions much more broadly than they had. Landless males would gain franchise, then former slaves, then women, as our original demo-aristocracy struggled to become an ever more-perfectly liberal democratic union.

We're still perfecting.

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Prosperitease

Prosperity1
Gustav Klimt(1862-1918) / Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907, oil on canvas, Neue Galerie, NYC
"I intend to bequeath no inheritance, …"

My parents were raised through The Great Depression. They instilled in their children all the phobias common to anyone raised with unresolvable want. They'd caught on early that the system was rigged against achieving prosperity, though they labored hard to achieve a modest level of financial security. My mom sewed her kids' clothes and taught her daughters to sew for themselves. My dad taught his sons to put their heads down and toil without complaint. Sloth stood as the sole unforgivable sin. We learned to get by in spite of whatever game the rest of the world seemed obsessed with. Prosperity meant not complaining about stuff that couldn't possibly matter. We had each other, and a fine home filled with make-do eccentricities. The windows might have frosted over on the inside on the coldest winter nights, but one could wear a coat to bed or throw on another hand-me-down quilt, the coal fire would be warm in the morning.

My parents never once owned a new car, and never really wanted to.

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Time-Id

Time-Id
"I continue to be my own worst tyrant."

Six days in and I'm thinking that I might have finally resolved the fall-back time change problem. Dropping daylight savings time feels like punishment to me, a cruel bait-and-switch. Just as daylight becomes increasingly scarce, we, by fiat, by mere convention, agree to swipe another hour of it from the time we need it most, from the end of already seasonally dreary days. Could there be a better way to ensure the onslaught of seasonal affective disorder? I think not!

Most years, I've become a complaining victim to this curious convention, shuffling along into longer and darker nights, but this year, I decided to take a stand.

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Interpregating

Cat_kitten_avatar-35-512
" … he seems to be Interpregating, interpreting to integrate rather than to separate."

This world seems to be continuously trying to teach me stuff. I remain a reluctant student. I suspect that I absorb most of what might eventually become learnings sub- or pre-consciously, and I feel truly grateful for this small gift, for if I had to maintain attentive concentration, I'd certainly fail to learn much of anything at all. We've acquired a kitten who reminds me what learning actually entails. The Muse and I find his antics entertaining, sometimes in a rather mean way, for he seems to endlessly play the fool for us, perhaps to teach us something. Learning seems to entail much foolishness, approximations of congruent responses morphing over time into ever more well-adapted ones. The first few attempts qualify as genuine comedy, easily observed when someone else performs but not so easily recognized when we mount the stage. We're always on stage but only occasionally aware of the observers surrounding us. We're probably always trying out some new routine, but largely unaware that we are. The more well-rounded among us might construct lives of well-practiced, numbing routine, but even these masters might continuously try out fresh variations unaware of just how silly they might seem to the rest of us.

The best I can claim about myself seems to be that I'm still learning.

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Volting

Volting
"A red state turns purple with suppressed rage before finally blowing up blue."

The Muse and I live in an area reportedly beset with voles. Our neighborhood ListServ frequently reports troubles blamed on the hamster-like critters, though we've never experienced a single instance. They're essentially invisible tunnel dwellers, browsing from the bottom up, apparently devastating some neighbors' plantings. We try to keep with native plants, not mistaking this region as part of the Northern Arboreal Belt. Trying to maintain some semblance of a classic English Country Garden here seems to buy more trouble than satisfaction, so we keep our garden aspirations modest and hopefully aligned to our seventy eight hundred arid feet of altitude. We consider the lowly vole as much a part of the native fauna as the deer and the elk, features rather than pests, and we try to live while letting them live.

Come election day, though, it seems as though the voles rush to the polls to cast votes in favor of those initiatives only a tunnel-dweller could love.

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FallTogether

FallTogether
"Small completions seem to render everything possible."

How fortunate for my life to FallTogether in the Autumn. So much these days seems to be progressively falling apart; my present great good fortune seems an outlying experience, almost a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless. I'll manage my accompanying guilt somehow. I'm much more practiced at coping with guilt than I'll ever have even half a chance of becoming at coping with good fortune, so perhaps the two will balance out each other. Months of accumulating procrastinations have been resolving themselves with little effort. I cannot claim to have cleverly planned my present state. It visited me without making reservations. Nor did I finally achieve a level of self-loathing which finally pushed me onto a straighter and narrower path. I simply seem to have stumbled into this place.

One thing leads to another.

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Reflexivity

reflexivity


"It takes someone completely immersed in a subject to explain it in ways that nobody not immersed in that subject could ever understand."

I enthusiastically reserved George Soros' latest book, a collection of essays on the subject of Open Societies. I'd read other works by this great philanthropist and self-proclaimed failed philosopher, most memorably the one where he deconstructed the 2008 market crash. I found him both insightful and frustrating, as he exemplifies the above quote. He's long railed against certain foundational tenets of economics and social science in general, arguing that these fields seem to suffer from physics envy, and attempt to find level ground by adopting perspectives that could lead to truth only when analyzing physical stuff and might reasonably only lead to useful insight when applied to human systems, those being where human judgment and preference cast deciding votes about the outcome. He characterizes social science as compromised by investigators trying to emulate their physical science counterparts while lacking necessarily separate, agreed-upon social-science methods. Building upon Karl Popper's postulate which claimed that scientific facts forever remain hypothetical—prone to undermining with a single example of falsehood—he notes that social science cannot hope to achieve even that modest end, since social sciences rely upon human perspective, always subject to change. If you've ever gone shopping for something you deeply desire, found exactly what you'd imagined, then found yourself dissatisfied when using the product of your successful search, you've experienced Reflexivity. All human system most prominently exhibit Reflexivity.

The scientist, though, seems schooled in a firm belief in objectivity, a fundamentally paradoxical perspective which seems to hold that one could muster an observation without utilizing the services of an observer.

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Thyme

Thyme
"I might even throw up a fresh shoot or two in defiance of a regulating authority hardly worth believing in."

Our thyme plant expanded to several times its original size before I brought it inside for overwintering. Its tips turned brown though its stalks still seem viable and green. It's assumed a rather wiry habit, tough to harvest and difficult to strip, stems more like twigs than herbs. I remain fully aware that I fiddled with time, attempting a premeditated extension of an admittedly over-shortened growing season. The whole herb pot, a slat wood peck basket, now overflows with mutating herbals. Relocated into a sunny kitchen corner in front of the sink, sure, but missing wind, rain, and the temperature shifts that once kept its contents pliable and young. The contents have entered another stage of life, on the first hints of life support, destined to die, but not quite yet. The tarragon yellowed in protest, though it also threw up a few fresh shoots as if mistaking this recent life change for Spring. It will most certainly never see another Spring.

Daylight Savings Time seems like a godsend to me, its annual disappearance always more a setback than a simple falling back into regular time, for there never was any such thing as regular time.

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Dayzed

25 five hour day
"I'll recover somehow."

I take too much pride in my ability to thrive with little sleep. Pride, going just before falls and all, presciences inevitable downfall. I probably over-rely on this gift, for it leaves me with scant margin. I seem to do just fine with four hours sack time, but less than that can really cut into me. I imagine that someone who routinely sleeps two of my short nights' worth, won't so much miss an occasional odd hour or two shortfall, while I most certainly will. Micro sleep usually comes with some sort of travel-related activity. The last night in Vienna might find me sleeplessly waiting up so I won't miss my obscenely early ride to the airport, but little's lost as I'd just as soon crash on the plane crossing the pond, anyway. Giving others a ride to the airport provides a similar experience but with the downside that I'll then need to drive back without losing too much of my consciousness along the way.

Of course necessary stops seem to hinder my return.

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Dismay

dismay
Portrait of Doctor Gachet, Vincent Van Gogh, 1890
" … we're likely to be recovering for a very, very long time."

The news deeply disturbs me. We have a madman in the White House. It's not that I don't understand, because I do understand while reportedly so many clearly do not yet. Yet. Did we just grow to take for granted that an election would filter out the most glaring extremes and prevent anyone actually barking mad from taking the top job? I'll grant you that we've had a bad run, from Nixon to Reagan to Bush, we've seen Presidents push around our Constitution, largely, it seems in retrospect, due to their utter ignorance of its tenets. But this guy combines ignorance with arrogance, distain with cruelty, self-dealing with amorality, and lies heaped with even more lies until his inner insanity screams for wide public recognition. Yet the wheels of Constitutional government move achingly slowly, particularly when populated with those who've sworn fealty to absolute insanity.

Corruption should have more consequences than any election.

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OnceInA...

OnceInA 8.07.17 AM
"We take turns, one day the fool and some days the fortunate child, …"

We live in extraordinary times, or so the media insists. Who among us could resist reporting that seems to so solidly confirm just how special we must be to live in such extraordinary times? The old hometown team won the World Championship for the first time in ninety-six years. "We" set several low-temperature-for-the-month records this week. Never before has "it" been so damned cold this early in the year. Surrounded by unlikely events, we don't have to pretend to be special anymore. Even acknowledging the obvious fact that several of these stats seem spurious,—I mean, who keeps track of all this crap?—nobody can deny that we seem to find ourselves living in truly extraordinary times; just like yesterday, just like last week, just like every day since time immemorial.

Every day brings another blue moon somewhere.

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Preparation

Preparation
"Failing to fully prepare might resonate nothing more alarming than the human condition …"

No one has yet discovered a fully adequate replacement for a sincere lack of preparation. Google 'preparation' and you'll receive the sort of wisdom nobody really needs. You'll hear that "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and other equally vacuous advice. I'll excuse you if you come to believe that preparation is the universal key to success, the Midas Touch on wheels, and the one absolutely irreplaceable determiner. Preparation is clearly the key to every kingdom, except, of course, for all the ones where only a deeply sincere lack of preparation reigns. The difficulty arises when we realize that we cannot always predict when preparation will be key and when a sincere lack of preparation might better prepare. I'm noticing that many people carry a sort of civil engineering preparation philosophy. Why wouldn't one prepare before engaging in activities focused upon moving stuff through space and time? Many activities, though, can't qualify as amenable to civil engineering preparednesses. For those, some sort of non-preparation seems if not necessary, certainly justifiable.

My greatest shortcoming as a project manager was always my lack of prescience.

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DreckNology

captcha
"These are clubs I might be wise to decline every opportunity to join."

My friends host podcasts, but the technology supporting those baffles me. I sometimes think that I really should offer an audio version of my daily musings, but the gauntlet of interfaces separating me from that end reliably chases me off again. Somewhere in that chain, I encounter a Captcha barricade and I cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm supposed to be matching. They want a Pastword, too, and while they offer to allow me to reset forgotten Pastwords, that process, too, proves impassable. I experience technological damned-whatever-I-Do until I construe what seems their underlying intent. Perhaps they're paid for attempts to scale the ramparts rather than by whatever they dangle as possible inside. It's all hidden behind crude sophistications that leave me questioning just how smart our overlording technologists might not be. Nobody ever once designed an interface with me in mind.

I don't mind, or not that much.

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SnowingIn

SnowingIn
"Lord knows this world could use some concerted frittering today."

The weather reporter seems to imply that I should consider panicking. I'm not panicking, though. I know that this storm will most certainly threaten my precious mobility, but it encourages me to reconsider just where I thought I was supposed to be going from here. A lengthening list of sudden imperatives intrudes upon my serenity, but the increasing impossibility of resolving even the least of them quietly thwarts those wants. None of them fully qualified as needs and I decline a clear opportunity to become ruled by whatever I believe myself to need. What if I needed nothing more than what already possesses me in this very moment? Invulnerable to any supplemental advertising, I might revel in some temporary semi-self-sufficiency.

The snowplow plies the roadway outside, piling freshly soiled snow berms across the driveway entrance.

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BreakingIn

BreakingIn
"At least I was used to them."

Our new cat slinks around the place like a sneak thief or spy. I fancy that I understand why, for I, myself, never qualified as resilient when encountering change. I tell myself, and rather over-proudly, that I carry an extreme form of context sensitivity such that I become a very different person when I'm immersed into a different place. I could be the poster child for Heraclitus' old saw about the same old thing being different in different places. As a child, when press-ganged into visiting my aunt's family in Southern California, I'd usually hold out for two or three days before finally consenting to eat anything there. Even familiar old milk tasted different, and not better different. I could even hold out on using the bathroom until my parents would finally resort to force feeding me into restarting my essential life systems. I empathize with the new cat. How utterly strange everything must seem to him.

We imagine that holding him will soothe him rather than ourselves, but he flees behind the couch when unattended, batting idly at curtain strings, peeking around the corner until we sing out another intended-to-be welcoming greeting.

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Pending

Pending
"I, too, am my father's son, and he could not fix much of anything at all."

I sit between storms this morning. Snow still covers the ground from that last one and the weather app warns of worse than that last one to come. Pending seems a perpetual state in these mid-latitudes. Living here yields a life spent somewhere in-between. When will that next storm arrive? There's always a next front just over the horizon. Will it come from the north, west, south, or, that most dreaded of all directions here, the east? Storms from the east seem to violate the first principle of western weather, which almost always travels on the eastbound train. When a counter-clockwise flow kicks in, though, it means heavy wintertime snow or battering summertime thunderstorms. Winter gets called for a day or two of spring before resuming its seasonal status quo again. Summer snow's not unknown. Like everywhere, the locals here proudly proclaim that if the current weather doesn't suit you, just wait a minute or two and another climate might just pass through. It's high desert with seasonal monsoons, crazier than a flock of schizophrenic loons.

Snow serves as the iconic image for all of Colorado, though peaks, let alone snow-capped peaks, do not cover most of the state's surface.

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Insubstantial

insubstantial
"The considerable spaces between molecules far out-measure the span of substances themselves …"

It first seemed as Insubstantial as pollen. I had to squint to see it at all. Even then, I felt uncertain whether I should trust my vision. I'd been fooled before, moonlight casting a convincing illusion of snow, though I was prompted by the weather report to believe a real dumper was coming. Even when I stepped outside, I simply could not tell for sure whether it was really snowing or just blowing around a little freezing fog. I stopped watching, focusing my attention on my inside chores instead, and shocked myself an hour later when I found the start of substance accumulating outside. The onslaught continued into the night, finally sticking to road surfaces around sunset. I'd check from time to time, still unable to tell if it was really snowing out there, whisps of blowing snow coming off the roof edge my only intermittent clue in the porch light backlit by darkest night. The ten o'clock news reported that the freeway was shut down for the twenty miles West of us, cars and trucks spun out in what so recently lacked any substance at all.

