it was i think after four when i came to / disarray and darkness / my piss still on the table / my mask on the floor / hold in the rare air / for a long long time / the last oxygen molecule / at eleven thousand foot / san isabel camp / the corn chowder we made in the big cast iron / the rain and thunder all night / your hips in the lightning’s flash / fade to eroding grey / to first person without a clutch / seems i’m still here in spite / i can only recall a few of doctor peterson’s rules / the one about the cats / or the pareto distribution and my step grand daughters / or the lobster’s serotonin / his insights flee like wax candle drippings flow from the flame / i don’t want to argue / but nothin’s right / the house is too small / too big / you’re tired / i’m wired / i do what i can / but can’t kneel at you now / my tongue is ready / but i’m not / the four step plan is your father’s failure / the whisky does the rest
Stay with me now.
How ephemeral everything is don’t you think?
Flitting about like a sparrow on the lawn. Off in an instant of panic and flight. Sight is like that too. I recall making this very observation years ago, perhaps even writing about it in some now lost land fill journal.
Returning when you aren’t looking.
Was it always there?
Was I only looking the other way?
Annie and I.
She is about the trip. I’m about the destination.
She watches the movie. I watch the film making.
She is about immersion. I am about exposure.
She reads the story. I read the writing.
I picture the place where it was written. The time. The circumstances. I wonder about the writer. What was his intent? Was there intent at all?
Or was it just an uninvited ephemeral sparrow?
In an instant of panic?
I haven’t been around here much lately. Not sure why. Maybe just “processing” as Annie is fond of saying. I do my best processing very early in the morning, before I have gotten my senses entirely about me. It’s kind of that not quite awake state where your last dream hangs over into the day and colors it in a shade we don’t have words to describe. It can be an ominous place. But it’s usually a place where we have yet to remember all the worrisome issues that were our last fading thoughts when we fell under the darkness the night before.
And this is how I get in trouble. My predawn sight can be outrageous. Often misguided. I should be kept safely away from a keyboard and left to myself until my morning caffeine has been administered and a more measured view can be taken.
Today was no exception. It was the topic of loving someone that came flooding into the narrow space between my night and my morning.
I’m talking about a partner here. A mate. A spouse. A significant other.
It’s such a huge impossible responsibility.
Even the thought of understanding what it means to love someone in that way is almost too hard to bear.
Yet people seem to do it all the time. Or they say they do. What makes it such a big deal? Is it just that I overthink everything?
There are lots of great sources of wisdom on the topic. Books. Song lyrics. Poetry. Biology. Hallmark cards. St. Valentine.
Heck. Everyone seems to know what it is to love someone.
What’s the big deal?
Well I don’t know. But I do have a few ideas. You knew I was headed there anyway didn’t you?
Loving someone is different for everyone.
We are all just so different. And we are all just so alone inside.
So why should we be expected to love in the same way?
So my idea is certainly going to differ from your idea. But it’s all any of us has. So here goes. My take on loving someone:
Let them go.
Set them free.
Be their greatest advocate.
Encourage them to be authentic.
To be who they are.
Tend their needs.
Enable their bliss.
Cheer them as they thrive.
Hold them when they hurt.
Protect them when they are vulnerable.
And above all, be unconditional.
It sounds as if what I have written has some personal risk.
It sure does.
Be very careful who you choose to love.
Because when you so choose you give your self to them.
And once you do, it’s done. You can’t get your self back.
You can only hope that the one you have chosen shares your definition.
If they do, you will be as close as it is possible to be.
If they don’t, you will spend your life loving uphill.
Time for some coffee.
I think about stuff. I don’t necessarily want to. Annie accuses me of thinking “big thoughts”. Me? Not so much. I think of what pops into my mind as mostly pollution. I don’t invite it.
And often it’s just damn annoying.
Like when I woke up this morning, what was the first crap to come pouring out of this grey mass between my ears?
What celestial alignment of molecules could have possibly caused this seemingly random bizarre item to bubble up into my consciousness? And how improbable is it that I would be here typing a description of this event into some equally incomprehensibly complex network of bits and bytes for you (whoever you are) to scan the characters on a monitor and gain some sort of understanding (whatever that is) of an event that may well be nothingness anyway? That’s a run on question. But as the poem says:
sitting here a zazen refugee
the mystery of the universe
but why is it surprising?
when there is everything
I prefer to believe what comes pouring out is really uncorrelated noise. And with the infinite number of monkeys and typewriters (or word processors) , well, you get my drift. And when you have infinity, you have infinite possibilities, and therefore isn’t this particular existence I seem to be involved in possible as well?
I don’t have big thoughts. I’m inconsequential.
I struggle to understand why I am cursed with these views that sometime turn out to be insightful. It happens too often and it’s disturbing when it does.
My brain effluent sometimes sounds like raving arrogance. For example:
“I understand how to solve climate change and eliminate poverty. Unequivocally.”
Build a worldwide CVAWT network.
That’s Cellular Vertical Axis Wind Turbine.
It’s so perfectly clear. I’m baffled why it has not been done by now. But no one believes me. Why should anyone take me seriously? I have no education, no qualifications. I’m just another autodidactic blowhard lunatic.
Wind turbines and power distribution grids are designed all wrong. They are backward. The answer is childishly simple.
I just see it. Right there. It’s all so obvious. I understand how to do it right down to the smallest detail.
I wouldn’t even charge a dime for my ideas. It compassion that motivates me. But I am used to all the patronizing by now. No fowl.
It saddens me for the loss of such possibilities.
It gets worse.
I understand why we are here.
I even coined a name for it.
“The Prime Commandment”
Wanna hear it?
Perhaps another time.
You will just laugh at me.
Jacob Marley was the vehicle Dickens used to present the idea that it is not too late to change the road we are on and adopt new ways of seeing and thinking.
Annie and I think differently. No surprise. We often disagree about important topics in our relationship. Often it stems from language. other times it’s about our backgrounds and our life experiences. Our personal needs and belief systems play a role. It can also be about our age difference and the things we most want out of the time we have left. And so it goes.
It has been customary for us to assign written essays to one another when we come upon particularly difficult topics, especially ones where we seem unable to agree on even common definitions. We take our relationship to be the center of our world. It’s worth the effort.
I have been guilty of focusing upon joy as a central element in my personal goals. I use the term often and I am passionate about the idea. Today Annie is (correctly) questioning what exactly I mean by joy and what specific items it may include.
So here I sit, tasked with writing an essay on the meaning of joy. I will beg forgiveness for not following the traditional structure of the essay form. I trust my meaning will not be lost.
At its most basic level, joy is a broad uplifting euphoric sensation we experience.
Joy is brought about when a real life situation stimulates the release of blood chemicals in the brain in specific combinations.
Joy includes a spectacular range of emotions. Calm peacefulness to heart pounding excitement. The hues and saturations of joy are vast.
Joy is it’s own reward. The release of the blood chemistry in the brain which is the underlying mechanism, is a powerful motivator. We become motivated to cause this chemical release to occur as often as possible. It has been shown repeatedly that life forms respond to this reward system which they have been gifted. It is no accident that this sounds suspiciously like addiction.
Joy is not who we are.
Joy is about the moment.
Joy is a feeling.
And feelings are the only thing we can truly know.
Everything else is only a belief.
This is what I understand about joy.
And Perspective is an essential element in one’s ability to realize joy.
Now with regard to Jacob Marley, who we believe ourselves to be, how we see ourselves, limits our perspective.
