a Corpus Christi Hook bats the baseball at the Northwest Arkansas Naturals ballyard | 24 May 2014
To the dreamy wayfarer, at walk along a familiar garden path in the dark of a summer night, each step is lifted into space as an act of faith. The walker knows through experience the ground ahead and believes the earth will be there to support his feet, which are bound downward by gravity and must by necessity push off into the void.
Darkness directs the wayfarer's gaze to the horizon,
the india inky sky,
dim light gathers in streams from heavenly bodies.
Vegetation surrounds all, presenting a landscape of fantastic
charcoal and ebony shapes
where earlier, under sunshine,
there stood and swayed a finely etched panorama
of leaf, branch, trunk, blade, bark, and bloom
to overwhelm perception by sheer force of abundant life.
On the midnight stroll along the familiar path, life becomes more imagined than apparent. The human, should he be observed, moves as a shadow and type.
Weather: Rain and thunder, intermittent and fitful. 69° fahrenheit at 15:53 hours.
The watcher weighs 177.3 pounds.
the heart of an iris | 8 May 2014 at 3 Dog Acres
Iris x sambucina | Species X Iris ~ the fläderiris
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
. . . .
Rendered from a scribbling of Wednesday, May 21, 2014,
when it was then and just like that it's now
we're all of us extruded from time.
Looking back. Wish I didn't. The hard freeze of April 14 lingers like a familiar spirit haunting the edges of memory. Against all good sense I conjure the troubling spirit almost every time I walk through the gardens.
From my white ash rocking chair on the sandstone floor of Doghenge, the sun high in the mellow sky, I see the sparse crop of tulip poplar flowers, many emerging as damaged specimens by way of the freeze five weeks past. They're beautiful nonetheless, the hardy survivors. A poplar blossom is one of Nature's grandest gifts, a yellow and orange six-petalled cup holding about four dozen wavy, slender, and succulent stigmas which are arrayed around a conical fruit which is sprinkled with a half-hundred tiny brown specks. The orange rises from the bottom of the cup like flames rising from the pit of an alchemist's furnace. I thought the specks might be seeds, but the research proves inconclusive and the furnaces have sat cold and inert for two centuries now.
Out front in the arboretum, the twin bridal wreath spirea spread full but blossomless, their flowers having been slain in the bud by the freeze. The lilacs, tall and green, could muster but a smattering of fragrant blossoms when their time came a few weeks back. The nearby golden raintree, once a vigorous sapling, now joins the gloomy throng of the "standing dead," a woodsman's term as rude as it is appropriate. The young pampas grasses I planted last autumn refuse to emerge, and though I'll wait another week or two, I figure they succumbed to the bitter winter.
The iris clan presented a wondrous parade of elegant, pungent blooms all through May, and though the crop has passed its peak, a dozen or two of these sensuous creatures grace the gardens at this precious moment. Their vertical forms, nodding from the downward pull of full-bodied blossoms, wear shades of pale violet and cream, pink and amber, rusty red and lemony yellow, turquoise and white — with a few more set to bloom before the season's end. No wonder to me no mystery at all why Georgia O' fell for them in her modernist palace behind the veil.
an iris in full flower with emerging buds | 8 May 2014 at 3 Dog Acres
Iris x sambucina | Species X Iris ~ the fläderiris
The cascading petals of the peony flowers — white, pink, red — burst forth last week and now whisper a promise to show 'till the end of May. The sedum, soft as a downy feather, cluster along the edges of several flower beds, blessing the scene with hundreds of tiny, greenish-yellow swirls of color and form.
Wild red roses climb up the black cherry tree, twenty feet high, and comingle with the Japanese honeysuckle ensnared in the privacy fence between the Tai Chi yard and the lane out front.
Droopy crimson trumpets of the other honeysuckle, the one deemed "native" by the strident Mary Anne, entwine the lattice under the towering old oaks.
White and ruby cosmos, planted from sets obtained at the nursery in April, line the edges of the wildflower bed in the arboretum — swirling forerunners of the wonders soon to emerge from the fertile bed for summer's beauty: the black-eyed Susans, bachelor's buttons, daisies, Queen Anne's lace, marigolds, purple coneflowers, and yet-to-be-identified others who are setting their roots and rising, making buds.
And the hostas, tickseed, and hollyhock… hibiscus, begonia, and coleus… impatiens, lantana, and sweet potato vine… dianthus, vinca, and petunia, too…
… the blanket flower, the Colorabo blue columbine.
All of those are in flower or leaf today — the weigela in its pot and the last bunches of blossoms on the cool-weather violas, pansies, and snapdragons.
So why do I rue what is missing?
guardian at the portal | 8 May 2014 at 3 Dog Acres
Iris germanica | a bearded iris | Cultivar: Polish Princess
Why do the biting memories of the hard freeze intrude?
Flora by nature are transient and fragile, enduring and hardy, exhilarating and bittersweet. I by nature am likely to tumble into a ditch of morose regret. In the hours and days of utter ascendance in May, I hear echoes of the bare winter just passed, see the imprint of what was and all that I imagined to be coming 'round the bend, ruminate on the shortfall and the might-of-been.
Now it is here, the Spring! and the many billion succulent leaves of the deciduous forest sway like lovers in the mild southerly winds, and the horizon is not so much blue-gray sky as it is emerald-sea green, and the clay pots and cedar boxes brim with blooming flowers where not so long ago only the cold stones stood, naked and powerful in a Spartan winter.
From one window to another goes the wanderer, drifting, altering perceptions.
How can a thing be depicted? It is not a flower is it not a flower?
An iris, a vortex, three plus four equals seven the number of perfection
and then one less gives the number of man.
Weather on the 21st: Warm and mellow. 86° fahrenheit at 16:04 hours.
The watcher weighs 174.9 pounds.
flower of the Colorado Blue Columbine | 10 May 2014 at 3 Dog Acres
How quickly the leaves grow once the sap begins to flow — and in an instant, or so it seems, the view is a thick wall of variegated shades of green, and the spaces between the branches and twigs that not long ago showed through to the other side of the hollow are now a panorama of leaf and vine. The hollow disappears.
Behind the leaves of a tree in the foreground are more leaves of another tree in the deepening little forest. The leaves twirl outward and upward on their fibrous cylinders in an expansive display of life, now unbound and roused from winter's long slumber. The expansion of leaf brings about the compression of the horizon.
Weather: Too cool and wonderfully wet. 49° fahrenheit at 11:53 hours.
The watcher weighs 176.2 pounds.
Star of Bethlehem flower at 3 Dog Acres | 27 April 2014
Winter's refusal to give up the ghost and part for good from the Vernal season brought an unwelcome chill to May Day. Nevertheless, the march of vegetation, the emergence of leaves on the walnut and the oak, the flowering of the iris and the spiderwort — all sure signs of Spring's triumphant return — were steady and sure. Then of a sudden on Friday, the wind called Lips, young master of the southerlies, blew into the highlands from way down on the Gulf to chase away the cold old man and send him spinnin'.
Already I'd seen early arrivals of familiar Vernal species: the first appearances of the butterfly, the tortoise, the hummingbird, and the toad. The fruit of the apple and the peach are set. Buds of the peony and the lily fatten on the stem. Early shoots of maiden grass, bluestem, and ravenna reach toward the clouds. No power of Boreas, no decree by the Queen of the North can halt the spinning wheel of the seasons and the ultimate demise of Old Man Winter.
So, we step aboard the weatherman's roller coaster for a sixty-hour ride, locked-in and dipping to a low of 33° at dawn on May Day before climbing to a high of 90° come mid-afternoon on Saturday. Grateful that Thursday's chill stopped short of a destructive hard freeze, I waited out the morning in hopes of relief from the south. But at noon, with the thermometer hovering near 50 and the winds blowing hard from the north, I built a fire in the hearth and sat close-by in my rocking chair, figuring it'd be the last blaze 'till autumn. With my dogs, the music of Berg and Ravel, and some words about a poet from the twentieth century, I waited. And watched. With no one listening, I kept my counsel.
Spiderwort flower at 3 Dog Acres | 27 April 2014
Flora, the goddess of flowers with a fragrant garland in her hair, once ruled the last four days of April and the first three days of May in the mighty ancient City of Rome, but her Roman Floralia festival faded, then withered away centuries ago.
How now to celebrate the seasonal return of flowers, fruit, and grain?
Raise a May-pole in the park? Like Floralia, the lofty totems of fertile Spring and the May Day dance — 'round 'n round the pole we go — drift into the oblivion of forgotten things. Who today has time or inclination to cavort upon the velvet green or gather daisies to weave into a garland for the bower of a lovely queen? Not even the child, who walks tethered to pixels on vast fields of concrete where once the clover grew.
We are left to plumb vague histories and imagine the easy laughter, the circling jokes, the spontaneous applause of innocent amusements of yore. Wild and high, the voices of the Floralia and the May Day dance echo o'er the ages and bid the listener's soul: Rejoice.
There's music in the merry voice,
The voice of peasants wild and high,
That bids the listener's soul rejoice,
And share in all this revelry.
No stopping this spin. May Day fled without ceremony five days back. And now it's another Monday with heat in the wind, tasks to make done. The cardinals, thrushes, sparrows, and doves have come to dinner now that I've stocked their banquet table with a fresh supply of seed. The table, a one-tone slab of sandstone a few meters from the wide set of windows on the east face of my study, attracts an eclectic clientele of the avian clan. Watching them at the feast is one of my fondest little pleasures.
There's no space for lament today, though I do wish I could fly. Instead, I remember. The entry here under the dateline of 17 April, a Thursday, raised a lament about the hard freeze that fell upon Three Dog Acres three nights before, killing most of the just-emerging leaves on the trees we steward. Then from way up north in New England came a letter with a poem. "I wrote it, just for you!" the poet told me.
A Little Cheer
Though the spring has been cold
And a hard freeze heart-breaking,
Still spring comes.
Close your eyes tight and listen
The two-note call of the chickadee
Alway a minor fourth in sharp relief
Against the dull grey of cloud
Calls to the heart
Buried deep in a winter-weary chest.
Spring-time! Spring-time! it calls
Looking for love but I
Whistle back to it once or twice
Wrong species, I know
Far too clunky and earthbound for the tiny flitting one.
Spring-time! it calls,
And I whistle back just so it knows
That someone hears,
And that no matter the cold
The hard ground and frozen buds
And I know ...
The chickadee is calling
And though cranky commuters
Grumbled angrily, scraping ice and snow
From yesterday’s windshields
And jammed-in earbuds
With news radio playing,
Hoping for someone to blame for
Cold fingers and winter’s return
But I know ...
The chickadee is calling
And it will come.
Weather: Soft southerly breezes with whispers from the early leaves. Too hot for the season, but who cares? 87° fahrenheit at 15:33 hours.
The watcher weighs 175.3 pounds.
daffodil at 3 Dog Acres | 24 April 2014
Gandalf, our Australian shepherd, no longer lives at 3 Dog Acres. I couldn't figure out how to alter the first principles of natural law, so I submitted to it and separated Gandalf from his brother, Ulysses. Gandalf now lives in the city with my son Marcus and his girldog Athena. May the Almighty God protect them all.
First principles cannot be changed. Foundational to natural law and eternal from the mind of the Creator, first principles govern the world and stand outside humanity's control. ["The natural law is altogether unchangeable in its first principles." | Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, Fifth Article I-II, Q. 94, Art. 5]
The first principle I draw upon to justify the separation of Gandalf from our diminished pack of hounds is this: Amoral creatures without conscience, dogs act from a primal nature that cannot be changed. Although their behavior can be influenced by human intervention through training and conditioning, dogs of the same gender, especially brothers of a blood pack, are driven to struggle amongst themselves for physical superiority. Their struggle expresses on an instinctual level the first principle of dominance in a species-specific social hierarchy.
With Gandalf and Ulysses, the struggle for dominance, which took a most peculiar and unexpected turn, became destructive to their physical and emotional health. Their dog fights, escalating in frequency and violence, wrecked the harmony of our home and threatened permanent, perhaps even fatal consequences for the combatants. Other than have them sleep and eat in cages under conditions of permanent physical separation, nothing I could do would guarantee peace at home after their determination to fight became commonplace.
The peculiar turn came when Ulysses, the runt, learned to fight back against his alpha brother Gandalf. For the first two years of their life together, Ulysses accepted Gandalf's occasional attacks by submitting without a fight. Gandalf's imposition of dominance inflicted little if any physical damage on his brother. The situation seemed natural and manageable. Then one day, having grown taller and about ten-pounds heavier than his brother, Ulysses fought back. And held his own. The shepherds were about two years old. The struggle that would ultimately break the pack had begun.
Eventually, Ulysses began to dominate, but only in those wild moments when the fights broke out. All attempts at intervention on my part proved either reckless, inciting the combatants to a greater rage, or all too late to prevent injury. Bloodied and wounded, the brothers would at last disengage, with Gandalf lying on his back beneath Ulysses, who stood unsteady and panting, awaiting the moment when Gandalf would arise and walk away. Though victorious, the runt appeared dazed and uncertain while his defeated brother assumed a stance of stoic indifference.
Constitutionally unable to give up his quest to regain physical superiority over his upstart brother, Gandalf became a grumbling, tightly wound creature. Ulysses grew defensive and wary, though he tried again and again to play with his brother like they once did as puppies. We humans realized that nothing could deter Gandalf from his path back toward the top of the dog pile, which led time and again to violence. We clung to hope for over two years, but injuries to the brothers became more and more severe, the fights more frequent, and our search for a solution consistently frustrating. [To the doubters among ye: Yes, the shepherds are neutered. Yes, we identified the "behavioral triggers" and sought to mitigate them. Yes, our dogs, including Isis the sister, are well trained and otherwise obedient. Yes, we sought the opinion of trainers and veterinarians. At the end, we were left with dogs in cages and the pack broken.]
I turn to Father Rickaby, the nineteenth century theologian, for the philosophical context of our decision to find a new home for Gandy Man.
We have spoken of the law that governs the world, as that law has existed from eternity in the mind of God. We have now to consider that law as it is received in creatures, and becomes the inward determinant of their action. Action is either necessary or free. The great multitude of creatures are wholly necessary agents. Even in free agents, most of what is in them, and much that proceeds from them, is of necessity, and beyond the control of their will. Of necessary action, whether material or mental, we shall have nothing further to say. It is governed by the Eternal Law, but it is not matter of moral philosophy. [Rickaby, S. J. Joseph | Moral Philosophy: Ethics, Deontology and Natural Law. | Fourth Edition 1918, p. 76]
My shepherds do not possess free will, cannot act beyond necessity, and do not know how to will themselves to not fight. Once the battle is engaged, the fight becomes a temporal act of life against death, death against life — unmovable, elemental, and bent on the quest for dominance.
While it lasted, ours was a wonderful pack of three fine young dogs at 3 Dog Acres. To see Gandalf, Isis, and Ulysses run, side-by-side in full stride under the pale light of a midnight moon, and to hear their twelve paws rumblin' o'er the dew-laced earth: O, what a moment of primal beauty it was! May the angels protect you, my Gandy Man. May the angels protect you.
Weather: Thunder and light rain with a gust of wind now 'n then. A day without sunshine. 57° fahrenheit at 17:66 hours.
The watcher weighs 176.2 pounds.
the old apple tree and a redbud at 3 Dog Acres | 13 April 2014
Wish I could say I'm enjoying this Spring, but if I did, then I'd be lying. The unseasonable cold and the imminent dissolution of our pack of shepherds bring too much heaviness to bear on the Spirit here. We are well enough, our little family, but we are not happy… an emotion — happiness — oft sought and seldom attained. Brief episodes of it — the sense of well-being and pacific felicity it imparts to the cottage — urge me to cling to a dear hope for happy times ahead, but sometimes I wonder
if the old passions,
and the purposeful troubles,
and the long runs of anhedonia,
the manic races to the mountaintop,
and the psychic droughts and calamities,
might be more appropriate to the human condition. I don't know anymore, don't know. Never did.
The apple blossoms, so much alive and cheerful in the photo, are wounded now, [having been] struck down during their passage through the cruel Monday night of the hard freeze. I awoke Tuesday morning to a scene of destruction in the gardens. The old apple tree, the largest specimen in early April bloom, wore a stunned demeanor, its glorious white gown transformed overnight by the dark chill into a muddy brown rag. Everywhere in the gardens were scenes of equal or greater tragedy.
A strong word, tragedy, but each of us is qualified to define our own misery. The sudden death of the baby leaves and the mature blossoms is not a classic drama, not heoric, not life-shattering, but merely a private event of deep disappointment and dismay — and of no consequence to anyone but me 'n my true love Sadie Liz.
In the Table of Troubles, ours can't be too high on the Master List. Yes, but…. To see the tiny, just emerged leaves of the osage orange, the sycamore, the several species of oaks, the golden raintree, the catalpa, the thornless honeylocust… to see these signs of new life slain and withered, the rising sap stanched and draining away: My tragedy. I canna [just yet] let it go.
Out the long east window of the study, here from my seat at the cherry slab I see the browned-out, nodding form of the sassafras, where on Sunday stood a bright green, delicately frilled, floral masterwork. Particular bits and fragments of new life, once ago around me, are this afternoon lost to all but memory.
Mother Nature would be merciless if she knew the meaning of the concept, but mercy is a gift for humanity alone to ponder. Nature is blind to mercy. The mere contemplation of acts of merciful compassion strikes me down with the Mystery
because I know
or think so,
that I'm part of the natural world,
that the Creator's mercy permeates all that is good for me,
that Nature is neither Mother nor Father,
the sensible, measurable All of physical reality
and a thing beyond self.
inseparable from my existence and identity.
On Saturday, if the deep gash on his snout is sufficiently healed, Gandalf our shepherd will depart for a new home. Unable to rectify the natural law of dominance and submission — expressed in snarling battles between brothers that have intensified into life-or-death struggles — with our human desire for permanent peace among the hounds, we decide to break-up the pack and prevent further violence. To think that a lasting truce between the two boys can be enforced would be an act of inhumane folly. Their life apart in steel cages — the way they live today in our desperate measure — is equally unacceptable.
Gandalf is the rational, logical choice for removal because he is the strongest of the three, the Alpha of the pack — sister Isis is the third — and thus has the best chance to adjust to his new life with our son and his sweet 'n mellow dog Athena. The bond between son Marcus and dog Gandalf is sealed with love. It is the best of all possible solutions.
I'm sad the young leaves are dead. I'm sad Gandalf is leaving the pack. I'm not going back to the old passions, either. The present course, more 'n more quiet and removed from the fray, is the only course suitable for the final end I so desire.
Weather: Cool and cloudy with a soft breeze from the southeast 62° fahrenheit at 13:56 hours.
The watcher weighs 177.6 pounds.
top bud of the Hercules Club (Aralia spinosa) at 3 Dog Acres | 10 April 2014
actual size from tip of bud to bottom of frame: 7 cm tall by 1.5 cm thick
A pall wrought by dog fights settles over and begins to seep into the familial fabric of 3 Dog Acres. Yes, our three shepherds are not children. I'm not so foolish as to deny their canine nature by projecting a masque of humanity upon them. Nonetheless, my four dogs are members of the family in a domestic arrangement between species commonplace to our culture. Two of them have fallen into a pattern of domestic violence that threatens to break apart our little circle of life.
Gandalf and Ulysses, brothers rescued four years ago from an abandoned pack of eleven Australian shepherds, fight one another with ferocity and grievous determination. Three times this week. Peace-shattering primal combat. An escalating pattern, severely disruptive to the harmony of the household and ultimately threatening to the well-being of the two combatants and those others of us who must deal with the snarling violence and its bloody aftermath. It can't be allowed to continue.
But how to end it? Either find a way to modify their behavior and mitigate the damage, or else break up the pack. Common sense and the wisdom of others with experience in such matters tells me the likely solution will be to send one of the boys away to a "forever home" — to lose him to the dealings of Fate and share a final goodbye kiss from human lips to canine snout. O my goodness. The heartbreak.
Janet the dog guru graciously agreed to visit tomorrow and spend a couple of hours with me 'n the pack to observe and ponder and provide good counsel. I hope she comes. She is known for her knowledge and love of Aussies. "Don't lose hope," she said when we chatted by telephone yesterday. My foundational mistake came at the very beginning when I foolishly decided to select a second male from the beleaguered pack of abandoned puppies beside the railroad tracks in Frenchman's Bayou. I thought I knew dogs, knew how to manage them, how to train and lead them. To use the old saw, I'm beside myself. I don't want to lose one of my boys.
Weather: At last, weather befitting the season! Mild and sunny with warm nights to help the grasses and clovers grow. 71° fahrenheit at 14:49 hours.
The watcher weighs 178.9 pounds.
a window of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania | 14 August 2009
The storms of March give way to a lightly falling, sustaining rain, the welcome soaking rain of a promising early Spring. The rain falling just now, tapping softly on the steel panels of the roof, began at midday and lingered well past the midnight hour. April showers tell tales of May in every lustrous drop they bestow upon the sweetening earth — the sighs and tears of April are "the harbinger, the herald, the promise, the prophecy, the foretaste of all the beauties that are to follow it — of all, and more — of all the delights of Summer, and all the 'pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious Autumn.' It is fraught with beauties that no other month can bring before us," our friend William Hone wrote in The Every-Day Book of 1827.
How can April be "the cruelest month" of Eliot's oft-quoted protestation when, cheered and cherished by eyes eager for color, it bestows sunshine and rain to encourage and engender the wellspring of new life, awakening the fields, and the swards, and the woods from their deathly winter slumbers? Rising like foam at high tide on the warm sea, April is not cruel but tender, not cruel but merciful — infinitely green and swelling, day by day, swelling with abundance.
They wanted to stone her to death, the mob did, but the man of peace turned them away, the mob, away from the fallen woman by suasion of his entreaty, the prophet's words swaying them, shaming them into dropping the stones, the mob, at their dusty feet and walking away to eat the bread and fishes, and walk upon the stormy waters, the olive-dark garden, the bitter tears.
Yesterday in the cold air under heavy, gray skies I gathered all the necessary parts — the pots, the labeling tape and markers, the buckets of water and compost, the old dirt in the dog-food bag, the steel tools, the sack of saplings from Tennessee — and then planted ten baby trees in their new homes.
At the outset I hoped the act of planting would cheer me, drive away the blues. They arrived, the blues, late yesterday afternoon, but alas the gnawing old feelings of dismay and ill-content kept their tight grip on my emotions and put a dull edge on the afternoon.
My saplings this spring came from two nurseries, the Arbor Day Foundation's regional nursery in Tennessee and the George O. White State Forest Nursery near Licking, Missouri. The afternoon's task dealt with the Arbor Day trees, scraggly and scantly formed specimens — not nearly as robust or healthy as the baby trees supplied by the Missouri Department of Conservation's tree farm near Licking. Despite their less-than-optimal condition — spare of root and with twisty little trunks and a smidgen of tiny branches — the Arbor Day saplings have a good chance of survival as long as I remain diligent and nurture them resolutely. They may be verging on the pitiful, but they're viable.
One each, I planted in their pots:
The rain began to fall just after I planted the last of the saplings.
Weather: Clouds, then sun, then clouds. The air is cool and damp. 60° fahrenheit at 15:34 hours.
The watcher weighs 180.2 pounds.
White Dogtooth Violet flower [Erythronium albidum] at 3 Dog Acres | 27 March 2013
Hints of turbulence ride the winds today. In an age of hype and manufactured fear, listening to weather reports will make a man wary… if he lets his notions creep too far forward on the imagined timeline… and if he frets too much about the potential for loss should the next weather event come to loosen his precarious perch on the planet's unstable surface… and if he just worries about things.
Tornadoes are likely to erupt from the clash of the cold front against the southerlies along the dry line. So they say.
If not, then high winds and damaging hail are likely. Ripping off the shingles. Severing great limbs from old trees. Knocking stuff off their tethers. Putting dents in sheet metal. Breaking glass. So they say.
"Being dead does not trouble them, but dying does indeed," Montaigne wrote of his fellow men. "It is not death but dying I fear."
From the skies shall fall torrential downpours, spawning flash floods. Cars will be swept downstream by raging waters. So they say.
"The past is guilt, the future is fear," my teacher Gerald said in 1986. It's an old saw, sharp and cutting. No wonder Gerald urged me to live totally in the moment at hand.
Mid-afternoon and the skies are calm, the songbirds singing. When I look at the radar on the AccuWeather app I see images of storms passing to the south, to the north. A telephone call at noon from my true love on campus about ten miles to the east told of a furious but brief hailstorm. "Did you get any rain?" she asked. Not here. Merely a few drops before noon, leaving big circles on the wooden planks of the back porch, not enough to call in the dogs.
I walk slowly through the gardens, studying the flora, taking notes.
The yellow and white daffodil flowers enter into a brief moment of glory, becoming for a splash of time the predominant bloom in the gardens. The forsythia bushes, their golden yellow strands like arches, approach full bloom. The puffy green stalks of the resurrection lilies are just now beginning their decline. Pale white buds begin to appear on the Rose of Sharon bushes. Green leaves and reddish white buds grace the flowering almond. Three of the four lilac bushes are rich with leaf and soon to bud, but the fourth lilac lags.
The pink dogwood just today began to open its purplish gray domed buds. The Kwanzan cherry is full of bud. The first tiny red leaf appears on the golden raintree. Yellow-green tips emerge on the sassafras. The iris stalks are rising. The vernal witch hazel and the ginkgo cling to their winter slumber. The Yoshino cherry breaks forth in full flower, the first buds having opened on Tuesday morn. The Yoshino is abuzz with little honey bees, taking their drinks on the fragrant, five-petaled white flowers.
A few buds appear on the lowers twigs of the elm. Tiny buds cling to the thin branches of the young hazelnuts. Grape hyacinth rise like purple spikes on the grass. One of the Leyland cypress trees is bad sick with a fungus, and the other two show signs of infection. A few buds can be seen on the bottom branches of the flowering quince. The purple flowers of the vinca minor surround the old red oak tree.
Rye and clover, planted a few weeks ago, take root and send forth tiny sprouts. The red twig dogwood shows only a few tiny leaves. Not much emergence on the serviceberry. The young blackhaw, having doubled in height since last spring, wears a cloak of tiny leaves. A few dozen dark red buds cling to the limbs of the redbud out front. The pampass, maiden grass, ravenna, and bluestem have yet to awaken. The tall bamboo stalks, their leaves brown and brittle, show signs of severe suffering from the cold winter with no new shoots emerging from the pinebark mulch.
The pair of euphorbia fell to the winter freeze, though one shows sings of new life at the withered base. The deer-stricken silver maples in their circle around the red cedar struggle to overcome a severe loss of buds to the grazers. One of the maples, the westernmost specimen, displays a couple of tiny leaves. The tulip poplar buds are swollen and soon to open. The white pine rises straight and full. The arrowwood is sluggish with the hint of a bud or two.
Tiny blue speedwell flowers decorate a patch along the lane south of the driveway. Other speedwells bloom under the apple tree. The dead nettle and onion grass grow tall and could stand a mowing. The weeping willow bends and sways in leaf but is untidy and malformed as a result of damaged bark wrought by a deer in rut late last summer. The apple tree is awash in leaves. The peach tree stands in full and wonderful bloom.
In the Tai Chi yard the field of fat white clover and purple dead nettle grows thick and lush. Fine and promising buds grow on the blueberry and the wisteria. Tiny leaves rise next to the thorns on the osage orange. The weeping willow in the little pot, one of the first trees to bud, is fully in leaf. The silver maple in the red pot didn't survive the winter. The first little bluebells beside one of the back gates leading into the hollow opened two days ago. A host of other bluebells are soon to follow. Their drooping blue flowers look like bells on a sleigh. The deer-gnawed burning bush, transplanted out back when the bamboo garden was prepared two winters ago, is now on the safe side of the new fence and shows signs of life.
Most of the green gracing the view into the little stand of woods on the eastern slope leading to the hollow comes from the abundance of black cherry trees growing there. The black cherry is the first tree to break forth with spring leaf. Tiny green specks of red clover, white clover, and rye speckle the dark earth out back. The tall maple sapling next to the south fence, the one that almost died from unintentional neglect mid-summer last, displays its first few leaves. The meadow beauties begin to replace the dogtooth violets. The golden currant spreads out, green and healthy at the base of one of the oaks. The strange Hercules Club shows a single green leaf emerging from the top with no other obvious signs of life on the spiky stalk. The olive green leaves of the red honeysuckle vine encircle its host cherry tree and an old fence post.
A dozen or so burning bushes in a line along the tall south fence of the Dog Yard bristle with red and green buds. Bulbous buds wrapped in red rise from the tips of the branches of the Ohio buckeye. The cow oak adds a foot of new growth on the top of its young trunk. Studying the cottonwood cuttings I planted in their pots on Sunday, I wonder if I thrust the correct end into the soil.
I see thick buds on the pecan, but they are brown and sleepy. The swollen buds of the sycamore are poised to burst forth in leaf. The first tiny, green, arrow-tip buds emerge on the black gum. The vernal witch hazel clings doggedly to last autumn's brown and crinkly leaves. The two sugar bushes are loathe to awake. The tall and very thin loblolly pine, prone to leaning and bending last fall and winter, shows encouraging signs of stability after the resodding I applied in late January. Leaves emerge on the green lime hydrangea.
Suffering from the shock of an early January transplant, the big black haw with its broccoli-like buds is slow to open, but healthy in its cairn under the towering old oaks to the south of Doghenge. Two hazelnuts in pots show significant leafing, while their brothers and sisters in the earth lag behind. The little bluestem in the green pot sends a few tiny shoots toward the heavenlies. The fig in the wide clay bowl is doin' fine, but the fig in the ground is dead.
That's it. I'm done. The storm arrived about two hours before sunset, dousing the earth with a deep drink. No damage done.
Weather: Upper seventies this afternoon, upper thirties tonight. The cold front arrives. 53° fahrenheit at 23:55 hours.
The watcher weighs 178.3 pounds.
daffodil at Crow's Cottage | 12 March 2012
The road trip to Skiatook Statuary in central Oklahoma didn't happen. Skies too thick and gloomy, winds too blustery and gusty, the likelihood of severe thunderstorms in late afternoon too risky for comfortable backroads travel. Another disappointment wrought by fickle weather. So, our excursion to the lair of the King of the Concrete Jungle, the venerable Mr. Chester Reyckert, will have to wait 'till a warmer, calmer day.
Attention span shortens. Some familiar words aren't so easy to bring to my lips. The vowels get mixed-up. Movements become less precise, too. I knocked over the olive oil at supper but the dogs licked it up. Fortunately the carafe, a family heirloom of sorts, didn't break on the hickory floor. Then, a couple of hours after sunset, the rain came racing on west winds, brief but furious. Thunder claps, flashes of blue lightning, and five minutes of driving rain, hard and loud on the steel roof. I'm missin' some verbs, I know, but frankly I don't much care 'bout what's missing. It's good enough that something's here at all.
Earlier in the afternoon, the brown, boxy UPS truck stopped in the driveway. The driver handed me two packages of saplings from the Missouri Department of Conservation, 30 trees in one and 60 in another. With other tasks demanding immediate attention, I didn't take time for a close inspection, but at glance I could see that a few, the tallest specimens — I think they are paw paws — were broken at the crown from sloppy handling during shipment. I opened both packages, saw that the roots are robust and moist in their hydrating gel and sawdust. The nine bundles of saplings in their packages are safely stored on the cool, dark floor of the sunroom. Tomorrow early I begin the task of putting them in their pots.
Forsythia's yellow flowers broke into first bloom yesterday and gained momentum today. The three leyland cypress trees are sick with a fungus and likely to die before the summer ends. Tiny, pale yellow buds appear at the base of the thorns on the osage orange trees. The sienna buds of the sycamore are swollen and ready to burst into leaf. Snapdragons, pansies, and violas brighten the annual beds. Three of the four lilac bushes are laden with leaf and bud. The Yoshino cherry is soon to flower. It's clear: The riot of Spring is just round the bend 'n headin' this way.
Weather: Feels like the season. 60° fahrenheit at 23:45 hours.
