Saturday, December 30, 2006

Comings and Goings

Thursday after Christmas and the chaos has ramped up, become more pronounced. We’ve all lost our car keys, three-and-a-half drivers, three cars, someone always parked in the way. Friends coming and going. My husband’s friend dreams they are married, but only in a congenial, nonsexual way. The dogs are loose in the confusion of opening and shutting doors; they're running, brawling with the neighbor dogs, chomping the neighbor guy’s thumb that tries to intervene. Grandma is putting together a puzzle in the corner. She prays at every meal, Thank you, Lord, that we’re all together. I’m praying that the neighbor guy’s thumb is okay and that no one comes to drag my jackass dog away.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Musicians. They've decided to wait a week to go to Fiddler's Hearth. Something about work, late nights, alarm clocks... Okay, so you were thirsty. Go to Fiddler's Hearth anyway. It will be fun. And maybe we'll see you next week, a little earlier, perhaps.

Fiddler's Hearth

Tom & pals are playing at Fiddler's Hearth tonight at 11:30, if you're thirsty, like music, don't mind staying up late, want something to do.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Day After

The day after Christmas and The City of Falling Angels and The Lost nudge Denis Johnson on my headboard. I’m sure there’s some hidden meaning behind all of that, but mainly I’m just wondering where to begin. The City of Falling Angels has won the first pick. Venice is wet, inviting, and romantic perhaps. Unfortunately, there are no trees, no wide open spaces, just bridges and canals. They say some people experience claustrophobia visiting there. And the cemetery situation is abhorrent. They bury you on an island where you’re only allowed to stay for ten years, then you’re dug up and sent to the mainland. Really. Unless you’re Ezra Pound. He’s still buried there. Best line in the book so far, “I luxuriate in this world I’ve invented for myself.” Certainly I’ve heard this before.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Grace For Christmas

Bono is getting knighted, so here's a little Christms poem/song he wrote. Merry Christmas and grace to you all. Forgive any sentimentality, my descent into pop culture...


She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

Music: U2
Lyrics: Bono

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tracking Santa

Enough manic whining. Santa Claus is coming to town. Of course, people like me aren't content to just let it happen. We've got to watch his progress, make sure he's on time, figure out when to set out the milk and cookies and carrots and the glass of Sam Adams pale ale... I never knew Santa liked Sam Adams until I got married, but then again there were quite a few things I didn't know.

So, if you're like me and you want to know how Santa is making his way across the globe on Christmas Eve, check out NORAD. Otherwise, go back to your regularly scheduled programming. Either way, Santa is going to come.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Solstice Day Report

So it’s been a weird week and I’ve been drinking too much coffee and eating too many donuts and working too late and trying to shove too much life into too little time. And too many people went on hikes with me and told me how fast to walk and got in the way of my picture taking and said stuff like women don’t really have brains for physics, which annoyed me and made me mention my cousin who is an engineer for Boeing, and a woman, because I couldn’t really give my own brain as an example of how well women get along in physics. This was not my husband who annoyed me by making these grievous errors. It was one of his co-workers, the one who hasn’t had six wives but does seems to want another one, or at least a girlfriend, and can’t figure out why he isn’t really lucky with women. But all that really should be shoved aside because I might be breaking the gender barrier this weekend anyway, even though I can’t figure out physics, by sheer brute strength and the fact that I have a decent pair of black pants, because my second cousin needs another pallbearer for her funeral and we’ve used up all the men we can think of and if I don’t do it they’ll probably have to pay the funeral home to do it which they really can’t afford. No only really knows my second cousin, but it doesn’t matter because she’s family and she has been disabled since she was born something like 20 years ago and things haven’t been too great for her for most of her life, so when she caught pneumonia she just died. And that’s my solstice day report. Tomorrow should be better, since we already have the holiday death out of the way.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Along The Way

Maybe the green orb in the picture is a ghost. Or maybe I just can't take pictures. Who knows?

Starved Rock is bordered by the Illinois River. In the winter eagles come and nest and hunt around the open waters below the lock and dam. We saw one bald eagle this a.m., but she/he didn't want its picture taken. It had places to go, away from us it seems.


Good labeling is very important.

Starved Rock Boardwalk

We took the easy bluff walk this a.m. The frost was clinging to everything, including this boardwalk. Icy fox, raccoon and skunk footprints glittered along the way.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Blood

Yes, I should be working... But this was funny. O Blood. you know your blood type?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sunspot 930


Okay. NOAA says it's only going to be partly cloudy tonight in Michiana, so there's a chance, a slight chance, that you might be able to see something, like a meteor shower, say. And you won't have to freeze your ass off to do it, either, because it's only supposed to get down to 37. Here's the link with the details from NASA: Geminids. For Pete's sake, turn off the computer and go out there. Who knows what else you might see. Best place to watch from: a cemetery out in the country, away from everything.


The heart trial unended this morning with a thud, a hung jury. I should have suspected it. The word-guy I work for and I couldn’t agree. The plaintiff's attorney is angling for a mistrial, trying to recoup his costs before they send the jurors away. He has been paying experts for each word, hemorrhaging green. The lady is still dead, while another guy I know sings about beautiful unendings. I let all the words flow over me. A few of them I take in.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Groucho's Back

The words “independent movement” had barely passed the synapses of my brain and flowed out my fingertips onto the keyboard when the rest of my body absorbed the news. My back’s immediate reaction was to throw itself into a frenzy and spasmodically refuse to cooperate. So I’m moving like Groucho Marx, trying to coax my body into a better mood. To be honest, it probably wasn’t the words that pushed my back over the edge. More than likely, beyond a reasonable doubt even, it was the daylong bending over a filing cabinet, sorting and throwing things away that pushed my muscles over the edge. Let this be a cautionary tale: Do not try to clean out 15 years of financial documents all in one day. Better yet, do not wait 15 years to throw all those papers away.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Heart Trial

The trial has lasted months. Every week or so the guy I work for asks me to look over some of the words.

This is the problem: The lady’s heart blew up and she died. They have the heart. They’ve passed it around. The guy I work for, the one who writes down all the words, has taken the heart home with him. It’s an exhibit, preserved in formaldehyde, marked with a sticker and everything. The heart is very official, by God.

This is the question: Should anyone have noticed that her heart was about to explode? They use legalese to argue their points, phrases like standard of care and what would a reasonable physician do. They have experts argue persuasively on both sides. And they order all of their words to be transcribed.

It’s not really about the heart or the lady anymore. The heart is preserved forever; the lady is long gone in her grave. It’s about who has to pay and who gets paid when someone suffers a fatal wound. Sometimes I think I make an honest living; other times…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Breakfast View

Honey Pie & Felice peering into the dining room, waiting for their turn. Remnants of CCR dance by, looking out my back door.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Few Complaints

Putting all the pieces together might just take a lifetime. So okay, what else were you planning to do? Fish? Plant a garden? Become a hobo and ride the train?

Thanksgiving report: A success. No dead bodies were found and no one had to go to the hospital this year. It’s good to have realistic expectations.

Good news: Our house is now fully clothed; the last piece of siding was hung on Saturday, again without any injuries.

Better news: Tom got his new bass; he’s set for four years. Jojo starts driver’s ed today.

Best news: I bought a car and ordered a laptop; I sense a small degree of independent movement flowing my way.

But… There is always something to complain about. The Finlander reminded me I don't have to be in such a good mood. Check this out if you don't have enough complaints today: Helsinki Complaints Choir

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shaded Tree

It's nice to wear a little disguise after Thanksgiving, kick back behind some shades while the world passes by. No one will ever know it's you. Of course, the cemetery might give it away.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving Hovering

Thanksgiving hovers in the distance, waiting for a cadre of preparations to usher it in. The dogs, banished to the family room a week ago, are whining. I buy them extra bones, sit with them in the evenings, but otherwise hold my ground. Dehairing the house is a process, not a last minute detail. I hear my husband sympathizing with them in the mornings, telling them it’s not his fault, it’s the woman. So we’re back to the Garden of Eden once again. One cat was banished to the barn for her various unrepented sins in the sacred realm of the kitchen. She has been ostracized, which Pete Seeger said means forced to live on the edge of town.