The child that has only known criticism will have a vastly more constricted world view from the one who has always been encouraged. Perspective is learned. And that which is learned is a belief. And a belief can be dispassionately examined and rationally analyzed. It can be accurate, found to be of value, or fallacious, and found to be harmful. It can also have elements of both.
A narrow perspective is self promoting. Honest examination of ideas can not occur unless one is allowed to have an open mind, to allow for the possible merit of unconventional points of view. It is essential to “dolly back”. Ask what is of enduring significance. And what will be forgotten next week. What will we look back upon and wish we had tried. Or what we will look back upon with regret. What will bring temporary discomfort? What will bring lasting satisfaction? What is the worst possible outcome? What might be gained? Could this promote joy in the long run? Or are my fears standing in the way of joy?
With humble thanks to Charles Dickens, if we restrict the possibilities we restrict the possibilities for joy as well.
“God bless us, every one.”
Subject: blood sugar
Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 2:08 AM
its 1:46 AM. i am plugging away at work, answering emails. sadly, i can see i am not the only one. i see another woman i work with that is currently involved in a webex conference probably with india. sign of the times
for better of worse, i am having a few beers while i plug along.but then, i get a small craving for a snack. i reach for a few honey mustard and onion pretzel pieces they are pure delight. almost as soon as i grab for them i think of your father and his diabetes.i then think of the results of my physicals, which show a steady trend of blood sugar going into a bad place.i am walking much more than i ever have before in my life 143 miles so far this year, but still find that i am treading water at best.then
i look at my kitchen and say to myself some day soon i will own thiswhat the fuck is the point? some day soon i will own thissomeday the sun will expand and own everything.
where i am going with all this? perhaps just a rant.
why do i always come to you as my source of knowledge? i think its because you are 20 years in front of me.
you have done such a great job raising me. thanks.
i will have to give you a call some time soon.
BTW. the rain has started to fall, there is a cool breeze out of the west (63 degrees at the moment) its beautiful. there are 4 perfect weeks of the year here the last two weeks of may, and the first two weeks of june. my birthday falls at the tail end i love that.
back to the emails.
i love that late spring rain too / life is so sweet sometimes
there is no escape / men become their fathers / women become their mothers / the DNA is passed forward in time / and we are left without a clue why or what the message might be
i think about my father a great deal / all the things i should have asked him / im sorry / i didnt know he knew so much / when youre young you know everything / i didnt know / i was so full of myself / i didnt understand
you make me so proud / i dont tell you that often enough / i see how you live / and work / and take care of your family / your sensibilities / what delights you / what makes you crazy / your sensitivity / that last one is a curse sometimes / you already know that / i have always secretly admired people that lacked self awareness / it has been said that ignorance is bliss / a little bliss would feel good once in a while
keep walking / just do it son / its the best council i can give you / and keep aware / watch out for the asteroid / i think sometime one can avoid it / its worth the effort
thank you for coming out next month / there is so much i feel i need to explain to you / i know too much son
and happy birthday / the next twenty can be the best part / things have a way of falling into place / the bigger picture emerges / and whats really important becomes the focus of your life
and that indescribably sweet soft spring rain / the laughter in your young wifes eyes / watching the miracle of your daughter lilys story unfolding / maybe even the thoughts and the love of an aging parent /thats the point son / hold on tight to it
love / your father
i’m not wealthy / just a pretty average retired american with a few dollars stashed away to keep me off the streets and on the internet //
and i won’t be around forever at least in the manor i am now / i have no choice about the time and method of my exit //
and although i’m not happy about it / i have grown to accept the inevitable //
but there is a high probability that my lovely young Wife will survive me / she is after all 15 years my junior / and (very much) female which adds to her statistical lottery //
so at some point / there is a likelihood that she will be the beneficiary of the remains of my modest savings and estate such as it is //
and as i have said previously / i’m not happy about it / but i have grown to accept the inevitable //
well let me clarify / i am happy that she will be provided for / and i have grown to accept that i can’t take it with me //
but if i allow myself to extend my speculation / the following situations may possibly come to pass:
- my loving attractive and unconsciously provocative young Wife is seduced by some smarmy dude and they (he) proceed to live it up in what was formerly my home and bed on the fruits of my hard earned life long labors //
- my loving generous and sometimes unsuspecting young Wife contributes to the support of her daughters / who in turn through no fault of their own / end up caring for their reprehensible sociopath father / thereby ultimately making him a de facto beneficiary of my previously described material spoils //
okay / the former is bad / bad bad bad / although were i to be entirely honest / the idea of Wife getting pounded daily by some young dude is oddly satisfying //
but the latter is simply unacceptable // un ex septa bull //
worse / they are only (two) of countless other dark stars in the sky that could just as easily come to pass //
oh woe //
i suppose i could find a cheap barrister and file papers to leave everything to the salvation army //
or better still / spend every last thin silver threepence right this minute on any and every debauchery for which i have ever lusted //
um / but then what do i do should my path wind on for another 40 years?/ what then would become of me?//
shit happens //
how does the poem go?//
don’t worry ’bout the small stuff //
finger and toe status / Wife writes her blog like this / current events and how she is affected / what she is and thinks and feels today / not a stream of consciousness but more an in the moment kind of narrative / she avoids reading entries once they have been written / the catharsis seems to be her objective //
i also have a friend that is a film maker / henry has a similar way of watching things unfold / for him there are still films to be made and sold / but he believes the process just as often turns out to be the real prize / and the originally sought after production just turns out to be irrelevant / he simply follows the story wherever it leads with grace and gratitude / he believes in karma //
it makes me wonder about writing / is it really the act of the writing that is important? / more important than the material discussed? / how do i think about this? / it’s so entirely foreign / i’m pretty linear / i take one topic at a time / complete the discussion / then move on to the next entry / the process is primarily a means to an end / to achieve a desired output //
with that in mind / let me think about this entry / i’m now writing about this whole idea here / but since in this case the process is the message / then i’m writing about writing about the process / so that would mean the process now is writing about the process of writing about the process / i think i’m caught in a feedback loop / it makes my head hurt //
i think i have written this piece before //
i didn’t see //
i didn’t understand what it was to be my father or his father //
i seldom listened to the things they shared / and when i did i didn’t understand //
after all they were old //
and now i see things //
and now i have come to understanding //
and now i try to share what i see //
and now i don’t understand why so many people / much smarter than i / don’t see the same things //
they don’t understand //
in october everything changes / the light is different / the air is different / it’s not september anymore / in september you can still cheat / convince yourself that you will live forever / that the sun will stop in its tracks north of the equator / that the winds will always rush in from the south / and the nights will be filled with tangos and romance and fine ladies with red painted lips and nails to match / but look around today / there is no place to hide today
the breeze is still soft but it has lost its confidence / the leaves / no longer supple green / today they rattle in the passing air / my love still lies outside my window / exposed in the afternoon sun / but now the valleys of her curves are shadowed by her brown prominence / the rays slant in low and yellow and tired / coming from way back last july
i so clearly recall my grandfather standing in our parlor one early october day a long time ago / staring out the window at the yard / he did not see me there in the doorway / but i could tell he was softly sobbing / i asked him what was wrong / he said he was sad to see the coming of the fall / that he had lived too long
Fair Finn and Indian princess
From a long lost land of laughter
She smiled the whitest winter winds
Her eyes the bluest day
Her hair I touched in winter
Now a chill remains upon me
Delusion makes a man a fool
A woman makes him pay
Dear Citizen Bentley,
It always makes my day to read your words in my inbox. I will indeed try to give you a call this weekend as you suggest.
