jumpingfish
 Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Breeze Blew Thru

A breeze blew thru the leaves just now. It sounded like gentle rain falling on the Oak and Maple trees in the forest where I spent the summers of my youth.

A breeze blew thru the Ash and Oak trees outside my window, and it brought back memories of nights on a sleeping bag in a tent listening to the gently falling rain.

That was a rainy summer.

This has been a dry spring.


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 Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Weighty Things

My head wants to talk of weighty things. Of leaks to the press used as political weapons. Of an imperial president and his party of moral values. Of self-serving manipulation of public fear in the face of a terrorist threat. Of the reemergence at last of the Gilded Age with the captains of industry comfortably back on top after a century long wait.

My head says to write of these, but I find myself staring at the monitor, my fingers motionless on the keyboard. I have run out of outrage. And with no fuel to fire my thoughts, they fall into a shapeless mess of embarrassment and sadness and anger and hatred. Perhaps it is best the we let them be.

So although my head calls for weighty things, I conjure up instead thoughts about rain or images of wildflowers. I think instead of the wood ducks I saw on the lake this afternoon on a log on the south shore of the river. I think of the turtles sunning themselves even though the skies were turning black. I think of the wind blowing around the bend in the river as I pulled at the oars and drove the boat upstream.

And all those weighty things just sit there in a heap on the floor.


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 Sunday, April 23, 2006

What She Said on the Bus

It had been a long day. We had run a 5K race in the morning. We had gone rowing on the lake. And in the mid-afternoon, we had taken a bus downtown to go to a one-year-old birthday party.

As we returned home seated in the back of the bus, the sun was setting behind the hills in the west. Trudy looked over at me. She had some kind of smile on her face.

What!? I asked.

Her eyes sparkled. She said, I like you.

I was silent for a moment and then said, Even though I'm a poodie-doo?

But you're my poodie-doo! she said without missing a beat.

Hah! I erupted.

Three boys sitting in the middle of the bus turned around and saw me holding my hand over my mouth in a lame effort to conceal my guilt. But then they saw me and evidently decided that there was nothing to see. They returned to what they were doing.

Nothing to see? They had no idea what she just said to me!

But they were young, and they have plenty of time to learn. She said she likes me. There was much to see, if only they knew what to look for.


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 Saturday, April 22, 2006

Who Is This?

The last song on his Cake CD finished playing.

Ok, Dad, he said from the other room. And he said something else, but I didn't pay any attention.

Dad, he said, poking his head into the doorway.

What?

Time for you to select some music.

So I did — not a CD but black vinyl from a two-album set with an as-good-as-new, almost pure white cover that opened like a book. I lowered the needle and sat down in the rocking chair next to the couch where he was doing his homework.

As the first song on side one played, he stopped doing his math and looked up, listening to the words, chuckling sometimes. As the second song came to an end, he looked over at me.

Who is this? he asked, innocently.

I was silent just for a second. Who is this!? I thought to myself. He's heard it before, and he knows a few of the lines still. But that was years ago, and those words are on the second album. I looked at him.

The Beatles, I said.

Oh, he said with a very serious look on his face, in obvious recognition that he knew exactly what I was thinking.


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Fireflies on Earth Day

I sat at last alone outside among the glowing fireflies.

The air was cool. A breeze blew gently thru the leaves. And although I could periodically hear the rush of traffic from the highway to the east and from the highway to the west, if I shut my eyes and turned my face to the dusking sky, I could feel a coolness of the breeze that brought a smile to my face, and I could hear ...

Ringing in my ears. It never went away as the doctor said it would in 1986, so when I shut my eyes I could hear ringing, and the spell was somewhat broken. But then again, there were the fireflies.

In the dim shadowy light of early evening, the fireflies descended. With my eyes opened again, I saw them — dim green points of lights flashing in the Persimmon next to me and in the Oak across the street and everywhere else I turned.

Fireflies. Not a bad Earth Day's end.


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 Friday, April 21, 2006

Single Pink Wavy Line At The Top

There was a small shop on the boulevard where we used to walk when I was young. Outside in the evening, the sidewalks there were lit with glowing neon. Inside the shop, the light was white, and there was a smell in the air that I cannot describe, that I can only barely remember and would love to breathe freely again so to relive my faded memories of the place.

