Wednesday, June 30, 2010

coming into a long fourth weekend, and the weather is unseasonably tolerable, as i like to say, on the rare occasions that it is nice. it's warm; it's clear; it's sunny; but it's relatively dry and this means you can actually go outside, stand out there, or even sit out there, maybe on the beach, and enjoy it. i walked home today, again, and the variety of life out there in the neighborhoods, where grasses and flowers bloom like crazy, was amazing. at our own house we go out and play in the yard, but get eaten alive by the chiggers and other little bugs; it's open season out there, with everything hungry, even the poison oak looking for a leg to wrap itself around, so as to make someone red and itchy for a few months. this is bound to be me, so i lay low, a little, but often can't resist, when the weather gets good, and go out to do some gardening or some other fool thing.

we opened up the house, turned off the aircon, which is kind of a luxury; it's great to have real outside air for a while, even if it is hard on the allergies. it seems sometimes that the house circulates the same stale air for maybe five months, and even though the aircon cools and dries it, it doesn't remove the staleness, the sameness of it. so this is a chance to start over: from july, or whenever it gets intolerable again (bound to be soon) until maybe september, or whenever it's nice again, we'll have this new air, starting now: let the new stuff roll in the open windows. let the bugs and mosquito larvae stay out there. let the little caterpillars turning into moths or whatever, stay also.

the cat, who has only one eye, and a scrunched up face, constant sinus problems, a noisy snuffler, is actually a good hunter, and will sit at the open window, wishing to get some action and not knowing clearly that, as long as there are screens, she won't. but the other day she was let out back, and actually caught a bird; you'd think being short one eye would set her back, and maybe it did, but she got that poor thing fair and square; the other cat, an old maine coon who thinks outside the box, was surprised, as if he'd forgotten that that's what cats are supposed to do. they kind of batted at it together for a while; the one-eyed one, victorious; she wanted this to happen in front of us, too, to show us what she'd done. there's a disconnect there, though; cats don't know, really, how we feel about their mauling birds right in front of our eyes. i'd explain it to her, but somehow i figure it would get lost in the translation.

so it turns to july tonight; the days are getting shorter now; it's drying out a little; soon, there will be fireworks, all over, all weekend; in fact, i heard my first few tonight. i don't especially like this part of the holiday, but the unexpectedly temperate stuff, i'll take it; it's birthday weather. however it comes, time to take a breath, and maybe get some rest.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

as an interpreter of our culture i'm pretty used to knowing how to explain things like farenheit- ninety and above means you're uncomfortable; a hundred and above means it's pressing on you like an iron. zero means a good hard freeze; thirty two is where it can go either way. below zero is when everything freezes; pipes; your spit; the breath on your beard, etc.

enough. ninety three as it is now is not so bad and even if they make it over a hundred on "heat index" it's still only ninety three, which on an absolute scale shouldn't be a problem. but it is. i'm an incredible wimp, and, to make matters worse, i really detest going out and coming back in, which is what i keep doing since i don't want to go out in the first place. i want to take pictures of the garden and the flowers; i want to cut some weeds; i want to finish coffee-staining this shirt, that i had spilled coffee on, that will now be a coffee kind of pink, all over, and hopefully not show its stains so much. but to do this i have to keep going outside; the heat presses me, even though it's only ninety-three. the sun is so bright i can't see in the window of the camera; the pictures are out of focus. how do i deal with this? it's too hot; i can't even think. i go back in.

things are actually better around here; i feel like the boys are all calm, happy, living their lives; the oldest is at a place called jack's fork, rafting. one is learning the guitar; i made him jam with me today, and it was a kind of success. one has a friend over; the last, who is in the way when the two older ones declare him to be that way, is literally under my feet, playing with a ninja-turtle computer game. this is life on a saturday. we'd be at the lake, but they don't want to go out; they've gone out, every day, all week, and want to hang around. i'll grant their wish.

the usa is down 1-0; i can hardly bear watching. it's actually trying to watch, when i'm constantly called away, by ninjas or whatever, that is hard. i can be interrupted in blogging; i can be interrupted in facebook, but if i'm going to watch soccer, i'd rather not be interrupted. just now i was interrupted in the middle of the word "interrupted" and it didn't phase me a bit. but interrupt me when the vuvuzela is blaring, and i'm a little rattled.

i've been mulling over the idea of privacy on the internet, since i showed my class a youtube about the subject. i've actually been a little reckless on the topic, in this very blog (my facebook is remarkably lame)- and in the historical posterity of all information i'm not sure if i should still encourage it to be main street, by making it so exposed. i want friends & family to read it; i haven't cared, in the past, if others read it; but, in the sum total of everything, maybe that last one is not such a good idea. more later; if you've read this far, i'll keep you posted, and not do anything without telling you.

