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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©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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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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CustomerCaring

shoeshine
"These so-called systems all seem jury-rigged to me."

The Muse ordered some makeup online … This declaration does not sound like the opening sentence of a gripping NYTimes bestselling potboiler. It hardly seems noteworthy. Everyone orders stuff online. Some people hardly exist outside of their Amazon Prime® account. I rarely order anything online because the hostile user interfaces scare me off. Every provider uses essentially the same sequence of screens to capture an order, and I reliably lose my way about halfway through these series. I understand that the underlying design must have been rigorously tested for utility, but they do not work for me. I always have to interrupt the process. I probably forgot my Pastword. I enter my credit card information incorrectly and cannot figure out how to correct the error. I inadvertently ordered multiples thanks to a hyperactive Buy button. Whatever the reason, if I don't just abandon the effort, I have to call the Customer Care line and speak to someone in Bangalore about correcting the mistake.

The Muse, however, quickly consummated her transaction.

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LivingBackwards

LivingBackwards
"Damn the dichotomies, full speed ahead …"

The old saw insists that we live life exclusively forward. Next builds upon next, no U-turns allowed. Meaning, though, seems to emerge in reflection, in LivingBackwards for a while. Reflection serves as a welcome eddy within life's relentless forward flow, where a weary fish might casually snack on a caddis fly or two. Sure, the river flows on as ever, but the fish slips out of the current to contemplate rather than endlessly compete. I believe that us fish need some reflection time to make and maintain sense of our place, a peek back upstream to appreciate what's passed and an occasional side glance to catch what we almost passed without really noticing. I seem to live my life in fits and starts as well as backward and forward flows.

Three months ago I chose FindingHome as the 'theme' of my upcoming quarter's writing.

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FutureTensile

tensile
"I'm still sprouting my tail feathers."

I felt old at twenty-five. I'd just started university, surrounded by freshmen seven or eight years my junior. I was older than my grad student TAs. My high school experience felt stale and distant. I'd probably never really studied anything in my life up to that time and though I felt old, I also felt as though I'd enrolled in a daunting game of Catch-Up. I felt dedicated, though, focused upon some future state. I wanted to have graduated more than I wanted to learn. I'd catch an early bus to make my eight o'clock, attend classes until around noon, then grab a quick lunch before reporting to my job, where I'd stay until just before my evening classes began, usually arriving home around nine-thirty, then to start my studying for the next day's classes. I went out for beers with classmates about twice during my university years, for that time felt like an extended exercise in social isolation, a solitary period where my bus rides were my primary study period. It was hard on my marriage.

I hardly noticed at the time, but my life's social fabric stretched in ways that wouldn't allow it to return to its former shape.

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Begginnings

Begginings
"I will be further from home than I've ever been …"

I can see the impending ending much more clearly than the new beginning, though neither have arrived. The impending ending casts a more believable story, as if the current plot line could not possible be broken between here and there. The following new beginning seems barely notional from here, and could turn out to be a simple extension of what I already know or could manifest as a sharp break, or even as something somewhere in between. I don't know. I do know that an opportunity for a sharp break lies just around the next corner. I'm not quite ready to let go of the current status quo, which has grown to serve me very well. I'm likewise uncertain of my ability to grasp onto a fresh thread, but then I never am.

I some days ache for change but only rarely ever try to treat those symptoms.

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Fatherhood

fatherhood

Today's FindingHome story focuses upon Fatherhood, perhaps the most misunderstood role anyone ever plays. I have wrestled with its implications since my first Father's Day, forty years ago today. I am growing to acknowledge that the meaning of Fatherhood might be found in how one actually performs in the role, not in how well one echos their prepared lines or finds his markings on the stage, but in how he engages. The expectations almost guarantee a belly flop or few, and most fathers more than fulfill this crucial part of their role.

That tie, hung in homage around the patriarch's neck this day, might easily imply that he should by all rights be hung high for his many complicities. He might not so easily absolve himself of all he did and all he failed to do. Dad's are duffuses, and absent this deep and appreciative acknowledgement, I believe that any Father's Day celebration falls well short of its potential, perhaps of its obligation. Fatherhood: no one could live or fully justify all those years of therapy without it. Happy, anyway...

"I was and will continue to be one duffus of a dad."

I think of Fatherhood as a second chance at childhood. Not a time of privilege, but of sacred obligation raised to the level of delight. The boogiemen seem bigger, the responsibilities more daunting, but it represents the next-to-last opportunity to experience innocence again. To see the world through naive eyes. To experience so much for the very first time. To break purposeful cadence and move at a much less than leisurely pace. To accept grace. To stare life directly into a face without blinking … much. (Made you blink! Made you blink!)

It brings a time of focus far away from self, an opportunity to fade into the far background in favor of those who really matter.

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Method-ology

ology
"Nobody very vehemently celebrates completing any checklist."

There's a science of that and an -ologist methodically practicing in that field. Our universe has been successfully subdivided into such specialties, the few remaining general practitioners relegated to working mere margins. The specialists take center stage now as if we're all quietly working our way toward a golden referral, validated by our need to consult with a real expert in some field we hardly knew existed before that dreaded diagnosis. How comforting to learn that someone dedicated their professional life exclusively to this narrow deep-dive deliberation. Have a difficulty? See an -ologist for resolution.

I've been searching for my home these last couple of months. Perhaps I should have consulted with a home-ologist, one more expert at finding what I seek.

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Constraints

Constraints
Pity the poor little rich boy,
raised with no constraints.
He could've been anything he wanted to be
except for what he ain't.


I am the product of my constraints, for I do what I can and never what I cannot. I curse these curious benefactors as if they were preventing me from becoming what I really, truly want to become, while they tirelessly hold the edge between here and oblivion. Every damned one of them serves as a limiting factor to frustrate my desires. Every blessed one of them seem damned determined to help me realize just who I might actually become. My clandestine constraints trip me when I rush to collect the product of my dreams, reminding me that I never was and was never bound to become the center of any universe, not even, especially even, my own.

My constraints help keep me humble.

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Vacations

notvacation
"I still have no freaking clue what to do with myself when I'm not working, preferably from home."

While planning for our upcoming trip to Europe, I received an email from a colleague in Vienna reminding us that people there are generally out of the office and on vacation in July and August. I flashed back to the many postponed and foregone vacations during my professional life. I had a knack for becoming a key person on a time-critical project whenever scheduled vacation time or a major holiday arrived, and being the good employee that I was, I would magnanimously volunteer to stay behind and work. One year, The Insurance Company sent my first wife and I, along with our two kids, to Disneyland to repay us for the planned vacation I'd sacrificed in favor of overseeing a crucial implementation which didn't end up happening on schedule, anyway. I remember what a miserable time we had there, discovering that Disneyland roughly equated to one of the inner circles of Hell. That vacation started when we returned home.

Europeans treat vacation with a seemingly imperative reverence, like the devout consider church attendance. Americans treat them the way secular Europeans treat church attendance, as one of those practices grandma might have observed but which moderns mostly do not.

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SenseOfPlace

senseofplace
"Home's not where I live, but where I'm of."

The more one wanders, the less home seems like a physical place. Repeated leavings, when combined with lengthy separations, leave no more than an increasingly vague SenseOfPlace in its place. I admit that this transformation makes little sense, for if a place is a place is a place, the physical space should at least seem to remain somewhat static in my absence, but it just doesn't. Instead, reflections, which manage to get everything but vague gists backward, come to dominate what remains of my sense of home. I might therefore catch glimpses of home wherever I find myself with only one prominent omission. I understand, even in my more entranced moments, that I project that image I so readily and warmly recognize. It's not so much out-there as disconcertingly close to in-here instead. I nonetheless feel the heartfelt satisfaction as if lighting up a long-favored and rarely savored cigar. I secretly hope The Muse won't catch me sneaking a smoke.

Still, people ask me where I'm from, which always gives me uncomfortable pause.

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SweetWeek


SweetWeek
"Shouldn't satisfaction come in such thin slices?"

Last week seemed too cold. Next week might turn unseasonably warm. One blessed week during the unresolved season, the world finally comes into focus, probably for no more than that week. The week arrives without notice, a veritable thief in the night, for no amount of anticipation or heart-felt wishing could have brought it around. It comes as a surprise, a form of grace, seemingly unbidden. I might spend a day or two before I come to realize just where I happen to find myself, then a sluggish recognition kicks in. The early morning air somehow lost her bite. The lengthening evenings hesitate before passing into night. I could leave the window open 24/7 if The Muse didn't complain of the chill only she can feel. I lose the socks.

The garden's satisfied, roots exploring through freshly-turned soil, another few handfuls of rocks tossed toward the rough yard edge.

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InfoWatcher

TMI
"I need much less of what everyone seems determined to provide ever more of."

The Muse received a FitBit® in the mail last week as part of a wellness program she joined at work. Now she wears a bracelet that counts her steps, identifies incoming emails and calls, and I don't know what-all else. She's wired. She suggested that perhaps I'd like one, too, but I declined the invitation. She photographs every supper to send to some wellness program consultant who critiques her suppers, for cripes sake, providing the sort of feedback nobody really has any use for. By the time she receives the information, she's already swallowed her supper and can only respond with remorse or a small celebration, though she might learn something for next time if she can find a place to store each fresh piece of information.

Me? I'm on a new program I'm calling InfoWatchers, an ongoing attempt to somehow limit the information assaulting me.

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Letters

Letters
" … genuine attention seems to necessarily take the slow boat between us."

Over the past two weeks, I've found three opportunities to write letters. My correspondents were in hospital, cut off from electronic communications, so I sent actual letters. Not e-mails. Not Tweets or quick Facebook commentary, but genuine actual personal letters. I first had to dredge up my faint memory of just how to format a letter, for these babies demand a specific formal: date and location at the top, etc. I next had to rethink what one includes in a proper letter, for a proper letter seems confidential. It will never go viral, or even aspire to, for it wants to be an outpouring, a heart to heart with one heart imagined and the other far-too used to hiding. Letters allow a rare sort of conversation, one-sided and many-faceted. The purpose seems to be an out-pouring, a lightening, a confiding unknown to every other medium. A letter lives on the stark edge between private and public, with a public of precisely one.

Much of history seems represented in letters.

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Vis-Ability

TheInvisibleMan
"Even The Invisible Man has his moments, or those moments have him."

Contrary to the number of FaceBook posts I make every day, I consider myself to be an intensely private man. I stopped using my Twitter account about the same time Our President started over-using his. I forgot my LInkedIn password and feel no great compulsion to remember it since its curious user interface required me to relearn how to use it every time I logged in and I admit that I never understood what it was intended to be there for, other than to broadcast the superficial specifications favored by curricula vitae, the most superficial sort of personal characterizations. Instagram couldn't capture my interest. I've lately created a private FaceBook Group where I post the bulk of my stuff to people I've specifically invited to receive it. I'm nobody's self-promoter in a culture which seems absolutely obsessed with self-promotion.

I've always preferred bounded solitude, comforted by the certain knowledge that others were nearby but not in my face.

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Viscosity

Viscosity-Chart-2-1
"Whether I move fast or slow probably has more to do with fluid dynamics …"

My first rule of project management insists that one must first find the natural rhythm of the effort, then do whatever possible to match that rhythm. I might have just as easily proposed matching the viscosity rather than the rhythm, if only because viscosity seems somehow easier to determine. The gist says that one should avoid expecting honey to flow like water. Well-understood principles govern the fluid dynamics of substances, but these principles become meaningless if one mischaracterizes the substance they're working with. Few projects in my experience ever flowed like water. It seemed that most of the executives funding the efforts presumed they would and could, an easy mistake if you've never been up to your armpits in window putty that was touted as likely to flow like water.

Different times, a project as well as a life, might well exhibit different Viscosities.