Grandma is rubbing lemon oil into our furniture with the remnants of a torn diaper. Her mind has unraveled important connections, like the desirability of bathing, but her hands hold and release residual memories of cleaning polish and rags. Before Thanksgiving morning, we'll polish her up, too. The winds in the house blow puffs of Pine-Sol and Windex before settling into deeper, more earthy tones. Candied ginger boils slowly in the kitchen, giving way to simmering chicken stock for the turkey to bathe in.

Life flows in and out of all these preparatory duties, saturating our senses. We’re making memories, someone said.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bender & Muffy

Cats sleeping with dogs...


Our friends walk in the woods and stumble over dead bodies, all missing, all murdered. The count so far is three. Although one was actually on the edge of a cornfield, I think it amounts to the same thing. What are the odds of accidentally finding a dead body? I’ve been known to dive into woods and cornfields quite frequently. This information seems important to me.

My son’s track coach found the body that was on the edge of the cornfield. It was missing its head. I can’t remember what the outcome of that was, but I seem to remember it wasn’t an accident. I don’t know if they ever found the head.

The parents of my son’s girlfriend found their body in an Illinois forest preserve back in the ‘70s. It had all its parts when they found it, but sometime after (maybe during) autopsy it wound up missing its head and hands. There was talk it was the missing Brach candy heiress. Perhaps all that candy made her body parts fall off easily, become less secure. But I heard thoroughbred race horses were involved, or maybe it was non-thoroughbreds. My memory is so poor.

Another body turned up a few years ago on Thanksgiving morning. That one was our next door neighbors’ claim to fame. They were out hunting for rabbits, which is another mystery I can’t explain. Why hunt for rabbits when you’re about to sit down to all that food? From a distance they weren’t sure it was a body, or at least one that was dead. On closer inspection the question was resolved. The body had kept all its parts, but natural causes weren’t suspected. It was very badly bruised.

I put dead bodies and snakes in the same category. They are part of nature, I don’t mind seeing them and touching them, but I like to prepare myself for the encounter. I really prefer to know when they’re apt to be around.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Cords of Entanglement

Scarred hands claw at the cords of entanglement, we’d rather let go, let our eyes unravel the scene. God and culture are woven together; love and domination are coiled in the same skein. My friend complains we have no good patterns for going forward. How in the world are we going to make it through? We rub our scarred hands together, flesh on flesh, blood mingling with blood. We're not sure what we're creating, but it’s the best we can do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shaded Dreams

My dreams are shaded by an iridescent
blue and black butterfly
It holds me mesmerized in the twilight
It doesn’t flap its wings

Monday, November 13, 2006

Starved Rock Too

I've been thinking about photos, the near elements, the far elements, how the light and the season affect the scene. It is amazing to me how complex a photo is. I like this one because it is serene. But that is just the surface. The stories that are hidden inside these pictures... Jeez. Just around the bend from where I took this picture a triple murder took place. It happened back in the sixties, but remnants of the story are still floating around, settling in nooks and crannies, polluting the atmosphere. The man who committed the murders is still alive and will be eligible for parole soon. Google Starved Rock murders and you can read about the whole thing. I'll be hiking there again in December, trying to illuminate mysteries and understand things I can't see. Again and again I am reminded that I can never see the whole picture. The scenes are complex and all appearances aside, they aren't perfectly serene.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Rumsfeld’s departure was an unexpected bonus. My cautiously optimistic stance this morning has almost turned into a smile. I’ve been a little depressed lately about our lack of direction, the snail’s pace at which circumstances change. Patience is a virtue, blah, blah, blah. In the meantime, my hair isn’t exactly getting any less gray. That’s why I’m so happy with disillusionment. It’s not going to alter my hair color, but it seems to be blowing in change.


I’m not going to go on and on about the elections. I’ll just say I feel a good deal better today than I felt two years ago. I believe I have disillusionment to thank. Disillusionment has suddenly become my new best friend. He’s dangerous, yes, in all his nakedness. Sometimes he frightens me. But I’m adjusting. Even when the scenery is harsh, it’s feels much better to be able to see.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good Intentions

Our intentions were good: drive up to Kalamazoo and see Tom’s first jazz concert at college. Tchaikovsky is okay, nice for daydreaming, but jazz is what we have been waiting for, the reason Tom went away. I mean, otherwise he could have stayed at home, shoveled goat manure, gone to school at IUSB.

It was just Jojo and me. Gene wanted to see it, agonized over missing it, but there was no way he could get there. He was in another time zone. You can see where this story is going, right? We didn’t make it to Kalamazoo. Any story that starts out with stated good intentions will have a tendency to stray.

The short story is this: The car battery gave out in Jones. The battery was old and the temperature was something like 20 degrees. Go figure. Jojo and I were stranded in the Shell gas station parking lot until Tom could rescue us after the concert, three and a half hours later. We passed the time playing cards, eating up the rest of the car battery listening to Radio Classics on Sirius, and munching on the leftover Halloween candy that our good intentions were bringing to Tom. I told Jojo about the last time something like this had happened to me. Some semi truck drivers hauled my 16-year-old butt and my car from St. Louis to Chicago, but that’s a long story for another day. By the time Tom rescued us we had heard enough stories and we were very cold.

Tom had had his adventures, too. Before the concert started he knocked a vocalist friend unconscious. It just wasn’t his day. It was a running hug that knocked them both off balance and slammed her head into the concrete floor. The paramedics had to come and take her to the ER. She didn’t get to sing. You never know when friendship and gregarious behavior is going to take a violent turn.

We made it home by midnight, though all of our good intentions had gone astray. The concert, according to Tom’s girlfriend Kelsey, was pretty good. I wish I could have seen it. I wish my feet weren’t still numb.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


In my dream I am crawling across the arches beneath an old, abandoned bridge. There is no way to cross the bridge’s surface. The road is permanently closed. Halfway across the bridge I encounter the most beautiful butterfly I have ever seen. It is resting on the arch in front of me, underneath the bridge. I must take its picture, but my camera is in my pocket and I need both of my hands to keep from falling. Somehow I get my camera out and snap the picture, but I’m worried that it won’t turn out very well. Still, the picture is in my brain. I turn around and crawl back the way I came, amazed that there are butterflies so beautiful, amazed that I was able to see one.

And you thought Freud was dead! Of course not. He lives on in our dreams. I’m sure my dream interpreter friends will have fun with this one, but I think Freud said it doesn’t matter what you think it means. What matters is what I associate with the dream. What I associate with the dream is that it’s very nice to be dreaming, seeing things I didn’t expect to see.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Soupy Things

Okay. So I need a halibut carcass. What else is new? Every recipe in The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups has a couple of ingredients I can't lay my hands on at the present time. The recipes themselves are not too difficult, but I have no fish monger or any halibut carcasses hanging around. I'm going to keep searching. The Alaskan Salmon Chowder sounds excellent. The Finlander even bought me a real, honest to goodness, blue enameled cast iron soup pot to aid me in my culinary schemes. The manufacturer's advertisement for the pot promises that great things will come from cooking with their wares. The soup pot looks a little depressed, however, sitting empty on the stove . I'm going to cook some hot apple cider in it today just to show it it's not my fault. I really can make a few simple things.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Refraction Two

How important is it for the reader of a poem to understand the writer’s intent? Darned if I know. Poetry is driving me crazy. I think I should stick to prose. Prosaically speaking, this is what I want to say:

My son Tom pulled me up out of Indiana for an evening of dinner and jazz in Kalamazoo. He still comes home most weekends. He makes breakfast, wrestles the dogs, does his laundry. His presence bends the light in every room.