trip to iowa on the horizon; it may happen, it may not, depending more on what happens in california in the coming days. hopefully, my wife will come home, and i will be able to shoot up there, visit a granddaughter & family, deliver a quilt, maybe get out of this steamy sauna for a day or two. if not, that's ok too; i'm going to be ok, i'm sure of it.

let me mention a couple of events around here that i missed, due to being too busy. the first was the bartram play. a group, the sum total, of quaker children humored me by reading their lines and presenting this play at the gaia house, interfaith center, on sunday june 13; they brought colonial philadelphia to life, and presented a play that i wrote which for the record lives here. of course i am proud to see my version of quaker youth education played out on stage; however, it is getting harder and harder to rustle up the energy to do this, and i may cut back or do fewer. i like writing them more than putting them on, although i really believe in putting them on as an educational thing; it's just that my job has me taxed out on drama and educational things, and i have no more energy for directing, on sundays. i did my best. it wasn't bad; it was there, and people learned from it.

the second was a brown-bag concert, carbondale pavilion, by the tracks, downtown, last wednesday june 23, at noon. this was hot (i'm sure they all are, in their way); the sun beats down, yet people still come, sit in the sun (in some cases), and listen to an hour of music. i'm getting better on the fiddle; i'd actually put it down for about a month (while fixing the bow) and still sounded good. no train interrupted us. the weather gave us its best shot, and we played anyway. hottest band in town, i told everyone. half the band couldn't make it, but that was par for the course, more or less; it's been mostly candy and me for the last half-dozen gigs or so. i'd like to record; i'd like to play out more; i'd like to give up my day job, but this is the form that it's happening in, and i'll take it. it was downtown. it was my own hometown. it was a familiar story; it was a familiar drama. it was people i know, and have known, and will know. it was hot, but it wasn't unexpected.

No, I didn't take this picture; apparently you could see this eclipse in North America, but I was exhausted, and babysitting, and saw nothing of the sort. Yes, I stole the picture from CBS, and, yes, I even feel guilty about it, but hey, it's everyone's moon, and it's everyone's earth that is casting the shadow, and, it didn't take all that much to line it up, pay the model, and run it through a darkroom. Bottom line: I'm conflicted about stealing the photo, but somehow feel that even this is a way of noticing it, that I would otherwise miss altogether. Now there's a full eclipse of the moon in December: let's put it down right here. We people ought to see this stuff, instead of just stealing the pictures. Let that stand as a promise; an affirmation; I find that if I at least write it down, I'll have a better chance, come December.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

it's been about 95, every day, all day, kind of a hot spell, with humidity to match; but, on monday morning, we arrived to work to find that the offices were about the same. our building is large, and has enormous coolers and pumps, but one must have broken, and i wouldn't like to be in charge of a monster like that, so heavily relied upon this time of year.

i'm emotionally delicate at the moment anyway, so i took the opportunity to come home, the first opportunity i had, and also make sure that more swimming takes place over the lunch hour. this turns out to be not so easy, but i know it's good, and it's made my own head clear and body rested tonight finally, so i can possibly get some sleep before the concert tomorrow, and the event in which my son gets out from inside his cast; he's had a broken arm.

last night my older son turned on a light, at about four a-m, but this triggered a neighbor's search light which came immediately on and bathed my upstairs; this was the last straw. i was sleeping very lightly anyway. one could feel the sultry warm muggy night seep in the cracks from all sides; without going back to bed, i sat and listened to the first morning birds, which start quite early, on the longest day of the year. perhaps they'd never even stopped; there was an unusual moon in the evening, and the whole place seemed to be bathed in an eerie dissonance. our crises will end, somehow, my wife and i, miles apart, each with family; the days will get shorter, thankfully, and by november it will be quite nice out. not before then though; we have a ways to go. the turtles don't bother coming out. the birds, so noisy at night, take a whole long day, and do nothing but hide, as far as i can tell.

the younger fellows are their usual ornery selves; it's comforting. i yell at them a little, but all that's more or less expected. they need a lot of control; so much, is out of theirs. they want to control the dinner choice. they want to control bedtime. they wish they could control when their mom came back.

i control only the car windows: way shut when i drive, aircon blasting; way open when i park, i dare you to take any of the compost, steadily pushing itself toward the floorboard; detritus from too many trips to walmart, maybe. the days are too long; the steering wheel, close to melting; too much of the traffic in the mirror acts like this is normal. it is, i'm sure. if there's rest, any real rest, i can only imagine it.
Hottest band in town
Parsley Sagebrush Band
Carbondale Pavilion (in the Square)
Brownbag Series
Wednesday June 23 12-1
See you there!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

one good thing about living in carbondale is that eventually you will see a saluki; salukis are egyptian hunting dogs, and are the mascot of the university, so they are often paraded out around homecoming time, or at big football games, places like that. once i was driving on campus, near the old health center, and i saw one, just out on the street, though he was being held on a leash by someone; they are quite distinctive dogs, like greyhounds, with thin faces and beautiful hair, so you don't forget that kind of experience.