Your title gives me license to take some subjective liberties.
One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Ohio some 12 years ago, was the difference in light. As I pen this, it is still dark here although it is past 7:00 AM. Where you are, it has been day for some time now. Still being in the same time zone my expectation was that the dawn and dusk transition here would not be unlike what I had known for my entire life in New England.
I was mistaken.
The light lingers longer in the evenings here and seems more reluctant to return in the morning. There are simple reasons to account for this. I have moved some 750 miles to the west and now find myself near the extreme western terminus of the eastern time zone. New England closely borders the Atlantic time zone just off shore to your east. So even though the clock on my wall and on yours says it’s 7:20, the sun is still well to my east in New England.
Of course the opposite process will occur during tonight’s transition affording me light nearly an hour later than what you have there.
Another phenomenon occurs here that also alters the sunrise and sunset. In rutty, rolling, heavily wooded New England, the terrain tends to scatter and shadow the light when the angle is low in the morning and evening. This results in a long period of light sky to begin and end the day when the sun is not actually in view. It is dusk in the evening. Is there a word for dusk in the morning? I digress.
In Ohio the land is flat with few trees or other obstacles to shade or scatter the earliest and latest sun rays. The sun emerges from the horizon in an unsettling burst of brilliance and at day’s end, retreats just as suddenly. Sunset is over in a few moments, to my mind, most uncivilized behavior.
But to return to your original question on The Donald. Let me first say that I am indebted to the writers of the constitution. In their wisdom, they seem to have anticipated the latest election such as it was. There are substantial safeguards written into our laws who’s purpose it is to sustain the union through the election of just such an incompetent nincompoop.
So my worst fears are pretty much unfounded. I can watch the unfolding comedy with a degree of smug detachment. Indeed it’s not impossible that some good things may come to pass as a result of his Donaldship. For example, I will not morn the demise of political correctness. And who can possibly argue that Melania isn’t a hottie? The jury has yet to be convened. It’ll be a hoot.
I’ll ring you up soon.
Please remember me to your lovely wife and daughters.
I’m no Gene Siskel. In fact, truth be told, I am remarkably unqualified to offer an informed opinion on what elements of film making add up to determine the value of a movie.
you don’t want to learn about clocks /
please not yet /
it’s just too soon /
to have time rule your life /
it will anyway /
but please not yet //
ripe watermelon /
sugar juice drips down my chin /
spit the seeds smiling //
i have come from so far /
in search of a teacher to follow /
never could i have imagined /
i would one day find her /
in the laughter of a two year old //
ella / please sweetheart /
don’t be in such a hurry /
to grow up //
i came here today because i hoped i might be able to share something of value / put it in a bottle / launch it down the stream / hope it will be found one day / and read / and understood / what it was like to be me back here / but it’s the value part that always gets in the way / what’s the point? / i have nothing to say that has not been said a thousand thousand times before / and said with greater skill //
i’m alone here inside //
Dear Citizen Bentley,
Thank you for your recent letter. The idea you pose about the universe being in a sense haunted is thought provoking. And while I believe it is not possible to “know” anything with certainty, it seems to be the case more often than not that things are somehow connected. And it’s so much fun to speculate isn’t it?
So how does one think about such an idea? Einstein used the phrase “spooky action at a distance” to describe quantum entanglement. Cosmologists are rife with all manor of speculative scenarios which could be candidates for an explanation for this phenomenon. I’m not usually a fan of these guys. Their answers are usually so esoteric as to be incomprehensible. Now that’s not to say that they are not “right”. But that would demand one to accept the notion that we have the ability to “know”. Socrates would once again turn over. But more importantly it would demand us to say with complete certainty that what we perceive and how we come to interpret it is infallible. Furthermore, it would demand us to accept the notion that there is nothing we can’t comprehend, nothing which can not be “known” by us. Does the fruit fly know about the world series? The pattern of the Fibonacci series? Or in whose hand it may have been written? Can he (she) “know”? Nope. Can’t buy it.
My background being autodidactic, I have no real training or qualification on these sorts of questions. But it has been my personal observation that the most complex and often perplexing concepts are often explained simply by dollying back. When observed from great enough distance, the pattern of the fabric becomes visible.
Often it’s not that an idea is too complicated. It’s often too simple to be believable. A yin yang of sorts? Perhaps.
Think of it this way. When there is everything. Everything is possible. Maybe we don’t “know” it. But it’s not important.
Go out and greet the sacred day and kiss your stunning wife and give thanks for friendship. The only things we can “know” are what we feel.
With Great Warmth,
PS: I have always harbored a great respect and admiration for those like yourself who can legitimately claim to have an education by virtue of the letters after their name afforded them by an institute of higher learning. I can make no such claim. My acceptance of the “Dr” moniker you place before my surname is made possible only by the honor you bestow.
Some things are hard to figure. Lately I’ve been wondering how it can be that we come into this world complete with decided preferences. That is to say that upon arrival we somehow know what we like, and we know how to make it known. We haven’t had time to try anything and form an opinion. So I just chalk it up to DNA. We used to call it instinct but that word seems to have gone out of favor. So let’s just say it’s something that has somehow been passed down to us from our ancestors in this great cosmic relay race.
Now what has this to do with almonds and cashews? Well I can only speak for myself on this. But I seemingly came into this world with a preference for lighter colored food. It’s chicken breast not thighs.Vanilla not chocolate. On Thanksgiving it would be the turkey white meat not the dark. Chardonnay not Cabernet Sauvignon. And with nuts, cashews. Or maybe Macadamia nuts. Not Almonds, or Pecans, or Walnuts.
Now as it also sometimes happens, we find ourselves in a relationship with another who shares our preferences. On the surface it would seem that this is a good thing which could tend to lead to a more tranquil marital life. Go to the supermarket. Buy the vanilla frozen yogurt. No chocolate invited.
But then there is the business of nuts. Have you priced a jar of whole salted roasted cashews lately. Sheesh. And if you do ultimately decide that you are worth it, it would be so easy to sit down and just gobble the whole jar down well before the movie credits roll. And that would mean that the next day when your dear spouse came looking for them he / she would be faced with bitter nut disappointment. And this could result over time with building resentment. Or even accusations of gluttony. Or worse.
So instead you buy the whole big jar of the mixed nuts for a fraction of the price of the real deal. And look. Right there on the label it says jar contains cashews, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and less than 50% peanuts. How bad can this be? And look at how much more you get. Plenty for several trailers and a double feature. No brainer here.
But here is where the story gets weird. I sit down on the sofa and open the ample jar of mixed nuts and the first thing I notice is the ratio of dark nuts to light ones. Many of the peanuts are still in their brown papery husks, and when added to the quantity of almonds and pecans and walnuts and Brazil nuts, the cashews barely make an appearance. And as unfair as it is, were my lovely wife to chance upon this now opened jar, I fear I may be wrongly accused of cashew skimming. So I set out to do the right thing. I’ll munch on some almonds and pecans and religiously avoid the cashews thereby making the ratio appear more in keeping with what my mate had expected also avoiding the appearance of skimming on my part.
So I did.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate almonds. The’re really great in slivers on green beans. Walnuts are excellent in salads. And the pecans are OK too. Especially baked in a gooey sweet pie. By themselves out of the jar? Best described as an acquired taste.