We wanted to hear the jazz pianist/composer Lyle Mays play at the Union, but before Mays took the stage, if he ever did, I had to make my way back home. From across the room Mays, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, looked a little like the late-bassist Jaco Pastorius. Both artists played with The Pat Metheny Group. Maybe the connection has clouded my view. I've looked for a decent Mays video on YouTube, but haven't come up with anything. While looking for Mays I came across some beautiful Jaco footage, at least to my eyes. Here’s a link to Jaco playing Portrait of Tracy, which is musical poetry, I think. Keep in mind that everything you are hearing is coming from a bass guitar. Portrait of Tracy.

Listening to Jaco play Portrait of Tracy you get a glimpse of the feelings behind the notes, but you don't get to see the exact picture. So, is this the idea behind some poetry? Maybe. I just don't know.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


For the first time in forever I won't be at home on my doorstep passing out candy on Halloween. I'll be at class, wearing my student face, wishing I was home. Halloween is a tradition, a chance to see every little face in my neighborhood, and the big faces, too. Oh, well. My husband and daughter are going to to do the honors of passing out candy to the parade of faces that float by. As for me, there is always next year.

I will not be denied the Halloween movies, however. Sunday night we watched Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride. I love the statements that man makes with color. I want to watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry, but my family has taken my NetFlix privileges away. Something about keeping movies for three weeks and never watching them. I'm hoping they'll get it for me, but you never know. They say I should try something new for a change. I'm not sure I trust them. After all, they're the ones who showed me YouTube.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Scientific Relationships

I'm no whiz at science, but I love Daniel Goleman's books that explore different kinds of intelligence and the inner workings of the brain. A few years ago I was impressed by his book Emotional Intelligence. He has a new book out, Social Intelligence The New Science of Human Relationships. You can get some decent info on the book from last week's Newsweek and today's NPR's Talk of the Nation. It sounds like he has some interesting things to say about empathy, touch, the gaze, developing rapport, what happens in our brains when we connect with someone... He talks about the ability to cope with continuing stress and even DNA changes. It's on my list of things to read.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Creeping Things

There is a creeping suspicion that I have turned to the dark side. Relax. It’s not quite that bad. I’ve just been peeling some old skin away. Snake skin? Maybe. We’ll have to wait and see. I’m reevaluating old stories, seeing what I should keep, what I should toss away.

The guy on NPR today talked about “the creeping force of realism.” Finally. Thank God. Is that the sun I see? Should I wear sun block? Even the poets are flinging realism around, clean, hard, beautiful punches. It feels like life is at last overpowering the creeping death that has been infecting everything.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Collected Thoughts

Thanks for this, Dan. I'll be praying for your eternal soul.


Will I go to hell for thinking of Bugs Bunny while listening to Tchaikovsky? What should I think about while listening to Tchaikovsky?

The cookbook came: The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups, something about fast food and the devolution of the human soul.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sea of Clouds

We drove under, through and over this sea of clouds in the Smokies. Living in northern Indiana I sometimes forget that life exists above the clouds. Every once in a while it's a good idea to reacquaint myself with the idea that there are higher and lower elevations than my front door.

Monday, October 16, 2006


the dog
his laundry
the light
in every room

Mingus Mill

At the end of the day, exhausted, we came to the Mingus Mill. Sorry, T, not Charles Mingus. It was much more peaceful, much more serene. I considered taking a nap under the trees, but the people...

They still grind flour at the mill, but the stuff they sell is from elsewhere. Health Department rules...

Friday, October 13, 2006


There’s a message on my answering machine. The man is too good. He knows just when to call, just what to say. Face-to-face isn’t necessary. A message will do. My coat is still zipped, my hands are still numb when I push “play.”

“This is Bob. I was wondering if you needed a load of wood. I thought I’d call you first before I asked around.”

In August I noticed we still had half a rack of wood. I was even thinking we could maybe get by through the whole winter that way. But Bob doesn’t call me in August. He calls me in October on the first snowy day. So I’m dialing his number, ordering a full load of wood, definitely more than I need. The man has timing is all I can say.

All the World's a Stage

But if you'd rather kick back and stay in the audience, that's okay, too. Just don't snore. That's rude. Here's my totally biased opinion of a few people worth watching this weekend :

Emily Laudeman is down in Nappanee, Indiana at the Round Barn in Fiddler on the Roof. This might be your last chance to catch her at the Round Barn before she flies away.

Rebecca Waring-Crane is at the Firehouse (South Bend Civic Theater, Indiana) this weekend in Light Up The Sky. I have a feeling we'll be hearing more from her as time rolls by.

Tom Keranen will be at the Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Sunday, doing some sort of classical Tchaikovsky thing. Okay, it's not jazz. But it's Tom. What can I say?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Northern Thoughts

The snow is extremely early. My son, the Man-Child, is in Kalamazoo. My son's winter coat is in Indiana. I can go to the closet and look at this coat that I bought him last year in anticipation of Kalamazoo. There is nothing more I can do until Sunday, when I will see his face and hear his music once again. I will think warm thoughts, however. Is this how men become men, by their mothers leaving them out in the cold? I don't like it. No. I don't like it one bit.

So, until Sunday, I will read. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis once again is calling my name. It has snow and spiders and all sorts of things. It deserves a thorough re-read.

Falling Waters

(For Jesus & Jennifer) The yurt link:

They have better pictures than I took.

Another View

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Upward and Onward

Live Cow

For Jesus. This cow was dead the first time we passed it. Or at least it appeared that way. So I picked up a buckeye I found on the ground and put it in my pocket to remember that I saw a dead cow along the way. I didn't want a dead cow picture, but just a reminder that I'm going to see dead cows occasionally along my way. Then we came back and the cow wasn't dead. Gene opined that it looked like it couldn't stand up. I agreed. We started to walk away. I turned around for one last look and the cow was trotting away. I kept the buckeye in my pocket to remind myself I know nothing about cows.

Mountain View

Southern Comfort

We slid down south for some southern comfort. The air settles a little more unpredictably than it does in more northern climes. We met an historian who had been traveling around, living out of his red panel truck for the past 18 years. He had a new companion, a white rabbit, who was living with him. Another historian, a young guy on the far side of stoned, showed us how to make fire with flint and straw. He also could demonstrate tomahawk throwing, but watching him make the fire was enough.

Further down the road we came to mountains and a good deal of fog. We climbed up and over the mountains and under, over and through the fog. Maybe the fog is called clouds. I don’t know. I thought of a man who keeps telling me to walk in the direction I intend to go. He lives in Indiana. Perhaps he hasn’t been to the mountains.

At night we slept on a hill above a pond in a grove of trees. There was a herd of elk roaming a valley outside of an old Methodist church. A few people brought potluck. The outhouse there wasn’t too good. There was an old schoolhouse in the valley. Another house pulled me back 35 years. They say the form of the house is called a dog trot. A hallway runs right down the center of it and it is open to the world at both ends. A dog could trot right through it. My aunt, long dead, told me to use the bedpan if I had to pee in the middle of the night. Rattlesnakes came up on the dog trot and getting to the outhouse wasn’t worth my while. We didn’t see any rattlesnakes. There were lots of dogs.

We took the back roads on the way back north. The farmers were all out harvesting, scattering tobacco on the roadsides, hanging it to dry in open black barns. A large orange harvest moon, a sliver past full, kept watch over us as we made our way back home, becoming paler and more distant the further north we drove.

Cataloochee Valley

Elk don't really care about rain. This guy is part of a herd of 25 that was reintroduced into the Smokies in 2001. It was really cool to see him just sitting around in the wild. He might even be the guy who left a huge pile of elk shit up the hill in the cemetery that the Finlander stepped in. Apparently elk hang out in cemeteries, too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mr. Venus' Plan

Mr. Venus could only repeat that it was his fixed intention to betake himself to the paths of science, and to walk in the same all the days of his life; not dropping down upon his fellow creatures until they were deceased, and then only to articulate them to the best of his humble ability.

