LOCAL VIEW –200,000 Views–

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and for some reason extraordinary stuff always seems to happen on her birthday, no matter how much we try to keep it quiet. One year we chose to have a quiet take-out dinner on a beach on the shore of a lake, and as we ate there was not only a spectacular sunset with a thunderhead shooting forks of amazing lightning, but the obligatory double rainbow to boot, vivid against deep purple clouds.

Another year we were just about to leave for the beach, when a pipe burst in the cellar. (Not a usual thing in June). The miracle was that we found a plumber who showed up within minutes and had the pipe fixed so fast we still left for the beach before noon.

This year the problem was again in the cellar, and began the night before my wife’s birthday. The hot and humid weather had condensed water on cold pipes, which drizzled down into the pressure switch of the water pump, causing a shorting that filled the cellar with smoke, and melted the switch into the “on” position. Usually the switch clicks off when the pressure reaches 40 psi. Now it was increasing past 40 psi, past 45 psi, past 50 psi, past 55 psi…

I was oblivious, typing at this word processor.  I have developed this ability, because I have a granddaughter in the house, and if I don’t develop extraordinary powers of concentration I’ll never get a word written on this blog. This is especially true because any time my granddaughter demands attention my dog Elsie gets jealous, and Elsie has this weird response where she barks frantically and chases her tail. I can’t tell you how often this stuff is going on in the background, as I write the words you read.

Night before last my wife and daughter were attempting to convince my granddaughter to get into the bathtub, which my granddaughter was vehemently objecting to. The dog was chasing its tail and barking. The water was shooting into the bathtub with extraordinary power from the faucet, and a strange smell was arising from somewhere. And I was completely oblivious, concentrated as I was on details on a computer screen pertaining to sea-ice, and a critical comment made by a troll on my website.

My wife sweetly managed to get my attention by evacuating the house, including a naked three-year-old. As she departed she noticed I was looking down a cellar staircase filled with smoke, and inquired “Should I call 911?” I said, “No,” and headed down into the smoke, whereupon her advice was, “Hold your breath.”

In the cellar I could find nothing burning, and in fact after I opened the windows the smoke seemed to be dispersing. My daughter came down and helped me look for something burned, but we could find nothing. Then she mentioned the water coming out of the faucett more vigorously than usual, as she was filling the bath, which seemed odd, so I went upstairs and turned on the water in the kitchen sink. It shot out with amazing ferocity. So I went back down and looked at the water-pressure gauge, and saw it going from 110 psi to 115 psi to 120 psi…

It then occurred to me that maybe I should check the pressure switch, but it was in a dark area and I couldn’t see very well. so, with the cover removed, I gave it a nudge with the plastic handle of a tool. This produced a vivid blue ball of electrical arcing about the size of a turnip, followed by a smaller tongue of orange flame, at which point it occurred to me I should turn off the circuit breaker labeled “pump.”

Problem solved. I could get back to what I was writing. I mention this only because some young writers say they cannot write without a grant. And they are not even married, and run no business, and have no problems worth mentioning, (except maybe a bad choice for a girlfriend). I doubt they could stand five minutes in my shoes, dealing with the distractions I deal with, yet I do write, (and sometimes write too much, according to my wife).

Let this be a lesson to you young poets. You have no excuse for not writing. If you are going to whine, make a music of your blues. You can do it if you really want to write. If you want money, well, that is a different matter, and you probably should seek some other occupation.

Less artistic and more pragmatic readers will have noticed that, while I solved the problem of smoke in the basement, a new problem, involving no water in the house, had raised its head. This was no way to be beginning my wife’s birthday.

I planned to head off for a new pressure switch as soon as the closest hardware store, twenty miles away, opened in the morning. However company arrived early, to wish my wife happy birthday, and I had to smile and nod. As soon as I could enact a diplomatic escape I drove twenty miles, bought a $16.00 pressure switch, drove twenty miles back,  and went down into the cellar and replaced the fried switch myself. A plumber would have charged $300.00.

There was a lurid red warning on the pressure switch instructions that stated the switch should be rewired by a qualified electrician. Pish tush! What plumber heeds that warning? And if they don’t, why should I?

Not that either an electrician or plumber could figure out the wiring of a 250-year-old house, where electricity was an afterthought. In a modern house the wiring for the pump is right next to the pressure switch, and four wires are involved, but in my house the wiring for the pump is far across the room, and only two wires are involved at the pressure switch. It’s no big deal; just a different way of achieving the same end. But small-minded people and government regulators likely would freak out, because they insist there is only one way to skin a cat. They would likely tear the whole house down and rebuild it to “specs.” Me? I just put the switch in, adjusting for only two wires.

The pump worked and my wife got to shower before noon on her birthday. We saved $270.00, and I figured we could go out to some semi-classy joint and buy ourselves a fine meal with expensive drinks for $270.00, but instead we were invited to a special birthday late-lunch by friends who don’t drink. So we saved $270.00 twice.

I was slightly annoyed, because the way things were turning out I had no time for my art.  I’m not referring to this blog, for I did sneak in a few replies to comments here, but rather to another form of self-expression, which is my wood carving. You see, I am a small-town version of Michelangelo. Much smaller. More like a Mike. And I did want to find the time to finish a birthday present for my wife. I didn’t.

Now here is another lesson for young poets. You don’t need to despair when you don’t have time to finish a poem, and you don’t need to whine for a government grant that might allow you to finish. Just call your unfinished work “a fragment.” People who really love you will see where you were aiming.  They will give you the leeway to fulfill your promise.