But if I were really, really honest about this, and since we are among friends here, I will confess a great fondness for this woman with whom I share my nuts. Perhaps I can convince myself of how cool I am for secretly, silently, selflessly, saving the best for her.
Not bad at all.
Perhaps I’ll try the chicken thighs next time and leave her more of the white meat. I may be on to something here. Maybe I’ve been missing some things all these years.
Some things are hard to figure.
Romance can be expressed in many ways.
Who’d have believed it?
i need to know / and yes / i remember / nothing is knowable except what we feel / except that answer is just too unsatisfying for me tonight //
please / can you just tell me in simple language i can understand / where ever you are / what awaits us? /
i need to know /
there is no original thought / everything that is realized has been realized before / we can only rearrange the words / the notes / the colors //
what is left is redemption / alone in the stars / combustion / vanishing //
everything / nothing whatsoever //
and it’s funny really / there isn’t a punch line //
so please allow me an attribution //
to love another person is to see the face of god
We are not happy
We feel happy
I’m just the son of my father
As he was the son of his
We’re all here only to do one thing
To pass our DNA forward
It’s just as simple as that
There is no knowledge other than what we feel.
Everything else is only belief.
an old fragile wooden figurine
a giraffe carved by hand
with a broken ear //
ella brings it to me //
a little cyanoacrylate magic
all better sweetheart //
ever since then
anything broken in her world
just bring to bopbop
“bopbop glue”, she says //
but how do you tell a little girl
there are things that will break
that her bopbop can’t fix //
like a heart //
i’m bop bop / ann is ga ga / my grand daughter ella has named us / she takes my hand and we walk to school every day / i am the student / she shows me how to see / the world is fresh and filled with magic and mysteries and miracles //
I lived with Simon Geller. I never met him, but I feel as if I know him. And maybe I do, in some ways, as well as anyone still around. For the last five months, Simon has greeted me very early every day: “WVCA Gloucester Massachusetts” has been his way of saying good morning. His voice would come floating from my studio monitors. Yet another ancient reel of tape would be spinning on the deck and from it his unique announcing style and playlist would return from the stasis of over 30 years and flow into my hard drive in incomprehensibly tiny bits. What would he say if he were here and could witness what we were doing? Would he approve of our project to bring his hard work back from the grave and give it new life on a new format he never could have imagined? He said he wanted to be forgotten.
It was well known that he left town and never looked back. Gloucester never warmed his heart. So why did he spend so many years playing his music here? Was it just a job? That’s hard to fathom. He barely scraped by, mostly on donations. Simon was a well-educated radio engineer with valuable skills. It must have been about the music. How did he come to this playlist? Anyone who has ever programmed classical music for radio knows that the pieces you choose for broadcast reflect a personal part of you. What was he trying to say through his selections? Was he really broadcasting his passion? Sharing an intimate part of himself? Speaking with an eloquence his vocally-challenged and sometimes colorful on air persona could not?
Later, I pull up the files from reel 12 that was loaded earlier in the day onto the drive. I have some tough decisions to make. The fragile 30-year-old tape has seen better days. The audio is so badly damaged on several tracks that I may have to edit them out. Simon is looking over my shoulder. How dare I mess with his selections? These tracks were there for a good reason. Maybe I should just leave them be even though the music is hard to listen to. What would Simon do? I listen to the other undamaged parts of the program. The audio is sweet and mostly free from noise or distortion. Simon took great care in this transcription. The levels. The stylus tracking. The signal to noise. All done with such attention to engineering detail. Is he telling me to sacrifice the damaged tracks? I can’t spend any more time on this with another 50 some programs yet to digitize and process. So I do what I think is best. Listeners will not appreciate music they can’t enjoy. I edit. Sorry, Simon.
After dinner I run the final product. Program 12 plays from the speakers on my computer. My two-year old grand daughter Ella comes running in from the next room. Simon says: “WVCA Gloucester Massachusetts” and announces the next piece. Ella points to the speakers and says “Simon!” The music plays. She listens. Ella knows Simon, too. I think maybe he would approve.
the first glow a watercolor wash / the stars all refugees now /
we extinguish the perimeter lights /
room lights will blaze until the sun cracks the day open /
ella in her crib / with a bag of books / a baby doll / a box of rocks /
breakfast is cheerios / toast with sprinkles / blueberries / ella brings me her blanket /
maybe she will be an engineer some day /
please don’t make me leave //
the days they come so very fast
but never come to stay
they clatter by like dominoes
and fall along the way
yesterday’s a memory
tomorrow’s just a dream
all i know of life my love:
we’re living in between
nothing’s here for very long
soon nothing will remain
embrace each moment’s sweet surprise
the garden and the rain
waltz me round the circle
of days and nights and dreams
all i know of life my love:
we’re living in between
feed me now with your tender love
lie with me in the morning light
dream with me now
that this will last forever
tell me that everything’s all right
we’re on a trip that isn’t planned
it’s easy to forget
it’s precious and it’s beautiful
and it’s not over yet
don’t worry ’bout the small stuff
don’t worry what it means
all i know of life my love:
we’re living in between
so take my hand my dear sweet love
and let us be today
who and what we want to be
we will be anyway
the moon is up the stars are bright
the sky is such a scene
all i know of life my love:
we’re living in between
sitting in mc donalds
big mac & fries
the power & the glory?
one atom two atoms
isn’t the air sweet today?
so much to consider / why do i relentlessly strive to capture the essence of ideas / write them down / make lists / bullets
this was supposed to be about carnal urges / nourishment / libido / and the love hate paradox of each
or the problem of the mind’s eye / ones constant gaze inward / outward / how can we be self aware and mindfully in the moment all at once?
it will be a beautiful day if i can only do my penance and take solace in the tiny miracles of the day
ginger sesame encrusted seared sashimi blue fin tuna / jasmine rice / bok choi mung bean saute with ponzu mustard vinaigrette
wine paring: 2009 Whitehaven Marlboro NZ savignon blanc
desert: frozen vanilla yogurt / orange pepper sauce & dark chocolate orange Milano cookie
this is it
this is all there is
this is everything
ann sitting cross legged opposite me / with her mc chicken and diet coke / her sea blue eyes / sometimes i get overwhelmed and can’t restrain myself / i have to tell her:
“you make me so happy” i said /
“i’m surprised you use a word you can’t define” she said / “happy”/
“i wouldn’t have many words left if i had to define them all / our language is an approximation at best” i told her /
“a beautiful approximation” she reminded me
i am soiled
with the world
the water is scalding
i scrub daily
but i am only
that i am
and what does “the stream” bring up?
