Category Archives: General

Gallery

Sasha On Deck

This gallery contains 3 photos.

This is Sasha holding the moment captive.  Sasha hangs out under our front deck, and on hot summer days she might be be seen grabbing a few rays on the landscape ties.  ‘We can’t all be rattlesnakes,’ Sasha says, ‘but … Continue reading

It’s For You

Phone_handsetAt our house, we still have a land line. This is mostly due to our rural location where cable Internet does not reach. But also, we live in a marginal cellular coverage area where the reception changes with the leaf color, the weather, and whatever limb our chickens happened to roost on last night.

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“Dude! Where are you now?”

So, we’ve held fast to our land line: this ringing box with a wire connecting it to the wall. Can you imagine? Such old school stuff in this age of pocket connectivity. But think about this. When you call a land line, you’re calling a place attached temporarily to a personality. When you call a cell phone, on the other hand, you’re calling a personality attached temporarily to a place. Indeed, people are the only real units of reference in our mobile calling culture. Technically it doesn’t matter whether they are two rooms away, two states away, or on a lay over in Reykjavik.

The absence of place as a necessary condition has been challenging for us seasoned communicators. You’ll often hear older callers ask early in the call: “Where are you?” when calling a mobile number. My wife does this all the time. It’s as though she cannot talk comfortably to me without first establishing my whereabouts.  (I should probably leave that point alone for my own well-being and move on. . .)  I  guess we need more than the immediacy of the person’s voice at the other end; we want to know what situation we have called into – whether that someone is lounging in their pajamas, driving down the interstate, or sitting in a Taco Bell.  Otherwise, we feel slightly disconnected – as though we might be channeling a disembodied spirit. Knowing place somehow supplies the weight our words ought to have for each other.

We first got caller ID for our land line many years ago. At first, it felt deliciously sneaky to know who was calling before we would answer. It was the caller, then,  who occupied the exposed position and not the one answering. But soon enough, just having that extra bit of information became normal – and something we’ve come to depend on to frame our minds before we pick up.  

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Dialing ‘CRestwood 7- 5647’ in the 70’s would cause a wall phone like this one to ring in our hallway.

Consequently, we have long since forgotten how to take a phone call with any sense of real curiosity. This much is gone. Can you recall that sense of anticipation as a teenager when the phone rang? A state of high alert would ripple through the household. Or again on Christmas mornings, when the ringing phone often meant the hiss of long distance and faraway voices calling in to re-connect across the miles. The compelling mystique of the unanswered phone is largely a curiosity now.

Nowadays when the land line rings, one of us will reluctantly drop a fork, get up, and check the readout. Chances are, we don’t know the caller (and sometimes even when we do); we say to ourselves: “They really want to speak to us? they’ll leave a message.” What a couple of curmudgeons we’ve become!  But this trend reflects the sheer number of junk calls that now come streaming down the line.

I remember a lecture once given by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he recommended a practice he called ‘telephone meditation.’  In his inimitably measured way, Thich Nhat said: “On the first ring, simply listen to the sound of the bell. Stay exactly where you are. Breathe only. On the second ring, rise with dignity and go to the telephone. Breathe only. You know that you can afford to do this,” he said, “because if the other person has something really important to tell you, she will not hang up before the third ring. And on the third ring,” he continued, “you answer. In this way, you bring no unhappiness, no anxiety to the phone, because you have taken the time to re-establish who you are. That is what we call telephone meditation.”

I’ve always liked that idea. But when that strident sound splits the silence of the house, how easy it is to forget all of that.  And do I dare avert my eyes, ignore what the LCD wants to reveal to me, and simply say (as we once did) with a happy expectancy: “Hello. . . ?”

I suspect I might often find more inner peace in just allowing it to ring.

time’s winged chariot drawing near. . . and blowing right by

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Me like! This am perfect world!

I am faced with a minor dilemma. Shall I choose a standard topic and write. . . blithely, as though this blog had seen no intervening silence. Or shall I post about the silence. It’s a bit awkward, starting right off with a meta-discussion about blogging. But friends, I follow the bizarro- world recipe for success: make a flurry of posts, lapse into silence, rise up again with apologies. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But a six month gap? This just shoots the limit for attention spans. By now, I may be talking down an empty Ethernet cable, so how can I expect you to give two spits in a beggar’s cup? Let’s see: last time, I used the spiritual sabbatical angle to excuse the lapse in posts. If you recall, it was about how interplays of light and shadow, color and sound had hypnotized my soul to the point where I simply threw up my hands and sat gawking at clouds. What fun! and by the way, have you tried that? It fulfills a perfectly reasonable behavioral need at times. However, it turns out that somebody still has to fry the eggs and pay the electric bill.