For example, one year my wife gave me a scarf she was knitting me, though she had only the time to knit a third of it. The next year she gave me the same scarf, only two thirds completed. And the following year I got the finished scarf, and it means more than any other scarf to me. I still have it to this day, and still use it though it is tattered. In like manner, my wife was surprisingly pleased by the carving I hadn’t completed.

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I will admit it bugs me to have a carving uncompleted. (Not that Michelangelo didn’t leave some amazingly cool stuff only partly carved.) However the reason it bugs me is a reason that may scare the socks off some young poets. And the reason is this:  The only way a carving can get better is to lose more.

In any case, we headed off to our late lunch, and lingered long, and just as we were leaving that lunch at sunset we received a text from a neighbor stating our smoke detector had gone off. We texted back we were on our way home, and that the smoke detector could go off in humid weather, and they shouldn’t worry. But then my wife remembered the pressure switch I had put in, and we decided we’d drive a bit faster.

As we passed the fire station we noticed all the trucks were gone, but the place was lit up and around thirty people were happily milling about. When we arrived home we couldn’t see the house, because three firetrucks were in the way. There was also a police cruiser, adding blue lights to all the red lights.

I have to admit I was thinking about the pressure switch I’d replaced. Had I crossed wires?  Was my home, beyond the looming firetrucks obstructing the view, a pile of ashes?

Nope. That morning my daughter had set off the kitchen alarm, burning the toast, so she removed the alarm from the ceiling and put it on the window-sill, whereupon it went quiet. Why it chose a later time to blare out, I don’t know, but it was basically a false alarm.

The odd thing was, no one was annoyed. Life must get boring in my little town, for all these volunteer firemen had showed up, dressed in sixty pounds of fireman clothing, and they all seemed positively delighted they’d found an excuse to get out of the house on a warm summer night. Rather than anyone angry about a false alarm, it was a happy social event. We all laughed about smoke alarms, (apparently they’d been called out the night before because someone threw a smoke alarm away, and it went off in a dumpster,) It was the typically unusual event that always seems to happen, on my wife’s birthday.

Eventually everyone went home, and I entered the house, to meet a very guilty dog. Apparently Elsie felt she was to blame. Usually she barks her fool head off when anyone knocks at the door, (and I’d wondered why she was so silent with three firetrucks outside).

When I first entered I couldn’t even find her.  The poor cur was cowering in the bathroom. She barely poked her nose out when I walked in the neighboring room, and when I said, “Hey there, old dog, come here”, she didn’t rush out for reassurance, but rather slowly backed from sight. Why? You figure it out. Apparently dogs take responsibility for things we cannot comprehend.

The same is true for young poets, but I haven’t time to elaborate much on this idea.

Instead I chose to point out that I, at long last, without any government grants to free me from worldly distractions,  did sit down here at my computer to blog. The first thing I did was to check the WordPress “stats” page, which shows me how many people have visited, and what nations they have visited from. Also I can see how many “views” I’ve had since I started this blog in December, 2012. It said I’d been “viewed” 200,006 times.

I sat back to think about that number. Not that any particular view means more than another, but it was a bit like when your odometer rolls over in a car. It gives you pause.

My mind went back to when I was a young poet, and very much wanted to be noticed, but no one seemed to want to do it. In fact I had the ability to help people remember appointments they were late to, simply by clearing my throat, lifting my index finger, and mentioning I’d written a poem. The only people who would stay and listen required that I listen to their poems in return, and that was a pretty steep price to pay. In the end I became discouraged and decided the world could go to hell. If they refused to be lectured to, about a way to end all wars and make everything nice, they could just go get stuffed.  I became a hermit of sorts.

That got old. Not that I didn’t have some mystical experiences born of deep thought, but they were few and far between, and mostly I was lonely and felt like my brains were shriveling up. No man’s an island, and we need the input of others. Also if you never go out you wind up broke. Eventually I hit the road.

A while back I came across a folder of my letters that my mother had saved from my days as a drifter. She had a tendency to worry too much, so the letters were always upbeat, even when written from difficult periods in my life. One letter in particular made me laugh.

My mother was worried I was too isolated and too much a loner. I told her I thought God agreed, and therefore God had arranged for me to make 10,000 people smile, on an individual basis, one after another. It then listed the series of jobs I’d had in the prior six months, pumping gas, serving burgers, serving donuts and running the register at small markets, and explained how I took it upon myself to get customers to smile. (I didn’t mention the failures.) At the bottom of the list was the number 10, 242. I figured this would ease my mother’s worry about me being a loner. Also I added that I’d decided I wasn’t a poet; I was the American sort of writer called a “humorist”, a sort of modern Will Rogers, defying depression with a “I never met a man I didn’t like” attitude.

I then concluded that while some gain acclaim by making a crowd of 10,242 laugh, it is also great to create the same number of smiles by dribs and drabs, unnoticed by the crazy media, but perhaps smiled at by God.

I’m not sure this convinced my mother; she did seem to like to worry; but the important thing is that it convinced myself. Furthermore I became aware I was not alone. As I drifted through the heartland of America I became aware there was a vast body of people making smiles, even when it was raining. It was something I failed to notice when I was a hermit, and down on humanity, and, if I saw anything in society, it was the mentality of a mob. Not that such bad things don’t happen, but it is more than countered by the fact God is in everyone, and shines out from faces if you make the effort to cheer people up.