paradise by the dashboard light
it never felt so good
it never felt so right
this morning’s haiku:
dawn mists rise with thanks
sun floats in a sea of joy
summer turns straw gold
i have been seeking all my life
i am a poor student
i sit zazen without conviction
i am filled with worldly greed
compassion for all life escapes me
i do not believe i have been here before
suffering is surely in all things
but so is the bliss of seeing
we are here to pass forward the secret
so secret we can not read it
the word of god
the act of knowing remains a dream
don’t leave me now
lay your red self open
for my very private tasting
i have always been internal to a large degree / it’s not surprising / being an “only child” / interesting phrase “only child” don’t you think? / it brings with it much too much potential color while the accepted definition is really quite specific and mundane / i digress
as a kid living inside my head / i could and would occupy myself for hours on end in my room in fantasy and imagination / perhaps this played a role in my difficulty with school / my focus was quite often somewhere else
i suppose there have been times this dream propensity has served me well / it has helped me view problems in original ways / perhaps leading to creative solutions / i still like that about myself / but it also came with a nearly constant consciousness of my own existence / an awareness that has not come without cost
these days (and especially nights) i find myself spending increasing energy trying to smother my tumbling internally focused thoughts / in favor of an external world / a place where i can safely turn my intense gaze without flinching from the uninvited terror of realizing my own being
it’s often horrifying in here / and peeling potatoes is becoming more and more difficult / tiring
i’m going home
don’t need a compass
i’ll know when i get there
it’ll be better than it really was
just like i remember it
i’ll be there for supper
my grandfather’s fried chicken
it was probably greasy
i thought it was better
my room will still be there
just like i left it
a safe place to hide
whole gale noreasterly
bone grey fetch from far offshore
ice blows through my thin salt hair
i am hard aground
rust and relic
it is still of us / human / with all its frailties / imperfections
but for the chemicals that flood our bloodstream / ancient unguents
we any of us are not real in any possible sense
we are each of us so alone in the river
don’t be afraid / it’s ok
let us now give thanks
sitting here a zazen refugee
the mystery of the universe
but why is it surprising?
when there is everything
go live each moment
soft summer sky is calling
green frog leaps kersplash
i’m sitting here in my home office / it’s saturday afternoon on a sunny late july afternoon / “The Stream” is keeping me honest playing kick ass tunes on the Bose wave / this morning i made my famous “Ohio Chili Beans” for the family cookout tomorrow / Ann is / as we speak / making her green bean dish out in the kitchen / life is steadily floating down the Muskellunge creek in the heavy summer heat / the cicadas buzz a relentless warning / the year’s thermal maximum is at hand / make haste
it’s hard to explain / hard to identify just when it happened / when i stopped being who i have always been / and started being the person i am now / the asteroid (read: my accident last year when i broke my leg) has a lot to do with it i’m certain / my recovery has not gone well / there have been complications / it seems as if every month i discover a new medical issue / and except for the surgeon that bolted me back together / the doctors have not been helpful
i tell Ann that intimacy is job one / i am capable of such vast hypocrisy / it becomes a little physically harder every day for me to do the things that bring (us) joy / i don’t come clean about this with her / i crank up my steely resolve / i will not relent / i grit my teeth and work though the pain
she tells me everything is OK and we just need to focus on the things we have and can do together
she tells me it’s the heat / she is right to some extent / it’s been pretty brutal this year / but we have had heat waves before / it’s not the same now
she says she sees me as i am / i don’t see what she sees in what i have become
i have always been a force to be reckoned with
today i have never felt more helpless / fearful
and i feel no connection whatever to the crippled thing i see in the mirror now / yet i love what i am inside / my awareness is a blessing and a curse / the vessel has become absurd and dysfunctional / humiliating
i hear my own voice
a fading recessional
to brittle silence
as i may have shared here previously / my father married 3 times / i have as well / there are things that i recall about him that i see in myself strongly / and ways that we differ / there are things that i can’t reconcile about him still / where am i going with this?
my dad’s wives all worshiped him / it is not too strong to state it in that way / i clearly recall my mother / his first wife / lingering on every word he would toss to her / she was disabled shortly after my birth and my father had his needs / they were divorced but she never stopped loving him / if an adolescent boy could read this it must have been painfully obvious / not a nice man perhaps / what would i have done in his place?
his second wife was his lover during the time he was married to my mother / even i knew / she was a kind and generous woman in every way to me though / but what in the world did my father have to offer? / what was it that made him so powerful in the eyes of women? / he was not what i would think of as dashing or handsome / and certainly not wealthy / he was capable of great insensitivity / self centered to a fault / always a schemer / often a blowhard /
he lost his second wife to cancer / it was the only time i ever saw him break down /
the tale of his third wife leaves me shaking my head / when he was still married to my mother / he met and became involved with and made pregnant a woman that would later become his third wife / he abandoned her when he met his second wife and returned to her after she died / she remained faithfully waiting for him during the decades that ensued /
by the time my father married his third wife / he was in failing health / she dedicated herself to his care / some few years later my dad died leaving her thousands of dollars in debt / she had been told investments and the insurance money would take care of everything / there was none /
i am haunted by unanswered questions about this man / what was it that these women saw in him? / why did they devote themselves so completely to him? / how could they have been so blind to his true nature? / he was not a prince of a man /
and i look into my young wife’s china blue eyes / and i can not fathom what it is that makes her worship me as she does / i am not my father i know / but in the cold morning light / it is his face i see in the mirror / his grey encroaching shadow i feel /
i don’t fit in these blues / can’t play the horn / i’m not kidding anyone / just running for cover
i used to carry a book with me / i’d fill it up in a week / then throw it away and start again / the dump is filled with me
fantasy man / non man / impression of a man / essence of a man
i write infrequently these days / i have been away longer than usual this time / i struggle to understand why this happens / i usually fail
language is such a fascinating idea for me / the idea that i can share such complex concepts and even images within my consciousness simply by constructing symbols on a page / well / some certainly can and do / better and more often than i
for example / i have long struggled with the question of what exactly it means “to know” something / we are after all limited by our awareness / and therefore anything we think we “know” of can be challenged / can only be conditional
what if we were not to use the verb “know” / instead using descriptions such as “it seems ” or “it is as if” or “it appears to be”
suddenly i am liberated to describe my experience and observation as a personal narrative instead of an objective discourse / perhaps this is what Socrates was alluding to / “i am uncertain” / rather than “i don’t know”
but the real reason for visiting with you today began to unfold early this morning / my restless diurnal fading from one level to another was filled with turbulence / threatening and agitated / my awareness was more like white water than the usual foggy dissolve to dissonant daylight…
i was vinegar and oil / at once both / but apart
i was the rolling sea
i was all things that have ever been or will ever be
i was all things that have never been or would never be
i was humble and grateful and mystified
i wrote this column 3 years ago for Christmas / i think it still applies
perhaps we were all just ready for the miracle / ready to believe in something / perhaps the darkness was so oppressive / the days were such hopeless fearful days / like the ones we remember before the second war in europe / days filled with the dread of a future in a world gone mad with hatred and poverty / perhaps days such as the ones we live in today / we were surely ready
and perhaps we were desperate / desperate to believe that benevolent magic was still possible / desperate to believe that a tiny newborn infant out in the deep judean night could be the one to bring light and the magic into the world / magic that could spread and breed more magic / magic that would feed upon itself / becoming more than itself / not just for then / but for thousands of years to come / that the vast teeming human sea could somehow be transformed / uplifted / by the birth of an infant / sleeping in a manger / we were surely ready to believe
but bethlehem ? / two millennia ago? / what less likely place or time could there have ever been for the miracle? / what really happened? / no / really / did we believe because the world was a superstitious place in so much need and pain and darkness? / was this wretchedly poor infant really all that we have been told he was by the stories that have been passed down from antiquity? / how can we know??