The next morning, the deck seemed knee deep in this so recently tenaciously insubstantial substance, a genuine undeniable presence by then.

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Homing ...

Homing
"Family catches up with us, not the other way around."

Homing pigeons have nothing on me, or on any of us. A serviceable homer might reliably return to a familiar place, but people can return to places they've never been to before. Home moves like a spinning kaleidoscope for us, vectoring overlays, a twisting Venn diagram casting a wide variety of shadows. Our home seems like a mobile home, unlike the old home place which passed out of the family after my mom sold off the back forty to the neighbor with the perennially remodeling house, the shabbiest place on the block, clear evidence that she was vacating her once prominent good judgement. Before, family would gather there and feel as though we were home. After, our previous concept of home shifted and still refuses to settle.

Home seems more concept than place now, contingent upon who's present more than where we congregate.

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PTBD

550px-The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Bosch_High_Resolution
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights,
oil on oak panels, 205.5 cm × 384.9 cm (81 in × 152 in), Museo del Prado, Madrid
"I seem to be better able to recognize blessings in retrospect."

Trauma seems the most modern of disorders. Everyone I meet seems to be working hard to recover from some past experience. Unsurprisingly, most of these prior traumatic experiences lean toward the painful side of the ledger, but not all. A curious portion of these traumatic experiences seem to have been more closely associated with pleasure than with pain. While the painful ones grab the bulk of the headline space, I thought I'd today reserve a little place to speak about the other, less widely advertised ones, those traumas resulting from a surfeit of blessings, good fortune, or luck. I can speak for myself when I insist that my most difficult to recover from traumas came about because I experienced an unaccustomed stream of extremely good luck. I'd been seemingly bred for coping with negative outcomes, but found myself utterly unprepared to integrate dream-come-true quality experiences. I most often created some uproar in response, upsetting some otherwise perfect little applecart, which enabled me to quite cheerfully switch into a minor form of disaster recovery mode, a response I might refer to as PTBD or Post Traumatic Blessing Disorder.

Literature seems woefully ill-prepared to present portraits of prolonged happiness, reserving the happily ever after for a footnote very near the end of an otherwise disastrous tale.

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GreatSignificance

michelangelo-creation-of-adam
"Whether any of this amounts to anything at all, couldn't possibly be the point."

I try to imagine myself accomplishing things of GreatSignificance, though I usually struggle with my attempts. GreatSignificances only emerge from great distances, it seems, and almost never from up closes and personals. Later, perhaps much, much later, the parsing might resolve to highlight just how terribly important that by then long-distance event was. It might be important to acknowledge that in the actual moment of occurrence, its GreatSignificance had yet to emerge, however much any participant might have sensed its presence then. Within the larger scale of history, most current events resolve to fuss, perhaps fuss with feathers flying, but little more than fuss. I suspect that any odd second might spawn the greatest event in the history of our universe, but it probably won't.

I'm picky, anyway, sincerely believing that I might pick and thereby choose the activities destined to age into a legacy of personal greatness.

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BigDeal

BigDeal
"If I'm not feeling overwhelmed, I'm never feeling very much at all."

I'm at my best when under the thrall of some BIG, hairy, audacious something. I might be able to limp along with some molehill conflated into a mountain, but my mileage soon lags as if I were dragging along rather than leading any charge. I find my best resources when I'm almost convinced that I couldn't possibly access enough to satisfy the situation before me. Furthermore, I seem to need to really, really, really want some likely impossibility before I ever come close to discovering what I'm capable of producing. I initiate none of these pursuits confident of my ability to achieve closure, quite the opposite. The pall of probable failure must accompany me almost every step of the way. I might conclude my work uncertain if I actually crested the originally-envisioned peak, but for the duration of the effort, I will feel curiously compelled. I might conclude afterwards that my efforts were never really about achieving anything, but more about the heart-filled pursuit.

It doesn't work to make a BIG deal out of some obvious triviality.

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HollowSpace

hollowspaces
"No will in the universe countermand's any season's commands."

A glance out the front window into the predawn darkness convinced me that a thin dusting of snow had fallen overnight. Stepping outside, I saw that moonlight had created an optical illusion. No snow had fallen. This morning, I told myself that I would not be fooled again when I glanced through that same front window, then I stepped outside to find a light dusting of snow and no moon. The neighborhood, and by extension the whole world, seemed hollow inside, as if I live within a snow globe's confines with no possible escape route. I felt hollow inside, too, a recursion befitting the season. Septober's definitely over, Octember's clearly begun.

I'd pruned out the wildflower garden in my shirtsleeves the afternoon before, absorbing warmth from the late day sun.

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Conflating

conflating
"My weaknesses could be my greatest strengths in unlikely guise."

Conflating doesn't have to mean mistaking one thing for another. Congruent conflating means nothing more sinister than combining two separate entities to produce an integrated new whole. Incongruent conflating, though, juggles apples and oranges while imagining them the same because they both travel beneath the ambiguous flag of fruit. Add a tomato into this conflation, and a logical fallacy might become more obvious, since most of us know but cannot quite accept that tomatoes are fruits rather than vegetables. Conflations seem to say much about how one parses their world. Insanity involves employing differing parsing strategies. So does genius. Seeing similarities between traditionally divisive distinctions can create harmony or great discord. Jesus is said to have insisted that he would see the unapologetic sinner on an adjacent cross in paradise. His conflation of sinner and penitent might have blown up the distinction between good and evil. He claimed that all humans are sinners. How do we tell the good guys from the bad one, then? Hat color? Religious turmoil persists.

Conflating has become a growth industry.

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AfterEffects

AfterEffects
"How else could any of us deal with the volume of accumulating AfterEffects we inherit?"

We talk about effects, but might be more deeply affected by AfterEffects, those unanticipated externalities closure brings. AfterEffects delay that expected closure, sometimes permanently. Long after "completing" the race, the race somehow continues in the complaining of a suddenly and surprisingly bum knee where there was never before any bum knee. The race continually haunts, threatening permanent disability. My two weeks spent devotionally kneeling before my great wall refurbishing project left a little knee stiffness behind after I'd finished my extended display of agility up and down the scaffolding. I thought little of it at the time, as though it might prove to be little more than a mildly bruised ligament or less. It's been over ten days now and the discomfort seems greater now than it did when I'd just concluded. I wonder if I've deluded myself again.

This bum knee encouraged me to think about all the AfterEffect externalities I carry with me.

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Reassurances

reassurances
"We need more critics about as much as we need another alarming increase in greenhouse gasses."

I believe that reassurance must be the primary responsibility of primary educators. I'm not suggesting that reading, writing, or even 'rhythmatic should disappear from the curriculum, just that Reassurances seem an essential precedent to successfully learning anything. The ever-popular whip and chair techniques only scare students into attempting compliance. The result might well seem wooden and tentative, lacking supporting self-confidence instilled first by means of repeated Reassurances. For those concerned that prominently focusing upon reassuring might produce snowflake students, so emotionally dependent upon supportive stories that they lack the callouses necessary to get along in life, I turn a scoffing cheek. Those who rarely receive reassurances turn into the most emotionally needy, callouses and all, if only because they ARE emotionally needy thanks to the severe shortage of Reassurances in their lives.

I was always afraid of my teachers, and almost terrified of learning.

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Slurvey

"You're doing just about as well as anyone could reasonably expect, given the circumstances."

I visited my nurse practitioner last week, so I could hardly feign surprise when the easily anticipated customer satisfaction survey showed up in my message queue. My first thought insisted that I should just delete that sucker before it spread, but I felt too lazy for such decisive action then. I this morning decided to just open up the link to discover if anything there might prompt me to respond. I was pleased to find that this survey had been designed as I believe all surveys really should be designed. I could respond to any question by not registering a response to that question, a critically important feature of any useful survey, lest the designer's presumption that their target might provide useful information to any question doom the potential relevance of the whole danged instrument. I usually peruse these damned things before deleting, if I even peruse first, but this time I decided to duck through the small gauntlet of questions by not responding to any of them before completing the two designated optional boxes at the end. I told them who I was and how they might contact me, then slammed the enter key (which, predictably, exited me from that domain.)

I despise surveys because they almost always ask the wrong questions, and sometimes fail to even successfully present a single wrong question, but simply irrelevant ones.

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Playoffs

Playoffs
"I know that it's never over until it's over …"

By mid-October, even the very best major league baseball team has been running on fumes for at least a month. Whichever team embodied invulnerability through August, starts showing some cracks. A key player or two show up on the disabled list and the play-by-play commentary starts leaning toward the team that was rather than the team remaining on the field. Playoffs seem like a Special Olympics for professionals by then more capable of delivering winces than clutch hits. Games become excruciatingly tedious as recently reliable pitchers revert back to their pre-season performance levels and batters watch pitches repeatedly wiz almost over the plate. Some games see almost no scoring, so-called small ball, where strikeouts and short flies dominate what hardly passes for play. Other games turn into stumble sessions defined by errors and misjudgments. The two teams surviving this final gauntlet, one from each league, are deemed proven prepared for one final best of seven game face-off, one of which might be called due to snow.

Players show up wearing cowls and layers, and balls fly about as well as rocks.

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Nevermore

Nevermore

"Why, I wonder, has it taken so very many words to report that no words visited me today?"

What if, I wondered as I slinked down into my writer's chair this morning, I find nothing to write about today? I peeked back through the last three years of material I'd written on this date and found it good. I scrolled back through the prior couple of weeks' stuff and stumbled away impressed (if I do say so myself), but what if this morning brought the day when I found nothing remaining worth saying anything about? What if? I've seemingly invested so much of what I've grown to believe represents me being here that I fear a vacuum might make me disappear. It would be as if my recurrent delusions of invisibility had come to fruition, that my walking could no longer produce footprints, as if the shrubbery no longer whispered with my passage. I wouldn't even be a ghostwriter then, perhaps not even a ghost.

I received in my email this morning a request to connect with a fellow on LinkedIn.

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ArmchairPhilosophy

armchairphilosophy
" … nobody ever really pays the slightest attention to philosophers …"

I hold the opinion that there's no such thing as a comfortable chair and that the belief that there could be such a thing has become a burden to mankind. I freely admit that I possess a deep aversion to furniture in general, particularly to the purchase of it in any form, though I do allow inheritance as the sole proper means for acquiring it. The Muse and I own a remarkably mismatched furniture inventory. Different ages, styles, colors, and concepts combine to exude an otherwise unattainable Early Undergraduate ambiance. Each chair stands as a unique form of torture, with each most certainly its own form of torture. Oh, one might just seem comfortable upon first sit, but try staying put for a half hour. I simply cannot. I can perch for a few fleeting moments before something seems terribly awry and I simply must move myself somewhere else.

I've grown to prefer sprawling on the floor when I watch television.

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AntiSocialism

AntiSocialism
"In any contest between social and anti-social, I choose the social, even if some wag attaches a misleading -ism to the tail end of it."

We live in an era of rampant paradox. I wager that nobody understands a single slogan, yet we speak almost exclusively in slogans. We interact via a medium euphemistically referred to as Social Media, a place where anti-social speech seems expected and surprises nobody, not even those it shocks. In politics, we argue as if every issue were all or nothing and as if moderation rather than extremism was the greatest crime of our time. Trump employs the most offensive speech for those he derisively refers to as socialists, offering a clear choice, I guess, between social and anti-social candidates, with him embodying the latter. His strategy seems to rely upon confusion as its primary enlightening element, betting that he can persuade more voters with provable bullshit than his more social opponents ever can with simple truths. Truth, in his crude calculus, is socialism, pure and simple, and socialism, by definition supported by flurries of out-of-context references to obscure discredited economists, seems to be evil. Truth is thereby proven to be evil. How could it be otherwise?

I will not mention the most "socialistic" government program ever devised, the Oil Depletion Allowance, the original tax-everybody-to-subsidize-the-richest operation, and perhaps the most socially ruinous, vehemently defended by the most self-proclaimed conservative and anti-social voices.

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OilyBoyds

OilyBoyds
"Just who could I think of myself as being otherwise?"

Back in the days when high speed Internet access was scarce, I took to writing at Starbucks when away from home. I'd arrive when they opened at five am, and settle in to write at a front table looking out on a deserted street while conversation from across the shop grew increasingly loud and occasionally annoying. I'd slip in and out of my writing coma, barely aware of my surroundings. An hour or so later, I'd finish up, surprised at just how bustling the place had become. The early arrivers seemed to invariably be older men. Their conversation an unsurprising mix of sports, politics, and local gossip. They seemed insular, a self-contained little society, probably life-long friends. They seemed to be on a first name basis with the counter help. I seemed hardly a shadow there, myself.

As I've grown older, I feel a growing compulsion to get up and out early in the same way as a younger me might have felt compelled to go out in the evening to mingle with crowds.

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TheEllWord

IMG_4381
Before
Painting by D. Wilder Schmaltz, May 2001
IMG_4373
After
Photograph of the same place, October 2019
"True love doesn't guarantee a happy ending, but a more engaging life."

A friend asked me why I went to all the trouble of scraping and repainting the front of our house and I surprised myself a little bit by responding with, "Love," but I couldn't honestly explain my effort in any other way. I feel a devotion to that place, a deep sense of stewardship that might not make any sense to anyone else, but which makes perfect sense to me. Over the nearly twenty years that The Muse and I have owned the place, it's taken up a great deal of space in my heart. I might, by all rights, hate the place by now. It can be overwhelmingly needy. It's proved me the fool so many times that I by all rights should be reduced to drooling my dinner down my shirtfront. Worse, we've lived away from it longer than we've lived IN it. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

It keeps calling me back.