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Extraordinary

extraordinary
"The Extraordinary emerges from a meeting of my mind with the rest of my world …"

I started two years ago this month writing what would grow to become a series of seven and still counting books predicated upon the simple-seeming proposition that each day carries some Extraordinary enough experience to warrant writing about. I admit my audacity as well as the inescapable contradiction in my founding injunction, which dared me to go forth and notice the Extraordinary every damned day. Everyday experiences distinguish themselves from Extraordinary ones by the inherent infrequency of their appearance, so Everyday Extraordinary seems to violate some principle or other, but what do I know of principle? I know almost exclusively by my own personal experience, with even others' reports filtered through my, apparently unique, cognition. I proposed my predicate more as a challenge for me to disprove than for me to fully validate, though disproving it might deeply disappoint my aspiration. I wanted to believe that such an obvious contradiction might, just might, prove true, and so, it seems, it has so far. I cannot say with any great certainty what tomorrow might bring, but almost every day over the past two years has brought with it something Extraordinary hookie-bobbing along on its rear bumper. I've noticed.

My experimental quest might prove nothing more than the existence of self-fulfilling expectations, for I admit that I primed myself to become especially watchful so as to notice.

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SpringMorning

SpringMorning
"Our deck garden refuge serves as the center of this home from June into early October"

A Spring Morning shows up swollen with possibility, aching to be seized. Anything could happen. The eastern horizon starts glowing long before the sun's scheduled arrival. I check the clock, thinking I must have overslept, but I have not. The day leans ahead of herself, craning her neck across the starting gate, seemingly anxious to just get going. I can barely sit still. This will not be a day for reflection.

The Muse mentions that she misses her yard as we wander around the plant nursery.

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Songwritings

songwriting
" … inviting me to begin all over again again."

The Muse is forever after me to pick up my guitar. Last night with an honored guest over for supper, she quietly asked as we finished eating if I felt like playing my guitar. I nodded in the negative and she dropped her usual insistence with only the barest hint of a whimper. Over the past couple of years, I've found myself persistently not really in the mood to pick up my guitar. It's sat in a closed case down in my basement studio which I only very rarely even enter anymore. I consider this hesitance to be an affliction, though I remain uncertain of the underlying pathology, if, indeed, an underlying pathology even exists. I certainly don't have a ready name or syndrome to assign to this curious separation, one equivalent to finding myself separated from my self, since my guitar has been as integral a part of me as my heart since about fourth grade.

I write songs. Not to make a living, though I once imagined that I might, but to live.

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Routines

routines
"I expect the rest of me to catch up sometime over the next fitful week."

Traveling disrupts routines. Returning does, too. The disruption can feel exhilarating, liberating. Returning can feel more disorienting than reassuring. The old routines don't seem queued up for me to simply step into them and I cannot catch that once preconscious rhythm. I sit and stare at the place I so recently simply stared through, so common and so ordinary were my daily patterns of movement here. I almost remember where everything goes, but what starts out as an enthusiastic unpacking soon slows into ever tightening indecisive circles. I finally surrender to the feeling and adjourn to bed before supper, falling into a deep sleep while shivering under the covers with my clothes still on.

I'd neglected to turn on the furnace after that true Spring day before we left and yes, it had snowed four days during our absence.

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ThirdWorld

ThirdWorld
" … [I] might well find myself forced to call such places home again."

When I travel, I try to imagine what it might be like to live in the places we pass through. What sort of houses do the locals seem to favor? Where do they shop? How do they transport themselves? I'm unfortunate because, having grown up in a Walt Disney movie set, few places pass even perfunctory scrutiny as halfway decent places to live. Many seem too barren of the fundamental necessities of what I believe constitutes a decent life, unfortunate waysides where life as I know and expect it seems simply impossible to live. My first visit to New York City left me, as I believe it leaves most people, wondering how anyone could possibly eek out a living there. Later visits found me discovering tiny pockets of possible homesites, but even those seemed surrounded by hostile territory.

Subsequent visits often blunt my initial impression, which tends toward the scathing.

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DriveBy

driveby
" … hoping to make some real progress today."

Much of The Great American Road Trip involves driving by places. Stopping slows progress and progress might be the most important product of any American road trip. Distances seem vast but only because they are genuinely vast. A day's driving might barely get one through a region. Crossing some states require more than a day of concerted progress. The roads have become increasingly anonymous. With Interstate freeways, one can travel from coast to coast without once leaving the numbing pattern of essentially identical lanes, exits, and signs, with guard rails carefully positioned to block any view of any unique or unusual sight. Yet we insist that we've visited a place when we've probably only driven by it.

Driving up and out of New Orleans, the interstate travels along a causeway over an enormous spillway pushing an alarming current of muddy brown Mississippi water into a huge basin, a line dividing sparkling blue and murky brown. No Stopping, signs insist.

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ProDuckTivity

ProDuckTivity
"Allow some self-satisfaction to wash up and over."

Yesterday turned out to be one of those once-in-a-hundred-or-two-hundred days where everything just went my way. I finished stuff. My usual queue seems clogged with various undertakings likely to do me in before I ever finish them. I could justify feeling discouraged, even despondent, at the continuing prospect of never, ever completing anything had I not long ago grown more or less accustomed to the unfinished queue's essentially permanent presence. Over time, I suppose I've tempered my objectives a little — or a LOT. Incompleteness brings no sense of anxiety anymore, but more often leaves me feeling complacent, as if completion might have always been a rare but not entirely special thing, a Red Herring. I wouldn't engage listlessly so much as with a certain sangfroid. I tend to pick away at things.

But then once every quarter or so, I experience a truly productive day, one where I not only complete something, I complete something huge.

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FiveTwoFiveOhTwo

HawthorneBlossoms
"May we both continue to prosper."

On this date, the Hawthorne tree reliably blooms, scenting the street with apple blossom air. The yard seems simply glorious, a secret garden of subtle delights. So The Muse and I chose this day to marry. Family and friends gathered to meet and celebrate and everyone invited got assigned some small chore, for this was a do it ourselves affair, only possible with the contributions of everyone there. The Muse's aged aunt weeded out the fern bed, bending beside her walker to get her fingers dirty on the afternoon before the formal ceremony. We'd traded a friend for his services as the chef d'jour, grilling whole Copper River Sockeye salmon fillets and fresh cut asparagus. My niece played bartender. The Muse's son and brother wired up the party lights and everybody seemed to schlepp tables and chairs. I made a late afternoon run to a nearby nursery to snatch a load of bark chips to dress up the pond surround. The Muse's sisters helped prep in the kitchen, saving our butts when the vegetarian contingent wondered what on the menu they might consume. Instant magical Pad Thai appeared!

The Muse and I wrote our own ceremony, of course, overseen by the able hand of a man we'd met in one of our workshops, an imposing biker dude with genuine attitude and a disarmingly gentle hand.

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HüskerDü

HuskerDu
"It's just a matter of me continuing the search until I delight myself …"

Life seems like an extended game of HüskerDü. I seek matches for my wants. Yesterday morning, I noticed our bathroom was out of toilet paper, so I ran out to the supermarket, proudly proclaiming when I returned that I'd restocked only to hear The Muse patiently explain to me that there were additional rolls cleverly hidden in a place I could not find. This sort of action happens less often at home, where I'm usually considered to be the font of such knowledge. I believe that humans feel the need to travel whenever they've memorized the local HüskerDü board at home and ache for a little more mystery in their lives, even if that mystery might be where to find the danged toilet paper.

This temporary kitchen kept me entertained for the best part of an afternoon after I'd unknowingly volunteered to cook supper for everyone in the house.

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Settler

settler
" … recognizing ourselves as we'd not ever experienced ourselves before."

Three days into these temporary digs and I notice myself settling in. That first day, I felt like a blind man, complacently following those who already knew the way. The second day, I allowed myself limited excursions, finding the grocery twice and returning without the navigation system keeping watch over me. The third day, I flew solo, relying upon my budding sense of direction to guide me without disappointing myself. I broadened my horizons, even guiding The Muse through a neighborhood I realized that I suddenly and surprisingly knew better than she did. I even took advantage of the public transportation, a great and pleasing gift to any visitor uninterested in actually driving around strange country.

I expect that my pioneer forebears followed a similar pattern when assimilating into their new digs.

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Fierce

fierce
"A place can have its charms even if it's Fierce for most of every day."

I first encountered humidity in my early twenties, when I finally travelled East of Idaho. Around about North Platte, Nebraska I noticed an unease crawling down my back and wondered out loud what I was experiencing. My partner named it, prompting me to ask why anyone would ever tolerate this stuff. I came to realize that more than half of this country sweltered through half of each year, that The Founding Fathers fought for ownership of a country that smelled like the inside of an old leather suitcase. Our frock-coated forebears' stiff collars wicked sweat and so did the dainty petticoats of their whalebone corseted spouses. Over the following two years, I came to know humidity more intimately than I really cared to. I learned how it can magnify a sultry sun's rays to produce what the locals referred to as Sun Poisoning, a skin blistering not even ice baths soothe.

Our years in DC left me with a deep respect for wet blanket weather.

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HomeAway

homeaway3
" We move from home to home to home, never to ever come back around again."

On the fifth day, we pulled into the short driveway adjacent to the double shotgun rental. Two of our housemates had arrived an hour earlier, but they'd generously decided to defer choosing their bedroom until The Muse and I showed up. We surveyed the premises: huge and well-appointed kitchen/living room/dining room/library (with library ladder) dominated the front half of the first floor. A massive master bedroom and attached bath with both a soaking tub and an eight spigot full body walk-in shower took the back left and back end of the place, a smaller den bedroom and laundry room, the other. Upstairs, another master bedroom with attached sitting room and bath dominated by a clawfoot tub, comprised the whole second floor. I feigned indifference about which bedroom to choose, choosing to let the others choose, and The Muse and I ended up just where I wanted us to be, in the back downstairs bedroom. The door to the outside patio served me well when I woke rested and disoriented at three o'clock the following morning.

This place would never have been the result of either The Muse or my deliberate design, but it feels home enough after traveling halfway across the country.

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Charicatures

charicature
"Travel occurs between these two diametrically opposing perspectives."

Fan palms, a massive magnolia, ancient oaks, and a raft of fauna for which I have no label surround me this morning. I imagine myself sitting beside a tranquil bayou but I know I'm sitting on the backside of a rusty-silled tourist motel beside a shimmering cement pond. I possess an iconic rather than an eidetic memory, which means I hold patterns rather than specific images, matching presumed similarities rather than actual characteristics. My world view carries caricatures in lieu of actual examples. My memory bank seems more cartoon store than authenticator. I hold my prejudices more prominently than I suspect, imagining my neighbors as I have been entrained to imagine them based upon studiously superficial examination. I hardly know myself well enough to posit a credible theory of my own existence yet blithely presuppose that I understand my surroundings well enough to interpret them.

The atmosphere this morning feels like a warm damp blankey draped over my shoulders.

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After ...

after2
"The Muse and I were fortunately not victims of anything …"

My sister hid in her bedroom closet with her dog while my brother-in-law stood before the television. The Muse and I had simultaneously received a tornado warning on our iPhones and we were relying upon the locals to tell us what to do. The Muse grew up in tornado country. I had not. The announcer displayed rain-splattered images and map overlays, failing to catch any discernible rotation in the scudding cloud cover. He explained that this one was cloaked, surrounded by a wall of water, and could not be visually verified, but the instruments clearly indicated some budding rotation within those clouds. The weather outside seemed placid until it didn't anymore. Whatever it was, a twister or an announcer shouting, seemed about a mile away from our location and moving away to the East. We'd just been talking about where the hidey hole was in the house a short time before the warning came through.

Nothing came of that warning.

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FarAway

FarAway1
"If I slow down a little, I might recognize myself zooting through."