So, been there and done that. Scrap that explanation.

Ok, got it! I stopped blogging in anticipation of the world ending.

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Yes! That’s it! The world ended last December. It was the singularity of humankind. The zero point. The whole enchilada – all wrapped up and stuffed in a “to go” bag. With that monolith approaching, I just couldn’t bring myself to string two words together. Sounds reasonable, right?

Oh wait. . . you missed the end of all time?? I kinda did, too, actually, because. . . well gosh, we’re still here! But let’s qualify that statement.  This time-line has persisted (the one where I am writing this sentence, and you are reading). Maybe we should try the next universe over (cue up the ominous music).  Then who knows? Maybe they’ve actually stopped showing ‘Friends’ reruns over there.   This all might sound clever from a quantum-physics-wannabe point of view. However, in the end it’s rather the same thing  – for us souls in this universe – as: ‘didn’t happen.’

You know, I was really looking forward to the end of the world. What glorious drama that could have been. It’s not that I dislike blogging, and to be sure, I don’t particularly like large explosions. It’s just that, for a shining moment, thereThe_Scream loomed the possibility that this good old dystopian realm of ours, this jaded planet Earth, might have been traded for something new.  We could have all been leveled up, raptured, or at least cast into the outer darkness!

Instead, life has gone on pretty much as usual, and I suppose that’s reassuring. The profiteering, the wars, the terrorist attacks, the viral plagues, all the usual suspects that give us warm fuzzies on the Nightly News – all are still here. This is called ‘finding comfort in a normatively toxic environment.’ It’s also called pessimism for folks who enjoy not smiling.

Meanwhile, seeing as how the world didn’t end, I was cast adrift for a while. There I was, having quit my job, cashed in all my savings, and waiting on a mountaintop.* Then I found refuge in the smothering embrace of Nutella and Wild Turkey. Yes. . . you read right: chocolate hazelnut cake icing and good ol’ Kentucky 101! Now, there’s a remarkable sensory combination and a cautionary tale in one go. Such smothering sweetness, such amnesial decadence! I may as well have been languishing in a nineteenth century London opium den. One might even recommend it for short-term psychic downtime . . . but you are likely a person who takes your body drama more seriously. In that case, you’ll find green tea and brown rice less normatively toxic – at least, over the short term. As always, choose your own adventure.

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So here we are, still hanging onto God’s merry-go-round, whilst a demonic steam calliope keeps banging out the same crazy tune.  Or maybe that’s just the TV left on.

But Oh Fortuna! it’s Spring again! And that’s something, at least. Warm sunny days, startlingly blue skies coasting with wind-frayed clouds, open windows, two-blanket nights, suddenly overgrown lawns, pollen-streaked windshields. . . and sneezing. Yes, Virginia, there is an April!  I really think we can do this. Here’s a Kleenex.

So, what do you think? Are you buying any of this? Having read this far, it would be a shame not to check back next week to see if another bizarro world post actually makes it up. The underlying message is: we are still alive over here and trying to figure out what to do with a year that ends in ’13’.  Actually, this is the most fun I have had with an overdue post.

* One of these statements is actually true.

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New Widget – 1000 Words a Day

Just added a widget to my sidebar – over on the right just below Categories: a new “1000 Words a Day” sticker. It’s really nothing new, as I have been able to bang words out in quantity for some time. The badge is just kind of fun, plus I like the motivation. The first two secrets to high daily word counts: keep a journal and don’t censor yourself. It should be no surprise that paragraphs pile up like snow drifts when the subject is you.  The intent is then to transfer this momentum to other projects.

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. . . and out again

Aha! Yesterday’s complaint about weather woes was either ill-timed or somehow reached a sympathetic ear. We behold clarity again! and just in time for the weekend.  The clouds trundled away eastward by late afternoon, leaving more than a few of us open-mouthed at the sudden expanse that opened over our heads.

A blue sky truly grants a sense of headroom, of possibility.  Strange how the weather can have such a remarkable effect on the psyche.  After suffering endless days of grey skies, the simple act of walking out into sunshine causes old souls to laugh like children.  It didn’t used to do that.