And this is my final bit of advice to young poets. Don’t be fooled by fame. It isn’t necessary, and judging from people afflicted, is actually a hazard. Also, for every singer who makes the big time, like the Beatles, there are thousands in small places, singing in remote church choirs or to children or with friends, and they make an enormous difference. Without them life would be stark.

Not that it isn’t nice to get 200,006 views. It was especially nice that it happened on my wife’s birthday.  She’s the one who has to put up with me when I get a far away look, and don’t notice the cellar is on fire. And when there isn’t a fire, she sometimes has to light a fire under me to get me moving. I wouldn’t blame her for wondering, at times, if I am wasting my time at this computer. 200,006 views is therefore a sort of reassurance.

And you never really see the effects of small and random acts of kindness. It only takes a grain of sand to start an avalanche, and our influences go onward even after we have left the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Some Pity, Please–

I didn’t heed financial advisers
So what I now own is my own fault.
I find I envy lonely old misers
Clinking their coins in a lonely old vault.
It’s not their coins I desire, but their quiet.

Quiet’s so rare I cannot conceive it.
In my house women rampage and riot.
Four generations! Can you believe it?

My friends who loved money gained fat pensions
And were without wives. All their cares were shed;
They should have known joy, without tensions.
Instead loneliness swiftly struck them dead.

Me? Don’t ask. I’ve no time to reflect.
I get no quiet. I get no respect.

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One interesting aspect of Rodney Dangerfield’s humor is that it is an appeal for pity, but rather than pity it earns laughter. (“I know I’m ugly. I’ve always been ugly. When I was born the doctor slapped my mother.”)

Within the laughter is a joy that laughs at our sorrows. It is a recognition that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it is good to be alive. It sees the glimmer of God even in a devil of a day.

All the same, I wouldn’t mind some pity, at times. (Preferably cash.) However I have a bad habit of always comparing my lot to people who are worse off, and that spoils my ability to play the violins. I start out with the violins, and then have this strange urge to insert a tuba.

For example, as a writer I prefer quiet, but despite the fact all my children are grown I never seem to experience the so-called “empty nest.” I have taken to getting up in the middle of the night to write, for that is the only time it is really quiet. Consequently I often lack sleep, (even though I go back to bed, and get to sleep twice a night, whereas others only get to sleep once). When I get up to go to work I feel like death warmed over, and want some pity.

Then I compare myself to a person who actually was the most unfortunate person in the world, for a day. I’m referring to myself 33 years ago. I was spurned and broke and living in a desert campground, and wrote this unhappy song:

I think I am going to die soon.
I see a skull’s face in the full moon
And high in the sky hear a mad loon
Luting a lonely and sad tune.

Why am I staying here grieving?
Who do I think I’m deceiving?
Why am I staying here groaning?
Life’s just a way of postponing.

Some body some body
Ask me to stay.

All I need to do is remember the horrible loneliness of that mournful twilight and all the noise I experience now doesn’t seem so bad. However I figure that shouldn’t disqualify me from pity. Maybe I don’t deserve a whole concerto of violins, but a lone fiddle might be nice, once in a while.

Recently my mother-in-law deserved the pity because she couldn’t go to her warm place in Florida because she was recovering from an operation. I agreed that the sooner she went to Florida the happier everyone would be. Finally she was able to go, provided someone went along to help her open up her house. I was willing to sacrifice the beauty of snow for a bit, however I was too indispensable to my workplace to go. In the end my daughter took on the task, but that meant my wife and I had to watch our granddaughter, who is three.

My sleep was even more disrupted, for the small child had the habit of crawling into bed with my wife and I at all hours of the night. It was cute, the first time, but the little girl kicks a lot in her sleep. Also sometimes she’d wake before me, and seemingly decided my upturned face was a good road to drive her toy cars over. It was a strange thing to wake up to.

However it was a perfect thing, when it came to getting me some pity. When people asked me, “How’s it going?” I didn’t need to respond, “Fine, and you?” Instead I could answer, “Things are not good.”

This forces people to raise a sympathetic eyebrow, and ask “Oh?”

Then I could say, “I’m terribly run down. This morning I was run over by a cement truck.”

I would then look at them and wait for them to correct me, saying something like, “You mean you felt like you were run over by a cement truck,” but no one ever took the bait. Maybe they know me too well. Instead they tended to look curious, and wait.

So I’d add, “Can you believe it? An actual cement truck ran me over. I took a picture of it with my cell phone, and can prove it to you.  Here. Take a look:”

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LOCAL VIEW –Is there life after Football?–

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(Video credit NFL and Fox News.)

The Monday morning after the Superbowl the parents dropped off their kids at our Farm-childcare looking haggard, and no, I’m not from Atlanta. New England fans were seemingly in a state of serious shock, as not even they expected the come-back they had witnessed. In a dazed way, with stunned expressions, they were replaying the entire game over and over, like the above clip.

In a reply to a friend I gave my view:

“I’ve heard a lot of Monday-morning-quarterbacks say what Atlanta “should have done”, but such 20-20 hindsight is not there, in the heat of the moment. I think a sort of “fog of war” sets in during an actual game, and that is where Belichick is best, because he makes the right choices during crazy-time, when you are not given time to think. Belichick likely would have burned up the clock and run the ball, if in Atlanta’s shoes, but Atlanta was seemingly stuck in the habit of using what had worked before, thinking it would continue to work. It didn’t. They didn’t adjust but Belichick had adjusted. (One of my favorite camera shots was of Belichick jotting notes in a old-fashioned notebook with an old-fashioned pen; [he smashed his newfangled tablet-computer in the middle of a game, two months ago]; he looked as detached as a coach jotting notes in a practice session. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a peek at that notebook?)