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TranSitIon

TranSiTion
"I have no idea what comes next …"

The early flight out of Walla Walla departs at 5:15 AM. I wake myself at 2:30 to watch my alarm clock tick down to my scheduled wake-up time. I'm out the door before a quarter to four, struggling with my brother-in-law suitcase over-stuffed with leftover tools and work clothes. I call that suitcase my brother-in-law because dragging it around feels like I've brought a clumsy, indecisive shirt-tail relative along. I find a conspicuous spot to ditch the step=son's enormous truck and lock the keys inside, then schlepp my baggage into the terminal. Small town airport check-ins lean toward the informal until trying to pass through Insecurity, which seems over-staffed with a half dozen unbelievably busy agents hovering around the process. I'm almost first in line, but still spend fifteen minutes while two agents pour through my knapsack's contents, which I know includes at least two illegal items which I should have sequestered into a separate plastic baggie. I've carried that nasal spray and those eye drops through Insecurity for over ten years and never been busted. They ineptly reorganize everything before passing the bag back to me, curiously handing over my car key and a flash drive separately. The couple behind me receive similar scrutiny.

The airplane looks like a preying mantis, ungainly in the pre-dawn squall, the inside miniaturized.

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FiguringGround

FiguringGround
" … even if that hero only ever existed in my own mind."

I ask myself, "What am I to make of that?" because my experiences seem unendingly ambiguous. Was that a last result a blessing or a curse, or even worse? I never can tell for certain, so I face some choices. By what criteria might I judge an outcome, each of which seem to serve as a set-up for some subsequent experience in a seeming never-ending chain? Today's delay might later prove to have more properly positioned me in ways that an on-time arrival could not possibly have. Today's disappointment might well become tomorrow's godsend. Today's blessing, next week's curse. It's even worse than simple either/or. Though the patterns seem to replicate, none of any of this has ever happened before. We are the pointy end of a very long stick. We clearly perceive neither our origin or our destination.

Two weeks of intermittent effort seems to have produced an array of changes.

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Dreader

dread
" … no easy mark for all the voices that shriek through the dark."

Some seem to exude confidence. I inhabit the other end of that scale. I exude dread. I don't envision worst possible scenarios because I'm confused by the concept of worst, but I only very rarely anticipate anything turning out right. Any impending event can send my imagination spiraling into likely complications. I tend as a result to enter well-prepared for what only very rarely ever occurs, and no amount of contrary positive experience has (yet) drained me of my preternatural dreadiness. Any fresh challenge, every freaking aspiration sends me crouching into the experience. My current refurbishing project serves as a fine case in point. I fuss the finer points, sure, and also natter over the larger ones, too. My head grumbles like a zoo just before feeding time.

Am I a man of little faith?

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Workitation

workitation
"Those without long, unforgiving rows to hoe might not ever come to know …"

Plumbers work with their mouths closed. Some work demands taciturn incumbents. Long incommunicado hours foster a rich internal world. Ear worm jingles give way to recollection and quiet consideration and a kind of meditation sets in. Endless uncountable hours spent in repetitive motion does not degrade the craftsman, but seems to elevate him instead. He's not so much working as workitating, as immersed in his experience as any cloistered monk might be within his. Time loses relevance. Aching joints shed their significance. Authentic transcendence settles over the job site. Phone calls seem to come from other dimensions. Removing gloves to answer disrupts the trance, if the ringing even penetrates the serene flowing bubble. I might not be home then, anyway.

Judgement seems to sharpen within this flow.

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Yretsam

MirroredMastery
"I didn't know how to tell him that my paint choice had almost nothing to do with the end result."

I suspect that every social scientist suffers from Maslow Envy. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which presumed to delineate a set of sequential stages necessary to achieve self actualization, reverberates as perhaps the foundational presumption of most every social science. The nagging fact that it's probably wrong notwithstanding, it provides a clean and convenient framework within which to consider otherwise terribly fuzzy concepts. The fact that it's irreducible, remarkably impervious to scientific proof, only makes it more powerful. If only I could concoct such a foundational model rather than run down one that just seems so right to so very many. I'm not even a social scientist, yet I admit to carrying my fair share of Maslow Envy, too.

Back when I was still an active consultant, I employed models to impart concepts I thought my clients might find useful. Some actually proved useful

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WrestOrRant

smallplates
"I'd really prefer to depart with something other than notching in my belt on my mind."

One phrase strikes terror into my soul: Small Plates. Tapas run a close second place. I never know these days what I'll find when I step into restaurant or diner. Dinner might await me there, but it seems increasingly likely that I'll find little more than a feast fit only for a Barbie® doll and her friends. The menu might not describe the portion size, misleading my mind into believing that just because it promises roasted winter veg that they won't come reduced to a meager puddle almost obscuring the three (count 'em, three) halved fingerling potatoes vainly trying to avoid suffocation. The lamb chop up top, so encrusted with heirloom herbs and crap that it appears to have been a stillborn mistake from a faulty EZBake oven in the back. I'm still hungry just looking at it, the plate that would be supper. I'm still hungry after, so I order another consoling beer and ask the waiter to bring me a pile of fries like that woman's plate over there. He does not charge me for this supplement to my meager supper.

Restaurant has come to mean, loosely translated from the original French, "leave hungry."

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MissedAppropriation

MissedAppropriation
"I might most vehemently defend what was never really there at all."

We seem to hold many fallacies as self-evident truths. Even those who preach against the likelihood of physical evolution seem to hold social evolution as unimpeachable truth. We might not be descended from monkeys, but some (most prominently, themselves) sure seem clearly superior to others. They might even cite some behavioral psychology experiment performed on birds or dogs to justify human behavior, shrugging in acquiescence to what they might firmly believe to be immutable scientific fact while quietly discounting a raft of conflicting experimental results. They defend social status quos as god-given and progressive-minded change as the devil's own handiwork. I suppose, given random, entropy-infused experience, humans simply must project some sort of reassuring patterns onto the screen. Our projections seem drawn from simple models, side-stepping the more physically common exponential and logarithmic progressions, preferring straight-line addition of two and two over anticipating any point on a wave or curve. We fill ourselves with these fantasies and they quickly become our baseline realities.

What are we supposed to believe, anyway?

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Hard(ly)Work(ing)

HardlyWorking
"I am a man because I harbor such delusions."

My Puritan forebears would today easily be classified as masochists. They prayed hard, sure, but they worked harder, and not exclusively for the glory of any God here on Earth, but for the glory of the real estate speculators who'd financed their incursion. They arrived at Plymouth deeply indentured, beneath the yoke of powerful financial interests with the ear of the king. Their's was a speculative endeavor, certainly no sure thing. They'd traded a settled existence for an unimaginably primitive one, the sobering yoke of great debt perhaps most prominent on their shoulders. Many didn't make it. I might reasonably insist that only their myths survived.

Their myth intertwined piety with hard work, self-sacrifice in pursuit of so-called higher ends.

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IdlingTime

IdleTime

"The end, a terminal condition where IdlingTime starts threatening me again"

Forget the Chinese Water Torture. Ten years at hard labor? Kid stuff! If you want to inflict maximum punishment, mete out a sentence of a hard week of forced idleness. Prevent the convict from breaking big rocks into little ones. Set him in an isolation cell with nobody to tell him to do anything at all. Treat him as if he was not there and he'll more than disappear. Forced IdlingTime takes away even the more engaging mind. Force me to take a week reclining on a sunny sugar-sand beach and I swear that I'll go bat-shit crazy for you. Take away my keyboard. Rain me out for two mornings in a row and I already know where I'll go. I'll try to escape into sleep, but sleep won't come then. I'll look for a place to lie down, then watch my mind spin without engaging any flywheel. I'll burn my whole tank of gas without leaving anything behind to show that I was even there. True desperation.

I do not find vacation time rewarding.

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PickEmUp

pickemup
" … fifteen hundred pounds hauling a bedload of air and leaves blown in there late last autumn."

I possess no more than glancing knowledge of PickEmUp trucks. For me, they serve as an annoying presence on the road. They goad me from behind before leaving me in their dust and coal smoke. I've borrowed my share from brothers-in-law to haul the odd load of yard prunings or to move a few bed-fulls of grape skin mulch from a winery, but always with an alien's eye, the driver's seat too impossibly high a perch. The steering wheel positioned inconveniently right between my eye and the windshield, a patina of dust and grit priming dashboard and jockey box. I'd crawl between destinations feeling as though I was piloting The Queen Mary through narrow channels, the turning radius of a mile-long coal train, gun rack in the back window.

These ungainly vehicles have become an unlikely symbol of masculinity.

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RainedIn

cancelled
"What else was life supposed to be besides a series of clever recoveries from the way it was supposed to be?"

The chairs still sat atop the tables with lights still low when I showed up at 'my' Starbucks to write this morning, so I decided to try the truck stop instead. I found a welcoming wi-fi signal there, and an atmosphere much more conducive to pursuing my intention. No soundtrack blaring. No deaf regular screaming everything he says. No altogether too high-test decaf to jangle my spirit. As quiet as a library. My huge DIY project looks like it will be delayed today, with weather reports increasingly agreeing that today and likely tomorrow, too, will be rained out. Baseball games still get rained out. Sometimes schools close when the snow flies. Flights might get delayed or cancelled when threatening weather settles in, but most activities continue as if invulnerable to any kind of vagary.

Where might a person find a reliable source of disruption for their plans if not even a rainstorm can get much cancelled?

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MindlessEffort

MrMachineManual-7
"My name is Mr. Machine!"

Once I've laid out the job, my mind starts reducing it, influenced, I suspect, by The Principles of Scientific Management I've so long reviled. I am not, I insist, a machine, except, of course, when I willingly assume the role of machine while in pursuit of completing some repetitive series of tasks. Then, I'm actively searching for movements I might reasonably eliminate, seeking a pattern of least resistance, creating a simplified set of repetitive motions of the sort which might well leave behind permanent damage. I willingly, enthusiastically become a machine. The jingle from that sixties toy commercial endlessly echoes through my head: "Here he comes, here he comes, when you see him, you'd better run 'cause his name is Mr. Machine." I am become not light, not a force for goodness and right in this world, but a genuine machine.

My mind feels perfectly satisfied with my self-appointed role.

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ExpertAdvice

expertadvice
The Conjurer, 1475–1480, by Hieronymus Bosch or his workshop.
"Another spare ounce of budding expertise standing in for a ton of actual skill."

Experts tell others stuff, exercising cheeky presumptions that the advice seeker cannot validate. Some of the stuff they share seems unlikely to the point of unbelievable, but then the more complicated human activities have always seemed counter-intuitive. Charlatan experts abound. There are probably already a hot half dozen YouTube videos posted on whatever subject you need, ready, and perhaps a tad too willing to offer "good advice," each of which kind of contradicts every other, worth every penny any novice might not agree to pay for it. Real expertise seems different from the phony kind, though, and as I began yet another semi-massive Do It Yourself project, I decided to engage in the one way most seriously dedicated DIYers never would, I consulted a genuine expert.

I had reason to believe that my expert was of the genuine variety.

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Trabbeling

trabbeling

"Do not for a minute envy my mobility."

The Muse and I find ourselves Trabbeling again. Merriam-Webster defines Trabbeling as a common variant of the more common traveling, and while a variant, the term seems to better impart what I experience. The Muse Trabbels all the time these days, so her mileage varies considerably from mine. I once lived on airlines, weighted down by so many frequent flier miles that they had to seat me way up front so as to counterbalance most of the rest of the load. Then, I was a fearless flier, unruffled by turbulence normal or exceptional. Now, I've matured into more or less a complete ninny.

I presume that an airline reservation will probably fly me into the valley of the shadow of death, so I consider flying anywhere a reminder of my inescapable fallibility.

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Septober

Septober
"If I can't own up to the inescapable fact that I started out all wrong again,
I will never make anything right."

This morning dawned grey and gloomy. Septober arrived with her usual mope. Autumn never has qualified as even the second runner-up in The Hopeful Seasons Pageant, a little too much goose flesh showing during the Catalina Swimsuit portion of the competition, I suspect. We know where Septober's going. In with a mumble and then out with a slam. It signals the start of a season featuring thick socks, slamming doors, and serious preparations for another overlong hibernation. We should feel cranky when considering this nap time.

The Muse and I head out early tomorrow morning for yet another extended absence from the Villa Vatta Schmaltz High, this time to try to refinish the front of the original Villa Vatta Schmaltz before Septober suspends outside work for another year.

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KnowingNuthin

snob
"I shake my dead in weary dread
when I sense a superior beside me."

Supremacy carries the certain scent of some internal sense of its own inferiority. Lording over another seems to leave the lorder looking a lot less lofty. Feeling special doesn't seem to be anything special, we've all experienced it, but that sense of being special serves like a museum piece, meant to be exclusively displayed on interior walls. Taking it outside disqualifies in ways nobody can convincingly say without appearing a contender as superior scold. It demonstrates a disagreeable neediness in the proclaimed possessor, a separation between heart and soul we all know signals a moldy mushiness within. It hardly seems to matter where the realm of superiority lies. Holier than thou seems more than slightly similar to smarter, richer, handsomer, and cliquier. Effeteness sleeps in its own lonely backstreet.

The effete sometimes gang up.

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BegEnding

Oroboros
"I hear autumn approaching."

I never come seeking closure, though sometimes closure seems to stalk me. It whispers, "The end draws near." It promises clarity but demands that I forfeit purpose, to exchange kinetic for static, questions for settled certainty. I never feel more alive than when first setting out. That first step seems the stuff of eternity, the last seems simply past. This book making makes for the strangest bedfellows, ones who sincerely want to share my scheming, who seem to need to somehow capture my soul, perhaps to sell it for something less permanent, like gold. I'm told that something called a market stands out there. Precisely where this chimera might lurk, I do not know. I do know that nobody could possibly show me where. It might exist in the great unmappable nowhere. Its presence scares me.

I come to the end of another season, one I began, like I start all seasons, with a purpose, indistinct as all proper newborn purposes should be.

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FakeNews

Bullshit1
"Simply swallowing seems to make me sick."

Our venerable New York Times seems to have come under harsh criticism for having published a glaring omission, a shortcoming that they reported shortly after publishing. The harshest critics complained that this little incident, and it really was, in the scope of everything, a microscopic error, proves a point they'd been trying to make forever, (Or did it just seem like forever?) that the mainstream (or, in their vernacular, "lame stream") media has always been untrustworthy. The critics scream (must they always scream?) "Fake News" again, but we're deaf to their frenzied exhortations. We know that the REAL Fake News outlets never report on their own shortcomings, so na-na-na-na-na-na!

