Monday, October 30, 2006

A Canto or Two

We last read this story quite a while ago. Maybe years it's been, but I don't know how long for sure.

Ben knows it well, because I read it to him when he was young, one rhyming canto at a time until he would fall asleep. I think the two of us recall those nights in Houston with a smile, and the story mingles with our memories of those years.

Tonite I pulled it from the shelf and asked, Shall we read a canto, now? Ben looked up, blinking, from his Chemistry text. Trudy silently tried to flee. And then he announced that his homework was done and closed his book.

So I read from the story again. A canto about forlorn prisoners chained in a dungeon deep. And another of an elven maiden's rescue song. And as the black towers crumbled and the dark spirits fled, as Luthien swooned into the arms of Beren, I looked up at Ben.

He had fallen asleep.

9:37:21 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Sunday, October 29, 2006

In Transit

I watched as they passed over Connecticut and the mountains and lakes of New York. I watched as they flew over the Appalachians, with Lake Erie far to the north and perhaps the lights of Akron and Cleveland shining in the night. I watched as Columbus passed under them and then Dayton off the right wing.

And now, I imagine their descent has begun: Tray tables and seats in their upright positions. And now they turn to the west, north of Fairfield, south of Hamilton, flying over the hills. And now their final approach.

And I wonder if she's been sitting by the window.

Delta flight 455
Boston to Cincinnati

7:18:23 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

Plausible Deniability Denied

Don't tell me you don't remember. Don't tell me you didn't know. For if you don't or if you didn't, then you need to find a different line of work.

Got any better excuses?

I'll see you on November 7th.

1:03:41 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Friday, October 27, 2006


When we got home from our walk, dusk was settling in. I turned on a light in the office and sat down to read my email. The rest of the house was dark. He went into the dining room. I could hear his dog tags jingling in the other room.

After a few minutes, he poked his head around the doorway. I was focused on some email message or a blog entry or something. He barked.

No, I said, half sternly, half groaning. He barked again.

I looked at him. He stared back and barked a half-woof-bark. I sat there for a second and then said, Ok.

I went into the kitchen. He watched me as I went to the refrigerator to get some leftovers. Then he walked to his dog food bowl and started to eat. He would take one bite and then look at me to make sure I was still fixing my meal. Then he would take another bite, wagging his tail each time we made eye contact.

He doesn't like to eat alone.

9:42:15 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Thursday, October 19, 2006

What I Did In The Woods

What did I do when I got to the woods? I must have done something useful. What was it? With lumber and nails and tools all around, certainly I did something.

A cheese sandwich.

Yes, that's it. My contribution for that first day was to make a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. But that night, the big guns arrived, including my aunt, who would for the next several days keep us fed and thereby keep us on our feet. So it wasn't until they left a week later that I was making sandwiches again.

Instead, I took to the shovel.

How many days of digging was it? How many wheel barrows of sand? The important thing is that it kept me occupied while the big guns worked. And when the digging was done and the drainage pipe laid out, only one thing remained: to cut the too-long downspout with a hacksaw and connect all the pieces.

Cut the downspout with a hacksaw.

Hold on. Hold on—I was on top of it. Even I could see the risk of cutting too far and slicing into the 4x4 patio post. So I found a pair of tin snips to do most of the cutting.

I began to cut off the unneeded part of the downspout by starting with the saw and finishing with the snips. The saw made a horrific racket on the aluminum, but held at the right angle it wasn't so bad, and my cut was fairly straight.

I decided to saw a little further.

Then it happened. As I was just getting the hang of it, I heard a frantic hiss and saw a fine white mist spraying out from far side of the downspout. I didn't need to look. I knew what it was. My hacksaw had sliced thru a copper water line like a hot knife thru butter.

And that is what I did when I got to the woods.

Half Mile Lake
Gowen, Michigan

11:59:11 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sassafras Revealed

As we drove down the road that we have driven down so very many times before, the Oak leaves were browning, the Pine needles were thinning, the Maples were turning yellow and orange, the Sumac were bright red, and the Sassafras were glowing golden in the undergrowth.

One particular Sassafras tree stood out. Normally hidden in the green profusion of that woods in summer, its golden leaves now betrayed its hiding place. It was a large tree—larger than a Sassafras has any business being. And it was bent over from years of competition with the surrounding Oaks and Maples and Pines. But all around it, those other trees were dropping their leaves, so the once-concealed Sassafras was prominently visible in its golden autumn glow.

Two days later, winter arrived. The wind blew cold out of the southwest. White caps picked up in the water. Sleet and wet snow fell. When I saw that tree again, the ground was covered white. The Sassafras still held its leaves, but now all was coated in snow.

We don't see much of that kind of thing down where I came from. So I took my camera and snapped a shot, but my hands were tired and my fingers cold, and the image came out blurry. I'll just have to remember that Sassafras tree on my own.