I didn't notice until later that afternoon. The Muse and I had somehow crossed over into the genuinely FarAway. No roadsigns defined the border. No real sense of distance overcame me until after we'd arrived. It wasn't exactly that the place smelled different, though it did, or looked all that different, but that we'd passed over some familiar horizon into space with genuinely undefined boundaries. North? South? East? West? The Muse, being a born Mid-Westerner, carries an innate sense of direction. She easily determines West from East even if no handy mountain range delineates the difference; something about direction and angle of the sun … or something. Those of us who were reared in a western valley missed acquiring that nth directional sense and have always cheated, or never really cared to make this distinction. Out on the vaster ocean of land, navigation depends upon nth senses I do not possess and I feel FarAway.

I find myself lost and disoriented for the first hour of the drive, sensing (wrongly) that we must be headed in the opposite of our intended direction.

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Prayrie

prayier
" … leaving behind only heartfelt prayers for this Prayrie and its familiar people."

The transition from high plateau to low plain passes with hardly a cue. The Muse and I disagree on the primary feature of the passing terrain. I say it's horizonless while she insists that it's all horizon out here, nothing but! I say that the sandy prairie eventually turns to dust before finally finding groundwater near enough the surface to do anyone any good, Prayrie. Too flat to have once been Dust Bowl country, though it might have made a decent run at a Dust Plate or Dust Platter designation. The wind here does everything but blow. It sucks. It howls. It draws. It nags The Schooner's nose as we edge our way Due East. No need to nudge off onto the finer compass points. Due East'll do just fine.

This is the Heartland of America, the great flyover zone, the region we love to denigrate for its degenerately conservative politics and rube lifestyles, where one encounters more wide-assed pickups and piece-of-shit Elantras than Teslas on the road, that's for sure.

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Gone-ing

gone-ing
"I cannot wait to be finished with this incessant Gone-ing and simply become a goner again."

The twenty four hours before leaving must be the most productive period in our lives. We're not leaving for good, not forever or anything, but the bustle of putting our affairs in order fills the place. The refrigerator receives the scrutiny it's been aching for and a supper of leftovers emerges. A few forgotten remainders go down the disposal and the dishwasher fills up with skanky Tupperware. A last load of laundry starts grinding away. I'd trimmed and mowed the yard, finally finished raking up the overwinter moss growth and carting it to the compost heap cleverly hidden behind the prickly spruce tree. I even remembered to fill The Schooner's window washing fluid reservoir in anticipation of Prairie bug swarms. I finally set the seeping drip line to hydrate the gooseberry garden and sprinkled a few wildflower seeds to fill in between the larger plants. I even dressed the bed with moist and sterilized soil. My work's almost done here.

The Muse announced that she had a raft of picky finishing work to complete before tomorrow, so she disappeared into her basement lair where the BIG laptop monitor lives.

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MetaFor

wolfsheep
"Some prove more useful than others."

I blame metaphor misuse for most of the worst difficulties humans face. Metaphors provide a means for describing the specifically indescribable, but to mistake a metaphor for its tangible-seeming referent makes people crazy. There never was an Invisible Hand. Adam Smith employed metaphor, even including the tip off 'as if,' when describing how markets seem to work. Seem to work, not how they actually work. Some became true believers in what Smith never intended to serve as truth but as speculative observation. He intended people to think, not to blindly follow. His was never intended to become a faith-based initiative. At least ten thousand alternative 'as if' metaphors might exist to help envision how markets work, none necessarily valid, but each potentially interesting or helpful.

Firm belief in the physical actuality of any metaphorical entity breeds trouble.

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FedBack

fedback
"I'm FedUp with FedBack."

I feel so surrounded by feedback that I sometimes cannot seem to experience the performance for the proliferation of reviews: positive feedback egging me on and negative feedback slowing me down. The past few months, at my nurse practitioner's insistence, I've been twice daily logging my blood pressure readings then sharing them via GoogleSheets®. I preface each report with my analysis of the data, which so far always concludes that the data seems too noisy and varied to support any definitive conclusion. Any budding trend seems quickly cancelled by contradictory data. Even average seems to materially misrepresent the obvious variability. Mornings seem neither consistently higher nor lower than target. Same story with each day's second reading. Overall, the advice seems the same: continue monitoring and we'll discuss at my next in-person visit.

The exercise has matured into a grudging obligation.

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ReasonablyComfortable

reasonablycomfortable
"A few deliberately imbedded ounces of inconvenience provide the spice of any well-lived life."

A home should be ReasonablyComfortable, a place where one need not nervously glance over one's shoulder, a kick-back space. I've found reasonable comfort in a wide variety of circumstances: an unheated sleeping porch through a damp Seattle winter, a Victorian bedroom with buzzing flies in the walls, a squat one bedroom apartment overlooking a busy arterial, a thick-walled main floor with parquet floors and a genuine Dutch door, on top of a hill, and down in a shadowy draw. The first few nights found me nervously glancing over my shoulder, but a few days' conditioning and I'd find myself ReasonablyComfortable all over again. I hesitate to leave ReasonableComfortable digs, as if I believe that I've somehow lost my ability to ever discover fresh ReasonablyComfortable places, as if leaving my present one would curse me to wander in an inescapably uncomfortable world. I exhibit little faith in the future's ability to properly provision me, or, indeed, in my own inventiveness.

I have always insisted upon a modicum of discomfort in my homes, though.

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Clatterglories

categories
"I wonder if it might be possible to categorize books by their ability to cast that spell."

Have you noticed how category-oriented we've become? I wonder if we were always this way. The corner store down the street from where I grew up seemed a jumble. Other than the butcher's shop in the back, the place seemed to have avoided departmentalization, and could seem chaotic to the inexperienced shopper. Over time, everything just seemed to be where it belonged, which perfectly correlated with where it had always been. A typical pantry isn't organized anything like a modern supermarket, with package shape perhaps more strongly influencing where an item gets shelved than any proximate similarity of content. I enter a BIG box store and spend most of my visit trying to figure out the central organizing principle, often coming up empty-handed and fleeing rather than asking for help. Asking an employee at The Home Despot where to find a particular item might or might not improve your chances of locating that item, for their classification schema seems a mystery to everyone, shoppers and clerks alike.

I shouldn't have been that surprised when my wise advisor confided that the first step of publishing a book involves properly classifying it.

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BeginningAgain

BeginningAgain
"When BeginningAgain, the unlikeliest rule."

I once believed in The Syphon Theory of Life, that I might struggle to get myself established, but once successful, my "skills" would thereafter defy gravity to produce a relatively effortless inflow. I admit to experiencing short stints of this sort of existence, but those periods were in every case separated by fresh struggles, not all of which resulted in relatively effortless inflow. Several of these separations seemed to completely strip me of any of my hard-earned sense of mastery. In some, my earlier successes seemed suddenly irrelevant. In others, my precious community seemed to evaporate, though it was more likely that I disappeared. In most, I felt much worse off for my past accomplishments, as if their sole purpose had been to distract me from some necessary reinvention ahead. I eventually and quite begrudgingly abandoned my faith in The Syphon Theory of Life in favor of a budding belief in reinvention.

Reinvention lacks the alluring promise The Syphon Theory offered.

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Sanctuary

sanctuary
"I feel sublimely suspended in soothing sanctuary. I must be home."

On a foggy Spring morning, our home takes on the silent solitude of an abandoned medieval chapel. The so-called cathedral ceilings in the front room arch toward the heavens empty of all but severely muted light. I can hear nothing but a background buzzing in my ears. The world lays still and silent. My mind seems to take this isolation as a good enough excuse to wander around. All seems possible then, though nothing seems all that likely. I flit from chair to table then try upstairs on for size. I feel as isolated and secure as I could ever hope to feel, and satisfied with pretty much everything.

The Muse hardly ever experiences our home in this state.

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Pestilences

pestilences
" … the bitter savory back-taste of the otherwise Home Sweet Home."

Homes tend to attract pestilences; not necessarily the full-blown Old Testament kind, but pestilences nonetheless. They might share a common root cause, though: staying in one place. The Hunter-Gatherer could pick up and leave their latest pestilence behind by just moving on to another place, but homes stay put. Staying put means that FindingHome entails accepting the minor and occasionally major visitations wrought upon the place. I'm currently, for instance, wrestling with the annual Springtime appearance of moss invading what passes for my back lawn. If I were a Hunter-Gatherer, I could shrug disinterestedly and just move on, but having found my home here, I feel compelled to pull out the heavy old garden rake and scrape up and dispose of the stuff, then spray on this iron-based treatment which is supposed to kill any remaining moss and prevent further intrusion, but doesn't. I'll be back at it again a year from now.

Over time, a backlog of pestilence grows.

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ReDiscoveringHome

DiscoveringHome
"I rarely underlook, if there's even such a word.
If there were such a word,
I'd define it as meaning a search undertaken directly beneath one's own nose …"

Even the finest home eventually comes to seem shabby and familiar. The Muse spotted a Home For Sale sign on our walk yesterday. Using her iPhone to access more information on the web, she learned that the owner was asking $4.5 Million. The nearly ten thousand square foot place included Eiger marble countertops, hand-scraped hickory floors, and state of the art electronic controls throughout. Even that place seems destined to seem shabby and familiar to anyone living there because living anywhere produces a personal footprint which eventually comes to seem shabby and familiar. Little habits and routines, even those rambling around nearly ten thousand square feet of space, tend to kind of tear up a place. Shortly after the Architectural Digest photographer leaves, the same old shabbiness returns.

The presence of visitors can spiff up a place.

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Home-opathy

Home-opathy
"May this streak of good fortune continue until it doesn't anymore."

After twenty years, I have a physician again. During my score's absence from the healthcare scene, I admit to crawling into an emergency room once after an unfortunate moment of inattention when chopping vegetables. Other than that incident, I remained largely as healthy as the proverbial horse with no physical complaints other than the occasional head cold or strained muscle. Not that my family history illustrates infinite invulnerability. My forebears eventually croaked like everyone else's have, many from what might be characterized as self-inflicted causes: smoking, horseback riding, and the inadvertent ingestion of milkweed toxin via cow's milk. Life seems an unavoidable minefield whichever era one inhabits. I probably drink too much beer and engage in excessive depressing self-reflection, but I have no complaints worth speaking of. Or, I might more accurately proclaim that I had no complaints until I reengaged with our fine healthcare system.

I admit that I've been uncommonly fortunate.

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SteppingBack

steppingback
"I can warmly anticipate what I have been cooly disdaining."

I usually step closer to gain better perspective, but sometimes, just sometimes, SteppingBack from an object does the trick. Anyone can get so close to anyplace that they lose the ability to really see what's there. Familiarity eventually starts breading that old reliable contempt, but insert even the threat of some away time, and the old place starts to sparkle again. The numbing routines start throwing off pre-nostalgia vibes. The better-worn paths start seeming well-suited rather than simply scuffed. The surest way for me to break a bout of early Spring cabin fever entails planning some getaway.

The Muse has a meeting in New Orleans and had planned to just fly there and back, but we'd been pining after a road trip, so I suggested that perhaps—just perhaps—we could drive there instead.

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HomingIn

voicesinmyhead
"These voices have not proven themselves to be infallible."

The voices in my head aren't really voices and aren't actually in my head. They might be more like a Nth felt sense with no physical location, no actual language, no sound. They might be more like long wave electromagnet radiation, far beyond the other five senses' ability to register or interpret and yet still subtly influencing me. I sense when it kicks in as a faint presence, like a hardly audible whisper, as if I intuit its presence. I figure it works like a Homing beacon, radiating signals intending to inform me without my actually knowing how, or even exactly what it's saying. Walking into that hobbit hut-like coffee house in Prague, I immediately "felt" at home. How could that be? Perhaps it was inherited DNA resonating familiarity, like the sensation I received when The Muse and I entered my father's family's ancestral village.

I swear that I'm not clinically schizophrenic, voices in my head notwithstanding.

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HardReboot

500px-Reset_button.svg


"Maybe a complete interrupt might restore the both of us back to some functional state again."