The watcher weighs 180.3 pounds.
fiery alligator log | 26 March 14
Blooms and blossoms tarry in their buds, waiting impatiently for the Southerlies to make their belated appearance and bring an end to the cold season. Winter, spiteful and sluggish, lingers all too long, defying human expectation. The axial precession of the equinox twirls into astronomical Spring, but an icy chill from a hoary season refuses to depart, mocking the calendar, biting into the afternoons with stout winds from the north, freezing over dark night the water in heavy concrete birdbaths and thin steel dog bowls. Bundled up, we look for the tiny, swirling 'stars of the earth' to emerge from the cold ground. Flee, blue-lipped Boreas! Awake, white Daisy! Let Spring be.
Rain arrives about 5 o'clock. A soft shower on quiet winds from the southwest. Out front in the arboretum, a rowdy, nervous flock of indigo and black grackles swirls and darts in the wet air, some landing on the stone bench to eat the last of the day's offering of Wild Bird Food, "a nutritious blend of quality seeds & grain," packaged by Shafer Seed Company of Oakes, North Dakota, and shipped from a warehouse in Springfield, Missouri, on 18 November 2013 to the Farmers Coop some ten miles to the east of Crow's Cottage. Somehow it gets here: one 25-pound bag at $11.99. Most of the three scoops of white proso millet, sunflower seed, and sundry "grain products" already had been eaten by the cardinals, doves, blue jays, sparrows, and chickadees who dined at the bench earlier in the day.
Daisies, one of the earliest known of our old English flowers that still retains its Saxon name, are now in bloom. It was called the day's eye, and the eye-of-day, as far back as we have any records of our history. 'It is such a wanderer,' says a quaint old writer, 'that it must have been one of the first flowers that strayed and grew outside the Garden of Eden.' Poets have delighted to call them 'stars of the earth,' and Chaucer describes a green valley 'with daisies powdered over,' and great was his love for this beautiful flower. He tells us how he rose early in the morning, and went out again in the evening, to see the day's-eye open and shut, and that he often lay down on his side to watch it unfold. But beautiful as its silver rim looks, streaked sometimes with red, 'as if grown in the blood of our old battle-fields,' says the above-quoted writer, still it is a perfect compound flower...."
— Thomas Miller,
All Round The Year: A Monthly Garland and Key to the Calendar, 1884
The early Spring daisy [that is] native to our highlands home is a Western Daisy, Astranthium integrifolium, but I haven't seen 'em in the woods 'n meadows round here. I was thinking of a different blossom, the Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, when I read Mr. Miller's passage in his chapter for the month of March. White with reddish veins, or pale purple with reddish veins, these tiny heralds of Spring are amongst the first to flower at winter's end. Alas, no Spring Beauties in the grass today. None yet to buoy hope. But soon….
Organic Cherry Tomatoes on the vine
These tomatoes were grown by the Crisantes Family using only natural ingredients to grow a safe, healthy and flavorful tomato. The Crisantes Family began farming in 1928, bringing you 3 generations of experience, committed to growing all natural and organic produce.
Product of Mexico
Certified Organic by: Quality Assurance Int'l * San Diego, CA
Dist. by Wholesum Family Farms, Inc.
P.O. Box 7348 Nogales, AZ 85628
100 grams | about 6 servings at 18 calories per serving
TOMATOES CHERRY PKG $5.49
Weather: Too cold. 51° fahrenheit at 15:01 hours, but warm enough overnight [they predict] to allow the clover and rye to germinate and take hold.
The watcher weighs 179.4 pounds.
Hey Diddle Diddle | 25 December 2013
The only way to make every day count is to honor the first day. Otherwise, the resolute actor fails at the outset. The imagined task passes into a place of regret at a belated hour and must begin — if at all — only after the moment of proper amendment is lost to ill intent.
Now I know there's not much sense here, more prattle than cogency, but what am I to do when the clarity I seek becomes shrouded in the darkening room of our finished feast, with the candles melting down, the wicks nearly spent, and the oak logs becoming a heap of orange coals and gray ash? Please do not blame me. Instead, take your broken bread, your half-empty bottle of wine and go to some other place. The only way to avoid the tedium is to depart in peace.
Today is the first of another new year, the first of the month of Janus, the only day that cannot be missed in the quest for perfection. Luckily or unluckily, the year known by Gregorians as two thousand fourteen has already begun. I look back, just now, as writers often do and see, already, that I err. Perfection isn't mine to have and to hold, not so long as I cling to this present bag of bones. Progress. Not perfection.
The year just done brought profound changes and stands, its hoary back to me at the Gate of Retrospect, as one of the most momentous of my life and the life of my family. I'll spare the details for now because it's very late, but I'll tell you true I can see the eyes of heaven's dutiful doorkeeper a standin' at the swingin' gate. I can hear a trumpet calling, see the white stars of the folded flag, the field of indigo 'neath her tender, clutching hands. These are beautiful sights to behold at the dawning of a new year.
I love you. I do. It is the unction of union, love is, uniting the days of yore to Foresight on the other side of the gate. The place of union is here, now, forever.
Elsewhere, nine ladies are dancing to a different tune. The Season is not yet done.
Weather: Snared in a cold winter. 23° fahrenheit at 23:59 hours.
The watcher weighs 181.2 pounds.
Louie, the church bell-ringer in Little Rock | early 1970s
Today I'll be practical. Maybe. How circumspect can I be without losing favor? What, exactly, do you want to learn [about me] by coming here? How much of the perceived self should I reveal at risk of losing my unified vision? Choppy seas. Never a unified vision. Choppy seas.
Practical…. Relationships and structures. Tokens, wildflowers, The Zohar. Nothing practical there. Merely a glimpse. Try harder. Make a list.
2. Three Dog Acres
3. Gandalf, Isis, and Ulysses the Australian Shepherds
4. the woodpile and the fallen leaves
5. exercises to fend-off arthritis
6. the catechesis
Much recent and positive activity with the CornDancer web is sparked by a redesign of LitTunes. It's a struggle but worth it. Struggle because my mind moves slowly, more and more slowly whenever I navigate the intricate calculations and interwoven elements of web design. In my pretense I like to think I'm pushing the boundaries of design, breaking free from the template and the cookie cutter. But how can I know?
Three Dog Acres suffers from too many days of inattention brought about by the snow and ice storm of two weeks ago, the long cold spell that followed. Only today, a fortnight and a day later, do the last vestiges of the storm melt into invisibility. Treacherous footing, wet flora and muddy earth, bitter cold combine to drive me indoors and away from the visceral tasks of property and stewardship.
The three shepherds abide by a pack mentality with me as master, born of a closely aligned but separate species. When the pack falls into disorder, the entire household suffers. A gloom breaks onto the peace like some oppressive, piss-yellow fog pressing against the rampart. The boys are fighting again, twice since the storm fell upon us. The most recent skirmish broke-out at breakfast on Tuesday with Gandalf suffering a tear above his right eye. In the first fight on Sunday night, Ulysses lost his collar. I've yet to find it. Too much snow on the ground. Establishing the atmosphere of prevention, figuring out how to convince them to not fight, brother against brother: It eludes me. I wish they wouldn't fight. Though they are dogs, their brawls remind me of the hell-hole of my youth and all the screaming, cursing, and fist-throwing fights by the humans in the hovels where we existed, dysfunctional and beset by outbreaks of violence and deeper forms of domiciliar madness. I was a babe, a child, not of age. It weren't my fault. It happened get over it move on you shudda seen him hangin' on that long rope tied to the bell old Louie the hunchback with dreul on his stubble.
My preferred routine here at the cottage sits me at the cherry slab with my computers and notebooks for three or four hours during the middle of the day… precious and solitary moments when I might create and produce, or organize and synthesize, or maintain and strengthen the network… preceded by reading and meditation in front of the fireplace at morning time… and then, at sunshine's end… an hour or two outdoors to shake off the heavy hands of the psyche, stretch and bend and otherwise exert the body… and ultimately, at the close of day, to greet the sunset amidst breezes and natural light, under sky and clouds, walking and crawling o'er the earth.
This time of year the outdoor hours are devoted to preparing wood for the fireplace and clearing the gardens and lawns of the million fallen leaves and the haulm of the hence-departed growing season. [Look it up. I did. It's a cool word, haulm, befitting of the season.] Whenever the leaves are dry enough, I keep a fire burning in one or both of the steel burn barrels out back.
OK. Now I'm rushing through these lines. It's nearly three o'clock in the afternoon and I'm hankerin' to be out-of-doors. Next on the list: exercises to fend-off arthritis. After dark and after coffee, the mistress of the hacienda and I settle into our spaces in the living room to exercise for a half-hour or so. We began this routine last January and have remained diligent ever since. Though our techniques are different, our purposes align. We are working against the ravages of age in an effort to mitigate loss of mobility and the ever-presence of pain. Focusing totally on the lower body, I stretch and compress, tighten and extend aspects of my lower back and legs — waist, hips, thighs, knees, ankles. The intense pain I felt almost constantly a year ago is nearly entirely gone.
Tick, tick. Didn't get all the way to six and seven. Guess I'm at sixes and sevens for the moment. The catechesis and my studies pass into oblivion here at the cherry slab. I'm exiting the cottage for the great outdoors. But the one goal, the thing they call "overarching" in the jargon of higher education, is now dutifully met: to come here and write something, then send it flyin' into the web.
Weather: Warming trend continues. 60° fahrenheit at 16:03 hours.
The watcher weighs 183.2 pounds.
the Old Hickory House in Coudersport, Pennsylvania | 12 August 2009
No measure of conscious focus can stop the scatter. We're all over the place the windscreen is too dirty. Too many waves. From all directions. All at once. Every feasible spectrum. Ceaseless.
Interesting times on the webs I manage. New works bursting forth like canticles. But I can't focus on what's done, what's being done, what awaits doing. Want to. Wanna find the ground floor, type a sensible narrative. Just can't. There's too many dreams afoot, sock babies falling outta the foot of the bed sheets, landing in pairs on the pinewood floor. Just can't.
So, I'll steal from my letters to others. There I must make sense, or else face ridicule and dismissal for acts of wanton obscurity.
I've seen these things. They're sore amazing. Sat in a room with the most infamous dictator in history, knowing the outcome but sworn by the Invisible Hand to silence. He was talkin' about architecture, showing us a vision in stone. A cozy group of uneasy acolytes we were, sittin' with the tyrant just a decade before his foul fall in a bunker 'neath an iconic and broken gate. What I wuz doin' there you just can't imagine. I must have survived 'till '49 — me — only to be born again, shuffled off to Los Alamos for a secret transformation, the chip in the neck — but that's another tale entirely. You wouldn't have known the architect was the same guy who would lead a race to slay tens of millions. Downright charming, the lies from evil lips. And the dénoument: chilling. Like polished steel beneath bare backs on morgue tabletops.
Can you keep up with the expectations? We wouldn't give her the melodrama she craved, so she caved, so to speak, slunk off into the distance, a drunken little sot. Never saw her again. Never, ever. All bruised from the fall, United States Marine fighter jet roaring overhead, close to the ground on a training mission when alls I wanted was a quiet and lonely place to meditate — way back in the hoots and hollers.
Great Aunt Helen they say got jilted by the millinery salesman from Chicago on the ceiling of the bedroom the nut-brown water stains formed strange and terrifying shapes.
Couldn't find the letters. Didn't steal nutin'. Grandpa's grave beside the holly grove calls to me duck blinds on the cold water.
Weather: Artic blast meets moist southerly clouds swept up from the Gulf, making sleet and snow. 22° fahrenheit at 23:08 hours.
The watcher weighs 182.7 pounds.
roots of a sapling at 3 Dog Acres | 15 March 2012
I told her I saw the face of God she asked what did He look like? I said like God God don't have no look just God mighty awesome an assurance it's ok.
The time we went to Vegas she lost all our money the women were in holes in the wall a handful of piasters alls it took to get some the hand appeared as if outta nowhere writing warnings on the plaster the gold cups clinking the men laughing no more.
I got some ontology for supper the fish sauce stank like a sewer can't tell you where the septic tank is somewhere under rock under water like the loan.
At one time she had seven dogs they'd all follow her in that slow dog walk ever time she went outside imagine! seven dogs livin' in the house walkin' slow a pack in the gait of the dog walk outside when she went.
Eventually a day comes the day after the night crash when you just give up and quit the airplane right overhead screaming you see it glide like a crow it dives headlong crashes the blast a great fire not even the cool of the river can make it stop.
I was twenty-five it was my birthday we danced into the dark cold night a hundred feet on the rug in the morning the empty bottles a thousand stubs of cigarettes in the trays clumps of dog hair rolled into little balls by the dancing feet. The dog died some years later beside the highway broke his heart washed his body in the bathtub buried him out back.
Don could blow the smoke outta his ears the mosquitoes would just sit there on our arms in the summertime drank so much blood they couldn't even fly after I while it gave me immunity the bites didn't even swell up they just fell over into the grass ha ha they said he was shell-shocked in Korea blew the cigarette smoke outta his ears never saw a face so red. I'd tell you more but it'd be too profane I mean what I could tell! if'n I'd just let loose ever'one wants sumpin from us sumpin all the time.
Tariq Ali cooked us chicken 'n rice in a curry at the hostel outside Winchester imagine! two girls from Canada in my tent the farmer gave us hot milk from a goat just milked what a wonder he became famous the girls left in the icy morning mud on our boots that Pakistani lad what a talker became famous I didn't such is the luck of the draw I still got the recipe for the curry and those old bones in the crypt.
A wrestler named Karl Gotch of Atomic Drop fame came to the duplex to baby sit the little boy while mama went on dates after waitin' tables at the Ritz it was Carl Smith singin' on the radio and grampa comin' over on Sundays booze on his breath sittin' the boy on his knees readin' him the funny papers Dick Tracey Katzenjammer Alley Oop she couldn't help it needed the company liked to dance the hoochie coochie at the honkey tonk old Karl Gotch long gone by the time the sun rose.
Think he cares? Don't kid yourself. The street came to a dead-end right there by his bedroom.
Weather: Cold, cold day with a colder night. Burned leaves in the barrel. Afternoon high just above freezing. 23° fahrenheit at 21:29 hours.
The watcher weighs 180.2 pounds.
maiden grass and The Kiss, a concrete statue | 12 November 2013
I look up, see the clock, can't believe an hour has passed, so swiftly, in the eternal moment that cannot be destroyed.
[ You can ] Postulate to infinity the destruction of quanta — and still the moment remains. The fragments appear and then leave the scene, but the moment remains. The moment cannot be divided into ultimate oblivion, cannot be split into nothingness. The moment is the one dot of origin, place without time, place superseding time — everywhere at once in the unity of being.
I look up, see the hourglass, [ and also ] the golden Ouroboros with its emerald eyes, a twining serpent wrapped around the apex of twin orbs. I watch the sand settle from one orb into the other. With my right hand I lift up the hourglass, turn it over, observe the sand beginning anew its passage through the narrow gate, grain by grain, superior to inferior — grains of white sand on a course to the next becoming, sand making the present passage.
How many iterations does the image pass through from conception to delivery? Here, the image couldn't be more precious. By the time its final iteration arrives as a cohesive register on my pale, blue, Caucasoid eyes, I wonder: What am I seeing through these infernal filters other than a shadowy remnant of original intent?
The one image I see most often is the scene on the other side of the picture window stretching along the east-facing wall of my study. There live the trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses of the arboretum. There fly the song birds — dining on insects, bathing in the concrete bath, chasing one another from tree to tree. The hawks and crows, too: soaring high on the hunt or the prowl. There visit the animals, wary — young white-tailed deer, rabbits, the rare turtle, squirrels, dogs on the loose and in a hurry. The visible insects, too: butterflies, bees, wasps, spiders.
My window image, though it changes with the ebb and flow of the weather, the movement of sun and clouds, the passing of four distinct seasons — this image is solid, lasting, indelible.
Through and beyond the window glass, the slats of Venetian blinds — mechanical shutters, opened cyclically with arrival of the morning sun and closed when the creeping dark of evening comes — I see a private vision of reality known solely to self, images ineffable in a particular way but universal in general. Though we are connected and One through our shared humanity, you and I, we are separated by way of individuality. Even you, the prisoner behind bars, have your picture window — even you, the prisoner, can see past the glass.
It's not so much the scene but the act of seeing that binds us together, a binding made by experience of the image out there as it speaks silent things to us in here. I wish — sometimes desperately, as if I were wrestlin' with the destroyer, but always eagerly in hopes of breaking through the glass — and wish I could find a more precise and universal way to express the efficacy of the humane connections we share. But I cannot. Not 'nuff power. So I move on and trudge ahead to something else, watch another image drift past on the ceaseless stream.
I have lots of wishes and hopes. Without them I would go gray in an instant and turn my back on you.… and you.… and you. You, too. Go gray.
Weather: First deep bite of arctic air of the season arrives on the harsh wings of yesterday's norther. Temperatures crept into the teens last night with a predicted low of 23° tonight. 48° fahrenheit at 15:28 hours.
The watcher weighs 182.4 pounds.
leaf of the Hercules Club, Aralia spinosa, at 3 Dog Acres | 6 November 2013
Starting the day in exquisite solitude with a crackling fire on the hearth, Louisiana dark roast in my favorite cup, BBC3 on the radio — just now it's Britten's Sea Interludes they're playing for the world to hear — and a song of praise in my heart.… These realities — if they are real — carry me to the the heights of psychic luxury. They are recompense for my early days of hell on Earth. They arrive in waves just in time for the end game.
Today promises to be the coldest of the season, the norther having arrived in the night's darkest hour. My thoughts on a gray morn turn back to yesterday and the planting of a miscanthus, a pair of pampas, and one of the Rose of Sharon bushes. The pampas and Sharon arrived by post last March from a nursery up north, the grasses in tiny paper pots and the Sharon with bare roots in a plastic wrap. Nurtured with full attention through spring and summer, the specimens have grown into healthy little plants with strong root structures. The Miscanthus x giganteus, aka Great Chinese Silver Grass, comes from White River Nursery about 45 minutes by highway to the east. It's about twice the size of the pampas.
Recent rains — the gauge held six-tenths of an inch when I checked just before beginning my labors yesterday afternoon — softened the soil for easy digging. Planting the grasses and the Sharon in the moist earth took no time at all [ to use an old saw ] .
The grasses join others of their clan along the front edge of the arboretum beside the lane. They are charged with the mission of growing tall and wide to create a natural screen and thus make the lane and the occasional passing vehicle it accommodates invisible to me here on the other side. I like being on the other side of things.
The arboretum is the showplace amongst the several little sections we've created from whim and fanciful pretense here at 3 Dog Acres. I need a sense of order and structure to guide my labors and direct my ambitions out there in the gardens. Designating and naming separate sections on the property help me fulfill that need.
Words come slowly this morn, but I push forward.
3 Dog Acres' eastern boundary includes the arboretum to the south and the Yucca Yard to the north, bisected about nigh in the middle by a driveway leading to the cottage. Both sections are defined on the west by fences.
The Yucca Yard fence, wire and steel, is thick with ivy, honeysuckle, pampas, wisteria, and grasses. On the other side of the fence is the Tai Chi Yard, a lawn where the dogs chase balls and frisbees at play time.
The arboretum fence, western red cedar, stands about eight-feet tall and is crafted to imitate a "country moon cottage" design I found in an old book about fences and gates. On the other side is Dog Yard, which runs beside the south face of the cottage and ends at a little stand of sweet gum trees — one tall mother gum and a slew of baby gums all 'round her. We call it Dog Yard because the fence includes three peep holes, two round and one triangular, just big enough and low enough to fit a dog's head. I also sawed dog-head designs on three fence slats and three more on gate slats. Sometimes all three of the shepherds can be seen thrusting their heads through the holes.
Beyond Dog Yard stands the southwest section of the gardens, ending at a wire-steel-and-wood fence. On the other side of the fence is the Back Forty, which is actually only about two acres of woods straddling a shallow hollow that inclines downward to the north. We haven't named this section yet. There's also Doghenge and Corvus Studio out back, and I'd like to tell about 'em, but frankly, I'm out of steam just now. The day has waned into night since I began this entry maybe twelve hours ago, sitting by the fire with pencil and paper. Why I decided to type it into publication I just don't know. Old habit. I'm too sleepy to find a proper closure.
Weather: Cold night after a gray day during which the temperatures dropped steadily from the low 60s at midnight to the upper 30s by midafternoon. The north wind brings intimations of winter. 32° fahrenheit at 23:42 hours.
The watcher weighs 184.2 pounds.
Misericordia! Autumn's colors slip past their peak, but just barely.
The earth beneath the trees, the grasses and mosses on the veld, disappear under a crumply blanket of freshly fallen leaves. More of the deciduous delights cling to their twigs today than have fled their loft, but still… hour upon hour… the earthly throng gathers with strength of numbers in a rustle on the breath of shifting winds.
How can I say it better? I want to. More leaves — red 'n yellow leaves, lime 'n gold leaves, brown 'n green leaves, sienna and olive leaves — cling to the lofty trunks and branches than have fallen, spent on the ground.
Already, so swiftly, the colors begin to diminish in intensity,
but just a little, just a little less glimmer
[ do I spy ]
in the woods 'round the cottage
— a glory to behold, a glory!
but you know that, know your very own gloria in excelsis,
your own private and singular beauty,
the grace of your glen and dale,
of the mown lawn and the rolling hill on the horizon.
There is nothing new I can tell you under the waning sun.
Through the windows I see the turning leaves
the delicate golden raintree,
the shapely kwanzan,
the dogwoods pink and white,
the great old red oak,
the twin sassafras laurels,
the black walnut with its oval fruit on the ground,
the sapling silver maples,
the Muskogee and twilight crepe myrtles,
and the wounded weeping willow.
Splashes of thick evergreen from the holly, the cypress, and the white oak
accentuate the virtuous autumnal display.
The witch hazel, too.
And the burning bush,
The yoshino we planted to honor an anniversary.
Leaves float from the heavenlies across my field of vision, tumbling in graceful flight to temporary resting places on the fertile earth. Name a thing [ out there ] that's not in motion.
Come December, sooner perhaps,
I shall rake them into piles,
these million leaves,
and scoop the piles into the gray tub,
and carry the tub to the back,
day after day as an act of respite from the toils of the study.
Out back in the burn barrels,
the browning leaves
will fuel my afternoon fires in the dry times of winter.
Some, however, will find a way into nooks and crannies in the gardens,
n'er to be raked and burned, but rather to waste away over time,
dust to dust along the natural path to becoming…
compost and amendments
to the precious soil.
How I long [ my Heart's desire ]
to be vitally connected to the scene I observe,
framed though it be by structures,
constrained by old eyes.
Let me dissolve into it, be immersed and merged
into the natural universe in a place beyond words,
beyond the artifice of my separation.
In the separation I reside beside a divide,
where on my side exists a manipulated jumble of
plastic and steel,
glass and lumber,
porcelain and concrete and paint —
but all I can find to look through
[ to the other side ]
is a small porthole, showing me a vision of a salt sea and airy skies,
of fishes and birds,
of dolphins singing praises on high,
and shapes of animals in the clouds,
sky dogs and great beasts,
towers of life on the zephyr and Auster's mighty storm.
O! And O! And sigh! and sigh.…
To find my way back to the Garden with keys in hand.
And an sharp-tipped arrow for the Hell Hound.
And a secret password for the Prince on the other side.
The speed of the moment is awesome. I am going someplace not previously known to me. I am ready.
Weather: Too warm, but plenty wet. 55° fahrenheit at 14:44 hours.
The watcher weighs 185.4 pounds.
Gotta be a way. Soaring. I could fly!
Blow the dust off the topa the pages. Nuthin' ever came of it. He thought at the time there was a great task directly ahead. They were the task, Sadie Liz and Beau Bosko — but Sadie's another story for another day, emergence indeterminate. Can't you see the fumes, rising in the clear air? Sniff them, he urged: the backpages. It was a popular notion at the time. Note the progressions, the migrations of style from cold exterior to bubbling hot interior. Standards give way to spurting originals, hot ice churning, makin' white smoke on the olive surface of Rock Creek. I love you. So?
All I had to do wuz spread out my arms and fall forward. I caught the invisible waves and lifted into the air. You wouldn't believe how natural it felt to rise slowly above the sidewalks and the houses.
He figured he was fodder, a thing that would become ash. He wuz rushin' toward the final image, determined to hold tight to his secrets. It was fourteen thousand nine hundred and twenty days ago. He told her: Someday even the mind will not be sacred. He was wrong. How could he have known?
With every new step he wants to quit. Nothing he creates is ever good enough to become Art. Would he write plays, direct movies, sit in the chair of the periodical critic? Would he return to soldiering, enter law school, make a living selling photographs, sail away on a ship at sea? It would go good for a while, then something amateurish, something too painful would find its way into the flow, spill out on the page, spoil everything, send his confidence into the familiar downward spiral.
Depression poet. Confused, disturbed, dissatisfied. A lost American, searching for roots: Can the stereotype be true? There was room for only one record at a time on the turntable. A dozen Fallstaffs and a bottle of Rhine. Some few minutes before midnight must be a replacement for burned out lives curse words everywhere slung about the room. Her bridesmaid Mimi just back from Europe as thin as a slat laughing with Miss Florida Sunshine and guilt — I'll betcha he tried to get in her pants — the omen of it, dark shadows from yesterday's drunken voyage. That other guy wrote Ultramarine. Why can't I?
This is the recorded truth:
He said he was beginning anew. He said he was desperate. I. I. I. I. I. Little else in life but I five times for the egomaniac — what else can there be? One I for each point of the pentagram. He figured he was trapped by the mood of the moment, boiling and then simmering; the identity he sought refused to appear in the burned swirls at the bottom of the skillet. So he tossed out the recipe, pledged to break out of the bad pattern lest he be at eighty-eight the sorry self he perceived himself to be at twenty-four. But he warnt bitter, O No! To be bitter was to be rendered insane. So he sang, Change! Change! Renew your life. Me, man: Find me. Pathetic.
She was there too, Miss Florida Sunshine, a life force in the smoky room. But he couldn't see her, being blinded by absorption with self. Money, attention, the theft of things. No wonder it didn't last, the marriage. Thirty-seven years after the judge declared it null and void by civil decree of divorce, the marriage was annulled by Miss Sunshine's death, a painful episode. She died in a hospice in the dry desert air of Nevada, died two hundred and ninety-eight days ago.
I could fly! I lifted my arms, fell forward, rose with the soft wind into the sky. The people in their shadows strolled, slow and deliberate. Below me. In the old neighborhood. Hallelujah for the dream.
Weather: Sunshine, light northerly breezes. 60° fahrenheit at 14:25 hours.
The watcher weighs 184.6 pounds.
In a flash, a few seconds, I lost the original intent. Short-term memory they call it. Sometimes it fails, bringing a deficit to my mind's ability to register immediate recollection. Walking from one room to another in the cottage on a commonplace mission, I forget the purpose in the time it takes to get from here to there. What wuzit I came to do? I look around blankly, trying to remember.
The intent leading to the opening of this daily logue had something to do with being hungry on purpose. Self-denial by design. Why? The last five pounds are defiant. Removal of the first forty followed the plan with uncanny precision: on average, one pound shorn away each week, arriving at 185 on 23 September. But now, three weeks later, I'm stuck in the immediate vicinity of 185 when the goal-sheet shows 181. The last five pounds are defiant, throwing me off steady progress toward the goal of 180 by autumn's end.
My repetition of key phrases is intentional. I'm clinging to the notion of meaning — searching for it wherever I may, while I can. "Repetition confirms and strengthens habit," the master said, "and faith becomes natural." I need a natural faith, a faith not forced or borrowed. I can't get caught up in another's charisma and try to claim it for my own. “For so often as by infectious emotion we are carried too far from ourselves, we remain the same men that we were before, and yet be not with ourselves as we were before: because we are wondering about other men’s affairs, little considering and looking into the state of our own soul.” So wrote Saint Gregory the Great in The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict [ 1880 | R. Washborne London ].
Let me be clear. On 1 January in the depths of winter I weighed 224 pounds. Today I weigh 185.4. That's fine 'n dandy given the hefty weight recorded at the starting point — but close isn't good enough. Close counts only in horseshoes and hand grenades, the old saw says. Thus the next step: self-denial by design, which connotes choices. What more to eliminate from the daily table?
Weather: Mild afternoon. The nights are cold. 62° fahrenheit at 14:11 hours.
The watcher weighs 185.4 pounds.
A Mercy! What a mess this world is — a commonplace way of sayin' it. The troubles. But it's a mess only if I believe the reports tricklin' in from Out There — where, apparently, all hell is breakin' loose to threaten [each and every one of] us with dissolution and destruction through insurrection, scarcity, violence, deprivation, and want.
Frankly, it's a mystery [to me] because there's not much serious trouble here at the cottage — nothing more than the usual psychic challenges to do right, the unwelcome quicksilver eruptions of my hot temper, and several recurring episodes in which I fall short of being the ideal man I envision in my Mind's eye. I do take my failings seriously — a side-effect of the examined life. So, the mess here is a perplexing ganglia of self-inflicted bumps and bruises, and some few hard-to-heal wounds, waylaying my progress on the trudge toward perfection. Not likely in this lifetime, my perfection — but one never knows.
The professional Christians are busy today, and every day, monetizing The Word for personal gain and profit. A righteous clan of postmodern publicans, they are piously devoted to the capitalist Church and its prospects for makin' a goodnuff livin' off'a Jesus. The professional Christians sell the Good News as product and procedure for the building of ego, status, and bank account. Social aspects of the Web become their new cash cow, the golden cybercalf. They are linking-up as a legion to peddle their goods. Praise God! for PayPal, Carousel Widget, AdSense, ClickBank, Create an Ad, Sponsored Tweets, any and all "social selling" tools in service of a confident, sanitized, and smartly branded faith.
Donchaknow: A thirst-quenching rain of dollars — hot leads into the holy sales pipeline — is waitin' to be drained from the evangelical throng, directed adeptly into the thrice-blessed reservoir of material bounty, owned and managed for the Kingdom by tithing influencers. And for sure it is the disconnected evangelical who stands at the bull's-eye of this sharply targeted market. Ripped away from the moorings of tradition — no more of mama's religion for me! — and caught-up in a secular church of fashionable doctrine and pop ritual, these non-denominational strivers comprise the flock with the most fleece for cynical harvest by God's entrepreneurs. Brother Paul called them "baby Christians." The influencers see them as prey.
The latest new book, the latest revealed word, the latest prophetic message from God, a new and exciting interpretation of scripture: Get it now! Only $7.95 at Amazon, $225 for the full weekend's conference, meals and e-book included.
I didn't bite the apple the professional Christians offered me this morning, or yesterday, incessantly, through the promotional channels available to them: social media hubs and dot coms on the web, e-mail newsletters and adverts, television and radio broadcasts, news releases and ads in magazines and newspapers — no stone left unturned in a relentless pursuit of customers, the seekers and strivers, convinced that the path to gloryland comes through material success and social influence, who are scouring the universe for leads to the next best temporal, topical, and pop-fad path to salvation and a seat in the pew.
Where are the simpler days when all I had to do was put my hand on the radio and be healed by Oral Roberts?
Weather: A dozen degrees above normal and holding. Dry, dry, dry. 82° fahrenheit at 17:48 hours.
The watcher weighs 185.5 pounds.
Years pass, and then — in the misty midday — after a hard rain, breaking the drought — I am moved to share an image of the raven we met one warm afternoon at the ruins of Chaco Canyon in the dry desert of New Mexico. The raven has slept quietly in a Windows file folder for over four years, but now she is released into the web.
Chaco Canyon stretches a few thousand meters across a remote spot in the San Juan Basin between the sparse mountain ranges of San Juan to the north, Chuska to the west, Zuni to the south, and Jemez to the east. There a visitor can walk among artifacts from an ancient civilization of profound mystery: great houses, kivas, and other stone structures with the names Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo, Casa Chiquita.
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a World Heritage Site. Visitors will find it a quiet and peaceful place. Remote and spartan, accessed by a long drive on primitive roads, Chaco offers the visitor a meditative experience free of the din and the throng.
The raven we met was on the hunt. She flew away a few minutes after I captured this image, but returned soon enough with a snake in her beak. She was showing us her prize. Now, released anew, she hunts in cyberland for a different kind of nourishment.
"The raven hunting in cyberland," Andrew Hardacre wrote from Hong Kong. "An allegory perhaps. She will surely find more snakes here than in the desert."
