Oh Beautiful

For spacious skies, giving loft to every bird.

Dinosaur eagle with war potatoes

Ring-necked motley bird

early birds

Martian insects, perhaps?

sainted birds

and trees of course, each one a home for so many

Happy 2022 everyone

2021 New Garden

Silver maples are often multi-trunked. They grow rapidly and are given, at some point, to just falling down. This one had six trunks and was quite ill-tended when it became mine to tend.

Getting that diagonally standing trunk to fall properly took a fair amount of contemplation. It fell just as desired, though, landing on the lawn and not over the stone wall.

Eventually I undertook the ‘mighty’ task of digging out the stump. One autumn, as children my siblings and I were once tasked with digging up the stumps of a dozen locust trees. That was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life, of what a person or persons could do, and of what it took to do it. Axes, shovels, ingenuity, each in good measure, and heaps of effort.

Thanks heavens for the chainsaw, is all I can say, not that heaps of effort are still not required, especially for trunks of this size, but as a force multiplier. With just an axe this would have been nigh on too monstrous a task.

Very vexing to the chain, and perplexing to me as to how the circumstance arose, was the rock inside the wood – that’s right, rock inside the wood, below. Live, learn, and buy new chainsaw chains as needed.

As you can see below, even with all the trunks cut away, that’s still about 5 or six feet in diameter of trunk area.

Earnest application, is all I can say, over the course of a few beautiful April days. The soil was so exquisite and the light on it so nice, that’s what made me think ‘garden’.

Full of promise

By May, with rose bushes, tomatoes, Siberian iris, celery

First rose in bloom, iris too. Peppers added

By July, with red yarrow, cosmos, datura. Over-planted, as I tend to do, but fun.

It was very productive. Mostly tomatoes and roses. The celery proved very vigorous too.

Expansion plans abound for the coming year. What a joy.

Collapse, rebuild

A surprisingly epic tale is to follow. Whether it is educational or not I do not know. I know that I learned a great deal, if such is possible for one who considers most erstwhile knowledge as mere information. I share with the fragile hope that you will gain something, something that otherwise would have been difficult to gain. No pain, no gain, they say (smiling emoji).

It began with an innocent ominousness. That’s right. Perhaps the refrigerator is tired? Notice how it’s leaning to the left? It refused to speak of how it was feeling. Normally, as in always, it had stood straight.

Closer (intrusive and destructive) inspection revealed that it was not so much the refrigerator but the floor that was having the problem.

I trust you will notice the glorious 5 x 7 beam that seems to rest at an improper angle. Failed in the line of duty. Broken, rotted really. No longer suitable for use as designed.

Perhaps it becomes clearer now.

Not obvious in this picture (because it’s not there) is the fact that the middle beam was even more severely compromised. Unsaveable, a lost cause, gone caput. To restore this pantry to its former functional state, that’s the journey this post will narrate. Below you can behold what I came to fondly describe as the ‘bridge of doom’. The refrigerator had fled, of course, into the space behind that wall on the left – a peculiar space four feet wide and fourteen across (fourteen deep if you just looked into it) left there to keep firewood indoors. Of course the refrigerator needed to be visited several times a day, and from the kitchen, from whose door the photo below was taken. Therefore each day, with due attention to balance, several times I would traverse the beam, sometimes hands full, asking myself why why why was it not worth temporarily making a safer way. The challenge, of course. That which does not destroy me, etc. I’m very glad to report a mishap count of zero, not that this justifies my decision making process.

Getting down into the pit and looking under, toward the kitchen. A thin layer of wet earth on top of bedrock outcroppings, simple wooden 4 x 4’s, rotten at their base, and then another stone cross wall perhaps 10 feet in.

It gave me many hearty laughs to see the devil-may-care precision with which these underlying/supporting walls were constructed. What is good enough? Our friend Boris would know, may he rest in peace, but who even remembers Mr. Gudenoff now? Good enough certainly were my tools of destruction – my Grandfather’s sledge hammer, two Japanese pull saws (one ‘timber class’), and old oak-handled pry bar, a standard hammer. These worked great.

