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Friday, March 24, 2017

Backyard Evolution

Geo.: Well, hello. What have we here?
Voice from overhead: A field cat perfecting his skulk.

Geo.: Who said that, and how do you know?

Voice: Look up here in the plum tree. I am a dove and doves know everything.

Geo.:  Everything?

Dove.: Everything.
Geo.: What then, is the object of Fieldcat perfecting its skulk? What is the perfect skulk?

Dove: Invisibility, of course.  Other creatures pursue it by different disciplines. Take our friend, Shed-cat, for instance...

Geo.: Shedcat? Where?

Dove: Precisely:
Dove: Shed-cat renders himself invisible by falling perfectly asleep on top of the shed. He is a great artist and ranks among the least conspicuous things in the universe.

Geo.: But what of you, Dove? How do you compare with other birds?

Dove: Consider Bluejay in the crepe myrtle...
Dove: His colors, stance and voice are are assertive --he is conspicuous. We doves have muted voices, calm colors and very good posture. On those points alone, we cannot be compared --and, of course, unlike other birds, we doves know everything.

Geo.: And humans?

Dove: Oh, good point! You humans know everything else. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Enigma of Youth

Let's begin with the premise that youth, while definitely enigmatic, is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be experienced. Norma has taken a photo of the graduating dandelion class of 2017. They are in their youth and have accomplished their curriculum --a few even have their heads still on. This reminds me of my own 12th grade commencement.

Winds blew hard in my youth and many of us, like dandelions, were left without any heads, but we were resilient --as youths should be-- and our heads mostly grew back.

In youth we are clumsy and limber. I wore glasses and once accidentally stepped on them while they were still on my head. Here is a typical youth:

As Norma's camera gets closer, you can see its thoughts. Here are the thoughts of youth:
These thoughts come loose easily and spread by anemochory. This happens because of wind. Wind arrives and all thoughts fly away. Youth's friends point and laugh.

"Wind!", they say. Youth must grow a whole new head.

During this process of routine recapitation, youths are not so much driven to adulthood as confused into it. They might shout things like this:
   "The only substitute for good manners is a large and ruthless military!"
   "How dare you imply my candidate's lies are not true!"
   "I'm going to sea and dive for luffas!"

Then the storm subsides by and by and they remark, "There are many enigmas, many unknowns, and something  really ought to be done about them."

That is when a cooler head prevails and she lists the contents of the coming garden.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Signs and Portents

Here's a quotation I've never used before:
"...what portent can be greater than a pious notary?"

No idea what it means.

It comes from the novel, Romola, by Geo. Eliot --whose real name was Mary, a name I have always been fond of since I knew Mary the horse who never stepped on my head.  Geo. is my name too, so I get to use the quote. Portents weren't strictly considered warnings of calamity when the book was written --as they are now. They could mean a sign of anything wonderous. I will comply with modern usage and look for a wonderful sign.

Here, I will show you wonderful. Norma went out this morning between spring showers and photographed raindrops in her garden. Here is the first, a study of  refraction and reflection on a broccoli  leaf:
It consist of liquid jewels contrived to attract our attention. In fact, you can see a spot of dark in the upper leftmost drop. That is Norma and her lens. It comprised a promise, a portent she pursued to the brussel sprouts, which have rounder, more deeply contoured leaves.  Raindrops ran together there into a sign. A heart.
Nature is the language of the universe. In this instance, it left a sign we associate with love. The heart means the universe wants us to grow, thrive, treat each other --and ourselves-- with compassion.

If you wish to find out what else Eliot wrote on page 16 of  Romola,  her next sentence was "Balaam's ass was nothing to it." This a reference to the Old Testament Book of Numbers (22:21-39), where the ass got to talking coherently but was interrupted by humans who drummed themselves dopey with portentous political paradiddle.