That was on Friday in the land of Google+. Ne'r got 'round to this place, my journal. Backtracking today. Andrew's correct. Snakes aplenty in cyberland.
Weather: Autumn arrived on Friday with the cold front. That morning the 20th I was startled to see 3.75 inches on rain in the gauge! Windows open since then. 75° fahrenheit at 14:22 hours.
The watcher weighs 185.2 pounds.
Can't see certain spectra today. The apparition of ego is veiled by inward forces of the self-examined life. Already unseen in many circumstances, I enter into a course of education leading to practical knowledge of invisibility. I am become by degrees and situations invisible. Previously, back then, a day ago I demanded to be noticed — a demand requiring audaciousness, aggression, pretense, guile. I sought to harvest palpable elixirs from the Milky Way, thinking the Universe was my own to plunder. I penetrated the shells of atoms, manipulating matter to serve my supposed advantage. Now, momentarily, mere seconds ahead… as soon as the notion becomes clear… I shall follow, obediently, the instruction given to me — infinite guidelines, revealed precepts, virtuous directions aligned to the ideal, showing a way to the other nature. Maybe. We'll see. I've gotten it wrong before.
"The things and the doings of this visible material world
are types of invisible realities."
— Joseph Rickaby, 1905
Say not in this moment of necessity that I am hidden from the Creator, that I become unseen from the boughs of heaven. The matter of my disappearance concerns relations with volk, not with beings of the Spirit. Humbled, I canna be important to any of The Others other than the one to whom I'm bound by vow and tradition; and some more, too: a winter's count of fewer than the number of fingers on a human hand. If I be visible to my helpmate, perhaps to other select sons and daughters of the blood, then how can I refuse the Creator's call to disappear? I am thrust into the multitude and not known. The soul I possess clings to a tiny beating heart, swallowed-up by the immensity of creation. Who could possibly see me there? Why would I think fit to be recognized?
In looking 'round the recent revelation, I see a theme of negation borne on the not and the can't. Apparently I'm moving toward the Light from a springboard of negation. It's risky business. Old ways, I suppose, become objects of proscription. If there must be proscription, then let it be directed at the old ways, and not directed at me, a man with a name already written on the pages of a sacred book. I canna bear to be rejected and banished when, truth be told, I'm not the outlaw, not the reprobate. I beseech thee: Pardon me from death by stones in the pit, from death by imprecation in the sanctuary. Lift me up and lead me through the narrow gate.
the fear of novel visitations,
the decay or proscription of ancient pleasures,
easily incline him to be sad."
— Robert Louis Stevenson, 1896
Horrible word, proscription. Deepest of fears, rejection. No wonder faith becomes the absolute, inviolable necessity.
Weather: Mere hints of autumn under partially cloudy skies without rain. 89° fahrenheit at 16:10 hours.
The watcher weighs 186.7 pounds.
To not go flat, not gray,
to refuse to recline and decline, permanently,
on a familiar surface — they call it the comfort zone —
n'er to plunge again, or stride afresh into new lands.
Couldn't bear it,
don't wanna go to the easy place
it's a struggle
Give me deep and abiding love from within to without,
fiery emotion contained but aflame,
enthusiasm bridled but sincere,
old-school zeal for discovery — and zest
to hold dear the day's lifeforce as an abiding act:
I hope for, Passions I deign to make worthy.
Symbolism arose from the whirling as a movement not consciously invented. It grew into a thing not intended, making a body through the work of several writers in toil over a period of forty years, as if they were a'wandering in a desert to suffer for your sins, a day for every year and thus comes the antichrist and several individuals. Hither be their names:
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
Stephane Mallarmé (1842-1898)
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
Those four being the major men, and these four minors :
Jean Moréas (1856-1910)
Gustave Kahn (1859-1936)
René Ghil (1862-1925)
Charles Morice (1850-1932)
Binding them into a movement at precisely the point where Fahrenheit and Celsius collide to equal zero deviation.… Do you know this point? It unites the search for worldly meaning with the unworldly imagination. 1 + 4 + 5 + 10 + 20 = the imperfection of a pentagonal pyramid. [The only perfect pyramid got covered-up and dissolved by The Flood I'm tellin' you.] That's what Dr. Ben said way back then — and I'm believing it. That he didn't include Laforgue, de Régnier, Verhaeren, Rodenbach, Viélé-Griffin: not my problem.
"Symbolistic poetry endows the Idea with form, but in such a way that form does not become an end in itself, but is subordinated to the Idea it seeks to express," Moréas the minor wrote in 1886. "The Idea, on the other hand, must not appear to be completely independent of the elements of form that give it reality, for the essential character of Symbolist art consists of avoiding the error of giving independent existence to the Idea."
Outside on nine|sixteen|twenty-thirteen amongst the navy men and the terrorists I hear tell of another shooting of the sort to grab attention, enough dead — twelve slain and countin' — and dying to catch the public eye, whereas in here the only blast from the barrel of a gun explodes from the pistol of ragged old Verlaine, ugly 'nuff 'n mad 'nuff to kill his queer lover Rimbaud
It is the sea fled away
With the sun
but the aim strayed, missed the heart.
No poetic justice there sweet little Art's right leg sawed off by the surgeon's blade old Paul out of prison drunk and soon dead | just grazed him on the left wrist named a drink after it absinthe rose water and some egg white. I couldn't find out if Rimbaud penned his verse with the left hand or the right hand orange lemon and pineapple too shaken not stirred.
They say the characters are controlled by forces outside of self, so who can blame any one of them for blasting away at the provincial veneer and acting out the way they do? Not I. Not I. Go ahead. You do it. There's just too many folk learning how to read, giving shape to a monstrous popular mind. Now listen, this is important: a real split arises between writers in favor of the intellect and writers in favor of selling books. Which side are you on?
We live in a late, decayed civilization, they said. We are tired and weary, they said. There's nothing more to see lessen you try to look up Victoria's skirts — and where would that get a man? You'd be better off paying attention to everyone else's points of view — assonance dissonance it don't matter just send 'em to the lending library and be done with it. They'll never know which of the vowels are light and which of the others are dark. Tell 'em you'll give 'em two syllables for a dime go buy yourself a cola Absalom & Achitophel & Kahn shouts down master Mallarmé in the Rue de Rome vers libre forever! you're gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Weather: Cooler than before but much too warm for the middle of September. The drought's back with the hoses running for hours every day and every night. Today's radar images showed showers all 'round us but only three minutes of downpour arrived here at 3 Dog Acres. Three minutes! 73° fahrenheit at 16:17 hours.
The watcher weighs 186.4 pounds.
We connect with others, extend our networked life, expand the aggregate online community because we suppose it to be unique to self. We step forward into a new universe of uncertain value. By participating here, more and more, we are destroying, bit-by-bit, the primacy of the corporeal community. The Others are less the hand-to-shake or the friend-to-hug, more the image on a screen, an imagined likeness in pixels of a flesh-and-blood being. Precious and flattened ideas about relationships arise from the digital haze to replace eye-to-eye and ear-to-ear fellowship.
Not all are tethered here — only the vanguard in the lead and, on the other side of the binary divide, great herds of the too busy, the perpetually distracted, the just-not-interested, the easily led — who are nonetheless attached and present. The latter appear as individual vertices on a graph, networked neighbors who swell into collections of named entities to make and remake prime material for The Project.
Me? I am made fast and bound. I am the mitigated poseur of the moment, navigating toward an intractable problem. The only solution I can fathom is merely to be. I arrive with others on winds of a gathering electrical storm, artificial and seeded by artifice.
We are the audacious, propelled on the lam to a different frontier. We dash away from worn-out models of the efficiency of crowds. We break free from slackened tendrils of a creaking status quo — broken strands of cynical nets, cast in the long ago to confine and harness "users" and "consumers" in a revolving door, to and fro, market to domestic domicile. Need 'em no more. Need 'em no more.
We are the desperately bold by way of hidden identity and the stack protocol, devising manufactured aspects of an adopted social role, and then another. And another, too. How long before we satisfy necessity and survive another session in the grind of a merciless State? How many hops to the shortest degree of the vertex?
We are the forward-leaning edge of the age, androgynous beings with an address made of numbers and dots, riding on our sleek silicon machines, a thousand and twenty-four to the power of ten. Like the child Icarus and the baby in the Sun, we lift upward and outward into paradox and mystery, and we travel as particles on a beam, and we flow in calculated streams onto a path with signs that state, white on green, yellow on scarlet: Inexorable Global Movement Dead Ahead. But where? We go nowhere else and nowhere fast, nowhere but and to
the barren seashore of plastic sacks,
the dissipated plane of chemical fields,
the depleted mountainside of the removal —
go to our total and ultimate dissolution.
Weather: What shudda been July becomes September, and the rain doesn't fall, the soil is hard and dusty and dry, and there's no relief on the immediate horizon. 89° fahrenheit at 16:22 hours.
The watcher weighs 186.6 pounds.
This 'un's been hard to come by. [one has] By that I mean I've been wantin' to write here since last Friday, visit the crow, but life took other twists 'n turns. Always does. It astonishes me how swiftly time seems to move now that I've entered the evening of my life.
My pal Dr. G. asked me, "What's this new dialect you're working with here?" I'd dropped him an e-mail note that said: come on c.g. .... i wuz just jokin' i never thot you didn't luv me :---|| i knows you be buzy man with re spons a bilities Nothing new here. Not so much a dialect, moreso the attempt to translate fragments of thought into shimmering web-bound words. Don't make no sense nohow. Merely playin' with language. i thot you didn't love me nomore, but now i no u do :-)))))) !!!!!!!!!!!! Droppin' the terminal g is a Southern thing. Broken syntax, text-based emoticons, and strings of exclamation points are standard fare in several places where I go to read. Breaking context and ignoring the linear movement of time fits the age. I answered Dr. G. to the effect that I know the language gudnuf to experiment. No big deal. Nuthin' new here.
If I ignore the equinox and astral calculations — O come on, the Sun is a star — I can claim: Autumn arrives. The moonflower vines graced the first day of September with its first blooms of the season, three spectacular white pentagrams, dramatic and fragrant. One hung three meters above the ground, its vine having crawled up the steel frame of the swing set and onto a lower limb of the red oak tree. If I'd been a moth on the first day of autumn, I'd a' flown to the vines under pale moonlight and shouted Hallelujah! in front of the fragrant visage of Ipomoea alba.
Admiring the moonflowers inspired me to count blessings [so to speak] and look to the triumphs and miracles of the garden as antidote to my dark tendency to dwell on losses. My Google+ friend roa' hamouda from the City of Angels, sending a shout-out re: my just-posted image of a first-day-of-autumn zinnia, reminded me about the importance of emotion to successful interaction with plants. "It's a very beautiful flower," she wrote. "And I like its story. I believe that flowers and plants in general interact with people through caring and attention as if they have minds or feelings or they sense human feelings."
The Google+ post:
Zinnia elegans | youth-and-old-age (the common zinnia)
1 September 2013 at Crow's Cottage
Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
My fellow gardeners will identify with this dilemma: Some flowers respond wonderfully to my care and attention, while others just refuse to perform no matter how much I nurture and coax them. The zinnia as a species annually baffles me, withering away all too soon in the growing season. This year I took a different approach, casually tossing some seeds onto the freshly turned soil of a wildflower bed and then stepping aside to watch them develop as they saw fit. My inattention earned the reward of a healthy, beautiful crop of zinnias — late bloomers alongside the usual late summer and early autumn flowers of the Rose of Sharon, gladiolus, morning glory, moonflower, and crepe myrtle. Sometimes the best solution to a gardening problem is to get out of the way and let Mother Nature do her thing.
So, taking the antidote....
The Prairie Sun black-eyed Susans withered, but the wild zinnias burst into glorious bloom.
The butter daisies up and died all of a sudden, but the crimson-and-white vincas planted in their place now present a cluster of swirls and whirlings.
The little sunflowers in pots passed, one-by-one, into memory, but the gladioli in pots on the gardener's worktable stand bright and cheerful, all a'bloom and amazing, tall splashes of orange, crimson, and scarlet.
Almost all of the dianthus have faded and fallen, but the first-year rose of Sharon bushes are a'burst with purple and mauve flowers.
Tuesday's dog fight, pitting brothers Ulysses and Gandalf against one another in fierce combat, reminded me of the fragile character of peace and tranquility, how quickly it can dissolve under sway of the vagaries of natural event and personality — human nature, animal nature, primal emotion emerging from the depths and springing into motion without notion of consequence — how just like that! the moment of calm passes into chaos.
Over a year, I think, since their last fight. They're brutal to one another. It was just after sunset when I heard the muted growling and shuffling sounds of struggle on the grass not far from the north face of Doghenge. The water hose was handy. A stout stream of water from the nozzle, set on jet and sprayed at their entangled snouts, and my sharp commands No! No! No! convinced them to break free of one another. With help from my true love Sadie Liz, we removed the slavering and bleeding hounds from one another's hot and sparkly space. She escorted Ulysses to the garage while I called Gandalf to the door of the studio.
Gandalf bled from under his left eye and beneath his snout. Otherwise, no serious damage. Sadie Liz found a puncture wound at the base of Ulysses' right ear. Otherwise, no serious damage. Both were drenched in water from the hose, their fur unruly and tangled. In our separate retreats we gently dried their fur with towels, all the while speaking softly to becalm them. Being the family medicine woman, Sadie Liz treated the wounds with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic ointment. Night had fully fallen before good order returned to the family.
Wednesday morning's light revealed more damage, not to the hounds but to plants and trees in the rampaging path of their combat. One of our white oak saplings, two years young, lay broken and beyond saving. One of the three central branches of the second-year gray dogwood was snapped and mangled. A buttonbush in a pot lay on its side with most of its leaves torn asunder. A third-year silver maple and a serviceberry sapling, both in pots, were overturned but not seriously harmed. As testament to the intensity of the dog fight, one of the twin concrete rabbits, stout and heavy, lay on its side, unbroken.
Such is life with Australian shepherd brothers, ensnared by instinct in pack rivalry. They are friends again today, both bearing scabs and scars. My wish: May this one stand as the last of their battles. May their dog fights come to an end.
Weather: Hotter than it should be and dry as a femur in the Valley of Dry Bones. 86° fahrenheit at 16:04 hours.
The watcher weighs 186.9 pounds.
Can it mean anything beyond the private space of vain reflection, this profane relic I found, the one displayed below, a string of captured thoughts, resurrected in dispassionate remembrance of H. K. and the times illustrated by her words? Is the act of remembering lost love also an act of disrespect to the sanctity of the one relationship that endures, counts, matters, canna never ever be supplanted or replaced? Don't think so wouldn't do it if'n I thought it might be so. There's a cadence to the language, a muted beauty in the dissonance — I'll claim it, true or not, it's mine. So I go back, add the caesura, string the spaces with commas like spaghetti under seasoned meat.
She called herself "Hell Kat" the social context and emotive value of words change erode morph but there's meaning somewhere to be found, airy and light though it becomes in the heaviness of today's judgmental retrospect
I'm waitin' on the day
when my life on the run
bleaches out in the sun
and shows my age
but I ain't on no run,
ain't runnin' away from nutin no more
it was so long ago I was a freshmen away from home at university she a junior in high school back home it couldn't last could it? my life crashing from booze — forty-six years later I'm just waitin' on the sun to fall one last time.
Blithely, almost in the manner of an aside,
H. K. wrote she would kill herself. I knew better.
It was high school drama. She was too centered at the core.
If anyone was gonna be dead anytime soon, I was me.
7:30 Thursday Nite 9/7/67
The rain is trickling down my roof, streams of water gushing down the gutters. I go outside & see a hazy shade of gray in the sky, look around and see windshield wipers swaying back 'n forth on the cars. Something hits me on the head. Oh! My Gosh the sky is fallin' !!!!!
Someone told me that all the freshmen have to wear little red beanies the first 3 weeks of school and on the front is written "suck"
Is that true? How do you look? Sure would like to see you in it!! Maybe it's just someone's personal opinion, insinuating that freshmen "suck!"
How's my baby today? How did ya like the letter I wrote ya yesterday! I thought it was pretty cool! Not really, it was shot, as are all the rest.
Tonite, I am writing you a letter first, then I'm doing my homework! Cause you come first before anything.
Right now I feel like going out and drowning myself in a gutter! That wouldn't solve anything!!!
Welp! my week-ends will be pretty shot this year & next. Damn I miss you. Do you miss me as much as I miss you?
Donna & Jackie got a new car! Corvair white '63 3-speed!! Pretty sharp lookin - but I don't know how it runs. I want you to come home. It is 15 days till the 22nd! 2 wks & 1 day! (from Thurs. nite) Please try to get home the 22nd Fri. nite! cause I'm gonna have a heart attack if you don't get your arss home.
I talked to Bob Y. today and he said The Merging Traffic would be playing after the Ark vs Texas game. Whenever the hell that is. In Nov. someday. All of a sudden I've gotten in a very depressed mood. Don't guess I ought to write ya when I'm in this mood, but you said not to keep stuff bottled up, so I'll just keep writing!!! Some of the things that are bothering me are, Aye just a bunch of nothing. The main thing is you! You said those guys said the girls leave the boys while they're at college. But I'm worried about you leaving me. You might meet some real cool girl & just quit writing & calling me. I mean just forget all about me. Then where would I be? in a _____. I don't know what I would do. I would kill myself I swear, cause I couldn't take it. Oh I just want to talk to you so bad. I don't want to write you while I'm depressed, but now you know what's troubling me so…! I'll finish writing when I feel better. I didn't get a letter today! So I'm depressed!!! No! Not really I'd just like to hear from ya!
Well how are you by this time. It's Thurs. nite & you were supposed to call, but you didn't, but it's only 8:15 so you may call yet. I'll keep my fingers crossed! How'd ya like the autobi. & the obit. The obit. wasn't too good. I can't remember, did I put a slug line on it? And I changed the lead to where it had around 20 words. Not too cool. Your stories from Wed & Thurs were cool, they really were!
Oh! Yes! I L - o - v - e you very much! By the way, why don't you ever say that in your letters????
Red = Groovy
Red = belongs to You
Red = lovin'
Didn't last much longer. I flunked out before the winter, joined the United States Army. Distance overwhelmed us. H. K. got a baby, got married. Things changed.
Can you hear them?
Engines powering the Industrial Revolution
sounded from afar in the South of 1880 —
distant, creaking sounds
like spokes of worn wagon wheels a haulin' cotton,
shrill whines from poorly oiled gears a spinnin' on power looms,
the weary tramp of feet and hooves
of a retreating army, theirs, defeated and crestfallen —
The Rebels, drifting home to a tattered culture.
"One must explore beyond the limits of economic factors to explain the industrial evolution of the South," my professor said. I'll admit right now: I'm editing the notes. For one, I can't recall the professor's name. If I find it I'll let you know. Maybe I'll come across a mention or a clue during the reading of my scribblings. Secondly, there's not a living soul to prove I didn't hear it just that way. Lastly, my notes are typically fragmented, while my present state of mind is sharply focused. I've just got to build on the framework given to me and dutifully recorded way back in the long ago.
"The New South," the course was called. Late winter through early spring of 1975. I was caught in the grip of strong drink, strong smoke, the usual existential confusion. It's a wonder anything survives. "It took about 15 years following the war before the South was ready to move decisively away from the agrarian to the industrial," he said. "The 1880s saw an influx of Northern capital and hence Northern control. It was the beginning of the South becoming" — yes, he said it that way — "an economic colony. By 1900 J. P. Morgan had gained control of the Southern iron industry. Morgan curtailed production in Southern ironworks to restrict supply and raise prices nationally. Northern capital also held most of the South's mineral wealth at the turn of the century. The exploitation of Southern labor was widespread."
The Mind of the South
Wilbur Joseph Cash (1900-1941)
1960 paperback | Vintage Books New York
Notes: Originally published in 1941 and never out of print, The Mind of the South "defined the way in which millions of readers — on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line — would see the South for decades to come," according to the editors of a 1991 Vintage Books imprint. Topics include an investigation of the Southern class system and assessments of race relations, religion, and romanticism. "W. J. Cash's one and only book is a whirlwind of generalizations, sweeping assumptions, daring, risky contentions, personal and passionate arguments.… It is a book of ideas, big ideas that roll thunderously over the quieter shores hugged by historians," Bruce Clayton wrote in The Mind of the South: Fifty Years Later (1992 University Press of Mississippi Oxford).
"Standing against the Northern takeover were tobacco barons Reynolds and Duke, who managed fight off Northern takeover attempts and retain control of their lucrative business," the professor said. "Both, however, aped the capitalist tactics of their Northern brothers. Many industrialists and planters at the time contended that the South had to be 'Yankeeized' in order to develop economically. But the presence of carpetbaggers and Yankee capital, coupled with widespread poverty and survival wages, raised deep concerns about the rise of radicalism and attendant social instability. Some compared problems associated with converting the South into an industrial economy to problems related to abolition of slavery in the pre-war years."
Adherents of the New South philosophy spoke out against Northern attitudes portraying southerners as closed-minded and opposed to Yankee involvement. Politicians, industrialists, and writers from both sides of the divide embraced the idea of Southern industrialism and the propaganda of progress. William D. 'Pig Iron' Kelley, a labor activist, U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania, and founding member of the Republican Party, advocated for mineral development and iron ore mining in the Southern states. The Manufacturers' Record Magazine, published in Baltimore, championed the business interests of the South. Another capitalist propaganda rag, the professor said, was launched under the masthead The Tradesman by publisher "William W. Yonge."
A notice in the "New Publications" section of the January 1890 edition of The Manufacturer and Builder, a New York magazine, heaps praise on The Tradesman, a semi-monthly periodical published in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and available by post at $2 per annum. The notice reads:
The spirit of progress has thoroughly permeated and vivified our neighbors south of the imaginary line that figuratively is supposed to separate the North from the South. The people of that section at length seem to have become fully alive to the fact that they have, as their inheritance, the most fertile and the richest portion of the country, and they are making such admirable use of their opportunities, that the progress they are making is a wonder even to this land of phenomenally rapid development. The press of the South has deserved well of its people in the admirable manner in which it has stimulated the great work of industrial development, and among the most enterprising, intelligent and enthusiastic of the journals that have dedicated themselves to this work, The Tradesman stands conspicuous.
My professor's mention of "William W. Yonge" as founder of The Tradesman led to some puzzlement today. I have no reason to dissent, despite my fruitless search to find any mention of Mr. Yonge in the historical records available to me. Maybe I spelled it incorrectly. I did find mention of George W. Ochs (1861-1931), brother of the publisher of The Chattanooga Times, who, according to a web page maintained by the Chattanooga Mayor's Office (a dot gov web), became managing editor of The Tradesman in 1884.
That's it. Bed time. A day's labors done. Maybe I'll continue the narrative again sometime. Matters not. It ain't valid history, merely a record of a day in the life of my solitary journey. Who's reading anyhow?
Weather: Too darn hot. Too dusty dry. 78° fahrenheit at 21:49 hours.
The watcher weighs 190.8 pounds.
On the surface I see order, but beneath is chaos. Participants in the feast continually remake their persona, changing the playbill of the masque to offer-up for approval right now the latest greatest picture of an ego on display. Like it, One-Plus it, don't be cruel. Can I bring my pompous self to make real the players, click the icons, recognize each as a conscious thinking object? "I've made a discovery," Kipling wrote in The Light That Failed. "There's too much Ego in my Cosmos."
Are we One? Not and never. We as a rowdy organization of citizens, hundreds of millions strong, give credence to our notion of unity through concepts of nationalism, civil identity, a shared set of enemies, supposed economic opportunities, the physical realities of borderlines. Know this: The enforcers in uniform are alway' on patrol. Know this: The bureaucrats sit ever ready to decide. So be it. I must be someone out there. I am the American. I have papers to prove it. I am willful, willing.
Today, like Monday, I return to an imagined moment at the end of U.S.A.'s War of Rebellion and ask: Where did we stand in 1865? The strands of thought in search of answers extend pre- and pro- all the way to the ago, all the way to now.
"The sinews of real union were present," Professor Timothy Donovan (1927-1990) said in 1974. The republic at war's end consisted of 36 states and nine organized territories with a population estimated at 36 million — overwhelmingly rural with only one in seven residing in towns of over 8,000. Rails for the choo-choo trains extended as far west as Missouri. Otherwise, the Way West was by foot, horseback, wagon train. Like riot squads in Oakland and Newark à la 2013, the people back then were restless, needed somewhere to go. So they lumbered and lurched ahead, all the way to today. I can prove it. I'm here. But there's no way you can know.
"The people were fat, a condition accentuated by heavy clothing," the professor said. "Most were young. Children were considered an economic asset, so with each new census the population more than doubled. Adult mortality rates were high. Tuberculosis was the great killer of the times, striking adults in their late 20s and early 30s. Most Americans were native-born. The white majority came chiefly from three categories: English, Scotch-Irish, and Rennish-German. Each formed a separate, common-to-the-group set of values and attitudes." Among The Others, one in eight were of African origin — most of that number were former slaves living in the eleven rebel states of the just-defeated Confederacy.
What about the Germans? "They settled in the rural Midwest. They were Republicans, conventional European liberals, hard-working, public-spirited, accepted." And the Irish? "The Irish were a despised minority, poor, uneducated, aggressively Catholic. They congregated in cities to become an exploited workforce." Mass immigration of the Irish began in the 1840s during the Great Famine — no more potatoes — and continued in significant numbers for about 15 years after the War of Rebellion. By the 1880s the pattern had changed with most new Americans arriving from the south and east of Europe.
"Fundamentalism dominated among religious-minded folk," the professor said. "Old Time Religion was based on unquestioning acceptance of the fundamentals of Christianity in an unaggressive manner. Only one in 18 Americans were Roman Catholic." The average citizen could claim less than three years of formal education in a nation with only 300 public high schools. "Despite the poor state of public education, illiteracy was on the way out everywhere except in the South."
Following the professor's lead, we identify one major segment of our study by the name The Age of Darwinism in America, beginning in 1865 and ending arbitrarily in 1893. We gotta call it something, right? No doubt Dr. D. found good reason to name it such I just canna remember I was stoned half the time and way too drifty. Professor Donovan offered a few "generalizations," saying: "The period has been called the Gilded Age, the Age of the Great Barbeque, the Age of the Plutocrats, the Age of the Robber Barons, the Brown Decades. It is usually characterized as an ugly time, an American baroque filled with gargoyles and cupolas. But it was an age of great vigor, aesthetically and politically ugly, yes, but also an age of enormous energy. It was violent, especially concerning labor. Many old and established families were pushed out of power. It was an age of Victorian prudery rather than morality, outward conformity tainted by inner corruption — and the golden age for houses of prostitution."
The antipodes of progress and poverty exhilarated and dogged the times. "Would the U.S. become a class-oriented society?" the professor said. "Who and how many would be cut-in on the growing affluence? Social attitudes began to be questioned and examined from within. Thinkers asked: Is the rural life the best? The movement of people from rural to urban dramatically changed the character of the nation. By 1920, the census will show that more people will live in cities, but by 1890 the majority of Americans were already dependent on the power and influence of the cities."
Professor Donovan's "course requirements" included "reading a thousand to fifteen-hundred pages from ten to 15 books." The primary text was Merle Curti's The Growth of American Thought. The reading list, eclectic in tone and wide ranging in scope, intrigued me at the time, but then I've always been smitten by ideas and imaginings. The Crescent City, mysticism, natural selection and evolution, sensational newspapers, black power, the wilderness, the City of Angels, science fiction — man-O-man what might I learn! Now, thirty-nine years later, my professor's reading list retains intellectual currency. Most of the books can be found on university library shelves today. Eight of the writers have passed, including Dr. Curti and Dr. Hofstadter, who were already gone by the time our class convened.
The Growth of American Thought
by Merle Curti (1897-1966)
Third Edition | 1964 Harper & Row New York
Notes: The first edition was published in 1943 and won the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1944. Dr. Curti ended his career as professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Today I found an e-book of the third edition on Google play and purchased it at $15.38 to read on my Nexus 7.
Paths of American Thought
Edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) and Morton White (1917- )
1963 Houghton Mifflin Company Boston
Notes: 29 essays by 26 authors, including Edmund S. Morgan, Louis Hartz, Richard Chase, Donald Meyer, Dwight L. Dumond, Donald Fleming, Max Lerner, Alfred Kazin, and Richard Hofstadter.
American Mysticism: From William James to Zen
Hal Bridges (1919-2010)
1970 Harper & Row New York
Notes: Rufus Jones, Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, Abraham Joshua Hershel, and Thomas Kelly are examined in Dr. Bridges' text. Alan Watts, Suzuki, Vivekananda, and Philip Kapleau are also discussed.
An Informal History of Bohemianism in America
Emily Hahn (1905-1997)
1967 Houghton Mifflin Company Boston
Notes: Carefree spirits guided by good taste and passionate feelings… Rebels and nonconformists… Arrant gypsy vagabonds with an attitude… The counter-culture in America emerged in New York City's cafe society of old Broadway and the Village in the 1840s, surviving with ebb and flow into the Beat Movement of the 1950s. Ms. Hahn's survey introduces an eclectic cast of eccentrics, social and artistic pioneers, audacious personalities, and talented outcasts: actors, painters, poets, sculptors, journalists, novelists, musicians, and other American originals. Written in the informal style of journalism, Romantic Rebels begins its survey in New York but expands its reach to San Francisco, New Orleans, Santa Fe, and other vortices of Bohemianism. The narrative includes biographical sketches of Ada Clare, Bret Harte, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, Isadora Duncan, Lafcadio Hearn, Mabel Dodge, and Amy Lowell.
Darwin and the Modern World View
John C. Greene (1917- )
1961 Louisiana State University Press Baton Rouge
Notes: A succinct monograph focusing on three areas of inquiry: Darwin and the Bible, Darwin and natural theology, and Darwin and social science.
The Yellow Press and Gilded Age Journalism
Sidney Kobre (1907-1995)
1964 Florida State University Press Gainesville
Notes: A survey of prominent U.S. newspapers, editors, and writers between 1865 and 1900.
Social Darwinism in American Thought, 1860-1915
Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970)
1944 University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia
Notes: Reviewers describe Hofstadter's text as "a classic study" and a "major analysis" of Darwinism's influence on the intellectual movements of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. The ideas of Social Darwinist William Graham Sumner, critic Lester Ward, and British philosopher Herbert Spencer play a prominent role in Hofstadter's analysis. "Social Darwinism has had an impact matched by few books of its generation," Eric Froner wrote in the Introduction of the 1992 Beacon Press edition. "Hofstadter did not invent the term social Darwinism, which originated in Europe in the 1880s and crossed the Atlantic in the early twentieth century. But before he wrote, it was used only on rare occasions; he made it standard shorthand for a complex of late-nineteenth-century ideas, a familiar part of the lexicon of social thought."
City on a Hill:
A History of Ideas and Myths in America
Loren Baritz (1928-2010)
1964 John Wiley & Sons New York
Notes: Baritz discusses the importance of Puritanism, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism on the development of the American intellect and analyzes the influence of John Winthrop, John Adams, John Taylor of Caroline, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Herman Melville.
Wilderness and the American Mind
Roderick Frazier Nash (1939- )
1967 Yale University Press New Haven
Notes: A pioneer in the field of environmental studies, Nash chronicles the emergence of the ethic of wilderness preservation and surveys America's changing attitudes toward wilderness. Highly successful and critically acclaimed, Wilderness and the American Mind, now in its fourth edition, remains an influential classroom text. Dr. Nash wrote his PhD dissertation under the direction of Merle Curti.
Black Power U.S.A.:
The Human Side of Reconstruction, 1867-1877
Lerone Bennett Jr. (1928- )
1967 Johnson Publishing Company Chicago
Notes: A popular Pelican edition from Penguin Books was published in 1969 to satisfy demand for a university-level text.
New Orleans in the Gilded Age:
Politics and Urban Progress, 1880-1896
Joy L. Jackson (1928-1996)
1969 Louisiana State University Press Baton Rouge
Notes: Topics include the city's history, the politics of municipal government, the influence of powerful New Orleans families, the unique role of the Crescent City in popular culture, and the carnival traditions of Mardi Gras.