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Benign Little Addiction

The Finlander’s benign little addiction takes some odd turns. He’s crouching behind a mausoleum at the back side of a cemetery, somewhere in southern Indiana, plugging his electric hot pot full of cemetery water into an unguarded power outlet. I’m in front of the mausoleum, making sandwiches on the trunk of the car, pouring his home-roasted coffee beans from a baggie into a small, hand-crank coffee grinder, grinding away. I’m a little nervous about what he’s doing back there. I don’t mind stealing stories from the dead, but their electricity is another thing. Plus, the caretaker’s house is there in full view. I tell him the water is hot enough. I want him to unplug the darn thing before we get caught and carted off to jail. He doesn’t look worried, but he unplugs the hot pot and brings it up to the trunk of the car. I’ve got the ground beans waiting in this Swiss press thing he uses to make the brew. We eat our sandwiches while the coffee steeps, then we pour the coffee into our mugs and slide out of the cemetery, down the road. I wait until the cemetery is a few miles behind us before bring the cup to my lips. I’m forced to admit it was worth it; it was an awesome cup of Jo.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mr. Venus

I’m drawn to Mr. Venus, Charles Dickens’ articulator of bones. I won’t go so far to say it’s love at first sight, that place is reserved for my children. There is no question what I felt when I saw those two for the first time. But that's another matter indeed. Still, the feeling for Mr. Venus is strong He and I partake of a certain communion that cannot be denied.

Mr. Venus is in dire straights, stuck between love of his work, articulating bones, and love of a living, breathing creature, who shuns his advances. She doesn’t "want to be seen in that boney light.” Oh, Mr. Venus, don’t I know? For what is a writer but an articulator of bones? We steal pieces from the living; we scrounge around in graveyards appropriating pieces from the dead.

I was shocked one day to see a woman I had scavenged eating lunch at a restaurant. She looked amazingly well. Her hair was purple. Her fingers glittered with a variety of rings. She was remarried. And all this after I had borrowed her husband, appropriated her senseless legs. She didn’t seem to miss the items I had stolen, but she probably wouldn’t have greeted my so kindly if she knew.

Oh, Mr. Venus, why are we so in love with the work that we do? Why do we go into graveyards with pencils and shovels to see what we can dig up to fit into our latest schemes? Will our lovers ever forgive us for our thieving ways, for seeing things as we do?

Sex? No Way! Way!

I still haven't had time to wrestle the computer to the ground and make it show links! Jesus (that's Hey Zeus) is opening up a great conversation. Check it out and maybe even join in:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Sky is Falling

In which Chicken Little, smelling smoke, romantically imagines herself a moth or even a phoenix, only to awake and find herself an ordinary fowl roasting on the grill. Thinking quickly, she abandons her field guides and invests in cookbooks.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Political Views

Once, twice, three times, maybe. But four times is enough to piss me off.

Chris Chocola must be very far behind in the polls. Four times in the past two weeks a “survey” company (MPA or maybe NPA, not quite sure, can’t find them on the web, blah, blah, blah, blah) has tried to push my vote into his court. “Would it influence your vote if you knew Joe Donnelly…”

The Finlander tells me they’re Push Polls, not surveys at all. Duh – nice to know their name, though. I keep telling them, in rather stern terms, that they’re wasting my/their time. Their candidate is toast. I just hope it’s costing Chocola a lot of money to harass me in this way. And come November...

The question is: why do I have to blog about this? Why doesn’t the legitimate news media cover it? Duh. Again.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The Finlander and I just celebrated anniversary 21. He’s sitting on the couch with his laptop, ordering green coffee beans from Ethiopia, wondering if the computer battery is one of those that is going to explode. He catches my eye and says, “I like our house.” He’s not talking about our house, but I know what he means. Our house is a fixer-upper. We no sooner start one project than another one rears its ugly head. Still, in the midst of this, he likes our house.

I’m guilty of forgetting that moment by moment, word by word, silence by silence we are building the houses in which we live. I would have liked to have inherited a nice house in the country with a large orchard full of pear and apple trees, some grape vines to make jelly and wine from, a barn, a few chickens, maybe a peacock or two, and a big front porch where I could read a good book and drink sweet tea. I would have liked to have assurances that the things we hold on our laps are not going to explode while we are innocently ordering coffee beans. But there are no assurances, no inheritances. Instead, moment by moment, word by word, silence by silence, I’m creating the place where, explosions or no, I have no choice but to live.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The End of All Things

It’s undeniable, this vein snaking its way through the mind of the world: This is the end of all things. Repent or party. Do what you have to do.

I don’t buy it. Yes, the end might be near for you or me. Who knows? Our illnesses might suddenly overtake us, throw us out of the game. But I believe in modern medicine. I want to believe.

We are such small, self-absorbed creatures, constantly mistaking the end of our lineage for the end of all things. There is a certain Tower of Babel atmosphere, hubris chased hard by cacophony. And yet, in the corners of the universe, far from the city, people with hands like ours are building things.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

One Way to Look at Things

The Tobacco River, flooding in May.
I'm not dead, just thinking. This could take awhile.

And no, the last blog was not an endorsement of Pete Townshend and/or his "research." Jeez.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Sometime today, perhaps even as these words hit the blog, Sirius Channel 10 is going to an all-Who format, which is great. You can pop in anytime and get a hit of The Who. No, don’t stay there forever. That would get a little odd. But do stop in. I’m hoping they’ll stray just a little and play some straight Pete Townshend (if there is such a thing.) It feels like that sort of day.

JJ Gallaher

I haven't had time to wrestle my computer to the ground and make it show links on the side as I would like it to do, but I've been wanting to put this link up:

What will you find there? I won't tell you. Just go.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mr. Wegg

"Professionally he declines and he falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry."

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Beckoning Fair One

I certainly cannot tell why I make the choices that I do. Something just strikes me, sticks with me, and I set it aside. So it is with Oliver Onions’ ghost story The Beckoning Fair One. It’s old, 1911-ish, and resides inside the torn and faded red cover of A Treasury of Short Stories that I picked up someplace in the U.P. The book has many engaging stories, but when I look at it, sitting on my headboard, it is always The Beckoning Fair One that comes into my mind.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Taste of Hoagland

A friend recommended I read some essays of Edward Hoagland, so that’s what I’m reading today. I’m not far into it, too many voices surrounding me right now. And we’re going apple picking, wine tasting… There is this very interesting mixture between reading, writing, and living going on right now. Forget about arithmetic. I realize the numbers on my paper are all askew. I add when I should subtract, that sort of thing. I’m not sure who made all the number rules. I plan on talking to them, try to get them to see reason.

But back to Hoagland. Here’s a little piece from Compass Points:

“…I grin at seeing a one-year-old, or will approach someone elderly, optimistic at the prospect of talking with him. A basic faith kicks in. It’s automatic, not ideological, though I believe life has meaning. I find diversity a comfort in the wilds and in the city—that there are more species than mine, more personalities than me—and believe in God as embodied in the earth and in metropolises. I believe that life is good.”

Amen. Or let it be.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Slip And Fall

She had a slip-and-fall while they were visiting his mother in the nursing home. Applesauce on the floor. She really wasn’t the same. Now he has to do the laundry, make the beds, do the vacuuming. What else? Wifely duties, as far as the bedroom, it's not like it used to be. Less than 50 – 50 percent less now than it was before. And even when it is, it's not like it used to be. Certainly the nursing home would have to compensate for that sort of thing.

Younger Days

My second cousin once removed, or some such thing, the one who works out at the railroad, was sitting across the table telling me about the places he had seen. Arizona, the pipeline in Alaska, Sturgis, South Dakota for the motorcycle thing.