My blog software failed again last week. Hardly a story worth repeating (again), since it fails about annually with great regularity, each time utterly abandoning me. I can never remember how to snap photos of the offending screen and must relearn the jargon tech support insists upon when receiving a fresh problem report. I decided to post the issue to the User Forum, reasoning that other users must have encountered this same paradox, but after a few days without a response, I gussied up an email directly to tech support, which resides in Brighton in the UK, which guarantees an extra day's delay before I receive a response. My routine had already been disrupted for four full days by then. I hoped to receive something before the weekend.

Late Friday afternoon, I picked up tech support's response, which suggested I might quickly install their latest build, a Beta version not yet deemed ready for general distribution.

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ReFinishing

impossibly small brush
“I failed to astound myself again.”

It seems as if I’ve never completed any job. I’ve batted each around like a cat tiring a terrified mouse until the mouse or I finally conceded and suspended play. Perhaps another day would come where play might resume, destined to become another inconclusive contest abandoned short of complete. Between bouts, an unsteady truce reigns. Additional fiddling might become necessary. A bit of touch up paint, a previously overlooked imperfection, each evidence of an eternally asymptotic relationship with done. Most observers might never suspect that I’m a quitter, one who inevitably leaves each job undone, though I never shake awareness of this fact.

I have yet to experience the exhilaration of crossing a finish line.

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WhatWritersDo

whatwritersdo
“We must create trances without abusing our gift.”

Writers write, a tautological declaration hardly worth making. Some transcribe, or firmly believe that they do. Others exposit, delving into and fleshing out what might otherwise serve as little more than fleeting thoughts. Some say that they write non-fiction, a questionable assertion, since by filtering their thoughts through their fingers, they leave their own fingerprints all over the resulting pages. Others stick to fiction or fantasy, both genres capable of sometimes eliciting more authentic representations than any encyclopedia. But I speak of genres here, which attempt to classify writing into types, when writing seems more fundamental than whatever the Dewey Decimal System suggests.

All writing serves as a form of trance induction, in much the same way as all experience induces trances.

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Homer

220px-Homer_British_Museum
"I lived in the present then without understanding that I was also living timelessly."

Every homeowner seems part Homer Simpson and part Homer the ancient Greek poet. We live as everyman and exist as part of a mythic and heroic drama. We seem stuck in a role where we must repeatedly demonstrate our innate ineptness while also inhabiting an extended allegory. We catch ourselves demonstrating just how utterly clueless we are while simultaneously inspiring following generations. We mostly engage in utterly mundane activities which, viewed from broader perspectives, somehow embody an entire era, an archetype we would not recognized if we noticed it peering back out of the mirror before us. We are not either pattern we so convincingly embody.

The popularity of aluminum siding clearly demonstrates how gullible homeowners can be.

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AntiHome

antihome
" … a home still unsupplemented by an additional professional abode."

Many people maintain two homes, the one where they vacuum the floors and the one where they report to work. I know, work ain't home, but it carries a home-like familiarity. At work, one has "their" desk, a workspace reserved for personal professional use. If you're not reporting to a desk job five days every week, the absence of that auxiliary work home might prominently loom over the other home. One needs a significant other home, I think, in order to properly frame the real home, someplace meaningfully calling one out into the world. This seems to add purpose to existence. Nobody ever rebuts an insistence that one simply must "get to work" or "they'll be late." Out they go, no questions asked.

Where do the rest of us go to find that sort of work home?

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DiggingIn

diggingin
"Call it vanity, I don't care. It feels like sanity to me."

By mid-April, my backyard snowbank's finally less than two feet deep and the surrounding yard saturated as it will not again be soaked until this time next year. The underlying hardpan becomes friable for a few terribly short weeks, and I kneel in humble appreciation. The house has by this time of the year shrunken to the size of a toolshed, more jail cell than home. I flee the wintertime boundaries which kept me incarcerated since October, aching for fresh grass stains on my knees and a newly aching shoulder joint. I deadhead the buff beige leftovers from last year's yarrow blossoms and rake up the worst of the pine needles culled down by the insistent winter westerlies. Blade breaks earth and the garden seems to sigh in relief and forgiveness. The snow preserved everything beneath its benevolent blanket, protecting it from fifty harsh nights and a hundred heartless days. The soil seems to breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally Spring.

DiggingIn's an annual ritual. No tilling ever extends its influence over a winter.

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HomesAwayFromHome

homeaway
" … One of the thousands of HomesAwayFromHome we've stumbled into and back out of …"

In Europe, I've heard it said that vacationers seek places really different from home. In The United States, we hope to recreate home when we travel. Tourist traps tout Home Cookin', Homemade Salt Water Taffy (though nobody ever makes taffy at home), and Home Style Hotel Rooms. Often these places deliver better or worse than home style, actual home style having evolved into something more familiar than tout-able. Still, I settle into a definite familiarity when traveling, a sort of dance choreographed by dozens of repetitions, each somewhat unique and each also absolutely the same. The easy monotony of a Marriott hotel room, the furniture absolutely unfunctional yet entirely familiar, I long ago figured out how to jury-rig the couch so I could sit up straight there. The mildly disappointing menu choices at the diner promising home-style cooking reminds me most of how my grandmother was supposed to have cooked and never did.

I take little of any of this very seriously.

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Shamelessness&Spin

spin
"I'll find home without the shameless spinning or accede to eternal homelessness, thank you."

An important part of FindingHome involves mustering as clear an image as possible of what home might look like, to strip away the more prominent myths and produce a crisper portrait of the place. The mind might conjure gothic columns behind a white picket fence which reality could never deliver. Owning a home remains the most prominent indicator of success, whether that home be a one story rambler on a slab, a palatial estate, or a rusting double wide adjacent to a commercial refueling tank farm. Simply owning real estate smacks of some sort of success, indicative, according to the home ownership myth, of hard work, thrift, and responsibility fully assumed.

This presumption begs the questions, then, of what success really looks like now, how does it seem to be achieved, and what key indicators lead to its emergence?

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HomeAchers

ache
"The aches will soon evaporate but the satisfaction will linger on."

Home ownership begets aches and pains, for dedicated homeowners just cannot help themselves. They tend to overdo. When Spring finally comes, the pruning begins. The narrowest of windows appear within which the homeowner accepts the necessity of completing a week's worth of work over an all-too short weekend, and so does. By Sunday night, a satisfying sort of crippling sets in. The homeowner will drag that last tarp load of trimmings to the by-then ungainly pile, lovingly fold the tarp and set it onto its shelf, then limp to the back steps, slip off the boots, then pop open the most satisfying beer ever enjoyed by anyone anywhere; the first of several. A close to nirvana state reigns over the yard as the sun sanguinely sets just beyond the gate. The homeowner might measure a couple of inches shorter than on Friday, but he feels ten feet tall.

The aches aren't only the result of over-doing, but also caused by simply doing things not every day required.

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FeelsLike

feellike
" … no Home yet in the history of this world so far ever felt a damned thing."

Almost nobody will complain if I resort to proclaiming that something "feels like home," even though homes can't feel. Most will seamlessly parse the phrase without noticing that they've supplied one hundred percent of the meaning they experience, for phrases like 'feels like' act as trance inducers. If nobody raises an eyebrow in confusion, the induction worked. Congratulate me, I'm a hypnotist, except nobody noticed. If nobody noticed, is it still a trance? Perhaps it's the very best trance of all.

When I think of home, a thousand contradictory feelings bubble up, for home has hosted pretty much every sort of feeling I've experienced from my greatest sadnesses to my greatest joys, though the home itself seemed rather impassive, merely the medium within which those feelings emerged.

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HomeWork

homework
"Nowhere, you explain."

Imagine a swimming teacher assigning homework. Nobody has a swimming pool at home, so what does a dedicated student do? Practice the Australian Crawl on their bedroom floor? Homework felt like this to me. My first question was, "Just where at home might I fulfill this assignment?" My bedroom, which I shared with my older brother, offered semi-privacy but no writing surface. I could lounge on my bed there and read, but math proved almost impossible to do while sprawled on my belly balancing a book more dedicated to closing itself than staying open to the page, while the worksheet kept sliding off the back of my precariously-balanced notebook. My pencil would break, necessitating a trip to the kitchen to sharpen it, a gauntlet of distractions along the way. Or, I could work at the dining room table, Grand Central Station situated between the living room and the kitchen, the least private spot, bookended with distractions. I might cower in the basement, working bent over on an old coffee table until my lower back gave out. Or at the Kitchen table while carrying on a half dozen side conversations. I might end up with ten minutes of focused attention before suppertime.

Context matters.

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Homogeneity

Western-Balkans-map
" …who really knows what love is?"

We speak of homes as if the inhabitants comprised a homogeneous whole, when quite the opposite seems more likely. Sure, we might call ourselves a family, but nearly twenty percent of those families satisfy the definition of blended, step-siblings cohabiting or nearly steps, the adults not formally related yet, if ever. Even within directly related family units, significant differences exist. The extroverts drive the introverts crazy and vice versa. The smart kids dominate the dumber ones. The older kids lord over their younger siblings. Parents get gamed into paradoxical proclamations. Within each family unit, a tacit cultural map very similar to The Balkans persists, contradicting the apparent surface homogeneity of the group.

I was my family's 'sport,' a rose gardening term referring to the odd sprout which does not mirror a plant's other characteristics.

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HomeBody

HomeBody
"Where do I go when I disappear there?"

I'd prefer to stay home. Given the opportunity to travel the world, I'd still prefer to stay home. I'm a notorious HomeBody, into my routine, comfortable in my surroundings as long as I'm home. Good introvert that I am, I consider myself to be my own best company. Strangers exhaust me. Even too much family tends to quickly tucker me out. I live most of my life inside my head. The rest of the world and all its supposed charms seem about 98% distraction. I kick and scream at the mere prospect of leaving my lair. The Muse has to grab me by my hair and throw me out into the world. She insists that interesting things happen when I get out in the world, and I cannot disagree. Still, I'd rather stay home.

When I consent to go out, I drive with one foot in the ditch, wary and watching for calamity.

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Homies

wahipage
"We have each other now."

By the time I graduated from high school, I'd pretty much had it with my classmates. What seventeen year old doesn't imagine him self different from his cohorts? I did not attend the graduation gala, choosing to gather with a few close friends to conspire about whatever might come next. Most of the graduating class immediately dispersed, disappearing from that town, never to return. Some to college, others to war, a few to marriage, many into that foggy foreground that surrounds every great life transition. I stayed around town for a while working the balance of my adolescence off in familiar territory. I eventually moved on and out into a world where, for the first time in my life, I knew nobody and nobody knew my history, either.

Life continued like that for the following twenty years or so.

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Homesteadying

old-montana-homestead-sharon-foster
"Were it not for Homesteadying, my family's history would seem narrow and thin."

My family history features centuries of homesteading. Many of my father's ancestors were near-royalty, later sons and daughters of prefects, kings, and various mucky mucks, high born but eventually laid low by the passage of time. Their more recent descendants scraped out their livings, some too poor or unskilled to even homestead. One became a circuit rider. I know that means respectably homeless, honorably homestead-less. My mom's side of the family was involved in every homesteading scheme since 1600. Puritans, Revolutionary War soldiers, indentured slaves, on-the-lam protesters against British rule, dislocated sons, predestinationists, pro-slavery and against, a Civil War veteran, a sixteen year old bride, all relocated to hinterland with the intention of settling it.

They each arrived in some prior century, finding rock and hardpan greeting them.

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HomeWrecker

homewrecker
"This world will end with neither fire nor ice, but more likely with a whimper …"

The classic image of some blond bombshell as HomeWrecker overlooks a more present threat, the humble homeowner. More homes seem to have been wrecked by the well-intended improvements undertaken by homeowners than families have been laid low by scheming femme fatales or conniving gigolos. Something about owning a home seems to convince a homeowner that he possesses skills he never once demonstrated and never will manifest. He's likely at some point during his possession to become possessed by the painting jinn or worse, the wallpaper demon. Neither he nor his spouse exhibit any true talent for interior design, but the DIY videos proliferating The Home Despot's site materially underplay the difficulties of even the most daunting improvement. A dreary browsing Sunday seems to be enough to spark that dark urge which seems to spring eternal from the breast of even the most otherwise rational homeowner.