The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930
Robert M. Fogelson (1937- )
1967 Harvard University Press Cambridge
Notes: Charting the City of Angels' progress from pueblo to town to major city, Mr. Fogelson writes "the definitive account of what is perhaps the most fascinating single story in American urban history: the rise of Los Angeles," according to Robert Fishman in his Foreword to the 1993 paperback edition published by the University of California Press.
American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century
H. Bruce Franklin (1934- )
1966 Rutgers University Press New Brunswick
Notes: Mr. Franklin's critical study of science fiction transformed the genre into a subject of serious scholarly study. "Critics, science fiction writers, scientists, and scholars throughout the world hailed the original publication of Future Perfect in 1966 as a book that would transform our evaluation of science fiction and our understanding of American culture," writes Google Books. "The praise has proved well founded, for Future Perfect has been more responsible than any other single work for the recognition of the value and significance of science fiction."
Weather: Very warm but not ridiculously hot. No rain for some time now. 71° fahrenheit at 23:58 hours.
The watcher weighs 190.0 pounds.
Complexity, simplicity, the balance of justice. The Eucharist, a narrow gate, the mystery of the minimum. This is the day of beginnings.
First, the thinkers fell under sway of Darwinism (I) — a swinging stroke upon the binding of the Church. You fishes all, and each thing else, that here have any sway. After a while, science supplanted theology, and cuffs of hemp unraveled on the divine bind, and the vines of a hybrid curled upward to the crystal pinnacle, the walls of glass and the gray lead cames, it was so clear and secretly radioactive, you could see through the walls to the Sun, and a lending library emerged to supplant the call of the sanctus What do we? So the thinkers turned away (II) from the dead Darwin, having ensured his legacy — it was 1882 when they put the old scientist in the ground, a mere fortnight after the outlaw James fell to a hot slug shot from a Colt it was a muddy street in Saint Joseph, a Missouri town christened to honor the husband of Our Blessed Mother, and some claim the old man came to Jesus at the end — and embraced pragmatism, progressivism. Not old Darwin, don't get me wrong, he was dead and gone by then it was a long sentence I meant to say it was society's thinkers a doin' the embracin', evolving after the gnawing victory of natural selection. They evolved. Newly enamored of the practical and the material, the thinkers aligned their minds with the makers of useful objects, put a structure of thought around the engines of industry, surged forward into realignments, a great war, the ideology of consumption. Down below, the deft manipulators of the archetype, they called 'em admen, sold the goods on Marconi's crackling waves everthang that weren't tied down. At the last (III) — we pick a range, set it, 1929 to 1974, the only way through this mess — the thinkers sought to understand the transformation of the one thing into branches of cultural pluralism, stranglehold of white men loosening with a rush of procreation by the others, a flood of strange folk a comin' in. Everyone needed a fresh and liberating identity, but it was a salvage operation devoted to a broken mold. There you have it: 1865 to 1974. I, II, and III. They did. It's done. My notebook ends. there they that and done
Weather: Hot and humid like an average summer day in the Ozarks. 75° fahrenheit at 22:47 hours. No rain in sight.
The watcher weighs 192.3 pounds.
Maybe the contemplation of flowers
draws into its bosom the wounded,
the ones among us, like me,
who've withdrawn from the fray
to live in private places,
where no one comes of a summer eve.
No one to mitigate my sorrow.
Maybe the bud and bloom, leaf and seed
soothe us with wanton wonder
rooted but whirling,
impassive but tender,
defined by seasons but eternal
in the infinite beauty they imbue.
I canna' fathom
the depths of my Creator's grace,
granting me a moment in the garden,
when curved staves rock on ancient stones,
back and forth, back and forth,
and the fireflies beam beacons in the air
between my mortality and the slow sap
of the tulip poplar, the oaks.
Crimson and yellow are the blooms
of vinca, butter daisy, the marigold.
Elderly coneflowers fade from purple to gray.
The colors deepen,
tumble like shootin' stars
into an indigo sky a fallin'.
So dark it grows—my pencil's lead
not sharp, not clear on the parchment.
I hear the motor of the world,
And tree frogs a trillin',
and distant dogs, calling out:
Comes the night! Comes the night!
O flowers! How dim ye be, motionless
in my windless deepening dusk.
I become blind.
I remember crimson, yellow, the Light.
∞ ∞ ∞
Weather: Seasonable. 71° fahrenheit at 23:59 hours.
The watcher weighs 192.0 pounds.
The hair trigger on the Drone of Taking Offense — you can see the infernal machine flyin' everywhere above the Internet — is likely to go off at a moment's notice here on the World Wide Web. It's no problem, I suppose, to be fired at when one's intent is to provoke and be disagreeable. However, when the hair trigger is pulled and the drone's weapon is fired directly at me… when I meant no offense and sought no discord.… when the attack is intensely personal and o so anguished.… that's a stout verbal bullet to absorb. Force fields at the ready alway' here in cyberland.
And man O man did I ever tickle the trigger finger! Got the broadside, too. Mixing metaphors, yes — sky 'n sea: Blast!
Hours pass. Sigh. Better things to think about. Another rain shower late last night. Eight-tenths of an inch in the gauge this morn. Over three inches during the past week! Response from the flora to the water of life is awesome: greener leaves with a deeper tone and texture, scores of promising new buds breaking forth on the annuals and perennials, higher reach toward the heavenlies by the grasses, strengthened stature of trunks and branches.
The rains also rouse the Resurrection Lilies from their long slumber. By the dozens they are emerging in the gardens: some along the back fence, some at the eastern edge of the Tai Chi yard, some close to the lane in the yucca yard, a few in the circular bed of the old-growth red oak in the central arboretum. A few are already a half-foot tall with buds showing signs of bursting forth into the sunshine. Not long and they'll be in full flower.
I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't bring this post to fruition by completing the tale that got me started today, that of the attack upon my psyche by the Drone of Taking Offense. I do so for the record and to get the matter off my plate and into the archives. It's instructive of the thorny tone and tenor that sometimes invades web-based communication and also fits a theme I'm developing in this here journal.
Yesterday's entry from my perch beside Oksob in the Opposite Loft delt with a trialogue 'tween me, Angela, and Antoinette. It is recorded under the date July 29. I signed off for the night with a sense of accomplishment, thinking I'd made a new online friend in Angela while paying good respect to the ideas raised by Antoinette. But, back online this morning: Blast! I was waylaid by the trigger finger from Norway.
A*****ette wrote: [I deploy the asterisks because I promised I'd n'er mention her again.]
I have read your blog, though I have just a few moments because of much work here. I have to paint the house before summer has gone. It is hard work.
If you would have read all the comments in the community, as you say you have, then you would have read that I am not able to answer on any post (at the moment) because of this.
I did it anyhow, in the few moments left.
Now you accuse me not to have answered your new answer on my answer.
I did not have the time.
But you accuse me.
I am highly sensitive and notice more than others. When I say that I sense that you underestimate Monsanto then this is not just out of the blue. I read it. In your words. You cannot save the bees by planting flowers for those who are left.
Monsanto is in my full attention, and if you would have read more you would have found my Healing Nature community and page, where I speak about it, add videos and explain. I wrote to the EU, I post answers on important issues about Monsanto.
I even talked about it in the community Wild Flowers.
You may name yourself spiritual. I do not consider you as spiritual.
You are too quick judging.
Go on on your path of learning and do not ask me what I can do, or you can do.
Ask yourself what YOU can do yourself to stop Monsanto.
We ALL have to do that.
I have a fair and serious request: I do not allow you to mention my name in your blog anymore, nor on google+.
Because your information is one sided, narrow minded and accusing without reason.
Going out to DO something. I work.
There you have it. Told off, up front and center, for the sorry running dog I surely am. Wounded but not defeated, I pondered my response. I reviewed my Google+ profile, couldn't find any reference to naming myself spiritual. The answer on answer on answer charge sort of baffled me — I thought I was telling her she had the right to ignore me, that I expected nothing in response. And the notion that I might actually do something. Me? The aimless wastrel of Crow's Cottage. Doing stuff online and all when I could be painting a house or healing somebody of their disease of conceit.
As for Monsanto, I thought I'd tore them a new ar**hole in a 'round about way. I cudda said G o G i r l ! Monsanto sucks! :) :) :) !!! They're a bunch of sorry bee killing multinational globalist capitalist pigs. [which they are] R i g h t o n s i s t e r !
My mistake, I realized, was failing to identify a fanatic. In the fanatic's universe there's no space for disagreement, no matter how diplomatically or gently the antithesis may be stated. Shoddy discernment on my part. Who am I to expect a decent dialectic? Water flowing over rock, I replied:
Sorry I offended you, A*****ette. That was not my intent. I thought I was honoring you by taking you seriously. That you took this personally is to my dismay and failure. Irony, I suppose, is fraught with unexpected pitfalls.
But so be it. I accept your admonition and shall ne'r mention you again.
No flame wars today. The Drone of Taking Offense runs low on jet fuel, turns away for its return flight to base. But it shall strike again. And then again. The ammunition is all too cheap, the surface consequence of aggression negligible or downright non-existent. So many hover in here with me, with you — so many of them are eager to be offended, quick on the trigger of attack, too tender for words. Force fields at the ready alway' here in cyberland. We are snared in the shimmering tangles of an unpredictable web. Wanna ride with me on the brazen cars, walk into the white breast of a dim sea, abandon this place once 'n for all? Where might we go?
Weather: Rain glorious rain! Almost an inch fell overnight. The cool summer continues. Thunder again in the hour before midnight. 75° fahrenheit at 23:33 hours.
The watcher weighs 191.8 pounds.
Angela, a naturalist and artist from Minnesota, sent a photograph and attached this message:
"I've been so worried about the lack of bees I'm seeing in my yard and garden this year — even less than last. Tonight I was relieved to see that there's at least one place left that seems to be happily buzzing with the usual amounts! They especially seemed to love this large patch of Swamp Milkweed. This was taken at Iron Springs Bog Scientific and Natural Area in northern Minnesota, just north of the headwaters to the Mississippi."
Antoinette, a naturopath and teacher from central Norway, replied:
"Happy with you about the bees, and worried at the same time. Bees are disappearing worldwide.
"Monsanto is also responsible for the bee deaths," Antoinette continued. "Monsanto is a chemical company that has started to produce manipulated seeds. Monsanto developed Agent Orange during the Vietnam war where the population is still suffering from. They create pesticides (based on Agent Orange) that are utterly aggressive for nature, and those anti-life pesticides are often already put on the seeds before sowing (which makes the whole plant toxic). The poison goes everywhere: in soil, plants, animals, water, etc. Monsanto, along with some other chemical companies, are responsible for what they create: a global famine — and it would not surprise me if they would suddenly present then a 'solution' (do understand the cynicism here) that will make the bees no longer needed. More and more we grow into a by-multinationals-ruled world. Sterile, unnatural, inhuman."
Thoughtful, anecdotal observation followed by political commentary:
Not an unusual juxtaposition, but striking to me because the two posts appeared on the "Wild Flower" Community page within the forever scrolling social web Google+, not your typical venue for discussion. Social media is a visual gathering place where content seldom penetrates into textual dimensions much deeper than an aside or a fragment, maybe two. Ever hopeful, I thought Why not? — and engaged:
Hi Angela and Antoinette....
It's so nice to read some chat 'round here. I love the pictures, but sometimes we need to talk, too.
Here at Crow's Cottage we enjoy the company of a fair number of happy bees. I'm pretty sure they're happy 'cause I hear them singing amongst the buds and blossoms. They feast on the habitat we steward for their nourishment. The big bumblers especially like the marigolds, the white fleabane, and the various expressions of Rudbeckia. The little honeybees — some are probably hoverflies, Eupeodes americanus — flit and feed everywhere on all kinds of bright and dewy blooms. In the Yucca Yard out front beside the lane, I've allowed the Queen Anne's lace — Daucus carota, the wild carrot — to grow into a wilding playground for all the buzzers and bumblers, crawlers and leapers.
As for the Monsantos, a family apart, they don't come 'round here. They live in other neighborhoods on the far side of the karst hollow, live in vast places where capitalist farmers, tethered to the corporate yoke, toil their fields in the great machines of commerce. They don't have very many bees, I'm told, but they don't honor them, either.
Angela, I'm glad to receive your report about the buzzing bees at the milkweed patch along the upper Mississip'. Let's enjoy their presence … where we live … while we can.
For a while, Angela, Antoinette, and I were writing simultaneously in our far-flung rooms. The next Google+ post to arrive at Wild Flowers was Angela's to Antoinette:
"I share your feelings on Monsanto — I find the power they wield truly terrifying."
Then Antoinette, attaching a link to a YouTube video entitled "Murder of the HoneyBee 2," wrote:
"Hi Ebenezer.... I notice that you have heard about Monsantos, but I read in your answer also that you underestimate the influence of Monsanto on the food industry, on all what grows and humanity needs to live. The threat is huge."
Seven minutes later, a post from Angela appeared addressed to me:
"I agree! I love having the ability to get to talk to like-minded people from all over.
"We began renting the place we live now (having previously owned a little sustainable farm) a couple of years ago, and right away I started filling the corners up with flowers and seeding the lawn with chamomile and clover, but I'm just astonished at the lack of insects around here, especially bees. Guess it's time to plant the buckwheat — if that doesn't bring them in, I can't imagine anything will!"
Now I was engaged. The quest to communicate from my black-cherry slab here in the cottage oft becomes psychically invigorating — as if I'm actually having an effect on things. So goes the illusion. In retrospect, I'm also not surprised that the trialogue ended here. There are limits to how far a social web can carry a discussion. The pace is swift in the electric channels of Google+, ephemeral and prone to sudden disengagement. But I'll ne'r give up. Never! Somewhere along the infinite set of dots shall come a conversation that lasts.
I wrote first to Antoinette, who had issued a mild 'n friendly challenge related to perception and tactics, contending I'd underestimated the influence of Monsanto:
I underestimate nothing about power. I just wasn't eager to engage in an impotent rant when the best antidote for the individual is right here in my own backyard where the flora grows. I'm not going to let the Monsantos live rent free in my Spirit. There's plenty of freeloaders already in residence here in the Opposite Loft.
When you figure out how to stop the Monsantos and their kindred brethren in the kevlar-and-steel web of global corporate capitalism, please let me know. I'll take the information and do what I can. In the meanwhile, I'll tend to my gardens, drink honey with my coffee, and enjoy the music of the bees.
Writing spontaneously for a web forum almost always helps keep my mind sharpened like graphite on a designated point, my awareness attuned to rumblings and risings from the common weal. Themes arise of a moment, unexpectedly. I pause to think about the suddenly appearing theme, gather a few pertinent ideas, consider what might be said, and then enter into the act of composition. OK, I get it: I'm not saying any of this is profound, poetic, or original to the core. But it nudges the day toward some upward measure of accomplishment. It makes a record where there was none. I'll contend to the end that a writer is one who writes. And today I live my life. And my life is part of the Universal. And on and on.
But where was I? Yes. Wildflowers, Monsanto, the bees.…
So, next.... I wrote to Angela:
Your steps to plant habitat for the insects in your neighborhood seem the ideal solution for the moment at hand. Provide enough nourishment for them, and the bees shall come. Here in the Ozark highlands, two families in my little circle of sharers tend to hives that are presently flourishing. Another is interested in the prospect. These are the necessary and healing smallholders, family farmers and naturalists devoted to sustaining and enriching the natural world.
I wonder, too, about the insect population and its health, whether I should pay heed to the climate of fear permeating our international discussion about relations between humankind and the natural world. Prophets of doom are given a loud voice nowadays. So many voices out there are telling me the world goes crooked along the path.
I've heard the doomsday predictions about bees, but those predictions are tied to the concept of mass pollination by great swarms of tightly managed bees — owned and amortized bees marshaled for the profit of mega-corporate fruit, berry, and nut farms in Florida, California, and other vortices of industrial agriculture. It may be true that the industrialized world's supply of bees is threatened with extinction. The only solution I know is to nourish the bees living in my environs by providing suitable habitat and refusing to tend my gardens with synthetic chemicals, especially herbicides and insecticides.
What I've discovered about insects: They're here, but I seldom slow down and take the time to look for them. This past week I've seen dragonflies, bees, grasshoppers, moths, caterpillars, stink bugs, midges, red wasps, flies, a walking stick, daddy long-legs, five or six species of spider, crickets, black and red beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, and couple of six-legged critters whose names aren't yet known to me.
Clover helps so much. I sow white clover twice a year. Bees love it, and clover roots add nitrogen to the soil. In the early spring I sow crimson clover in the wildflower beds. The crimson clover flowers are gorgeous, the green and rounded clover leaves ripe with the promise of good fortune.
Your plan for buckwheat sounds delicious! And I, too, enjoy the ability to visit with like-mined folk from the world over.
That's all she wrote. I never heard back from Antoinette, Angela, or anyone else. They and The Others owe me nothing. Silence from the other side is commonplace here. I've learned to overcome momentary disappointment and the deeper implications of alienation by following one personal truth: Expect nothing on the web other than its presence on the screen during the moment at hand. They owe me nothing.
Weather: Awesomely cool with heavy clouds rolling slowly across the skies in great, leisurely circles. 78° fahrenheit at 21:45 hours. A soft rain begins to fall about an hour after sunset.
The watcher weighs 191.0 pounds.
The setting and rising of the sun wields unyielding power on manifestation, or its opposite, [which is] purposeless impotence. A promise, a goal, unrequited love: kept or broken, met or unrealized, gained at last! or ne'r reciprocated in the gloomy and private recesses of the rejected lover's misery. I make a list, check it, cross off an item. I do what I said I'd do, resolve the conflict of conscience. As for love, at the last, in the evening of days, it is fully realized.
For where went they?
They passed by streams of Ocean,
and by the White Rock,
By the Gates of the Sun,
and the People of Dreams.
Hye Kye! Now who wouldn't want to go there, to any of those places — down dark ways into eternal lands, free from all guile?
White rock. White stone. What metaphorical and symbolic differences 'tween rock and stone? Does parsing the language so tightly yield answers? May be not rock — it's a slow cadence — and not stone, but a pebble, or a pillar of marble, or a precious diamond engraved with the name of the Redeemer. I slice away as many words as I can, slivers of pale pear and crimson strawberry on the glass chopping block, sugar on soda-lime, too many meanings and contradictions arriving at the same time. Makes a ruckus.
The white stone is a known symbol for a new name, a spiritual name bestowed by the adeptus unto the seeker, announcing arrival at a secret place hitherto concealed by the cataract of fear. "To the one who overcometh I will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no one knows except the one who receiveth it," states The Revelation of Saint John the Divine (2:17). The words are printed in red ink on a thin page, not quite opaque.
He realizes the folly of his endeavor. He does. But he soldiers on, refusing to abandon the pursuit of accomplishment despite no-count paltry talent. Words are words, moving across the line.
In the time of Thrice-Greatest Hermes, the White Rock above the Wall and the Palisade stood at the place where the high tides of Ocean entered into heaven, giving birth to mighty gods, overcoming death — hope on hope, hope on hope.
Jack K. gave me the white stone, a river pebble, under the golden, falling sun of a late summer afternoon three decades ago. I see him clearly, standing with me on asphalt beside trees, talking about possibilities, the both of us roaring with nicotine and caffeine from Lucky Strikes and coffee. My elder, my teacher, Jack told me to put the stone in my pocket, keep it there every day until I understood its purpose. I can't remember when I stopped putting the stone in my pocket because the timelines are amorphous now — they shimmer, wavy like compressed video — but I kept the stone in a special place among treasures, keep it there this evening. And I overcame. I learned to read the writing on the stone.
Weather: The drought, which crept upon us after a wet spring, is broken, again, by the falling of one-and-a-half inches of rain in the darkness of Tuesday night, falling in periodic gushes before and after midnight. They tell us it will be unseasonably cool for some days ahead. I rejoice. 73° fahrenheit at 22:37 hours.
The watcher weighs 190.7 pounds.
An image transmits emotion. The emotion stands outside the literal nature of the original, becoming an analogy of the absolute. "What goes into the creative work is selected by the artist from his surroundings for the construction of his model of reality — it is not a simple replica," Viktor Shklovsky wrote. "It is unique. It is a reflection in which the features of the perceived thing are juxtaposed in the dissimilarity."
Nothing can be done to make you understand. The estrangement is permanent. The New South Movement was an industrial philosophy more than anything else, unlike…. No. Can't do that. Too crazy. Too much Mayakovsky with the morning coffee. It already makes no sense at all - ever - never again. Why introduce textual anarchy? Unlike the various Old South movements toward industrial independence, the New South planter class embraced an industrialism to be sustained by the new order. Slaves no more, blacks provided cheap labor and prevented unionization. OK. There. I did it. Order flees.
These regrets flyin' down from the Opposite Loft don't enfeeble me. They just remind me of what I cudda done better, even if — ax² + bx + c = 0 — the reasons for my disappointment are embedded in the long ago. Sometimes it's not what I did but what I didn't do. Taking away civil rights and segregating the races were the actions of the Redeemers. The industrialization of the South provided for real segregation. A fleeting "colored alliance" among farmers was swiftly quashed.
Russian Formalism, New Criticism, French Structuralism — from the 1920s to the 30s, from the 1940s to the 50s, from the 1950s to the 60s — gets all jumbled up in the whirling, the hot cylinder. Tom Watson of Georgia was the great Populist leader. Black and white farmers must stand together or be fleeced separately, he shouted. And the farmers listened. Me? It's another case of ostranenie. I'm habitually defamiliarized. The success of Watson's message roused the Redeemer planters to action. Ni**er lover! Reprobate! The tumbler, the tingler, the monster on the back of your neck — springs upon you like a stroke, like a ripped-open jugular. A brutal image. Those were brutal times. Watson's movement posed the greatest 19th century threat to the Redeemer leadership. The threat of the Populists goaded the Redeemers to look past race into the divisive potential of class. They recognized that in addition to blacks, poor whites also must be held down. Hence the poll tax.
Jim Crow / Black Codes = zero sum game
The Redeemer planters managed to retain control.
I wish I'd a gone to class every time, gone there straight instead of stoned, listened with a focused mind instead of a fractured stream of consciousness. I wish it'uda been different. I do.
This is what I heard just before the bell rung,
14,431 days ago:
It wasn't Reconstruction, but the Redeemers who shaped the New South creed. The new order was a caste system, relegating the blacks at the bottom without rights of citizenship, civil rights, and equal protection of law. They were excluded from skilled crafts and denied ownership of land. Between 1900 and 1910, most Southern states adopted primary systems for elections. Negroes were not allowed to participate as the white primary emerged — blacks were allowed to vote only in general elections under protection of federal law. Often, the date of a state's general election was changed to avoid conflict with the federal election, effectively banishing the black vote in races close to home. Given the relative prosperity of the first decade of the 20th century, many white tenant and yeoman farmers were able to pay their poll tax and vote. The New South became a very bad place, a colony of the North in which apathy ruled.
Weather: Thunderstorms after sunfall. 72° fahrenheit at 22:32 hours.
The watcher weighs 189.9 pounds.
Published a photograph and commentary by a new contributor to the Glossary and Compendium yesterday. We connected via Google+. I admire Mark O's images, asked him to join our little online community at CornDancer — and lo! he did. Here's the link to his first photo essay for Crow's Cottage:
Mark O presents a mysterious online persona. I'm not one to pry, so I haven't yet learned where he lives, though I'm guessing somewhere in the British Isles. A person can reveal much, or nearly nothing about their particulars on Google+ — and Mark O chooses to keep his identity close to the vest. He shares a sequential collage of beautiful images — and protests, "I am not a photographer," in reply to praise — and writes courteous and precise comments in response to the compliments he receives in posts — and frankly, he projects a cyber-charisma I've rarely encountered during my long-enough ride on the infinite timeline of the World Wide Web.
In its purest sense — the other-than-commercial sense, the this-ain't-no-hustle-or-scam sense — social media bring folks together in wholesome and friendly forums devoted to sharing and self-realization. As participants in circles and groups, among friends and acquaintances and strangers, we create a ceaseless flow of content -- with each fragment rooted in the desire to break through the veil of isolation from others and make a meaningful connection.
I want to mean something to the mysterious and alluring world beyond this flattened screen. I want to matter. Don't you? My life, your life, the lives of others begin to converge along novel avenues of self-expression and communal realization. Cultures, localized events, and ruling passions previously hidden to us are illuminated and revealed.
Cynics and fear-mongers be damned. OK, be damned is much too strong, so I take it back. Be ignored then. So what if social media is absolutely, to-the-core fragmented. So what if its formats encourage narcissism. Neither of those drawbacks are destructive or malign, but rather instructive and benign.
Although the engines driving social media are ruthlessly dedicated to monetizing the web through the collection and analysis of big data and the subsequent targeting of "users" with shrewd advertising, and despite the potential for abuse by the manipulators of power and their penchant for suppression of the human spirit — the spies! the Watchers! — despite these and other failings, the outward-seeking and surface-skimming expressions of Google+ and Facebook can be as sweet, and as pacific, and as rewarding as one chooses to make them.
Each of us, too, can refuse to be cowed by the potential for harm in our electronic neighborhoods. I promise: You're protected whenever your heart is attuned to the good — and please know that the good is everywhere in abundance and limitless in supply.
Meeting the persona Mark O online and then collaborating to compose and publish a photo essay represents the best of social media from my viewpoint here in the wired study of our country cottage. Others with an aim toward the good will find their bests along the stream of electric discovery — if they can stop posting for a moment and listen... and look... and consider... and believe, against all odds, in the truth and beauty of the human condition.
Weather: Hot and muggy, but not oppressive. 77° fahrenheit at 23:57 hours.
The watcher weighs 190.9 pounds.
The hummingbird, emboldened by familiarity, visits the lantana throughout the day, staying longer each time (or so it seems) to drink the nectar of the scarlet and orange flowers. She pauses from her repast to hover and look my way, having accepted my presence in the rocking chair nearby as No Threat.
Lantana is the thirstiest of plants, rivaling the sweet potato vine and the moon flower for highest priority in the thrice-daily watering rounds of midsummer. The lantana presently favored by the hummingbird grows in a cedar box and has a bloom-span of about five feet by three feet — an impressive specimen. When good friend Laura from the capital city down south visited last weekend, she asked, "Why not put in sprinklers?" Watering by hose and hand, I replied, is a harmonious way to stay in contact with your garden. You visit each plant at least once a day to see how they're doing and what they might need to thrive and survive. It's good for the spirit and good for the plants.
We've five faucets and about six-hundred feet of rubber hose scattered among the garden beds — and there's still some gaps in the coverage. I've got to be careful when I move the hoses so they don't damage thin trunks and vulnerable stems, don't wrap around them like a python. Stones and firewood logs placed in strategic positions help. Most of the trees and bushes are enclosed by rock or wood borders.
I go out, go in, back and forth between the study and the gardens, tending the flora for a while, creating webs and working the electric networks for a while, shifting perspectives between several universes of thought and action, vegetable and mineral, silicon and sand.
Experimenting with the responsiveness and reach of social media, limiting the study to Facebook and Google+, I see mixed results and a pervasive distaste among participants for text-based communication. The forums are not much more than a ceaseless flow of images and button clicks, fragments of text and self-centered asides. But it's what we got — a practical method, attuned to dissolute times, allowing communication, slender and precious, in our increasingly fractured global society.
Weather: An atmospheric low parks its sargasso presence over the region. 78° fahrenheit at 23:52 hours.
The watcher weighs 192.8 pounds.
Ulysses appeared as Dog of the Day today on the World Wide Web. Can't say he knew the significance, but for me the appearance of my dog on a showcase web devoted to wholesomeness and companionship became an unexpected emotional experience, a day laden with a sustaining dollop of personal value and uncommon meaning.
Over the course of a long and lazy midsummer day, the images of my dog and his siblings inspired a string of connections between the computer in my lonely little study here in the cottage on one side of the divide, and the personal communications devices of several others in the vast world beyond. New friends appeared in the fragmented and fascinating forums of social media, while old pals and acquaintances reached out via e-mail to say hello. Ulysses, my true-blue shepherd dog, became the pivot point for a running dialogue with the very-much-human members of my Network, that diaphanous electric creature of great mystery and unchartable reach.
"Congrats! I didn't know there was a dog of the day website," wrote my friend Carol Apple from the far side of the river at the base of a great mountain in the Ouachitas. "Isn't it amazing how dogs can be such an important part of the family." Carol's understated sentiment pointed directly to the foundation: family. With one of our members very much close to death, my family, ever central, becomes a deeply poignant aspect of the life-force just now. Dogs as family members act as symbols and living examples of unequivocal love and personal loyalty, characteristics supremely important to a strong family. Dogs also link us to other species through daily symbiosis of the most vital kind.
Ulysses' special day was glorious in other ways, too. A rain cloud parked its gray visage over Three Dog Acres in mid-afternoon and delivered almost three-quarters of an inch of very happy rainfall, the kind of special summer shower that arrives without a windstorm — TV weather pros call it "intermittent." The leaves of the saplings, mature trees, perennial bushes, and annual flowers responded with a visible, palpable show of renewed vigor — as did the shoots and blades of the several species of grasses growing everywhere in the gardens.
Thinking of the midsummer flora — the dozens of tiger lilies in nodding bloom around the old oak, the black-eyed Susans and cosmos in the wildflower bed, the tall and thin Rose of Sharon with its short-lived pale purple blossoms, the white rose mallow in the bed where the lilies and irises earlier rose to full flower, the gladiolas just now coming into flower — reminds me of the measured and elegant progression of the perennials, and how I wish I'd kept the narrative alive these past few months to chronicle the grand parade.
I've gotta continue to write and post, to reach out and seek connections, to hold true to the position that the World Wide Web is a valid and meaningful manifestation of the human condition. For many of us who live a daily life of isolation, either through conscious choice or because of unwanted or necessary circumstance, the Internet and its channels of interpersonal community offer and provide private bridges that span the public gulf — dare we say existential gulf? — between alienation and community, between silent despair and enlivening fellowship. The web can lead any of us into cesspools and hustle joints, put any of us among predators eager to set and spring their traps. But hark! The web can also "take you there" to good places of nourishing nectar and manna — more sustenance, less dissolution.
The wish that I'd maintained daily contact here is tinged with regret. I'm not ashamed to admit regret. My plan back in winter was to be here daily. To fully document the progression of flora through the entirety of the seasons would have been a worthy enterprise. As I look back, my failure of will inflicts a wound to the identity I fashion, moment-by-moment, from the earthy, clayey [plasma] — Hye Kye! The primal Will-to-Good is a constant. The will to write, like the summer shower, is intermittent.
Weather: Typical for the season. 71° fahrenheit at 23:17 hours. The weather pros say we're in drought again.
The watcher weighs 192.5 pounds.
Let's be social. Two venues are on the table: Google+ and Facebook. Both allow the construction of social networks based on Internet connections. But they differ.
Facebook rises out of emptiness by grace of the wishes of friends, who are identified by traditional ways of expressing the bonds between us:
we are playmates, classmates, teammates, office mates;
we are kith and kin by blood and marriage;
we are colleagues, neighbors, parishioners in a shared sanctuary.
In most every instance, the bonding of friends in this networked venue represents a moment, or many moments, of shared physical space somewhere along the journey in the days ago.
Google+ is less visceral, more mental. It rises — or can rise — from existential isolation by merit of shared interests between folk not previously known to one another. It brings together fellow travelers snared in the darkness of the electric stream of zeroes and ones. You know it's dark in there, among the wires and waves — it must be ... dark ... where the transmitting signals flow. O, digression! The light emerges on the Google+ screen to reveal a set of communities and circles brought together by an idea, or a ruling passion, or a cause, or a favorite thing. The bonds made here reach across proximal limits of geography, walls of culture and language, and borders of nations to bring far-flung folk together on the flat and shimmering page — folk who are not likely to share physical space, anywhere or ever along the journey in the days to come.
Each networked social venue is like an image of self in a mirror, shattered at a singular moment of reflection into a pile of jagged fragments. Go ahead, pick one up at random, then another, and another. Display your fragments, one-by-one, on the ever-scrolling page. Who would ever see them all? We are broken, each of us — fragmented, unable to piece together a picture of any other one's wholeness and unity of form. We are alone in a stream of zeroes and ones, self-sufficient for sure, and calling out:
Hello World! Hello!