How quickly (three weeks?) from despair to hope? Would that the time were so short for the many, that the causes were so delightfully addressable. A most industrious neighbor. who in addition to farming also runs a sawmill on his farm, cut the new 5 x 7 beams, notched them into place, shored up the new beams as shown below, and supplied the planks that I might complete the decking. This was an utterly fabulous turn of events and one for which I remain most grateful.

Some of said planking below, prior to deployment

Ah but rot, rot and conscience and good sense – what can one do, when beholding rot, too much rot, but address it?

It’s a hard line, to say what is sufficient. For this whole project I’d decided that the mission success criteria would be a minimum of 5 and ideally of 20 or more years of function, at minimum cost, inasmuch as I (continue to) hold larger plans for the re-doing of this whole space but at the moment that project must wait. I happened to have some lovely red oak 6 x 6 orts, however, and one of exactly the right length was in the barn.

Hope increases as these bits of good fortune accrue.

As it had been, I decided to stick with the three layers of decking. The first two laid the long way, divided on the center line so that of could remove the floor in halves if such a need were to arise.

An extra bonus was to re-use some of the old decking as shelves where the refrigerator was. But wait! I know your eager mind has had the fate of the refrigerator as a significant and unabandoned thread. Fear not. As with most projects, they grow. I was aware that simplest would be to put it where it was, but because the wall between the firewood cubby and the pantry was not in the long term plan anyway, and the firewood cubby by itself was providing no utility, and a larger pantry would be more useful, well – the refrigerator would go in corner of the firewood cubby space and therefore be brought back into the pantry by the destruction of the wall. Voila! (some emojis).

A brief shout out has to go to the ‘slick’ below, a old word for a wide chisel, as well as to the oscillating multi-tool. I learned about this tool from the industrious farmer. I asked if it had a simpler name, as no one wants to say “Hey, do you know where I put my oscillating multi-tool?’, but if there is a secret name for it he either did not know or would not share. This, in my piggery, I christened it an Omt. Do not attempt to guess how I divined the name. I’d never had or knew of omts. Sublimely useful.

This epic sure goes on, eh? It took months, several nights a week, some weekends. Below find the wall to be destroyed. Layers of paint and wallpaper and horsehair plaster, cottony insulation, some wiring

Sparing you then the many photos of intermediate destruction, please find wall removed and thus refrigerator re-integrated into pantry. The old door, now a door to nowhere, was left at the request of my daughter. No worries, the whole space is temporary and experimental. Of course.

There was still much to learn, however, especially regarding the place of humility. The original pantry floor had no insulation beneath it. The room never seemed cold, but then again there was no reason to spend any time in it. Spending time there made it very plain that it was borderline icy on cold days, that the refrigerator was lifting the temperature of what it contained. So up came the carefully laid board (but there the fact that I had not nailed them down was a great thing) and I now had to lay insulation between each of the 3 foot segments between the beams.

In order to accomplish this, and to have the pink side up, it seemed that staples just were not doing it, and that some sort of slats would do much better. Pile of custom cut slats below, pre-nailed even. Detour city, but in the name of better outcomes.

Last panels before being placed. Notes on virtue of forethought. And as for fiberglass dust? I ask not.

Note now the ceiling, multi-layered, the dangling wires, and

the floor – quite discontinuous

challenges, at my (low) skill level. I took it ploddingly, addressing each problem directly but without much thought on the overall unity. If function is first how far off the mark could this be? Below the outlet in the ceiling, but essential and convenient to the very patient refrigerator.

an even uglier but nonetheless functional outlet placement –

and again sparing you – this time of the details of ceiling and floor unification (I know, you’re welcome), we get to a colored floor. Much debate has raged, and it seems that the perception of the color of the floor is greatly skewed by gender. Only the colors blue and purple have been reported as being seen.

Shelves in the same color

You may recall the stencil footprints around the door in the bridge of doom picture. When I’d moved in, the stencil itself was taped to wall, as if the stencil-er had been called home suddenly. I took it down and set it aside, not knowing that more was meant for it in this life.

I remain very tickled by these, as I am by the little entryway below No doubt you are aware that if you give a mouse some building materials, he may build a neo-classical Greek revival entryway, in keeping with local architecture.

Now that black wall – it was not meant to be a black wall, but rather the blackness as a backdrop for some wonderful non-representational art.

