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2-18-15

White dome rests on shroud

Grey girdles cold gloomy bay

Sun pierces dark mood

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Ways I Didn’t Kill Myself

I go to coffee a couple times a week at Raphael’s after an early morning walk with some friends. One question frequently asked as we tackle the sour dough toast is, “So how did you manage to hurt yourself over the weekend?”

This query is not without basis, as many times reports have come to them of some mishap. None of these accidents or demonstrations of poor judgment have been lethal, but they have expressed some unease regarding my welfare. Unfortunately, this has been happening for a long time.

Early in life, there was adult supervision and constraint on behavior, no “Wild Child” here. Acting out in a town of 200 people would have been difficult anyway. After graduating from high school in the Twin Cities and with a couple years of college under the belt, a summer in St. Louis working in an inner city program provided some opportunities for “learning experiences”.

The events of that summer required transporting kids in three old school busses to a town forty miles west of the city. The vehicles were old, but the engines worked fine, sometimes the brakes not so good. When the busses were full, kids would sit next on the floor between the driver’s seat and the gearshift. Ever try to double clutch with a kid’s head in the way?

After one trip to the camp in High Ridge, Missouri, the program director asked if I would drive to town for some supplies, a 57 Chevy with bald tires the vehicle of choice. Other bad choices followed.

A need for speed on the windy road to town, taking inside curves in the opposing lane seemed like a fun thing to do. Then there was the delivery truck. Brakes were applied, the car swerved back into the proper lane as the driver of the white van cursed out the window shaking his fist; an entirely appropriate response. No one got hurt or died.

Maturity and responsibility came slowly, interspersed with experiments in alcohol consumption that fortunately didn’t result in injury, jail, or stratospheric insurance rates. Marriage arrived and then a toddler staggering around the house.

A first Christmas requires a traditional, freshly cut tree. Those with experience in making Spruces fit in a stand know that it takes some trimming. Sawing AWAY from your hand holding the tree is a good plan. It is much better than a trip to the emergency room and stitches. The thumb survived and the blood came out of the carpet. No one died.

Home repairs can be hazardous. Friends concerned about my welfare have often expressed well-intended concern, “There are people who fix stuff for a living you know.” They don’t understand the challenge.

Garage door springs are a good example. Ever try to tighten one of those suckers so they actually help close the door? After one attempt, a spring came loose, zipped across the garage just short of Mach 1, and embedded itself in the sheetrock at the other end. My head wasn’t in the way. I guess it’s better to be lucky than smart, although perhaps that phrase doesn’t apply here. – – You don’t want to hear about electrical work!

Recreational activities also lend themselves to a certain amount of peril. Dodging man-eating dragonflies on a bike doesn’t necessarily mean going airborne and kissing the asphalt. The separated shoulder wrecked all body symmetry.

A mouthful of snow and scuffed chin are likewise predictable outcomes of face plants on cross-country ski trails. They are usually a direct result of fatigue, lack of focus and most often lousy technique. The idea is to lift the ski off the snow as you skate and not drag the tip catching it on the next glide. Yeah, right.

All in all, the proof is in the telling of the tale. I can still say no one got hurt and I didn’t die – at least so far.

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2-4-2015

Single malt sipped slow

No Bud Lite wild man party

Imp left for Texas

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Feed the Birds

I am not sure if there are any “Mary Poppins” fans reading this, but those of you who remember the movie starring Julie Andrews might remember the song “Feed the Birds”. It feels dated and a little cheezy for this era, but birds still need food. They want to chow down no matter what time of year.

You can spend big bucks on bird feeders. Ours is a post with a big flat board on top of it. The board is weather warped so it has a bit of bow in it. The Pine Siskins, Chickadees and other smaller winged wonders get to pick their elevations. When it ices up after a snow fall, they kinda slide downhill.

Since the feeder was built late in the fall, the chipmunks haven’t had a chance to climb the post to gorge on sunflower and thistle seeds. They are sleeping right now, just waiting to come out in the spring and stuff their fat cheeks. The pole will need some modification to keep them from overeating. One trip to the coop a month is enough, not every week. I am on a fixed income after all.

Bigger birds clear out the feeder when they show up. Blue Jays are particularly aggressive. You don’t mess with those boys. But even they leave in a hurry when the Pileated Woodpeckers show up.

We feed ducks when they come back after the lagoon opens in the spring. Of course they pair up, the males preening and possessive, hoping to spread their genes. We feed them and give them names, but who can tell one Mallard from another? Every year it’s Darrell and Desi. They fly in for the whole corn I broadcast on the lawn. Desi was a bit bold this year, following me into the garage looking for a handout. Wood ducks are shyer than the Mallards. They still like the meals, but have to be observed from a distance.

