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Monday, August 22, 2016

Prose And Poultry

When I was little my world was full of walnuts and chickens. One of my jobs as a five-year-old was dragging a gunny sack under a tree to collect fallen walnuts. Once I got a couple dozen in the sack I'd swing it round in front of me and kick it with every step, which made a satisfying crunch that attracted chickens. Chickens would follow me around and say, "buck, buck, buck."

I was sure the chickens thought my name was Buck and were trying to get my attention. But, by and by,  because they seemed to call each other Buck and mutter "buck" about everything, I considered other possibilities. Years later I tried stiffening my lips in approximation of a beak and found it impossible to pronounce the letter F. Came out B. Mystery solved. I learned something of the general discontent of chickens.

But this is not intended to become an autobiography. Typical of boys my age I have an aversion to the finality of the form. After one experiences a few blows in life, one feels a bit  impermanent and shies away from writing it up. This is instead a personal essay which, although containing some historical exposition, is another sort of thing.  I  will restrict my comments to barnyard animals.

Childhood observation was recalled to me as I sat in the back porch with one of my grandsons. We heard roosters crowing to the west, to the south, then more distantly to the east. Once those in all directions knew of each other, they crowed back and forth incessantly.

Grandson asked what they were saying. I said, "Traditionally, 'cock-a-doodle-do.'"

He didn't think so. I listened. He was right, cock-a-doodle-do has five syllables and these roosters were crowing only four. The rise in pitch toward the end was right, but was revealed now as interrogative. A question.

"A riddle?" He asked .

A riddle with no answer, or an answer so obvious as to need no articulation besides silence, followed by repetition --an enigma! We listened carefully, trying to fit lyrics to their four notes. Finally we heard it together: Where's-the-bathRRROOOM? Where's the bathRRROOOM?

We got the answer simultaneously too: for a chicken, anywhere.

I post this scholarly personal essay in hopes that others will explore the language of chickens and contribute to a lexicon --an addition to the Rosetta Stone that includes poultry. Remember to consult children in this endeavor, especially if you aren't a child yourself.  Children remind us we are on this planet to learn, to imagine and to have a little fun every day.

Monday, August 15, 2016


She had taken a picture of the moon. I remained, admiring the night,  conducting a nicotinic meditation in the great outdoors, then stowed my pipe in the pumphouse and headed for the back porch door.
As I reached for the doorknob, I felt a familiar feathery touch on my shoulder. I stopped, turned toward the cool white light and remembered my manners.

"Boa noite Lua."

"Geo., you may address me in your current language." Then she appeared upon the planet that is also a portal to her world.
"Excuse me, Selene then?"

"Lovely, but dated. How can I feel anything but old when named by ancient Greeks?"

"Prosperina? Hecate? Diana? Juno?"

"No! I share no responsibilities with pseudonyms now more often used to name racehorses and  fishing boats!"

"Carmen Saeculare?"

"Do I look like I have horns?"

"No, you are as beautiful tonight as you were when you made your covenant  with Gaia to share an orbit around the sun a billion and a half years ago. What is upsetting you?"

"Well, it's just a few things. No one wants to live on moons because other planet-dwellers call them lunatics instead of Lunarians..."

"What about Selenites? That's a pretty name."

"A name your H. G. Wells imprinted upon literature as ill-mannered insectoids!" 

"What do you prefer?"

"I like Lycanthra. Lycanthropes in literature had bubbly personalities."

"Why would you think that?"

"I've monitored your werewolf movies and noticed, under my full moon, they all  froth at the mouth!"

"I shall not call you Lycanthra."

"But how do you account for all the unpleasant things Earth People insist upon  doing when there are so many pleasant things to do?"

I confess I can't, and hope you can help correct the problem...and wish you good night Lua. I love you."

"I love you too, Geo."

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Enigma of Creation

There are as many creation stories as there are indigenous cultures, and as many interpretations as there are --have been and will be-- minds to interpret them. They do, however, have certain points in common.
Creation myths begin with a creator, a being of pure potential, perfected in darkness, who decides to bring light --much like the figure in the geodoodle above. In the doodle, light is represented as stars spreading away from each other. A reference to the Doppler Effect tells us the red stars are moving away and the blue ones are coming toward us. I included yellow stars because I think they are pretty. We orbit a yellow star. All of them emit light.

Light is energy propagated at a visible wavelength.  Its definition is inseparable  from its velocity. That is, nothing can equal the speed of light without being light --so it also serves as a universal constant, particularly in this equation: E= mc2When we are young algebra students, it is almost irresistible, we divide both sides of the equation by c2 and discover ourselves to be E, kinetic energy, and m, relativistic mass. In short, we are the square root of light.

Creation myths generally describe building archetypal humans out of water and earth --after adjustments are made by the creator to the velocity of light resulting in seas and minerals. Scientific evidence suggests we crawled from the water in search of new evolutionary opportunities. Whether scientific, scriptural or metaphorical, creation stories abound. I rather like to include a bit of supernature, which is why this is my favorite creation myth: 

"Frosty the Snowman, was a jolly happy soul,
With a corn cob pipe and a button nose, and two eyes made of coal.

Frosty the Snowman, is a fairytale, they say.
He was made of snow, but the children know he came to life one day.

There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found,
For when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around!" 

My appreciation to Doppler, Einstein and the songwriting team of Nelson and Rollins. And to all from this hot California summer: Remember the winter sometimes and try to dance around a little. I do!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Recapitating A Goose

Our education system is lacking in some key areas. This essay will address only one such shortcoming --mainly because another educational shortcoming is we don't know what the rest of them are-- but I trust it will suffice to illustrate the problem.  I trust also it will demonstrate something positive about the enigma of ignorance by drawing upon my own vast reserve of it.

Among the most important questions an American can ask is, "What should I do when my goose's head falls off?" 

The first step toward resolution is, don't panic. Think back on lessons in basic ornithology. Unlike most birds, geese are not hatched from eggs, nor do they have articulated skeletons. They begin life as wads of rebar (short for reinforcing bar, used in masonry structures), around which concrete is cast.  One end of the rebar is drawn up and forward to support a neck and, for maybe 20 years, a head.

What with rain, drought, irrigation, worry, etc., heads tend to crack and crumble, then fall off.  Look in the mirror;  watch for the signs.  We're not so different from other animals --like geese.  However, much can be done. First step is to find up any pieces in the dirt that can still suggest a cranial contour --it's what brain surgeons do, I think. 

Second step, again like brain surgery, involves mixing stucco patch with Elmer's Glue. I do this on a palette with a knife because there's more chopping than stirring. Get everything good and stuck together, have a beer, then go back with the palette of gritty putty and build a beak.
Let the beak dry, smooth it with sandpaper, then remember when to stop --some folks sand things down to a fraction of their original size, a strange and regrettable enthusiasm. Then wait, go live happily and thoughtlessly a few days until everything dries.  Afterwards, decide whether you want to seal the patch with goose details --and no, you won't capture the mischief in their beautiful eyes, as I had to admit to myself-- or reintegrate the repairs with color of concrete. I got into the pumphouse and found a 30-year-old can of gray primer.
Did the trick.