All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Sermon: Imagination and Perception

Your regular pastor is absent. He is attending a seminar on faith-based driving.  Pardon? Yes, it was suggested by the CHP after his car was seen falling over backwards while going downhill. My qualifications for locum tenens consist of being the husband of a photographer but I will fill in as best I can. Can we have our first slide please?

I asked my wife to photograph the heavens:
She managed to get two fingers into the lens but I liked the photo. We look for patterns. What? Oh, well, I suppose it's a habit of the mind --cognitive recognition. We associate imagination and perception in ways that are enigmatic and results can be surprising. My first impulse was to crop the fingers from the frame but that would upset composition, so I turned them into a 4x6 upright post.
That didn't work too well, so I tried adding some color horizontally. Yes? Oh, good question. I learned to do this in Art Class in high school. Well, because I got tired of the other elective, Track --which is where we were taught to outrun and jump over ourselves. But back to the the photo. I experimented with a second sun and got eyes --which left the question of what kind of eyes would be appropriate.

Cats have elliptical pupils and round corneas. The dilation of the pupil is controlled through two shutter-like ciliary muscles. I learned that from cats. From there it was only a matter of adding a bit of fur, some corrugations to the sky and we get a fine picture of a grumpy barn cat.
What's that? Am I an ordained substitute minister? No, I'm a retired gardener. Why me? Well, because your regular pastor was only allowed one phone call last night. I did what I could to help. Go thou and do likewise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beat

Got about another week to go on the west fence. Tired. Glad it's getting done. You can see the field yellowing behind me as I head in. Not like it used to be, me neither. There used to be implements parked in this field --hay mowers, skiploaders, drags, scrapers, John Deere child-impalers-- but no more. Up to us old guys and our Husqvarnas now.

We see each other, across maybe a quarter mile of combustible grass, manage a wave --but we're tired and trying to maintain the rhythm of the thing. Forty years ago, the rhythm rang in machines that baled the growth of these fields. And the town itself was small enough to be baled by any single renegade implement. Never happened, or I don't recall, thing is: what allowed us to work so hard those 40 years was the promise we would someday forget how hard it was --otherwise I doubt we could have done it. And yet...

And yet, even if I'm alone and all the other boys get called into supper, that old echo clarifies itself. I appreciate all great music. On this blog, I've posted opera, orchestra, folk, country & western and musical theater but when I'm laboring amid the labor of others --even when they've gone in and I've got a little pep left, the rhythm, the tune that runs through my mind is this:

It was recorded when I was in my mid-twenties --barely beginning the journey-- a youth. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "Youth is wholly experimental."  I'd like to also believe youth is primarily a social experience in pursuit of something positive that remains when youth is gone. So I work on my own to this rhythm --on many levels too tired to think about. I am indebted to Doobie Brothers. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My Way Of Life, Forrader

As you know, I have been working on the firebreak. I am still working on the firebreak. I shall be working on the firebreak. Like some other jobs that go on and on and tax one's geriatricity and caducity, it goes slowly and claims ultimacy and don't seem to get me much forrader. My body is ok but brain is down among words spellcheck cannot condone. Spellcheck doesn't even approve of spellcheck. I am phasing in and out of the spellcheck continuum. Why?

Because firebreak has become my new way of life. Lookie:
Forrader is a perfectly acceptable word that simply hasn't been used in literature for many years. It means further forward. It never caught on because all through the 20th century we were taught to write like aristocrats of the century before. Aristocrats were land owners. Here is a modern land owner:
He is working on his firebreak. It is his way of life. He is either shrinking into the field or he is getting forrader.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Archival Enigma #2, The Stopless Bazillion

I continue the archive with a photo from yesterday and a poem posted on Invalid's Workshop  five years ago. Those who follow that blog will know why I am pondering the prairie or, as I like to call it, out standing in my field. Those who wish to know may click Fire-break [Earning My Keep!]. I am contemplating a chainsaw at my feet while stabilizing myself with a eucalyptus wand (those readers who, like I, fall down on uneven ground, please take note). After considerable reflection, I worked up energy to pick the saw up and carry it inside our west gate.

The photo is recent. Poem is archival.  An ongoing battle to carve a wilderness out of the jungle has accessed something primal, protecting one's home from grass-fire. A margin is mowed and eucalyptus trees, which are full of oil and go up like Roman candles, must be cleared. At 65, I am too old for this. Yet, as I slash my way south, I have been bucking branches for next winter's wood, so I am also too much of an old cheapskate to decline this recreation. It is life serving life arriving at an archival poem about the universe, which exhibits all the qualifying signs of being alive:

Seven Words In Search Of Punctuation  [Sunday, May 16, 2010]

One looks
Into it
It looks
Into one

What is
What is

One is
Created into
What is created
Into one

My friend, Will, and I had a talk about it. He said, "I think either you've created a new poetic form or you've found one I never knew about (and there are probably bazillions of those). In any event your manipulation of these words makes entire sense to me, and I like the 8-6-8 words/three verse format for its playfulness and balance."