A gallon of paint nestled in the corner of the sale bin might be enough to start a long and painful descent into the netherworld of home wrecking.

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HomeMade

DIY-Chicken-Plucker jpg
"We're HomeMade snobs now."

Home is where many of us take refuge from industrialized society to 'make it ourselves.' HomeMade, to my mind, means better if a little weird. HomeMade stuff lacks the uniformity we've all grown to expect and have been taught to use in lieu of judgement to determine quality. A lopsided cake might well taste better and even prove healthier than any store-bought alternative, but it still looks not quite right. The HomeMade chicken plucker pictured above probably works every bit as well as an expensive stainless steel job built in some factory, but it looks just a little bit (or, maybe a lot bit) cheap. The subtle and insistent indoctrination accompanying advertising might be the most insidious factor of living in a mass-production culture. Taken to ridiculous extremes, we might find ourselves trying to reproduce mass produced products at home, creating truly terrible HomeMade Snickers® bars or horrible handcrafted potato chips. Home can serve as a refuge from this absurdity, though HomeMade sometimes looks simply absurd.

The Muse and I keep our efforts focused upon more traditional items.

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Homemaker

vintage housewife
"Such is the life of any Homemaker, and we're all homemakers now."

I admit that I was poisoned in early childhood from living in a normal family where the dad went to work each morning and the mom stayed home to "homemake," an occupation that seemed destined to drive the incumbent crazy. It worked as well as it worked for as long as it worked. My mom, who had always sort of leaned in the direction of crazy anyway, eventually instigated a coup and took a job outside the home, a financial necessity and a real challenge for my father to accept. By then, the kids were fully capable of picking up some of the homemaking duties, and we somehow survived. Since then, I've lived exclusively in homes where the homemaking duties were shared, though never without some tension. We each thought of ourselves as somewhat equal contributors, though in practice, one person tended to have more than their fair share foisted upon them, often due to their own sensibilities. Often, individuals overestimated what they personally contributed, thereby under-contributing, fomenting some strife. Typically, the expectation falls on the wife, however otherwise occupied she might become.

I try to do my fair share of homemaking, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

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HomeBound

housebound
Heraclitus would have smugly said, "I told you so."

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was a busy man. He rarely simply sat around philosophizing, but was actively employed failing to remain similar enough long enough to step into the same river twice. He was constantly changing. He later reported that even the same old thing, perceived from some perspective as seemingly insignificant as a slightly different angle, would appear different. He might have been the first proponent of the notion that life flows rather than simply sitting there being. He noted that the world and all its inhabitants and the universe surrounding it and us exist not as beings, but as becomings. He is remembered as the weeping philosopher, one prone to overwhelming bouts of melancholia, as perhaps befits anyone endlessly pursuing without ever actually achieving. His travels never really started and could not be completed, but continued asymptoticly, an exhausting proposition. His spirit probably continues his necessarily endless pursuits.

I'm attracted to Heraclitus' perspective, though his lack of payoff might feel disappointing for anyone aiming to accomplish something conclusive from their efforts.

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Homeland

homeland
"Live freer of delusion or ultimately destroy yourself …"

Until November 2002, I'd never thought that the United States comprised a homeland. I understood that right wing forces had pulled the concept of Fatherland out of someone's butt following Germany's WWI defeat and that Russians had always spoken fondly of their Motherland, but I'd thought that the US would never come to a point of unallied desperation that would drive us to flee into the arms of an imaginary parent. I opposed the idea of mustering a Homeland Security operation, recognizing the historical dangers accompanying a national -land designation. Americans were by design less homogenous and more independent, favoring homesteads over homelands. Each subgroup thought of someplace else as their -land, and this place as a melting pot of ex-landers. After all, our founders had engineered a messy separation from our Mother Country, and not, I thought and still believe, to become what we'd once reviled.

It came to pass anyway.

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Homing

aspire
"Though I understand I hold nothing more than a believable fiction, it sustains me."

Home seems more of an attraction than a place, a magnetic pull more verb than noun. As such, I suspect that it never resolves into a particle, but must eternally exist as a wave form, tugging and pulling without ever ultimately manifesting into any thing. Move into a new home and you'll find reason to amend it. Maybe the yard needs some work or that back bathroom wants replacing. The eye might well never find satisfaction, not even a negotiated settlement. The list of next projects will only grow longer with incumbency.

It might be proper to speak of homing rather than of home.

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TheBillionaire'sCreed

monopoloy_guy
"One might feel tempted to refer to it as The Billionaire's Greed …"

I'm no billionaire myself, so I speak here as an observer of billionaire behavior rather than as an actual player. I often wonder what sort of moral or ethical compass guides billionaire behavior. I'm certain their's differs from mine and also from what any of the rest of us might recognize as normal or regular, but I'm not saying that they lack morals or ethics, just that their's differ from yours and mine. I feel the same revulsion you probably feel when watching some of their antics, for they always seem to be up to some surreptitious something, and while most of them seem to sneak around as if embarrassing themselves, they're often found out and exposed, so we generally know or strongly suspect what they're up to. Of course they deny even the obvious. I figure that response might be part of a creed, The Billionaire's Creed.

A creed informs an incumbent of both their intentions and their responsibilities, such as they are.

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HomeSweetLoan

homesweetloan
"Home still seems sweet even though we know we're more indentured to it than own it."

Almost nobody owns their home in this country. Here, we assume thin mantles of ownership by agreeing to carry outrageous debt loads in lieu of owning a home we might actually afford. The more outrageous the debt load, the more prestigious the address. Credit-worthiness stands in for perhaps more responsible forms of citizenship. Those who have not found a bank willing to indenture them are considered second-class citizens, renters. Homeowners, or, more properly, "home-loaners" tend to stay in one place for a while, lending stability to an otherwise potentially footloose populous. Each homeowner engages in speculation, plotting for the place to be worth more than they paid for it by the time they decide to move. Almost nobody ever pays off their mortgage since that would erase the leverage loanership affords them, the opportunity to enjoy any increase in total value of a property they own only a small portion of.

Leverage is the name of this game, though it works both ways.

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RunningHome

homebase
"We're all always trying to make it back home."

Today was the opening day of major league baseball season, New Year's Day, the end of the long fallow season of no broadcast sports, unless one considers football, hockey, basketball, or soccer sports. I do not. Baseball qualifies as a sport because it's not what it appears to be, but an extended metaphor. Those other pastimes might pretend to be sports, but they lack the fundamentally metaphorical foundation of baseball. Home base pretty much says it all. Each game seems a hero's journey seeking home. Each play, a part of a building story, sometimes destined to become legend. Each player, a potential savior.

I don't know how many people understand this metaphorical aspect of baseball.

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HomeSick

homesick
"I'm always here whether here or there."

I spent much of last month connecting to my hometown's Main Street webcam. The adjacent browser tab continuously updated their latest weather report, which I'd dutifully report to a largely disinterested Muse. I could see the shadows of that usual gang gathering at the Starbucks to loudly recount the prior day's sports events, a distraction I despise when I'm tucked in the corner writing there, but those shadows seemed warmly attractive from so very far away. Each subsequent snowfall would leave the sidewalk snowbanks a little taller and Main Street a little slipperier. That webcam became my primary window on the world, more informative than a long gaze out of my own window. HomeSick works like this.

Most sicknesses involve an excess presence, but HomeSick arises from the opposite of that, an excess absence.

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SecretPassages

secretpassage3
" … because it's a SecretPassage if we go this way."

Home lies at one end of a SecretPassage, a route only the homeowner ever knows exists. Long proximity to the place eventually revealed this route which always existed, awaiting discovery by someone dedicated to finding it. Once discovered, only its discoverer knows its there and no one else ever suspects its presence. Everyone else sticks to the arterials, figuring that herd wisdom will serve them well enough. The consequent traffic jams seem simply the price of inhabiting the place. The homeowner snickers while slipping around.

I have long reveled in my SecretPassage knowledge, perhaps the one element distinguishing me from the madding crowd.

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ReEntering

ReEntering
"Home is wherever you say."

Home is where your stuff is. A heart can sing anywhere, away as well as home. The heart might long to perform on the most familiar stage, but it might better serve a wandering-in-the-wilderness soul, where it's the only familiar presence around. The Muse and I said our heartfelt goodbyes and pointed ourselves in the direction of where our stuff resides. Hardly a wilderness trip and stripped of the warm anticipation of our arrival Back Home, we satisfied our sacred responsibility and left. We'd see more family along the way, connecting in public places, and inhabit one more anonymous hotel room for one last foreshortened night. I might get up at two so I will be up to awaken The Muse at three so that we can head toward the airport around four. Once we relinquish the rental car, a machine takes over.

I travel heavier than I'd like to travel, my tool belt, work gloves, and old boots packed into the bottom of my bag.

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NegativeSpaces

elephant_and_snake_negative_space
"Each search seems irrelevant in the face of finally finding."

The menu seems comprised of vast NegativeSpaces delineating choices I would never seriously consider. The few positive choices, items which I might ultimately select, shrink the options to a spare two or three. From thirty thousand feet, alternatives seem nigh-on infinite. Closer to the ground I've found the usual handful of hardly noteworthy alternatives. The tyranny of choice reliably presents many more unacceptables than attractives. The larger the store, the more chaff I must sift through to find what I would have more easily found in a mom and pop shop. I might know precisely what I'm looking for without holding any real authority to locate it within the overwhelming faux abundance looming around me.

My first wife and I traveled all around the East Coast looking for a place equivalent to the town I grew up in. Certain that we could not forge a living there, we exiled ourselves and began the search.

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FretEquity

man-clasping-hands-over-face-350
"… we've been unable to shift to a renter's mindset …"

I fuss over our home like a new mother fusses over her newborn. The Villa Vatta Schmaltz seems dependent upon me, even while we're renting it out to The Muse's son and his partner, people who have demonstrated their ability to take care of the place. Home ownership seems a symbiotic sort of relationship, with me needing the big hairy responsibility every bit as much as the place needs my caring. I dream of returning to repaint the front of the place, fussing over scaffolding placement and finishing techniques, finding great reassurance there. I fuss about whether my prepping and painting skills will prove adequate for the job. I will wrestle every moment with haunting negative self-talk determined to convince me out of even engaging. Home is the burden I relish bearing.

I realize that I will never find a time when my home will become a source of leisure and pride.

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ParadiseMisplaced

lostandfound
"One of us will make the move and dissolve this pernicious distance …"

Suddenly, a decade passed, ten successive years inhabiting alien territories knowing we would never belong there. Each place came with histories we appreciated without really understanding, for we were Just Visiting, not exactly in jail but in close enough proximity to remain insecurely out of the flow of the game. Other players bounced over and around us, going on with their transactional lives while we longingly watched, remembered, and some days dared to dream of our ParadiseMisplaced. We felt displaced but certainly capable of maintaining some semblance of normal activities of daily living. The Muse crafted a fresh career while I held fort, building a larder, dust mopping hardwood floors, and mowing somebody's else's lawns. The soil there seemed like some silly analogue of real dirt, clay or hardpan, rocky and rough. I improved each soil I touched knowing I would never see the future of any of it. We've spent the last decade Just Passing Through.

I seem to have become unemployable, unable to imagine myself surviving a job interview.

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ConsideringReconsidering

consideringReconsidering
"My present wealth stands atop almost endless reconsidering."

You makes yer choice and takes yer chances. Beginning, one never knows where their journey might end. The best of intentions (as if anyone could discern 'best' from any preliminary set of choices) won't guarantee much more than a temporary cessation of stasis, if that. One moves toward a presumption of forward, hoping that purpose might somehow emerge from the cloud of initiation. "Here we go again," I subvocalize, though I know this start won't qualify as a do-over or even a genuine new beginning. This tension seems familiar, though, and a certain reassurance accompanies it. I've grown increasingly familiar with the unfamiliar, and even the completely novel carries some patterns I recognize, or imagine I recognize, from some time before.