There's no room for these kinds of paragraphs on either network. Who out there wants to take the time to stop and read? There's too much more stuff, dead ahead and clamoring. And the images go by so incredibly fast. And they never stop. And even so much as a sentence is a luxury or a bother. And
Weather: Toasty warm and dry. 89° fahrenheit at 14:11 hours. Here in the mountain highlands we are falling behind again in measured amounts of rain. The ground is very dry.
The watcher weighs 192.7 pounds.
There was a flash... for a moment... briefly. But it went away, faded, got lost by way of indifference.
The blood meal was intended to heal the trees, adding nitrogen, but unintended consequences arose to further threaten their health. The dogs found the blood meal delicious, buried their snouts in the dirt to revel in a forbidden feast, overturned the pots, uprooted saplings, damaged the delicate balance between root and soil. I've restored good order to the pots, sprinkled the surfaces with hot red chili pepper, urged the dogs to be good. Maybe strong spice and the bite of pepper will blunt their blood lust.
Clouds of error or the heaven of truth? You can look it up. It is written.
Weather: Record-setting cold snap. Low 50s this morning. Windows open since Saturday night. 76° fahrenheit at 10:53 hours.
The watcher weighs 194.5 pounds.
The riot is far away, over an ocean and a sea. The scenes on TV — yellow and pink fires on city streets, streaming white spray from the water cannons — pale blue haze of tear gas floating toward the camera lens, gasps of manic sparks rushing out the mouth of gas-canister launchers, streaks of crimson from the waving of a flag — hot bright flashes from exploding gunpowder fireworks.... O what a beautiful riot in Con Stan Ta Nople! A dazzle of color from a breaking news palette very primary for Cable News Network intimations of violence harmless alien visitor peeking into the premises the sylvan green of cottage and gardens far away the sea Three Lives and Q.E.D.
I'd like to listen to the chatter of the brave correspondents now that the bonfire is lit and dark falls on Istanbul. The newswoman feet on the ground her blonde hair disheveled and dirty in the faint light is speaking through her gas mask, and the twilight sky is a scrumptious indigo blue on the horizon. Deliciously dramatic. But the remote controls aren't handy just now here in the refrigerated air of the hacienda. Anyway I'd have to turn off the jazz show on the radio so the soundtracks don't clash. Just as well rest here some longer, purple pillow under head, and scribble some more graphite symbols on the page.
One of the two pawpaws is so seriously injured it's unlikely to survive. I discovered the injury only a few days ago while inspecting the thin, leafless sapling for signs of life. A few inches above the soil line I spied a discoloration on the surface of the thin trunk, indicating severe damage to the pith and cambium beneath the bark. Apparently the little tree was bent at a severe angle some not-known moment in the near past, all but breaking the trunk. Only the sap-rich suppleness of the tree kept the injury from tearing the bark. I'm guessing the pawpaw won't be able to recover. Now the other un is left alone won't be able to make no pawpaws for summertime fruit. I'll hope for a miracle, or wait 'till next year and another pawpaw.
Weather: A sudden jump from spring to summer. 89° fahrenheit at 12:53 hours.
The watcher weighs 194.7 pounds.
No good reason to throw away the pages lessen you need the space. Two million words in longhand cursive will fit nicely into a few shelves of a bookcase. Instead, throw away the dross — the magazines, the catalogues and newspapers, the adverts, invoices and statements from cycles gone by — and hold dear to the psychic evidence of a thoughtful existence. No good reason to throw away the pages lessen you're hankering to destroy the symbolic representatives of your past and obliterate proof that you've been here. on the face of the Earth
I dream about the smoke of fires. The fires are tended and contained, but the smoke is wanton, noxious, thick like heavy fog. The fire builder refuses to extinguish the flames, claiming righteousness. It becomes the funeral pyre of fellowship.
When the impasse intrudes, silence befalls the page. Days and nights pass without benefit of context. Everything matters nothing matters the undone things gather at the base of the impasse like pebbles and twigs at the jammed-up cleft of a runoff. The pebbles and twigs are fragments of thought, half-wrought plans, vowels and consonants in wretched disorder. The examined life needs to be written down and put on a page, or else it gets lost in a crowd of watchers beside the parade, standing in shadow on the sideline with hands in pockets, hands on purses. The blur of women and men of action, pushing forward, and the ceaseless movement of things being done by the doers, raise-up clouds of dust to settle and make footprints to fade away.
In blow the southerlies, rousing the green leaves to their whisperings, the chimes to their chorus. The cusp of summer will be upon us by afternoon. The dog and the lizard bathe in the late morning sunlight on the warming sandstone slabs of Doghenge. Songbirds, a far-away airplane, the constant whine of tinnitus so close it can never leave me. The lizard, an oblong sliver of dark brown and creamy brown stripes with an aqua blue tail, warms its blood in Sol's rays. A tiny leaf rolls in the breeze at the forepaws of the dog, who raises his head to examine the moving thing for signs of life. The flag on its pole is stiff, fluttering loudly. Great is the number of sap-enriched leaves enfolding me in a wavy canopy of smooth shapes and blended colors. I'll say it again in a different way. A Great Spangled Fritillary lands on a pink-and-yellow bloom of the lantana, drinking nectar. The songbirds sing in a circle around me, clinging to their twigs; and the chimes make a melody in concert with the wind, becoming the atonement; and the swaying of the poplar branches and leaves move like arms and hands of the symphony orchestra's animated conductor. A neighbor across the hollow, hidden by the billion leaves, fires up his mowing machine. The motor makes a grumbling roar to signal the end of my reverie.
I pause to sharpen a pencil. The pencil slips from my right hand, falls on the stones. The fall breaks the steel-honed tip of lead. I recognize the futility of endeavor, but sharpen the pencil again — nevertheless, I sharpen it again.
Weather: Brilliant skies with a rush of hot air from the south. At last: Summer. 78° fahrenheit at 11:03 hours. They say it could climb as high as 90.
The watcher weighs 196.2 pounds.
The rain and thunder arrive from the west, crossing the imagined border between two geopolitical states, Arkansas and Oklahoma, about twenty miles as the crow flies from 3 Dog Acres to the state line. By the time yesterday's raging great storm got here from the great plains about seven o'clock last night, its fury was mostly spent, a beast of climate declawed by time and distance, subdued by the cooling air of the mountains, and transformed into a posturing bully, whose extended bursts of rolling thunder and spitting hail from heavy, charcoal and olive skies presented much noise and visual terror but no bite, no blunt-force destruction thank the Lord.
The winds died down, as they say, sparing us. The tornado-lashed dead were far away in Oklahoma City, a couple of hundred miles to the west, the little children perishing in their school, the naked trees rising like specters over the rubble, the first-responders scouring devastated structures for survivors. We know these terrible things by way of instant reports from fast-as-light, faster-than-wind, incessantly cackling news media, but we are here, unharmed, and now, a day of hours after the terror, the rains continue to fall, nurturing the creatures of the earth with the water of life. More warnings arrive from invisible officials, who screech like hawks on the hunt, who exercise power and seize momentary control of the amplitudes: flash floods ahead ! I don't know what to make of it, don't know why I weep silently and alone in the love seat next to the television screen.
F R A G M E N T from a Y E S T E R D A Y :
Be keenly and clearly aware of your immediate environment, the Guardian exhorts. Know the world around you, the comings and the goings of event and transformation. You, too, have a Guardian, do you not? Mine guides the building of something special in the infinite space of inner reality — I am, I build, but all I create and discover within must find full expression out there. The inner life seeks good and useful manifestation in the material and the physical.
Busy tending two fires, one inside the hacienda in the stone fireplace, the other outside in the rusty steel burn barrel. Raking and burning leaves in late afternoon may be tedium to others, but to me it's a ritual I've mastered for the continuing benefit of body and mind. The score of mature oaks surrounding the cottage join forces with the sweet gum, tulip poplar, apple, hickories, and walnuts to supply my ritual with an inexhaustible trove of symbols, artifacts, and offerings. Three, four, sometimes more afternoons each week from October through March, I perform my ministrations with both feet on the solid ground and an eye to the heavens.
Weather: Wet, cool, and stormy. About two inches of rain since the storm arrived yesterday. 60° fahrenheit at 14:02 hours.
The watcher weighs 198.7 pounds.
A photograph finely wrought is a delight but cannot match the expressive power of a painting from the hands of a master. No matter how close I come to conveying through pixels the essence of a thing — a flower, a bud, a leaf — I cannot equal the Art of paint on canvass. These screens are flat and harsh, rough on the eyes, and prone to lies and deception.
But let me tell you, the beauty of the day and the desire to create something in remembrance of it drove me there: to the screens, positioned side-by-side on the cherry slab, tethered by wires to a computing machine, hooked to a silicon chip impregnated with light from a glass lens. I could trace the steps but it ain't necessary. If only I could show you the beauty of the things I saw in the gardens.
Today was the most beautiful day of my life, following a yesterday that was the most beautiful day of my life — safe from The Others, anchored to the lush and fertile earth, swathed in living color and texture and form under the sheltering old oaks, guarded at all times by loyal shepherd dogs, fed by sustenance from a full larder of exhaustless riches, free to work through the difficulties blocking me from the full sunlight of the Spirit.
[ Gittin' closer. ]
In the last hours of the day, the sun's rays cling low to the horizon. The light is warm and mellow, imparting the illusion of rays streaming along a line nearly parallel to the earth on which I stand, as if the light is flowing from my eyes rather than from the fiery ball in the sinking sky. When the winds fall becalmed and the clouds flee, the moment is ripe for the camera.
The irises take center stage at 3 Dog Acres. There must be a hundred of them in bloom: henna and ochre, indigo and dark magenta, saffron and crimson, white and golden yellow, amethyst and dark orchid, chocolate and yellow. The names of the colors are almost as scrumptious as the irises. They rise in majesty next to white peonies, the peach and the apple, the sassafras, the lilies yet to bloom and a butterfly bush, the redbud and the yucca. To walk among them as steward and observer bestows a momentous blessing when the time is ripe and the Spirit is a willin'. It was, it is, I'm happy.
Weather: Balmy and calm. 66° fahrenheit at 23:58 hours.
The watcher weighs 197.5 pounds.
News arrives of the death of Solomon, young son of our friends Sam and Celine. Solomon passed in an instant during a motor vehicle accident in the dark of a cold May night. No loss can be greater than the loss of a child. My heart breaks for our friends. We beseech the Creator, again and again, to deliver us from harm and protect those dear to us.
Soft mist this morn, the lingering remnants of yesterday's rain. Other than a slow and thoughtful stroll through the gardens, I've stayed indoors today, occupying my oak armchair at the cherry slab in pursuit of desk-bound goals and the completion of commonplace tasks: accounts updated and balanced, e-mails answered and tendered… schedules, articles, notebooks, phone chats, planning… the sharpening of pencils and the rearrangement of paper, wood, steel and plastic things necessary or useful for creation and production… brief asides into dreamy contemplation. Via Internet radio, Mike Shannon's voice from Busch Stadium in Saint Louis emerges from the stereo speakers, providing a familiar background soundscape — the Cardinals of professional baseball's National League trail the Mets, 4-1, in the 8th. The master candle, a blue indigo, burns diligently in its clay vessel not far from my left hand.
Yesterday, just before the late afternoon rain, I planted the brown turkey fig tree I'd acquired last month to replace the fig that froze on the night of April 25. The new fig, full-bodied and hopeful, looks right at home in the bed of its predecessor, a determined plant now showing signs of recovery. The freeze-damaged fig's roots are supple with the taproot reaching a good ways outward from the root ball. Green buds are beginning to emerge on the otherwise bare branches. I planted the survivor in a big clay pot, gave it an ample drink of water-soluble 18 nitrogen-18 phosphate-21 potash fertilizer, and moved it to a sunny place in the southernmost garden.
The bamboo garden is showing signs of life. I counted six new shoots this morning. Though I haven't found written proof, I'm convinced that newly planted bamboo needs a ground temperature of at least 45° to 50°F. at one-foot deep to awaken the grass from its winter slumbers. When he delivered and planted the bamboo on the afternoon of the winter solstice, Jeremiah handed me a slip of paper denoting the scientific name of the species, but I can't find the paper. The owner of the bamboo farm called it "flute bamboo," Jeremiah said, because it's sometimes sliced to size and transformed into musical instruments.
Weather: Overcast and cool with calm winds. Yesterday's rain totaled about one-quarter of an inch. 66° fahrenheit at 17:55 hours.
The watcher weighs 199.0 pounds.
Where can I go? If I obey the rules, no other where but here. La, la, la, la, la! La, la, la, la, la! She sings a pretty tune to mask the hurt. O for a song in my heart! She's a broken girl, I'm a broken boy, we're all broken, broken — and there ain't a damn thing beautiful about it, Emilio. Stand your ground, shout down the bully boy in the schoolyard, keep your back straight and your punches sharp in the shadows of towering, red brick walls. Stand your ground while The Others watch.
"Maybe I should call someone," Allison sings. "Maybe I just need someone to listen to my story." They'll never find it here. Never here.
Sun, moon, stars.… Can I count them all instead of a hundred or two? What can they give me other than the white rose, nourished by the sunlight, bathed in pale beauty by the glow of the waxing moon, sprinkled with stardust in the fantastic reverie of dreamy escape? Are the sun, the moon, the stars with me in the corner of my respite?
I rue letting the opportunities slip away, rue the unrealized plans for diligence and a steady presence, rue the days lost to a narrative going nowhere. I rue not getting it done, knowing it won't come 'round again, knowing I shudda said I'm sorry instead of lashing out with the word whip, instead of putting another torch to another bridge, instead of turning my back on the fire and walking away, the waters wide between us.
Judgment, the twentieth trump in a holy sequence of transition, passage, transformation, return: I see it a comin', see the sixth angel alone above the coffins, and I'm risin' up from one of 'em, and the angel is blowing on a certain trumpet, lacquered in gold, and outta the concave bell comes a call, I Return! I Return! Gabriel blows his horn for me, sounding the love of my almighty Creator. The alder coffins with their six sides and their iron nails burn to ashes and slag.
Weather: Ten degrees below normal at sunrise. The coldest spring holds true to form. 74° fahrenheit at 12:14 hours.
The watcher weighs 198.7 pounds.
Yesterday morn at six o'clock I awoke to see snow on the green leaves of the old oaks, so stately and sheltering outside our bedroom windows. Snow on the growing leaves! The strange sight reduced me to a muttering state of forlorn disquiet. I cast a few vain imprecations at the dawn, wandered through the cottage to check other scenes through other windows, then fell back into the big bed, wishing it were different. I covered my head with pillows and drifted back into a dreamy slumber for an hour or two.
"For the first time in recorded history, it snowed in May in Arkansas," the newspaper reported in today's morning edition. Recorded history for Arkansas weather began in 1819, I'm told. I can't rightly explain my strongly adverse reaction to this latest expression of the coldest spring, knowing I should accept the weather as it comes, let it flow psychically like water over rock, rain off a duck's back. But I've allowed expectation of balmy, seasonal warmth to intertwine my perspective like tough strands of choking vines on the eyes of a vision, kudzu on the cottonwood and the pecan, honeysuckle on the redbud and the cherry, snow and freezing cold on my hopes for spring blossoms and summer fruit.
At nine, out of bed, I noted the reading of 32° on the back-porch thermometer. What damage would be wrought by the way-late chill, which is expected to last until Sunday? I'd done my due diligence on Wednesday and Thursday, moving the boxed and potted plants to shelter in the studio or under the eaves of the cottage. Most of the annuals and a select few perennials already in the ground were covered with empty pots or encased in cotton sheets. There was nothing more to do but wait… and wait… until the southerly winds arrive. I pray for grace and mercy, too, but I always pray for grace and mercy. Deliverance is an everyday necessity.
Out in the world come early afternoon — I usually venture into the city once a week for provisions and services — I stopped first at the bank under the guise of verifying the four-digit passcode for my new VISA debit card. With cash already in my pocket, my true purpose was to grab one of the big ole white bags of salty popcorn they provide for customers on Fridays. I figured I could afford the calories.
At the barber shop, Scott told me he was leaving in thirty minutes for a funeral but that he had time enough to cut my hair. His white shirt, black vest, and dark tie reminded me of barber visits of a half-century ago when it was commonplace to see smartly attired men standing beside their leather swivel chairs in rectangular mirrored rooms exotic aromas of tonics and lotions the sounds of whirring clippers puffy clumps of shorn hair on the floor and outside through the wide window the stripes of red, white, and blue swirling up the barber's pole. "Back then they were said to practice the tonsorial arts," Scott said of his craft's forefathers. The funeral was for a suicide, a 54-year-old "tough guy, always strong for others," Scott said, a Navy veteran who blew out his brains with a pistol on Monday morning. "We're all scratching our heads tryin' to figure out why," Scott said, and I said he probably just got tired of living couldn't take it anymore we'll never know. I said we do know it's true many of us have thought of suicide it just doesn't make sense to leave your loved ones to clean-up the mess you'd be leaving behind, kind of like the ultimate insult to your family and friends. After a while we were talking about football and star players, great coaches from days gone by it was gray and cold outside I paid my fifteen dollars bid farewell 'till next time and Scott said be safe, brother, see you soon.
Last stop after a series of planned visits for provisions brought me to White River Nursery on the far highway to receive a gift for 3 Dog Acres from Chicken Moon Farm. Charity, one of the nursery pros at White River, decided to celebrate our mutual passion for trees by bequeathing a struggling crop of saplings from her farm to our arbor. She'd loaded 'em up at the farm that morn before headin' out to work at White River, and now they were being placed in trusty old El's battered and weathered bed — twelve oak saplings and a little sugar bush. The thirteen were among the weakest of the unsold saplings from the 2012 growing season. Charity took pity on 'em, so to speak, and took 'em to the farm for care. Now they're entrusted to me. I can nurture 'em, watch 'em grow.
That was yesterday, done and gone. I'm writin' these words in front of the oaken hearth fire, all red and orange and crackling, sittin' comfortable on the red couch next to my true love Sadie Liz, the two boy dogs at our feet, sweet little Isis asleep on the big bed, Johnny Cash singin' American tunes outta the stereo speakers — old and wise and gravelly in the evening of a hard life —, a bunch of sharpened pencils and plenty of paper at hand, dark-roast coffee sweetened with Billy Boykin's raw honey, sparklin' cold water from the hot springs at Hot Springs in a glass with ice, nothing to do but do what I want. Life is good at 3 Dog Acres. One of these days soon it'll be hot outside under a shining sun.
Weather: Cold again with the northerly winds swirling in great circles around the highlands, prolonging the chill. 37° fahrenheit at 12:07 hours in the early afternoon.
The watcher weighs 198.8 pounds.
Got bogged down in computer quicksand, keeping me at the cherry slab until late in the afternoon of a warm and sunny day. Muck muck in Adobe Land, one misstep leading to another until the only way out was to stay doggedly focused until escape was won. Was, too: won at the end. Guiding principle: Never, ever relent until software problems are solved, no matter how many precious minutes becoming hours are lost to the absurdities of personal computing. Don't allow the machine to win the game.
Started innocuously enough. The bold handwritten note on my keyboard this morning demanded: clean 'puter. I'd put the note there the night before in hopes I'd comply when I first arrived at the cherry slab this morn. The machine was way too loaded with the dust of daily life and fine soot from the winter's fires. Good stewardship of my principal means of production demanded action. 1) Disconnect the cables and wires. 2) Move the HP Pavilion to an open space, open the chassis, hook up the vac, and suck and blow the dust away. 3) Return the clean machine to the cherry slab and reconnect Cisco wireless router, Canon scanner, Maxtor backup drive, Western Digital backup drive, Logitech wireless mouse and keyboard USB receiver, optical audio cable, Samsung monitor, acer monitor (an inferior product), Grace digital cassette player, and power supply cord. 4) Fire 'er up and see if everything still works. It did.
Flush with easy success, I decided to take a few more minutes to repair the Adobe Acrobat X Pro software, which stopped loading on mouse click some time ago. The software just sat there, doing nothing — "a known issue" in tech-folk lingo, but one I'd put on backburner because I could still access Acrobat's document-creation function through Microsoft Word, make it do its thing, get the job done. Nonetheless, the failure-to-open-on-mouse-click problem annoyed me. I knew I'd deal with it sooner or later. I picked the morning of this very day, now done.
Abode provides an Application Manager, something I'd never opened, but it seemed like a good place to start the troubleshooting of Acrobat X Pro. The App-Mgr software interface demands an Abode ID and password, I suppose to validate the legality of programs installed on my "local machine," more tech-folk lingo. I had both, which I dutifully entered. On the other side of the gateway I found a list of "All" Adobe Applications, 18 total. I own licenses for at least six: Dreamweaver CS6, Fireworks CS6, Illustrator CS6, InDesign CS6, Photoshop CS6, and Flash Professional CS6. "Update" appeared in pale blue letters to the right of each of the six, so I complied, and after the update bar had run its course six times, the word "Update" changed to "Up to date." Other applications on the list — Audition CS6, Edge Animate, Muse, a half-dozen others — encouraged me to either "Try" or "Install." But there was no mention of Acrobat X Pro on the list of 18. Instead, I saw the words "Adobe Acrobat XI Pro" next to the pale blue letters "Try." I took the bait. The barb on the other end pulled me into a malware/adware net, deep and insidious.
Yes OK I'm already weary of the blow-by-blow account. I mean, who cares? Seriously. I'll make it quick.
The XI Pro install deleted the balky X Pro version, then asked me to fork over a hundred and twenty bucks for the "upgrade." Not! After the XI Pro uninstall — There! Take that! — I couldn't find an elegant way to restore X Pro because Adobe's sales-driven support web had obliterated sources for a clean install of the previous version, offering upgrades only to X Pro, but the upgrades wouldn't function because the original app no longer lived on my local machine.
I tried the CD for CS6, but it wouldn't allow the install of stand-alone apps, desiring instead to overwrite the entire Design Premium suite. Not! There had to be a way. That's when barb in the bait bit hard, when I left Adobe Land in search of an elegant way to perform a clean install of the lost X Pro software, make it open with the click of my wireless Logitech mouse.
One path toward resolution led to another and there were dead-end streets blah blah blah a couple of poor decisions informed by hubris I can handle this and just like that lickety-split I found all kinds of add-ons search bars music apps strange home pages and a piece of mysterious malware named DomalQ it became a militant mission kill 'em all! — I grimace: such harsh language — hours were consumed by a byted furnace fire fed by forced uninstalls and registry edits, refined search terms and the gradual diminishment of puzzlements eventually I got it right but just like that it was four-thirty o'clock in the afternoon and yes sure X Pro opened with a click! all the malware/adware was wiped clean I won I shot the BB gun but the sunny day was fleeting fast I had to get out there and tend to the gardens.
Weather: Warmest day of the season, topping out at 82° Mild winds. 64° fahrenheit at 23:17 hours.
The watcher weighs 199.8 pounds.
Staying upbeat and positive — how? It's a cliché. Why would anyone want to be irritable and discontent? There's no choice it just happens. You look up and everything's out of kilter. People wear me out. Don't want to admit it. Wish I could walk on the sunny side of the street ever livelong day. Please don't make me suffer. Please don't make me suffer. Sez he's not strong enough, wails his plaintive tune.
Be nice. See nice. Don't judge. Accept foibles and barbs. Don't bite. Want to find out what's wrong? Look in the mirror. They tell me. Tell me.
Thus the retreat into the vegetable and mineral realms. Sow, plant, and nurture passive lifeforms, help and watch 'em grow, observe and record and report. Place the stones in useful, pleasing formations. Look within, transform what you can.
Weather: At last: Warm! 60° fahrenheit at 23:47 hours.
The watcher weighs 199.6 pounds.
The fig tree died. My inattentiveness led to its demise. I'm sad.
I was careful to protect every single plant I figured might be endangered by the bitter cold of Tuesday and Wednesday nights, moving them indoors to ride out the freeze. Sigh. Bitten by a blind side, I overlooked the Brown Turkey Fig in its bed. The tender young tree cudda been protected and saved had I just covered it up with a box and a sheet.
I didn't discover the fig's withered state until late this afternoon. I was watering marigolds and begonias on a table outside the sunroom when it occurred to me to walk over to the Tai Chi yard and check the fig to see if it might be thirsty. I was maybe 50 feet away when I noticed the absence of leaves. It struck me right away, the realization that something was bad amiss and that I'd messed up. Back-to-back nights of winter in April — last night's low of 28° was the lowest ever recorded this late in the year, and Tuesday wasn't much better with a low of 32 — had squeezed the greening life out of the little plant.
Creatures of habit and routine, we humans are. I'd planted the fig a couple of weeks ago in a special, sheltered place at the northeast corner of the Tai Chi yard — not a place where I've planted before, hence the blind spot in my freeze preparations. I'd dug a special bed for it, too: two-feet by three-feet and lined with paving stones extending about ten-inches down into the soil. Making the bed took most of an afternoon, but it was a labor of love, as they say, and I was in no hurry. The plan was to restrict the lateral growth of the roots with the stones. Experienced fig-folk tell us a restricted bed encourages the plant to make more fruit and fewer leaves. Made good sense to me. I was much pleased with the result, particularly since the mistress of the hacienda is very fond of figs.
Another sigh. I've read tonight that fig trees damaged by frost can revive from below ground. We shall see, but this Brown Turkey will have to revive below potting soil in a container in the plant clinic. I'll dig it up and see if I can coax it to accept an expression of resurrection come summer. Meanwhile and otherwise, I'm heading off to the nursery tomorrow morning in hopes of finding another leafy specimen to replace the unfortunate little Ficus carica I let die during the historic freeze of late April twenty-thirteen. O Nature! So capriciously cruel and inscrutible. O me, so blind.
Weather: The cold front was driven away swiftly by southerly breezes in late morn, leading to a pleasant afternoon with sunshine and warmth. Then the clouds snuck back from the north, chilling the last hours of daylight. 53° fahrenheit at 23:45 hours.
The watcher weighs 201.5 pounds.
What purpose one life? Why not I?
Why do so many fall, blasted and broken, to die on a distant concrete stage? I see the pictures, hear the recorded screams in the rat-a-tat air. Is the Creator on the same coin flip-side from the Destroyer? How can a bomb bring The Others to your side? How widespread the delusion?
Can you see the Spirit in the room? Right now. With you, and alway'. Look at you now! I see The Guardian, riding home on a cosmic wave, invisible and coming from afar.
Lack power? He'll take you as His own. Go from one vessel to another, ashes on the waves. Sea salt in a tube on the dinner table. Shake, rattle, roll.
The dogwoods, princes of spring, stand fully in bloom and — just now! — are righteously imbued with the promise of arisen life in the days to come, the May and the June. They are plentiful here in the Wedington woods above Cold Creek, pinwheels of pastel on every horizon. We've three old ones in the backwoods here at 3 Dog Acres, flowering whites, and a young and nubile pink in the front arboretum, and a six-foot sapling with a handful of white blooms close to Doghenge, and eleven little dogwood seedlings standing dormant in pots. [I'm sure they'll awake soon.] Jim and Faith across the lane have four or five mature white flowering dogwoods on their land — each a true beauty. Along the half-mile of road leading up the hill to Crow's Cottage, on the north-facing side rising up from the creek, the dogwoods stretch like beacons of white, showing the way. But what way? Who amongst us can tell the other whence to go?
The latest serial cold front arrived this afternoon, prompting me to move all the annuals into the sunroom — a substantial task given their number. Decided to not risk losing any of the warm-weather flowers to an out-of-season freeze. Makes sense, too, to protect the youngest of the saplings. Returned the two potted cedars and the seven newly boxed and potted oak seedlings to safety in the sunroom. It was just two days ago that I arranged Doghenge for the season. Fat chance the arrangement would hold in the cold spring of twenty-thirteen. Some predictions call for lows dipping down to 31° with a chance of snow, though G. Lewis on Channel 5 said during the six o'clock broadcast that it would bottom out at 34° May be even colder tomorrow night should the front persist.
The second-season white and red oaks from the fall 2011 acorn crop are special little trees. I've raised 'em from the moment of germination, watched the first tiny shoots emerge from the soil, marveled as they returned to leaf during the past few weeks. I've about twenty specimens, none larger than a foot high and most much smaller, with each showing sure signs of life. Most if not all need to be potted-up — at least they did until I got to work yesterday. Two were stuck in blue plastic drinking cups and several more in one-quart pots. I transplanted four from their tiny quarters to larger homes on Monday: three to tall 1.5-gallon pots and one to a newly constructed rectangular cedar box. Today I built three more boxes and transplanted three more oaks. I've read that baby oaks don't like to be transplanted, so I took great care with the operation. All but one showed very little root development, but I'm hopeful they shall survive.
My cup overflows with plants of all shapes and sizes — mature trees and perennials scattered everywhere on the grounds, a hundred and fifty saplings in pots and boxes, young trees and shrubs in the ground in the arboretum, fruit trees and bushes, vines and grasses, the bamboo garden, annuals and perennials in various stages of development, seeds in sacks and packets — with more beds to construct and plant. Why not?
Weather: All morning the air held its southerly warmth, such as it was, but I could feel the cold front a' comin'. By noon the chill was creeping in, and with it came a fine and steady mist. Not a peek of sun. 37° fahrenheit at 23:57 hours. About a tenth of an inch in the gauge an hour before midnight.
The watcher weighs 200.0 pounds.
Doghenge is one year old this week. Today I gave it a spring cleaning, raking away the last of autumn's leaves, a few hundred stragglers that were pushed off the red oaks over the past two weeks. Maybe I should call them spring's leaves because they clung to their twigs all winter long, refusing to give up the ghost [so to speak] until the new buds emerged. Marescence — "If it wither without falling off, it is marescent," Alphonso Wood states in The American Botanist and Florist  — is a fascinating arboreal condition, mysterious in function even to botanists.
All afternoon I burned leaves, vines, branches, wood chips and chunks from the chopping place — the detritus of the gardens and grounds. The sweet-smelling smoke, propelled aloft and away by the soft southerly breezes of the day, wafted and swirled from the mouth of the burn barrel. I rake a slew of leaves. This is our third springtime here at 3 Dog Acres, but I'm not yet done with the reclamation of every nook 'n cranny on the property. Reclamation in this light means raking and pruning away several years of neglect by the previous owners, who had fallen into old age and infirmities, letting the grounds go gradually to a wilding, untended state. As I work through the untended spaces, leaves and limbs gather, day-by-day, in big piles close to the burn barrel, awaiting their turn at transformation by fire.
So, there's much ground to cover. But I'm not in a hurry. Progress to date is good enough to fend off guilt [work ethic].
Where was I? The digression sent me elsewhere. I'm as drifty as the smoke. Yes — cleaning Doghenge.... With the leaves gone, I rinsed the rock floor, washing away all the little natural fragments that had fallen from the ever-changing trees, including the powdery brownish-yellow pollen grains from the oaks, and plucking out the stray tufts and sprigs of wild grasses growing in the narrow joints between the rough-hewn sandstone flagstones of the patio floor. The joints are filled with river pebbles and sand instead of mason's mortar, lending a natural and primitive look to the floor.
Doghenge's spring cleaning was a casual, unhurried task — moving things about, sweeping and rinsing, stopping to plant an annual now 'n then, adding more leaves to the fire, playing with the hounds, visiting with a neighbor. By sunset the task was done — statuary, chairs, tables, flower pots and boxes, potted trees and shrubs all in place for the night. My true love Sadie Liz and I took our seats at sunset, drinking espresso with milk, tossing the tennis ball for Gandolf to fetch, making small talk, marveling at the simple blessings of the quiet life in the gardens.
Weather: Not as warm as the south wind promised, but with enough sunshine to imitate a spring day. It's just too darn chilly for late April. 53° fahrenheit at 23:42 hours.
The watcher weighs 200.7 pounds.
New music on the radio — does it pay to stay attuned to the latest expressions of pop culture? — and a warm and dancing blaze in the fireplace; and all the vulnerable annuals in their boxes and pots, moved indoors and bedded down in the sunroom for the night because weather reports say it might freeze by sunrise; and my loyal Ulysses hound, dozing in the easy chair a few feet away from me; and.... The stream could flow a long time, a long long time.