it is quite irrelevant what actually happened on that night long ago with the star dancing high above in the frozen stillness / the only thing that matters is that we were mysteriously given a gift / the gift of seeing that it is within our power to make the magic that we call Christmas by simply being good to one another / by treating one another with respect and understanding / by bringing love and light into the world one benevolent act at a time / not just on one day every year in december / but on every day we are given / even the possibility of peace on earth is not too great a dream / the magic lives / the miracle lives
please let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers and their loved ones / good tidings and the joy of the season / peace / and the miracle of the message that was said to have come into the world on that december night so very long ago
the run down from springfield to marysville / route four is littered with left places / rust and grey and weathered white things that were once new
the broken road rolls / crests / intersects / paring and parting like the folds of our lives / tail wind southerly / a dream of summer / over the ridgeline / now northerly / in my face
if i invite them / they will never come
if i go looking for them / they will run and hide
if i call for them / they will never answer me
if i wait and do nothing / i will simply get old
so i will avert my eyes
quietly go about my business
but set an extra place at the table
you had to be there / a nice lunch in town at the clairmont / i had a turkey sandwich / ann / the rb & onions / la crema chardonnay for the lady / me / my new zealand sauvignon blanc / heaven
the conversation turns to the way we communicate / or rather the way we sometimes fail to communicate / it is a mine field / we are so very different here / i am plain spoken / forthright / i ask questions to learn that which i don’t understand / ann / well her approach is / how should i say it? / more subtle / she contends that i miss a goodly portion of what she tries to tell me / non verbal
and then / and i quote / ann says with a completely straight face:
“its not what i say / it’s how i don’t say it”
:: blink blink ::
i almost sprayed the last of my wine all over the table / and you don’t want sauvignon blanc up your nose i assure you
i adore this woman
hard to know just how / but you know august when you see it / the bridge you cross that leads you here from july is barely noticeable / but somehow you know you are in a different place / the desperation of september is not yet upon the land / but the lush june rains that nurtured the july corn are gone / the intense sky / the verdant leaves / the golden shafts of light
it is imprinted by now i guess / 59 times i have seen the summer slip southward / in the thunderous night and the silence of the dawn’s red redemption / but now / with every passing / i become more brittle / more like the furrowed fields beyond my dusty dooryard / now / with a growing sense of sadness / as if this turning is a fading yellow miniature of my life
i shall take up my labors still / here in the thick broad haze of late summer / i shall hold fast / i shall burn like white phosphorus for an hour / i shall impregnate each supple day with my essence / i shall wring out every drop / like a remnant
ann and i are so different in many ways / she brought me my coffee this morning here in my office as is her custom on workdays / and as is my custom / i thanked her and in turn asked her to sit and talk for a bit and asked what it was like being her today
the answers i get to this nearly daily inquiry are usually cryptic to me / to ann she answers my inquiries with complete candor and accuracy / it set me to wondering today about the nature of all of this / are the differences in our language of intimacy gender related? / or do they have more to do with our personal background? / or genetics? / now as an engineer i will state that what follows is pure speculation on my part / entirely without any tangible data to establish accuracy
i exist in a linear world dominated by the socratic method and euclidian geometric thinking / this very state of consciousness makes it nearly impossible for me to understand the answers she dutifully provides over our daily morning coffee / ann’s world is like nature / there are no straight lines / no right angles / she sees a constellation of possibilities and goes for a walk through the night sky / i see a single star at a time / analyze the worth and strategy of attainment / and set the most direct course to reaching it / then begin considering the next destination
sheesh / no wonder we have interesting conversations / it is truly as if we are speaking in different languages / i am intent on never being distracted by the scenery on my way to a destination / i have to avoid the construction / deal with the traffic / make sure we don’t run out of gas / ann is like a puppy with her head out the car window with the air rushing by that wants to stop and sniff and examine everything on the way and is usually disappointed when the ride is over and the destination has been reached
let me be clear / and this is really important here / there is no right and wrong / good or bad / better or worse / should or shouldn’t in any of this / only diversity / i have always stressed that the prime directive in our relationship is to simply be who we are / without restraint / without apology / with authenticity as the mantra
but i am envious / i view her world as being far more beautiful than mine / a place where wonder and delight are things that still just happen on the way to the store to buy milk / i view mine as a place of order and responsibility / a place where i must plan spontaneity on the third tuesday of the month / a place not without joy but a place where joy is a direct result of my conscious efforts / we clearly need one another…
but please be sure to ask ann for her view / her answer will be much more fun…
the morning seems heavy / hard to reconcile / silent orange sunshine slips into my room slanting / somehow out of place / shouldn’t it be painting a pastel pink blue dance across an icy white canvass?
this low golden air / illuminated / frozen / suspended
is it the palpable déjà vu of this gifted moment?
i will rise now / build a fire / take the gift and put it in my pocket
soon the day will sweep in like a warm west wind / scattering the frosty morning like so many brown leaves / what remains is only the impression and the mystery of my existence
to no longer hear my voice
to no longer feel my presence
to no longer know i exist
to lose my self
in the endlessness of your eyes
the only bliss i have ever known
i wrote an piece a while back about awakening and one’s relationship with one’s name / and for reasons that i do not fully understand / i opened my eyes this morning realizing there was more to the story than i originally had thought / the idea that needed further examination was continuity
i wondered as i lay in the grey gloom of the first shadowless light of the day / is my awareness not a straight unbroken line from my first worldly beholding in northern massachusetts some 50 odd revolutions ago / to this narrow moment of revelation at some 5:30 AM here on the north coast of ohio? / finite / with clear / well specified end points describing all that i ever have been / a single unbroken ever so fragile life force filament?
there are those who would contend that there are no end points / that it is possible / indeed undeniable / that our essence can neither be created / nor destroyed / that we came from a place before our first awareness / and we go to a place beyond our mortal framework
i believe this to be the case
but perhaps not in a sense that is commonly held
look around / every single life force that can be found / is frantically burning it’s own personal filament in the name of propagation of it’s dna / passing it down the unbroken line as it were / the cord does indeed extend back in time to who knows where / and we / each and every living thing that has ever existed or will ever exist / has one prime commandment / pass your dna forward
now this is not exactly the reason i came here today / to tell the old dna tale / but a discussion of identity and madness would otherwise not be complete / and i have too often thought of how dangerous these kinds of inquiries are / how this may be god-stuff / stuff that we may not be equipped to integrate /stuff that can promote madness / stuff that can crash our primitive systems of thought…
but this morning / i felt connected / i threw caution into the creek / and followed / and upon further examination / i decided that / no / our sentience is not one long continuous unbroken filament at all / it is more like connect the dots / a series of thousands of points / one act day plays / divided by an equal number of night intermissions / pauses when we do not exist in any way which we can understand / and although / when the curtain rises / we retain our personae / and our name / are we really the same entity? / have we not been subtly changed by the profound night? / by the miracle of the light of day? / by being blessed with a new first worldly beholding?