on this event (below) i had a camera, and there were several; i'm not sure why they were being brought out, but it was to show someone; and, unfortunately, the crop function of my photo handler here on the laptop doesn't work well, so i can't make them any closer up, though that story isn't over yet. i brought my camera, because i am tired of using other people's photos of them whenever i need them. unfortunately in the excitement, and in the process of protecting a young child who was nervous about the process, i failed to get such things as knees, ankles, and leashes out of the pictures; in other words, it was a photo shoot, but i'm not very professional, in the end.

my point, though, is that they are not only beautiful, but also gentle, and kind, and soft and friendly. what wonderful dogs! they are, of course, hunting dogs; two of these were from kuwait; my friend actually runs a shelter for them, and has an agreement that we on this end will take and provide for salukis, if they on that end will take a stray of any kind, from anywhere, and send it over here. it seems to be a good working agreement.

the saluki national show has been held in lexington kentucky in recent years, but he doesn't speak highly of it; he feels, as i do, that it should be held here, and that, since we have people who have wide spreads of beautiful country land, it would not be too much to ask, to put a saluki show here, and build other events around it: boat regatta, folk festival, homecoming parade, etc.

dog shows, however, are not his favorite thing; he loves the salukis, just as pets and animals. they're wonderful. dressing them up and putting them onstage i suppose is somewhat like doing the same to an innocent young girl; though people do it all the time, if you love them, it's hard to go all the way through it.

i woke up, again, from a disturbing dream, so i looked out the window to see if my older son was still home, or at least if his car was here; it was, and the street lights were whining into it in ghostly way, lighting up its light seats so that it actually looked like he'd left the interior light on, though he hadn't. i've been worrying about him a lot, though he's ok, i think; it keeps me up, times like now, and makes my days a little shaky too. it's very hot here, very steamy; it's no fun being outside, or even having aircon on full blast when you're just going across town. my goal for the weekend is let others do some of the driving; i'm hoping to spend some time with little guys who had to spend much of the week in daycare as their mom is out on the west coast taking care of her family. they know that we're all doing the best we can; they also are trying their best, but nerves get frayed.

thursday evening kicked off the sunset concerts (below) and were the blues, but they were at the university, which offers no play structure, and everyone was tired; they wouldn't share their treats with each other, and we had to go home early. i was angry, like i'd been robbed- but, in a way, going out and staying out was too difficult under the circumstances, too much to expect, and they're going to use just about anything to fight, or get out of a concert that they might not like as much as i do anyway.

today though i go over to the daycare to a little father's day lunch that they have; i'll post pictures if i can. we fathers are at little chairs with our children; they perform for us. mine brings me a small, homemade lightning mcqueen which i will also try to document. i'm important to him; i can see that; i want to stay that way, and wish fathering could be just the making of cars, as it once was for us, the countless times watching the cars movie and the patient reconstruction, documented somewhere here on this blog, by the way, of all the characters therein, and some of their garages and houses as well, done in cardboard, painted or colored. the older sons are the same; we had simpler times, good memories, things we can't or don't do anymore though now i must struggle to love them, be with them, still know them yet have a gentle hand or no touch at all on their actual coming & going; or at least, not be overbearing in the least, which would always certainly backfire. i pray for this kind of balance, a just-right kind of love that will get them through these kinds of times. writing this helps though, it wards off the bad dreams; it reminds me why i'm checking.

on the net i've become a restless traveler; i'll open up the online boggle, play a game or two, try to land in the first half (i've never been all that good); and give up. on twitter i'll go to haiku street (#haiku) and read whatever is coming down the pike; here i got the idea to go to news stories and just make them right out of the story. and i'm into the world cup these days, with its endless daily matches between the world's most hopeful players, so i wrote these:

the incessant drone / of vuvuzelas - the ball, / a mind of its own


huge twitter traffic / measured in tweets per second / world cup tsunami

which of course, like everything on twitter, or the internet in general, comes tumbling by in an endless stream, much of it, even mine, for sure, mediocre, 5-7-5 sometimes but very little else going for it. with these, there even is a compyright question, as they come right out of someone else's article really, although that person didn't intend to write internet poetry, for sure. it's comfort for me though, like a pebble in a pond, it makes me feel like i've put in my little thing, and i'm not sure if anyone wades through #haiku looking for anything good or not; i do know that some people occasionally "retweet"...being "retweeted" could, i suppose, be a sign that your poetry is at least read; something to aspire to, maybe?