Truth is, the venerable New York Times has never once published an edition that failed to include a few errors. It has likewise never published an edition that did not feature an A Section column entitled Corrections, where the editors fess up to their own shortcomings. It also publishes readers' letters, a disturbingly large percentage of which take umbrage with something the paper published. Hardly invulnerable to criticism, seeming to embrace it instead, this whipping boy of those who insist it deals exclusively in Fake News somehow manages to maintain the self esteem to publish, then publish again. Shameless!

Well, perhaps not completely shameless.

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PatTurns

PatTurns
"I already drive an autonomous car most of the time."

I'm reasonably confident that I'm not closely related to sheep because my coat has no wholesale market and because I'm a pickier eater. In spite of the inescapable fact that I'd much rather bleat than bleed, I consider myself a notch above the typical lamb on most cognitive scales. My will seems freer and my judgement somewhat more sound, but I still seem to spend much of my life on autopilot, not really observing, thinking, or choosing for myself. My vast body of experience easily convinces me that I might reasonably just go with the apparent flow without frequently intervening to change course. Once settled into a pattern, I tend to stay down in those reassuring ruts.

I suppose that I turn where I turn because I didn't get burned by going that way the last time.

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Messo-

messo
" …to feed the needs you never genuinely had …"

I'm wondering what to call the kind of illusory examples I seem to be drenched with in my media-saturated world. I catch on that I'm supposed to sincerely want whatever's being advertised, whatever's being described, yet I know the ad and the description might only be best understood as examples of studious omission, contextless impossibility devoid of externality, a terribly alluring NuthinMuch at all. Have I become so suggestible that I swallow these seductions without catching on that they're cardboard cut-outs without the cardboard? It seems so sometimes. I understand that they tug at my heart strings. I'm supposed to want and I even do, sometimes. Other times, my heart aches as if I should be wanting but simply cannot. Someone left a Post-it® sticker on my screen door yesterday which reported that many of my neighbors have been replacing their windows, and I might want to seriously consider replacing mine, offering discounts I cannot afford to pass up. I moved the sticker to the front of my garage refrigerator so it can remind me what I'm supposed to really be wanting whenever I fetch myself a cold beer.

What IS going on here?

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Spindly

spindly
"I'll notice what left us behind."

Late Summer has a broad belly but stands on Spindly legs. Spiders spin increasingly frantic and Spindly webs, seeking to secure more of the last of their weary prey and set their egg sacks away. Pumpkin fields feature more desiccated foliage than green. Foothills regain their usual buff beige as their velvet turns back into crunchy sandpaper again. The mid-days retain their brightness and their heat, but each day's celebration rolls up the sidewalks by seven and sleeps until almost seven the following morning. We still sleep with our windows wide open, but slip out from under covers to don a supplemental sweatshirt before dawn. Flannel moves a few spaces closer to the functioning end of the clothes closet, eyeing the lightweights ahead of them as if they were already gonners. I seriously consider wearing socks again, but stave off that siren's song for now. Their time will come too soon.

The produce stand started stocking squashes and pumpkins, elbowing aside full summer's contribution to the diet

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InSpite

InSpite
"Every completed one turned out just precisely how it was supposed to."

InSpite of the plan, which I'd carefully crafted during the days before starting the little project, my anticipations quickly went to Hell. This was in no way a surprise. I would and should have been much more surprised if they hadn't. My decades of experience crafting clever plans convinces me that they are most often conceived to fall apart. This doesn't excuse slipshod planning, for shortchanging the process limits the insights resulting from a southbound effort. If nothing much gets invested in how it's supposed to be, no Oh, Shit experience will result, and these spark the insight essential to actually completing any effort in a satisfying way. Only actual experience can temper the confidence motivating the beginning. Only insight can spawn whatever's actually needed to get the job done. It's a rule or something.

The spite emanating from these sorts of realizations could power the electric grid.

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Educationing

educationing
"In practice, we're all mostly making it up as we go along, …"

Surprisingly, I don't consider myself to be stupid. By many measures, though, I'm clearly not smart, certainly not THAT smart. In school, I learned that I was not smart, with this lesson repeatedly reinforced until it became almost the only learning I retained, which might mean that I was at least smart enough to learn that I wasn't smart. I've retained that foundational lesson through my entire adult life so far, reinforcing it through near constant repetition. For instance, Denver's close-in western suburbs feature several North/South arterials. I frequently use two of the most prominent ones, Kipling and Wadsworth, yet I can almost never remember either name. I know just where they are, but when The Muse asks me which route we're taking, I might hesitate a beat before replying that we're either taking the W or the J street. Unable to recall the precise name, I offer some lame placeholder instead. I'm forever calling Wadsworth Wordsworth, which seems like a workable-enough alternative. Numbered highways don't even get placeholders out of me. The ring freeway is either 730 or an unnamed entity, I cannot seem to retain its real designation. The highway between Golden and Boulder has no name as far as I'm concerned. I think it's ninety something, maybe seven. Yet I can usually navigate without overmuch trouble, the names hardly mattering in practice.

School taught me that I don't seem to store information in crisp little recoverable packets.

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Wall-tering

IMG_4347

" … nobody but the next painter to follow will ever see the subtle complex symmetry I somehow left behind."

Today's project, should I muster enough gumption to begin, will result in a repainted wall. It's an exterior, southeast-facing wall, angled and elevated, lightly weathered by a hailstorm over two years ago. I've prepped and repainted all the south-facing walls in the period since the insurance adjuster proposed hiring painters and I replied that I preferred to do my own painting, thank you. I spoke the truth, I really do prefer to do my own painting. I work at a pace that leaves me coming in second place behind any snails in the field, but I think of myself as someone who values quality above speed. I first excruciatingly evaluate the surface from several perspectives. I stand close, then move further away, building an ever-deepening understanding of the effort facing me. I imagine how I'll begin, what tangles I'll likely encounter, how much paint I might need, and what tools I might employ. This considering might take weeks, with me finding ample reason to dread in anticipation, which might encourage me to consider even more.

I know for sure that once I begin, the work will quickly become my obsession.

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Choosiness

choosiness
"Unsettling, isn't it?"

When I was a younger man, I experienced a great revelation. This hardly qualifies as a headline-grabber because great revelations seem the sole property of youth. Older folks continue to experience their share of revelations, but they only very rarely strike them (or anyone else) as particularly great. The notion that age brings greater wisdom beggars belief, as anyone paying attention as their grandparents, then their parents, entered old age. At some point, accumulated wisdom seems to pass backwards to the following generation, often without their permission or immediate recognition. Catching on to this transfer might be the final great revelation most experience, though this ordinarily appears as a genuine "Oh, Shit!" moment.

My great revelation whispered that it's all about choice.

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Winning

winning
"They will celebrate by ceasing further play …"

I explain that I've never been terribly competitive. The Muse objects to my self-characterization, reporting that I have gotten fairly fierce at the old Scrabble board sometimes. Perhaps, I reply, but how often do I play Scrabble? It's not like I make a habit of engaging in competitive 'games.' I find every other board game aptly named. They bore me. I never really learned to play cards, chess, or the lottery. I have twice entered casinos only to realize that I didn't have the first clue how to engage in any of the 'games' there before going to find a quiet place to read. I sense the rising tension in a late-inning close call baseball game, but I never quite lose the understanding that winning and losing never mean much. There's always tomorrow or next season or never lurking around the corner. Winning's more transitory than cloud, so I don't quite understand the roar of that crowd.

Yet I do not characterize myself as a loser, either.

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Inconspicuous

inconspicuous
" … enable each of us to make choices which could leave us stepping a little more lightly as we conspicuously stomp around our Eden"

A hundred and twenty years ago, early economist Thorstein Veblen published his The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions. The book reads almost as if it were parody, like any great work of economic theory should. He noted a strong correlation in the US between what he labeled Conspicuous Consumption and status. The higher the status, the more one would willingly pay. He noted that the old 'buy cheap, sell dear' ability said to underpin capitalism was not evident among major capitalists. Quite the opposite. Maintaining status required public profligacy. He provided numerous examples, several aimed at what we now call Elite Institutions, universities that built and maintained terribly expensive Gothic enclaves. As with anyone audacious enough to commit this sort of public truth, he was eventually blackballed out of academe. He died a decidedly inconspicuous death while living in an empty shipping crate which was situated just off Sand Hill Road, where Silicon Valley's venture capitalists now maintain offices, overlooking Stanford University's gothic enclave in Palo Alto. He'd reportedly adopted a pet skunk, the only remaining company he managed to maintain through his declining popularity.

Judging by the number of McMansions and McEstates dotting the Front Range around my more humble abode, conspicuous consumption has not diminished in popularity over the intervening years.

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CityOfScolds

scold
"I propose starting with me."

I live in a CityOfScolds. Any stranger will most likely receive a cold reception. Any neighbor might get burned. Judges seem to always be on duty to notice should anyone stray from somebody's straight and narrow, and it never seems to take much to be accused of stepping over some line, especially the ones only the judge ever knew were drawn. Such constant vigilance never was the cost of anything but sure and certain humiliation and ever hardening feelings, for we're all little kids stranded in big people bodies, mistaken for omniscient when only innocently faking it through. I seem certain to offend you as you seem equally certain to offend me. I feel well-justified in calling that foul, in exhibiting my very best scowl for you, though you always seem to me to be a tad too picky with me. Maybe that dog barking really should be prosecuted as the Federal case your reaction seems to indicate that it should be. Maybe my innocent inquiry broke every tenet ever known for propriety. Maybe your piety stands more than head and shoulders above mine. We each seem to have gone into the business of failing (flaying) to fix the recent past, aghast.

We behave as if we were each justifiably offended by each others' presence. We endlessly inconvenience each other.

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Smell0Vision

smellovision
"When well-produced fantasy becomes the new reality,
what does the viewer become?"

I do not know how deeply television has influenced me. It might be that it's in the nature of TV that no viewer could ever know how deeply it influences them. What I experienced as a passive watching, though, seems to have been a more complicated interaction than I sensed. I know that in my youth, I would have chosen TV over almost any other activity, even if, as was often the case, "nothing was on." I became a fairly indiscriminate consumer, relatively indifferent to the actual content and much more intent upon experiencing that zoned-out state. Before sex, drugs, and rock and roll, TV was there. More importantly, I was eventually, always there for TV.

My folks kept their TV on every waking hour. Mornings brought The Today Show mumbling behind their morning routine. It seemed to be their morning routine.

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HotGreen

HotGreen
"Eat to excess whatever's in season."

This statement encapsulates my personal produce philosophy. I will probably shun any fruit or vegetable until I find fresh and local, but when I find fresh and local, I turn into a genuine glutton. The Muse and I share this guiding philosophy. Winters force us into crouched, defensive positions where we somehow subsist upon root veg and obscure members of the cabbage family. Sure, we could score asparagus from Peru and blueberries from New Zealand, but we'll shun those carbon-clad choices. We'd really rather starve. Spring and Summer, though, find us enthusiastically frequenting the family produce market where The Old Man drives to the other side of the state twice each week to bring back truckloads of whatever's presently in season. We dutifully buy then eat to excess whatever's fresh each week. No produce better exemplifies this philosophy in action than the audacious HotGreen Chile.

No, I do not mean Jalapeño, that seemingly ubiquitous pretender pepper, the Wonder® Bread of hot chiles. I find the Jalapeño uneatable, mean heat accompanied by the flavor of muddy lawn.

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Reating

reating
"Neither exclusively a reader nor a writer, …"

I read a lot more than I write. Reading's how I fill my writing hopper, not so much with fresh ideas, but with inspirations. I read like an interior designer surveys paint samples, not to copy anything, but to remind myself of the possibilities prose holds. I am susceptible to subconsciously replicating whatever I'm reading, so I carefully choose what I read. I've developed a ruthlessness when it comes to finishing a book or a piece of writing. If it ain't going nowhere, I won't go there with it. When asked what I do for a living, I catch myself mute. "You mean, what do I do for money?" I reply. "Nothing." I read and write instead, mostly read; Reating.

Reating isn't the most lucrative occupation. It's only necessary, which gives it its only defensible attribute.

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HomingAgain

homing
"I'm a pigeon, for sure, but not entirely one of the Homing variety."

Scientists say that it's an instinct, an irrepressible urge to return home, so they refer to it as The Homing Instinct. This label contributes nothing to my understanding of the phenomenon, though I personally experience it when returning from some travel. As the scenery becomes increasingly familiar, I start feeling like my old self again, my traveling self sliding back onto the back shelf next to where my suitcase lies between excursions. I'm a fine traveler, able to smoothly adapt to a wide range of different environments. Within a half hour of arriving, I will have located some place where I can reliably score my morning decaf and a serviceable slice of bread. I've packed methodically, so everything I might need stays ready to hand, whatever the brand name on the side of that night's hotel. I grow used to the simplicity of the traveling life, a single bag carrying all my necessities. My guitar case hogging more than its fair share of space. My knapsack haphazardly stuffed wherever it finally fits. That's it, my entire traveling kit. I'm able to carry it all in one trip in from the car.

Home presents a wholly different sort of challenge.

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Driven

Driven1
"I'm cautious as if my fate were not under my own control."

I think that it's safe for me to assert that fewer than ten percent of the people driving cars are competent drivers. This assertion isn't just my snarkier side finding a platform for whining, but the result of careful observation and recent deep immersion into my fellow drivers' behaviors out there on the open road. experienced a remarkable sampling of my fellow drivers' skill, as well as my own. It's shockingly poor, but I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I do not consider myself to be any more a competent driver than I consider myself to be a competent writer or cook. As Dirty Harry long ago observed, a man's gotta know his limitations. Because I judge myself a somewhat less than skilled driver, I lack the confidence I consider essential to drive like any self respecting maniac might. The Muse insists that I drive like an old Italian woman, only lacking a few pounds and that ubiquitous black dress from fully qualifying. I do drive safely, which seems to drive my fellow drivers to distraction.

I carry my personal ethical underpinning. I never exceed the speed limit, except when passing another driver who has clearly demonstrated their inability to maintain that limit.

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APerfectDay

APerfectDay


"APerfectDay, the memory of which will likely never, ever go away."