yes / i think so / maybe more like a sinuous serpentine highway / with painted broken white lines down the very center of the darkness / broken white lines telling us / it is ok to pass this way
special hot chocolate
in a mug:
1 & ½ teaspoons of hershey’s cocoa
3 packets of equal aspartame sweetener
add boiling water to 2/3 full
steep and stir
add a generous splash of sugar free kailua syrup (the real thing will work too)
then / top off with fat free half and half and a blob of fat free cool whip
a couple of those chocolate filled milano cookies with your creation will be perfect / serious serious extra credit here
serve her on a tray in bed with a linen napkin
i promise / your lady will be wowed / you are pampering her with what women intensely crave / your full undivided attention / imagination / initiative / and / chocolate / and be certain to explain to her that your humble offering is (almost) entirely without dietary sin / but not because you think she is fat / oh good god no / because you know how hard she works to be gorgeous and how much you adore her
the night breeze leaves without warning / now a sweaty stillness /cream dense darkness / ripe peach ohio moon reflects off the water / such tropical nights / midnight passes unnoticed
our big stone house has no air conditioning / built in the 30’s / long before such luxuries were commonplace / in the closeness of our room / clothes are unthinkable / any dry coolness the sheets may have held / long since lost
we sink deep into our mattress / softest one that ann could find / i wanted it that way / ideal for ohio december / not sultry havana nights like this
lace curtains hang limp / saturated / ceiling fan paddles / ponderous / relentless / hypnotic / provides no relief / rattan blades sigh circles overhead / like the distant wheels of the norfolk southern freight / Ernesto Lecuona syncopation
rivulets form and pool on our skin
our boat drifts
No tengo nada que declarar. Solo tengo una botella de whisky. Me he perdido
she changes the linen on our bed every other night / clean fresh cool linen / she says that there is something unbearably sexy about preparing the place where i will take her for my enjoyment
i think i am becoming andy rooney / this is the sort of thing that i would expect him to write about and i guess that isn’t bad or good it is just is / hence this commentary from my own slightly eccentric perspective on one of life’s finest indulgences
in my humble opinion / the old fashioned plain doughnut is one of the finest creations god ever put saturated fat into / and while lusting after one particularly fine example that was singing a sirens song to me at the continental breakfast buffet at the hotel where we stayed in milwaukee this week / it occurred to me that for reasons that escape me / someone long ago decided that doughnuts were not sufficiently hedonistic / nooo / someone decided they needed to be improved upon / that icing was needed / or jelly / or cream filling / or sugar coating / or sprinkles or they needed to be made out of chocolate dough or they needed cinnamon / or needed to be dipped in honey / or green for st patrick or pink for st valentine / or / or / well you get the idea
why in god’s name?
my wife insists that all this embellishment has a good reason / it has to do with the beverage of choice that accompanies the doughnut / she says says a big cold glass of milk is the way to go / and these supplemental flavors all go well with milk / well i will tell you that once upon a calorie / i also subscribed to this school of thought / but i was always kind of grossed out by the greasy pasty taste that was left in the wake of my decadence / and the last thing i wanted was yet another reminder of the imminent clogging of my arteries
now i have never been much of a coffee drinker until the last few years / so the concept of coffee and doughnuts was kind of lost on me / but this is a match that was truly made in gastronomic heaven / nothing else is needed / this combination is impossible to improve upon / even the pasty taste afterward is somehow magically expunged / and i am certain that without one iota of rationalization i could easily convince myself that all the food groups are well represented / how great is that??
it is important to remember that this diatribe came about while i indulged myself with a plain untoasted bagel / sans cream cheese / a non fat yogurt and black coffee / what’s wrong with this picture???
so if you please / try to understand why i feel all these extra doughnut geegaws are not needed / less is more and don’t try to tell me otherwise / i don’t want to hear about it / my decision is final / steak needs no chocolate sauce / and the lily needs no gold sprinkles
i heard a whip-poor-will late last night here at my sanctuary / it brought me back to the first summer J and i were here / J was always enchanted by the love song of the reclusive little gray and brown bird / singing for its mate deep in the warm star crossed spring night / we have not heard one in 4 years now / how ironic
J showed up here early this morning / it was painfully clear she had not slept / she is actually an inch taller than i but seemed so small and defeated / it was heartbreaking to see her like this / she had planned to stay over to do some work on the house but said all she wanted to do was to start packing her things / she has given up / she is no longer in denial / she at long last has agreed to accept my settlement / we will go together to the arbitrator next week to embrace the legal process / we are finally over
i love J / i always will / my settlement will insure she is secure / but we are both in mourning / we have lost something that was once very special / there will always be a part of me that will ask if i could have done more / tried just one more time to explain how empty and aching and yearning i was all the time / i tried / i did / i did / so many times i pleaded / but it never made a difference / she was not able to give the things that would have stopped my pain / my loneliness / it was just not in her to offer
she is a wonderful woman / very bright and attractive and well liked / her rock and roll concert going social circle will embrace her / vilify me / my hope is that she can love again and find someone better suited to give her what she needs and so much deserves / someone that shares the things she loves
but now we begin the process / to cut away the last few threads that tie us together / and when i hear the whip-poor–will tonight singing /maybe for his old lover somewhere alone in the dark / i will surely think of J / and weep for us both
this is the kind of year the old new hampshire farmers like to see / moderate / cold nights / mild days / not too much ice / the maple sap starts to flow late in february / i walk down from my sanctuary to the couchtown road this afternoon / i admit that my motives are to find a spot where my cell phone will reach ann / i really need to hear her musical voice / but like her the day is lovely too / cool / 40 ish / a thin milky cirrostratus overcast filters the sun / i hear the air passing high up over my head in the tree tips but very little breeze advects down to the road where i walk / the soft wind just whispers high up / i enjoy this walk…
the rhythm of life moves more slowly here / more in step with the seasons / the land is just now beginning to show the first signs of waking / we are a month from the first crocuses / but i know that soon the red winged blackbirds will return to the bog down below my sanctuary / i love the first conk-a-ree songs of the year / it is a certain sign that the back of the winter is broken even here in the icy shadow of mount kearsage / the chickadees have already abandoned their staccato de de de de de admonition in favor of singing their two note languid lyrical love song / searching for their soul mate / they yearn to complete and be completed like i do / i really miss ann today…
the couchtown road has begun to soften / the thick gritty rutty layer of truck tire compacted ice and snow has great pools of standing water in the low spots / the ground beneath is still hard frozen / after all / last week it still got to 3 below here / but in the few places where the february sun has reached / the road has become bare / naked and muddy / true mud season is still several weeks away / the top layers of the dirt road will thaw first but because the ground below is still hard frozen / the water stands in place / it is mud over ice / and as more ice melts below / the trapped layer of saturated mud gets thicker and deeper / mud season is far worse than snow season for getting stuck up here / but finally the ice will completely abandon the ground under the relentless attack of the spring sunshine / the water will eventually drain down into the water table to give me bath water from my well this summer…
my neighbor G has already hung hundreds of sap buckets on the sugar maples which line both sides of the old couchtown road / he is a major land owner in salisbury and warner / he is a good steward / taking from the land in a renewable way / giving back what would otherwise go to waste / he rotates his woodlots / selectively harvesting the hardwoods to sell for firewood / opening up the forest floor to allow light and air which the next generation of saplings need to grow straight and strong / the sugar maples are only harvested when they become unhealthy or broken / some of these venerable old trees are large around as my truck / supporting as many as 8 sap buckets / as i walk along further i notice that the tap lines are also hooked up / bright blue plastic tubes running for miles through the woods / spreading out like a web / connecting to trees too remote from the road / the thin sugary sap runs down through the tubing like water / out of the woods and into big plastic reservoirs by the side of the road / i can hear the drip drip drip of the sap flowing into the giant tub as i walk past