The music has a catchy beat they're on the edge of loooove! what a storm it was Thor bolts and thunder torrents of rain all night long but by the time the brunt of the system arrived from Oklahoma to the west its fury was spent no more twisters just rain rain rain over two inches in the gauge the creeks overflowing their banks flash floods everywhere the reporters said, and had I any sense of drama I'da roused at daybreak I was awake anyway and motored down to Cold Creek a quarter mile down the ridge and stood on the concrete bridge felt the roarin' power of raging waters under my feet.
What does it take to find the way? What value adulation? What can the numbers say that the mirror cannot? They adore you oh they do do do.
All day the flora sang a robust joyous tune, asog with the water of life and a drinkin' their fill. The pink dogwood the body and the blood in full and splendid bloom. The kwansan cherry's nodding flowers in fluffy pink blush. Delicate infant leaves, perfectly formed versions of a larger act, rising confidently from thin branches of the tulip poplar, the golden raintree, the silver maples. Balls of fragrant, pale purple clusters on the wispy lilacs.
Some of the saplings didn't care for the pounding they took from the zillion raindrops — the red maple's only-a-few-days-old leaves were droopy and pale. On the weeping willow I found a colony of glistening black insects munching on the leaves — larval creatures shaped like a string of beads and not even a centimeter in length. I pinched them off their perches and dropped them to the grass, one of the few forms of insecticide permitted at 3 Dog Acres. Even so, I wondered: Did I slay a family of future butterflies in my attempt to protect the willow leaves? Was it a baby rattlesnake I blasted with my pistol yesterday or merely some harmless yard snake at slumber in the woodpile? What price intrusion?
There's a place where I can stand, looking to the north, and see a redbud, an apple, a forsythia, and a crabapple in bloom — the redbud at its peak, the apple emerging, the forsythia just entering its decline, the crabapple nearly spent. If I step backward a few dozen paces, the flowers of the pink dogwood, kwansan cherry, and persian lilac enter into view. The stream could flow a long time, a long long time. There's no end to beauty in the natural world. No end at all.
Weather: Drenching rain, beginning softly around midnight and becoming a torrent before sunrise, then gradually tapering away by noon with two-and-a-tenth inches in the gauge. Temps may dip a degree or two below freezing before morning, but right now it's 41° fahrenheit at 21:33 hours. The drought is finally broken.
The watcher weighs 201.8 pounds.
One [I] has [have] to be careful to avoid repetition, but no amount of care can expand the themes of a life to encompass the totality of experience. I know it's choppy but I canna stop the wind on the water, cannot live your life, nor understand its complexities, nor know the paths you've trod and the memories you gathered along the way. The best a practitioner of the written word can aspire to achieve is universal truth about the human condition: Art on the glorious page. Can my experience illuminate yours? Can I show you the essence of a world different from yours in every which way, very much like your own in the essentials? I'll never know but I love the music of the midnight waltz, the one they're a playin' now on the BBC, the beautiful dance from Vienna on the Danube you can follow it all the way to shadows from the Buda Hills.
The yes … but structure relies on counterpoint to push the narrative forward. If ya asked me to draw it on a piece of paper, I'd make a straight line enclosed with outward pointing arrows on both ends, both parts pushing away from the middle, by and by and do-si-do. I'd open an idea, spin the cap on the bottle, whish..., then qualify the idea with a counterpoint, all very much in the spirit of the dialectic. The synthesis, however, is something I'd prefer to leave to chance. If I do it right, I leave it up to you. Your fate aint not in my hands no way and don't care if I did lose the apostrophe while [I was] lookin' for a snippet of arcane code to assure non-separation of each of the three parts of the ellipsis. Keep 'em together an ampersand and hash-tag with a quartet of numbers. This can be very difficult it can.
It would be better were I to follow the more familiar line of clarity and plainspokenness. Sometimes it just don't happen thataway going all the way back to 1839 Brown Turkey Fig a growin' in the pot won an award at the county fair with the rabbits and the cows.
Got a Devil's Walkingstick in a pot from a nursery down in the ridges a risin' to the north of the river. A mysterious specimen, it looks like a club with spikes all along the handle and an array of thin spindly flanges at the head. Saw a tattered Rebel flag a flyin' underneath Old Glory on the gravel road leadin' to the nursery, confirming my suspicions that I'd wandered into Klan territory, but it was daylight and I was gone before dark and they're not much of a force anymore anyway.
So the cherry blossoms opened-up on Saturday, many more today, a white swirl of beauty against the clouds in the sky, and Joe's dog a dyin' and becoming a sky dog, and all gone dogs remembered, buried in their loving graves, a water bowl maybe, and a collar with tags, and tears on the freshly turned earth in the springtime that seemed would never come. And did.
Weather: Wonderfully warm. 64° fahrenheit at 23:27 hours. Our area, records indicate, has received in 2013 more than an inch of rain above the average. Nuthin' comes easy tonight. Nothing. And Hallelujah.
The watcher weighs 202.4 pounds.
A while back in winter I made a list of trees and shrubs I want to plant at 3 Dog Acres. At the time, I must have been wallowing in another of my self-made snares of limited thinking. Caught-up in the gray dormancy of the season, I deemed it unlikely I would be able to acquire most of the items on my list from local nurseries. How mistaken I was.
White River Nursery stands a far piece from 3 Dog Acres, a 30-minute drive on a good day, and I hadn't visited there since September of 2010. But early in March, ole El and I drifted close to White River's neighborhood during a lumber acquisition hunt with my pal Jeremiah. The hunt ended early, so I decided to motor on down the road to the nursery. My, how it's changed. Emma, Charity, and Tray have transformed White River into a wonderland of eclectic delights with a fascinating emphasis on "native" trees and perennials.
I place the term "native" in quotes because I'm not so sure about its utility to the natural world. It's an exclusionary term whose adherents are fond of uttering the words "alien" and "invasive," and who are prone to venture forth into wood and field to slay eastern red cedars, honeysuckle vines, and other supposed undesirables standing in the way of their grand plans for "selective eco-restoration." "Native" and its connotations might be their way of rationalizing the acts. Nevertheless, the term "native" is commonplace.
"A native plant species is one that occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions," states the Federal Native Plant Committee as quoted on the Audubon web. Wikipedia is not so windy, stating simply that "native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time."
But I digress. Although wrangling over a definition can be good sport, I hold to my original intent, and that is to express my pleasure over the thoughtful, creative, and robust stock at White River, especially the plentiful supply of young trees and bushes comfortably at home here in the Ozark highlands. On my first visit back in early March, I purchased a water oak, a sassafras, a vernal witch hazel, and a redtwig dogwood. A couple of weeks later I brought home a paw paw, a nuttall oak, a flowering quince, and another sassafras. Each species was scribbled on my wintertime wish list, and each would probably fit most definitions of native, though one never knows. The flowering quince is known by old-timers here in Arkansas as the japonica bush, a Japanese immigrant from way back in the nineteenth century. Native? Could be.
Today, during my third visit to the nursery, I secured a for-sure foreigner for our arboretum here at 3 Dog Acres, a Ficus carica, otherwise known as the common fig. With origins in Mediterranean lands and legendary status in both testaments of the Holy Bible, the fig is a most uncommon flowering tree that also can be pruned to grow as a shrub. Cousin to the mulberry, which is a good ole Arkansas tree, the fig yields a sweet and gooey fruit in summer. A decade or so ago when Sadie Liz, young son, and I lived at Cricket Song — we were down south in the river valley — we inherited a fig bush from previous occupants and enjoyed a small supply of figs every summer, sharing the bounty with songbirds, who oft drank themselves into a stupor at the old bush. We could have harvested more figs, but I neglected the wizened old plant, and that's a pity.
I learned during our conversation today that Emma and Tray are neutral toward the term "native," seeing its value as a descriptor of available plant stock and recognizing its potential for controversy among more strident insiders from the disciplines of botany and ecology. OK. I suppose agitating about a piece of jargon is very much like pissing in the wind, but I'm prone to do both every once in a while. As as I mentioned earlier, the term is commonplace. It fits the moment in our national discourse into and about humankind's relationship with nature. And the "native" trees and bushes at White River Nursery suit me just fine.
Weather: Cold and wet. 37° fahrenheit at 23:25 hours. According to weather officialdom, the drought continues, but it's fleeing fast. The gauge registered about 5/8ths of an inch late this afternoon. More rain falls from the dark skies tonight.
The watcher weighs 204.3 pounds.
Out-of-kilter weather led to a gathering of trees today — bushes and flowers, too. The January cold that's leaped into spring these past few days prompted drastic action to deal with the possibility of severe, perhaps fatal damage to many of the potted plants. If the weather guessers are to be believed — and this time I fear they may be correct — then temperatures may not climb out of the 30s until Wednesday, and with lows for three consecutive nights predicted to dip into the low 20s, it became prudent to move the two hundred-plus trees, bushes, grasses, and flowers from their places in the back gardens to safe shelter in the studio. There, inside walls and under roof and behind closed doors and windows, the likelihood of a hard freeze to the roots of the tender young things is not likely.
The mistress of the hacienda and I worked together for about ninety minutes in the biting chill — gusts of 30 mph or more out of the northwest — to move the pots, heavy with wet soil, to their resting places on the floor of the woodworking shop and the finishing room of the studio. It's an odd but comforting scene — little leafless deciduous saplings and young evergreens bunched together in ragged groups on almost every square foot of available floor space in the two rooms. Scattered amongst the trees are 24 little bunches of pampas grass, a dozen or so lilies, a few snapdragons and dianthus, twenty or more little mums that wintered over in the sunroom before being sent outside a fortnight ago, and a few other assorted species, each in need of haven from the freezing nights sure to come.
So, the potted throng is safe for the duration of the big chill. As for all the perennials and hardwood trees rooted firmly in the earth, we can only pray for their deliverance. Maybe they'll be tough enough to overcome the shock of the arctic air. Many have buds ready to burst forth with leaf and flower, while others are already showing their emerging colors and first tender leaves. The weeping willow is the most developed of the trees with a full compliment of little green leaves on each of its thin branches. The young tulip poplar has several leaf sets partially open. Other trees are loaded with far-along buds — the yoshino cherry, the sugar maples, the old peach next to the compost mound, the kwanzan cherry, the crabapple. And the bushes and shrubs on the verge of making glorious flowers — darn the freeze! Spare them, Lord. Fear be gone.
I suppose a special place in my heart will be broken if these tender heralds of spring's beauty are thwarted from making bloom by the misaligned seasons and the arctic spring.
Weather: Absurd and disheartening. 29° fahrenheit at 23:48 hours with a cloudless sky and a predicted low of 23.
The watcher weighs 205.2 pounds.
A spring snowfall about an hour past noon caught me by surprise. Striking and ephemeral it was, the flutter of wind-blown flakes in pale light, fast moving splashes of white framed by the greening grass of early spring, the impossibility of the snowfall sticking in the above-freezing air and the too-warm ground.
Sitting at the cherry slab, I watched through the wide front window a flock a robins walking on the grass of the arboretum, a dozen or more busy birds hunting for bugs and worms while the snow fell. They spread out over the expanse of the yard, as if each were assigned a section of a grid, each walking with starts and stops from north to south, each pausing now 'n then to dip its beak into the moist soil. The flock of head-bobbing robins covered the entirety of the yard, standing ten-to-fifteen feet from one another in a slowly moving, naturally disciplined formation. Suddenly a flock of black birds, bunched-up and more numerous than the robins, landed in a flurry along the easternmost edge of the yard. The robins held their ground for a moment, snagging the last bites of their insect treats — then a signal not revealed to me sent all the birds, red-breasted and black, flying away in a dash.
Soon the snow gave way to a steady but soft rain. With the temperature clinging to the low forties and the rain slowing to a misty sputter, I bundled up and ventured outdoors to plant the pink dogwood I'd purchased a couple of weeks ago. Not having the little tree in the ground bothered me, especially since it showed a good number of dome-like flower buds, but a decision about exactly where to plant it under the towering old oaks to the southwest of Doghenge had stymied me. I'd moved the dogwood from this spot to that, thinking about angles of the hot sun to come, but no spot seemed to fit. Now, unable to work on my ongoing saplings-in-the-pots project because of the rain, I knew the time had arrived to make a home for the dogwood. By necessity, the Mother of Invention sang, you must choose the exact spot for the planting. So I chose it, and it was just right. I pushed the shovel into the earth.
Digging the hole came easy in the damp, rocky soil. The hole didn't need to be too deep to hold the little rootball of the six-foot tall dogwood. The spot I selected sits on a gently sloping stretch of yard, so the hole filled with rainwater in a jiffy. The water flowed in thin, snaky rivulets over the ragged uphill rim of the hole, making a muddy soup. I dumped a three-gallon bucket of compost into the water to fill the bottom of the hole, but it was covered by rainwater before I could lower the young tree into its new home. On the first dunking the tree sat too low in the hole, but a second bucket of compost brought the trunk to ground level. In keeping with standard practice I'd dug the hole about twice as wide as the diameter of the pot, so the open space surrounding the submerged rootball filled-up quickly. Some of the black compost began to seep out of the hole and slide slowly downhill. All of it, the cascade and the eddy of fluids in motion, the congealment and coagulation of mass, the rain acting upon the earth, the mineral and the vegetable realms in a dance of transformation, presented a marvelous, deceptively simple demonstration of nature's forces at play. It was takin' place right before me on a little patch of Mother Earth, and I was blessed to bear quiet witness.
Using a trowel, I dropped little dollops of compost into the circle of gooey soup around the rootball, watching scoopful after scoopful disappear into the gradually thickening solution. When the compost close at hand ran out, I scooped up the thick, muddy, dug-up soil from the pile next to the hole and put it back to from whence it came — although in a much altered state with the larger rocks tossed aside. Gradually the watery mix thickened as I worked the soil washing out around the edges back into the hole, much like a mason trowling his wet mortar. When the mud reached the top of the circle and started to look more like an island and less like a lake, I hurried back to the compost mound, grabbed another bucket, and spread it over the muddy top of the hole to complete the planting of the flowering pink dogwood. She's a straight-backed specimen who found her level immediately, and then stayed upright and firmly grounded throughout the rainy operation. She'll be a beauty come the warmer days of early spring.
Invigorated and not too awfully wet, I turned to other wondrous things in the gardens of 3 Dog Acres. Sadie Liz came out to help in the gathering chill of late afternoon, rousing the damp and purposeful dogs to a happy barking greeting. The rain paused for a while, and we planted a wildflower garden, and then a flowering quince I'd acquired that very morning from White River Nursery — but those are other tales too late in the night for the telling. There's only so much of life I can write down before something else comes along to wrest the writer — that's me — from the grip of an infinite page.
Weather: Wet and cold. 35° fahrenheit at 23:26 hours. The forecast if fulfilled carries a threat of loss.
The watcher weighs 207.3 pounds.
The jackrabbit's ears rise as tall as my waist when I'm standing. She sits on her hind legs in the little garden bed outside the girls room of the hacienda. She's a piece of yard art, a concrete sculpture from the world famous statuary outlet and casting studio run by Chester Reyckert in the humble prairie town of Skiatook, not many miles north of the wild west city of Tulsa.
We, Sadie Liz and I, acquired the jackrabbit during our road trip into Oklahoma on Tuesday — a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable jaunt along backroads and two-lane byways. Godzilla the Atomic Road Lizard, aka Honda Element, bore the critter home, along with a fetching mermaid, a curious turtle, an alert cardinal, a swirling morning glory bird bath, and a garden bench supported by a pair of bunnies. I smile in the memory of it, our yard-art road trip to Skiatook — plebian kitsch, bare-bones symbolism, stylistic silliness. Good fun.
We'd also planned to go to the zoo in Tulsa town, thinking (ahead of time) that most of the afternoon would be free following our yard-art expedition, but the backroads route to Skiatook inspired one too many stops along the way, and by the time the helpful hands at the statuary yard had loaded the last piece into Godzilla's cargo hold, it was way too late for flesh-and-blood lions, tigers, and bears. So we plotted an alternate path along more backroads, taking a southerly tack to beat dark home.
Today, twenty more saplings found new homes in their cozy pots — ten pecans and ten osage oranges. Hardy specimens, they join the throng of a hundred and more pots scattered everywhere about the back gardens. An amazing scene it be, this disorderly collection of thin deciduous sticks and bushy baby evergreens. Soon I'll put each specimen in its proper place, but not before the last two sets of ten saplings, the serviceberry bushes and hazel nut trees, are potted. A conscientous arborist can't keep bare-root babies waiting for the crib too awfully long.
Weather: Too darn cold for the vernal equinox with a blustery northeast wind adding to the chill. 31° fahrenheit at 23:59 hours. Clear blue sky in the afternoon, clear indigo sky tonight with the billion sparkling stars.
The watcher weighs 206.6 pounds.
The white pine saplings are awesome. By awesome I mean green, bushy, and shapely up top, with ample, well-formed, and supple roots down below. The Missouri Conservation Service arborists at the tree nursery in Licking sure know how to raise young trees. I've never encountered better saplings. Ever.
Of the 90 saplings delivered to 3 Dog Acres late last week, the white pines are the eye-catchers, chiefly because they're the only ones with green. The others are gangly little deciduous stalks with a few nascent branches and no leaves. Despite their sleepy appearance, the infant trees are supple and brimming with life. The buds on most are just beginning to appear as little nubs on the gray-brown trunks.
The first three species — black cherry, buttonbush, white flowering dogwood — arrived in a smartly prepared package last Wednesday. They've all been planted. To my dismay, the black cherry saplings were damaged during shipment, arriving with the crown of the main trunk broken on seven of the nine specimens. Consequence: no bud at the very top, thus no crowning first leaf set. To mitigate the damage, I gently cut away the broken tops and treated the wounds with pruning paint. The trees will very like survive, given their otherwise robust health, but their ideal form can never be realized. I wrote a courteous letter to the nursery — Dear Arborist, — explaining the circumstances and asking for replacements, offering to pay if required. Maybe they'll send another bunch my way sometime soon. In the meantime, the injured black cherries are snugly in their pots and rarin' to grow.
The other six species in my split order of ninety saplings arrived on Thursday, but I had to let them sit in a cool, dark corner of the studio while I tended to more urgent planting demands raised by the delivery, also on Thursday, of another nursery package, the eclectic collection of seventy-five grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees from Burgess in Illinois. Burgess is a budget-econony-corporate meganursery with bare-bones packaging techniques. Hence my sense of urgency. Getting the specimens out of the little plastic shipping pouches and into an array of pots, ranging in volume from a few ounces to three gallons, took all of my planting time on Friday and Saturday. But the good work is done, and I expect most of the order to survive.
This afternoon I opened the package from Missouri's George O White State Nursery. It contained six bundles of 10 each sycamore, pecan, osage orange, hazel nut, serviceberry, and white pine. The taller saplings stuck out the top of the snug circular plastic package, while the more vulnerable trees were entirely enclosed in the protective cocoon. The rootballs of all were gathered in a gangly community at the bottom, surrounded by a moist, nurturing, mossy substance — the water and the manna of life.
Sycamores were the tallest of the bunch, so I planted them first. A few are probably three feet or better, but I didn't pause to take measurements for the 3 Dog Acres database. That task will have to wait until all saplings are planted. The pines were the logical next choice, given the fact that they were fully tucked into the interior of the package to protect their vulnerable little branches and needles, and thus hadn't seen the light of day since leaving Missouri a week ago. It was a pleasure giving them each a new home as I admired their distinctive and comely shapes, none quite like the other.
Forty more to go. However, resumption of my planting duties must wait until Wednesday. Tomorrow is the day of our road trip! Sadie Liz and I are off to Oklahoma, first to Skiatook Statuary and then to the Tulsa Zoo with the goal of beating dark back home.
Weather: Cool with a sharp northeast wind. Every now and then the sun broke through, and then late in the day all the clouds fled elsewhere. Beautiful clear night with a waxing moon. 36° fahrenheit at 23:43 hours.
The watcher weighs 207.3 pounds.
Outside in the soft misty rain for several invigorating hours this afternoon, sowing wildflower seeds, clover seeds, fescue seeds — there under the great old oaks I accepted the blessings of my quiet and simple life. Mercy is bestowed upon the willing, and I'm willing.
Sixty bareroot saplings need to be planted, but they are safely stowed away, out of harm's way in a cool dark corner of the studio, and'll keep 'till the morrow. The rain, light though it was, kept me from setting-up the planting clinic for my sapling-into-the-pot operation. Wet ingredients get too sticky and gummy to mix and stir for the ready-to-use potting soil I create, batch-by-batch, in the round, 17-gallon steel wash tub. I'll tell you, though: I start with three or four scoops of gray and white cotton burr compost from Texas, add four or five scoops of black yardwaste compost from the nearby city's compost facility, add a couple of scoops of light brown sifted topsoil dredged from some nearby river bottom, add one or two scoops of dark gray mushroom compost from Oklahoma, and top it off with a scoop of last year's reclaimed potting mix from the gardens of 3 Dog Acres. I stir awhile, then repeat the ingredients, and stir again until I'm satisfied with the blend. It fills the wash tub to the top, providing enough soil to pot a half-dozen or so little trees.
Too much detail, and wanting to phrase it Just So, and waiting too late to get started 'cause by now I'm plumb wore out and sleepy — all these things of the mind and the body keep me from my appointed rounds. Entries are left undone, the commitment neglected.
I was gonna say I'd planned to continue planting the saplings this afternoon — on Thursday and Friday I potted the first thirty, the dogwoods and black cherries and buttonbushes — but today's light rain kept me from the intended task. Didn't want to be mixing wet ingredients. Instead, I did other stuff that also needed to be done, allowing me to spend a long time in the rain and the wind.
The damp ground and the misty air made ideal conditions for sowing seed. First was the wildflower mix from Burpee, then the white clover from the big bin in the warehouse at Farmer's Coop — they scoop it out and put it in a paper sack on the scales — and lastly the Five Star fescue seeds, grown in Oregon and packaged in Texarkana, Texas. The wildflowers I scattered in the new bed, a comfortable home prepared especially for them a few days ago. The tiny, spherical, pale blue clover seeds I sowed on bare spots scattered throughout the upper section of the arboretum. And the fescue, three or four pounds left over from last fall's planting, I tossed willy-nilly and at whim while walking the grounds and gardens.
Prospects for germination are good to excellent. The wildflower patch is a sure thing save for a flood. The clover is a good bet because the ground is wet but not awash with flowing rainwater, giving the seeds good opportunity to take a seat in the soil. The fescue is a hit-or-miss gamble, but who knows? The seeds sure won't grow trapped in the plastic Five Star sack.
This is not the way I want them, these words — I'd like 'em to be smoother, rounder, more perfectly polished to fit a finer narrative — but a daily logue from the Opposite Loft is just that, and the clock is ticking, always ticking 'till the Kingdom come. This Them These That
Weather: Promising in the morning, given that the promise was for a long soaking rain. Instead, we got a prolonged mist, useful in ways but producing not much more than a tenth of an inch. Stiff, swirling wind out of the northeast. 46° fahrenheit at 23:58 hours. We need more rain.
The watcher weighs 206.7 pounds.
Roy's rockyard, the place I couldn't describe on Sunday, is dressed in ancient garb — as if some time-traveling wizard had wrenched a scene out of the Stone Age and plopped it smackdab in the middle of the urban sprawl of metro USA. Several hundred-thousand tons of rocks in six or seven huge piles are scattered about a couple of acres of tree-encircled real estate abutting the metroplex's central commercial thoroughfare. The stones aren't neatly stacked, sorted by size, or bound by wire onto ready-to-go, already-weighed pallets. They're just there, stoic and primal, all atumble and jagged in their dump-truck piles. The yard is a primitive anomaly embedded near the center of a commonplace string of commercial structures and asphalt lots stretching for twenty miles of highway to either side of Roy's natural marvel. The rockyard is one of my favorite places on the planet Earth.
When Roy delivered the stones to 3 Dog Acres in his big dump truck on Friday last, he dumped them in a jumbled pile along the edge of the boneyard to the north of the hacienda. Five-and-a-half tons of limestone and sandstone make a big ole pile. It took four determined work sessions spread over three days for me to move each of the several hundred rocks out of the pile to three new stacks in the boneyard and a couple of choice spots for flower-bed borders in the arboretum. By sundown Sunday the task was completed — and what a mighty sight it makes, these rustic stacks and strings of Ozark rocks, these newcomers from the mineral realm adding to the scene at 3 Dog Acres.
Actually, one more rocky task remained, undone, when I awoke on Monday. There were a few very special rocks to be moved. I'd selected them from the rockyard while Roy was loading-up the dump truck: a pair of long (between five and six feet), narrow (eight to ten inches), and not-so-thick (4 to 5 inches) border stones; two uniquely shaped smaller pieces to add to my standing-stone landscape motif; one thick and jagged chunk of limestone, looking in profile very much like an alert dog; and the incredible turtle rock, a natural masterpiece of geologic design. Piloting the rockyard's forklift with practiced skill, Roy had gently placed them in El's battered bed to ensure they wouldn't be broken amidst the rough hodgepodge in the dump truck. The load was just too heavy for me to move without a helping hand, so they sat in El's bed until midday Monday, when Jeremiah came by to help wrestle them, one-by-one, onto the dolly for easy placement at their appointed places in the arboretum.
Today I felt the full residual force of the previous four days of hard labor. Moving over six tons of stones, piece-by-piece — most by gloved hands but several by wrestling them onto and then off of the dolly.... Well, it whipped me good. I slept late, woke up sore, laid about the hacienda in groaning lethargy, and couldn't rouse the old bod to any useful task — other than making a fire in the hearth — until late afternoon. And when I did rouse, it was for piddling stuff — chopping a few chunks of firewood, tending one of the two wildflower beds in preparation for planting tomorrow or Thursday, pruning a little branch or two. Just enough to generate sufficient body heat to ward off the chill of a stout northwest wind and allow my spirit to embrace the beauty of the cloudy skies, charcoal gray and milky white and copenhagen blue, then giving way to the fiery majesty of a gathering glorious sunset.
Now, with midnight approaching, I'll count the one just done as another day in Paradise, a paradise of my own making, a day given to me, moment-by-moment, by grace of the merciful Creator. One old saw says some days are better than others. Maybe so. I ask: What values are set forth to direct the act of judgment? I ask: By what measure do we determine the worth of a particular day? This one found me sore and weary with not a lot to show for its passing — other than the abiding presence of love, the comfort of good food and safe shelter, the peaceful passing overhead of the Sun and all its wondrous operations.
Life is good at 3 Dog Acres.
Weather: Cold but with intimations of spring in the brisk afternoon air, in the movement of light o'er the land. 39° fahrenheit at 23:06 hours. No rain in the extended forecast.
The watcher weighs 206.8 pounds.
Sometimes it just doesn't work, the little string of words I'm crafting for submission to the light of day — even when the string includes a fine phrase or two. I weave 'em together in pursuit of a particular idea, thinking I'm onto something good, but.... after one too many twists 'n turns in the struggle.... I realize the cause of the moment is lost. The words just sit there, going nowhere — flat, or drifty, or contorted, or aimless, or duller than dirt, or any combination of the aforementioned liabilities. When it's clear that no amount of reweaving can turn the sow's ear I've written into the silk purse I'm seeking, the only sensible recourse is the waste basket. Select all, backspace, be done with it. Start anew and hope for better. No flat and drifty. No aimless and contorted. No duller than dirt.
I was tryin' to describe the marvels of Roy's rockyard when I realized I'd written my way into a corner. I was there Friday, not the corner but the rockyard, putting together an order for five tons of sandstone and limestone rocks to be delivered to 3 Dog Acres that afternoon. It was a great success, the visit — and I've more than six tons of stone treasures to show for it — but for some odd reason, I can't seem to find the words tonight to encapsulate the experience. I'll not give up, though. Tomorrow.
Tossing a portion or two of one's honest work into the dustbin of oblivion is a necessary condition of the writer's trade. Other artists and artisans arrive at similar psychic dead-ends, some with dramatic consequences: a severed ear, a smashed block of marble, papers suddenly transformed into ashes, anguished screams in the dead of night. I try to keep the drama to a minimum, especially now that I'm stone sober and no more prone to the drunken rage and the guilt-riven hangover. Select all. Pause. Backspace = delete. Loves me, loves me not.
Weather: Wet, wet, wet! The rain began as a mist late Saturday afternoon while I was planting the red-twig dogwood, and gradually it increased in intensity until the torrent arrived in the dead of night, accompanied by flashes and crashes as natural points of emphasis. At daybreak the rain continued to fall, tapering away gradually to a lingering sputter in late afternoon. With my rain gauge cracked and leaky from too many hard freezes, I turn to wunderground.com, the Weather Underground, where I see totals of 1.04 inches on Saturday and .79 inches today at the KFYV Weather Station in nearby Fayetteville. Happy are the trees, bushes, flowers, and grasses. 31° fahrenheit at 23:58 hours. May the drought be done-for and gone.
The watcher weighs 207.3 pounds.
The first leaf from one of the saplings begins to open! I spied it yesterday morn on a slender branch of one of the little sugar maples in the sun room of Corvus Studio. By this evening the leaf bud — or should I say leaves since the marvel is birthing as a pair? — had fanned out about 15 degrees to either side of an imaginary medial axis line, like hands opening from joined palms. The colors of the infant leaf evoke autumn instead of spring, with a burgundy body (about 2 cm wide x 3 cm long) tinged at the edges with pale yellow accents. A perfect little maple leaf! Yes, it's worth an exclamation point or two, this first blush of deciduous spring at 3 Dog Acres. I wonder how many days must pass before the reddish hues transform into spring green?
The huge pile of last autumn's leaves, along with twigs, gum balls, grasses, and various other frags of brush and scrub, diminishes steadily from two days of fires in the burn barrel. The sweet smell of leaf smoke has been ever-present out back for two days now. With another good burn tomorrow, I'll be quite near the bottom of the pile.
Weather: Warm and breezy with a high topping out at 60. 50° fahrenheit at 23:36 on a clear night. Despite the past two months of average rainfall totals, the drought continues. There's just too much catching up to do.
The watcher weighs 209.3 pounds.
Deep reflection on a vexing problem or murky issue leads directly to resolution and clarity, sometimes quicker than you might expect. You place the problem or the central question squarely in the center of your consciousness, make it the focal point of your mind's eye, inspect and analyze every visible and implied aspect, peruse the implications of several possible answers or courses of action, cogitate on potential outcomes, make decisions and plot courses — and then let it go. The answers, the solutions, and the one right way forward shall surely come to you. Resolution is assured, although it arrives at a time of the universe's choosing, and oft in a manner not immediately apparent to you.
My deep reflection of the hour concerns the vegetable realm in general and the sources of supply for new plants in particular.
I'm fully engaged in creating an arboretum here at 3 Dog Acres, an evening-of-life project now entering its second springtime. Good progress, too — but I've significant choices to make before I step forward into the coming growing season. How I decide to plot those steps will go far in determining the success of my project, which should continue — Lord willin' and the creeks don't rise — 'till my dying breath, let's say some seasons down the road. I've got to pick the trees, bushes, and flowers I want to add to the gardens, and pick them with good sense and good sensibility. Hence the vexing questions at the center of my reflection: How best to choose the new plants, and more crucially, from whence shall they be acquired?
Immediately, an array of related questions emerges like branches from the trunk. How important to purpose and philosophy are native species? How big the trees: saplings, ten-gallon nursery giants, or something in between? How should specimens be arranged in relation to one another, to the terrain, and to the structures on our property? What are the best selections for the shady regions between our great and mature standing oaks? How can I manage to care for them all?
As the reflection deepened and the intensity of concentration sustained itself, I returned again and again to the one central question of the exercise: How can I obtain the plants I desire with the assurance of quality? In this case, quality translates to life force, to the ability of a plant to adapt to its new environment with vigor and full flowering. In the commonplace, the question becomes clear and direct: Which nursery at what price?
Choosing a nursery leads the inquiry in two directions, not along cardinal points of the compass but rather into axial degrees of proximity and remoteness: far away or nearby, from a distant place or from somewhere in the neighborhood?