To which I replied, "Say Willie, howzabout we call this form the Bazillion --7 words arranged into 3 stopless bazills?"

And that is how the Stopless Bazillion came to be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Rose

I have spent this Sunday afternoon in the barn, disassembling a Husqvarna 7.75 horsepower mower that wouldn't start at the worst time --time to make firebreaks on a dehydrated prairie in California. Machine's only 2 years old and I'm danged if I'm going to call in the 3-year warranty because...because, well, I'm a guy and we don't do that. Guys fix things, even if it takes all afternoon and turns out to be a bit of crud in the carburetor pilot valve. Runs fine now but it's too late to do any mowing. Warranty...Horsefeathers!...that'd be like asking us to use coupons at the grocery store. So, somewhere between 3 pm, when I was weeping softly over stray parts and disintegrating gaskets, and 5 pm, when I pulled the cord and the engine started right up and purred, I thought of Tex and Rosie. I wrote about them and the Driscolls 3 years back and decided to put my tools and chemicals away, relax with a glass or three of good cabernet and repost The Rose.

The rose is a very dramatic flower.
 There, I've said it! And I am still a man.

I am a typical American of my time, who grew up watching oaters on UHF (ultra high fructose) TV stations full of strong, silent role models. Drama was left to the female lead, whose difficult job it was to elicit heartfelt responses from Gary-Cooper-quiet heroes who often really were Gary Cooper. It went like this:

Rose: Don't go, Tex, oh don't go.

Tex: Gots to go, Rosie.

Rose: But the Driscoll gang'll get you.

Tex: Mehbee...

I should mention here that bad-guys were pretty much always Driscolls in old westerns, and the most repeated line was,"C'mon out, Driscoll!" Then you'd get 15 minutes of bullets ricocheting off a big rock in the dusty yard of a clapboard cabin. My theory is these scenes have historical root in a real Driscoll family that conducted a similar argument in Ogle County, Illinois, in the 1840s. It is a cautionary tale, like the Bible's story of Rebekah's contentious twins, of what can happen when family counseling is delayed.

Tex:....mehbee not.

Rose: But Tex, I...I love you, you big galoot.

Tex: Aw, Rosie.

Rose: Just come back to me.

Tex: Aw Rosie. Yuh give me the goldurned emotions!

Tex rides away, of course. Rose clasps her little fists under her quivering chin and walks back to the one-room school house --Rose is always the schoolmarm. We follow Tex into a chaotic universe, but Goethe and Rollo May have assured us nature throws its assisting forces behind the individual who begins a constructive cycle. Tex enters the fray, same fray I saw in most every western that raised me, and brings himself back. We're not so sure his methods were suitable for a general American, or global, rosy future, but he won and he's a hero. I'm a little male kid and think, "Wow, we're not so different: he puts his hat on one leg at a time, just like me!"

The rose is a beautiful, dramatic flower. But beauty and drama can cover the secret, injurious nature of reality. The hero is quiet, strong, possessed of an uncomplicated mind, a mind in which secrets are safe. But what can be more dangerous than what we withhold from each other --perhaps secrets the mind keeps from itself? Ooh ooh! He's riding back up to the school house. Rosie runs out. They share a long mindless period of eye-contact.

Tex: Aw, I reckon I love you too.

Now what was I thinking about drama, vigilantism, morality and the mind? I forget.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fright'ning Lightning! Stormin' Norma Stampedes!

As most of the world knows, we Californians have suffered a drought of eight or only four years, depending on whether you are trying to sell overbuilt housing tracts here since boards of supervisors have worn (from well-paid overuse) the "Okeydokeys" off their rubber stamps.

Norma and I live in a crazy old farmhouse --given another 35 years or so, we'll have it fixed-- and if we see weather instead of a sky full of nothing, we get excited. So when we heard thunder this afternoon instead of  a deafening paucity of anything meteorological, she dashed out to record it.

After gardening over 30 years and having to hit the ground with ears ringing several times, I felt compelled to warn her not to go too far. She went out two or three hundred feet. Turn up the volume and observe:

By my calculation, according to the video time-count, Norma ran the hundred-yard dash in slightly under four seconds. I was impressed. When she decided to become a photographer and grandmother,  American football lost a champion running back.