“I’ve heard that’s a wild time, Sturgis.”
“Yeah, I was a lot younger then.”
“What happened? Anything good?”
“I saw some things.”
“Like what, now?”
“Well, you know… Actually, something interesting happened to me.”
“No kidding, to you?”
“I had the map, you know, so I was leading the way. But the guys behind me stopped for gas and I didn’t know.”
“So you were alone?”
“Yeah, I thought they were behind me. I didn’t know. So I stopped under this viaduct, thinking they would catch up. But they never came. I was looking around while I was waiting for them, you know. And up in those steel girders, what do you think I seen?”
“I don’t know. Pigeons? Naked people?”
“Nah, bags.”
“Bags? What kind of bags?”
“Bank deposit bags, you know, the ones businesses use.”
“Really. What did you do?”
“I put them in my pack.”
“Jeez. Weren’t you afraid somebody was watching those things?”
“Well, a little later that day a whole bunch a cops came cruising my way. But they went on past me, accident or something, I don’t know. I took the bags home to Mom’s. We opened them up on her kitchen table and counted out all the money in them things, ones and fives, that sort of thing. 1100 dollars I made that trip. That was in my younger days.”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

An Accident Waiting to Happen

Another day, another dollar, another list of 101 things I definitely shouldn’t say. Make that 102. Damn.

The woman was just being friendly. She wanted to know what he liked to read. He hemmed and hawed. “Well, what do you mean?” “Well, you’re an English major. You do like to read?” “Well, yes, but what do you mean?” He got lucky. People started coming in, we all laughed at the intimacy of what the woman wanted to know, asking the poor man to strip naked so we could examine his soul. But he’s young. He’ll adjust. In the future he’ll remember to always put on clean, impressive underclothes. Or maybe he'll even have the audacity to feel comfortable with his own skin.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Electronic Skin

The Man-Child is frantic. There is a gaping hole in his electronic skin. He calls us from his cell phone. We pick up; he hears us; we can’t hear him. He calls all our various phone numbers. The problem is on his end. He turns to the IM. The Finlander, the Man-Child, and I spend the evening IM’ing from three different states in the Midwest, devising a plan so the Man-Child can have his voice heard again. As for me, I want to step out of this electronic world and touch real skin.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Severance Pay

On to more substantial things: fiction. I've been working on a short story (or something) that my friends know all too well. Okay, I haven't been working on it, therein lies the problem. I'm hoping if I post a little of it here I will pressure myself into actually really working on it and not just avoiding it, playing with it... The idea is extreme guilt or something along those lines. Stop playing with your food and just eat it. Of course, inspiration would be good, too.

This is the beginning of Severance Pay.

Zeke crouched beside the creek and waited for the train. It was braying in the distance, compelling him to pause in the shadows beneath the trestle where the damp vapors of moss and mud saturated the air. He took a deep breath and pulled pieces of the heavy atmosphere into his lungs. Nothing made sense to him, but he knew the essence of Marlaina was here, underneath the trestle, waiting for him to breathe her in. He wanted to pull her right out of the mud. But everything was jumbled together, confusing him. He couldn’t quite tell what was real. He remembered laying here with her, on other dripping summer days, while the trains rumbled overhead, their bodies flowing together, mingling with the mud, but he couldn’t remember what she smelled like anymore.

As the train drew nearer he raised the machete hanging at his side and slowly ran his fingers along the blade, sweeping off the flecks of organic matter and flinging them to the ground. These flecks, he was almost positive, were not Marlaina. They could be cast aside. But a wave of uncertainty passed through him. He lifted the machete to his lips and ran his tongue along it, just to be sure. His tongue did not detect anything familiar, but he didn’t trust it, either. How could he know that it was really his tongue? Maybe if he stopped thinking about it, it would fall out of his mouth, like the machete sometimes fell out of his hand.

Overhead, the trestle shook as it proclaimed in uncertain graffiti letters: THE OC BOYS WHERE HERE. The train rumbled louder as it churned toward him. Suddenly the engine was overhead and the whistle was vibrating its notes into every crevice of his body, permeating his skin. This is what he had been waiting for. Marlaina’s presence engulfed him.

But the engine passed too quickly and pulled Marlaina across the creek and into the woods, away from him. Zeke backed out of the cool shadow of the trestle far enough into the shattered daylight to read the words on the train cars as they clacked by, a long banner of blocky instructions, just for him.

“N-S, C-O-N, Yang Ming, Maersk, Santa Fe, Hyundai, Hanjin, J.B. Hunt, Hub, N-A-C-S, China Shipping, TTX, Burlington Northern Railway, O-O-C-L, Coil Shield.”

The train was picking up speed and Zeke struggled to keep pace with the words. The last car spewed forth fat, unintelligible graffiti and then it was gone, carrying all that remained of Marlaina with it. But Zeke knew what to do. Despite its speed and the last pieces that he didn’t understand, he had captured the rhythm of the train and pulled it, pulsing, inside him. As he stood up the machete started swinging up and down. His lips began to repeat the train’s message in rhythm with the blade.

“N-S, C-O-N, Yang Ming…” And then his legs started to run. He could feel Marlaina growing closer as he became the train.


Sometimes the whiff of a change in scenery is all I need.

I’m reading about the sensuality of work, the unsubstantial, half-hearted nature of play, and considering how I earn my dough, how I like to play. Elaine Scarry writes, “It is not simply the surface of the body but the deep entirety of its interior that is in work put at risk.” Yes, yes, I know.

And the e-mail arrives. There’s a job posting for two scopists (that’s me) to fill a seven-month (with possibility to extend) position in criminal court at The Hague. Meal and housing allowance provided. It’s vague, but it must be World Court work, that’s what happens at The Hague. I cannot possibly go, couldn’t think of applying. Seven months away from home! The Finlander says, It’s a chance of a lifetime. You must apply.

The inquiring e-mail is sent and we’re all left to dream. I go back to reading Scarry, who is talking about Dickens’s Pip, “If life had required Pip to learn the distinction between the artificial and the real, he might not have had such a difficult time; but he is instead required to make the much more difficult and interesting distinctions between failed artifice and successful artifice, between failed work and successful work, between irresponsible imaginings and responsible imaginings.” Yes, yes indeed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Silence. Hmmm. I don't know. Is there such a thing?

"Songwriting is like fishing in a stream; you put in your line and hope you catch something. And I don't think anyone downstream from Bob Dylan ever caught anything." --- Arlo Guthrie

I don't think it was because they're weren't any fish to be had. No. I think everyone downstream was just standing around admiring the fish Dylan landed. Jeez. I mean, what can you say? That's a really cool trout, Bob?

Then, of course, everyone started dreaming about trout and fishing and rods and whatnot. How nice fresh fish tastes. And they weren't even supposed to be fishing in the first place! They were supposed to be pulling their herbs out of their own flower pots. Keep your eyes on your own papers, please.

Okay. And then some, too, were afraid to serve up a meal because the last thing they cooked was absolutely delicious, showed great promise, and they can't be expected to cook like that every day. Of course not. But we have to eat something and if they'd just cut up a few vegetables or throw some meat between a couple slices of bread, or even peanut butter, we could eat a little something and of course we like the way their knife cuts across the bread. Jesus.

Anyway, now I can go back to work in peace and quiet. But silence? Hah!

Miss Manners...

What is the etiquette involved in putting links to other blogs on a web site? Should you ask the other person first or just link away to whatever you think is cool?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Today my mechanic took me aside. He said, It’s time. I knew it was coming, but still...

We took the Trooper for one last trip this summer to the U.P. We let her do easy jobs, a trip to the lakeshore on a paved road, that sort of thing. We knew we wouldn’t be forging streams, picking berries off of logging roads, climbing up into the hills to chase old graveyards. On the way home, in Grand Rapids, she turned over 180,000 miles.

The first sign that even a paved existence was going to be too much was at Best Buy. I approached her quietly, she refused to budge. The tow truck had to come the next morning and haul her away. But we still had hope. A new fuel filter and she ran for a few days. Then she left me stranded at IUSB in the pouring rain.

The Finlander tried to make things right with her, but in the end the tow truck had to haul her back to the mechanic again. He replaced the fuel pump, a rusty pipe, some other assembly things. And he gave me the news, one bad pothole and she’s liable to break in two. And we had just bought her new tires, too.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


After disappearing for a few days, then showing up on the dining room wall under the picture of Jesus walking on water, which resulted in her eviction to the cherry tree, Louise is back, posing on the cannas.