It was a paper shop. Stacks of various shapes and sizes were ordered on the shelves from floor to ceiling. I remember standing intoxicated, my head back in awe trying to take it all in, trying to imagine having even a small stack of paper like that: pale blue lines with a single pink wavy line at the top.

There are several shelves in my garage today where I keep many variously sized paper stacks. There is a shelf behind a chair in the living room where I keep a couple more. And there are two drawers beside me now where I keep yet more.

It was a long time ago and half a world away from here, and the names and shapes of all those places have radically changed, but I am certain that much of the credit for these modest piles of mine goes to the man in that small shop off that neon-lit boulevard. I am certain my stacks are but efforts to relive the intoxication, to recall the smell, to remember all those pale blue lines with the single pink wavy line at the top.


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 Thursday, April 20, 2006

Come Visit My Yard, You Say

Come visit my yard in the woods, you say, and see the springtime in bloom.

Redbuds in glowing pink with many more to come. Spring Beauty on the forest floor and fernlike mounds of now-faded Dutchman's Britches. Clusters of red and white Trillium and tall-standing Jack In The Pulpit.

Spreading blue and white Lupines and Penstemens coming back in twos and threes. Yellow Violets and purple Phlox. White Anemones and butter yellow Celandine Poppy.

Purple Violets and bicolor white and purple Violets. A flowering Peach and antique Primroses (or here or here) rescued from a loving place far away. And Bleeding Hearts with slender strings of red and white.

Come visit my yard in the woods, you say, and see the springtime in bloom.


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 Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Invitation

Scottie, you did a heck of a job! Come join me on the porch in a rocking chair some day.

1.20.09


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 Monday, April 17, 2006

The Sneaky Mexican Wire Grass Caper

I got a gallon of water. Trudy grabbed a bag full of Mexican Wiregrass given to us yesterday by a couple Wire Grass farming friends. And we grabbed a hand shovel and a claw for scraping dry dirt.

We took those things and walked down the street, certainly looking out of place (suspicious, Trudy supposed) to anyone watching. But who was watching? Air conditioners buzzed and indoor television screens lulled the neighborhood, tired from a day's work and frustrated from the commute home. So although we certainly looked out of place to anyone watching, in fact there wasn't a soul present to see us pass.

Down the street and around the corner. Along an empty lot bordered with blooming Coreopsis and Mexican Hat and Purple Nightshade and Queen Anne's Lace. Past the soccer fields. Thru the bank parking lot. In front of the trailer park along the highway. Past a coop of chickens on the other side of a corrugated tin fence. Up the hill along the feeder road. And across the pavement to a patch of parched dry dirt next to a small grove of native trees and shrubs the state planted a couple years ago.

That's where we went with our water and Mexican Wiregrass.

This feels sneaky, Trudy said as we planted the grass one wispy clump at a time.

The traffic on the highway roared out of sight above us. Periodically, cars raced down the feeder road in the direction from which we had come. We dug and poured and planted. We pushed the soil down onto the hardy roots. We brushed dead grass and weeds around them to buffer the heat of the next few days.

We have great hopes for them.


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 Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thunder Just Now

I thought I heard thunder just now — a distant rumble outside the window. I thought I heard it, and I thought how nice that would be: thunder and rain and water.

The creeks are still dry, and it's the middle of April. The heat of summer is just around the corner, and the limestone bed of Barton Creek lies shimmering white is the head of midday.

So I thought I heard thunder just now, and I almost could smell the rain just to think of it. But the sky was clear all day, and the radar online shows not a hint of anything.

I guess I was wrong.


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 Friday, April 14, 2006

The Lights of the City

The sun has set, and the lights of the city have come on.

Tom Waits sings on the radio as warm air streams in thru the windows of the car, swirling my hair into a tousled rage. I accelerate from the on-ramp into the swift southward flow of traffic.

The highway crosses the river. White lights on a boat dock on the southern shore shimmer in the river, rippled by the breeze. Headlights shine behind me, taillights in front. I turn my head to look back at the downtown I am leaving behind.

I turn and see the red and blue lights of the skyline and the glowing green postmodern tower climbing above it all. I see lines of white lights. And I imagine the glowing street lights on the bridges just around the bend further downstream. And people sitting on the benches. And straggling joggers on the trail. And herons and swans sleeping in the blackness, under the cypress trees or among the reeds and water iris.

I see and imagine this in a brief turn of my head, and as my eyes come back to the lane in front of me, out of the corner of my eye I catch the great orange moon climbing into the eastern sky, climbing out from behind the city, as wide as the buildings, climbing thru glowing wisps of orange-lit cloud.