All stories, this one true, weave into thousands of other stories. Much was learned in re-building this pantry. The log slices above grew profound mold, mold that no bleach or ammonia could remedy, so down they came. The pantry is far better than it was, however, and I richer and thankful for the experience.

Bits approximating Haiku

Please do not confuse these with haiku, or art, or anything but what they seem to be. I’ll declare that sometimes the brevity of a 17 syllable expression attracts my muse – I mean, really, if you can’t get it across directly, you probably can’t get it across.

this pen does not write.
it spits at unwanted moments!
Out, into the trash!

The three that follow reach back a ways, yet each reappears in my reflection now and again.

slow thaw, mists thicken
snow mass, quiet puddling
darkness – skunks emerge

How can I share the recurring moment? Spring is in the air but the great piles of snow that the plows have made, they are melting and giving off mists and puddles. Mists rise from them but also, and inevitably, there is a smell, a smell of skunks – and it comes from the fact that at such a time of year skunks also emerge from wherever they have been for the winter. These phenomena as so closely tied. Any magical realist would suspect a causal link, and surely, since skunks emerging cannot have retroactively produced piles of melting snow, it must be, it must essentially be, that melting piles of snow produce skunks. Post hoc ergo propter hoc! Squeal with the delight of insight! Ahegm. Yet still, when I see the mist and my feet are wet in the puddle and I smell the smell, I remember how hard it is to capture and share the truth.

I’ve taken my swings.
Now I behold the diamond,
empty in the sun

This one, desperately imperfect and personal, accepts the passing of my father. To have taken ones swings, in baseball talk, is to have had ones turn, to be done. Baseball was his passion and main metaphor. Being done, one might look at the empty field (a diamond), to reflect. Lo, it is empty. but here my imagination jumps, and I think of the emptiness of which Buddhist speak, emptiness as a feature of Reality which cannot be understood as a concept, nor can it be described in words. I think of being done and trying to understand what it is that has been done. I feel close to beholding a diamond. I am thankful for the warmth of the sun. As a haiku this is probably unintelligible, but at least as a personal reflection, it comes back to me.

As this tree rises
unquestioning to the sun
may I also rise

It’s a deep thing that I notice in trees, how it is that over the years they reach (towards the sun, toward some actualization of possibility, towards destiny), and how they reach at each moment, breathing the air and gathering water and nutrition from the earth, growing, how it is utterly unquestioning, this actualization. Utterly.

Good Morning dear reader. May you as well rise without question.

Sun

of a sort. Hard to say why. A post in front of the house once held a sign – I don’t know what the sign said, I was not here then, but clearly the post was meant to hold a sign. Words, oh unrighteous words, this is this and not that, as if words capture essence as opposed to suggestion. Wallace Stevens, even though he extends the idea to images, understood how little is left after fullest evisceration – “To-morrow when the sun, For all your images, Comes up as the sun, bull fire, Your images will have left No shadow to themselves”

So should I remove the post or put a sign there, and if a sign, what sign? For some time I dwelt on this. Unrelatedly I’d been looking at old farm equipment and found myself drawn to rotary hoe blades, the more tines the better – to me they had a sun-like sense, a spinning blazing sun-sense, a vague suggestion of the incomprehensible power of the sun. From this coincidence of musings my solution arose.

Rustoleum, of course, irony notwithstanding.

And then a tiny measure of endeavor, to bore a peg hole at the top of the post, to fashion a peg with a bulbous end, to affix the hoe sun to the post with the peg, to set it back in the ground.

Of course dust is the final outcome, but along the way, for a brief and shining set of moments, we make our gardens and pray that the sun grace them.

Survivors

Never exactly forgotten, yet long ago having lost their comparatively eminent places, behold the survivors!  Do click upon them, for they’d like that, and examine well their worn details.

I cannot escape remarking on the tropes from the Velveteen Rabbit here, that 1) “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” and 2) “It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”.

In general, and probably here as well, I am against the notion that ‘real’ is a meaningful modifier of anything.  Real imitation.  Real imagination.  Real possibility.  Get Real!  I like a sense of the real which admits everything and excludes nothing, which focuses rather on the way in which things are real.  Your dreams are real – real dreams, that is, real in a different way than things you might touch.  It is not possessing the quality of reality which distinguishes them, rather the nature of their reality.  That said, the notion I think that Margery Williams is getting at, for scrupulous yet ruthless literalists as I can be, is some sort of fullest incarnation: physical, emotional, mental, perhaps even spiritual – standing in a very different place than the number 12 written in an equation, the plastic cap on a water bottle, or even a photograph.  It is in this regard that I will share some of what I know about these characters.