Atlanta’s defense was utterly exhausted (or “gassed”, as the player’s say), by the end, as the Patriots had that defense on the field for 40:31 and they were off the field for only 23:27. I don’t think this is an “accident of fate”, because when Belicheck was defensive coordinator of the Giants, and they were up against the high powered offence of Kelly and the Buffalo Bills during the 1990 Superbowl, the Bill’s defense was on the field over 40 minutes. Can it be that Belichick actually plans that, if the opponent is going to score, they will do so swiftly, and their defense will get no rest before it is back on the field?

At the end of the game it looked like Atlanta was still in that “score fast” mode, because it had been easy earlier. They were lured into using the obsolete.

Sort of a strategy similar to “rope-a-dope.”

This sort of post-game analysis, back in my boyhood, was called “the hot stove league”, and was mostly about baseball when there was no baseball to be played due to deep snow, and old geezers were looking forward to the next baseball season, during New England’s interminable winters. Such blather was conducted around hot wood stoves, often in small stores or at the local post office, and likely drove some wive’s mad, as they likely felt husbands could be making better use of their time, (even as some husbands felt their wive’s could cut their phone-calls short.) In any case, since those long-ago days football has stepped in, during December and January at least, and usurped the position of baseball.

The approval or disapproval of spouses does not matter as much as the approval of God, and violent sports like football make me a bit nervous. A person, who I respect greatly, once informed me God really enjoys the sport of cricket. However, once the violence of football is over, I think God likely approves of people sitting about talking about what they have witnessed. Why?

I suppose it is because it is good to appreciate the efforts of others.

I’ve worked well over a hundred different jobs in my time, and you’d be amazed how often the work goes completely unappreciated. For example, next time you hold a bottle of ketchup, look at the label. I was the guy making such labels for ketchup, (and a hundred other bottled things), for all of two weeks one winter. (Yes, I got fired.) It was a horrible, miserable job, for minimum wage, and required a sort of heroism on my part to endure it, (and required heroism on the part of my wife to endure me), but, were there any cheering crowds as I (and my wife) heroically managed to scrape together the funds to feed my children?  Nooooooo….

Look around yourself. You are surrounded by things you take for granted, made possible by people you fail to appreciate. The lights you click on, the toilets you flush, the bread and the butter you eat, all involve toiling people you take for granted. If we had the slightest idea of how beholden we are to others we’d be flush with thankfulness, and far more loving than we actually are. But the thing of it is, we ourselves are too darn busy toiling to appreciate the toil of others, and, if we lift eyes from toil to think at all, it is of how we are the ones who deserves more credit. We are all too often too busy playing the wailing violins of our own self pity. We are as dependent on others as oldsters in  wheelchairs, crabbing that the ride is too rough.

Considering this unflattering portrait is how God likely sees us, I imagine he likes how we become utterly and amazingly different, regarding sports. Suddenly we appreciate the smallest details of other’s efforts. We see the nuances, the quick reactions, and the uncanny element of luck.

The exact same things we obsess about on football fields occur in our own lives. When the cook at our local diner cracks open a bad egg in the middle of the morning rush, it involves all the swift shifts of an athlete in a sporting event. There may be no cheering, and in fact there may be some grousing because orders are temporarily filled more slowly, but the swift recovery rivals the efforts of an athlete. There may be fewer tips, down here in earth, but up in heaven the angels are cheering wildly for the cook.

Remember that, when you next trudge through the drudgery of your day, largely unappreciated. Even if you don’t believe in angels, if you imagine that you are doing your unseen deeds in a stadium, with millions of cheering spectators watching, it has a way of making you, if not feel better, perform better.

As a young artist I used to trick myself in this manner all the time. I might be washing dishes in some slummy dive, but I figured a million were watching me. How?  Well, I figured it was only a matter of weeks before I’d be “discovered”, and my poems would sell a million copies, and all of a sudden many, many fans would want to know about my past life. Therefore, as I washed dishes, a million fans were watching me. And I tell you, few have ever washed dishes as I did, with such flair and pizzazz, flipping plates like pancakes and singing odd opera. (If nothing else, it made a dull job far more fun, and made me a fun fellow to work with.)

In the case of the Superbowl, there actually are millions watching, and appreciating every move, not only during the event, but afterwards. In some cases the efforts are appreciated decades afterwards. The nuances of fate, uncovered and discovered long afterwards, are all the more fascinating when the internet allows the “hot stove league” to involve a heck of a lot more people than, in the old days, you could fit in a post office or hardware store.

For example, regarding the Superbowl of a few days ago, I heard, during discussion of Belichick in the 1990 Superbowl which pitted the Giants against the Bills, that Belichick was the defensive coordinator, but the offence wide-receiver coach was  Tom Coughlin, who later became the head coach of the New York Giants, and is the only coach to ever defeat Belichick in a Superbowl (twice).

The fact that the coach of that 1990 New York Giants team, Bill Parcells, was able to recognize the genius of two young assistant coaches, could be the subject of a long, long article in a sports-section written by sports fanatics for sports fanatics. Me? I’ll cut things short, and just say Bill Parcells, when at the height of his powers, was able to do the thing this post is about:  Appreciate.

