Tuesday, June 27, 2006


When the long day's work is done, the cousins go down to the dock. They sit together at the bottom of the hill and whisper and talk and laugh. I can almost hear them.

I see in my mind, two young boys, one with blonde hair, one with brown. The blonde one stands on a rock brandishing his wooden sword. The brown haired boy watches the other's every move. But in this picture there is no lake and there is no dock. This is the wrong place and time. These are not the cousins by the dock, but their fathers long ago.

And now I see in my mind, two toddlers crawling on the floor at Christmas time, one with blonde hair, one with brown. They are climbing on the back of a man who, a generation before, stood upon a rock and waved a wooden sword and taught his cousins about Robin Hood.

Yes, I can almost hear their laughter coming up the hill from their spot on the dock even though I am a thousand miles away. And I can hear it even if my pictures are slightly confused. You see they are cousins, as were their fathers, and this time together will last throughout their years.

I know.

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 Monday, June 26, 2006

Reflections on a Sitting Dog

We sat at the table eating dinner. The dog joined us as he always does, preferring to be in the room when we are there and often waiting to eat his kibble until we sit down to join him. But on this night, he didn't eat his food or find his comfortable spot under the table against Ben's feet. On this night he sat at the edge of the rug with his back to us gazing over his shoulder looking at the wall.

He just sat there. Motionless. Staring.

No, that wasn't it. He wasn't starting at the wall. He was staring at the mirror that was sitting on the floor leaning against the wall. Expressionless. Motionless. He sat there gazing over his shoulder at the expressionless, motionless image of a little black and tan dog that looked just like him.

What was going on in that head? There was something clicking to keep him still for so long. What neurons were firing to what effect?

How long would it take? How much staring? How many generations of little black and tan dogs sitting pensively staring would it take before the next shoe dropped? And what would that next shoe be?

some scribbled notes from ca. nov03

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 Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sunset North and South

Somewhere on a lake in the north I imagine they sat on the hill and watched the sun go down over the water and behind the pines. As these days begin to grow shorter, they would have had to sit down to watch the show a bit earlier than a few days ago.

Or maybe they didn't watch the sunset after all. They have been busy up there in the north, and it might be that they had better things to do.

But whatever they did up there on that hill by that lake in the woods, we sat by the water at the end of our day and watched the margins of the clouds in the west turn from white to gentle pink to a glowing, fire-lit pink to a bluish-lavender and finally to dusty gray. We sat and watched the show over the water and behind the hills, and a gentle breeze blew out of the west and cooled our smiling faces.

So if they didn't watch the sunset up there, they should have, because it was a mighty good one down here.

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 Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Post Holes

He told me about the long days. He told me about taking the roof off. About the sheetrock stripped from the walls and ceiling. And the dumpster-loads of other debris. He told me about the fireplace that isn't there, anymore. About where the new bathroom will go. And the new kitchen.

You know, I said, I've been searching for something like this since you were a little wee croonin' doo.

Yes, he said. I remember you looking for dude ranches.

I was looking for the kind of place where you might end up digging post holes.

We were quiet for a moment.

So, what else did you do today? I asked.

We dug post holes.

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 Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I Cannot Get Enough of You

I cannot get enough of you. The look in your eyes in the morning. The feel of your hand on mine. The sound of your voice. Your whisper in my ear.

I cannot get enough of you. Camping in the rain. Walking in the sun. Riding the limestone hills, sweat streaming down our foreheads. Lying in the rushing water as children float by in inner tubes.

I cannot get enough of you. Walking the dog in the evening. Feeling the cooler evening breeze. Picking our tomatoes as dusk's grey light fades into night.

I cannot get enough of you.

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 Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Algebra on the Table

The conversation kind of drifted along. At the time, I remember thinking it odd we were talking, but there we were discussing Dallas and South Austin and the library off Riverside Drive and I suppose many other things. To tell you the truth, although it all seemed clear at the time, now it seems like a distant dream.

My legs have been sore from running and rowing, and so I splurged on a 40-minute massage. And we were having this conversation that I can barely recall while I was face down on the table and she was working on my legs. Periodically my sentences would stop, I would let out a contented sigh and then I would continue where I left off.

So there isn't much I remember from that conversation, except this: we talked about algebra. Algebra! I talked about algebra with my massage therapist.

Ok, ok. We didn't really discuss algebra, as in the aesthetics of factoring a polynomial or as in how the geometry of parabolas makes deriving the quadratic equation so pleasant to teach. Truth be told, she did most of the talking, and she was actually complaining.

I just never did understand why, she said. It just never made sense why I had to take algebra.

I know she was (deep down inside) really asking a question, and she wanted an answer. I know she really wanted to understand how her time and hard work was not for naught. And you know, if she were sitting here right now I could go on at length.

But I didn't respond. I couldn't.