Last night, we went out and located the sky (it was overhead, just beyond the treetops).  We found the Milky Way, studied a few constellations.  I then became obsessed with an object low and sparkly on the south east horizon.  In my 7×50 binoculars, it kept turning red and green.  I was sure it was a UFO.

Can a star do that?  Well, if your optics are less than perfect, it apparently can as aberrations in the glass split the light into spectral components.  Turns out, we were mooning over the mag 1.16 star, Fomalhaut.

No cigar this time, although we have espied more than one strange light this season that seemingly defies conventional aircraft movement and behavior.  It only takes some consistent looking.

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Back in the soup

A few weeks back. Virginia enjoyed a brief and shining period – of clarity, of brilliant blue skies, of leaves rustling in a gentle breeze under cotton clouds. The colors and smells of Autumn arrived, bringing crisp apples, fall flowers, pumpkins and newly split wood.

This week, however, we again plunge again into the east coast soup that has beset this area for most of the past three months.  I cannot remember a wetter summer season here.  Other locations, such as the U.S. Midwest, have had unendurable dryness.  What an uncomfortable polarity. I would gladly send you deserving folks some of our water.  Care for some mosquitoes?

Over the decades, we’ve seen the extremes. At this point, I don’t know which to prefer: hardpan drought or rotting muck.  Neither is good, though sometimes it seems like those are the only choices. Is it possible to get non-seasonal affective disorder from all of this??  I think I have it. Whatever happened to moderation in weather? (I have a sneaking suspicion it has become modification in weather. . . but that’s another topic.)

Apologia for a sabbatical

Although I have been silent here (this blog) for many weeks, I must report that all is quite well in Central Virginia. . . remarkable, even.  Initially, changes in the work (and hence, writing) schedule made this practice less approachable on a regular basis.  But more importantly, I have been uncertain how in the world to write down the things I am experiencing.  I must confess that I have nursed this gap in my output with some despair.

To be sure, our honeybees still buzz, our hens strut and cluck, the vegetables and berries bloom, the birds flit, and squirrels scramble madly up and down nearby oaks.  I could have reported this.  That we are bursting with life.  That we are surrounded by a living, breathing world that has the capacity to enchant in an instant.  That I added first a ‘deep’ and now a ‘super’ to our thriving beehive.  That our Maran went broody, or that our new Rhode Island Red pullets sound like aspiring oboists still mastering the hardship of honking through a double reed instrument.

And in this enveloping canvas of vibrant green, under this arching canopy of soft-edged blue. . . even in the suddenly wilting heat of early July (today it was 104F), what a gift to call this place home!  I should like to have been reporting all of this in vivid detail these past weeks. But I have been stilled.

And now to the point.  I can barely write, these days.  Not when the very molecules of the air have begun to emit a subtle luminosity.   The world is glowing, friend. Have you noticed, by any chance?  This becomes more apparent in the hours near sunset.  Many are the evenings that I cannot bear to preoccupy my head and hands in work, preferring rather to simply bask in the flow of this. . . this fountain of reality.

Remove the nozzle from a garden hose, point the hose up in your hand and turn on the pressure. Do you see how the water tumbles up and out in a dancing cascade?  This is my metaphor for how the world continuously comes into being.  It was not created long ago; it is being created now, instant by instant.  And not from one point, but from all points.  Consider that revolution in perspective.  The world is anything but static.

Most of us walk a path well removed from the edge of creation, shielded by the compelling urgency of our own stories, our own thoughts.  By the time you think about it, the dancing cascade has hardened into facts, outlooks, obligations.  You can never see what your thoughts will not allow.

I suppose it may be me. . .  just a well-meaning dude with a blog who picked this moment to go around the bend – and quite happily forgot to come back.  And that’s fine. Or is it you, too, reader?  Have you noticed anything different in the world, the air, the cells of your being?  I would prefer to think that it is both of us.  Perhaps all we need is a gentle shaking. Wake up! There are miracles waiting in the space between your thoughts.

I shall continue to write and make notes here at times, hopefully picking up the pace again.  I see this season’s young deer gingerly exploring the back lot.  Foxes regularly visit us at night, barking out their frustration at the tasty poultry that roost just out of reach in well-secured pens.  I should like to consider all these in time.  But, for all you left-brainers out there (and we are still so legion), the tone may become mildly  unrealistic annoying mmm. . . challenging.  So be it.

In peace.