I proposed Reconsidering as the underlying theme of my considering this quarter. I was at the time teetering on the forward edge of Christmas, beginning my annual poem cycle, uncertain of my capacity to complete the blessed damned thing, as usual.

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Homeostasis

balancingrocks
"The new homeostasis seems simply homeless."

I live embedded within mutually compensating systems, largely notional, which seem to strive to hold each other in balance. I shiver and sweat not as ends unto themselves, but to rebalance when my temperature falls out of whack. These actions seem to exist within a terribly narrow range and find success only when rather quickly succeeding. Continual sweating suggests an imbalance, not an added feature. Shivering seems exclusively a short-term solution, not an alternate lifestyle choice. Homeostasis might stand as a strived-for hypothetical, a state eternally in a state of becoming without ever actually achieving itself.

The older I become, the creakier my aging homeostasis balancing seems to become. My blood pressure's been out of whack, or, more properly, recognized as having been out of wh

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Flyring

flyring
"I believe that the human soul moves at about the speed of a walking horse."

Airplanes seem the most brutish invention of man, engineering raised to the level of degradation. Just the thought of leaving the familial bonds of earth to "float" (flout, more like it) into the clouds, smacks of a most grievous violation of the human contract. It veers us out of our lane, into the space intended for the birds. Jousting with the wind. Collective pretending that we are not miles above the ground, blindly zooming through unpredictable turbulence and worse, proceeding into turbulence we know damned well lurks there. I try to distract myself through the worse of it, that being the brief period between wheels up and wheels back down again, but the chop renders my book unreadable. I try to swallow my complicit arrogance, and fail again, for I am inescapably a part of the problem.

I know, modern society could not survive without cheap air travel, which might just be the strongest argument against buying into the plot.

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Trans-planting

annual-flower-transplants
"We can still prune and stretch and scratch a fresh surface into our encrusted topsoil."

I become root bound by the end of Winter, just as if I had been in the same pot too long. Born bi-pedal, if I hang in one place too long, I become bi-polar, faunching in my cage. The days grow longer, ably assisted by daylight savings' quick hand. I understand that the changes amount to sleight-of-hand. They still catch my eye and convince me that I must have been standing here too long, staring into the middle space just beyond the window glass, seeing almost nothing anymore. I have transformed into a genuine bore.

The Muse must drag me out of my cave.

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SnowSense

snowshoving
"This snowfall seems every bit as false as the Pseudo-Springtime sunshine felt yesterday."

By this late in the season, I recover my full fluency in the art of conversation with snow cover. The wet Spring snow completes the cycle, which started with piddling pretenders to snowfall and persisted through weeks of fine powder varying from light dustings to significant dumpers. The mid-March snow weighs tens of times more than the earlier fine powder. Each snow variety requires a unique strategy, though I only rarely ever shovel any of it. Shoveling powder snow's like shoveling air. It's easy enough but tends to blow everywhere, rearranging it more than moving it out of anyone's way. Wet Ides' snow like this can only be shoved. It's too heavy to shovel and just clogs a snow blower. It aches to be nudged aside.

March snow needs early and frequent attention.

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LeftBehind

leftbehind
" … there's no escaping."

A decade ago, I sold our second car to a grand nephew for a quarter and The Muse and I embarked on a great adventure we're still engaged in today. We became a one car family. At the beginning, we relocated into a neighborhood where five bus lines passed within two blocks. For a six week period while there, we even went completely carless. No big deal. The Muse, in the seven years we lived there, drove the car to work exactly twice. I'd usually drop and fetch her at the mile away Metro station and other than those excursions, the car mostly sat unless I was restocking the larder. Now we live in a neighborhood that fancies itself a village. Bus service almost doesn't exist, so we maintain a fresh tension in our little one car family.

I still usually drive The Muse to work, a quick seven mile sprint down tight S turns, the alternative being that I'm stranded for the day.

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KnotNo-ing

knotnoing
"I think of the experience as like starting an avalanche …"

Once my son learned the word 'maybe,' I never again received a definite answer out of him. Every response came filled with potential but no resolution. Jerry Weinberg came up with a dandy definition of who's in charge. "Whoever can say No! and make it stick." The one who brings maybe to a conversation might not be in charge, but they carry almost as much control as the sticky neigh sayers.Yes, on the other hand, sometimes requires some formal authority or a treasury to back it up. Worst of all might be those who agree to anything but waffle on delivery.

No-one can accuse me of being impulsive.

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Ashes

doingwithout
" … we might just might be pretty much plenty just as we are …"

I fancy myself as having been raised right. Not that I experienced a care-free upbringing, more that I was blessed with parents who steadfastly refused to care very much about how I felt. My mom especially seemed to take a certain delight when denying my wishes. Like yours, my folks were just kids when I was small, still learning their way into their role, so we experienced a certain equality within our inexperience. Some kids could pout and get their way. Pouting around our place could be grounds for an even more gleeful denial than usual. I hail from a Like It Or Lump It family. I learned early to do without.

These skills have served me extremely well.

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WriteWright

Wheelwright
" … one should never attempt to engineer accidents."

Nearly a hundred and ten years after the publication of Frederick Winslow Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management, we're witnessing a resurgence of artisanal craft. Taylor's book deeply influenced the way people thought about work, encouraging mass-produced uniformity, the underpinnings of our modern economy. Now, we hardly think in other terms. He argued that tightly regulating the means of production would result in the holy grail of any industrial-scaled economy: cheap but good. His Scientific Management concepts were even adopted by housewives and ministers. One would be hard-pressed to find any segment of the industrializing world uninfluenced by his rational perspective. Industrialized food production injected itself between the farmer and the table. Centralized production facilities vaporized smaller-scale local producers. Much in the same way that Amazon has undercut local retailers, Scientific Management insisted that big was necessarily cheaper and so somehow better.

Carried to illogical extremes, to ultimate scale, industrial production seems to produce more to an ever-shrinking market.

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FallowTime

fallowtime2
"I have not quite yet turned into dust."

The Muse bought a seed catalogue, a certain harbinger of Spring. I've been dreaming of hop vines shading the south side of The Villa this summer, wondering how I might protect them from the hungry, hungry deer. I spotted the remnants of last year's garden peeking up through its snow blanket. I wondered what might volunteer from under there to seed itself this year. It's still FallowTime, but our minds are projecting forward a few weeks. I shoved the final inch of overnight snowfall off the driveway, figuring that might hasten the melting recovery from the weekend's snow. By noon, that pavement might be bare and dry again. The season will scrape back to reflect the metrological season before another rebutting snow falls five days from now. We're imbedded in the tussle season now, no longer winter yet not quite Spring.

In FallowTime, I find little to amuse myself.

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ThreatOfSnow

threatofsnow
"A perfect place to remember and anticipate."

The rumor started two full days ago. Snow overnight Friday. We'd heard this story before. Sometimes it came about, sometimes not. With a two day window, nobody flinched. The day before, most remained sanguine. By the day of, I started taking the warnings seriously, but the prediction proved false. Two cold fronts, meant to meet and party over us, had slowed. The northern contingent decided to hover over the Wyoming/Colorado border overnight, the southern one still hounded Las Vegas, and had a lot of territory to traverse before bothering us. We headed out the morning after, keeping a weather eye on every horizon, for this storm would approach from at least two directions at once.

We managed to successfully restock the larder before anything but freezing fog fell.

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Overwintering

overwintering-red-poinsettia
"Fresh food seems just as scarce as it is this morning."

This late into the season, its damage has already been done. Those plants unable to adapt to living inside have already died. We've either given up on the stragglers or simply let them go, setting them out into the snow figuring that the cold would at least rid their carcasses of the dreaded white flies which seem to thrive inside in spite of the gooey traps we set. A skeletal poinsettia or two, leftover from Christmas before last, still hang onto existence in the shadowy, cool daylight basement, sucking in the meager northern light that suffocated the nasty little lime tree we nurtured from the brink last summer. It's a genuine gonner now, just waiting for us to snip off the carcass and recycle the soil.

The humidifier is such a complicated machine, hanging onto the side of the forced air gas furnace, that I cannot determine whether it's working or not.

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Constulting5 - Don'tKnow

dontknow
"It will either work or not …"

I eventually came to describe myself as an expert at not being an expert. This label resulted from my serial inability to become a genuine expert in something, anything. I'd read and study and practice and seek out acknowledged experts, only to find myself (and the sought-out experts) still somewhat short of full expertise. I could have turned cynical then, but chose to re-frame instead. If I could not master any alternative expertise, I might, perhaps, have a shot at mastering not being a master; after all, few ever achieve full mastery. I should not let my experience discourage me in what I seem to do best, which is falling somewhat short. Becoming an expert at not being an expert reeks of paradox, perhaps the unacknowledged natural state of pretty much everything.

Who needs a master, anyway?

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Constulting4 - Reframing

reframing1
"It's the client's choice and The Consultant's responsibility to remind and Re-frame."

Never once in the history of the world so far has any aspiration been born well-formed. Each tends to begin rather light in the head, altogether too attractive and relatively vacuous. Not that they don't also inspire, for there's the rub. Inspiring vacuity has been the primary cause for the downfall of generations of dreamers, schemers, builders, and feints. Attracting a supportive mob turns out to be the easiest part of any undertaking, for people seem naturally keyed to follow any fluttering flag. Satisfying that mob seems infinitely more difficult, especially when one reflects on the fact that even if the original fuzzy promise were delivered as the promiser intended, it wouldn't very closely resemble what most of the followers envisioned as the deliverable. I call the first iteration of any effort's vision The Bright Idea, and Bright Ideas might be the most dangerous substance known to man.

President Trump's confident promise of a wall attracted xenophobes left and right.

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Constulting3 - ParodyPathology

ParodyPathologies
"Perhaps the parody of a parody lies closest to some fundamental truth"

I started becoming a Constultant after utterly failing as a consultant, primarily due to my apparent inability to properly promote, diagnose, and prescribe for the popular pathologies and their presumed cures. When I first became a 'consultant', or first carried the title, my mom asked me to describe what I did for a living now that I'd joined a consulting firm, and I chose an unfortunate metaphor. In the last fifteen years of her life, my mom grew to love being diagnosed. Actually, she loved visiting a doctor, though she also sincerely enjoyed having hunky EMTs come to put her back into bed at night after she'd tumble out onto the floor. The doctor would in the process of the customary (and pleasurable) laying on of his hands, invariably find something remiss and prescribe something. She'd return from her visits beaming at the fresh prospect. I chose to explain that I had become a sort of doctor for organizations. They'd invite me in, I'd poke around a bit, lay on my hands, then prescribe a curative regime.

This was a lousy metaphor, not because it misleadingly describes how consulting works but because it so poorly described how I worked.

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Constulting2

Constulting2
"The frequent flier program knows me better than almost anyone in my private life."

People who work for others seem to pine after the freedom working for themselves might bring. They imagine self-determination elevated to full liberation: no time card, no mindless meetings, no clueless supervisor, no stomach-turning Tuesday special in the company cafeteria. The other side of that equation struggles to equal its counterpoint. Liberty's not always all it's cracked up to be. In practice, independent contracting not quite like what it seemed to promise. The cost of that liberty comes out of the shallower pockets, those you hardly noticed when still laboring under that much-maligned thumb. Most prominent, the isolation mocking the once-aspired for freedom. One learns to accept the freedom to arrive long after a Sunday sunset, to find the rental car agency unaided, to navigate the dark, damp freeway to another anonymous exit, to gratefully accept the 'free' upgrade to a swankier room, to decide that supper won't seem worth stepping out into the dankness again. The 'free' breakfast following the pre-dawn stint in the 'executive' workout 'club' might garner a couple of almost heart-felt "good mornings" from a fellow guest or an over-enthusiastic staff member. Time left to knot the necktie, grab the knapsack, and try to remember what rental car you parked in that lot last night and where you parked it.