Canada Geese are always lurking around near the edge of the lake. I made the mistake one day of broadcasting corn while they were browsing on the neighbor’s lawn. Not a good idea. It took several days of harassment with a BB gun and a broom to extinguish their foraging behaviors. I had to sneak out in the dead of night to spread corn on the lawn. They can see lunch from a distance.

So, we feed the birds, not the geese. Tough bounce dudes.

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Cartoons

No fear stops divers
Batman and Easter Bunny
“Catch me daddy!”

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Time Machine

Memory persists; ones we cherish, other occasions we wish we could relive, and others still we’d just as soon forget. Depending on our general emotional state, a soft, warm glow surrounds our thoughts of life events, or a haze of sadness and regret. We have the present, we anticipate the future, and memory is a time machine.

Sense is the key to turn when engaging memory. Smell and sight spark memory. Other senses have their place, but these two have an immediacy that envelops us.

Photos stimulate recollection. While I don’t remember much about my first day of grade school at St. Adalberts in Gilman, Minnesota, I do remember the picture my mother took of me walking down a dirt road, wearing a shiny brown jacket and a baseball cap.

Other iconic photos have emotional tags. A young president’s wife stands next to Lyndon Johnson as he takes the oath of office. Joe Namath’s pass against the Oilers in 1966. The twin towers of New York City spew smoke into a crystal blue sky.

Smells are potent gateways too. Just ask my kids about the “delightful” tater tot casserole I prepared for Wednesday night meals. You won’t get many takers for that! Or the smell of lutefisk after midnight mass on Christmas. Polish sausage and scrambled eggs were a better option.

Then there are other aromas. The perfumes of youth adrift on the air in a crowded mall transport us to a time and place when we were fresh and untrammeled by life experience. Scents out of fashion randomly encountered again, help us recall the gentle pressure of a head on a shoulder and the brush of a first kiss.

If one cultivates memory as a gift to be explored from the perspective of age and experience, the things we initially learned are deepened. The events remain the same, but our take on their significance changes.

Sometimes revisiting old haunts keeps those places fresh. It may not help in remembering the third thing you were supposed to get at the grocery store, but it provides a sense of continuity and support.

I have lived in and remodeled three homes. Sometimes I walk through them in the middle of the night, when sleep is hard to come by, and recall how they looked and what I did to refashion them to suit our needs. When I think about my thinking, the amount of detail in those memories is stunning. Sometimes I wonder if there is much left between my ears and then I find out there is. Even here, sense is the key. Seeing, smelling and touching have locked those experiences away in the strongbox of recollection.

Memory is selective. Seen in the rear view mirror of time passed, we choose those elements from experience that are benign or comforting, ignoring aspects of life that are inconvenient or aversive. But memory persists. We time travel.

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Thread

A gray thread dangles from a frayed sweater over a dishpan,
the sleeve unraveling, soaked, victim of domestic imperatives.

Tug it, roll it to cuff and forget the fine strand lacks integrity.
Is this the one that holds all, that binds warp and weave into a fabric that serves?

Fibers bind, shape and capture, stitch by stitch, purl through filament,
give contour to the nebulous, utility to the just pretty,
sculpting a dream dancing in the head.

Libertine colors in dissolute revelry are beguiled into pattern,
seamed and woven, hemmed, tucked here and puckered there.

Wools envelop absconding heat when ice rims frosted windows,
our private radiances captured in more elegant fashion beneath Irish,
Alpaca and Cashmere.

Soft silks, sleek satins and Egyptian cotton coddle and cool,
caressing skin in weightless luxury.

Electronic threads in glass and wire beget mutuality, desired or not,
where conflict and reconciliation are bound in an unruly choreography,
one move displacing another’s tenuous hold.

Threads order the random, impulsive act
as duty binds judgment at the service of hollow conceits,
where war has its senseless way.
The sleeve unrolled,
household obligations done,
a sigh,
a thread falls to hang.

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Slipknot

Muzzy light buzzed – saturated. He drifted.

“Jimmy?”

The sails fill, then scrape and shake against the stays. He comes about. Silence in the wind’s hole and then the breeze catches. He pulls the boom sheet tight. The boat rises briskly into the next wave. Wind dapples the surface of the oncoming waves. The gust hits with authority. The mast snaps. Thud, flash, pain and light. Wet. Drifting.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, will a flower rise from where it falls?

The rose wilts. It stayed in the vase for over a week. The thin green wire that stiffened the stem held, but the bloom faded. He had never received a rose from someone. Men are supposed to send the rose!

First date. An elegant play on a thrust stage. Shakespeare: Hamlet. A clumsy kiss and then the rose in the vase on his desk the next day. He smiled.