One thing I appreciate about modern times is what I spoke of before: The “hot stove league” has become enormous. One thing I investigated, on my computer, was “fan reaction”. You likely could spend hours just watching video of fans experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and in some cases it is hard to tell the difference. New England fans collapse to the floor sobbing in victory, as Altlanta fans go insane with hysterical laughter.

Then you can likely spend days watching the “experts”, both on high-powered network sites and on small-time individual sites, indulge in post-game analysis, reexamining every play in minute detail.

The first is emotion and the second is intellect, but both appreciate.

Me?  I must be getting old, for I don’t care so much about winning as I used to. I’m more interested in the sport than who wins, and also sometimes more interested in the fans than the players.

Because I run a Farm-childcare, some of the fans I deal with are very young. The children who are under five could care less about sports, but around age five kids become fans, in a very unrealistic, dreamy way. For example, they think their Dad could outrun any player in the NFL. There is no cotton-picking way I am going to disillusion them. However they also seem to think I myself am nearly as amazing as their Dad, and that I myself could also play in the NFL, and I need to find some gentle way of disillusioning them.

In the world of Childcare and so-called Childcare Professionals, 97% of the people children meet are women. Therefore, as a male, I need only to walk in the door and I am immediately as welcome as a rock star. Because, even in nature, baby gorillas want to romp with a mean-looking daddy gorilla, if I so much as stoop to tie a child’s shoe I may get blind-sided by a kid who wants to tackle a daddy, for I am a temporary father-figure, and romping with daddy is natural. If I crouch down on creaking 63-year-old knees to help a kid with a puzzle, it is not unusual to immediately feel two or three kids climbing on my back. I feel like a quarterback in a blitz, and Freud would likely be cross-eyed about the physical contact involved. But, because I am hale and hearty for my age, I arise undamaged by the attention, and the children think I am a NFL star.

Over the years I’ve developed a way of entertaining children’s hero-worship, while deflating it with a dose of reality. For example, I may say that Tolkien stated certain trees are “Ents,” and that a maple over there used to stand over here, and that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Dad. Then the child returns to tell me, “My Dad says there is no such thing as walking trees!” I figures this teaches them to double check their teachers, and also to go to their fathers for advice.

By the time a child goes to kindergarten at age five they have learned to laugh at some of my tall tales. For example, I tell them, “Me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, and, back when we went to school, school buses hadn’t been invented, and me and George had to ride to school on the back of a yellow dinosaur.” I always add that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Mom and Dad. I figure that, if nothing else, parents get a laugh.

It was in this spirit that my most recent tall tale involved Belichick using me, as number 99, on his kick-off team, in the upcoming Superbowl. I told the kids to look for the old 63-year-old guy with the gray beard sticking out from his helmet, running down the field. For some reason not a child doubted this was possible. After all, it is their experience that they can’t tackle me, so how could they know I’d be less in a Superbowl?

I waited expectantly for a laughing parent to tell me his child had asked if I was going to be in the Superbowl, but life got hectic, and it never happened.

After the Superbowl the parents were arriving late, so utterly drained by the unbelievable game they we in no condition to drive, let alone go to work, so I did not bring up the subject of whether or not I played in the Superbowl. But, with the kids, I asked, “So, did you see me?”

I let on that it “might” have been in the third quarter that the genius of Belichick had me out there on the field, gray beard sticking out from my helmet, as a “trick play”, and that I was so upsetting to the Atlanta Falcons that they couldn’t score again, adding, “If you don’t believe me, ask your father.”

I’m still awaiting feedback, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. My aim is to make the parents enjoy a good laugh.

On a more serious note, I’d like to remind people that, as incredible and superb as the athletes in the Superbowl are, (and they are superb beyond belief), they are but adults playing a child’s game. The adult game adults play is far more serious, and the players deserve far more appreciation. And if you do not believe me, ask the “Father” who is not your physical father, but the One called the “Truth”.

LOCAL VIEW –Cutting Back Blogging–

I’ve been having a blast just wandering about the web. I never know what I’ll find or where I’ll wind up. Yesterday was a good example. I started off to research sea-ice and wound up posting about a famous British actress getting sprayed by manure as she cooked muffins out in a pasture. It seemed like the subject of a dream, but was real.

However enough is enough. I’m turning into some sort of webaholic. May is a very busy time at my Farm-childcare, with all sorts of things to plant, and I need to simply turn the computer off.

Therefore I am going to shorten my posts. I’ll post things like the prior post about frost in Brazil, that I can write in between the time insomnia boots me from bed, and the sun comes up. After that the computer screen will be dark and silent.

This feels like fasting. It seems like it may turn out to be harder than I imagine. I may have withdrawal symptoms. Who would have ever imagined, twenty years ago, such an web-addiction was even possible?

But, although new beginnings can be sweet when they are springtime, they are grim when they are Mondays, and a man must be a man. Enough is enough.

Like some snowflake bragging of its bangled
Originality before the beaming sun,
Some strutting cock whose doodle is strangled
Because he saw no fox nor need to run,
I face the dawn. Lord let me please shut up.
I’m sick of my brain’s wit, wit, wit, wit, wit.
For once let me be silent, for the cup
Cannot be sipped when talking about it.
If I talk while swallowing I will choke
Or else I’m a ventriloquist’s dummy,
But my brain keeps making joke after joke
Before the King. A jester too chummy
For his own good may wind up beheaded
Which will make my silence be the sort I’ve dreaded.

LOCAL VIEW –To Step on a Nail–

I have a friend who insists we don’t need to clean up our act before we die, because we have been cleaning up after our children all our lives, and turn-about is fair play. We can therefore feel right about leaving our children a house full of rubbish, for them to clean up.