The sun has set, and the lights of the city have come on.


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 Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not So Sure I Was Right

It was easy to relax, lying back in the dentist's chair with hip music playing and a massage therapist working my forearms. There was also the nitrous oxide. As I breathed deeply thru my nose, my eyes began to close and each sound in the room stood out. I heard each word of each song. I heard the bantering dental hygienists making small talk with patients.

There I was, relaxed and drugged, eyes shut and ears open, my brain loosened itself, the world flowed by. Suddenly everything around me seemed to make so much more sense. I saw the world as it really was.

The dentist spoke of her boyfriend in Dallas. He had a leaky roof, she said with a tone of irritation. He had to deal with the roof and must have been distracted. She explained this to the assistant as I sat there with my eyes closed contemplating the deeper truths of her story.

I mumbled.

I didn't see what her reaction was. She might have been surprised, because I don't think she was talking to me, but there I was in this enlightened state, so it seemed appropriate to share.

Tell him to move to Austin, I said with some effort, since my speech was slow in coming and my cheek and tongue were numb.

Well that's one solution, she said.

At the time, it seemed to me that I hit the nail on the head, got to the heart of the matter, saw past the leaky roof to the fundamental issue underneath. And although it had seemed appropriate to share, the tone of her response didn't sound particularly impressed by the insight.

Upon reflection, I'm not so sure I was right.


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 Monday, April 10, 2006

Not New To This

They sit along the Silk Road as they have for centuries, master deal-makers, weavers of alliance and intrigue. True, the road holds little of its old significance, and their prominence is not today what it was when the treasure-laden caravans came thru, but driving a hard bargain is still in their veins.

They know how to play the game well, and with their adversaries distracted, they seem to have decided that their day has come.

From this point of view, it's not exactly obvious that they will back off when Mission Accomplished man struts back and forth whispering threats of bunker busting and preemptive attacks. Or maybe they will. Or maybe they are smart enough to play the loud man's game just long enough and then go home and count their winnings. Or maybe they are just plain crazy.

In any event, it would serve us well to remember that they are not exactly new to this.


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 Sunday, April 9, 2006

She Didn't Know

As I came to the corner where one hallway intersected another, a woman walked by in a huff, and we almost ran into each other. (This is a common problem at this particular place in the building.) I let her pass.

She barely slowed down to say hello, and when she reached her office, she walked in, muttering to herself. I thought she was speaking to me, so I stopped at the door. When she turned, she had an agitated look on her face.

What's going on? I asked.

She usually works from home, and I was just trying to be friendly. The agitated look turned to a scowl.

I didn't know! she said.

Didn't know what?

She pointed down the hall and muttered someone's name. A guy in the last office on the right was packing up his stuff and taking the boxes out to his car.

I didn't know there were layoffs today.

Welcome to my profession.


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 Friday, April 7, 2006

1.20.09

Who celebrated victory before the job was done? He did.
Who decreed international treaties obsolete and void? He did.
Who thumbed his nose at his allies who saw things differently? He did.
Whose generals looked the other way as dogs bit and prisoners died? His did.
Whose planes secretly flew to dark corners of the world where more than dogs awaited? His did.
Who lost the hearts and minds of the Middle East? He did.
Who lied to the world with pride? He did.
Who bankrupted the nation? He did.
Who spat on the social contract and ground it into the dirt? He did.

He did. His did. He did. It was he who used that day in September to turn the nation against itself and everything it stood for. It was by his actions that the nation turned.

But what has turned once, can turn again, even though it take two generations to do.

1.20.09.

Waiting for the day.


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 Monday, April 3, 2006

Old Men

They had a story on the radio today, a story about the web and about people who carve their own spaces in it, about social networks.

The muscles in my hand are sore from this keyboard, or at least that's what my family thinks. My wife tells me to come to bed earlier. My son comes in and turns out the light — It's time, Dad, he says, flipping the switch on the wall and leaving the study in darkness. My mother, come down from the north to visit, tells me to go to bed from the futon where she sleeps.

They had a story about people who carve out their own spaces on the web. And I paid attention.

Social networks and MySpace. Hipsters. Teenagers. Kool kids. One of them said something like, "Old men started sending me messages, like 30 year old guys."

Old men. Sheesh. Pass me down my walking cane.


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