at the cesl game day we'd hoped for lots of students, lots of board games, but only one even came; this poor guy has been in cesl a long time, i think. but a baby was there, a very young one, and i got to hold him; i held him for quite a while, got him to smile and laugh, in a baby way, and even got him to fall asleep, which i know he would only do when comfortable. we were buddies; we got along fine. it was interesting, that he could be so unable really to even talk, and yet communicate so much, in a running stream, with big eyes, expressive face, an eternal kind of wisdom. and quite generous with it too; he wasn't particularly concerned that he'd never met me before; he seemed to know me right away. and when i said goodbye, he smiled again; this was a baby who had by all accounts just learned to smile. i am aware, i know, i'm graced, that this could happen to me, that i could do this rather than actually be in the game, which i had no concentration for, at all. the clock above us was an hour fast - this is somewhat typical for our building - yet i believed it completely; time has been getting away from me a little, so many things undone, so much going on, yet times like this, late at night, when it crawls, second by second, a deep silence, and only a hope that people are getting real and refreshing sleep.

getting into a car, on an unshaded lot, this time of year, is like walking into a heat wave, the seats burning, the steering wheel hot to the touch, even if you've left the windows cracked or even wide open; you have to clear the air of melting compost smells and somewhere, halfway across town maybe, the car becomes habitable as the aircon catches up and neutralizes the feeling of cooked upholstery and car junk; it's worse for the kids, of course, who have no control over when the car is turned on, how high the aircon is, how long they must sit there, etc. even alone, i'm upset, this day; it seems the aircon can't do enough to ease the burning hell i feel from knowing about the suffering of young people, which seems so unfair, sometimes. at the daycare, given the lightning mcqueen, i start crying, unexpectedly; i can't stop it. the other fathers, i'm not sure if they even notice; if they did, they looked away. the car is classic; it has hand-painted smile, red and black, little hand-shaped wheels; it will live forever, on my shelf, in my heart, or here perhaps (whatever happens to blog posts?) - but immortality isn't the point. the point is, he said it, made it, colored it with his own hand; he was guided, maybe, or they suggested it to him, but he did it willingly, and gave it straight up. the other son too: a pennant with painted hand-prints and a happy father's day on it. at this daycare i have to remind them that they were making them, to give away to us fathers, and i happened to know this from the previous day, when they weren't quite ready to let go of them, but today they'd not only lost them but even forgotten to find them and give them quick, before i was gone for the weekend. maybe something had happened; some family tragedy that they weren't free to divulge, but they looked as ragged as i was, and i shared a little of what i was going through; i'm sure we aren't the only ones trying to process difficult times. and i'm sure also, in the big picture, father-son or father-child relationships aren't all full of the shining moments, the glow, that hit me today. one father, even as he held his daughter on his lap, continued texting, essentially doing his job; he was there, though, saw the performance, and received her gift, i'm sure. if you were there, a lot, eyes wide open, you'd see a lot, but i'm not - i see it only from my own eyes. and from here i'll say: happy father's day to all; it's a multi-day holiday, one that starts even on friday, and keeps on going, right through the day itself, when folks call, and right on through to next year. god bless you all.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the student center bowling area television is right around the corner from the starbucks coffee, and not far from where i teach; they've been playing the world cup there on large television and attracting a somewhat diverse crowd as it has access to all of the student center, some seats, lots of space. but generally i'm too busy to even sneak a peak and the world cup has been mornings: first games over by eleven; another one then but all over by about two. i've been putting my feelings on the work blog but some of it is entirely personal and also, i know so little of which is speak, that sometimes i'm probably better off here.

so the weak heats up, and there's midterms and all, and the games, er, matches, start flying by and I'm missing quite a few of them. i was surprised to see japan outplaying cameroon for all of about three minutes, but slovenia, slovakia, italy, all of them flew right by with nary a glance from me. my students were so busy, they talked english, maybe they knew worldcup is a worldwide language and won't get them where they're going. then however today i got a minute and poked my head around a corner. there were the brazil fans- they had a flag or two, they were wearing home-town uniforms; they had a guitar, and a vuvuzela; they sang in portuguese; they cheered their favorite, kaka. they watched passionately. the bowling center seemed huge; their group cozy. it was nice. it was real passion for the game, the experience.

it's steamy out. no sign of letting up, on the part of the weather, or the schoolwork, or even life in general. been up since 5 am, and now it's time to put the little guys in bed; i've about had it, and will put this away in a few minutes. needed a swim today, but was too busy; couldn't fit it in in the given time. then, if it doesn't rain, it just swelters, everyone's miserable, then i really should water the garden; i'm trying to remember; i have no other status; i'm frying out here, and if not for a steady diet of world cup, i might wilt on the vine. have to use the aircon as i drive about. don't LIKE, going outside, then in, then back out. need a cool cave, to lie down in, and maybe write a book.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

last time i really spent much time on twitter, it was the iranian revolution, and i kept opening it up, and experiencing what seemed a lot like the streets of tehran. people talking to each other, speaking a variety of languages, giving advice; dropping photos; the government popping in to spy; movie links, picture links, etc. i changed my id photo to green, in sympathy with the demonstrators, but dropped out of twitter, more or less. it was like times square: it would be a discipline to get used to it on a daily basis.