Sam the Monkey was bought for me by my Grandmother Alice in Queens Village on Long Island, New York on Jamaica Avenue near the fire station in 1965.  I was either late in my second year or early in my third.  The crusty gentleman who tended the convenience store while smoking his cigar took the monkey off the wall, away from his brethren, and bestowed him upon me.  This was my second doll/toy.  The first was a bear named Atlantus, though the circumstances of his becoming mine are beyond the reach of my memory.  Atlantus, also known as Atlantus Pantus, who was very much loved, would become a victim of the puppyhood of our first dog, Mandy.  She shredded him to bits when I was seven.

Some tale must be told of each.  Sam’s is the most formidable.  If you zoom in you will notice that one of his eyes is the sort that follows you.  This was very scary to me as a tike.  So scary, in fact, that whilst still sleeping in a crib that I removed one of them.  Much less scary then, for a while at least, until that monster that Nietzsche describes, the minotaur of conscience, gets a whiff of it.

Somewhere around the age of eight I had resolved to get Sam a new eye.  Stray eyes were in short supply, however, and I felt averse to calling attention to the whole matter.  We did have a young dog, however, perhaps the perfect foil in that she had a taste for stuffed animals.  My younger sister had a small yellow and orange stuffed whale.  Mysteriously that whale was visited by fatal injuries via the teeth of that beloved dog.  A sad matter all around, but one that made a spare eye available!  Now you know.  The minotaur has compelled me to write this. 

Around the same time, first grade I believe, I was not loving the process of education.  Handwriting, in particular, was torturous.  At the end of the school year I recall throwing my notebooks out the window of the school bus so as not to have to review with my parents the many helpful criticisms they contained.  Surprisingly, though, there was a consolation.  That very day this gingerbread man, who came to be known as King James, was given to me by my mother.  Briefly I imagined that all was right and that the whole school business was a terrible mistake.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case but King James stood thereafter as significant consolation in a desolate time.

Things got better.  Crabby was supposedly made of dura-plastic and infallible rubber (of course he was plush).  Cosmic justice (meaning I had NOTHING to do with it) eventually cost him his eyes.  That dog Mandy. 

Scrappy I made from a pair of outgrown pajamas.  Noteworthy is that inside his head is another head, full on with its own eyes and mouth and nose.  Why this design was enacted I do not know, but it seemed a cool feature at the time, illustrating that all may not be as it appears.  Scrap’s entertainment value as rather as a jester.  If you threw him he would land in the most god-awful poses, suggesting terrible injuries.  Unperturbed, however, Scrappy was resiliently happy. 

In early adulthood, in the same year I think, two others joined, both found on the street. Not depicted because he went to the beyond place that dogs bring toys to, Pythagoras the stuffed bunny rabbit warranted profound compassion.  Found face down in the street, his red eyes were scraped, abraded by the pavement.  Tire tracks.  He was a wise member of the crew of survivors, for perhaps a decade.  Only the other toys know his true story.

The wooden Pinocchio was also found on the street.  Being wooden, all presume he has fewer feelings.  Despite the bad reputation Pinocchio’s have of being untruthful, however, this one has made no misrepresentations – in fact, he’s made no representations at all.  One day, perhaps, or perhaps not.

These are the survivors. 

 

Plane Disarray Addressed

When things are in plain disarray, action needs be taken. This can be held to be self-evident. When planes are in plain disarray, the mind may be boggled. Consider how boggling this disarray:

The movement from disorder to order is, excepting the order created by life itself, unnatural. Monkeys, myself included, are guileful. This mess you see, really it is an avalanche waiting to happen, an avalanche that will demand the subsequent reorganization of its components. Had a marginally more stable chaos been created it might have persisted for far too long.

Thus, and unfortunately I have no picture, one day in early April, perhaps a loud noise, or even the footfall of a tiny mouse, and down came a tumbling, a plain plane chaos. This was all the stimulus I needed to create order, as avalanches, cascading layers of increasing disorder, are mostly an anathema to world-builders.