I awaken before four feeling perfectly rested just before the alarm breaks silence. I clean myself up for the day before sitting to consider just what sort of day it might become. I decide upon APerfectDay, one for which the memory will likely never go away. We plan upon driving up and over Lolo Pass, as fine a piece of road as exists anywhere, two hundred plus miles of two lane Federal highway alongside the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers. It will be the last day of this year's August, hot, dry, and windless, and we will sleep many miles east of where I'm just then waking up. I grab my knapsack and head out just before five, looking to refuel The Schooner, find a block of ice to keep cold through the long driving days between here and Genesee our ZipLock® quarts of frozen wild black currents we'd picked when we passed through the weekend before. I easily find both before heading for the old Main Street Starbucks and the front window table where I've written dozens of stories over the years. The counter clerk already knows what I'm going to order, the same thing I always order, a large (I will not say, "Venti" for anybody) decaf in a china cup. She surprises me by not asking me if it's okay if she has to give me a pour-over. Maybe they've brewed ahead in anticipation of my arrival. Perfect!

I write, by which I mean to say that words come to me, a prose poem to the end of harvest.

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ReSeeding

Reseeding
" … evenings would have turned to frost and the sky would have become that most remarkable blue."

Want follows excess. The Muse and I climb up and over White Pass, a low route through the mighty Cascades, moving through late summer fields showing the tail end of seasonal excess. Vine maple and alder hold the passage of July's brutal heat in their desiccating foliage. Wheat harvested, stubble fields stand like old men with their pale bellies showing beneath too-tight tee shirts. We drive beneath cool covering cloud until we reach the pinnacle, where the sky opens wider than a clown's mouth in a dentist's chair. High dry hills watch us pass, heading home(s), through our home country one last time, a short stop where our hearts live before heading on to our most current temporary mailing address.

Excess follows want. Our decade of exile taught us more than we ever wanted to learn, thank heavens.

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ChickenLittle&TheBigChicken

BigChicken
"The sky is not falling, nor likely to."

I got punked this week. Well, I might have actually punked myself. I read this finely-written article which a trusted source had posted. I found the arguments provocative and convincing. The piece maintained that steady voice I've grown to trust. It turned out to be complete bullshit, especially engineered to punk people like me. You see, I'm at root a BigChicken. I am not generally confident or particularly assertive. I keep a low profile, over-thinking my way through issues. I'm more likely to check twice before believing any house is really on fire. I might be more concerned about over-reacting than I am about missing any BIG news. I'm no ChickenLittle. My sky has never fallen so far. I feel no compelling need to incite any passionate reaction. I'm more observer than activist.

Some people, though, have gone into the business of inciting passionate reactions.

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MillingAroundTown

MillingAroundTown
"Everyone knew that those logs rafts would never come back …"

The Muse and I will just be staying two nights in the crappy hotel on the edge of the bordering forest. I dutifully slink out to find a Starbucks in the morning since the hotel's internet service can't quite seem to recognize my laptop as a valid user. I don't mind. I usually slink out wherever we stay, unable to keep myself locked away early in a day. My eye seems drawn to the down and out, those who justifiable feel left out; though, as The Muse confided, we seem to have landed on the more fortunate side of our towering Continental Divide. I carry no good advice for anyone trapped on the opposite side, good fortune visited us, and my empathy buys nobody nuthin except for perhaps an insignificant reassurance for myself as I wander through. I did not grow up here, a place seemingly founded to provide a decent back story for anyone fortunate enough to escape. Every Western Washington mill town seemed to have been founded upon this same principle.

Hell if it is the state capitol, it failed to shed its grittier roots.

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LeftOut

catlestout

"I almost always will have left myself out when I discover, too late, that I've been left out overnight again."

Before our cats left us, they taught us that leaving them out overnight amounted to the greatest sin we could ever commit in their eyes. This did not happen very often and, to my mind, usually resulted from them being just that much too clever for us. I thought that they'd outsmarted themselves of hogging more than their share of the matrimonial bed and of sharing our overnight body warmth, that they'd lost more than we ever sensed that we'd lost. We'd stretch out into what usually amounted to already occupied territory and accept that additional space without in the moment imagining that the space represented a greater absence. The next morning, opening the door to fetch the newspaper, a grey or ginger blur would slip past me and I'd realize the crime I'd committed. I'd offer the obligatory kitty treats in apology and steel myself for a few hours of glowering stares, for I'd left one of the cats outside overnight where coyotes or owls could have spirited them away. They might have initiated the slip, but I had failed to catch it. The resulting sin got chalked up on my side of the grand ledger and I could never adequately atone.

Anyone who, like me, could never really decide upon what they wanted to be when they finally grew up, carries a sense of having been LeftOut of something.

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Ghosties

sleazeattle
"It still terrifies me today."

Some places seem permanently haunted. No subsequent contradictory experience ever erases the spookiness of these places. Once jarred, forever barred from comfortable coexistence. Seattle, or Sleazeattle, as I used to call it when I lived here, serves as that place for me. The prospect of revisiting it raised my hackles. The two days before we crossed the Cascades, I caught myself dreading our next destination, even though nearly fifty years now separate me from those times. It was always a cold city, one seemingly still struggling to outgrow its sorry start. The great fire of 1889 seemed to just encourage those who'd grown accustomed to walking its soggy board sidewalks. They built skyscrapers on unpromising fill and kept growing until it began to strangle itself with its own traffic. Hillsides held huge houses overlooking a smoky port. Slums subsumed its Southern third. It was every bit as segregated as Atlanta or Chicago or Boston. It was and remains a distinctly odd place.

Walking this morning through the Pike Place Market before opening time, I find it still just as unpromising as it ever seemed.

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ImPerfection

ImPerfection
"Dreams come true in the same way that plumb gets achieved, through artful deception."

If I look a little harder, I might glimpse sublime ImPerfection. Peaches quite naturally seem to avoid perfection, the better-shaped ones always turn out to be not quite ripe, the slightly bruised, juicer, tastier. From a slight distance, every item on offer at the Farmers' Market seems perfection incarnate. Step up to the counter and I see a thousand little reasons to turn and walk away. Maybe television has so poisoned my eye to expect every object to have been staged, properly backlit and artfully arranged, that I struggle to recognize as good as anything ever gets, which ain't perfect. I could stomp around in a continual state of learned indignation, gathering complaints and festering them into grudges, as if I had been cheated out of some birthright. The GrandOther discovers a worm in the ear of corn she's shucking. Some of the ears appear, once shed of their silk, as if they could have used some serious orthodonture work. We'll slightly unfocused our eyes as we eat, trading taste for appearance. Up close, nobody can see whether those kernels line up straight, anyway.

A little too hot or just a smidgen too cold. A little early or a little late. My world stands in approximate space where nothing exactly fits together.

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CurrantAffairs

CurrantAffairs
"It's no skin off anyone else's back when they hold as secret lore what almost nobody even cares about anymore."

Most everyone living in this region holds a few deep, dark secrets. Among the very most closely guarded, the knowledge of where to forage the best wild edibles. One can tell if they've been accepted into a family if they're entrusted with the location of the most reliable morel patch, huckleberry field, or trout stream. Outsiders need not apply, as if to keep this essential portion of deeply local identity safe from Californication. These special places were invariably originally simply stumbled upon by some fortunate forebear, who sealed his lips just as soon as he realized his great luck. Visitors hear stories, of course, tales of pick-up loads of morels, but they believe them to be mere legend or braggadocio, and so quickly discount them. This perfectly natural disbelief further insulates these Elysian Fields from further discovery and serves as a near perfect defense against outsider intrusion.

The older families refer to themselves as hillbillies.

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Poemtry

Poemtry
"The true purpose and ultimate significance can only ever come later."

Another birthday comes and another poem needs writing. Long tradition demands it. Had I never become the sort of cheap bastard who steadfastly refused to purchase presents, I might be off the hook. Instead, I chose the cheaper on the speculation that it might be good, better than the obvious alternatives. "Better for whom?," I ask as I start the annual stare down with another perfectly blank screen, hoping it might blink first. Tabula Rasa seems no great challenge for me. I dream of great inspiration visiting before simply settling in. A garden to weed, a lawn to mow, every routine chore could devolve into a simple bore, though each could become so much more. This pedestrian transformation knows no How To how, a curious emergent property, perhaps, of never knowing how. I simply must begin.

I imagine my dearest friend and I still don't know.

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SetList

setlist
"Crazy begets crazy. How else could any love last?"

After writing songs for more than half a century, I've yet to manage to maintain a half-decent Setlist. I most often grab rather blindly when The Muse insists that I perform a short set after one of our suppers. I quite often forget a chord progression or reverse important lyrics to render pitiful my performance. I then return my trusty D-18 to its coffin-like case and set about embarrassingly studying my shoes. Having written a tune hardly qualifies me to perform that tune, and even someone with my experience still needs to practice, practice, practice, even if I never really expect to make it to Carnegie Hall. I well-understand that I really should play every day, but I do not and have not, seemingly wasting my talent. In recent weeks, though, I've begun to play a bit more, fueled by a particularly embarrassing attempt to play just a single song for visiting friends. We all managed to change the subject, but that belly-flop really stung.

Any performer mostly performs for an audience of one, comprised of the most critical observer in the universe, so practicing easily becomes an exercise in serial self abuse.

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Onward

Onward
" … I've come somewhat closer to understanding the expansive rules governing the playing of the Infinite Game."

In his Finite and Infinite Games, author James Carse parsed the world into two games: Finite and Infinite. He characterized Finite Games as those played for the purpose of achieving something, typically winning. We engage in Infinite Games for the purpose of positioning ourselves to continue play. I've long thought of my life as a form of infinite play, and not simply because I seem so danged determined to not accomplishing anything. Finite games lost their allure when I started wondering why they were even engaged in. What's decided when two sports teams go head to head? Many thing, but little of any real consequence, I concluded. Mostly, they demonstrate fealty to a set of rules governing play, the occasional bean ball notwithstanding. They agree to limit their behaviors to that small subset covered by Hoyle, then sort of pretend to battle for a win. Infinite games tend toward the much less dramatic.

The Muse and I woke up this morning to face day ten of a twenty-some day road trip.

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DisTopia

DisTopia
" … whatever home this world once extended is melting away around me."

Live long enough and your world will have have turned into a DisTopia, the seeming opposite of what you'd hoped it would become. A 70,000 population home town will have mushroomed into a cool quarter million plus. The bordering verdant farmland, so picturesque and quaint, will have sprouted endless identical anonymous suburbs. Backroads will have become four lanes. Favorite haunts will have evaporated, leaving haunted replacements. Solid bedrock will have turned to sand. Your former mastery of your world will have become about as negotiable as leftover Hungarian Florint change, a pocketful of excess weight in the front of your favorite backpack. 'Tiz the way of this world, it seems, to lose whatever once sustained us.

This newer world doesn't feel half as brave as the old one seemed.

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TheOldPlace

PleasantStreet
"New owners are raising their kids within those elegantly crooked rooms and quirky yards …"

By the time I'd grown up enough to move away, I knew every square inch of that short acre. I even knew what lay beneath the landscaping, having scraped, crawled over, or cultivated every corner. I knew that the back forty, as we called the yard behind the garage, lay atop an old creek channel, and so the soil was deeply plated with ovoid rock that drained much too easily. The side yard had been planted over an ancient septic pit. The grass grew much lusher there. Dandelion and plantain favored every inch of the property and required continual scrutiny and counteraction throughout the growing season. We used to spread coal ash clinkers along the driveway in the wintertime. I'd personally dug out the bed alongside the driveway innumerable times, always finding a few half-petrified cherry pits from a tree we'd cut down decades before. I'd fill an old metal wash tub to overflowing with weeds, unwanted roots, and the Silver Maple's helicopter seeds.

TheOldPlace passed out of the family after my father passed.

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ReUniting

reuniting
"A few of these people will always be my friend."

Who did you grow up to be? Probably just who you always were before. I sincerely doubt if any of us ever grow up. Most of us tend to outgrow some of our more troubling tendencies, but most often by some form of out growth rather than by growing much taller than the least of them. Fifty years later, one might manifest a more reliably consistent version of their earlier self without really growing up much. We seem to remain the same kids imbedded within ever bigger people's bodies, still growing into who we probably always were. I speak of we when you probably suspect that I mean 'I', for I can't really know how it must be for you. If you sincerely feel as though you grew up, I say, "God Bless You," and "How did you do that?"

A fiftieth reunion of a high school graduating class comes only once, never to be repeated again. It comes at a reliably inconvenient time,

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Payshunce

payshunsh
"Maybe I can simultaneously like it AND lump it for a change."

Payshunce might be the sole necessary skill of modern life. The faster everything goes, the more everything seems to need to spool up before actually accomplishing anything. The Schooner wants to warm up before we zoot off. The laptop decides when I just want to quickly check something to not simply wake up but to desperately need a full restart, complete with demands for a half-dozen Pastwords I cannot remember in that moment of duress. Traffic moves more slowly than advertised, especially when a few drivers choose to go all Formula One on everybody and thereby slow down the overall flow. Queues naturally slow as they lengthen. It's apparently their nature. Your order won't come up until well after that fleeting wave of hunger has left the building.

One learns Payshunce by having it beaten into them, often at one's own hand.

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PoeTayToe

potato
"This pony ride's over and done."

Yes, Idaho license plates still proclaim Famous Potatoes, and quite properly so, for Idaho remains famous for its potatoes which, I guess, also renders their potatoes famous for being from Idaho. Fame works like this. The most popular category of famous people has always been Famous For Being Famous, with television celebrities topping this species. Fame must be a critical part of potato marketing, for in the East, Maine plays the Famous For Growing Potatoes Card and further West, Grant County in my native Washington state insists that they raise more potatoes than any other county in the country. Making a fuss seems necessary when dealing in a natively bland commodity. Nobody's license plate proudly proclaims Famous Tomatoes or Noteworthy Cabbage. Only the homely old potato holds this distinction: LPF, License Plate Famous.

In Idaho's specific case, the fame seems well-deserved.

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Stranging

Stranging
"He freely floats without ever coming close to feeling free."

