Monday, December 31, 2007

Closing 2007

The beans are in the soup pot soaking, the hambone is poised and waiting for the morning light to be dropped in. Time to celebrate the new year. Start the first day of the year humble is how the old southern tradition goes.

I did a little more investigation on the December 18, 1971 newspaper in my father's box of things. I knew the top story, Crane Topples; Kills Railroader, must involve my grandfather. He was a machinst out at the railroad for 30-some years. Sure enough, he was there that day. There was a train derailment in the railyard and so they brought in the cranes, along with my grandfather, whose job it was to keep the cranes running. But there was really nothing he could do. The crane operator, a man called Gordie Doncaster, was lifting up 400,000 pounds of train engine when the boom began to swing. The outriggers, for some reason, hadn't been extended. The crane toppled in seconds and trapped Doncaster beneath it. All anyone could see of him was the bottom portion of his legs, beneath the knees. The nearest crane that could free him was in Fort Wayne. The railroaders spent the next four hours, the longest four hours of my grandfather's life, staring at Doncaster's feet and knees and waiting for the train bringing the crane. When at last Doncaster was freed, the coroner said he certainly hadn't survived beyond the moment of tipping and everyone was relieved.

So that's the story of the December 18, 1971 newspaper, although it still doesn't explain why I had to read it on that particular day. Grandfather says he doesn't know why the newspaper was in the box of my father's things.

In other news, I got my first rejection from the poetry sphere, although it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Something along the lines of "close, but no cigar. Send again." I'll think about it.

And that's how 2007 is closing. Bring on the new year.

Ears and Feet

Nephew Matthew and my feet, wrapping up the Christmas cheer on Grandma Carolyn's couch.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Writers' Meeting at The Chicory

Yes, just like it says on the sidebar, we're meeting today at 4:00. I know, I know, it's vacation time, but step out of your p.j.s and come on along! It's the last meeting for 2007, for goodness' sake!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Look, Look, Look!

Naoko is getting "In the Morning" published here: Puerto del Sol! Now that's a Christmas present. Congratulations and we miss you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bowie Meets Crosby

Pond Dreams

I can't always put everything I need to know together in my waking hours, so I really look forward to nighttime and dreams. Last night's dream was odd, though. Just a name, over and over, without even a body to go with it: Henry David. Henry David. Henry David. I usually get something a little more to go on than words. It repeated itself so many times that when Gene got up in the middle of the night to let the dogs out I told him I was dreaming of a name, Henry David. Over morning coffee I asked him, does Henry David mean anything to you? No. And to me either. But we do have Google, so I typed in the name. Ah, yes, Henry David Thoreau, completely inaccessible to my waking brain, but running around haunting my dreams. Walden has been on my bookshelves for months. I bought a new copy however many months ago DDL mentioned it, but it's been buried behind other things. I read it once in high school, maybe even middle school, but haven't touched it since. I've just let it run around loose in the backyard of my mind without once calling it into the house. It must have been cold out there in the wind last night. Anyway, Walden is now unburied and top on my pile of books to read. I'm almost finished with William Gay's I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, but it seems as though my subconscious has taken over and ordered my next tome. Thank goodness. I was getting tired of making all these decisions on my own.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

About the War

We were thinking about the war, standing in the foyer of a mansion large enough to devour many middle class houses, beneath a blazing chandelier. A baby grand player piano digitally churned out Christmas tunes. Our coats hung up, we were free to wander. The place was on display. Every house-sized room reminded me of a museum piece, or else a section of an upscale department store. Marilyn Monroe's and Elton John's jewelry hung in glass cases on the wall. We filled our plates from the buffet, where each dish was titled with a calligraphied placard, then took our eats downstairs to the Africa floor.

The party was put on by friends of friends, for our mutual friends’ son, who scored a two-week Christmas leave from Iraq on account of his new baby, born a few days after he deployed. We all brought presents for the soldier and his new wife, but before the gifts were opened our hostess brought out a deployment candle for the newlywed couple to light, something about appreciation of the fine work they’re doing over there, protecting the American dream. A woman in a red sequined blouse started to drop a tear. The soldier shuffled his feet in his combat boots. I wondered a bit if I would ever see him again or if this would be the last time, standing there lighting a candle in front of the bar and Elton John's earrings on the Africa floor. Later, lying in bed, Gene said we really should send those friends of our friends a thank you card.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ziegler's Eggnog

(Good with or without the booze.)

6 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light rum
1/2 cup white wine
1 pint whipping cream
2 quarts milk

Whip the cream and set it aside.

In another bowl whip the eggs, thoroughly.

To the eggs add the sugar and the booze.

Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture.