G always taps my trees too / neighbors up here take care of one another / my 23 acres has enough trees to fill a reservoir all by themselves / plus there are the dozen huge trees that line the couchtown road on my property beneath my sanctuary / i don’t ask for anything in return / but G always shows up every may with a jug of his fine light amber syrup / i act surprised / accept it gracefully with thanks / not telling him that i still have an unopened jug from last year / it is the neighborly thing to do / i invite him in / we talk about the sap run and the mud and the black flies this year / comparing all this to last year and all the years gone by / it looks as if this will be a good year / and i know quietly this is true for many reasons / i am a rich man
finally my cell phone comes to life / except for this one spot the hills shadow the telephone signal / like the trees shadow the road / and only in this one spot can i get through / i have been here many times before throughout the winter / my footprints still remain in the gravel from the last time i was here / i talk with ann and tell her of the wonders of the forest and the air and the sky and the mud / yes / even the mud has a certain beauty here / her voice warms me inside like the golden spring sun on my face / we speak softly of our devotion / we have faith in our love and know we must wait and be patient / i know she will join me here in the spring / we exchange our love and i promise to walk down here again tonight in the light of the gibbous moon to kiss her goodnight
time moves at its own pace here on the couchtown road / april will surely come this year / we shall not lose faith
this morning’s haiku exercise:
the first pale grey light
her hair spun like wild dark wind
my heart skips a beat
it is possible that the universe is as cosmology describes / that entropic forces will in some countless billion years disintegrate all that we “know” / leaving only silent / timeless / emptiness
it too is possible that there is nothing of which we can not “know” / that our imagination is truly limitless / that there is no other dimension of organization beyond our ability to comprehend
what i find troubling is that these two statements both use the word “know” / and i can not say at all what that “means”
we are exactly alike : we both hunger to “know” the nature of the universe / you search for it in the night sky at the greatest distances that can be described / i, here in my quiet snowy sanctuary in the tiny details of the day / they are the yin and yang / a cosmic pas de deux / two dancers / one ballet
i live a transitory life / on weekdays i live in extreme southern new hampshire and work just across the border in the peoples republic of massacusetts / i have the greatest job in the world and get paid silly amounts of money to do it / i have worked at the same firm for / ready for this? / 37 years / i am the company mentor / people come to me with all manor of technical and philosophical problems / i tell them what to do / if they don’t like my advice they proceed at their own peril / i never say i told you so / but have had lots of opportunities /
but on the weekends / i live here / at my sanctuary / way way up in the hills and outcroppings and woods of central new hampshire / as i write this i am 30 miles north and west of concord / on the shoulder of mount kearsarge just under 1000 feet in elevation ./ we get ice and snow when nashua and boston get windswept rains / the road to this place is an upward winding unpaved often muddy one lane path / 4 miles of washboard gravel / my truck has seen 3 sets of ball joints in 10 years / if you come to visit in the winter or spring be sure your vehicle is equipped with tire chains /
the heat is provided by my wood stove / 5 cord of hardwood are dry and stacked outside in the shed / i will use 3 of them before may finally comes / i do have a phone and commercial power but no web connection / when there is a storm i am usually the first to lose service and the last to have it restored / i can make do /
my name is the 30′th in recorded history to own this place / the farmhouse was built c. 1770 by james peters / he moved to new hampshire in 1761 where he and his son john cleared this land / dug the cellar / fit the massive granite footings and built the structure / all without the benefit of a saw mill / the beams are all original / hand hewn / in 1821 a tornado came roaring down from lake sunapee and took the roof and some of the frame off / it was rebuilt by the morrill family shortly afterward /
this portion of salisbury nh was heavily agrarian during the first part of the 19′th century / all the forests were cleared and the land was under cultivation or used for pasture / new hampshire is the granite state / aptly named / our soil is thin and rocky and poor / our growing seasons short / our infestations legendary / our winters long and severe / early in the 19th century textile mills were being built along the merrimac river 40 miles to the east in manchester / and further south in nashua and lowell ma / it was an easier way to make a living than here in the rocky hills / so there was a constant stream of families fleeing this hard place /
then came the civil war / men went off to fight to preserve the union / but in doing so they discovered places where frost did not come in september and june / and soil was black and deep and without boulders that needed backbreaking stacking onto walls that now only divide yesterday and today / more families fled to california / they never looked back /
the result of all this was that hundreds of farms and houses built with such sweat and love went abandoned / the road where my farmhouse stands once had dozens of well maintained capes like mine / proud lofty barns filled with kids and oxen and holsteins / now all gone / fallen to disrepair and finally exhausted from the weight of waiting / collapsing into their cellar holes / death and renewal is relentless here / saplings sprout and reclaim their timbers / the stones bury themselves in the moss and composted fall leaves as if trying to forget an unfaithful lover / the dooryards / once opulent with purple lilacs and sweet honeysuckle and orange day lilies / the verdant apple orchards dripping with macintosh and baldwins and johnithans / all now stand jilted / silently alone to fend for themselves / overgrown and fighting for sunlight and oxygen and survival among the aggressive vines and pines and oaks and wild raspberry / their former protectors all have left for the promise of a better more affluent dream / the city / the west /
so i now live in a ghost town / all that remains are the bones and the dreams of their creators / and miles of stones that used to divide pastures / walls built one rock at a time / long ago in some lost short urgent summer / my sanctuary stands the last of a species / mute / anachronistic /
the old house is now mostly restored / but is still ancient / the porous stone foundation gives deer mice ready access to the pantry / i empty the traps often / cluster flies buzz around the bedroom windows / hornets infest the roof rafters / spiders paint their webs on the original exposed posts and beams / the wood smoke leaves soot and dust on the sills / the kitchen is primitive compared with my clinical stainless gourmet thermador showpiece back in nashua / it feels like a century ago here / but somehow more like home /
standing high upon the ridge to the north above my farmhouse / i look down at my domain / the chickadees sing their dee-dee mating song on sunny days in february such as this / i listen to the air rush by and the sound it makes as it moves through the young white pines that hold tightly to the thin hardscrabble soil for survival / their well adapted resinous needles reaching upwards for the still frozen late winter sunlight / i smile / i know the maples will soon begin to flow their sugarblood towards their yet unborn chlorophyll laden leaves / i sigh and inhale this panorama of life long ago and life yet to come /
i listen for the voices of the peters / the morrills / all i hear is the wind /
i am out of here at 5 / home by 5:45 / on the treadmill for 45 minutes (should do 90 but cut me some slack i am in love) / then run through the shower / no after shave / i never wear after shave when i cook! / probably close to 8 by then / i set the table / turn on some soft music / light the candles / dim the lights /
good night for pasta / easy and killer /
you sit and luxuriate while i cook and wait on you / you work hard all day /
first i serve you a crusty loaf for dipping in good extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar / i think a french baguette would work / i work on the next course while you nibble on the bread and oil / next a simple but fresh baby mesculin green salad with bleu cheese / a little oil & vinegar if you want too / the water is at a rolling boil and my scratch sauce has been simmering for a while / (i don’t tell my secret / that i had the sauce started yesterday / only needed to add the shrimps and season) / i have done my mise en place / in go the shrimps / in goes the pasta / i decant the wine / let it breathe / i clear your salad dish / pour us both a glass of wine / a chianti classico / cellar temperature / back to the kitchen / done? / shrimps are easy to overcook / i plate my creation for my lady / shrimp fra diavalo over fresh penne / with pecorino romano / i break my fast / not bad / i always nail the seasoning on this dish /
heaven / i am sharing dinner with the most beautiful woman in the world / i love serving you /
we take our time / we have all the time in the world / we feel warm and sated / a spicy pasta dish does that / i pour you another glass of chianti / you giggle / i love your laugh /
full yet? / i clear the dishes / still room for coffee with biscotti and frangellico? / or maybe something lite and cool and sweet? / gelato? /
it is getting late / you look up at me and grin / i melt / i will have time to do the dishes tomorrow / right now i have more urgent duties //