Stranging should be considered one of the higher forms of art. It could not qualify as a science, for initial conditions inevitably evade scrutiny or systematic analysis. Strangers show up lost and build out from there, taking whatever presents itself, substance generally unknown and likely unknowable. I was blessed with the ability to feel disoriented even when staring at a properly-oriented and obviously accurate map, because North just doesn't always feel like North to me, and my feelings tend to rule. How I feel about a strange place hardly ever influences that place, though, so I wander off in wrong directions whichever way I go. I convene an argument in my head, my feet dishearteningly heading off in what will very likely turn out to be the wrong direction while my head mumbles dissent without even convincing himself. My head will chastise itself, but no argument will resolve the controversy. I might well find my way there and back again, but only by fortunate accident.

Had I tried to be a frontiersman, I would have been one of those whose bones—their story untold but nonetheless obvious—Later Arrivers find mouldering beneath an ancient cottonwood.

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Ghosting

ghosting
"We're West if, indeed, we're anywhere at all."

The Schooner runs quiet as a ghost. Inside, The Muse and I listen to old jazz, Gene Krupa pounding away on his jungle drums through Bennie Goodman's Sing, Sing, Sing. We could be front row center at that famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, flopping to feral rhythms. Just outside, a wonderland passes by around us, with high mountain wildflowers punctuating our smooth passage. We quite literally bop through Steamboat and out onto the great basin country beyond, a landscape defined by uplifts, which naturally lift up our spirits, and spirits we seem to become. A town out there is defined as any relatively wide spot featuring a sign. Several of these exhibit no clear signs of life, but they apparently warrant a sign anyway. A scrappy ex-building or two might show where once some enterprising entrepreneur made a go of something, but the cafe sign seems permanently faded and the gas pumps have gone missing. I suspect that most of these "places" have become ghost towns now.

I think it only fitting that we flit between ghost towns out here because we seem to pass as ghosts, too.

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Guesting

guesting
"You're stuck with each other for the duration, at least try to enjoy the dance."

We're all guests here. Neither of us, none of us, have real dominion over the birds in the sky or the beasts in the field, we're stewards. Guesting entails a temporary sharing of a semi-sacred stewardship, with the guest's responsibilities no less or more sacred than their host's. They co-habitate for a spell, the host providing space for the guest to fill. A good guest will fill that thoughtfully-provided space without sucking all of the air out of the rest of the place. They'll appreciate the room, though it's never the best in the house. They will have explicitly explained their preferences and limitations before arriving. Most importantly, the guest should be present, genuinely there, for their presence will serve as their greatest gift to their host and to themselves, so show up on time for meals and limit the appeals for special handling. You represent the Big Door Prize of your stay, but never the Daddy Bear, Mommy Bear, Baby Bear, or Goldilocks. This isn't a fairy tale.

If you find yourself in desperate need of toilet paper or a plunger, speak right up; everyone's been there.

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Power

PowerButton
"it's the superpower I hold rather than the one I'm unlikely to ever possess."

I was yesterday listening to Alan Lightman's audio book In Praise of Wasting Time while mowing the lawn. He told a story from his youth about when he finally connected with a pitch in a Little League ball game. He reported that this was his first experience of power, and felt great surprise that he, a decidedly non-athletic nerd, might also be a powerful person. Later in life, he said that he looked back on that time whenever he faced daunting challenges, convinced deep down that because he had once demonstrated personal power, that he remained a powerful person at root, and so would most likely overcome whatever difficulty he faced.

I think many (if not most) of us do not carry a similar conviction.

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CumpKnee

cumpknee
" … genuine affection might be the only good reason to ever host any houseguest."

A buzz overtakes the place a week before they arrive as if the isolation pod can't quite believe it's about to become a social hub. CumpKnee's coming. The Villa will receive a thorough scrubbing, which means that I will scrub and vacuum and The Muse will dust, I long ago having lost my belief in particles too tiny for visual verification. I crawl the kitchen, utility room, and the garage hall floors, scrubbing as I go. I'll displace chairs and tables to dust mop and vacuum up all those odd bits the houseplants exhale all over the place. I unmake beds and the washing machine finally puts in a full day's work. I remake beds with fresh-smelling linen and rework the guest bath (my bath when no guests are around) and move my detritus into The Muse's bath, a so-called Master Bath within which I am not entirely welcome. I scrutinize the larder and perform an unusually picky shop, selecting stuff necessary to satisfy our guest's stated preferences.

I've become unembarrassed to ask after a prospective guest's preferences and prejudices.

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PreCrastination

precrastination
"I don't seize my days as much as they seem to seize me …"

I must have been born before my time. This world was no more ready for my arrival than I was ready to meet up with it. The world seems to have been playing catch-up since the day I was born. I've tried slowing down, honestly I have, but the world seems dedicated to tailing me, leaving me to cut the sea ice to ease its weary way. I don't mind. I'm uncertain if I could follow tail lights even if I'd ever found any out in front of me. A few years after I've lost interest in what was once a new phenomenon for me, here comes the world just waking up to that item's existence. The fabulously fresh by then seems simply old hat, for I'm off in some newly uncharted direction, making most of it up as I go along.

I have my traditions.

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Service

service
"Best Wishes! Your Customer."

My car dealer treats my like a duke. I'm there for an oil change and I'm greeted with a servile deference ordinarily reserved for visiting royalty. I ain't royalty and I ain't on no diplomatic mission. I came for my twenty four thousand mile service. Nothing more. I am nobody's "Sir." Please do not mind your Ps and Qs with me. Gimme a little shit, please, and I'll give you some in return, then we might hold some chance of connecting, of forming a relationship. Your best behavior seems wasted on me and could not possibly be any less appropriate to this situation. Treat me with less pomp and more attention to the circumstances. I'm unimpressed with that box of fresh doughnuts, which, by the way, seems most interesting to your sales associates, who have formed a steady if stealthy stream through the Customer Waiting Area since I arrived. That TV suspended above me seems more threatening than entertaining, distracting me from my reading. Nobody else's watching it, either.

Service has been earning a bad reputation for decades.

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ShootingStar

shootingStar

"I inch my way along in near total darkness beneath barely pinpricks of light."

Some nights, I wander through dark rooms, refusing to turn on any lights as if testing my muscle memory. I tell myself that I don't want to awaken The Muse, as if any force in this universe could wake up The Muse once she's down, but I feel genuinely comforted by my resulting blindness. I'm also trying to preserve my night sight for what I might find when I peer up into the sky. The neighbor's illegal upward-facing lights try to blind me from this reassuring night as I find a seat and peer up through the ambient evening air. Stars seem to congregate up here, with the occasional satellite floating across the plane. A ShootingStar streaks across before me, there then gone in an instant, more a blink of an experience than an actual one.

No matter how I might peer then, another ShootingStar will not cross my path.

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MovingOn

movingon
" …we drag that home along with us wherever we might get off to."

Out here on the edge of the West, or, as the sign over Golden Colorado's Washington Street insists, Where The West Begins, we enjoy a long tradition of MovingOn. The original inhabitants were nomadic, moving between locations as seasons suggested. Later arrivals showed up after MovingOn from some previous place, many of them nth sons without inheritance to hold them closer to home. Many of those MovedOn to somewhere else when the silver petered out, or moved into a different occupation than hard rock mining. We seem to live in temporary digs, acceptable until whatever passes for silver in our lives peters out. Westerners hold a long tradition of abandoning their past in favor of a more promising or less continually disappointing future. My own forebears rolled those big dice, came West, and somehow survived the transplants. Anyone might think that we're, as a result of this heritage, a fickle people, driving with one foot continually in the ditch, always ready, willing, and able to jump ship. Anyone would be wrong.

MovingOn the Nth time still brings all the anxiety of that first time.

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Thinking and Praying about Thoughts and Prayers

thoughtsandprayers
"Mutually Reassured Delusion absolves everyone."

I've been Thinking and Praying about Thoughts and Prayers, a solipsistic activity which extends no further than my eyebrows and no deeper than my neckline. It's a genuine echo chamber in there, with thoughts chasing prayers, then prayers chasing thoughts until the distinctions between them degrade into an oily, waxy substance that hardly flows at all. I seem more stuck now, mired in self-reference. Had I the wisdom of any second-rate god, I might have resolved this conundrum by now, but the more I think and the more I pray, the more I seem compelled to pray and the less productive my thinking seems to become. I feel like a genuine recursive mess, hoping to produce something useful, perhaps a solution, but at this point, I'd settle for a second-rate resolution. Negotiating the first SALT treaty could not have been as difficult as dealing with the damned gun lobby, and that involved uniformed Russians! And, as every school kid learned in the fifties, you can always trust a communist to be a communist, but even then, they agreed to reduce their weapons in exchange for us agreeing to reduce ours.

Sometimes, something like a Christian comity emerges between two avowed enemies, a mutual back-scratch; an 'I will if you will' agreement.

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Lib'ral

lib'ral
"It's not that we can never go home again, but that we can ONLY go home again …"

We live in a Lib'ral Democracy, yet I struggle to define just what Lib'ral means. Maybe you do, too, especially if you self-identify as a conservative or a radical. The term has been under constant attack from conservatives, radicals, and those who can't quite grok the idea of any form of governance reliant upon emergence as its central organizing principle. Yet in the nearly two hundred years since its emergence, liberalism has utterly transformed the world I inhabit from one which could not imagine what we merely take for granted today. Authoritarianism, which was pretty much the sole form of governance known to the world before, continues to assault what the vast majority of us consider our birthright, but it only has dominion to defend itself against liberalism's subtle but much stronger power. Plodding and painstaking, the Lib'ral seeks to reduce the net suffering in this world, and has succeeded beyond any of its original champions wildest dreams. This is a continuing contest between endless ebb and flow and periodic gush, and though those floodwaters seem overwhelming and permanent, they chose the long-term inevitably losing side.

Unlike you, I suspect, I've been keeping my political head down since the current incumbent stumbled into office a few million popular votes shy of a mandate.

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Health

Health
"Too much scrutiny spoils the soup."

I shrink whenever I enter a Health Food Store. I doubt many of the claims I see advertised there. I came not for salvation, but for non-hydrogenated peanut butter and cheap walnuts. I've never quite qualified as a food faddist, though I might come close to being considered a foodist. I subscribe to Michael Pollin's suggestion that I do eat food, though not too much, and mostly plants. I was raised adjacent to an Adventist community filled with proudly healthy pallid-skinned people who looked like warmed over death and lived to extremely ripe old ages. I've joined food co-ops where I rubbed shoulders with every form of eater known to man, always slipping between the queues to find the cheap but good enough stuff hidden in the bulk section there. I retain a lifelong membership in the Gluten Appreciation Society, an Adele Davis-inspired love of organ meats, and a natural aversion to all soda drinks, especially those touted as especially good for me. I believe Vitamin Water® a scam, whether it is or not, and try hard to avoid the latest recommendations regarding diet. I follow a turn of the twentieth century recipe for cooking beans.

I eat to excess whatever's in season.

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SunflowerSeason

SunflowerSeason
" …a glorious season progressing a scant fortnight per step."

In theory, a season should last about three months. In practice, a season's duration varies considerably depending upon location. Somewhere in middle America and perhaps Slovakia, spring lasts three months, everywhere else, it persists longer or less. Should one manage to stay in the same place they grew up in for the rest of their life, one would instinctively sense when a season changed. The rest of us fumble with the obvious differences between what the calendar insists and what we're experiencing outside. Here along the Colorado Rockies' Foothills, to this recent transplant, seasons seem to unpredictably lead and lag. Winter weather will probably infringe upon both autumn and spring, sometimes even summer. Even summer, though, near the middle of its advertised presence, varies from day to day, even hour to hour, leading me to propose that the traditional notion of three month seasons might have never been terribly germane. Seasons seem conveniently subdivided into better-suited sets.

Two short weeks ago, Sweetgrass Season reigned; now, SunflowerSeason.

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UnderThinking

existential
" … with meaningful insights struggling to be seen, much less appreciated, …"

I was going to write about OverThinking today, but I discovered that I'd already written about that three years ago. I caught myself in one of those rumination loops common to my practice. Prior considering will have only rarely settled anything. I believe that I could infinitely consider any topic and still fail to stumble upon much of a conclusion. Conclusions, I tell myself, seem over-rated, anyway. If I am because I think, as Descartes so proudly proclaimed, thinking might serve as a precondition to my even being here. Should I ever stop, Descartes might predict that I'd simply disappear. Not that my disappearing would necessarily set back civilization even an angry inch. Thinking serves as one of those activities which somehow survives without ever having acquired a cogent definition of itself. In that respect, thinking and I might be fraternal twins. I spend most of every day in my head, thinking, as the presumption goes, but perhaps not OverThinking so much as UnderThinking there.

UnderThinking seems an art, for its purpose couldn't possibly be simple representation.

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Rooms

huge-house-plans-with-second-floor-huge-homes-pinterest-floors-plans-love-house-plans
"It was memorable for a reason nobody could explain …"

Bradford and Hillary Keeney speak of Rooms. Should I feel constrained in the present room, I might simply move to a larger room, one capable of properly containing me. Likewise, should a room feel too roomy, I might move to a room more suited to my size. Bradford and Hillary speak metaphorically, of course, but I've been feeling overly unconstrained lately, as if my present room were considerably larger than necessary, than appropriate for my present endeavors. I feel as though I cannot fill the rooms I enter these days, as if each one had been designed to contain a larger person, a much larger personality than I bring to my game, for I hold humbled aspirations now. I no longer aspire to achieve greater things, but lately acknowledge that my accomplished achievements might well mark the high water mark of my career and my life. I understand and accept that our universe continually expands, but I find this a poor excuse to mimic it. I ain't no universe.

Or, rather, I ain't no large-infinity universe.

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EarlyMorning

EarlyMorning

"I will have in EarlyMorning warmed up the bed for him to wallow around in …"

The diners and coffee shops seem to fill with geezers first. Later, the driven corporate types trickle in, thinking that they've seized another day, only to find the territory already settled by second-cup sipping self-satisfied retirees, hard-core unemployables, and maybe a writer or two, those for whom EarlyMorning offers their sole refuge. Nobody watches them rise. Nobody's even trying to catch them along their way. They will become increasingly invisible throughout the following day. They have little left to aspire after, having found their eigenvalue, though they find great fulfillment acknowledging that they once again managed to beat that lucky old sun at his own eternal game.