Dream? Walk the bridge railing high above the rocks and water, at the brink, on the edge. The wind rushes down the hill and the aspen leaves rattle, splashing against each other. Perched here like a bird, he waits for the breeze to blow him off the rail.

“Wake Jimmy, wake. Open your eyes!”

The rose in the woods, next to the fallen tree, a soft hand in hand at night’s end. “I had a wonderful time.” Kiss in the twilight of the porch window. Her lips.

Dare he dream a soul pushing light against dark. Step in, step out, dance away, trip to the limit, rock and water, water and birth. Order leaks into the dream. Tired. Sleep. Dream.

The slipknot tied to the dock as the sails are run up, keeps the straining boat at bay, barely controlled, more unruly as the halyard runs skyward. Quickly released, the knot is off the cleat. Underway she leans to port, splash coming in over the starboard side, the port rail underwater. Exhilaration.

Ninety degrees and the breeze stiff out of the south. He runs the razor’s edge, spilling wind to keep the line, left arm straining, the water’s pressure against the rudder relentless.

The rose folds into the ground and the tree stands, its’ leaves fresh in the green of spring. “I have never felt this way before.” The light from deep brown eyes penetrates the darkness. Giddy, he turns. His head roars in light, past, present, oscillates.

The slip knot tethers the rose to the tree. The boat and her voice release the slipknot, his eyes open as the nurse opens the blinds. He rolls toward the chair beside his bed, rose made flesh. “Jimmy, you’re here!”

He smiles.

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Pioneer Post – Becoming Our Parents

We have an old refrigerator. It’s not stainless steel, French door or bottom freezer but it has an icemaker I never hooked up because I am paranoid about hoses and connections springing leaks. Late at night, I hear this robot sound when it cycles. We fill the trays the old-fashioned way from the kitchen sink, dripping water on the floor.

On a REALLY boring day, before a foray to the grocery store, a quick reconnaissance of the depths of the fridge is required. This can be scary.

The initial exploration involves probing the freezer in an attempt to ascertain potential resources. This journey though poorly lit depths, extracts various zip locked bags.
Remember the mystery meat you used to eat in the cafeteria in high school or college? Chicken breasts, fish fillets (I think) and old packages of partially consumed bacon or breakfast sausage emerge. These items don’t have handy expiration dates stamped on them. If they can be identified, would they be palatable? I don’t want to know.

Then there are various ice cream containers. The Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra purchased for an intimate dinner party is now covered by a protective coating. The frosty patina is meant to preserve the flavorful bouquet of caramel and chocolate. The sorbet secured for more delicate tastes on the other hand, is a nice counterpoint to the heavily armored creation of the boys from Brooklyn. The veneer here also must be penetrated to serve.

The top two trays of ice cubes are usually in pretty good shape. They will chill the warmest Diet Coke or Pepsi Lite. The bottom tray holds dime sized chunks of ice ideal for cocktails for elves.

Various bread bags scattered among the debris are subjected to further exploration. We bake our own bread and when it is fresh, it is wonderful – no preservatives foul the whole-wheat taste. Unfortunately, if left on the counter too long during warm days, the bread becomes a manufacturing facility for developing antibiotics. In order to prevent this, these provisions take up residence in the freezer where they are buried. Months later, the warm, welcoming smells are long gone.

After excavating the overhead unit, it is time for a strategic tour of the beverage shelves and bins below. This is the most hazardous part of the mission.

Beer in the back of the fridge is not the good stuff. That takes up residence in front. The space in the rear is also the resting place for flat bottles of tonic water. Those gin and tonics were really good last summer weren’t they? They share space with partially frozen prune juice carafes. I mean, it is winter after all.

It is now time to rappel down to the lower bins. Taking the less hazardous route, shuffling and rearranging the fruit bin first, reveals some fresh, some slightly dehydrated and some unidentifiable produce that may have graced a chilled glass of lemonade. Time to pitch that!

A lateral sashay to the veggie bin reveals more desiccated occupants, along with flaccid celery, white rimed carrots and peppers and zucchinis with no backbone. My god it’s been a long time since I was down here! With this done, the grocery list can be updated and the next adventure in commodity purchasing undertaken.

Years ago, my wife and I undertook a similar foray when we decided to clean her parent’s big chest freezer in the basement. We sorted the various packages, laying them on the floor in the rec room, reclassified and tossed the unusable. At one point, we came across four or five Virginia Slims cigarettes tucked in amongst the standing rib roasts. Giggling, we extracted them from the frost at the bottom and concluded they were there, preserved in perpetuity in case there was a nuclear holocaust.

When I look at the stuff that emerges from our fridge now, my only conclusion is that we have become our parents. Who da thunk?

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