it has matured, however, from those days, and now there is a street for everyone. two of my streets would be #worldcup and #haiku. both hold my fascination in that any time i drop by, i could see a running stream of commentary on the world cup, or a running, fresh supply of haiku, all kinds, all languages. in fact, i quickly adopted a haiku identity, dropped a few, and started following some of the poets on there; some are quite good. some are mixed-media types and these too catch my fancy.

my haiku self is like my traveling self: i might be in the line at starbucks, with a glazed scone staring me in the face, waiting for coffee that will get me through a couple of hours of class. now's the time to slip into some verse, be out on the road somewhere, in a moment captured only by verse, a moment so infinite in its choices, and possibilities, that it encompasses the changing sky and the interstate junction at the same time. the world cup, of course, is another kind of indulgent, escapiist passion, one that allows free access to the thoughts of many of my students, who will freely talk for minutes if not hours, about the chances of some team like italy, to get past the first round and further. it's gotten blisteringly hot here- and i'm quite a wimp these days, even the nineties sets me back, makes me want a cool coffee or a break; what is worst, in my view, is simply going from hot outdoors to cool indoors, and readjusting body temperature more than half-a-dozen times a day. a seasoned traveler like myself would be more comfortable walking miles in the ninety-degree, than going back and forth, all day, as i do, between nineties and sixties. it takes it out of me. my kids can handle it; i can't.

out at the lake, the water takes the bite out of the heat; but, if you sit still for even a minute, the fish will bite you. over in the turtles' area, you can occasionally see the turtles lift their heads above the thin vaneer of brackish pond; we leave them alone, as we are instructed. the film on the water remains until i wash it off; the boys are willing to go a bit longer than i am. home of the "park diagonal" sign: this is a place of profound peace; the cliffs guard it, and the water flows out of sight in two directions, usually fairly clean, in spite of the film. if i miss a spot with the sunblock, i pay with a red mark; this somehow doesn't bother me; i feel almost as if i should store up some of it, for winter.

haiku street is a busy place; people of all kinds, even a machine, which seems to spew out 5-7-5's mechanically. you notice this machine right away; it's putting out a few every five minutes. but you also notice the 5-7-5 is doing fine here; it's alive and well; everyone's using it and using it well. this is like a home, in a way, a place you spot right away, that is in your groove; a place where you say, i could learn stuff here. and, you don't have to leave your computer to do it. like the world cup: not necessary to go to africa; you can experience it all, right here. you can say something crude to the guy next to you, or better yet, say something 5-7-5- just to throw them off. sign it with #haiku, a street sign; better yet, put two or three street signs on it; make yourself an intersection.

now that the world is an infinite city grid of word-streets, parked cars with license-tweets, the joy of a city is walking everywhere, knowing the best routes, taking in the weather and at the same time loving the infinite variety, the changing hues, of the people of the city itself. cities are not so bad, though there is something to be said also for the campfire and the sea of stars; one can go there, take in the style, and the art, and come back to a favorite pond, hoping, to be sure, that if the pond isn't still fresh, it's at least no more stagnant than it ever was, that the film will at least wash off, given a nice warm shower.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bartram's Flower

A play by Young Friends of Southern Illinois Quaker Meeting
Gaia House, Interfaith Center
Sun. June 13 11:30 AM
all welcome
from around

Thursday, June 10, 2010

a profound weariness has set in, maybe because this morning, when i got to work, it was already ninety, steamy, not even nine o'clock. maybe because, i've just been worrying myself down to the bone, family worries, people not well, and it has me to the point where i don't even want to go out in the steam and throw a ball around. maybe because i've been unable to write, unable to play music, unable to do just about anything, even the haiku has dried up, slowed down to a trickle. i'm thinking, maybe it's time to get back into the novel, an entire fantasy world that i can intensely put myself into at night, get away from it all, but instead, this blog is the closest i can get. today i wrote two midterms, then gave them; giving them is easy, you watch the students, or, if you trust them for a minute, grade the stuff they already did. toward the end, i gave out, too tired; it's been a long week of 3-hr classes and they wear it also, this profound sense of weariness; they aren't even into the world cup. just want to study english, pass, get out of there.

in my case, i sometimes think, surely there is another place i would rather be, but it doesn't come to me; i'm actually good at making exercises, writing my own stuff, and i enjoy that too and would even like to collect it and put it all together in one little book, but like everything else it's scattered around in various drawers and in piles around the place. sometimes i just write stuff, and exercises to go with it too; this at least is some creativity, and it keeps me awake; they like it, and i can tailor it to their needs which i know pretty well.