Not even the magpies hear him rise.

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Downtime

Downtime
"The Muse ultimately makes this call."

I will never suspect. I might have noticed a creeping lethargy, a budding indifference, a blooming I Just Don't Care attitude, but I will not suspect that I might have contracted a bug of any sort. In my mind, one can only properly declare illness for a) a runny nose, b) runny bowels, c) sore throat, d) fever, and/or e) a broken bone; basically the same list of acceptable excuses for missing a day in elementary school. Dizzy disorientation falls well north of any threshold under which I can legally claim myself to be under any weather, since I consider it a part of what passes for my usual countenance. I get confused sometimes, as a normal part of my continuing inquiries. The Muse notices, investigates, then declares me out of the game. "There's a bug going around," she says, and I crumble into bed.

I have never made it a habit to schedule personal downtime.

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Deadheading

deadheading
"Gardening demands a certain heartlessness."

Gardening demands a certain heartlessness. It ain't all tender nurturing, but also involves a studied brutality: pruning, plucking, trimming, and the curiously-named Deadheading. No, Deadheading has nothing to do with a popular musical group from the sixties, but involves removing spent blossoms and their bud tips to encourage fresh blooming. Deadheading prolongs the purpose of planting the flowers, extending the blooming season beyond what it would otherwise have been. It's picky work, likely to damage the plant should it be clumsily performed. It tries the patience of even the more contemplative gardeners, insisting upon an extended level of focus almost orthogonal to quietly enjoying blossoming flowers.

I water our petunia planters every couple of days through midsummer.

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Exes

exes
"My first wife will forever have the flu on our honeymoon and my second will always have a cold."

My first wife had the flu for our honeymoon. My second caught a cold. My third wife caught nothing except me, an infection for which there might not be any effective cure, thank heavens. My first marriage ended after I'd fallen in love and turned into a giddy and somewhat irresponsible seventeen year old at thirty-five, my first and most significant mid-life crisis. My second marriage ended after I told a terrible lie. Accused of carrying on an affair I had not engaged in, I admitted to it after realizing that I could never convince anyone, who's identity so utterly depended upon me being such a cad, that she'd just imagined my infidelity. She despised my kids, anyway, which meant in my mind that she deeply despised me. Neither of these disconnects ever got talked out, for each was beyond words to explain. My first wife insisted that we go see a marriage counsellor, but refused to go back a second time when she discovered that the counsellor wouldn't take sides. I continued seeing her and still speak with her today. She's served as my fair witness and refuses to take pay because she insists that I'm an interesting case. My second wife just asked that I thereafter think of her as dead.

While both relations became beyond words as they moved into their ex- states, conversations continued in my head.

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TheSummerOf1969

summer-1969-lt-blue-prints

"I guess I would have swallowed most anything then, and likely did."

If you weren't there, you're unlikely to believe a word I say describing that time. TheSummerOf1969 seems in the future now, an idyllic upcoming state those of us who were there briefly glimpsed as we sped by. No, I'm not suggesting that everything was rosy then. I lived under the clear and always-present threat that I would be drafted to fight in a meaningless war half way around the globe. My hometown remained securely in the clutches of an entrenched plutocracy. But I'd somehow survived the gulag that was my high school and I really felt as though I was at least ninety percent upside. I had nothing to regret yet. I had not yet fallen hopelessly in love. I had close friends in high places, and while I didn't share their obsession with getting high, I found their presence nonetheless elevating. We fancied ourselves radical and were frantically growing our hair to prove it. Our future was finally now!

The world today isn't painted in the same alluring hues.

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BeaLonging

sunlitcloudtop
"The curtain hardly falls before another fist cloud boils up into the last of any day's sunlight."

The drenching rain comes in the third act, once the set-up drama just about ends. Some small overlap seems necessary for a smooth transition, but the drenching foreshadows the end. The credits will roll over driveways and ditches draining away the final residue and the standing water starting to seep into soil hardly thirsty by then. I might not even stay up for the final acts, since I prefer the dramatic lead-up much more than the down falling denouement. I appreciate the moisture, but worship the thunder and the lightning.

I saw what first appeared to be tall sails slipping above low clouds already in sunset's shadow.

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Fambly

fambly
"We think of ourselves as something really quite special, …"

My birth family seemed obsessed with visiting each other. We never once went on a vacation that wasn't primarily focused upon visiting family. We'd arrive and the Brownies would come out and the photographing commenced, lining up the cousins in stair step order, the sisters in mirror proximity, the in-laws as if they were genuine brothers. We also rarely stayed in motels, for there was always some family we could drop in on for at least one night when we were in transit. I suspect that we sometimes came as somewhat of a shock when, near sundown, we'd happen to be near Chico and call ahead to my mom's uncle to announce that the seven of us would be there around suppertime, but we were never once turned away, because we were Fambly.

This was my birth family's experience.

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SumMorning

SumMorning
" … because I'm already there."

A velvet curtain covered the windows overnight, so thin and permeable that the light breeze could squeeze right through its intricate weave. Morning light slipped through, too, as if the curtain's velvet has expanded to texturize the entire atmosphere. The sunrise screamed through the muffling haze that this would become one of the hotter days, but then, before the paper came, before I could rouse my upside-down American flag on it's stand, the land reclined in perfect ambience. Yesterday's extremes seemed at that early hour a bad dream, though even those extremes hardly blunted my seasonal enthusiasm. We wait through nine or ten months of disparagement for mornings just like this one, mornings which seem to last forever before seeming simply fleeting.

The flower garden's finally as fine as it's going to get, with experiment and old reliable doing their best to please.

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KeepingUp

KeepingUp
"I understand that I'm only marginally worthy of the fruits of their efforts."

I try to keep up, honest I do. I scan the morning news. I do avoid broadcast news, though. Trump's election broke my decades-long addiction to NPR. (Interns seem to have overthrown genuine journalists on NPR. I can tell because they elevate the end of every statement into a question, an annoying affectation.) The fact that it's on the tube chased me away from most televised news, though The Muse and I will sometimes watch the PBS Newshour on a Friday evening just to finish off the week; besides there's nothing else on at that hour. The various nightly newscasts, thoughtfully aired in late afternoon when we're still nose to grindstone, seem as over-produced as any campy Broadway musical. The cable alternatives have priced themselves out of our reach. We unprogrammed our remote's access to our local Faux station, but they never very convincingly pretended to be very interested in broadcasting news. They're a shameless, transparent propaganda distributor. I wonder how they keep their FCC license, or would wonder if I didn't know who was running the FCC these days.

As near as I can determine, anything our President touts as fake news is the God's honest truth news and whatever he touts as honest news is absolutely fake.

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Metalogue

metalogue1

" … a snake chasing his own tail,
still deeply uncertain what he might do should he ever finally catch up to it."

Prose comes in many forms: dialogue, monologue, diatribe, lecture, and scold, to name but a scant few of the more frequently encountered types. Fiction and non-fiction hardly stand as distinctive designations, each more dependent upon the author's intention than any pervasively factual foundation. Historical fiction can and does sometimes seem to better represent a period than does scrupulously fact-based history. Commentary takes many forms, and so might be accurately described as a meta-form, one not beholding to any standard classification. Much prose follows subtle rules that if they were ever written down, I haven't found the source document delineating them yet. To speak of these underlying forms seems to require violating those underlying forms, to go meta or mina to them, for speaking of a form seems to require sidestepping the form itself, which might subtly prohibit self-reference as a premise for employing it. My personal ethic to avoid telling people what to do cannot be conveyed by telling people not to tell people what to do, and this highlights the paradoxical territory speaking of underlying forms traverses.

People have been after me to classify my own writing, which I've always found to be a challenge. I can more easily declare what it's not than what it might be.

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Righting

righting
"Perhaps I might be an author after all."

I earlier this morning finished copyediting a manuscript I "finished" ten months ago. Copyediting and writing seem antithetical to each other, like shining the brass has almost nothing in common with building a ship from scratch, but the overall effort's uncompleted until somebody polishes that brass. I find this work to be, well, real work, unlike writing, which doesn't usually feel very much like work to me anymore. Furthermore, it feels like picky work, the sort that demands close attention without really paying for it. I'd read each piece before, even scrupulously copyediting them, though I'd never read through the whole work as if I were reading a whole work, which provided a unique experience for me to read something I'd written as if I was a scrupulous reader rather than the proud and slightly defensive author.

I felt surprisingly pleased with this author's work.

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Sturm und Drang

strumunddrang
"An old saying insists that Sturm und Drang signifies nothing"

I am not a man given to emotional outbursts. I hail from a placid valley where a summer day might passive-aggressively scorch but only rarely degrade into fearful vengeance. Colorado's Front Range experiences a different midsummer normal. Here, a July day's temperature routinely ranges forty degrees or more between sunrise and sunset, heating quickly as morning progresses before monsoonal moisture erupts. The fabled hiss of summer lawns by mid afternoon might routinely transform into brisk then fierce wind followed by first distant thunder, then terrifyingly close lightning, then drenching rain. Colorado's summer weather has serious mood lability issues, and one can reasonably expect it to turn unreasonable with little warning.

It's Texas' fault, a reasonable if slightly unfair attribution.

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ComingOfAge

Coming-of-Age
"I expect to continue ComingOfAge until my accumulated age catches up to me,
not until I finally catch up with my age. "

I'm supposed to attend my fiftieth high school reunion in a few weeks, and this event has me ruminating. I was ComingOfAge when I graduated, not yet eighteen and emotionally unprepared to accept that I'd grown up. In fact I had not then completed growing up and cannot yet admit to having finished that labor, for ComingOfAge seems an asymptotic activity, one which never fully completes its mission. I seem to have been chasing the chimera of maturity for as long as I can remember, always pursuing a mythical stable next state which seems to have always been replaced with yet another looming ascension as I grew nearer to it. I remember never having quite grown up into feeling like a fully-qualified high school student when graduation came along, just like I never quite satisfied my aspiration to feel as though I fit into my Junior High School class before graduating from there. Ditto with my grade school and preschool experiences, and ditto to every role I've attempted to assume so far.

I've grown to question whether anyone ever comes of age.

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Calculess

carbon-footprint-1
"I might be damned whatever tradeoff I choose."

'They' say that the size of my personal carbon footprint depends upon the tradeoffs I resolve, a series of this or that choices. Many of the choices come cloaked, relying upon me to be alert and aware and present enough to realize in a narrow moment that I'm supposed to be making a choice there. Like most everyone, I live much more automatically than this prescription relies upon me living. I only rarely think twice and even less often ruminate much on whatever choice I've already made, each completed action a sunk cost more than a lesson truly learned. Most of my carbon emissions result from me flipping a bloodless switch. Even so,I know myself to be a serial carbon emitter of the first order in spite (and sometimes because) of my deeply held concern about our precious climate. I'm good as far as that goes, but I'm fairly certain that it's not nearly good enough to matter.

Look, I'd take public transportation if it was available, but it's not.

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SlackerDay

fistclouds
"Aren't we all?"

The Muse and I become more insistent than actually obsessive come Saturday morning. We both know what we'll do. Beyond the age when we're obligated to attend any juvenile soccer games, we understand that Saturday morning's reserved far in advance for restocking the larder. This routine repeats itself without becoming ever the same each time, for as the seasons progress, different necessities emerge. In January, our go-to family-run produce stand's closed for the season, so we're relegated to picking through the less discerning supermarket's variety. In high July, though, that stand's finally wide-open, past the Saturdays when they offered the choice between onions and potatoes or both.

Asparagus was finished last week, other than that pencil dick, past season stuff that could be credibly hollowed out and fitted with a graphite core and used for scribbling.

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MuseGone

DCConventionCenter
"Those boundary conditions and the rhythm they encourage make my work possible."

The Muse is off galavanting this week. Part of her job involves galavanting, traveling off to conduct business somewhere else. She's done enough of this over the past decade that this week she was named Grand PooBah for Life by the Marriott Hotel Chain. This guarantees that she receives special service, a steep discount, room upgrades, and free high speed internet for life at every Marriott-owned property in the world. She almost always travels alone, leaving me to tend fort while she forays off into hostile territory. Our little fort hardly needs tending, save for watering the plants, so my schedule opens waaaaay up during these absences. Her away schedule allows for two brief check-in periods each day, one while she wends her way to her first morning meeting and another as she wends her way back to her upgraded room and high speed internet service at the end of another over-long day.

These check-ins usually find us with little news.

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SweetGrassSeason

sweetgrass
"Do not speak of yesterday or tomorrow today."

The hard luck farmers and harder luck miners who originally founded Denver were probably pretty much ready to head back to from wherever they'd come after that first hard winter and disappointing spring, until a couple of scant weeks into summer and SweetGrassSeason kicked in. Up until then, the region had meted out one humiliation after another. False springs had taunted their cabin fever. Heavy snow had isolated and humbled them. The foreshortened fall before had surrendered too quickly into an early blizzard. I imagine them forlorn with a nagging spouse questioning again just what had seemed so promising about here. But then SweetGrassSeason arrived.

The sky had been cranky, mustering up quick tempestuous thunder carrying torrential rain and hail every damned afternoon.

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StayingUp

stayingUp2
"I prefer to think of eternity not as some pearly-gated community …"

When I was about eight years old, I enjoyed no higher privilege than one I created for myself. I'd head for bed at the prescribed hour, feign almost immediate sleep until the bed check passed, then pull my bread-loaf sized radio under the covers with me and listen in to a live broadcast from The Big Y, a turnaround point on the long Main Street drag frequented by high school kids out dragging the gut. The program featured popular music punctuated with news alerts. One unforgettable night, the DJ announced the escape of a kinkajou from a traveling circus. Several nights, someone had escaped from the state penitentiary up on the hill at the far end of thirteenth street. I laid there, warmed by the radio's etherial glow, feeling as though I was situated near the center of the universe. I fell asleep satisfied sometime in the uncountable early morning hours.

A few years later, I took an early morning paper route and over the following several years, transferred that StayingUp reflex into a GettingUp one, finding them both equally satisfying, for both provided that bounded solitude I seemed to crave.