To a certain degree I agree. After all, when I was young I was spoiled, and didn’t have to do my own laundry, or make my own bed, but that is long, long time ago, and it seems I have had to spend a disproportionate amount of time paying back for that born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-my-mouth luxury.

The luxury of my childhood made me see how lovely life could be, which is a prerequisite of poetry. However another prerequisite of poetry seems to be that you spend a fair amount of time afterwards as a dishwasher. Others eat high on the hog and dirty the dishes, but you just clean up the mess.

Others ride the high horses, but you clean the stables.

Others eat the pickled herring from fancy jars, as you clean the guts and gurry in the cannery.

Others sniff the roses, but you are the gardener with hands bleeding from thorns.

And on and on it goes, year after year, until at age 63 I am running a Farm-childcare, as a so-called “Childcare Professional”. My wife gets irked when I say that job-title is a bunch of bosh, and I’m just a “babysitter”. Others work the fine jobs, as I change the diapers. Others spoil the children, and I deal with the tantrums. Basically it is a matter of cleaning up other people’s shit.

Some people are so irresponsible they basically poop in their own pants, in a thousand symbolic ways, and it is the duty of poets to clean up the filthy mess.

I’m sorry if that seems too crude and too blunt, but it seems a reality that young writers should be aware of. Too often young poets think they’ll spend all their entire life traipsing about rose gardens telling people how exquisite the blossoms smell. I have to sadly inform them that the only poets who succeed in remaining in rose gardens either have given up on writing, and are experts in rose genetics and cultivation, or else they are the gigolos of rich old ladies.

The real garden of real poetry involves less lovely smells. You sniff dish-washing soap, and diapers, and stables, and canneries, and the fumes of factories, but you work with the salt of the earth, and you learn where real beauty is found. You have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues.

It is ironic in a way that the rich and powerful think they are controlling things, when they can’t even cook their own meals, wash their own dishes or laundry, or grow their own food or roses. In some cases, when they get old and decrepit, they even revert to diapers, and need someone to change those as well. In essence the rich and powerful are hapless and pathetic, but they like to think they have power over those they depend on, and have this word, “delegate”, that makes their dependence look like power.

In a better world those in the position to delegate work to others would be aware they are dependents. They would be full of gratitude and there would be none of this nonsense of some thinking they are so high and mighty. However, as heaven is not coming to earth (so far this week), the basic fact of the matter is that those who are the salt of the earth are in essence crucified. Real poets are included in this crucified crew.

Of course none is crucified to the degree the Christ was, but, to a lesser degree, in this fallen world, any good worker must put up with some degree of crucifixion. I know this is a sad truth to state to young poets who know how glorious and poetic life might be, “if only”, but “if only” is not the current state of affairs, and therefore the only alternative to some degree of crucifixion, and to singing the blues,  is to join those fat-cats who are fallen, but think they are high and mighty. Only fools want that.

I think it is far more high and mighty to change diapers. I’ve got a bumper sticker that states, “Men who change diapers change the world.”

I am pretty arrogant, I suppose, when I think I am superior to my superiors, but the fact of the matter is that history bears me out.

One of the greatest masters of music of the past was Bach, and he is remembered far more than any of the fat-cats he wrote his music for. In fact no one would remember  Brandenburg, if it weren’t for Bach. Yet, in his time, Bach was just a servant, even to the degree where he wore the same uniform as a butler.

Servants should take pride in the fact their pride is treated like a doormat. If Vanity is ugly, then the humble are beautiful, and therefore, if poets love beauty, they should love being dishwashers.

I should confess I hated washing dishes, at first.  But time has taught me that the very music of poetry is based upon giving others a gift they may not deserve, but need. Some times, washing dishes is the poetry, because it is needed, though the messy do not deserve it.

Therefore I recently concluded that, when I die, I didn’t want to leave my children an unholy mess to clean up, such as my father left me. Not that it wasn’t fun to sort through his mess and fill big dumpsters with trash, because I made thousands with other stuff on E bay. However that took hours upon hours, and I think my own kids have better things to do, and might prefer to skip that bother.

Therefore I decided to be noble, and clean up my trash before I die. I waited until the “Red Flag Warning” (caused by a local drought) was lifted, and then had a big fire.

Into the fire went all sorts of lumber which I hadn’t thrown away, because I “might” be able to use it, however I had never gotten around to those dream-projects. In fact some lumber had sat around waiting for so long that, even if I had gotten around to the project, the lumber would have been too rotted. However other lumber still might have been used, for such projects, but recent cancer confronted me with how brief my remaining time may be, and how unlikely it is I’ll ever do what I dream, and I understood saving such old lumber was a fool’s fond hope. I was making the farm much more tidy, by burning all the hopes that will not be.

Burning some of the hopes was a bit of a crucifixion for me personally, but I figured it would spare my children the crucifixion of cleaning up a dead parent’s mess, when I die. All in all, it seemed to be a way of making life more heavenly.  I even developed a sense of humor, and decided there was a delicious irony in the fact that, after cleaning up after others for so many years, I was cleaning up after myself. The last thing I imagined was that such cleanliness would increase my personal sense of crucifixion. In fact I felt vain, which always seems to all but beg for some sort of nail to come along and puncture my fat ego.