my music partner is in kerrville, though we have a gig later in the month; i went through a spell without a bow, and now want to fix up my second fiddle, and the piano, and the cello, as a bulwark against the future. lack of music is scraping away at my soul, like poison oak is chewing on my feet; i've got to do something about it. i have managed, however, to pull together a play of some sort; this will be performed this sun. (see above) by kids who, as my wife says, mostly want to humor me. it is a scene however; it will, at least, be there in time and space, a real live play, performed, in carbondale, as a semi-regular event, one in a long line. and finally, there's a touch of graphic arts happening; i made the poster for the play (not such a good job) but, as warm up for t-shirts which i will make for a family reunion. graphic arts also soothes my soul, much like cortizone or whatever it is i just put on my feet; it allows me to play with shapes, and patterns, and color, and frame reality, make a statement. the vast majority of my graphic arts, at this moment, is on a disk, in my office, waiting for me to put somewhere, to rearrange, reorder, set up in some other spot. once again, my isolation from it wears on me, like i have to open this disk just to see it, and suspect it will get buried on the desk with time, like the stories, disappear in the dustbin of history, get cleaned out by office folks or thrown away. i try to get up my energy, just a little bit a day, to put it in order, rescue it, bring it out; this is overwhelming though. it's kind of like a ninety-degree day. it's easier to sit back, rest, & worry.

around june you see why the south gets set back in a lazy summer, folks drink ice tea and sit under a porch for most of the afternoon; after a while they leave out the 'd' even when they spell 'ice'. it's too much trouble. the warm humid air comes up from the gulf and hangs over the dry useless land, until about october, and by then all the young'uns have left home or got pregnant or whatever, cause you were too lazy to go watch 'em every minute. the train comes by and the graffiti on the chicago cars reminds you that there's a world out there, but here, train means you sit in the road for a minute or two, and if your window isn't rolled up and aircon on, you fry within minutes, and wish you had a stream-fed farm pond to stick your head in, say hello to the fishes, and cool off a little. but the good news is, pulliam pool is apparently open, which is probably why i'm thinking this way, and i might get over there, if not tomorrow, maybe early next week; got over to the lake for a dip last weekend, and didn't see any turtles, but at least got the summer baptized, the sand in my hair, and in the cracks dug by the sunburn.

my parents had a 60th anniversary today; this is an incredible feat, really, to make it that long; and, they're still in love, planning a reunion, doing well, living where they want. from them, i get my faith in family, my loyalty, my love of children, my feeling that, in their innocence, they are likely to be not at fault, in the big picture, when the trouble comes down the pike. may i never, ever, become too tired to be there for them, to take their side, against the cruelties of the world. to my parents, who i thank from the bottom of my heart, who themselves are a little tired, maybe, i say, my heart is with you, out there on the high desert, the chihuahua, with its blooming cactus, the organs a light purple off on the horizon; the secret, as my dad also taught me, is that 5:30 in the morning is a magical time; if i could just rearrange, once again, so as to see that morning dew, and the sun come up in the east, and the fresh air, from lack of cars for an hour or two, my faith in the wonders of life would unfold again, like the little cacti turning toward the sun. sometimes the desert sand is so fine, even a tiny lizard leaves prints that will stay there all day, burned in, as if waiting for a detective to find it- though the desert is full of life, no reason, really, to go looking for it. i'm going out there again, in aug.- just bought tickets- and hope, above all else, to see that sunrise. it would be good for the spirit.
taken to walking every day; it's steamy, even at eight or so when i get started, and it gets steamier. my walk snakes through well-cut lawns of the west side, sunset, walnut, dixon, walkup, whitney, onto campus and past saluki-henge and the new library. out in the neighborhoods i sometimes smell nerve gas that they put on the lawns as today with our neighbor, though maybe that was only fertilizer; other times it seems more like wild stuff is growing here and there in spite of everything. the lilies are wild at the moment, all colors, yellow, purple, orange but especially the tigers, the orange ones, that seem to be the kings or dominant variety. no turtles yet. maybe the mulberries aren't entirely out or ripe.

walking slows down my life & day; makes me sleep better, makes it so it isn't such a disaster that the pool has been closed. it puts me in touch with that side of myself that used to, when traveling, go for hours at a time just walking somewhere, only with about forty pounds on my back, until i got tired of it and would rest. here also, i begin to notice the possible places where i could rest, and not disturb anyone by being on their curb. the birds, they're kind of disturbed anyway; they don't like foot-walkers, especially in the areas where they like to nest. cats skitter back into the bushes; dogs bark though one today looked at me more like he was in shock. just passing through, i'd like to tell him; summer's coming, and i need to get some exercise in, before the summer gets on.

