Friday, May 03, 2013

Lake Arcola 2013

I happened by on the day that it peaked (Monday). I think there was really just that one day that the water ran much; mostly it soaked in. We still have some snow in the bush.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Don't try to save me; I'll just argue.

I am wandering in my studio apartment--studio: the name breathes beauty, creativity, and airy space--picking up clutter.  It is everywhere, teetering on every horizontal surface, of which this space has too many.  One of them is the glossy upper surface of my closed laptop, and the tiny green light of its charger stabs at me: "Go, the way is clear"; and my resistance rises to meet the invitation.  I toy with the "why" of it, but it is illogical.  Logic's supercilious voice says "you will get paid, and you will feel better," but I am feeling better putting things away--a roll of tape and a tea towel and one dish out of many in the rack and then--yes, I will practice the hymns for Remembrance Day.  I approach the chair at the piano, and from its seat I put away some guitar books, and displace the songwriting binder to a new perch, which I first clear by tossing some empty electronica boxes in the direction of their kin.

The amp bangs to life, and the piano flickers through its boot cycle while my fingers hover on the smooth surface of the keys--no clutter here, just a bit of grime.  Another thing to take care of, before I share these keys on Sunday.  There is an old upright piano in the theatre, but I don't trust it.  I don't know if they even attempt to tune it.  Each year for November 11th, I haul my own keys there and perch the folding stand on the sloping floor in the side aisle, adjusting one leg longer than the other, getting the keys approximately level and ignoring the tilt of my own bottom on the tilted chair, the compensatory distortion of my spine.  I wonder, if I opened up the old piano and sank my fingers into those yielding slats of ivory, would my braced nerves receive the expected jolt of dissonance?  Or would my breath flow out in a wash of astonishing harmonious pleasure?

The home screen appears, and I sink my fingers into the familiar resistance of the weighted keys, but the sound is faint.  The master slider is way down, and as I bring it back up, my right hand still holding a chord, the notes well up like the swell of an obedient choir.  I repeat the opening chord, move to the second, and the faint ache in my chest wells, floods, carries me.  "Let there be peace on earth."  There are more words, even that contentious phrase about "brothers," but I am in the music.  How many repeats?  It doesn't matter; I'll pencil a note in that day; for now I take them all, and then some, riding the swells of these sweet progressions again and again, each time feeling them anew.
Here comes my mind again, narrating, analysing: music turns my aches into sweetness, takes me back, no, lets the adult clutter fall away so that my okay-ness can surface, sail, and soar.  And my okay-ness smiles at my busy mind and leaves it behind.

But there is that buzz in the amp . . . just the one note? The low F?  No, it's there in that delightful accidental in the mid-range, too, turning its pleasant tension into something grating, turning the resolution into sheer relief that the buzz is gone.  The song has to start winning me all over again from that point.  I'm running my hand over the surfaces of the amp, repeating the trigger notes, searching for the spot where the buzz will stop under my hand, but it doesn't stop, and I go back to the song.  My mind is playing with the metaphor: things left untended, irritations growing into burdens that breed and multiply--but I'm tired, and I just want to play.  I tune out the buzz for a while, but the intimacy is ended.  I leave the piano turned on, untouched, while I carry a chair to the desk, flip open the laptop, and write.  I'm not getting paid.  I'm not feeling better.  I still don't know why.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Stipa in My Socks

As requested - the picture. Wish I had one of a coworker in flared leg knit pants similarly adorned - they were gorgeous!

Five Best Things about Stipa in Your Socks

5. Elegant decoration. I could have said "fashion statement," but with Stipa, you state that you wear whatever is beautiful, and inspire others to see beauty anew.
4. Healthy ankles and beyond. Stimulates circulation, exfoliates, draws attention to an often neglected part of the body, and may even stimulate some acupuncture points!
3. Botanical research. Back home, you can verify whether you were walking through stands of Stipa curtiseta, S. comata, or some of both. You could even analyse variability in awn length or sharpness, but you would have to consider possible collection bias.
2. Climate adaptation. If you remove the Stipa seed and drop it in a suitable site somewhat north of where you picked it up, you may be helping our beleaguered prairie vegetation to shift along with climatic zones.