Half Mile Lake
Gowen, Michigan

2:05:24 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Monday, October 16, 2006

Race in the Woods

There's a race in the woods. Out beyond the big White Pine. Out where leaves and needles fall to the forest floor year after year, turning the yellow sand brown. There's a race going on. My grandfather once pointed it out to me: a small Maple sapling and two smaller Beeches growing by its side, the three of them sprinting for the sky.

Back then, the Maple tree was taller, reaching out its branches, spreading out its leaves, blocking the light filtering down from a gap in the canopy above. But years have passed, and fortunes have changed.

Beech leaves stay green longer. You can see them clearly in the woods right now. And a hard season many winters ago took its toll on the Maple tree, giving the Beeches the chance they had been waiting for. The tallest of the two now towers over the Maple, and even the smaller has left the Maple tree behind.

The race is really over, although there are many, many years yet to go.

Half Mile Lake
Gowen, Michigan

11:16:24 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Friday, October 6, 2006


Two people are walking along in a park. The taller of the two is talking about religion. The shorter is wearing a hat and listening.

The first says, There is no god. Our existence is without purpose.

Oh, definitely, the second says. We are adrift in an uncaring void indifferent to all our mortal toil.

They come to a tree.

Exactly! says the first. Nothing we do matters.

The second person starts climbing the tree and agrees, saying, Totally, from where the trunk splits into two large branches.

The first continues, We just..., and then stops and asks, Why are you climbing that tree?

The second is now hidden in the green canopy. Because the future is an adventure! Come on!

The first is confused. But...

And from up in the leaves, the second shouts down, Hey! I found squirrels!

Credit: See the original comic strip, xkcd by Randall Munroe.

8:13:31 AM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Remembering Who We Are

As seen on The Agonist, comments to the United States Information Agency Alumni Association On October 4, 2006 in Washington, DC by Chas W. Freeman, Jr. Ambassador (USFS, Ret.):

extremists cannot destroy us and what we have stood for, but we can surely forfeit our moral convictions and so discredit our values that we destroy ourselves. We have lost international support not because foreigners hate our values but because they believe we are repudiating them and behaving contrary to them. To prevail, we must remember who we are and what we stand for...

...when we do restore ourselves to mental balance, we will, I fear, find that decades are required—it will take decades—to rebuild the appeal and influence our post-9/11 psychoses took a mere five years to destroy.

Read the whole thing. It's not your typical weblog sound-byte, but it's well worth it. There are too many great comments to quote them all. Hat's off to Sean-Paul for finding it.

10:45:57 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

I Took the Orange Broom In Hand

I stepped onto the patio and took the orange broom in hand. I walked around the corner.

The barking and snarling stopped. Dogs for miles around cocked their ears to hear what came next. The leaves hung limply in the trees. You could have heard a pin drop.

He knew I was coming.

Go inside, I said.

His head hung low, his back end almost dragging, his tail between his legs, he slunk towards the sliding door, giving me wide berth, watching me closely as he went.

It took me ten minutes to find him. He wasn't on our bed. He wasn't on the couch. He wasn't in Ben's room. He wasn't in his crate. I gave up looking and returned to the computer, and there he was, hiding under my desk. As if to say, See, this is where I come for comfort. See, this is what a good dog does.

And he was very quiet for the rest of the day.

The title is a vague reference to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.

I took the orange broom in hand.
Longtime the barking dog I sought,
And there stood he by the walnut tree.
He knew that he'd been caught.

9:46:27 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

He Loves His Books

Sean-Paul has got his nose in the books:

[Agonist/Turkey and the Turkistanis] God, I love books, everything about them. Especially because they don't talk back. They don't cast derisive aspersions, expressly designed to prevent thought, back at me like humans do.

8:57:22 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []  

 Monday, October 2, 2006

A Certain Environmentalist

He was talking about growth and development and municipal bonds. About building baseball fields and hike-and-bike trails. He was talking about sensible stuff that can be difficult to discuss when you live on top of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. I had heard him talk before, and he is always calm and polite and civil. Tonite was no exception.

But he was also talking about the environmentalists and how they are standing in the way. As we talked, I began to feel as if I was hiding something by not revealing my prejudices.

I have a confession, I said, leaning towards him and lowering my voice. I'm kind of an environmentalist.

Oh so am I. So am I, he said with a sincere smile on his face. I was a boy scout.

He had a good point. I've never thought of it that way. Maybe Troop 28 is where I got it from. Or maybe not—a certain felled White Pine and a certain Beech Tree and a certain Tamarack in the woods of my youth come to mind. And a certain grove of Hemlocks. And a certain lake with the sunlight dancing on the waves.

10:33:25 PM   permalink: []   feedback: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.   comments: []