pool's open again, so it's probably about over; my wife is leaving to take care of her mom; i'll be driving kids around, and out there, a little less. too bad. i'd come around a corner; i'd be calm enough, almost, to feel like part of an environment, like i could do more like ten, fifteen or twenty a day, instead of just four, with the huge time investment so pricey in other ways. the lilies come out, as the sun comes out; they're kind of an ongoing, changing scene. and, there are many stands of them; you see them, around almost every corner. what few cars that came by, would have windows up, and be cut off from it, i think; i know, because i am, usually, cut off from it, when i drive. when i walk, though, i'm part of it, and that's a welcome change.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

so it's gotten steamy out there, and the garden is lush, the poison oak is encroaching, the dogs poop wherever they want out there in their pen, and my wife goes out back to lay paving stones and plant wildflowers in the back yard. that part is tough because it slowly encroaches on a kind of baseball diamond that we use, now that my little boys are old enough to do what the older ones did for years, hitting whiffle balls all over the sloping grass and tearing around. occasionally hitting one into the dog pen, and having to negotiate with overly friendly dogs to get it back. coming back in, with some chiggers and occasional poison oak, to get a shower right away and hope the aircon will temper the allergy.

at the lake we like to find the "park diagonal" sign but we didn't need it today; parked right by the front entrance, and if you sit in the lake too long the fish actuallybite you, so you have to keep moving, but this is only a problem really for us older folks, who, once we find a nice cool lake, like to sit and rest for a minute. no rest for the weary. i was exchanging exercise fantasies with my high-school grad; he'd like to run a marathon, and is actually serious enough about running in general to get out there every day, even in this heat, but i told him that i had several. one: hiking the river-to-river trail. this snakes through southern illinois wild country and half the time is using some gravel road because the farmers won't give permission. second, though, is to be a barefoot racer- just do what other people do, 5k's and stuff, but do it all barefoot. but i have a third, and this one, i probably shouldn't have told him, because it's a little subversive. that's to set out walking, from here (home), find a swimmable pond, take a dip, at night, then turn around and come home. i know there has to be a way. i've been taking stock at the local swimming holes, trying to figure out if any of them would even be feasable. so far, nothing. haven't done it.

the good news is, the family is doing well, with the exception maybe of a mother-in-law, who i'll leave out of this particular ramble, and an eight-year-old who broke an arm a bit back, and is now left out when we go to the lake as i did today with the littlest. the turtle awaits in his little corner of the pond; you are not to go back there, and in the high light of day he often doesn't show his face, but as we swim about, we often get bit by the little fish, if we let our minds ramble. it's a gentle place, wide beach, cliffs out over the lake; the "park diagonal only" sign is one i wait to see every winter, and am glad, now, that it's still there, ungrammatical as it is. when i come home, i notice that i have lines on my skin; this is where i literally didn't bother to slather sunscreen on every inch of myself, and got burned across the lines in the spots i didn't hit. this gives me selective burn; burn in a few spots; first burn of the season, a stinging feeling depending on how i sit.

the four boys regale me with stories of their lives; the eight-year-old is into baku-gan, and tells me about things i barely understand. the five-year-old spent the whole same afternoon out at the beach, under the sun, but he's black, so fortunately the selective sunburn thing didn't get him at all, really, and he was really out there quite a bit more than i was. the eighteen-year-old has a mercedes, drives it the speed-limit, but now i think must worry that some college-town jerk (of whom we have many) doesn't come along, and snap off the hood ornament, such a precious symbold that it is. and finally, the twenty-one year old, working in a camp, way out in the woods, has to figure out how to charge a phone and not have it die right away, way out in the woods there. he comes home tired; they fill his schedule & keep him busy. but it's good; he's in good health & feeling better. the grown boys, there's a tenuous balance, it seems kind of like a butterfly in the hand, you can love them, hold them gently, let them go; don't squish them, or even poke them too hard. virtually everything you do can be counter-productive- so, you do nothing? merely marvel at the fact that they are still alight, near you- that tomorrow they will surely be gone?

the road in from the lake winds around dramatically and is generally considered one of the more dangerous two-lanes in the area. in fact it has been on the county's list for widening, straightening out the curves, making it safer. in fact they have already begun some of the work on it, tearing up a little patch out there by where there are often deer, in little fields, a hilly area; people drove fast out there, and that was part of the problem. i on the other hand slow down; what's the hurry, to get back to town? the little guy falls asleep in the back. it's actually a place i could walk; it would be about six miles out to the lake, or more; quite a haul for a foot-walker, but definitely a clean body of water to wash off in, in the middle. lots of stars out there, and deer; the deer own the road, and don't feel inclined to move, just because someone's in a hurry. the only problem is, it's dangerous. the hairpin turns mean people drive quickly, and with no vision; they hit deer often, but sometimes just run off the road. they'd be totally unprepared for a foot-walker, especially at night; even a reflective vest wouldn't do much to solve the problem.