Animal Whispers

We were standing on the shore, watching the swans. The Naturalist told me to enjoy them now, Potato Creek has finally gotten permission to shoot them come November. I know, I know, they destroy the habitat for other things, blah, blah, blah. Perhaps if we could talk to them…

I met an animal whisperer last winter. She gave me her card. She had just come from counseling a bull that had outlived his productive stud life. His owners had decided to castrate him instead of putting him down. Still, he was a little depressed. But she was able to talk him through it. She told me if my goats needed counseling to give her a call. My goats seem pretty happy, but you never know.

While we were watching the swans the Librarian shouted, Look, a Kingfisher. I’m glad she pointed him out, because I don’t know my birds. I’m trying, but… The Kingfisher lit on the top of a dead tree out in the lake and cawed at us, which probably isn’t right either because caw is the sound made by crow-like birds. The Naturalist said he was just saying hi, but I could have sworn he had something else to say. We tried to take his picture, but of course he flew away. It’s too bad the animal whisperer wasn’t there. Maybe she could have interpreted what he wanted to say.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Herd on the Prairie

My friend the librarian, who advises me to never loan out my books, has loaned her Lakeville prairie out to a pony herd. They're eating up her wildflowers, but in the end I think it's going to be okay. They seem like a pretty friendly crowd.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Pear Butter

A week ago the pears were unyielding, you couldn’t coax them off the tree. They teased me with a red blush, but I could tell they weren’t going anywhere. So I left them alone to do their thing. There’s no arguing with a green pear. Towards the end of the week I wandered past their hideout again, only to find they were ripe, falling on the ground. Now the aroma of pear butter is wafting out the windows, saturating the air.

I can’t work the same magic with pears that my friends the Byzantine monks in Eagle Harbor, Michigan can. They have secret recipes tucked away. At the Jam Pot they have shelves and shelves of their talents on display, butters and jams and other delicious things. Maybe their recipes are sweeter because they pray five hours a day.

The Man-Child and his friends have wandered into the monks’ territory this Labor Day. While I slept and dreamed of being 18, they drove through the night, crossed the Mackinac Bridge, through the Seney Wildlife Refuge, and onto the Keweenaw. While I’m stirring pear butter in Indiana, they’re making memories on Brockway Mountain, grilling salmon on the lakeshore, eating the monks’ bakery.

This is good, the way I dreamed it would someday be.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Cliff View Cemetery

This is one of my favorite cemeteries. It's located in The Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. On our first visit to this abandoned place the Finlander and I found a set of footprints in the myrtle and a fresh lemon and lime. It took us years to unravel the mystery, but eventually I found the 76-year-old great grandson of the deceased. He lives in Arizona and has an orchard of lemons and limes. In the '50s he came back from serving a tour of duty in Alaska and searched out the swampy bit of land his great grandfather was buried on. He hacked a path through the woods with a machete and planted the myrtle that now grows in abundance there. The last burials in this cemetery were in the 1890s.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Our Teacher

Our teacher, the poet,
lets us lean
over his shoulders
and watch him draw
on the cave.
In the firelight
he conjures
birds, women,
the sound of pain.
Then he places
the charcoal
between our fingers
and wills us to play.

Feed Me

Out in the tomato fields
the babies born with
no arms or legs
have grown to three

I put the produce
back on the grocery
shelf and kiss my
flailing limbs.

Monday, August 28, 2006

What He Means

The neuroradiologist explained to the jury the baby’s brain injury, detailing the gray matter, the white matter, the valleys, the hills. Atrophy makes the hills smaller and the valleys bigger, and the white matter, the stuff that runs the communication routes, thins.

My mind began to wander through northern Indiana, the land of the unending valley, the big, flat plain. Am I living in the land of atrophied brains? Probably not. Well, maybe. I see signs of hills everywhere. It’s just that the glaciers scraped so much stuff away.

Brains weigh heavy on my mind. I spend a lot of time fussing about body things, but brains are always hovering in the background, whispering in my ear. My California brother is constantly fighting with his brain. A stroke shuffled all his files around. All the information is still there, but the retrieval system, in his words, sucks. “Sucks” stays on the top of his word pile. It’s essential.

In the days after my brother’s stroke, I found out exactly where I was filed in his brain. He introduced me to his doctors as mother and wife. I was thankful to be elevated above the family pet box. Now, most of his words have found their way into a retrieval system. We still play word charades (It’s like clear glass, but it doesn’t break. Plexiglas? Yeah, Plexiglas.) I still hear “Happy Birthday” when I call on Christmas.

My poet friends go to their word closets and dress up their ideas in audacious clothes. When they can’t find the outfit they want, they sew something new. My brother just wants to find something to cover his ass. His ideas are presented without subtlety or nuance. When he’s able to locate the words, he says exactly what he means. He has no edit function left to soften his blows. What happened to you, he asks me. You used to be good.

So I’m exercising more now, trying to get back in shape. It’s not really that I want to look good again, I just want to protect my brain. If I stroke out I might start telling people exactly what I mean.

Friday, August 25, 2006


A beautiful yellow and black orb-weaving spider has taken up residence in the tangle of tomatoes and irises off my back porch. She’s stayed long enough and has grown large enough that I’ve given her a name: Louise. The picture doesn't do her justice. She's about the size of my thumb. She’s been very busy catching and tying up grasshoppers. I’m a little sad that she’ll kick the bucket in the fall. I visit her every morning. The Finlander says I’m like Eve, always wandering around in the garden and talking to creatures I have no business talking to; however, I haven’t named the snake yet. For further details, read Samuel Clemens’ The Diary of Adam and Eve.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Arrivals and Departures

All these threads. Where to begin?

A counterpoint: God knows who you love.

I drove to Chicago Sunday night and pulled my California brother and his family out of the sky. We had trouble with the pickup. His cell phone wasn’t working. Finally my sister-in-law used a pay phone. I should have just parked and searched for them.

God knows how we ever connect, who we’re going to love. But then the curtain parts and we glimpse it: My friend holding his grandchild. The child will never know what the man gave up for that moment to arrive. John, the lover, knew.

My missionary friends flew across the ocean on Monday, leaving the kids and grandkids behind for the next five years or so. God knows who you will love.

Mostly we don’t know how deep things go, who will pull us out of this life, who will compel us to remain. Mostly we stand listening, waiting for the arrivals and departures to be announced and the luggage to be claimed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bipolar Remains

Bipolar parent disorder has descended upon our household. In the slosh of April, our man-child turned 18. Now, as August drips down our backs, he’s preparing to leave. The piles of his departure litter every room. We can’t stand to see him go; we can’t wait for him to leave.

Nature holds no prisoners. Offspring must eventually depart. After three years the mother moose drives the young calf away, forever to live on its own. Mother bears leave their cubs clinging to a tree, where they cry and call for mama for days on end. Mother eagles abandon the young in the nest, where eventually they get hungry enough to venture out and fly and hunt – or die.

All right. He’s not going to starve – or die. He’s only going to Kalamazoo. He’s on the meal plan. He hits enough good notes on the bass to keep the wolves at bay. And he’s the one abandoning the nest; we’re the ones staying, the ones learning to fly and hunt all over again.

Someone once told me that every few years he reinvents himself. He might be on to something. What else can you do when you’ve outgrown your skin? Or found someone else living inside your muscles and bones? The question is: who in the world is that person and how do they want to live?
The Finlander feels it, too. He looks at motorcycles and thinks about going back to school full time.

Is this middle age? Is the field as wide open as when we were 18? Are the dreams just as big? Can you really reinvent yourself again and again?

Perhaps it’s not bipolar disorder we suffer from, but schizophrenia instead. Maybe there’s a host of people living inside our skin: writers, gardeners, hikers, a motorcycle mama clinging to the Finlander’s leather skin. Some pictures are more amusing than others, but still there’s that desire to hit the road and go, further than we’ve gone before, before old age and reality set in.