The crucifixion that then occurred didn’t involve anything as dramatic as stigmata on my palms.  Instead I just stepped on a nail, while burning a pile of old lumber. It was a beauty of an old, rusty spike, that sliced right through my boot’s sole and dove into the ball of my foot so deeply it was difficult to remove, despite the pain.

Oh, the irony! But that is what fuels poetry.

I’m not sure what it is about an old farm
That demands one has to, once every year,
Step down hard on a nail. All of the charm
Of rural life evaporates, yet, queer
As it may sound, the time you must then spend
Limping in pain reminds you that walking’s a gift.
After all, walking’s something that we tend
To take for granted. Our thighs and calves uplift
As humble feet deal with dirt. Our minds pretend
They’re high above such earthy cares, until
A nail spikes through our rubber sole, and we
Are forced to walk funny. Then pain’s our thrill,
Our focus, our consciousness, and our glee
Is when it stops. How we define mirth
Is bossed by one nail that brings us to earth.

When one nail can change things, life becomes simplified. Certain things are stricken from the daily schedule, and you attend to more boring things, which become poetic.  For example, how to identify the hawk that insists on screeching at you from limbs, but never stands still for a close up? Is this poetic?

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My son insists it is a broad winged hawk, but I don’t know, as I limp about. It is just a screeching creature, that refuses to stand still for a zoomed in close-up. But that is not my job. My job is to attend to children, and to zoom in on them…..To forbid war-like things like video games and toy guns, and to teach them to be gentle young poets. But when I zoom in on them, what are they making of sticks, and what sort of respect are they showing me?

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(Sometimes I get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.)  I suppose some will suggest I should make sticks be illegal, but the sniper in a small boy somehow reminds me of young poets. Authority holds no glamour, and they think they can improve upon it.

I try to be big about getting assassinated from all sides by small boys in their make-believe worlds. (After all, on other days they treat me like a rock star.). However the violins of self-pity get going, after you have stepped on a nail. Walking hurts, hawks screech at you, and small boys snipe. Where is the justice!!!???

Even the pussy willows have gone by, before I could pick them and plunge them in glycerin and freeze them in suspended animation. If I’d done that I could have made a few extra bucks, selling them to flower shops. But, even though the spring is retarded and nothing else wants to bloom, the pussy willows jumped ahead. They are no longer the furry gray buds that flower shops pay for. The cat’s-fur gray is gone, and instead they look like this:

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Hmm!  Not half bad!  Maybe the folk who shop in flower shops don’t know what they are missing.

Maybe the parents who don’t know their sons are snipers don’t know what they’re missing.

Maybe people who are never screamed at by hawks don’t know what they’re missing.

Maybe I’m lucky to step on a nail and limp around afterwards.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Daring the Frost–

I should be a sort of poster-child farmer for Global Warming this spring, for I’ve never had my peas up so early. Usually you “plant peas on Patriots Day” (April 19) but this year mine were up and growing by then. (Don’t complain that the rows are not straight. When you run a Farm-childcare, rows are never straight.)

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Having my peas up this early (for this far north; I’m sure people in Virginia are laughing at my vanity),  doesn’t actually mean I’m smart. I’ve just been lucky. I got them in and they likely had sprouted roots, but had not stuck their heads up above the soil, when we got this:

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What’s more, we got temperatures down in the single digits, (below -12.2° Celsius), and if my peas had emerged, they would not have just been discouraged. Though peas are tough, they’d be dead, dead, dead. All my work would have been wasted, and I’d have to start over from scratch. I’d be singing the blues, but that didn’t happen, so instead I’m smug, smug, smug.

Actually I threaded the needle, and the timing of planting those peas was timed perfectly. In truth you can either say I was lucky, or “to God goes the glory”,  but I so seldom have a chance to swagger that I prefer to think I did it all myself. After years of bungling and doing everything wrong, I have been so trained by misfortune that I’ve started doing things right, as a sort of intuitive reflex (which gets me off the hook of having to intellectually explain my success to scientists.)

Like a gambler “on a roll” I’ve decided to go with my instinct, and am planting other things a little early. I had to look hard to get my onions in, as they hadn’t even appeared in some stores, and in like manner I also got carrots, bulb-fennel, beets, turnips and lettuce planted this weekend.  (I might have planted potatoes, but at the hardware store they hadn’t brought them up to the showroom from the back warehouse.)

This could all be a complete disaster. This far north we can get frosts right into May. In fact, (to discredit Global Warming), we even had a frost on May 29 last spring. However I know how to handle such calamities. You wet everything down in the evening, (as it is harder to freeze wet things), (due to latent heat involved in the phase change, for you scientists), and then you put all your grass from mowing the lawn over the plants, but in a fluffy and thin manner (because the heat generated by wet hay can kill plants, if it is too thick).

The old-timers couldn’t be bothered planting early. They might plant a few things like peas on Patriots Day, but then they kicked back and waited until Memorial Day (May 31) to plant most everything else. Even though beets and carrots and turnips are hardy, and can stand a slight frost, old-timers had seen a few, late killing frosts. It wasn’t worth all the effort of planting a second time, or else rushing about wetting things down and fluffing grass over them. Why? because if you plant on April 24 your carrots take forever to sprout and then grow very slowly. Quite often, though you planted them five weeks ahead of Memorial Day, they have grown only to a height that plants planted after Memorial Day achieve in ten days. By July you can hardly tell the rows apart.  So why bother?

I suppose I bother because I seems to get slower as I get older. My garden is pretty big, and I can’t put the whole thing in on Memorial Day any more. So I pace myself, and do the same amount of work planting over weeks. In other words, I’m just as lazy as the old-timers.