so much for the fantasies. life is rich and full, busy; it's all i can do to get any real exercise, not to mention do the many and varied chores around the house that would keep it together, if i were on top of it. i tend more to want to stay home, check in with the boys, keep the house together. the selective burn tells me: i've been out enough. relax; keep it together; make sure i've got my eyes on the various guys; a steady hand, and thou shalt not wander asunder, off to parts where they shoot first, ask questions later.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

sports is a salve for the mind, in the same way music is a salve for the heart, and though i clearly need them both, a lot lately, i've been jumping on the world cup a bit at work simply because it makes all the international students excited; they all know more than me; it's cultural and geographical at the same time, and, like the ncaa's in march, one never really quite knows what will happen. a single goal will throw the whole thing one way or another, and people try their hardest to predict such things as draws, which actually might happen, at a greater rate even, than they do in other sports.

had a son in the hospital in kansas, but now he's home; unfortunately, he's way out in the woods where the minute he turns his cell phone on it dies from lack of batteries, and its signal can't find its way, using its kansas number, to really connect well with anything. so he doesn't call much, though i sit here waiting for him to figure it out, and i've gone out there a couple of times, way out in the woods, just to make sure he's still there and ok. it's a kind of tenuous line, this health that we all take for granted; life, vision, future, hope, all that stuff that helps me wake up in the morning. on the way back last night, i almost hit a baby deer, and i wondered why instinct would make him, even as i was slowing to a screehing halt, jump into my path, as deer always do, at the last moment. i missed him (or her) anyway; the road, the night, the yellow line, the high grasses on the edge, remained in silence as the deer bounded away. in kansas, i loved the feeling of the town, lawrence, which reminded me so much of iowa city, but i kept getting cell phone calls as i'd drive around, and i'd pull over in front of some random house and just answer them while this calm beautiful town went about its business. tnen, when i had some time, i found that i had a van half full of possessions, which included a single banjo, which i then could play, provided i wasn't really in anyone's way, and this was great comfort. the banjo is limited to a single pleasant air, though you can play many tunes, modal ones too; it will still sound harmonic, comforting, and will tell you that you don't need to sing, a message i badly need to hear.

back home, i was clearing out some brush, and noticed that we actually have, not one, but two mulberry trees, one quite tall, both surrounded by bramble and poison-vines, almost impossible to reach, but still blossoming and making mulberries as we speak. this was a wonderful discovery, as i was actually considering planting one in that very area, but now notice that i actually have two and merely need to take care of the area, before actually getting berries off of them. no turtles, that i know of, but then, most of the berries are quite high, and there's no consistent lake or stream anywhere near; the turtles like a good body of water, and only come out after them if they can smell them from the water, i assume. who knows how they work? in any case, these berries are simply waiting for me to get my act together and get them. no poison, that i know of, sprayed on them at all. i get anywhere near the place though, and i come home itchy; i have to do something about the poison vines. they're evil.

back to the son; i went out again in the morning; he was better, and more animals skittered across the road as i drove through the woods, feeling like i was breaking spider webs strung across it. no phone; no connection; yet he assured me, his car was right there, and it worked, and if he didn't like it, he would just come home. enough, i decided, and let it rest, a little, in my mind. at the grocery store, the cart that i grabbed had a little hallmark sack in it, and sure enough, it was full of thank you cards, which i could have kept, or even used, in about a day, given all the people i owe favors to. but i gave it back to the lady who was keeping order in the foyer, and she even knew whose they were, and promised to get them to her. i sat speechless for a minute, as if they were in fact intended for me; i suppose, in a way, they were. one never knows if these chances of fate are just that, or if, maybe, everything is somehow connected. i think sometimes of what i've said about g-d - whose name i'm now inclined to spare the indignity of spelling out on a black and white page - g-d has given me everything i've ever asked for, more than i could possibly dream of, an infinite world and life at its best, right up next to me; in return, i don't ask questions. at times like these, i sometimes have questions. but i repeat the first half of the deal, and, if i really think about it, i never get to the second half, it's sort of obvious. i might as well ask, why did my brakes happen to work at that moment, or, what happens to cell signals when they are way out there, with nothing to connect them to us, or, do you remember how much we love you, which is infidion, as we say, as one of us said a ways back, and it's reverberated through the ages. the night inches on, quiet, warm, humid, the animals alive to the certainty that most of us are going to bed, soon. hopefully, we'll get some sleep, too; it helps. my fiddle bow is rehaired now, and i had to go on a nightmare, summer-day hours-long construction-zone journey to hell & marion to get it, and i swear, when i start playing music this time, i'm 'a play one for the ages, one for the turtles, one for the deer; one for whoever's out there, trying to get some music out of a dead-battery ipod...there are stumps out there, and sticks, turtle shells; pebbles on the beach. where there's hope, there's a chance of a song, and i want to hear it. the modal harmony in particular; the echo through the woods; the birds, in the trees, as the dawn brings its first light; they have, at least, i hope, heard my prayer.