Some people outfit their house with handicap ramps for the inevitability of caring for their crumbling remains. We’re planning for a heavy dose of mental illness; we’re blogging and buying camping gear. But schizophrenia is going to have to wait a little longer. Our man-child is leaving, but we have three more years until our woman-child turns 18.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Solar Wind

(Warning – the views expressed here have not been scientifically tested.)

A change is predicted in the solar wind. Something about a backward sunspot, a change in polarity, 11-year cycles, and spectacular Aurora Borealis displays. explains it all in nice, neat scientific terms. Nathan Roberts would appreciate that the sun has its cycles, too.

It’s tempting to fly on the solar wind. It’s so romantic sounding it could melt the tail feathers right off your ass, in which case you’d crash and burn or at least get cited by the FAA for flying around bare-assed, and too, everyone would be able to see that you have a large brown mole on your right butt cheek. So it’s better to use caution when approaching the solar wind.

Roberts has already mapped out polarity issues and cycles, so I won’t go there. Which leaves the Aurora Borealis displays.

Sometime in the next 11 years, make it a point to head to the northern latitudes when the solar wind is blowing strong. Probably waiting a few years until the sun is really whipped up into a frenzy wouldn’t hurt. Stay up all night with a blanket and a lover and pot of coffee. Don’t try this with wine, you’ll get distracted or fall asleep, which would be embarrassing, or you’ll see aliens and will never be taken seriously again. If you don’t have a lover, remember, you have an 11-year window. Don’t bring cheese and crackers. They attract the skunks and bears.

Lay on your back and wait. Remember, this isn’t about flying. Your buttocks should be firmly on the ground. By two or three in the morning, when your toes and buttocks are numb, the northern lights might appear. Lay still and enjoy the show. Resist the urge to talk about flying. When it’s over, make sure you bring those darn cheese and crackers I told you not to bring back into the house. They really do attract the skunks and bears.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Land of Milk and Honey

I would have liked to write a poem about this, but I haven't refined the skill (or the patience. )

The war of who God loves best and who will claim the inheritance wages on.

Meanwhile, in the land of milk and honey, the dutiful mother, naked, save the white dress coat and gloves, prepares to sacrifice her first-born son.

The child dives under the ocean and through spirit and water is born again a Navy seal.

Not exactly a suicide bomber, his limbs are tattooed with dog tag numbers to bear witness to his remains.


If there’s any sort of equilibrium, I believe the word cells are robbing the number cells inside my brain. They started out fairly equal, but the more I exercised the word cells the more the number cells withdrew.

All that is a vague way of saying my online physics course is going badly. My instructor informs me that my midterm exam grade (9 out of 24) reflects that I am not grasping the material. I guess I’m going to have to withdraw and allow a flesh and blood instructor to show me the error of my ways.

Admitting defeat is a bit liberating, though. I was in danger of graduating in the next year or so.


This lovely creature is Bud, daughter of the dearly departed Rose, chewing her hay. She's an up and coming player in the organic fertilizer business. She trims trees and prunes shubbery on the side.

Garden Living

if Jesus comes back tomorrow
restoring all things
am I going to be naked
Should I go to the gym

I’m not hip on City living
But I like the Garden theme
We’d have to talk about the trees

Life is good, delicious
dripping off my lips
But Knowledge makes
Life sweeter
What’s the deal with knowing
being known?

Monday, August 14, 2006


The storm
a lumbering behemoth
approaches now

The thunder rolls in the distance
or perhaps it’s just the marching band

During those last days
did Noah kneel beside the boat
praying the skies would open to
soak his dry skin

Did the gathering clouds
breathe the vapor of what was to come
into his lungs
along with the dust of what had been?

Will these dry bones ever rise again?

Ancestoral Feet

I wonder about those African feet dragging themselves off the continent 50 or 100,000 years ago. Or maybe they were running. God knows. It just seems that they couldn’t stay.

Those ancestors’ feet, my kin, were they forging ahead, or maybe running away? Did they suffer from a mutant gene that compelled them to explore new worlds, or were their feet shaped so differently that they were forced to leave? Did they miss the soil of the continent slipping through their toes?

Were those feet faster than their hunters or will we find many of them in a pile in the back of some ancient animal cave? Did they ever turn back, only to find the waters rising behind them, blocking their path of return? Would the continent’s soil burn their soles if ever they made their way home again? Would they still call that place home?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Witness Sweet Tea

The beat goes on
the Musician brews great-grandma’s sweet tea
with a twist, he adds mint leaves

the ones running rampant through my garden
without regard for mice or men

These generational layers, they comfort me
My words mostly miss the mark
but the bodies rarely lie

Dog Days

Although I’ve lost my copy of The Little Prince, the images of the boy taming the fox (under the fox’s direction) remain. Canines. Today we’re still debating the dog-human connection. We’re not sure who chose whom.

At Isle Royale the foxes actively engage in taming the human crew. They hang out at the campgrounds, sometimes sit still for pictures, often steal campers’ shoes. Their blueberry-stained scat litters every hiking trail. The taming process is addictive. I kept my distance, but I’ll return. I’ve got to see the foxes again.

It makes me wonder about bigger things, like do we ever really choose?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cicada Nights

Blame it on the humidity, or something.

Tibicen canicularis (dog-day cicada)

I get the point
You’re desperate
to mate

your essence into
some young
green thing

translucent wings
will blow
you away

I can’t sleep
with your tymbals

I’m compelled
to listen
for the train.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Teenage Chic on the bow of the Isle Royale Queen. If only the seas were always that calm.

Water and Wine

Things keep popping up. Like Jefferson’s bible. I mean, who knew? 5,010,000 web sites according to Google. This fourth decade of college has been wasted money. Google everything. Human contact be damned.

Anyway, Jefferson’s bible. (Thanks, Mark.) In the wake of the July yimmer yammering about our Christian forefathers, 4th of July, Great Experiment, ordained by God, bring democracy to the underprivileged, go team, blah, blah, blah, I find out Thomas Jefferson is cutting up his bible. Just excising the supernatural stuff like the miracles of Jesus, the virgin birth...

No big deal – except for the poetry and the beauty of it all. I mean, it moves me, all those images. The Gospel of John starts out, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Damn. And when the Word becomes flesh, oh my God! Chills run down my spine. And Jefferson cuts it all out. The morals and ethical teachings remain, but the poetry is all gone.

I blame the bible literalists for the scissor incident: Jesus can turn the water into wine – but you sure as hell better not drink it. I could go further with this, but I don’t get invited to that many dinner parties as it is. Of course, there’s no wine at many of those dinner parties anyway.

Despite cutting out the poetry, I admire Jefferson for his courage. No one would accuse you of being a Christian if you did that today. I wonder how many dinner parties Jefferson got invited to, but he probably didn’t really care. He was busy farming grapes and hemp and a few other things. Meanwhile, on the fringes of polite society, the poets keep turning water into wine. But no one notices.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On the Path to Three Mile Campground - Isle Royale


It’s ironic, really, that I find myself here. I’m not complaining. I’m sure Darwin had no idea what his trip on the Beagle would mean. Still…it’s a little embarrassing. But the truth will out.

A man I knew died of cancer, after they had cut off half his jaw. His friend said it was because he swallowed ideas that were poisonous; he couldn’t spit them out.

How can you tell what’s in the bottle when they paint it blue?

Train Language

In the summer, as soon as the nights are warm, we crank open the bedroom windows and listen to the trains. In the winter, when the furnace is quiet, we hear the braying whistles and sometimes the rumble as they pass by, but in the summer with the windows cranked wide we can hear the trains being hooked together. The brakes screech and whine and then there is a loud clunk and another loud clunk and finally a groan. This goes on all night long in the background of our lives. After the first couple of days we don’t notice them anymore. The trains rumble past, get hooked together, unhooked, they clunk and screech. They pulse under the surface. But on those first nights of summer the sounds of the trains penetrate everything we do. We hear the trains rumbling and groaning when we’re making love, until the point where we hear nothing at all. When we slide back to earth again the train is still rumbling by. Or sometimes a new train is blowing its whistle and that makes us laugh. Does the train know? We wonder how people make love without the undercurrent of the trains.