Also, when you get to my age there’s not much you can do that is all that exciting. (Let’s skip the subject of sex.) (Also my finances.) Maybe I’ll drive forty when the speed limit is thirty-five, but the police officer just yawns as I speed by in my old, puttering pickup truck. Where’s the fun in that?

Therefore living-on-the-edge, for me, is to plant too early, but to get away with it.

Wisdom’s just a chance to show you’ve learned
From all you’re bungling, and to demonstrate
Old dogs aren’t dumb. Oh sure, we still get burned,
But flinch less. We’ve seen it’s never too late
To get things right. Although all of the clocks
Say time’s running out, we drive more slowly
Than frantic youngsters. The school of hard knocks
Has shown us speed kills, but the dawdler sees
The sunrises and smells the sweet bacon.
Do old dogs waste their time chasing their tails?
No, for they once bit their tail. Forsaking
The truth they learned would mean old dogs lie.
They don’t. So, if you’ve got things to fix,
Heed the old dogs. Don’t teach them new tricks.

P.S. (For Young Poets)

Yes, it is most definitely true that the young know more about computers and cell phones, but one big solar flare might set all that technology back on its heels, and make it difficult to even start a car. At that point an old geezer with a garden might suddenly seem to have values that are more lasting.

Not that it is wrong for young poets to spend time chasing their tails. It seems to be part of the process.

One way I chased-my-tail when in my late twenties was to be so determined to write that I did so even when I should have been living life, (and thus learning things worth writing about). My writing seemed to just get worse and worse. The worse it got the harder I tried, until I recall being on my knees and pounding the floor, shouting “I will write!  I will write!”

Then, exhausted, I made a liar of myself, for rather than writing I read, and what I happened to be reading was Huxley’s novel, “Antic Hay”, and I happened to get to the part where he has a character acting very much as I just had, pounding the carpet and fiercely insisting he would write.

This made me feel I wasn’t all that special, and was behaving like a character in a comic novel. So I got a job. It didn’t last, so I got another. And another. And another.

I’ve never sat down and counted the number of different jobs I’ve held, but it is over a hundred. Often they felt like they would ruin my ability to write. They never did. They enhanced it.

Eventually you wind up an old dog who knows lots of tricks. Keep the faith.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Details, details…–

Spring can get to be an overwhelming time on even a toy farm like mine. You can’t ask anything or anyone to wait. The Time to Plant is the Time to Plant, and you can’t tell it to wait.

Even if you do plant on time, there are all sorts of things that can mess up your plans. Late frosts, hail, plauges of locusts, fat groundhogs, annoying environmentalists and the EPA may descend and cut down your seedlings. However you will not even have seedlings to be cut down, if you tell the Time to Plant to wait.

You have a chance, and you had better not blow it.

Of course, as a writer, I am always begging for mercy. It may be Time to Plant, but please, please, please give me Time to Write.

There is such a beauty in the Time to Plant, that someone should write about it. Someone should sing a song of praise. Someone should pen a sonnet. Someone should shout thanks up to the top of the blue sky. However it has been my experience that, if you actually do take the time to pen poems, you wind up forgetting to actually plant, because you are too busy thinking up rhymes for “forsythia”.  Next thing you know, it is another time.  It is Time To Pay The Bill Collector. He wants your harvest, and he seldom accepts payment in poems. If you haven’t gotten around to planting anything, then facing the bill collector becomes one of life’s darkest moments.

“But surely”, you naively ask me, “If you sing a psalm like King David, you are offering flowers to your Creator, and His benefit must be clear.”  Alas, I tell you, offering flowers doesn’t always make one a hit.

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Therefore, as I am old and wise, I have learned I had better damn well take care of God’s business before getting around to praising God. I’m sure this seems a very pedantic and pragmatic thing for a poet to say, but, if the Time to Plant is worthy of praise, it is also worthy of enacting.

For, if you really want to see the beauty of planting, and really want to be remotely considered an authority on the subject, shouldn’t you actually plant?

And, if that means you have less time to write, so be it. It will make you a better singer and poet, in the long run.

Not that I don’t pity my fellow poets. We are not appreciated and helped, in a materialistic society.  And there surely will come times that it is true that

Every poet always wishes
That his muses did the dishes

However it is the poets that wind up dishwashers, doing lots of dishes that are not their own. It is part of the process. You need to get down and dirty and plant. In order to write poetry you need to know “you got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues”, and you cannot harvest without facing a Time to Plant.

 

Therefore I will have little time for posting. If I was more pragmatic than I am, I’d close down this site for a couple months. However, as I own an impractical side that bill collectors don’t like, I think I’ll opt for very short posts.

Today’s post would be, “Planted some onion and garlic sets. The peas are already sprouting, though most years they wouldn’t yet be planted.”

Then there would be a bit of Haiku, and perhaps a photo of onion and garlic sets.

However, because this is a longer post, I’ll post a longer sonnet.

It is strange how some demand I prove
What only happens once. They cry, “Replicate!”
I bow to their science. And I remove
Once-in-a-lifetime love, and then I wait.

You see, the Red Sea parted only once.
To replicate that is asking too much.
By asking too much some wind up the Dunce,
And rather than wise they wind up out of touch.

What is touching? What has moved your heart?
What honeymoon made the child that you spoil?
Can you replicate that? Can you even start
To explain the illogic which science will foil?

Science wants logic. Does it want hate?
Or does it want love? I still sit and wait.