Availability of species and cultivar, chosen by heart's desire and written on my list, became central to my deliberations, especially after I arrived at guidelines on the age and size of the plants I want to introduce into the gardens this spring and summer. One supposition revolved around the notion that local nurseries just didn't offer many of the plants on my list, but how could I be sure until I investigated the supply lines? I realized that I've not taken the time to make a thorough and systematic survey of the local stock. Then, looking beyond the horizon, I wondered: Why does the allure of printed catalogues and web-based product lines seduce and fire my imagination? A rational analysis reveals the legion of difficulties inherent in buying bare-root specimens and immature plants from afar, unseen and untouched until arrival, knowing most will be severely stressed from the indignities of assembly-line packing in corporate nurseries and the subsequent rigors of shipping by truck? O, the possibilities! O, the pitfalls!
When I finally let go of the reflection and deemed it done after several hours one night, several more hours in the dreams that followed, and a few more in the background of the next morning's consciousness, I knew the right course would be revealed to me. And it was. Quite quickly, too. I'm sore amazed and grateful.
Weather: Sunny day, mostly clear night. Cool day, cold night. 33° fahrenheit at 23:08 hours. We need some rain.
The watcher weighs 208.3 pounds.
Planning. The growing season is a comin' in. The vegetable realm awakens. Dormancy, stasis give way to action.
Trees, bushes, grasses, and flowers shall soon arrive by truck from the nurseries. Planning for their arrival is essential; otherwise, I'll be overwhelmed. I expect 90 sapling trees from the Missouri Department of Conservation and 10 more from the Arbor Day Foundation. An eclectic array of plant life from Burgess Seed and Plant Company in Illinois, 57 items total, are scheduled for early spring shipment. I've got to be ready.
Between two and three cubic yards of compost are on hand. Seven 40-pound bags of cotton burr and a few hundred pounds of garden-stock soil are stored in the studio and plant clinics. Jeremiah has scheduled a delivery of a couple of yards of premium top soil for sometime this coming week. I've gathered about 200 planter pots of several sizes, 3 gallon to 10 gallon. Billy has ordered three new outdoor faucets for installation within the week; two will replace inferior existing connections on the north and east faces of the hacienda, while the third will provide a new water source for the southwest quadrant of the gardens.
So, I've soil, containers, and water supply systems in place or near completion. Planning continues for location of the several plant clinics to serve as home for the new arrivals. Which ones need full sun? Which can tolerate partial shade? Which need much water, or not so much water? Which ones will go directly into the ground?
We shall see. Lord willin', a wondrous March awaits me, awaits us all.
Weather: Cold but sunny and not so windy. With clear skies tonight, the temperature will plunge deeply. 23° fahrenheit at 22:51 hours with a predicted low of 18. Winter holds tightly to the moment. Let the frosty old man flee!
The watcher weighs 209.0 pounds.
Some paid too much. Though they paid in good faith, they were tricked by the masters and minions of The System into believing the lie. Their good faith found expression through dutiful adoration of the market and its doctrine of ever-increasing value. The tricksters projected an illusion of steady and certain growth without end for a sure-thing investment. The masters are the One Percent, uber-rich oligarchs and ultra-elite controllers of World Corp, whose minions sell the lie, seal the deal, and collect the blood money by the bucketsful. Bad faith, tricks, and the lie congeal in the matrix of Capitalism as a skewer of equality and the enemy of liberty. Fraternity is damned to the shredder.
That a house purchased in good faith and sold with implicit promise of security can become, through vagary of capitalist market machination, a burden of negative value is a social and economic abomination. Faux-ownership by financially powerless holders of home mortgages morphs into an unshakeable liability. The meagre inflow of income to the strapped citizen's accounts goes in entirety to voracious corporate predators, who stand in opposition to the common good and control subsistence-level supplies of food, clothing, shelter, medicine, transport, and commonplace diversion.
A citizen purchases a mortgage at inflated value under premise of the lie. Not long thereafter, the market is manipulated by the masters to fall into a nosedive. The minions then deliver the bad news: By decree of market value, your house is worth 20 percent less than when you bought it. Dazed, the citizen is locked into negative possession of property and pushed into a downward spiraling stream of diminishing returns. No amount of personal productivity is, or shall be, sufficient to reverse the flow into a spirit-rending torrent.
Citizen-owner suddenly faces the never-expected dilemma of home ownership, sold as a dream and delivered as a dun. Choices are grim. Continue inflated monthly mortgage payments to World Corp (JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Lending Tree, US Bank, Quicken), or move out and put the house into the whirlpool of rental property, or write World Corp a fat check for the privilege to sell, or walk away and be condemned to credit-rating servitude. Inflated monthly payments prevent savings or maintenance. The desperate act of taking on a renter, and then another, and then another, to pay the note turns the citizen into World Corp's unpaid bill collector and ill-equipped middleman (and makes citizen a renter, too). The fat check is beyond means. And bad credit douses hope.
The corporate masters suck all the money out of the citizen, no matter how the wheel turns.
Weather: Cold and gray with a biting wind. 33° fahrenheit at 23:02 hours. Winter's last gasp continues.
The watcher weighs 208.6 pounds.
Winter is about to drift away with the precession, but the hoary Old Man is holding on tightly to the moment. Just a while ago, as I was leading the three shepherds on our goodnight rounds about an hour before midnight, I felt the Arctic on the northwest winds. We are in the midst of one of the coldest spells of another mild winter season.
LitTunes, one of CornDancer's flagship webs, continues to occupy most of my attention. Dr. G. has written a preview and review of LitTunes-related projects and initiatives to coincide with the publication of our first new lesson plan unit in many moons. "I Got the Writin' Blues" by Will Sewell is the twelfth contribution to the LitTunes lesson plan initiative. We hope to have everything online in a day or two.
LitTunes lessons attract many hundreds of visitors each week, most of them public-school teachers in search of new ideas for their English classes. The twelve lessons now available testify to altruism in action, something especially meaningful in light of the movement by web entrepreneurs to monetize these essential resources for classroom teachers. I can't fully understand the mindset of the teachers who contribute for-a-fee lesson plans to commercial webs. I guess they think they need the extra money, but for those kind of small-time capitalists, there will never be enough cash in hand. Putting a lesson plan behind a pay wall is a cynical and needy act, antithetical to the fundamental principles of community, service, and professionalism — principles that impart essential value to online endeavor. The eBay mentality bleeds ever so slowly into education.
Weather: Cold again. 31° fahrenheit at 23:55 hours. A clear night sky following red clouds at sunset.
The watcher weighs 208.9 pounds.
Memory tells me in oblique fashion that today was a special day for someone I used to know — probably a birthday, or the anniversary of a death, but the fault lines cut through my neurons too deeply now. I can't connect all the dots anymore, can't know who is flesh and blood and who is not or ever was. Not knowing kith from kin is a lingering symptom of the bastard child.
Progress comes in starts 'n stops, moving forward incrementally, with slippage, and then ratcheting up — a body in motion, a body at rest. Novel expressions of advancement must be discovered to provide counter-balance to the deterioration of personal systems — forms, functions, purposes — first falling into entropy, then rising with energy, then falling and rising again. How was I to know it would end someday?
Keep the faith.
Four days and nights pass since the last entry here — too long given the goals I've set — but now is better than then, and the damaging ice storm never materialized Praise God! we was spared by the Fates. Sooner or later I'm gonna have to write about this ongoing weight change plan of mine — unofficial, concerted, sustained — the watcher weighs.... — But not yet. [Where are all these long dashes coming from?]
Great peals of wall-shaking thunder today round noon, or so it seemed. Weatherman Dan had a special name for it on TV tonight, but he spoke so rapidly about that particular phenomenon I couldn't quite catch it. He said he wrote about the exceptional case on his blog maybe I'll go there and look might as well of wrote me a note on the bathroom wall.
Daffodils bloom, but thus far only a few splashes of yellow appear among the hundreds of rising shoots, whose potential for full flowering makes me eager for the arrival of spring. I suppose there aren't mere hundreds but several thousand green tendrils of daffodil, each twisting heavenward from the damp soil in 3 Dog Acres' many garden beds. They're climbin' out to greet the sun you can't tell me different they know what they're doin' and be bloomin' all the way 'till April. We've already plucked a dozen or more, me 'n Sadie Liz, and put 'em into little vases to decorate the hacienda.
I continue to burn through the firewood at a furious pace. With the hearth as a fixed point for the psyche during the long indoor season, fires are a necessary and vital centerpiece of daily and nightly life. My rule of thumb mandates a fire when the outdoor temperature stays below 60 — and even then I'll raise a blaze during the cold of the morning. A fire in the hearth sets a proper order for the passing of our waking hours.
Weather: Rainy. Cool. A few stupendous rumblings of thunder and one or two flashes of lightning during the daylight hours. Three-tenths of an inch in the gauge an hour after sunset — and the rain continues to fall intermittently in the last few minutes before midnight. 37° fahrenheit at 23:50 hours.
The watcher weighs 210.8 pounds.
When the snow began to fall mid-morn, I thought the worst, bringing forth a senseless state of mind based on what-ifs. What if the direst of the forecasts are correct and the ice storm arrives with a vengeance? What if the ice on branches and limbs thickens over the hours, gaining sufficient dead weight to severely harm the precious trees and bushes? What if the electrical power fails like it did four years ago during another ice storm to totally disrupt the tranquility of daily life for days on end? What if we begin to hear the onerous cries of destruction, the groaning, cracking, and crashing of limbs and trunks as they fall from the sky in the icy darkness of a terrible night?
Not yet midnight, and the verdict in the stoic court of Mother Nature is still out. But the prospects for acquittal seem to be more favorable now than they were in the light of day — that is if the latest weather forecasts prove to be accurate and true. The worst of the ice is likely to miss us, Weatherman Dan said during the six p.m. newscast in reference to our neck of the woods. Those weren't his exact words, but that's what he meant. The chances for "a significant ice event," he said, are more likely to happen to the east of us. Pray tell he is right. Pray tell better the thick ice misses us all.
I wish I weren't so alarmed by storms. They never used to bother me so. But the portent for loss inherent in their arrival becomes acute now that I know [in my heart-of-hearts] there is something of profound personal value to lose [Yes, Guardian: he thinks he has something to lose, an oft fatal illusion.] if the destructive forces of wind, or ice, or the lightning bolt were to strike. Twice before over the past dozen years I've witnessed the terrible nature of ice storms, and the prospect of another natural disaster from winter's wrath dismays me in extremis — as if some kind of psychic steed of death is charging over yonder hill.
It's irrational, this fear, but nonetheless I pray fervently for protection of the natural and material aspects of our good life here at 3 Dog Acres. The magnitude of good here is beyond any remembered past experience. May it continue — and if the Creator so wills, may it continue free of damage from ice tonight — and tomorrow.
Weather: Dangerously icy with sleet and freezing rain. A thin layer of ice clings to the midnight trees. 31° fahrenheit at 23:57 hours. The drought is on the run.
The watcher weighs 210.4 pounds.
Yellow corn, green beans, white potato, wheat bread. A dog on alert. Cries of cold wolves, their paws on snow in the Ural highlands. Oak, hickory, walnut. Big plans. The Bell Jar. A camera left out in the rain. Soil settles into the loosely packed trench. Heat pump. Delay after delay, leading nowhere.
Mountain Valley sparkling water. Coffee with chickory from Louisiana. The postman delivered it to the front door. Raw honey supplied by Billy Boykin from Mountainburg. It's the best. Oil from the old car leaked onto the driveway. Rain washes the oil off the concrete and onto the surface of the soil. She won't be coming here anymore. After six productive years the relationship is broken by mutual consent. I didn't cry, but she did. Money changes hands. The string trio plays a tune by Beethoven.
The fire: stoked. A fresh blaze rises. Do you suppose we'll have another revolution anytime soon? Got your frozen blood bullets at the ready? Might need 'em when the fist slams down. Whose statue will they topple first?
A thin wafer of chocolate and mint. Been in the bowl since before Christmas. Look at the guy. He ain't got no legs. How can he run like that? No more chocolate tonight. No more wolves in the conical tweeters. No more tears at the melodrama's conclusion.
Weather: Chilly, windy, and wet. Two-tenths of an inch fell during the day, most during a brief torrent in mid-afternoon. 39° fahrenheit at 21:42 hours. I wonder how long it'll be before they pronounce the drought's departure?
The watcher weighs 210.9 pounds.
Planting a young tree is one of my fondest pleasures. The act connects me to a life force of peaceful passivity and potent potential. It links my animal psyche in primal companionship to the vegetable realm, a mysterious place with intimations of permanence and prospects of stately beauty. Today I planted a tree.
The little white pine, maybe four-feet tall, followed a winding road to its home in the good earth. I first set my eyes on it at the nursery in December on a mid-month Monday following the final weekend rush of the season. It stood with a few other "picked over" specimens in an area reserved for living Christmas trees. "This is all we've got left," the nursery man said. "Won't be gittin' no more either." My pick was smaller than the other four or five little trees of its kind, but showed a shapely figure, and unlike the others, bore no brown needles. I was pleased to obtain it.
At home, however, the mistress of the hacienda deemed my white pine as "too small" for a proper Christmas tree. When young son came to visit the next day, the verdict was confirmed. My little white pine was just not big enough for this season's starry dreams. It was stayin' outdoors. "A bigger tree would be nice," young son said gently. Yes, the family had spoken. A few days later, son and I found a tall, elegant cultivar fir at one of the big stores in town. I did like it. Meanwhile, the little white pine sat on the ground outside my study window, its burlap rootball balanced against the limestone bench in the arboretum, awaiting disposition.
I don't recall the exact date, but it was sometime before the solstice when I dug the hole and planted the pine. Against my usual practice, I left the rootball encased in the burlap instead of cutting it away because that's what the nursery's tip sheet recommended. Thank goodness, too.
About eight weeks passed before the electric wires under the pine's rootball corroded sufficiently to interrupt the flow of power to our cottage. That was Monday, six days ago, when me 'n my true love awoke on a very cold early morning to discover that half the house was without power, including the heat pump, cook stove, and refrigerator. The linemen in their big white trucks answered my plea swiftly, and following much diligent machinations and high-tech troubleshooting, informed me of the cold fact: In digging the hole for the pine tree, I'd nicked the buried wires with my shovel, slicing little holes in the protective coverings, which allowed ground moisture to come into contact with the copper. The resulting corrosion had finally interrupted the flow of current from the main line to our cottage. Emergency repairs were in order. And they were done that morning. Long-term electrical infrastructure improvements were suggested. And they were done on Saturday. Tonight, it's A-OK with the power supply to the hacienda.
As for the little white pine, it was pulled with care from its hole with the rootball still safely encased in burlap. The startled tree was placed at a slight lean a few feet from the hole while the electric men applied emergency splices to the three damaged wires. It was cold, and we needed power right away. "Keep the hole open until the new system is installed," the lead man said. "It'll follow a new path anyway, and these old wires can just stay in the ground. When the job's done Saturday, the splices can be cut out, and you can put the tree back in the same place."
So, there she sat all week long, the little white pine — the Christmas tree that wasn't — homeless again at the mercy of the animal clan. But I kept her watered and made my plans. And today I put 'em into action. No wonder I felt a quiet little rush of satisfaction after I patted down the last layer of compost and began to gently water the freshly planted tree. The old burlap root-cover lay in tatters on the ground nearby.
Weather: Downright balmy with a high in the lower 60s. 51° fahrenheit at 23:58 hours.
The watcher weighs 209.0 pounds.
[I find myself wondering] Why do this, post written words here in full knowledge that no one is reading? Personally, it's a poignant question, touching the very purpose of being. Why am I publishing here when I know — the Analytics are scientifically neutral — that no one is reading? Perhaps I'm searching for meaning instead of validation, a sense of purpose instead of acceptance, a hiding place in full public view. In being here, I become another of the Invisible Men. [Women, too, but for tonight I'll leave my feminism in abeyance.]
A writer is one who writes, and from the moment following my first for-hire published work forty-eight years ago, I've never stopped writing. I've earned a few hundred grand at the game, not much when the total is spread out over the years; not much, knowing that the average newspaper hack or ad copy writer makes a half million or more over a career. And those guys and gals are just the yeoman scribes.
So, being here but not being noticed presents to the mirror a dimension of identity I can't quite chart or measure. My other bylined works on the Web have not attracted significant readership, though I've managed to drum-up a few of the willing for every project since CornDancer was launched in summer of 2000. (Lord knows I've never quit trying.) The drum beat came in the form of e-mail notices to a little list of friends, family, associates, and acquaintances. Nothing caught fire. I've n'er attained a following.
Over time I've deduced that about half of the folks on my list never click. Of the other half, some probably read all the way to the end, but most pay a cursory visit and then move on to the next attraction. The long season of obscurity is something I've come to accept more and more fully with each passing year — and accept without much resentment or dejection. I suppose this online journal represents the final stage of acceptance, an act I'll define as freedom from disappointment. I toss it into indifferent winds without e-mail notice or a shout out that I'm here, signifying a special kind of closure to worn-out ambitions.
It is what it is. Beyond the experience of putting it here, the consequences become the mystery.
I write because that's what I'm compelled to do — a couple million hand-written words in my journals attest to that fact. But my journals were never intended for anyone's eyes but mine. Publishing here under the title Daily Logue from the Opposite Loft as part of the collected work in Crow's Cottage represents another venture and opportunity to develop and polish esoteric aspects of the craft: voice, style, point of view, so many other elements of my lonely pursuit. Were the Opposite Loft to attain meaning beyond self, maybe speak something of the universal directly to you.... Well, that would be a rewarding bonus.
Weather: Colder than the day before with a biting north wind. 29° fahrenheit at 22:15 hours. Though my geographic region shows above average numbers in measured rainfall for calendar year 2013, the drought is not yet broken.
The watcher weighs 211.3 pounds.
I tried to separate Mind from body but couldn't. Mind lives in brain as a function of biological forces, chemical reactions, fields of electrical charges. No brain, no Mind. The relationship is indivisible.
A complex system with precise definitions can distinguish the two, but only as parts of the whole. Entering into the system, we subdivide and formulate arrays without obvious end. The body's branches become the purview of science, the Mind's aspects the concern of philosophy.
[ array » branch » aspect ]
How far shall we follow the two sides of the Great Divide? All the way to the end of another Little Book.
I hear the choir's song as if the singers are standing in a grand and solemn cathedral. I wish for holiness and purity of thought.
In the town of the speed trap I spy the policeman maneuvering the young black-haired man, handcuffed, toward a backdoor of the patrol car. Passing by slowly in my automobile, mocking the trap, I see the young man's face, see his expression of anguish, the expression announcing — I'm sure — an all-too-sudden end to a seminal chapter in his difficult life.
At the bank I write my name on a piece of paper, exchange it for one thousand U.S. dollars divided into fifties and hundreds. There are wages to be paid. Money pours from the accounts like hot honey off a spoon.
Down the road I buy concrete blocks, strands of 16-penny nails, work gloves made of coarse cotton and smooth leather. The cashier calls me hon, shares my lament about outsourcing to China.
Back home in the studio at 3 Dog Acres, I shape scraps of black walnut and red oak into shims for the big job tomorrow. The saw whines and grumbles. I take care to protect my eyes, keep my fingers. I look outside, see the dogs chasing one another on the damp grass and muddy dirt. The sun is falling toward darkness. I remove the flag from its stanchion, furl it around the thick sassafras pole, and put it to bed for the night. The dogs are hungry, want to be fed.
Weather: Cool and breezy. Sunshine mostly with fast-passing, fleecy clouds. 32° fahrenheit at 23:51 hours. No snow on the ground at sunrise, defying the predictions.
The watcher weighs 212.6 pounds.
Marriage endures. It does. I scribbled — a moment ago in the slow pencil crawl toward an opening — a few observations about institutions and social contracts in the style of macrocosmic commentary, but they fell flat onto the recycled page — Second Nature Made in U.S.A — so I scratched out the words and sought another tack. I'll keep it personal. So.... My marriage to Sadie Liz, her marriage to me arrived at its thirty-fifth anniversary today. I view the long run of union like I view much of my life at this late hour. I see miracles in the footprints of the days.
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is to love and be loved in return." A Yahoo! guru credits the line to Eben Ahbez from his 1947 tune "Nature Boy" — most likely correct, but I remember it from the 2001 film Moulin Rouge! as sung by the love-struck writer Christian. How could he not fall in love with Satine? It's true, too. Love shared is the greatest thing. Unrequited, it's a heartbreak — but not this lifetime this go 'round.
An anniversary falling on one of the fives demands, or deserves, something special to symbolize its arrival and passing into memory. Other than private affirmations of undying love to one another — affirmations best pronounced daily — the traditional way for a mated pair to honor a special anniversary is through the giving of gifts. This year our gifts spoke to the importance of shared passions. We didn't so much give to one another as we gave to the union of heart and soul necessary for the creation of a couple. We didn't plan it that way. It just happened.
On the cherry slab this morning I found a little pot of tall tulips, five of them on the verge of bloom, early spring flowers we can enjoy together. Standing next to the tulips was a little note card with a reproduction of "Inner Light," a stained glass by lifelong friend Debra Strack. The message inside harkened back to our wedding day.
To Sadie Liz I gave a cherry tree. Jacob at the nursery in Tontitown helped me choose it from a dozen Yoshino cherries arranged in two rows, 2.0" specimens just in from Tennessee. We found a shapely tree, rising twelve, maybe fourteen feet into the gray winter sky, loaded with buds and sure to bloom come springtime. Jacob forklifted the tree gently into the bed of old El, my 35-year-old Chevy Camino, and off I drove toward home. It was four o'clock with dark approaching.
The rain was falling softly by the time El and I arrived at 3 Dog Acres in the last ninety minutes or so before sunset. Isis, Gandalf, and Ulysses were barking their greeting song. A stout, invigorating wind raced over the hills from the northeast. Jeremiah arrived a few minutes later to help plant the anniversary tree. The rootball was wrapped in burlap and bound by steel wire and nylon rope — wet and heavy. We wrangled it off the tailgate and onto the driveway, then rolled the happy tree on dolly wheels to the edge of the planting hole, which only a few moments before had cradled a dying white dogwood. And we did this, did that, resolute and relaxed with the cool rain soaking slowly through the cloth of our jackets, and our boots and gloves covered with wet earth — but it's way late just now, and I want to post today's entry and go to bed.... Compost, the scraping of shovels against stones in the soil, and a ring of rocks around the cherry tree, and a standing stone wedged into the earth to announce an alliance of mineral and vegetable — natural totems, one stolid and fixed, the other pliant and reaching — and cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows served by Sadie Liz. "Happy anniversary!" Jeremiah sang, and then he was driving away in the fading light, soon to be home with his bride Kasey and baby daughter Lula Mae at their happy little home on the south slope of a nearby hollow. A cycle, a circle, another good day.
Life is good at 3 Dog Acres. There's much more to today's little story, but the time for its telling is done. Another awaits the morrow. Here's the truth: I've learned to love. Here's the beauty: I'm loved in return. I am. She is. We are!
Weather: Wintry and wet with intimations of snow in the late night air. 33° fahrenheit at 23:47 hours. The weather screen on the Motorola Atrix predicts a very light snow through the night. If so, it'll be gone by the afternoon.
The watcher weighs 211.5 pounds.
The blueberry patch by the north fence in the Tai Chi yard provides ample bounty in early summer. [I dream of cobblers, pancakes, fritters, and cream pies.] The patch needed tending in preparation for the growing season, so today Sadie Liz and I set about accomplishing the task. A tangled maze of prickly blackberry vines surrounded the two blueberry bushes, complicating things with a menace: sharp barbs on a legion of spindly, unwieldy runners. One of the barbs, a broken thorn, is stuck to the inside of my writing thumb at this very moment.
Sadie Liz hacked away at the vines while I tugged and raked. Several years of leaves obscured the base of the paired blueberry bushes, old plants with a fine clump of branches and a star field of bud-laden twigs. Some of the branches rise to twice my height and spread out in scrumptious glory.
Gradually the encircling blackberry vines gave way to Sadie's merciless but prudent whacking, falling into the tangled mess of leaves and snagged grass in my raking piles. The two of us were constantly pulling sticker vines away from our clothing, boots, hats, and gloves, hoping all the while to escape a wounding blow to the cheek or neck — woe be to an eye! But we stuck with it, and after a while we'd cleared a path all the way around the blueberries. There are plenty of blackberries left, too.
The freshly exposed soil at the base of the blueberry patch appeared to be healthy and fertile, given the fact that the leaves hadn't been raked away in who knows how many years. We're approaching only our second spring season here at 3 Dog Acres, and with a dozen or more distinct garden beds to play with, the task of tending to the blueberries took a while before it snared our undivided attention. Fertile true, but I couldn't resist treating the dark, moist soil around the twin bushes with a hardy bonus meal of rich, black compost — two buckets of the potent stuff. I spread it by gloved hand all 'round and through the many little stalks, or branches, that rise up from the good earth to make the bush.
The hardest part was the last: picking up the leaves and ribbons of severed blackberry sticker bush, stuffing it all into a big plastic tub, and carrying it to the refuse pile next to the burn barrel. I put on safety glasses and dug in, taking the time to chop the longer tendrils into manageable little slivers and chunks, thus preventing both the sticky wrap-around and the cutting slap. I wrestled the mess into four tub loads, and managed to burn most of it before sunset. It made a nice crackling fire.
Weather: Warm but tempered by a sharp north wind. 39° fahrenheit at 23:57 hours. A hard rain arrived with crashes of thunder in the dark night, following a Saturday afternoon of light but steady drizzle. Sixth-tenths of an inch in the gauge this morning! Drought be gone, be gone, begone!
The watcher weighs 211.3 pounds.
It's old news already, Professor Wirth's failed MOOC on Coursera, but it captured my attention during its inexorable crash last week. My role as student provided prime seating for the show, a strange new form of theater, pitting an overmatched surface-skimmer of a protagonist, the online instructor, against an amorphous, clamorous, and shifty antagonist, the students — one accomplished woman with the best of intentions, I suppose, falling prey to the massed forces of human expectation and demand on one front, and to the indifferent, passionless machine on another. The professor's surrender and withdrawal on Saturday last, ending the online course after a week of downward spiraling, could be viewed as an act of intellectual courage — if one is inclined to elevate the experience of a failed MOOC into a new form of public drama, and if one is inclined to see a macrocosmic truth emerging from the episode. Tens of thousands of bit players converge to create a single avatar.... But that's as far as I'm going to go with my reflection on the MOOC. It's old news already. Others have deconstructed the failure with much more energy and many more words than I'm willing to muster. They're a jumpin' on it like wild boys leapin' onto a dogpile.
Our new neighbors Jim and Faith constructed a big ole fire ring this afternoon and raised a little bonfire a couple of hours before dark. I was captivated, providing a breath of lung bellows to help the blaze roar and crackle into life. I had to go early to tend to the gardens, but the two of 'em, lovebirds, sat by the fire in easy chairs until well past sunset, making a special memory.
Earlier today I couldn't remember how to set the years in proper order, and couldn't connect them to the months, or arrange them to fit a logical sequence. Thirteen and twelve got mixed-up, and which came first became a mystery, and I didn't find the necessary clarity until I made a cryptic phone call and surreptitiously wrangled my way into right thinking by leaning on the brainwaves of a special sharer.
Weather: Cooler. 31° fahrenheit at 23:38 hours. The drought may be in an early stage of departure. Yesterday's rainfall totaled about four-tenths of an inch, but arrived in three separate little showers, one in late morning, one in mid afternoon, the third just after dark, allowing the moisture to soak a little bit deep into the thirsty soil. Weatherman Dan says more is on the way with a one-hundred percent chance of rain on Sunday.
The watcher weighs 213.2 pounds.
Spontaneous generation of text is the illusion. An act of Will is required. Especially for a living being who seems to exist in a vacuum. He doesn't, but it seems so.
In the pale of late afternoon, a light rain falling, I finished raking and pruning the long, narrow garden bed at the north edge of the driveway, ending a task I began [had begun] during Tuesday's last hour of daylight. The bed is rich with life — all of those tubers. It was nigh time to free them from the darkness.
Emerging: daffodils, crocus, lilies, irises, tulips, bluebells, peonies — others, I'm sure, whose names I can't remove from the tip of tongue and place here on the page at this moment of the nighttime. It's wonderful to see the rising shoots, some in mighty clumps, others as singular tips of green and yellow. I've been tardy in removing the sheltering pile of last autumn's leaves from some of the garden beds, but the tubers I unveiled yesterday and today don't seem to mind, as if the leaves of oak and apple represented nothing more than another layer of darkness to penetrate and transcend in the annual upward thrust toward the rays of late winter's Sun. Determined plants.
Next to the front door of our country cottage, on the north side of the steps, stretches a little bed of winter-happy annuals just now coming into their own, presenting swirls of color — yellow, violet and burgundy atop the soil-hugging greenery of pansies and violas. I was late — it was already November — digging them out of their tiny six-pack greenhouse plastic pockets and nestling them into the compost-rich soil, hence the tardiness of the blooms, but they'll be full-bodied and gorgeous by mid-March, and then rampant and glorious during their last weeks in May, when legginess and summer's early heat conspire to do them in.
Recovery. The Whirling. Physical manifestation of certain cosmic truths about the Self.
Weather: As warm as March, not the Februarys I remember, with a high in the mid-60s. 48° fahrenheit at 22:42 hours. The drought continues but shows slight signs of waning. The rain at sunset was merely a trace in the gauge.
The watcher weighs 212.6 pounds.
Vertigo. It was a Hitchcock movie until Monday night when it became a sudden, strike-me-down malady. Knocked me off a splendid path four weeks running. Now, three nights after the dizzying assault, I'm still trying to get back on the path.
Tryin' to construct a narrative of the episode is gittin' me nowhere. I write a little string of sentences, look at 'em, and quickly scratch it all out. Who cares about the mundane details of someone else's physical travails? I'd just as soon forget mine, but the symptoms.... They linger. The world ain't straight yet.
Rattled. You've heard it before: It was goin' so good, then all of a sudden.... Next thing I know I'm in the hospital, a shot in de buttocks, wires stuck to my chest, beams of light in me eyes. But I wasn't gonna go there, was I? Wasn't gonna tell that tale.
In the aftermath I caught myself wonderin': What day is it? The day after vertigo struck counts as a total loss. But the night offered some redemption. I climbed outta the sheets before dark, and then after sunset found a seat at the cherry slab to watch the first block of video instruction in a MOOC, "Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application," conducted by Fatimah Wirth of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The simple little videos presented a straightforward review of learning theories and instructional styles in the form of a survey of a known field. At the end Professor Wirth added a smart overview of copyright and privacy issues. Lite stuff. Very lite. A few names, a few bullet points — simple strings of facts, delivered dispassionately and shorn of critical observation, presented like a load of bricks to a mason who isn't privy to the blueprints. Where is the context? I'm waiting, professor. The ten-question quiz — ok student, choose one of four multiples — was designed for success, an absolute no-brainer.
MOOCs represent something new, not so much a discovered new species, but more so the hybrid cultivar of a known entity. My metaphor is a bit mixed, but so is the Massive Open Online Course concept. As in mixed-up. If the genus is education, then the species is online delivery of education, and the fashionable cultivar of the hour is Coursera. The foundational defining points of the cultivar are massive and open.
Here's my prediction: The massive aspect of the concept will shrink and segment, while the open gate will gradually close, creating password-protected revenue centers to satiate the masters of the MOOC. Online capitalism can endure only so much altruism. Someone has to pay. Eventually, and soon, we'll see exclusive portals for paid subscribers. Some will arrive at the gateway with a fees-paid passcode to complete the purchase of a certificate of accomplishment. Others shall enter with their identity securely verified and validated to take their tests and earn their credits toward a degree from an affiliated institution of higher education, especially those kinds of schools that have neither the wherewithal nor the institutional will to create their own courses. Let somebody else educate the students. We'll collect the tuition, process the paper. Cheaper that way. Fewer professors and teaching assistants to pay. [ By way of aside, we here in the Opposite Loft can see more cash cows sauntering onto the MOOC horizon: exclusive videos behind the pay wall, books tied directly to the course material but only a click and a card number away, and knowledgeable personal tutors the first call is free. ]
For now, the first phase of Dr. Wirth's course is beset with severe technical challenges, most related to unwieldy and loosely structured "Group Discussion Forums," some to glichy responses from the "Video Lectures" servers, and a few to the innate anarchy of the machine. The forums are a messy construct at present, yet to find their purpose, but instructive in unexpected ways. The videos hang, but with patience one can go all the way to the end. And the machine? It is controlled by none and by all, bound and unbound by each sequential zero and one, cast out by a gigabillion keystrokes and mouse clicks into a wilding web in hope.... and in hope.... and in hope that some things might connect, and maybe make sense, and yes! create a temporal community of like-minded learners. Isn't that a crazy notion? Isn't it?