The trains are a seductive challenge. Sometimes the undercurrent pulls the uninitiated in. They can’t resist getting too close. The raw force of the trains mocks them. One of my nephews, when he was a round 13-year-old, rolled under a slow train as it was ambling by. He came out again on the other side, drenched with sweat. He has abandoned the trains now. I wonder if they still permeate his dreams. I have stood under the trains myself where the tracks cross the Baugo Creek. There is an old train trestle there, hanging 40 feet above the muddy water, and you can stand right under the train as it passes overhead. The trestle shakes under the weight of the train, but the sound is what totally engulfs you. If the whistle happens to blow while you’re standing beneath it your body will shake and your ears will ring for an hour. My dogs have better sense than I do. They don’t stop there and wait to be consumed. They hurry down the path and dive into the creek, a safe distance from the sound. I follow them and wade into the creek and watch the train. Silver minnows scatter in all directions. The whistle moans and fades as the train ambles on. We forget about it and start chasing the minnows.

Another nephew, who grew up away from the trains, visits and wonders at all the musical people that surround our house. On our street alone there are four good musicians, the kind that keep time in a pocket and get paid to do what they love. I don’t know if they got their rhythm from the trains, but I’m suspicious. In the summer they sit on the back porch with Cokes and beer and jam together. I don’t think they notice the trains whistle and creak as they go by. In the winter they jam inside, away from the trains, late into the night. The musicians’ rhythms take over the house, but still there is the undercurrent of the trains pulsing away. We shut the bedroom door and let all the sounds drift away until the summer comes again and we can crank the windows wide.

All in a Day's Work

The drama queen threw herself into the oil pit at the quick-change place. It was either that or marry some rich guy. The quick-change place was more convenient. Afterwards, she entered a restraining order against her boyfriend. Bottom line is: they were not good together.

Meanwhile, the baby of the migrant worker wet with pesticide has no arms or legs. No one knows what happened there.

My fingers claw through the remains.


Okay, don't get excited. It needs some work. Writing poetry is a bit of a mystery to me, like everything else in life. So why should I start letting ignorance stand in my way at this late date?

the Captain said
the itinerary is
the water rings bluer
west of the bow

her torn maps
came marked up
beyond the illusion
of true

the death of
the Green Frog
the flowers win
the day

tracing Jefferson
Franklin and Paine
breathes reason
beneath the stern

Monday, August 07, 2006

Green Frogs

Two Green Frogs showed up in my tiny pond this spring, a dominant male and a satellite male. They stuck around for a while, hanging on the lily pads that never want to bloom. I kept hoping they would attract a female, get some action going. But alas, my pond didn’t seem to be good enough for a Green Frog woman to move in. They pick their mates based on the desirability of the territory they’re able to defend. And then I stopped seeing the males. I thought perhaps they were in search of better digs to attract the girls. And then this week the lilies began to bloom, first one blossom and then another, yellow splashes against the duckweed green. Things were looking up – even without the frogs. They must have fertilized the lilies enough to encourage the blooms.

But tragedy is never far away. This afternoon I heard the lawn mower stop, the screen door bang, and sobs come wailing in my direction. I am ashamed to say I was grateful it was just the dominant Green Frog, sliced down its side by the teenage chic. So I think that’s the end of the mowing for this week. I laid the still-breathing frog under the hostas beneath the walnut tree where the garden snake had slithered while I examined the scene. I hope the rest of the Green Frogs won’t hold this against us. I really like their company. But maybe the female Green Frogs were right. My pond has some safety issues.

As I heard quoted this week, “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?”

The Shoe Tree

It keeps slipping my mind, so I'm writing about it now before I forget. On the way to the U.P., about five miles north of Kalkaska on the west side of 131 there's a large tree covered with shoes. Does anyone know this tree and what the shoes are all about?

Isle Royale Part 1

In July we boarded the Isle Royale Queen and churned slowly out of Copper Harbor, past the Harbor Haus and the lighthouse, into the open water of Lake Superior toward Isle Royale. It was just the two of us, the teenage chic and me. The Finn stayed behind with the dogs, fishing for trout in the Keweenaw, roasting green Nicaraguan coffee beans in the garage.

The chic forgot her hat, so the Finn tossed her his. “You better only try it for a few days,” he warned me. “There’s your back, your knee. It might rain.” The hat thing worries him. “Take care of the chic and put your Seabands on. We’ll eat trout when you come home.” He’s spent the weekend tutoring us on the water filter, the camp stove, weighing which knife we should carry, stuffing our packs with plenty of bug dope. My pack is 35 pounds; the chic is carrying 30. We protest any addition, but bug dope has gotta come.

The Seabands turn out to be overkill. Lake Superior is calm, resting up for September, perhaps. The three-hour trip is long, uneventful, except for the diversion of an obnoxious father whining continuously at his child, “David, stop that. Please sit up.” They won’t be littering the trail. They’re staying at the lodge. We slide away from the family and dig out the map, burying ourselves in its details, tracing our route again and again while the Keweenaw melts from view.

An hour out from Rock Harbor, we pack up the map and head for the cool air of the bow and the first hazy views of the 45-mile island. The bow fills as we near the shore. The Captain gives us each our instructions, day trippers, lodge guests, backpackers, canoeists. I’m hoping the Finn has told me all I need to know.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Unplanned Faith

There’s a certain faith in allowing things to slide. Yesterday, for instance, we ate fresh potatoes from a volunteer crop, their parents left unharvested last fall. Rotting cherry tomatoes gave birth to this year’s crop, which might mature this fall. They’ve surrounded a purple hibiscus, co-opting her flowers for their hat. Hundreds of orange poppies clash with more sophisticated pink peonies. This is not my grandparents’ garden, planned out in January and kept tame with a hoe. I won’t be pickling 150 jars of cucumbers. I might find a cucumber or two in my daily rounds. I’ll pick them and eat them right there.

In the beginning I had a semi-plan. Nothing serious. Plant things and watch them grow. Do things naturally. Wait and see what happens. Now volunteer morning glory tendrils are fingering their way up decrepit fence posts and plants I’ve never seen before have wandered into my raised beds. I never planted fennel, but somehow it’s found its way into my backyard. A catalpa tree planted itself off the back porch and now I have not only extra shade, but catalpa-tree worms for fishing. I know that friends and relatives have fun sneaking things in, like the drive-by hollyhock planting that happened a few years ago, but sometimes no one takes credit for the surprises I find. Occasionally it gets a little too crowed and I haul shovelfuls of plants out into the woods. Everything deserves a chance, after all.

I keep thinking I might someday plant a respectable garden, tend it all year, keep all the weeds down, move the poppies away from the peonies, but I’m afraid it would be a lack of faith. Besides, someday a palynologist will have a field day figuring out what was going on in my yard.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


They’re sequencing some Neanderthal DNA, I understand, to see just how alike and how different we are. The article said Neanderthals never crossed a body of water they couldn’t see across. Does this mean they couldn’t imagine things they couldn’t see, like dry land, or just that they only imagined horrible, catastrophic things that would prevent them from sailing farther than they could see?

These Neanderthals buried their dead. Does that mean they could imagine an afterlife or had a sort of faith? I don’t know. As far as I know, atheists still bury their dead.

I’ve left dry land, continents, at least, behind. I’m settling for islands right now. And a good boat. The world is too schizophrenic to hope for anything more. That’s not always bad. I saw a traffic jam in Shipshewana yesterday. An Amish horse and buggy was holding up a modular home and a long line of cars.

The cicadas are thrumming a drum roll underneath the Indiana heat, not at all like the bugs in the U.P. They’re quiet but vicious. Still, I might trade the drum roll for a cool dip in Lake Superior, even if it costs me some blood.

These islands, they threaten to pull me to pieces. How is one to know where to land?

Bee Balm with Dill

Honey Pie with a Former Boyfriend