Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pencils and Erasers

The draftsmen had these newfangled (Pentel) pencils when I was a draftsman's aide many years ago—no more sharpening. Those little, precise pencils that pushed out a bit more lead at the click of a button captivated me in an instant. I bought three (.5mm, .7mm, .9mm), and I haven't sharpened a pencil since.

Although I long ago gave up on .9mm, I still have that yellow Pentel .7mm in my backpack. And a .5mm is my workhorse—I have many. I can't think without them.

So it saddens me to think that my son doesn't share my pencil aesthetic. I caught him doing his math with a dull wooden pencil this evening, and I recoiled in horror. But then ... you should have seen the other end of that pencil. He doesn't share my (Staedler) eraser aesthetic, either.

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 Monday, August 27, 2007

Tomorrow Will Be Enough

Where are the butterflies fluttering in the summer sun? And where are the bumblebees buzzing in the garden? And where are the earthworms that were plentiful once when I was young? And why have the singing birds gone, leaving only hoarsely croaking grackles cackling from the tree tops? And why the barren seas and decapitated mountains?

Oh, why do I peer into the darkness of today? Tomorrow Trudy comes home. And that tomorrow will be enough.[*]

[*] A twist on Shelley's Fragment: Is Not To-Day Enough

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 Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Spiders' Webs

Spiders moved in while I was gone. Long lines stretch between the eaves of the house and the top branches of a Nandina by the door. And between the leaves of the Lacey Oak and those of the Mexican Bush Sage in the front yard. And I saw another one in the middle of a garden bed, shining in the noonday sun.

Spiders, with their woven webs set up in the places where I usually walk. Sitting still in the middle, waiting for some unfortunate to fly by.

It was daytime when I saw them, and the sun beat relentlessly down upon us. But now it is night. The sun is gone, and the air is cooler, and I bet there are more unfortunates flying around out there.

Good spots those spiders chose while I was gone. I've lost my claim to them. I'll have to tread carefully for a while.

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 Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Different View of It

You know, when I tell you these things I realize that you might not care. Indeed, I suspect you sometimes wonder why I bother, how what I say could possibly seem so important that it needs to be shared.

But these things aren't necessarily for you. And they're not necessarily for me.

I think, when I write these things, what it would be like to have similarly written scraps from William or from Emerson before him or from Robert Louis, or from the fleet captains down the other branch of my family tree. I think how cool it would be to listen to little thoughts they had, thoughts that wouldn't have seemed important at the time and which people might have thought silly at the telling. And I think about how not silly they would have become with the years.

And so, when I tell you these things and you think to yourself what a waste of time they are, I cannot disagree with you now. But I like to think that perhaps those who come after might have a different view of it.

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 Friday, August 17, 2007

A Summer When It Rained

I remember a summer when it rained like this somewhere else a long time ago. Interminable it must have been for our parents, day after day for weeks on end in the middle of our vacations, but we were children then, and kids seem to take all kinds of stuff in stride. For us it was enough to be together on that hill by the lake under the trees.

I remember the sound of drops falling on the sandy ground, leaving little yellow dots behind. And I remember how when a breeze would blow, their tempo would accelerate into a sudden cacophony of drops landing on the ground and on the roof of the camper where we were holed up playing board games.

And I when it rains like this now, on a lucky day I remember the smell of that wet sand and those soaked pine needles knocked from the canopy by that rain during that summer long ago.

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I Needed Her To Say That

We were talking about things. Well, I was talking about things. Ok. I was complaining — a phenomenon not particularly uncommon around here.

It was time to go to bed. Trudy was under the covers reading a book to the light of a small lamp on the table beside the bed. The warm glow of the incandescent bulb lit her face. I was in the bathroom, periodically poking my head out from the doorway. The white glow of florescent bulbs fell onto the floor about me.

I was complaining about razors — I just had to buy another one and face that only-in-America challenge of deciding which ultra-high-tech blades I wanted to go with my sleek super-sleek-plastic handle coated in ultra-cool-looking chrome like stuff, an exercise I'm doomed to repeat many times in my life.

And I was complaining about water filters and the fact that a few months after you buy the things, they've changed the design of the containers to make them look even more ultra-high-tech and the filters have changed accordingly and the old ones are nowhere to be found.