Pour in the milk and fold everything together a little more.

Let the holidays begin.

Happy Birthday, Talia!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fairy Tale

It’s a knife slice, darling, through
your Black Forest dreams.

Stale frosting glazing dark
your scrollwork tongue.

A trap set, life threat,
whom shall I

The wide-eyed witch of Endor screams.

Cookies and Spring

We're crawling closer to Christmas, it seems. The first batches of cookies are in the pantry (thanks for your help, Rachel!) and old friends are dropping by. The stories! The kids are busy in their private corners making secret things. Christmas has the unmistakable flavor of things past. It is probably no coincidence that the New Year celebration comes so quickly thereafter, before the world can become irretrievably steeped in old tea leaves. I'm anxious to get on with the new making, myself. Naoko has great pics on her blog that reminded me, somehow, of the cool rinsing nature of spring.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December 18, 1971

It took me exactly three weeks, but I finally walked back across the street today to claim my father's things. The feeling that today was the day overwhelmed me and forced me out the door. I get these feelings. What can I say? Life has so many layers. Don't even ask me about my dreams. I'm still sorting out the box, but there is one item that I can't figure out at all, and it's spooky.

There was one newspaper in the box, The Elkhart Truth, and it was dated December 18, 1971, exactly 36 years ago today. It has no relationship to my father, that I know of. Its date is three years before he died. It's probably just a coincidence, but I'll write down some of the headlines, just in case they mean something to someone besides me.

Crane Topples: Kills Railroader
Area Police Get $88,221
Landfill Suit Filed
Icy Roads Cause Many Accidents
Humphrey Candidicay Expected
Lundquist Views Legislature Busiest 30 Days of His Life
Next June: First Global Conference on Environment
Illegal Immigration Problem
South Vietnamese Troops Press Cambodia Offensive
Henderson Acquitted of My Lai Cover-Up
End of War Beginning of New Chapter In Orient Politics
Environmental Groups May Have To Post Bond

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Empty Threat

(While trying to convince all the books to jump back on the shelves, clean a little, get ready for Christmas, the Robert Frost book I ordered but haven't yet begun fell open onto this page.)

I stay;
But it isn't as if
There wasn't always Hudson's Bay
And the fur trade,

A small skiff
And a paddle blade.

I can just see my tent pegged,
And me on the floor,
And a trapper looking in at the door
With furs to sell.

His name's Joe,
Alias John,
And between what he doesn't know
And won't tell
About where Henry Hudson's gone,
I can't say he's much help;
But we get on.

The seal yelp
On an ice cake.
It's not men by some mistake?

There's not a soul
For a windbreak
Between me and the North Pole--

Except always John-Joe,
My French Indian Esquimaux,
And he's off setting traps--
In one himself perhaps.

Give a headshake
Over so much bay
Thrown away
In snow and mist
That doesn't exist,

I was going to say,
For God, man, or beast's sake,
Yet does perhaps for all three.

Don't ask Joe
What it is to him.
It's sometimes dim
Whatever it is to me,
Unless it be
It's the old Captain's dark fate
Who failed to find or force a strait
In its two-thousand mile coast;
And his crew left him where he failed,
And nothing came of all he sailed.

It's to say "You and I--"
To such a ghost--
"You and I
Off here
With the dead race of the Great Auk!"
And, "Better defeat almost,
If seen clear,
Than life's victories of doubt
That need endless talk-talk
To make them out."

My Old Man Winter

Writers' Meeting News

The Chicory was a nice end to finals week. Just Talia, Mike, and me made it out, with my kids tagging along, but still fun. Tom brought some poems that Mike and Talia looked over and marked up, and everyone helped me decide what to submit for Wolfson/Analecta. We all got powdered sugar on our lips from the beignets, except Talia, who was abstaining. Mmmm.

We're moving The Chicory meetings to 4:00 p.m., in the hopes that it will suit everyone's schedule a little better.

Talia wins the inspiration award. If you're feeling a little down about rejection notices, consider this: She figures her success rate is 1 in 30 submissions. So quit whining and start sending.

We are meeting again on Wednesday at Chris O'Brien's. And yes, I did say in the last set of directions to turn right on Angela when I should have said turn left. Sorry I sent some of you to Notre Dame. It was an honest brain freeze. Turn left on Angela this time. This is why I always take a GPS when I go hiking. But anyway, Rachel and I are baking Christmas cookies to share with you all, so send some stuff out and let's get moving here. Finals are over, and yes, Christmas is coming, but you won't even get the joy of a rejection letter if you don't write anything down. See you there.