You see, my legs have been sore from running and rowing, and she was working my left gastrocnemius and soleus, and it felt so good. As waves of euphoria ran thru my body, I searched for the words, I tried hard to formulate an explanation, but nothing came out. And so after a few moments of silent struggle I gave up and just said nothing.

It must have disappointed her greatly.

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 Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Seven White Swans

The water was smooth — shiny like a mirror. The sun was descending — a half-hour or so above the tree tops. A breeze blew over the water, making tolerable the end of what was a 100+ degree day.

Two kilometers upstream to Redbud Isle. The sun set behind the hills. Turn the shell around and drift for a while in the swift current. Gatorade. Two kilometers back — this time with the flow.

Nearing the bridge, I passed thru a regatta of seven white swans. They know these boats, so they confidently moved out of the way, just barely beyond oars' reach.

Seven white swans swimming — five on my left, two on my right. They looked at me. I looked at them. We didn't say a word. Then I continued my rowing and they continued their swimming. And before long, the day was done.

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 Thursday, June 8, 2006

Watching a Wren

I've been trying to stay away from politics.

It's not that I don't have anything to say, but my thoughts are gut wrenching, and they don't take me anywhere. They just amount to ranting and whining, because I don't have any suggestions on how to fix these things that seem so broken.

Broken? What's broken? And then it starts. But you see, that's just what I'm trying to avoid.

I watched a Wren roll in the dust yesterday. It flipped and flopped on the north side of the house in a patch of newly turned dirt. It didn't see me standing there, although it poked its head up to look around every few seconds. So I stood and watched as it flapped its wings and turned upside down, tossing up little clouds of dust now and then, blending in perfectly with the color of the dirt.

A breeze came up from the east and gently pushed the gate open. The Wren stopped for a moment and then resumed. A car drove by, breaking the silence. The Wren stopped for a moment and then resumed. A woman walked by in the street, walking her dog after a day at work. Again the Wren looked up, and again it returned to what it was doing.

This went on for quite a while. I stood by the gate watching, wondering if our neighbors could see me. But I got impatient. My legs were restless, and the breeze had gone. It was hot, and there seemed to be no end to the Wren's plans to dig himself a deeper hole. So I slowly walked toward the pile of dirt.

Of course, the Wren saw me. It hopped first to a Mesquite log nearby and then to the rain barrel. It briefly looked back and then flew to the roof and then into the branches of the Live Oak tree. And then it was gone.

And that's a better story then whining about Dick Cheney's America.

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 Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Working on Floor Joists

Burt explained that the attic floor joists weren't quite what one might have expected them to be. They were only 2x4s, and sometimes they didn't even meet the walls. In places, one would butt against another with only a modicum of wood and nails holding them together.

It's amazing nobody has ever fallen thru, he said.

He talked about how he gave the boys a few pointers about sheer forces and doing joists the right way and gave them instructions to go up there and fix them.

With saws and screwdrivers and hammers and nails and screws, I imagine he sent them up the steps, leaving it to them to cut the lumber and make the pieces fit. Leaving it to them, but I'm sure not leaving them alone. Leaving it to them to wrestle with the details. And maybe offering a few comments periodically.

Ben was up there driving screws and having a heck of a time. The electric screwdriver kept popping off of the screws. Burt said you could see the frustration in his face. I could imagine it easily from his description. I can see the scowl — the turned down eyebrows and puffy lips, the non-interest in conversation.

You want to know why it's doing that? Burt said he asked Ben. And he showed him how to hold the screwdriver so that the problem went away.

I never learned those lessons when we were young. Burt did. He has more than a little of our grandfather in him. And now he is the teacher.

I think I'll jot down a few home improvement tasks for when Ben returns from this vacation!

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 Monday, June 5, 2006

His Summer Vacation

Last weekend we sent the teenager up north for hard labor with my cousin and his boys — put him on a plane with a map of the Minneapolis airport where he had to catch another plane and told him to call when he got to Michigan. He didn't call[*]. So now he's at a little cottage in the woods stripping interior walls down to the 2x4s and shoring up floor joists.

They were pretty tired when we stopped tonite, my cousin said on the phone tonite. We worked until 8pm.

He paused for a moment.

Then I asked them if they wanted me to go into town tomorrow morning for groceries or if they wanted to go by themselves tonite. All of the sudden they pepped up. They're in town, now.

Tomorrow I hear they'll be digging a new hole for the outhouse.

[*] until the next day — something my mother would understand

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 Friday, June 2, 2006

What Does It Mean?

What does it mean that I was shoveling sand in that dream I just had? Shoveling sand to cover the dirt washed away from the roots of some pine trees in a place where I spent the summers of my youth.

And what does it mean that I sat down at the wrong table in that dream? Sat down and got a cup of coffee and the menu but then found Trudy and Ben sitting in a different room, listening to a band that was playing in the corner.

And what does it mean that I wake up like this before daylight these last two days? Heart racing, a knot in my stomach, sleep out of the question.

And where will I be one year from now?

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