And I was talking about mops with heads that you can't replace. And I was thinking about computers that you can't upgrade. And ...

I stuck my head out from the doorway to say something and Trudy was looking up at me. She smiled.

It must be hard, she said.

I paused for a moment, but I knew what she was about to say. Hard to be me?

She laughed. Yes, it must be so hard. Then she added, It doesn't have to be that way, you know.

She was right. It's true. And I so needed her to say that right then.

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 Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Hill Where I Once Stood

I stood on the hilltop looking out over the water, watching the advancing storm. Foaming, white-crested waves beat against the shore, smashed against the foot of the hill, and carved great gaps into its side. The wind whipped fiercely, blowing the sand in great gusts of gritty brown.

Rain fell from the sky, and the water rushed down the hillside in torrents and washed out onto the beach. Great fissures opened up where it ran downhill. A tree standing near the edge fell, leaving behind an empty hole where once its tangled roots held the hilltop firm.

Another tree fell. And then in a thundering crash silenced only by the howling wind, a great part of the hillside gave way, sliding down to where the waves began to wash it away. And then another tree and another. And then another slice of the hillside.

The storm clouds covered the sun that used to shine down on that place and the blue skies that used to bless it. And the hill where I stood was no longer the same hillside I had once known.

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 Sunday, August 12, 2007

Scylla and Charybdis

I watched a spider yesterday at sundown. Slanting rays of light splintered thru the hanging branches of the trees across the street and over the top of the sage and sedum sitting not so far from me and settled on the little spider spinning her web, strand by strand.

I wouldn't have seen her, she was so small, but that golden light illuminated her and the silken threads she left behind as she raced out from the center of her web to the periphery over and over, out and back.

As I sat there watching her weave her web in the last light of day, I noticed a dragon fly perched not far away on a rock, darting out periodically as some gnatty thing flew by.

What a treacherous place for little flying gnatty things, sailing the waters between those two.

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 Thursday, August 9, 2007

Leaning Tree

I'm looking at the Monterey Oak standing in the sun, rocking in the summer breeze.

And I'm looking at its trunk leaning in the direction of the street and the expanse of clear sky over it.

And I'm thinking about the hole in the sky created by the dying branches of the one Ash tree and the other hole from the branches we cut from the other Ash.

And I see new growth shooting up from the tips of the Monterey Oak at the end of a branch that extends back this way and up towards those two holes in the sky.

And I'm hoping that that branch will reach out and bolt into the blue and stop the tree from leaning.

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 Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Three good fuel cells.
Three good auxiliary power units.
Three good main engines.
Standing by for solid rocket booster jettison.

My heavens, it still brings tears to my eyes — after all these years.

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 Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Smoking on the Patio

My meeting was over. I came out from the room in the back of the restaurant and walked onto the front patio to eat with Trudy and Ben. They had already ordered and were waiting for their food. I was hungry, so I went back in and ordered before I actually sat down.

When I returned, Trudy had a scowl on her face. She mumbled something and tilted her head in the direction of a couple of guys sitting at a table a few feet away.

What? I asked.

They just started smoking.

The two of them were sitting five feet from the door to the restaurant to which was taped a sign that said, No smoking within 15 feet. No smoking under the patio roof. They were under the roof. And to add insult to injury, the were sitting directly in front of a high-velocity fan that was blowing their smoke quite efficiently in our direction.

I looked at them. I looked at Trudy. I looked down and thought for a moment. And then I got up and walked over to their table -- not something I'd usually do, but you see, I was hungry and not in a particularly charitable mood.

Hey guys, I said as I walked up to them. They stopped talking and looked up at me. Would you please stop smoking?

Stop smoking!? one of them said incredulously.

Yeah, you see the sign says ... and I pointed to the sign and I touched the door and I pointed to the roof.

One of them seemed embarrassed and was willing to move. The other (the incredulous one) was not impressed. Although first guy suggested they move to a table off in the other direction, the incredulous one scowled and walked around the corner, grumbling, No, I'm going to sit over HERE.

And so we had a smoke-free dinner.

But here's the kicker. Later, as we were finishing our meal, the incredulous one returned. He walked past us to one table and then another, and Trudy pointed out (in her own air of incredulity) that he was bussing the tables.

I guess it's safe to assume he wasn't the employee who taped the sign to the door. Or is it?

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