The last bit of news is for fiction writers, essay writers, playwrites, whatnot. I know we've been heavy on poetry, okay, perhaps exclusive on poetry, but 2008 is a new year. If you've got some fiction, an essay, a play, some whatnot, send it on. Don't make me name names... I'm thinking of setting aside my poetry pen for awhile anyway and delving back into fiction, so some good company would be nice.

Meeting adjourned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Palmer House renovations

So, this is where Gene will be next week. The chandeliers have to pass the UL field tests before they can go back up. He's a little nervous about touching these babies. I was going to tag along, but I think it's better if I stay out of the way.


Father Nicholas's study window.

Holy Transfiguration Skete

Father Basil, 2006.

The link: Skete

Closer detail, although the pic isn't great.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FMLA Claim

(Of course there are a few small jobs I have to finish before I can really get into the mail order bride thing.)

Q. Just describe the medical condition that you had that you developed I guess sometime in 2002.

A. I had a tumor in my left nostril here, and actually it really didn't bother me, but it got to the point where it was growing and I couldn't breathe through my nose and it was like a black booger that was on my nose and it wouldn't go away, and it stunk pretty bad, it smelled like dead flesh. So I went and had an autopsy done.

Good Morning Starshine

An almost sunny day and I've shut the door on finals and strolled away. It feels very good. My work is looking interesting again, my first mail order bride case. The guy's first mail order bride from China mysteriously drowned on their honeymoon. I don't think she came with a warranty. See what happens when you shop abroad? First it was the tooth paste, then the dog food and the baby toys, and now this. Buy American this Christmas. Stayed tuned for more updates...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007


My friend is a big Gene Stratton Porter fan, and while I'm not (maybe I could be, I've never read the books) I was fascinated by her house, that she designed herself. She did all her writing up there on the second story, where all those windows are. This is a fantasy of mine, to have my own place out in the woods to write amongst the trees, which is just to say I'm feeling very nostalgic for summer today. Winter hasn't officially arrived and already I feel it has lasted too long. I want the leaves to reattach themselves to the trees, or else spring to come quickly. Perhaps I need to move south where I can play in creeks all year long.


So many things. Finals, decorate for Christmas, bake, and clean. Walk my legs across the street and take home my father's things. I'm dreaming of the January seed catalogs . Give me the colors of a brand new year.

Rachel has been asking for a poetry assignment, which of course is something way beyond me, so I'll have to copy (poorly) from DDL. I keep a notepad to write words that I like down while I'm proofing, in hopes of someday doing something with them. My desk is currently cluttered with yellow scraps of paper documenting what I've seen. So, Rachel, or whoever else wants to play, here's one day's gleaning for you. The assignment is: Use five to seven of the following words or phrases in a poem. Set the timer before you begin. You have 12 minutes. Ready, Set, Go.

Docket sounding
standard of care
due diligence
challenge for cause
reasonable doubt
strike him for cause
lithium toxicity

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Writers' Party!

Yes, I'm falling behind on my duties. It's the end of the semester, life is going astray...


Wednesday night we're having a carry-in get together at Chris O'Brien's.

It's at 7:00. Chris is making soup and bread. Bring something, anything. No, not your dog, unless you can cook him up to be tasty and tender. Otherwise, bring food, drink and/or a piece of writing to share. It will be a nice break and we all need it.

If you need directions, e-mail me. I'll dig them up from wherever I typed them from and send them to you.

Closing Arguments

(Why I love my job, although I was tempted to leave it this way.)

Plaintiff's Attorney: And things that get said that don't get immediately corrected often take the error of truth.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Light Most Favorable

(just riffing while I work through the mess. Trying to find that stream of consciousness place.)

Someone shouts, “Look, there’s
Elvis,” and while your back
is turned the shades go
down. But it’s all of a piece, isn’t
it? Otherwise you wouldn’t be
standing there with that
damn music, those platform shoes.
Play it backwards, perhaps you’ll
be able to claim that sound. Two,
three, twenty. Does it matter?
Night is coming. There’s no one


I'm snowed under with work and the promise (threat?) of more work and the end of the semester. I know, everyone can relate. My laptop has a virus, Gene's car was towed back to the shop three hours after we handed over $600 to the mechanics for a new timing belt and water pump. I got home from The Chicory just in time to take his rescue-me-from-the-toll-road call (I should not be complaining about work. I'm going to need as much as I can take.) From the toll road we catapulted to Kalamazoo to have dinner with Tom and see his orchestra concert. Tomorrow, we catapult back to see his holiday jazz concert. There seems to be no room for my soul to wander toward anything else, but nevertheless, at 11:30 last night we passed this church sign:

Above All
Else Thank

And of course now I'm thinking, who would enjamb God that way?

Keweenaw Weather