These problems are not so severe as to destroy credibility. Yet.
Weather: Cold again. Very cold. 20° fahrenheit at 23:59 hours. Weatherman Dan said it'll drop to 11° before morning. The drought continues, though some rain, maybe an inch or more, fell earlier in the week.
The watcher weighs 212.7 pounds.
Tried two threads of thought to get me going tonight. Rejected both, the first because it bordered on whining, the second because I didn't care to pursue a meditation on my earliest bouts with the blues. It's a fine line to walk, the one separating raw confession from.... from.... Here I run into a roadblock. Can't complete the comparison in a parallel manner. [I swear, I'm having to excise thought after thought from the text tonight.]
As a conceptual thing, raw confession is easy enough to grasp. Shocking on the surface, mundane and crass underneath. I dare not tread there. Can you imagine! But what is the opposite of the untempered confession? Restrained personal commentary about select aspects of one's life? The commonplace stuff of the diary? A [shudder] blog? What a dismissive, lumpen term: blog. Rattles off the tongue like a knife blade across a metal grate. Sounds like something issuing from [out of] a "user." Like a ringworm. Frankly, I don't know quite rightly what this is — for now, I name it a daily logue entry in my public online journal, and claim it as another episode in my continuing exercise in hope-infused obscurity. You know none of it matters. It flies from the Opposite Loft on crow's wings into an electric warren where no one but the robot goes. It's nothing. And nothing matters.
You can't take another's doubts, another's blues to heart. The space between each of us is impenetrable, no matter how close we come to union. Even the empath retreats behind the closed door of the wound. Each of us in one form or another dies alone as a fragment, a separated entity — knowing that death is the first and last illusion. We move on.
Weather: Way too warm for the season. 57° fahrenheit at 22:54 hours of a winter's night. The drought continues.
The watcher weighs 214.3 pounds.
After five years of version CS3, time comes to upgrade my Adobe Creative Suite to the latest iteration, CS6 Design & Web Premium. The little cardboard package containing the installation DVD landed on my desktop this morning, and I spent most of the afternoon loading the software onto my HP pavilion HPE desktop PC, updating the several programs via web interface to their current builds, and configuring Dreamweaver and Fireworks to satisfy my production preferences. At 1630 hours I'd had enough, so I called the upgrade operation a preliminary success and headed outside to rake and burn leaves until sunset.
On the surface not much has changed on Dreamweaver and Fireworks, my reliable workhorses. I didn't look too deeply, given the modest goals I'd set for the afternoon: get the software up-and-running and integrated into the daily production environment. A no brainer — achieved.
On Dreamweaver I discovered some useful customization options for the code workspace that should streamline webpage design, construction, and revision. Having learned my HTML more than a decade ago through intense work with the source code editor HomeSite, I'm much more comfortable with the "Source Code" side of Dreamweaver's workspace than I am with the "Design" screen, which employs GUI (Graphics User Interface) principles and tends to produce way too much underlying code. Dreamweaver's GUI-driven code works, but in a bloated style that doesn't conform to the aesthetics of my HTML, a language best written "by hand." How obscure (or nerdy) can one be! I wonder, too: Is there room for the act of creation in that list of the action nouns design, construction, revison? Do we create a web or do we construct a web? Artist or architect? Both, probably — the one implies originality and innovation, style and freshness of vision; the other practical skills, technical knowledge, and mastery of the machine. But digression be gone!
The integration of HTML5 into Dreamweaver's array of core formats is a welcome addition, but not a surprise. And it was apparent with merely a cursory glance that the fusion of Cascading Style Sheets 3 (CSS3) into the fundamental design philosophy and coding capabilities of the software is, as they say, robust.
Fireworks looks as sweet as ever and not overly altered. I'm glad Adobe has chosen to keep this powerful web graphics tool alive and kicking as an integral part of its design and software package. I read a few years ago that Adobe was considering phasing it out in light of the capabilities of Photoshop and Illustrator, which taken together can do most anything Fireworks can do — and, of course, do much more for photography, line art, and typography. But Fireworks is unique — and special — because it is so finely attuned to the web, especially in its ability to produce one kind of image file, the Portable Network Graphics, or .png. For the web, a .png image is an absolutely ideal format the production environment. It avoids the degradation of image quality caused by compression of .jpg and .gif file formats. It accepts manipulation with grace, allowing an image to endure every sort of alteration and enhancement on a single layer through an inventive process of stacking, grouping, and flattening. A finished .png image also can become a web-ready .jpg or .gif of any level of quality when the situation demands.
CS6 is software rich, but outside the triumvirate of Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Photoshop there exists an array of capabilities and functions extending far beyond my skill set. I spent a half-hour perusing Illustrator, and took time to open eight of the nine programs supplied by the suite — all but Flash, which is too precious and quirky for my tastes. Acrobat X Pro is essential for the production of "printer friendly" documents for CornDancer's several university coursework webs, converting Microsoft Word docs and webpage study guides and lesson plans into .pdf files ready for the printer. InDesign is primarily for print work. Bridge and Media Encoder merit further investigation.
Weather: Typical winter day. Overcast with a few splashes of sunshine and temps rising to the high 40s. 37° fahrenheit at 23:56 hours with a predicted low in the mid-20s. The drought continues.
The watcher weighs 216.1 pounds.
My neighbor Jim said I could have the fallen hickory for firewood, so I grabbed the Stihl Farm Boss late this afternoon and started sawing. The tree once stood forty, maybe fifty feet tall — and judging by the lack of deterioration in the bark, it must have fallen sometime in the past year or two. The long, straight trunk lay on the edge of the drop off into the rugged little hollow along the south side of Jim's property. Surrounded by several oaks and a couple of sassafras and many small hardwood saplings, the hickory had come to rest in an accessible spot. Its trunk showed just enough clearance above the rocky soil to allow for safe sawing.
So I sawed four long slices of six-to-eight feet into about twenty, maybe twenty-five logs, carting them in the old wheelbarrow from Jim's property up a slight incline and across the lane to my wood chopping place at 3 Dog Acres. It took four trips, and each passage from down there to up here was accompanied by huffin' 'n puffin'. Each log was about fifteen inches in diameter, give or take an inch to the long side, an inch to the short side — and heavy, with both heartwood and sapwood showing excellent, rot-free texture. I wondered what had caused the hickory to fall.
I hoisted about a dozen of 'em, one by one, onto the red oak chopping block and split 'em with the maul, adding about forty pieces to the firewood stock. It's primo wood, too, though it'll need to season a while before it's ready for the winter's fire. I'll chop the remainder of the prize tomorrow or Saturday.
Putting the chopping edge of the maul squarely at the center of a round log on the sharp downstroke is a challenge for me, requiring absolute focus and fairly intense concentration. Most of the time I hit the mark, but when I miss, I'm left with a thin chunk off the edge that I add to the kindling pile. At the worst I overstroke and slam the base of the maul's handle onto the log, stunning my hands. The bad stroke also grabs my full attention. I step back, take a deep breath, and admonish myself to focus. Sometimes I whisper, Help me Lord. I adjust my stance, glance upward at the giant old red oak on the horizon ahead of me, and at the sky behind it, and then train my eyes on the exact spot on the surface of the log, the very spot where I want the cutting edge of the maul to strike. I imagine the stroke slicing through the meat of the log, raise the handle high, and deliver a forceful but controlled blow, opening my eyes wide just before the moment of impact. I watch the halved pieces fly, one to my right, the other to my left. And presto: firewood! Then it's time to do it again.
Standing in the firewood place at sunset of a winter's day, chopping and trimming and stacking, pausing to observe the colors and cloudy shapes in the sky, listening to the barks of dogs and caws of crows, smelling the aroma of wood smoke drifting out the chimney of our house nearby, grateful to the Creator that I've the strength and stamina to be there, working hard, and feeling the bracing air of the season, the familiar and comforting cold, with my feet firmly on the earth and my old muscles alive and straining to meet the challenge — it doesn't get much better.
Weather: Not so cold late in the day after an early afternoon of downright balmy air with temperatures rising briefly to the low sixties. 39° fahrenheit at 23:50 hours. Weatherman Dan said a brief cold front is on the way and that the morrow shall be downright cold. The drought continues.
The watcher weighs 214.8 pounds.
Quiet day. Most are. The white gravel lane out front is part of the county's network but serves only a few homes. It's not what you'd call a "through street," so the cars and trucks passing by are, as they say, few and far between. A school bus roars up the hill just before seven and again at half past three each school day. Shelley the U.S. mail carrier steers her jeep up to the mailbox about noon. The neighbor four houses to the south owns a big old dirt-digging machine on wheels, and ever once in a while it rumbles by. Other than the occasional Fed-X or UPS truck and a service vehicle or two, the traffic is limited to neighbors and their visitors. Of the latter there just aren't many. Our little country neighborhood doesn't attract too many party animals and extroverts. People out here tend to keep to themselves, and folks in the nearby city don't make it a practice to drive out to the country unless there's a darn good reason or a special invite.
N A R R A T I V E :
Camera lens broke the lady don't know what to do fish from Hawaii Betty Boop the trash is gone the trashman took it beside the spot where someone knocked the dinosaur egg off its perch it's the actor from Bonanza marching band what was the name of those high-steppin' dancing girls? the French kiss tasted like cigarettes jiggly luna moth dead displayed as a prize she found out about him his false pretenses it's either anger or a broken heart have you ever had a broken heart? your heart broken in two like a Thanksgiving day wishbone it was the name of an offensive alignment in football snap! they'll never reconcile broken heart the lens is broken.
She's a sucker it's true she'll put up with anything to have her man there's a pink flower on the wall and angels shit spilled on the floor a stink in the air it's downright outrageous Mussolini his ankle hung by a rope and now the man is confessing he couldn't help himself you can't say shit on TV the old man in the boat the marlin the tiny anchor they say the girl puts out adrift in the bed so here put your head on my shoulder I'll comfort you buy you a new lens a tuna the marlin got away. Can you fix it for me make me whole?
You watch the cinema like a deaf man no dialogue no music two armies scuttle they clash in the night all you see are flashes and bursts of hot light look! Verdun almost a year they assault her with accusations recrimination the commas try to creep in like animated doorstops you gotta cut 'em out like splinters can't you see he's crazy don't worry I'll make the soup chop the firewood beat you with a stick no one would notice the broken hand the black ants crawlin' out the hole typewriter smashed it's not broken one of your soft little hands just a cut we can buy a new lens the dark glasses can't conceal the broken heart. Smile. I'll take your picture with the flash in the dark night.
Weather: Cold again. 27° fahrenheit at 23:07 hours. The drought continues.
The watcher weighs 216.7 pounds.
President Obama's inauguration ceremonies on TV: compelling, emotionally moving, intellectually satisfying. My reaction is proof to self I'm not cynical yet. I sat with my mate on the love seat in front of the flat screen to watch the swearing-in rituals. Holding my left hand, listening to James Taylor sing "America the Beautiful," the mistress of the hacienda said, "I'm glad we live in the United States of America," and I added, I'm especially glad we live in the heartland. I like it here in rural arcadia, far removed from the urban fray and two parsecs distant from the harried places, the arenas and skyscrapers and great halls, where movers and shakers wrestle with one another for a moment's full control of one of the steering wheels of commerce and culture and state.
Part of me — the part peering out of the cold eye of reason and experience — mutters and mumbles that the inaugural show is a calculated exercise in grandiose propaganda, a choreographed act of sophistic political theater; that so much pomp and civic spectacle changes naught about the riven character of contemporary politics, or the oppressiveness of transnational predatory capitalism, or the intractable presence of state-sponsored, death-dealing violence from seven seas to keening seven seas. And it was a vain show ... and it won't change much of anything ... and so what? This day at my house belonged to dreamy reverie about unity of purpose, and to the promise of a more egalitarian society, and to noble sentiments put forth in service of the betterment of man. O how the uniforms are grand! And the ladies in their stylish gowns! And the marching squadrons of soldiers in rows!
Richard Blanco's poem brought the both of us to tears. They called him the "inaugural poet," and the talking heads said with much emphasis "he is gay," as if that aspect of being were more telling than his Art, but the poem wasn't queer, it was universal. Sounds like Whitman, I told the mistress after Mr. Blanco read nine or ten lines of "One Today," and she said she heard him say in an interview on the radio that Whitman is his greatest influence, and I said that makes sense, and it did he was reaching into the totality of American experience. I could say more along the line of critical analysis, and if so I would labor and prune to make it pertinent before pretending it's profound, but why bother it's so much pissin' in the psychic wind, all one has to do is read the poem, judge for yerself, or watch 'n listen it's online at this place 'n that, ready [for you] to experience by the clicking of a mouse.
Weather: Too cold for comfort in the context of the weekend's warmth. AccuWeather recorded a high of 41° — and that may be so, but the blustery northeast winds never let up, bringing a hard and sustained chill to the sunshiny day. We kept the fire a blazin' from morning through night. 29° fahrenheit at 22:14 hours. The drought continues.
The watcher weighs 216.0 pounds.
Yesterday and today followed time's arrow along a relaxed and mellow flight, leaving me just now a couple of hours shy of midnight and a far cry south of inspiration. My seat on the red couch in front of a fine blaze in the old fireplace grows softer and more enfolding with each new minute. I'd just as soon put down the Mirado Black Warrior HB2, stretch out, close my eyes, and listen to the mix of crackling oak from the hearth and symphonic delights delivered by a digital stereo stream from BBC Radio 3 — but then, if I did succumb to leisure, I'd get nothing else done, and that would be a pity.
Midday Saturday I concocted a pot of chili from scratch, so to speak — two and one-quarter pounds of coarse ground beef, a half-pound of beef tenderloin cut into small chunks, one pound each of kidney beans and red beans, one can each of crushed red tomato and diced green chilies, one large yellow onion and half a large red onion, a lot of filtered water, and an array of spices, sauces, and condiments, including coarse and fine ground black pepper, Mexican chili pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, sea salt, salted butter, soy sauce, olive oil, and a couple of other ingredients I'll keep secret for now. [I make it up as I go.] There was a quick soak, some chopping and slicing, and various acts of sautéing, frying, boiling, and stirring goin' on for some time before the culinary formula was ready to sit back and cook on the electric burner at varying degrees of thermal intensity for about six hours. By supper time at seven, the big ole pot of chili was ready to serve. The mistress of the hacienda rustled up a pan of moist and tasty cornbread to go with a few slices of cheddar and a little cup of diced raw onion — and walla! A meal worthy of a superlative or two was laid upon the table, and very much enjoyed, and then repeated an an encore tonight.
Weather: Exceptionally warm both Saturday and today with shifting winds, mostly from the south, and swift clouds interspersed with bright blue skies. 37° fahrenheit at 23:10 hours. AccuWeather reports today's high at 60° — about 15° above normal. And the drought continues.
The watcher weighs 216.0 pounds.
Sometimes not much happens. The day and its night slip by with little to show for the passage. But we are all safe as midnight approaches. [Angels at work.] The homestead is warm and peaceful, the wood in the fireplace fades to embers, and the big bed is made and ready for two humans, three shepherd dogs, and a passel of dreams.
Weather: A steady north wind blunted the sunshine today. 22° fahrenheit at 23:33 hours. AccuWeather reports today's high at 48°. And the drought continues. Seventeen days into January, and already we fall nearly an inch below normal with no relief in sight on the prognosticator's horizon.
The watcher weighs 217.2 pounds.
Tweaks and refinements to the Fringe History, Pseudoscience, and Popular Culture web continue to occupy my attention. It's a quirky, full-bodied web with legs that should run long after the spring semester 2013 course at Athens State comes to an end. The themes and topics examined on Fringe History fit nicely into Ron's expansive ouevre of historical inquiry — the stuff he likes to study and write about — and also accentuate the ideas and characters he deconstructed in his book, Invented Knowledge. Velikovsky, Bernal, Menzies and other intellectual con men make ready foils for Ron's reasoned and informed skepticism.
As Seattle Times columnist Bruce Ramsey wrote today in reply to one of our e-mail messages, "The fringe is fun." We featured one of Bruce's columns — it's an examination of the Piltdown man hoax and the continuing problems of fraud and intellectual misconduct in scientific research — on the Fringe History News 'n Notes page, and I dropped him a line this afternoon to ask if he minded. "I like it. Thanks!" Bruce replied. "One of the biggest crimes on an editorial page is to be boring." It's a crime Mr. Ramsey doesn't commit.
Weather: Not so cold but cold enough to fit the standard profile for another winter's day. Much welcome sunshine. 25° fahrenheit at 23:40 hours.
The watcher weighs 217.2 pounds.
Fell into a dank psychic pit at today's git-go, I did. Bad dream about loss and deception, then upon awakening a senseless retort to a fear monger hustlin' for cash, and then in the aftermath of my hotly flung retort the inevitable reverberating echo of unsettled ideas about the world and its many cesspools, some societal, some personal, and each a drain on right perspective. I can and do create my very own little pockets of hell on Earth, but they shan't and don't last. The foul creations arrive of a sudden out of the gray gloom on the other side of the Opposite Loft, but each is vanquished, some quickly, by the Guardian, who is ever diligent and merciful.
It got better, gradually, this spirit of mine. Outta the pit before dark. It's not a congenital condition. An hour at the firewood place, stacking and chopping in the late afternoon chill, brought all the foulness to an end. The clouds were striking and dramatic. I'm guessing they were Altocumulus floccus. Sent an e-mail to weatherman Dan asking for help with their true identity. Maybe he'll write back soon.
Weather: Very, very cold with unexpected overcast skies for most of the day. Traces of snow in nearby neighborhoods. 23° fahrenheit at 11:39 hours. 31° at 19:22 hours. Predicted low of 14°.
The watcher weighs 219.1 pounds.
Old El is back home after a week at Jim's garage. It took a while for Jim to acquire the replacement axles for El's rear end. After thirty-five years of service, El's original factory axles were worn to the edge of failure. "A wheel cudda fallen off," Jim said with a wry smile. "But you're safe now."
El went right to work, too, hauling a generous rick of oak and hickory from Chicken Holler to 3 Dog Acres. Our supply of seasoned firewood has diminished significantly with the trudging advance of winter — and with eight, maybe nine weeks of daily fires ahead of us, the resupply mission was essential. Since Chicken Holler stands about halfway between Jim's garage and home, it made good sense to stop there on the way.
I wasn't surprised to find the rick yard in a severely depleted state, given the weekend's cold snap and predictions of continued freezing temperatures, but I found one stack — and one only — of sufficient character to merit purchase. The rest of the ricks were way green and poorly stacked. The firewood in the rick I spied appeared to be a few weeks to the good side of seasoned — in others words, just barely — with more than half of the stack composed of unsplit round slices of limb from the oak and the hickory. Most of the sawn pieces of limb, I surmised, were thick enough to be split with the maul at my chopping block — and I do enjoy the exercise of swinging a heavy sledge hammer in the late afternoon of a winter's day. So I paid my fifty bucks to Jimmy and loaded up.
Weather: The sun shone brightly all day long, and the wind blew lightly from the north, and it was as cold as a well digger's arse from daylight to dark. 22° fahrenheit at 22:14 hours. Predicted low of 13°.
The watcher weighs 219.1 pounds.
The leading edge of the norther arrived at midday on Saturday, just about the time me, Marcus, and Jeremiah decided to bring our firewood-gathering expedition to a close. The expedition was a rousing success, filling Jeremiah's pickup truck bed and the floor of his covered trailer with a slew of meaty red oak logs, limbs, and branches. Rain accompanied the norther's arrival. We felt the first drops while we were rolling four of the huge red-oak logs out of the trailer and onto my firewood place here at 3 Dog Acres. It wasn't cold enough for snow, and by the time the temperature had fallen to freezing, the rain clouds were gone. Total rainfall: four-tenths of an inch.
Saturday's labors made for a laid-back, laid-out Sunday. Late out of bed, I was oft on the couch or the love seat, the former in front of a blazing fireplace, the latter in front of football games on TV. The thermometer on the back porch never climbed out of the twenties. The water in the dogs' water bowl and the bird bath was frozen solid.
I managed to rouse from my physical stupor about four o'clock, hoping to accomplish a task or two before the sun fell. My long black oilcloth duster, a woolen cap, and leather work gloves provided just enough protection to allow the removal of one tub of leaves from the arboretum before the chill set-in. Raking leaves on a winter's late afternoon is one of life's simple pleasures. The act fosters uncomplicated contemplation of all that surrounds me and ensures vital contact with the visceral aspects of being: the clouds and sky above, deepening in hue and shadow, shifting in shape and color; the trees on the encircling horizon, stark and towering; the winds in their various speeds and guises; the hawks and crows, cawing and circling, and the songbirds in their cold frenzy; the grasses, bushes, flowers, and young trees close by, shorn of leaf and bloom but alive with the promise inherent in their season of dormancy. I study, broadly, the nature of things; and survey, closely, the health of the vegetable realm entrusted to my care; and appraise with a casual sense of judgment the changing character of the immediate neighborhood, especially the comings and goings of animal and man.
Weather: Very, very cold with clear skies and a light north wind. 20° fahrenheit at 21:31 hours. The weather screen on my Motorola Atrix predicts a low tonight of 11°.
The watcher weighs 220.1 pounds.
The plant table in the sunroom of Corvus Studio needed tending. So I tended it midday, pruning and watering, rearranging, studying the health of the many little plants. The two hypoestes, aka polkadot plants, were dead, and the impatiens in the hanging basket were near demise, and one of the tiny white oak saplings had lost the struggle to survive. The other oak saplings, white and red, appear healthy, as do the two black walnuts. The six-inch cedar is sickly but retains its green and stands a chance.
All the other young trees in pots were scattered about outside, some on the ledges and north-facing bench of Doghenge, others on one of the tree-clinic platforms, where I'd moved them on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning to take advantage of the predicted rain, the above-freezing nights, and the warm afternoons of our current mild spell. They'll all go back inside the sunroom tomorrow evening in advance of the sharp cold front expected to arrive before Sunday sunrise. Weatherman Dan said the cold snap will drop the nighttime temps into the teens. I don't want the rootballs to freeze.
My winter-over stock includes two red mulberries, a persimmon, a cow oak and a burr oak, two amazingly verdant eastern red cedars, several three-year-old sugar maples, a thornless honey locust, and a red oak rescued from the new bamboo garden space on December 21. I let one of the landscape guys dig up the oak, not realizing he would chop the tap root short rather than reach deep with one of his hands and tug out as much of the tap root's length as possible. But I soaked the freshly exposed roots in water for a few hours on a cold afternoon, washed off all the soil and stones embedded in the ball, and then planted the dormant oak in a pot filled with a healthy mixture of fresh mushroom compost and rich topsoil. It rose forty-two inches from the surface of the soil. Today's inspection of the transplant after twenty-two days of life outside Mother Earth gives reason for hope: The oak's little branches are still supple, and a thumbnail scratch test on an uppermost twig revealed green fibers beneath the thin bark.
Most of the plants in the sunroom are chrysanthemums and oaks. The mums all needed severe pruning to remove the tall, dried-out brown stalks that held so many blooms in summer and fall. Underneath the discarded chaff I found healthy little clumps of green leaves hugging the surface of the soil.
Weather: Partly sunny and way warm for January. 57° fahrenheit at 21:42 hours after an afternoon high of 64.
The watcher weighs 220.7 pounds.
Jeremiah delivered a truck load of compost about noon. Potent stuff! He purchased it from the big city's compost facility for a double sawbuck and change. We shoveled and raked the rich, black fertilizer into a big pile (about a cubic yard and a half) between the peach tree and the wood chopping place. The shape and color of the pile reminds me of a New Mexico mesa at sunfall. It's a beautiful sight, given the great promise it holds for 3 Dog Acres' gardens, lawns, and trees.
F R I N G E :
Applied the finishing stylistic touches to the graphics and typography of the new web for Ron's class, Fringe History, Pseudoscience, and Popular Culture. Published the results on the page displaying the study guide for Michael Barkun's book, A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. At a thousand and eight pixels, the page width is substantially greater than the previous version, but scales nicely, thanks to HTML5, CSS3, and the absence of old-school tables. The Fringe logo features a partial view of the Queen Theater in Bryan, Texas, crafted from a raw image I gathered on February 17, 2009, during a road trip from Dallas to Corpus Christi and back again. My late dog Buck rode sidesaddle on the journey, providing stoic companionship.
Weather: Wet, mild, and discouraging. 51° fahrenheit at 22:17 hours. Discouraging because the "rain event" promised last night by weatherman Dan fizzled to a trace, reminding me of the persistence of the drought and the deflated hope wrought, time and again, by empty and stingy clouds. Looks like rain, but little to none falls upon the thirsty earth. The gauge at the plant clinic out back registered one-tenth of an inch when I checked late this afternoon.
The watcher weighs 221.2 pounds.
Burned some leaves, fragments of chopped wood and crumbly bark, shriveled morning glory vines, and gray twigs from the backyard oaks late this afternoon. Piled 'em loosely in the burn barrel and hoped for the best. The leaf pile is way big and damp. Nevertheless, with the TV weather radar showing rain clouds moving our way from the south, it seemed a good time to dig into the pile. Slow going. Damp leaves will burn, but only after the barrel gets real hot from a layer of fiery leaves at the bottom. Didn't happen the way I'd hoped. Got started too late and let dark beat me to the prize.
I fed the fire time and again with newspaper kindling. It would blaze briefly now 'n then, but never once did it roar into hot life. However, when I checked the barrel at a quarter past ten tonight, most of the leafy fuel had burned to a dark smoky clump. A hundred little red eyes of dying embers peeked up at me from the black circle of ash. I stirred the mush with my stirring stick to stoke a final flame before the rain arrives. It's very close, the rain. Dan the weatherman predicts a slow soaker.
Yesterday's labors with firewood — three work sessions spread over the course of the day, ending at sunset with a big load of red oak logs stuffed into the bed of Jeremiah's Dodge Ram pickup — left little energy for today. Though I'm grateful I'm still able to lift, tug, saw, carry, and stack, I also realize that a long day of hard work outside demands a subsequent period of recuperative rest inside. Physical vitality in one's sixth decade is poured from a measured cup — at least here in my bag of bones. Filling up the cup again is like tapping a maple for its sweet syrup. It takes a while.
Deep into winter, I plan the next couple of projects to advance the beauty and function of 3 Dog Acres, our little homestead in the country. I marshal resources and give thanks to the Creator. I study the dormant little trees and bushes in the arboretum. What can be added? What can be improved? I see spring on the face of winter.
Weather: Mild and windy from the south. 50° fahrenheit at 23:30 hours. In the big bed after lights out last night, we heard raindrops falling on the steel roof. When I checked the rain gauge this morning it registered a full inch! No way, I thought, then remembered I'd forgotten to empty the gauge after the last rain on New Year's Eve, which measured about an inch. So, only a trace actually fell in the dark night, a tenth of an inch at the most. We'll take it.
The watcher weighs 218.8 pounds.
F R I N G E :
The new web for Fringe History, Pseudoscience, and Popular Culture is online and functional. Ron's first class met on Monday afternoon, and I was pushin' hard to present a credible presence for students who might consult the web for content after class. Content is the key aspect of credibility for a class web. Design adds aesthetics and underlying direction, but the inquiring student arrives in search of useful information related to the syllabus, calendar, and curriculum. Google Analytics reports eleven unique pageviews of the Fringe homepage from campus computers since Monday. Not much.
Old El was delivered to Jim's shop on Monday afternoon for some serious work on the rear end and both axles. Thirty-five years removed from the assembly line, the venerable old Chevy is strong enough to haul full loads of firewood, compost, and hefty sandstone and limestone rocks. And he never fails to get me home. [Knock on wood.] Jeremiah's Ram truck served as substitute hauler for this morning's firewood venture, which proved productive. The labor wore me out, but I managed to snag a half rick or so, most of it green.
Weather: Cool and damp with misty, very light rain. 55° fahrenheit at 22:43 hours. The mist arrived about four in the afternoon. Dan the weatherman said we might get as much as two inches of rain over the next twenty-four hours. Wouldn't that be grand!
The watcher weighs 220.0 pounds.
The tremendous crash of tree upon earth snared my attention a few minutes before sunset. The sound carried the force of something momentous, a rare thudding announcement of huge natural mass coming to a sudden and final stop. The deep thud followed a long and persistent chorus of chainsaw upon wood, a primal melody of mineral and vegetable forces clashing in the winter's chill. I'd heard the sawing sounds come and go since yesterday afternoon, but it was the great thud that roused me to step onto the lane in front of our cottage and investigate. It was a short walk, deliberate and casual, ending at a neighbor's property a couple of houses to the south.
There in the driveway sat a wood cutter's cherry picker truck, fully reclined and pointed toward the lane, its day's work done. Darryl, master of the great vehicle, walked from the yard to greet me with a smile, asking if I'd heard the falling tree. O, yes! It was impressive. A fine specimen of red oak, Darryl said. Need some firewood? O, yea. I burn a fire every day. You sure the owner doesn't mind? Not a bit. Come on, I'll introduce you.
Meeting one's neighbors is a gradual aspect of life in the rural countryside. Eventually, the opportunity arises to make acquaintance with all but the most determined hermit or antisocial misfit. [I feel their pain.] This neighbor answered the front door with a smile. Gracious and friendly, she told me to go right ahead. Nice! I would be able to gather all the firewood I wanted from the piles of fallen limbs and branches scattered throughout her yard.
Having stood beside me as I won the seal of approval, Darryl said, Come on, I'll show you the tree you just heard fall. It's the fourth one I've taken down since yesterday. He guided me to the hoary old oak, lying in neatly sawn chunks not far from the back porch of the charming country house. Pale orange with flecks of dark brown and milky white, the freshly exposed heart and sap wood appeared hale and solid in the fading light, but it lacked the sappy dampness characteristic of a healthy tree. The chunk closest to the stump, maybe eight or ten-foot long, must have been eighteen inches in diameter. Other chunks lay sprawled outward from the source like thick links in a great chain.
I can make you some lumber if you want, Darryl said as we admired the girth of the great tree. It'll make real nice firewood, too. Those logs split right down the middle, easy as pie. Darryl said he and his girlfriend would be back tomorrow to finish the job. Come on back and get as much as you want, he said. We can help you load it, too. That much less I'll have to haul off.
I'll be there in the morning, chainsaw in hand.
The watcher weighs 220.7 pounds.
Weather: Cool, sunny, mildly breezy. 37° fahrenheit at 23:02 hours. I pray for rain. Yesterday evening I watered the new bamboo garden, soaking the roots of the ten clumps of shoots planted by Jeremiah and his crew seventeen days ago on the afternoon of the winter solstice. The bamboo holds great promise.
The watcher weighs 220.5 pounds.
Weather: Cold, mostly sunny, becalmed. 27° fahrenheit at 22:54 hours. We need rain.
F R I N G E :
Ron's spring semester class at Athens State begins on Monday. It's called Fringe History, Pseudoscience, and Popular Culture. I'm designing a new web for the class, replacing the XHTML 1.0 Transitional model of summer 2011 with a shiny new chassis built on HTML 5. Today I completed most of the major design elements: site logo, navigation bar, page headers, headline and paragraph styles, sidebar graphics, footer text. They're now residing on the prototype home page, which I published on a private link this afternoon.
The design provides bright and airy space for the text while maintaining a bold and colorful style for the images. The dimensions and positions of the content containers -- header, subheader, body, sidebar, and footer -- follow a pattern I created last spring for Freddie's Multicultural Issues web. Tables be gone!
It's deadline time again. Gotta get 'er done.
The watcher weighs 222.4 pounds.
The day's studies:
Weather: Cold, partly sunny, becalmed. 22° fahrenheit at 23:11 hours. Life is good. Time for dogs to go for a walk.
N O T E S :
A beginning. Not a resolution. Resolve. At age sixty-three and standing on the sore heels of a long 'n twisty trail of failures and dead ends, I remain convinced of the potential for fundamental change of the best kind to happen — and happen now. Moment by moment the wonders arrive.