You join the commute, identical to every other commute you ever made except you have little idea where you are. Is this Cleveland or Omaha?

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Constulting1

constulting
"Clients do not like to be told what to do, no more than any sentient adult does …"

I left The Best Of All Possible Mutual Insurance Companies In The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area (Bar None) after fifteen years of dedicated service to their policy owners, to join a small boutique consulting firm in Silicon Valley. I was unqualified for the position, but didn't know that yet. In that first year, I learned that my new consulting firm sported a phony Sanskrit name which we'd translated as "crossing the great water with balance." Since Silicon Valley was then and probably still is pre-literate, clients there were very attracted to magical-sounding names. We took full advantage of that. A native Sanskrit speaker workshop attendee informed me of the deception during a break. I swallowed hard and carried on. Much of the consulting company's material was of questionable heritage. It started as a genuine survey by qualified questioners, but the distributed materials, I learned during that first year, had been crash-developed over a weekend by a very skilled HR professional who had never actually practiced the profession the material purported to teach. I do not imply that the material was worthless, for it seemed to induce a shift in the manner in which participants thought about project work, which was a subtle, perhaps even unintended consequence, but a nonetheless valuable one.

By the end of that first year, I was the only consultant in the firm that brought in more revenue than I cost the firm in salary and expenses, this no doubt due to the fact that I had negotiated a starting salary about twenty thousand dollars less than I would have made had I stayed at the insurance company.

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IncompetencePoint

IncompetencePoint
"I have nothing to show and almost everything left to discover."

Having sat through just as many PowerPoint® presentations as the next guy, I took the news to heart when I saw Edward Tufte report that they tended to "lower the ceiling." I swore to myself to move that technology to the Avoid Learning side of the ledger. Who wants to lower any ceiling? The Muse works in a world where PowerPoint proficiency stands well up on the hiring criteria chart. Her slide presentation served as a significant part of her initial interview. She could not have been hired without demonstrating her skill as a graphic artist, a field of study not listed on the position description and one she never pursued. Even the PhDs hired there must demonstrate this odd ability, regardless of how many advanced degrees they hold. I still think Tufte was right, the mere presence of that fateful projection screen sets a context where one might reasonably expect that nothing very surprising will happen.

These sessions sometimes seem like competitions to see who cam cram the most unreadable words onto a single slide.

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Insecurity

insecurity
"Who else was I supposed to be?"

The older I get, the less secure I feel. I realize that this statement hardly qualifies as profound or even identifies me as in any way special, but if I followed the cultural tropes, my surprise might prove excusable. Some significant part of the media machine seems determined to enlist me in a few of the endless streams of self-improvement schemes: exercise, diet, investment, lifestyle, each promising to leave me better off than before, except the nagging insecurity seems to stand to one side, leaning against some darkened doorway, chuckling to himself, mouthing, "There's no such thing as security here."

Rather than live in endless pursuit of an unlikely security, perhaps my time's better spent learning how to better cope with insecurity.

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8- NotSupposedTo

NotSupposedToTalkAbout
"If I won't say it, who will?"

As a part of our initial client interviews when consulting, The Muse and I would eventually get around to asking what we could not talk about. Recognizing that we were aliens in each client's organization, and as aliens, we were likely to violate at least one invisible rule, we asked. Most hiring executives would quickly respond that anyone could talk about absolutely anything in THEIR organization, but even the client knew that was bullshit. Often, the hiring executive had no clue what couldn't be talked about. The smokers on the loading dock know only too well, for they carry more experience talking big, at least as long as the executives aren't in earshot.

My Eighth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work, one I include at The Muse's emphatic insistence, reminds me that I have to Talk About What I'm Not Supposed To Talk About.

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7- MakeInformedChoices

Informed-Choice
"Make The Best of the curious choices life brings you."

My Seventh Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work insists upon my Making Informed Choices. This one might require a bit more explaining than any of the other Responsibilities because it's subtle and tricky. Enjoining anyone to make only informed choices seems like a double binding insistence because how could anyone possibly determine that they were properly informed at any choice point? Choices, like so much in 'project' work, seem to come at inconvenient and inconveniencing times, insisting upon a snappy response, the kind that generally obviates the ability to fully consider alternatives. Only scant information seems available and a decision needs to be taken. What kind of informed choice could that situation produce? The answer is: the usual kind.

Almost nothing decided in the course of any 'project' benefits from full discovery. Partial pictures produce fragmented understandings which unavoidably generate crappy options from which to choose.

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6- SitWithTheMess

sittingwiththemess
"It's still a wrestling match with myself most every time …"

'Projects' tend to spawn messes. What might have been envisioned as a straight-forward, even trivial effort manages to somehow find its share of complications. The easier it seems to be at first, the more complicated it's likely to become, if only because the expectations we set couldn't help but leave everyone wide open for some big surprises. Almost any hill looks less steep from the foot of it, also less tall. It's not until one gets about halfway up that any truer nature of the effort comes into focus. Mentioning these likely complications at the beginning will usually earn one the label of Chicken Little. Nobody will fondly remember your earlier cautions later, either.

Some new mess seems to be delivered to your door with each fresh dawn, each pleading for a speedy response. Few deserve a quick, reactive intervention, though, and not just because these tend to complicate messy situations.

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5- Work The System

workthesystem
"Had I expected the system to work without me working it a bit?"

No system ever devised worked as intended. Each embodied some flaw or feature producing different than intended responses. We adapt around these shortcomings until we become largely unaware of their presence. Encountering any new system inevitably becomes an at least somewhat frustrating series of learnings which we experience as mistakes until we figure out the fiddles and somehow seamlessly incorporate them into our repertoire. Some systems seem especially blessed with a seemingly intransigent nature. These, we never completely learn and so we struggle with them. Math was like that for me. So is the thermostat with the inhuman human interface. Each encounter with these systems involves essentially starting tabula rasa all over again.

We develop shortcuts and co-opts over time. We come to more deeply understand a system's tolerances, those points where a corner might be successfully shaved.

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4-GenerousInterpretations

generousinterpretation
" … never ascribe to evil intent what simple incompetence might explain."

My fourth Ethical Responsibility of 'Project' Work encourages me to at least consider Making The Most Generous Possible Interpretation. My natural interpreter tends to lean toward the more scathing, if only because scathing interpretations generate more entertainment value. Scathing interpretations rarely well serve any relationship. Unless you're surrounded by limping battalions of demonstrated sociopaths (see 3-ExtendingTrust), scathing interpretations seem imprudent. Was that component delivered late because of incompetence or a bit of bad luck? You decide, but you must decide with inadequate evidence. Will your collective effort be better served by a scathing or a more generous interpretation?

The rub, of course, seems to be that most of a 'project's' conclusions must be drawn with less than sufficient evidence. If there's no such thing as a 'project', there's also, usually, no such thing as a real root cause.

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3-ExtendingTrust

extendingtrust
"I might better serve myself and our collective effort
by sharing the benefit of my initial uncertainty …"

Lore holds that people must prove themselves trustworthy before one should extend them trust. This notion can easily complicate any 'project' assignment as everyone eyes each other suspiciously at first. I never could figure out what might constitute the appearance of trustworthiness, though. If a team member pulls off some selfless public rescue, I suppose that I might find it easy to trust them, but most team members keep their heads down and I'm unlikely to glimpse them demonstrating heroic behavior, so how might they prove themselves trustworthy in my eyes if I'm uncertain what trustworthy even looks like? Besides, the mere absence of evident behavior says little about anything.

I believe that the lore mistakes a sort of naive hopefulness for trustworthiness.

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2-PurposefulPursuit

purposefulpursuit
"I need not become an obsessed true believer …"

I find it extremely difficult writing about PurposefulPursuit without resorting to hackneyed synonyms. The term dredges up determined, recalls resolute and resolved, and sings of steadfastness and single-mindedness. Sticking no more than a toe in that water seems to infect me with a full-blown case of OCD, and I want to avoid that end. Of course 'projects' would operate more smoothly if everyone involved in the effort would become obsessed with achieving the objective. They will not. Contrary to popular conviction, one cannot drive any 'project' to a successful conclusion. Driven behaviors, whether exhibited by the 'project' leader or a particularly compulsive individual contributor seem more akin to bullying, a form of public self abuse.

When I speak of PurposefulPursuit as the second of my Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, I am most decidedly not merely trying to egg myself on by whispering a motivational mantra.

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1-ConsciousBlindness

consciousblindness
"I feel better informed when I presume that I'm less than fully informed."

This posting represents the first of seven (or maybe eight) pieces reconsidering my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work.

In the beginning, I understand that there was nothing but The Word, which could not have even been a thing since words have no existence without several sorts of context like paper, screen, speaker, listener, alphabet, and history to hold meaning. Though there were apparently no observers present, save The One, certainly no journalists or diarists, the story stuck. Later, light emerged, attributed to an early act of God, back when he was still building his vitae. He, the Creator, proclaimed light good, though later reviews were mixed. All this occurred before God even married the first time. God's second wife, certainly significantly younger than he and probably uncomfortably closely related, was beautiful, but they lacked a shared experiential history. They struggled with metaphors, he continually referencing outside her cultural experience, she insisting upon quoting younger notables that he considered mere wannabes. That marriage, too, was fated to fail.

God's third wife came along just as he began to come into his Almighty phase, having by then fathered a son by his second ex-, Mary.

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ProjectPhD

ProjectPhD
"I suspect that most ethical lapses emerge as sins of omission …"

Whenever I ask a 'project' worker about their philosophy of 'project' work, I almost always receive a long stare in reply. A few, like me, might fumble for our little laminated card which holds our intentions in the odd chance that they might be of some practical use, but most, if they've even thought about their personal philosophy of 'project' work will offer no crisp response. Some might offer a variant on The Golden or the Platinum Rules, do unto others as you'd like to be done unto or do unto others as they wish to be done unto, but little practical light will shine from beneath their bushel baskets.

I'll quick draw my Seven Ethical Responsibilities of 'Project' Work, an explication I developed with considerable effort.

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ProjectManagement101.4-TheInvisibleWhole

bmate
"The object might not be to know better but to get better at not knowing."

Nobody ever sees (or really understands) the operation of the 'project' as a whole. Some mug as if they did understand. The most dangerous of these firmly believe themselves meta to the effort, occupying the objective observer role while also contributing to the cause. Most identify with some aspects without concerning themselves about others. Asking after the purpose of the 'project' can spark theological skirmishes since everyone inescapably perceives their 'project' quite differently than anyone else. This situation qualifies as a case of the normals without an ounce of pathology, with the possible exception of the perception held by those characterizing themselves as objectively meta to the effort.

'Projects' might be best described by employing metaphors.

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ProjectManagement101.3-Someone Elses Dream

someoneelsesdream
"Remember the caterpillar who somehow managed to choreograph his footsteps until some observer asked him how he managed to do that."

When The Muse asks me, as she has many, many times over the years, about my purpose, I respond with a heap of silence. I understand that almost every self-helpless manual insists that one must get in touch with their purpose, and even dress up that knowledge with a brief but compelling introductory elevator speech, the question reliably renders me speechless. It might be that my purpose is so subtle and compelling that it transcends language itself, but it's more likely that I hold so many competing compelling purposes that I simply cannot quickly choose from among them at a moment's prompt, though I doubt it. I manage to get out of bed every morning, but I do not very often rise with a full head of steam to charge off toward some alluring horizon.

The subject of motivation has already filled more essays than I'll ever read, or care to read.

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ProjectManagement101.2-Unavoidable Misunderstandings


"The difficulty with communication might be the illusion that it occurred."