Take joy, for all is not lost. Light, if need be, the highest candle. Where there was chaos, let there be order. Lions sleep tonight.

Mouse

Bold was he, as I sat at my desk. Right up to my foot he walked, seemingly oblivious. I had to tap my foot to get his attention or I think he would have climbed right onto my slipper. That would have been ok but I thought to spare us any ensuing chaos.

He retreated with no special haste into the foyer. I followed and sat down on the floor to introduce myself. He seemed to have almost no fear.

Towards the end of our conversation, after praising his courage, I informed him that he’d need to get into a box that I would provide, that I would be putting him outside, that in a perfect world I would gladly allow him to make himself at home but that this world was not so constructed. I went to get the box.

When I got back he had hidden under the radiator. I asked him to come out and get in the box. He demurred. Gently with a piece of paper I coaxed him from under the radiator, hoping he’d see the box as safety. Alas. He saw my office as safety, in the corner by the bookcase. Little did he know that he may as well as climbed into the box. I took another piece of paper and made, as it were, a three sided box canyon and then placed the actual box on the fourth side. Then, just as in those movies where the protagonists are caught in a room where one of the walls is slowly moving toward its opposite, so that they will clearly be crushed, I moved the paper wall slowly.

Being a smart mouse he read the situation perfectly and ran into the box. Not as smart as a vole, I daresay, who would have seen that the paper wall was no wall at all, but I was not giving off a very predatory vibe and maybe he was just rolling with it.

I gave him one more talking to, about where he would be going (under the barn), about expectations, about what he should tell his friends and family. I underlined that I had nothing but the strongest positive wishes him and his. This was in April of the year 2020.

Further Tales of the War Spoon

There are so many questions you may ask. The original, the Progenitor, is woken! It is not known if he visited R’lyeh in his mute and broken time. The wise will form their own opinions.

It so happened that the war spoon faithfully say upon my desk. It would assist in scratching my back when called but otherwise abide in quiet readiness. It was unfortunate that the cleaning ladies did not accord him sufficient recognition. Thrice they accidentally cast him to the stone floor, perhaps more than that, but at least thrice was his beak broken.

The first two times ordinary repairs were undertaken. Considerable thoughtfulness was exercised in terms of grain orientation (for strength). Mahogany dust was mixed with the glue to give right color. The third time, however, insufficient thoughtfulness ruled the day. I’d carved a rough new beak and glued it well. By rough I mean that it was not fully shaped. The shaping I’d do after the glue had set. For some reason, however, I decided to use the tool of terror (there should be special music for this).

Aptly named, the tool of terror not only tore off the unformed beak but also broke the neck of the Progenitor. In two. Decapitated. Much worse than anything that might happen in the chair of a dentist. The corpse of Ted Williams twitched. For many moons did things so remain.

We can rebuild him! Better, stronger, faster … bionic spoon!

Pieces of orange osage were cut and approximately fitted. Ridiculous ingenuity was applied in the gluing the second bond in the neck.

The beak was carefully set

Careful shaping followed.

and once again, perhaps even better than ever, the Progenitor quietly abides. His current beak and the additional neck length have improved his back scratching ability. What a long journey even the simplest of continuities can be.

The Orb

This is one of those things.

When I was a young warthog – I should say when I was a child. The next door neighbors of my grandparents had a blue mirror ball on a pedestal. It seemed pretty magical to me, the way it captured everything, included me, changed the color – very far from an ordinary thing. Thus it seemed fitting to incarnate here in my world as I approach the age they must have been when I was little. Therefore, to eBay, where orbs built like giant glass Christmas ornaments, short neck and all, were not pricey at all.

For a pedestal I decided to take advantage of a trove of beams I’d recently acquired. What you see above this the bottom up view, the feet for stability.

The tool of terror must also have its moment of recognition. It’s not the angle grinder so much as the particular wheel, the absence of a guard, the fact that the on switch locks in place, and the such tools like to catch and buck. Every time I use it I question myself.

Nonetheless it is a very effective tool

I used drill and chisel to make a place for the neck of the orb.

Clearly a case of lo and behold

See how gracefully it portends Spring