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SigjawPuzzle

sigjaw
"I'm more of a tape the box together sort of guy …"

I've put this puzzle back together scores of times. Each time, the age-worn pieces fit together a little differently. My memory holds an impressionistic representation of what the finished picture should be, mostly composed of reanimated routines snugging within old familiars, but it never seems to end up just as I remembered it being before. Each completion an off iteration of whatever had come before. Leaving crumbles the puzzle into constituent pieces, throwing them haphazardly into a box half Scotch® taped together, cover photo faded and worn. Returning pulls that box back out of the game cupboard to lay out those pieces for reassembly, tedious but necessary effort. One cannot stay away for ever and one can never return to find the SigJawPuzzle already completed.

It might not matter where I begin.

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Lagging

WoolyWilly
" … creating a self-portrait on a Wooly Willy canvas … "

I confided to The Muse that I probably should not be out. We both felt delicate, me having risen at 3am in the guest bed, having no recollection of how I had gotten myself there. The Muse, a reliable last riser, was already up. The laundry was done by seven. We'd gone out shopping at five thirty, aware that we'd left the larder bare when we'd departed for Europe two weeks before. When we arrived at the supermarket, neither of us could think of anything we needed to buy. We returned with a gallon of milk, a quart of yogurt, and a dozen eggs, all of which would remain untouched by the end of that day.

"Where are you going?" The Muse asked as I blew past the exit I had intended to take.

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Pavements

cobblestone-09
"Those weaned on concrete should struggle to absorb it all."

The flight paths into and out of Denver International Airport have not yet been paved, as evidenced by the routine insistence by every pilot of every arriving and departing flight that cabin service be either suspended three quarters of an hour before landing or delayed for a similar period after takeoff. These departures and arrivals prove to be white knuckle affairs for everyone except the flight crew, and even they give their seat belts an extra snugging tug. I find myself anxiously anticipating every departure and every return before finally submitting to the necessity of experiencing this ordeal, though I don't like or appreciate a minute of these adventures.

In the US, pavements tend toward the uniformly boring.

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RulesOfTheRoad

RulesOfTheRoad
"We expect ourselves to behave like the fully functioning adults we know ourselves to be …"

The Muse and I have traveled plenty. We're not genuine World-class travelers, but we've managed to make our way anyway. Our relationship began during a period of rather intense business travel, which we always managed, in the spirit of any fresh relationship, to make into net pleasurable excursions. A week in Winston-Salem rivaled a week in Rome, for we were younger then and so deeply in love. We learned our ropes, our RulesOfTheRoad under perhaps the most positive conditions. We learned not to take much of anything that happens very personally, for grudgy effects could sour an otherwise delightful experience. Stuff happens, inconveniences conspire, it's nothing more than their nature, but we never agreed to become pawns to their conniving games and always managed to have a vote in every outcome. We noticed early on that some people seem to travel for the pure aggravation it provides in their lives. Listening to their travel stories seemed like listening to a particularly vengeful prosecutor talking himself into filing a viscous bill of particulars. Flights arrived late. Hotel reservations lost. Dinners uneatable. Of course these minor distractions happen to everyone who deigns to move beyond the secure confines of home, but none of them amount to the stuff anyone should aspire to make into a Federal case. We early on decided that these amounted to nothing much more than plot twists and need not ever very deeply influence the quality of any outcome. So we arrived hours later than planned? We call this sort of occurrence a So What?.

We do have a few rather hard and fast rules which we intend to help ensure domestic tranquility.

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Traveling

traveling
"I expect my shadow to continue to surprise me whenever I chance to see it."

"They" say that travel broadens one. If it does, it accomplishes this end by successively narrowing perspective. From the row twenty-two aisle seat on the transatlantic flight to the semi-private compartment on a Central European train through Slovakia, remarkably tiny spaces contain most of traveling. The broadening, more a smearing, actually, must come from switching out these spaces over relatively short periods of time. Travel from Budapest to Prague involves witnessing a few foreshortened hours of quickly shifting vistas through farmland, picturesque villages about the size of a photograph of them, and through tiny train stations before finally slow-crawling into the massive train yard in Prague. Likewise, walking those old cobbled Prague streets provides no more than the narrowest perspective on the place at any one time. A walk might take one through a half-dozen remarkably narrow passages where one can't see more than a few meters ahead or behind them self. Even the view from the Prague Castle parapet provides less perspective than I might catch from our deck back home. Yet, near the end of an excursion, ten or twelve days in, I feel as though I can see much more broadly than I could from my deck back home.

We spent a few days in a genuinely tiny apartment in Budapest which featured a view clear across a narrow street.

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BurrLynn

BurrLynn
"Nuthin-particularly-special, but plenty and enough."

Berlin feels more like an extended suburb than a world capitol. It stretches from horizon to horizon to horizon to horizon, hardly rising from the horizontal plane. It clearly ain't no New York, Paris, London, Prague, Vienna, or Rome. It's looks like more of a Gary, Indiana sort of place with a few canals and a small river thrown in. It once, like many other capital cities, aspired to become the capital of the world, though by aspect alone, it hardly could have ever realistically consummated that romance. It fell, hard, dividing itself instead, a cautionary tale for any place defensively lusting after becoming some place more special than they were. It holds few treasures and more cold memories than any similarly-sized space on earth.

The more affluent neighborhoods have populated their sidewalks, making them appear no different from any other yuppie enclave anywhere in the world.

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Good&Lost

Good&Lost
"We can always choose to get bad and lost without really choosing anything."

Neither The Muse nor I seem to be immune from getting lost. Even assisted by GPS and the almost always available GoogleMaps app, we still get lost. We can't credibly blame these occurrences on the mapping software because it's just software and therefore eminently fallible. We can't always blame ourselves, either, and not only because blaming never found anything. In order for blaming to find anything, it would have to reverse the ineffable forward flow of time, which would be an unrealistically heavy lift for anybody. Blaming suggests just going back for a do-over, but there's never any going back and therefore no do-over possible. Getting lost seems an inescapable element of living and probably not that much of a problem, anyway, though it certainly seems like the problem it isn't.

I figure that getting lost serves as a force leveler, protecting me from getting what my mother would call "too big of a head."

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GrandEntrances

GrandEntrance
"We will have no opportunity to remake that first impression with another GrandEntrance."

The Romans perfected this schtick. Following some victory in Gaul or equally far-flung place, a triumphant general would ride ahead of his legions into Rome with much heraldry and trumpet-blowing. Employing the photographic technology of the time, the celebration would then be painstakingly carved into a bas relief and cemented into a city wall. An arch might be constructed over the following century or two, ensuring that this victory would live long in the citizens' memory. Today, some nerd schlumps off a long train ride to insist that he doesn't need a cab or a tram or even a subway ride. He and his lovely wife will instead drag their roller-bags through the middle of town during the height of the evening strolling hour. A lasting impression will remain, but mostly in the minds of those pulling those bags over dispassionate cobblestone. Finally arriving sweaty and breathless at their hotel, they receive the dispassionate attention of a distracted night clerk before proceeding without trumpetry to their room where they will leave a temporary bas relief of their exhaustion in the bedcovers when they rise the next morning.

The Muse and I have produced a considerable history of making GrandEntrances such as the latter.

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ClearingOut

clearout
" … open to discovering fresh futures."

At some point near the end of the first reel or the beginning of the second, the desperadoes would have done about as much damage as they could, given that a posse was at that very minute closing in on them. One of the bad guys, not necessarily the leader, would stand a little taller in his saddle and proclaim, "Let's clear out, boys!" Amid general disarray, then, the desperadoes would depart. I'm thinking about the notion of ClearingOut this morning, as The Muse and I pack up to head on toward our next destination. The refrigerator's emptied and swabbed out. Counters clean. All but the last load of garbage already sits in the bottom of the bin. The bathroom's returned to its original state, our bag's packed, and I'm an hour ahead of our scheduled departure time.

In my home life, I clear out about once a year, usually as spring threatens to cast a scornful light upon accumulated remaining winter sloth, but I never clear out to this degree except when moving.

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SlightSeeing

"The world-weary traveler just wants to go back home again."

Tourist can become a difficult role to fulfill. It might appear from the outside looking at, that the tourist lives the Life of Riley: chauffeured in an air conditioned bus, put up at tour rates in first class hotels, sumptuously fed on local specialties at every stop, but the non-stop services can leave the traveller feeling done for. When does he get to decide anything? That tour guide with the gaudy pink umbrella she insists upon waving around like she's rallying troops around the flag seems to take a tad too much sense of authority from her role. The bus drivers maintain their steely-eyed gazes. Rumor has it that they're all retired Special Forces with ice water running through their veins. The fellow travelers, too, can wear on a man's patience, capable of moving no faster than a reluctant donkey, a man only rarely manages to hit his stride so he shuffles along with increasing ennui.

After a few days surveying the legacies of several century's worth of royalty, another set of crown jewels resembles nothing more than a sale display counter at Macy's.

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Hunglish

atable
"I feel like a temporary illusion here."

Walk down any street in Europe and your eye will catch some familiar words displayed on shop fronts. Typically between two words clearly in the local language, a prominent English word appears. Much in the way that a French word in an English advertisement catches the eye and imparts a certain cache even when I don't understand the meaning of the word, I suppose English in a French or Hungarian business name sets that shop apart, perhaps a smidge above, its competitors. Some of the words seem necessary. I mean what besides Burger Bar would one name a burger bar in Budapest? Pizza's pizza the world 'round. The Chinese fast food joint in our Obuda neighborhood declares CHINESEFASTFOOD beside a Hungarian phrase I suspect translates into CHINESEFASTFOOD, so why the concatenated English version? It seems that all Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai places in Budapest prominently feature English on their signs. Are these places there to serve English-speaking visitors, or does this encoding hold special meaning for the locals, too?

Menus rarely feature even a hint of English.

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You'reUp

Jean-Baptiste_Marie_Pierre_-The Rape of Europe
"The differences seem overwhelmingly superficial …"

Wherever I go, I find essentially the same old thing: people going about living their lives according to remarkably similar patterns. Different places offer different challenges for their inhabitants, but local adaptations aside, humans seem remarkably consistent in their manner of living. Some favor rice for breakfast, while others swear by strudel, while still others insist upon ham and eggs, each difference more superficial than substantial, for each rises hungry and proceeds to satisfy that hunger by relatively convenient means, largely relying upon local availability to determine preference. Some think ham and eggs unconscionable. Waffle House patrons would pass on the opportunity to choose any weird breakfast choices. (Cough, cough)

These superficialities attract much attention, though.

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FakingStock

FakingStock
"The results prove nourishing anyway."

During the earliest days of summer, a man's thoughts inexorably turn toward produce. The cherries are in, dark, firm, and glorious. Small rose-blushed apricots cannot be resisted without committing one of those sins of omission that at least one of the more vengeful gods will eventually get you for. The garlic's young, the parsley root, ancient, the celery so fresh that the root needs no peeling and the greens scent everything they touch. Though The Muse and I stroll through the Grand Market on the alien side of the Just Visiting line, I finally cannot resist. That little apartment we're staying in must have something like a stock pot, mustn't it? I could conceivably buy a small amount of braising beef, a slice of that extra fine-grained pork belly fat, and a turkey carcass with which to concoct a decent stock. It would't be very much like any of the many stocks I've seen described by fine chefs, but it might work just fine for some NuthinSpecial someone like me.

I groan our way home on the tram, my shoulders bowing beneath the accumulated weight of just a little of this and a little of that.

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DisOrientation

disorientation
" … it's just sometimes sorely needed."

Eventually, even the better-behaved gods tire of omniscience, which can become quite pedestrian even if one takes care to avoid constantly lording the ability over everyone else. It's a tricky balance, because omniscience isn't one of those senses anyone can deliberately turn off. It comes unbidden, filling in any threatening cluelessness before it can sting. But this sort of cluing in carries a sting of its own, eventually accumulating to just beyond the Dull Throb level. Then, even the most cultured god needs a break. "How about a vacation?", the ever-helpful omniscience asks, further amplifying the need for the god to take a vacation by merely asking the question. "Where to?", the god quietly wonders. "Someplace where your omniscience can take a well-deserved rest," a beleaguered omniscience wheezes.

There, the language should violate every principle of written and spoken communication.

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TravelingWithAHat

IMG_4172
" … at least in his own dazzled eyes, he looks absolutely marvelous."

Let's imagine that you're a gentleman of a certain age and that you're traveling. It's a common sight anywhere that tourists gather to see a gentlemen, even one wearing Oompa-Loompa cargo shorts, wearing a cap, a ball cap or a long-brimmed fisherman's cap featuring a Velcro® tightening strap around back. This casual headgear has become ubiquitous and hardly elevates a gentleman beyond the status of gardener, not that gardening's an ungentlemanly occupation. But when strolling the promenades of, let's say, Paris, what gentleman aspires to exude the presence of a rose trimmer or, excuse the expression, a Weedeater® operator? Few, I deign. A gentleman properly wishes at these times of promenade, to appear every bit the gentleman he probably wishes he actually was but knows himself to not be. These times demand a proper chapeau, perhaps a finely-woven palm Panama fedora, and finely-woven Panama fedoras are by nature fragile things.

When I bought mine, I asked the clerk if it was one of those Panamas I'd seen advertised as capable of being rolled up and stuffed in odd corners. He paled at my mention.

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Leifing

Leif
"One never brings the refrigerator along on a camping trip."

I'm thinking that I probably won't get away with packing light for our two week swat around Europe. The intentions start predictably pure. I targeted the smallest bag in the place and declared that one as mine this trip. You see, I'm a proud veteran of several campaigns, each of which was punctuated with logistical challenges. Schlepping oversized and overstuffed roller bags up three sweaty flights of unforgiving concrete out to street level in Rome, where the roller bags first encountered cobblestone, then dragging them toward our lodgings like they were cranky children overdue for their naps. Wrestling workshop leftovers through three bus and two train transfers following a session in a rural corner of The Low Countries to save a hundred euros cab fare. Failing to successfully stuff too much baggage into a car barely larger than the typical box store shopping cart. I've had my bruises and strained back muscles brought on by the idea that I somehow needed to take a tad too much of home along when traveling. I thought I might choose differently this time. Fat chance!

Cheap flights mean excessive bag fees, which means everyone tries to carry their doghouse onboard.

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