Was it Churchill who claimed that Brits and Yanks are one people separated by a common language? The observation could apply to any two people, too. My daughter Heidi, who owns a small business providing translation services, can testify that no Rosetta Stone exists, for no one-to-one correspondence has ever been found between any words in any two languages. Nuance bridges the gaps. Interpretation, patience, and MISunderstanding seems to be required for any communication to ever occur.

Even in mature, routinely replicating manufacturing processes, miscommunication intrudes.

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ProjectManagement 101.1-TheEarliestResponsibleMoment


"
all promises are implicitly contingent."
ProjectManagement101

'Projects' exist as networks of explicit commitments, promises to produce something within some time frame. These promises might be represented as tasks on a timeline schedule, but often exist as no more than verbal agreements. Even when a promise is responsibly made, by which I mean uncoerced, it represents no guarantee, but rather a statement of good intentions. Good intentions might not even qualify as necessary but certainly can't be sufficient to assure expected delivery, and everyone should properly acknowledge this inescapable fact. By agreeing to fulfill the assignment, an individual commits to two apparent contradictions: 1) They confirm that they believe themselves capable of delivering as expected and 2) They agree to renege upon that promise at The Earliest Responsible Moment, which means just as soon as they realize that they probably cannot make the expected delivery.

The Earliest Responsible Moment will not come after weeks of painstakingly pretending that they have not blown the opportunity to deliver as expected.

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ProjectManagement101


"It's a chancy job, and it makes a man watchful ... and a little lonely."

Project Management is a fundamentally fraudulent profession in that it purports to deliver something that cannot be delivered: the on-time, on-budget, and on-spec performance of a temporary, one-time enterprise. Because of this, it traditionally attracted more than its fair share of touts and bullies, those with little compunction, much self-confidence, and small appreciation for conventional definitions of what constitutes fact as well as fiction, trading almost exclusively in 'believable fiction' and arguable fact, routinely over-selling and under-delivering to the fading enthusiasm of their clients, so-called sponsors, the money-givers. Projects, too, represent as a popularly believable fiction, an enterprise lacking most of the attributes of any more conventional form of organization. I've long held that there's no such thing as a project because projects aren't things.

Their context seems as perfect for misconceptions as a steaming swamp might be for encouraging bacterial growth, though not all 'projects' are the same.

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Closured


"I might just as well consider the illusion complete."

As I explained in my Pipeline post, I recently started focusing upon clearing out my backlog of nearly finished pieces. I consequently posted nothing new yesterday because I was inhabiting last winter instead, sorting through the nearly one hundred small chapters, performing my final edit. I read almost as slowly as I write, and I seem to find myself easily distracted when editing, perhaps because it doesn't feel like real work to me. I'm neither creating nor recreating then, but cleaning up. I should dress in a janitor's coveralls and wear rubber gloves. The work feels just that glamorous. It requires genuine dedication to get to the end of it. It requires real dedication just to get started, so when I discovered that printing it off erased some psychological barrier, I jumped right in.

I finished the scrubbing today. A little picky piece work remains around the edges, but it feels done enough to supply a shot of closure.

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ThePipeline


"I feel as though I'm unclogging ThePipeline for a change."

The phrase 'It's a process' has always annoyed me. Back when I helped develop software systems, the phrase was employed as an intended subtle scold by those Systems Thinkers who always not-so secretly consider themselves possessed of superior perspective. They could put in its place most any bit of otherwise good advice by reminding the suggester that "It's a process," at least in the Systems Thinker's mind. The phrase still seems vacuous to me, either blindingly banal or wholly presumptive, for if it's really all process, it's really nothing at all. Some of the supposed flow must stick somewhere, if only to qualify as a thing. Granted that much of what passes for systems hardly pass any thingness test. Still, evoking the process claim seemed to predictably premise some hollow process improvement suggestion.

The process mavens rarely seemed masters of any actual skill.

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SelfPromotion


" … my SelfPromotion gland still quakes at the thought."

The thought of SelfPromotion turns me into a quivering ninny, so I engage in it surreptitiously, hoping nobody will notice. I post unrequested pieces on Facebook, quietly hoping nobody will see, let alone comment, on them. I feel that I need to keep up appearances but pray that I won't appear too awfully forward as a result. The Muse insists that I sometimes expose too much, which might be a counter phobic reaction to my sincere hope that I won't expose too much. At the same time, I'm convinced that the most personal turns out to be the most universal, so I figure I broaden my audience by focusing upon my personal experience. I live a fundamentally paradoxical existence.

I have not yet learned how to tell what a reader might want, much less what any market desires. I struggle to read my own mind without expending much energy trying to read anyone else's.

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IrishTwins


"I figure that my statistical innumeracy produces the bulk of my good fortune."

My father and my nephew were born on the same date, January 15. A favorite musician's wife and father were born on the same date, too, a fact that seemed downright synchronicitous to the wooing couple. My family always thought it a form of a miracle that my nephew and father were born on the same date, a terribly special blessing, though the probability of that occurring hovers at 365 to one, hardly long odds. Genetic family patterns might have significantly shortened those odds. Many families produce what are sometimes referred to as IrishTwins, and I suspect that each feel the warm hand of a reassuring fate caressing them when that happens, too.

I'm rather blind to probabilities. I do not naturally carry a sense of them.

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Sifting


"Their home seems more like a castle somehow."

Once every fifty million years or two, some cataclysm besets this world. In between times, change seems to occur exclusively via insignificant increment. A snowfall starts as a sifting whisper, like wrens' pin feathers floating by outside, barely noticeable through the window. By the next morning, a foot of accumulated insignificance blocks my drive. Then, all my attention focuses upon digging out from under the insult. Before, it's eminently ignorable. Were any of us more activated by whispers than hollers, we might manage to keep up with the blooming significance and never face the back-breaking digging out, but we usually don't. We feel dumped upon instead.

As a species, we seem attracted to BIG things, as if true significance came only in volume and mass.

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Morningtown


"It's a fleeting place"

I'm down to two, perhaps three days each week. Some mornings, I feel no real need to get out. Others, I wrestle with accepting the necessity of it, unable to justify the drive. Guys like me, in the isolating profession, rarely go out simply to get out. Even then, I tend to end up at the same destination, the library, where I don't know anyone, anyway. It's a simple matter of being alone by myself or surrounded by strangers, each more similar than really different. I sometimes shop, thereby justifying my presence out of the hermitage neighborhood.

On rare mornings, then, I enter Morningtown, a small American city waking up.

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NaiveUse


"I think the universe remarkably forgiving."

Any first use constitutes a naive use, but then so does the second use, and the third. At what point does experience erase the naive underpinnings? I propose never as a reasonable response, for each subsequent use occurs in different circumstances, the subtlety of which probably distill into undetectable, yielding an unsuspectedly different situation. After over fifty years of shaving, I still manage to nick myself sometimes. You'd think I would have learned how to avoid those nicks by now.

Heraclitus had something right when he declared that nobody ever crosses the same river twice.

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Anticipating


"I remain much better at Anticipating the past
than I'll ever be at accurately Anticipating what's next."

Checking the weather report, I learn that a mighty windstorm is predicted for the foothills West of Denver. Expected to arrive around midnight, our flight's scheduled to land a scant half hour before its arrival. I've seen this movie before. So has everyone who's flown into DIA. The airport's located in a notoriously windy weed patch of a place, more Kansas than Colorado. The Rockies' Front Range regularly funnels slight breezes into full blown gales. Every flight locks down forty-five minutes before landing, the pilot apologizing in laconic tones for the impending inconvenience before the plane commences to terrifying rolling and yawing, inevitably catching one careless passenger on the way to the facility. That passenger receives a stern chewing out from a strapped in flight attendant while the rest of the passengers white knuckle their way past this latest portal into eternity. Landing always feels like salvation.

A veteran of an indecent number of Denver-inbound flights, I start anticipating early, before the plane even leaves Seattle. I once again convince myself of the absolute insanity of air travel as the plane taxis through heavy rain toward the darkest end of the departure runway.

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Homelessness


" …our heart understands that it just needs to keep playing along."

If home is where my heart is, I've been homeless for the last decade because my heart has been living far away from where it "is." Long story, often repeated, best left unsaid, we left our home for a lengthy exile which felt like an ancient form of punishment for having successfully made our dream come true. We lived in a house of our choosing, one endlessly challenging us with needed paint and repairs and a yard and garden always trending toward chaos had we not been there. We loved our lives there but found them unsustainable, so we went in search of some sort of grail, I guess, believing with all of our hearts that one day we might regain the ability to again inhabit where our heart lives. We figure that a few more years might do it, but we really, truly do not know for sure.

The tenuous space between anything and a heart's desire contains mostly Homelessness, however otherwise well-appointed it might seem.

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Ex-


"What was once done was never really finished with me."

The language of my culture allows permanent separation from my past, just as if an act, any act, might be undone by merely invoking a linguistic scalpel. A wife might become an 'ex-'. Ditto for a business partner, an employer, or a friend. Some infraction, a defection from the originating covenant, and the perpetrator might become an 'ex-'. Exes often carry a strongly negative, often derisive connotation, perhaps for the primary purpose of preserving the other party's self image. The ex- becomes the permanently losing party in the affair. They fell short or fouled out. The ex-er somehow holds himself blameless, at least stiff-arming culpability. Ex-s seem to become ditzes.

But no act can be undone. Each success and failure permanently echoes throughout time, recoveries sometimes more reaffirming than any success.

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Mapsing


" … a fate no Muse could ever sanguinely agree to accepting."

The Muse insists upon holding a paper map when we travel. Even so, we often leave The Villa having forgotten the requisite charts, which starts the explanation of why we have so many maps in that box in the garage. Before we're very far down the road, she'll notice the absence and commence a small fussing. My job if I'm driving will then become to find some place for her to purchase a map of the territory we're fixing to traverse. Gas stations, once reliable sources of high quality roadmaps, have become iffy outlets. Variety stores, drug stores, even supermarkets will likely disappoint. The essence of any search seems to lie in the unlikelihood of ever successfully concluding it. We search anyway.

The supermarket clerk expresses its regrets while I wait at the Starbucks counter where they're "pouring over" our choices for the day.

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Passing

passage
" … one of those ex-stage stops where the exit sign proclaims No Services (for me)."

The Muse and I have been traveling the last three days, reaching our destination yesterday and readying to head back to The Villa early this morning. We've passed scores of small towns and former stage stops, most hardly warranting a glance, let alone any deeper inquiry. We found ourselves fortunate to on the way overnight in a formerly unknown little town, one originally founded with the unlikely name of Hole In The Ground, though the founders later upgraded it to something more conventional. Today, it's a proud little place mostly off any well-beaten path, the sort of town that time might have not completely forgotten, but one where its name comes begrudgingly to even time's lips. It's not entirely anonymous, but might as well be for most passages and travelers.

We passed through Las Vegas, overnighting there with one of The Muse's gracious nephews and his family. Vegas, as it's generally referred to, seemed the perfect peek into an apparently not so distant dystopian future.

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DrivingCrazy


"Maybe we were both crazy beforehand."

The Muse and I drive each other crazier every time we drive. I'm amazed that we still consent to enter the car together and head out onto the road. Around town toodles never rile us much. It takes a freeway for our true insanity to emerge. You see, we do not now nor have we ever shared what she calls a threshold. This threshold delineates the speed one considers prudent. To her, I always drive like an old Italian woman, lacking only a few pounds and a black dress from fully embodying the look. To me, she drives like Mr. Toad on his famous Wild Ride, apparently distracted while madly passing everything in sight. I never, ever, even in my wildest dreams exceed the speed limit. She considers it perfectly prudent to exceed it by five or more miles per hour. She spends her passenger seat time distracting herself so she won't notice that we're making a whole lot less headway than she'd projected. I spend my passenger seat time frantically hanging on with both hands while pleading with her to slow the you-know-what down.

By the end of the day, we're exasperated with each other. I've developed a charley horse in my thighs from hours of fruitless bracing for impacts that wondrously never came. She notes that I seem all shocky.

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