And now, the ultimate good thing about wearing Stipa in your socks:
1. It feels so good when you stop.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to Have a Messy House

1. Live alone and never have company to care how it looks.
2. Get lots of dishes, so you can cover the counter before you run out of anything.
3. Put off decisions about where stuff goes.
4. Work two or more jobs, and have some volunteer roles as well. Bring stuff home.
5. Have lots of creative ideas, so you can always start a new project rather than finishing an old one.
6. Move often. This will keep a lot of your stuff in boxes, get those boxes out on a truck periodically so you can clean once per residence, and keep you optimistic about a fresh start.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


That slight smile that rests so easy, always there, from the corners of your lips to the depths of your eyes, always - and yet when you turn it my way, it seems only for me - mercy! Do you have an uncle?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Bare Hills

Last year in a graduate course in education, I searched for childhood memories of significant moments in nature. Trouble was, most of my memories were in natural settings - significant moments in cities or indoors would be the exceptions! I found myself writing instead about the places we frequented, our ways of being there, our rituals.
There was one special moment that became a treasured ritual. We waited for it in late winter, watching from the school bus for the first glimpse of a dark patch amid the snow on the crest of a steep ridge that we called the South Slopes. Then off we would go, down through the meadow and up, up, up the ridge, toiling through snow that rolled unhelpfully under every step.
Oh, the joy of that last step from the shifting snow to the bare, solid earth! We stood on it, jumped on it, danced on it. We shouted and laughed. We lingered, stilled again by its immense stillness.
When would that have been? Early March?
Today I walked again in sloppy felt-lined snow boots, down by the meadow and up the ridge. I toiled a little, but the snow was not deep. I reached the summit, took a picture of the lifting fog, and then, through my viewfinder, saw my feet on the bare ground.
Trouble is, this winter, the bare ground is commonplace. I bet I could have stood on a bare patch on that ridge every week. The novelty would be to see it blanketed in white.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten Things You Can Do for the Environment

It's the time of year for top-ten lists.  Here's mine:

  1. Grow a garden.  Yes, you.  This has finally started to turn up on a few lists, long overdue, but it's usually way too far down the list.  Don't have a bit of land?  (Are you sure?  Think small, even a planter or a window box.)  Help a friend.  Get a community garden plot, and again, maybe go together with a friend on this.  The most important tip for a beginning gardener: start small.  It might seem insignificant, but you will be surprised at what you can produce.  And transportation of fresh produce is a big part of our ecological footprint, so a successful small beginning at gardening may have just as much impact as any other green project you could do. 
  2. Take up hunting or fishing.  Yes, you.  Yes, kill something.  Do it close to home, and you will have to learn about the natural habitats of your own area, where they are, what sustains them, and what threatens them.  They need you.
  3. Eat what you kill.
  4. Eat smaller portions of meat: a piece about the size of your palm and the thickness of your pinkie finger is plenty, even with all that vigorous gardening and hunting you will be doing.
  5. If your hunting and fishing doesn't fill your reduced meat needs, look for domestic meats that are grown locally in harmony with the natural habitats you learned about in #2.  In my area, that means range-fed beef, which uses self-guided cow-power to harvest and fertilize natural grassland instead of plowing it up and using fossil fuels to cultivate and fertilize grain crops.
  6. If, after all this new recharge time you are spending in your garden, on the trail of a deer, or on the water with your fishing rod, you still feel the need for a holiday from your life, take it close to home.  Check out nearby parks, festivals, galleries - try your local tourism agency if you need ideas.  Try something different: a bike tour, or paddling lessons; a retreat to learn about the enneagram; a music camp where you can learn to play an instrument.
  7. Buy less, but when you do buy, spend more.  Buy quality, to last a lifetime.  Help the economy shrink back so it fits within the biosphere instead of mining the Earth.
  8. When giving gifts, show your caring through the time and thought you put in, instead of the dollars.  In my family, for the last couple of years, CHRISTMAS stands for Consumeable (or Cookies), Homemade, Recycled (if you're not using it much but someone else would, why not?)... and I have been trying to extend the acronym to include Indirect (a gift to charity), and then the rest of the letters make an excuse for buying something Specific to that person and Terrifically Magically Awesomely Spectacular... such as the lightweight plastic trombone we found for my Mom to help her continue marching in parades well into her 70s.
  9. Don't have time for all this?  Do it anyway, and with the money you save, quit working.  Give up that second income, or the overtime.  Change jobs if you need to.  Take back your life.
  10. Tell your local political representatives what you are doing, and why.  Destroy their argument that we can't make changes because the public won't change.  Change, and show them.