Best to seek subtler signs --even if you don't like brussel sprouts because they look like little heads, and they do, you know.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Modern Problems

My posts have been sparse this past month because of enigmatic modern problems. This essay will address two of them.  I opened up our bathroom medicine cabinet recently and decided it could use some updating.
Ok, this picture isn't of the medicine cabinet  --it's a tool drawer in the barn-- but it's what Norma had and it's close enough. What I wanted was an oxygen concentrator so I could take trips to higher elevations. An oxygen concentrator is a machine that draws ambient air and expels nearly pure oxygen for aging wheezers like me. Ambient air consists generally of 20% oxygen, 70% nitrogen. Remaining 10% is mainly gasses produced by decaying uraninites and, in election years, blatherskites. Problem is, I've been called back into the doctor's office three times because they hadn't given me the full test this device requires for insurance coverage --sheer repetition has made me jumpy. Each time, there is some new part of the test that I haven't studied for, or they haven't. But I digress.

Point is, as we all sometimes must, I bowed to absurdity and, as I shut the mirrored medicine cabinet door, found my reflection had disappeared. 

"Not again!" I moaned.

Identity theft is a horrible thing.Same thing happened to me exactly four years ago and I recognized the symptoms. I returned home from my doctor's 3rd exam on Friday to receive a letter from Verizon thanking me for opening a cell phone account in Modesto --a city 75 miles south of here-- which I had not done.  I called Verizon first, established myself, and they cancelled the account even though they lost a cell phone --yes they do have a fraud dept. because it's that common.  That left my problem.

Oh lordy, I thought, I got Modern Problems!

Somebody made the purchase with my SSN and name AND address. I contacted my credit card co., all three credit monitoring agencies, visited the Sheriff's  Office to start a case file, then added passwords to any accounts that didn't already have them from my previous frolic with this outrage.

My reflection in the mirror is returning, which is promising.  I have so far narrowly escaped the ailment of lost identity known, in medical parlance, as Draculitis -- a brainal dysfunction and absence of mirrored reflection that causes sufferers to roam the night asking, "Is my hair all right?" I'd hate to have to go back to my doctor this week with that.

From what I learned at the Sheriff's Office, Medicare might have to cover it by and by.

This has been a public service announcement.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Subnivean Sermon

It is a brassy, woody sound between  ringing and rattling that rarely occurs, but when it does, it means the oldest telephone in the back porch has been called.

"Hello, have I reached the future?"

"Speaking.  How are you, Poppy?"

"Aging, but still in the game."

"And Santa?"

"Jolly, he's jolly. I need your help with something else."

"At your service, ma'am."

"All right. According to future history --where I was born but only visit on holidays now-- your new administration succeeded in confusing Sweden, of all places, this weekend. It won't stop there because 'alternative truth' has become part of the vulgate."

"Yes, Poppy, that was this weekend. How can I help?"

"You can help by resurrecting a counter-phrase from your youth in North America. Something "Job" and "Snow"? Am I making sense?"

"Snowjob? Sure, like when I used to make up phony quotes in high school essays and attribute them to non-existent authors. But I haven't heard the term in ages."

"Do your best then, Geo., even if you have to doodle and, if you can, suggest a solution to its threat of temporal enigma.  The confusion won't stop at Sweden. Bye!"

Hence my doodle:
Observe its four layers: the sky does a snowjob; tree metabolism and residual ground temperature create a relatively comfortable hollow under the packed snow.  Under the snowpack is better protected from predators than above it --and warmer. The hollow is called the subnivean zone. It contains the little creatures who seek shelter from the cold upper air when there are no attics available --or when attics are claimed by larger creatures like bison or low-flying aircraft.  In the doodle, you may notice the weathermouse reporting down a snow-tunnel to the twig-ladder-holding mouse --who relays meteorological information to squirrels, bugs, reptiles and other refugees in the subnivean zone.

Lesson is, we must learn from our little forest friends how to survive in subnivean security when inundated with incessant snowjobs. Your regular pastor will return next Sunday, or whenever weathermouse says it's safe to dig out.

Go in peace.
Addendum: To readers who wish a background to our time-traveling friend, Poppy, please click here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Invisibility And The Meaning Of Life

I had not considered the enigma of invisibility until this week, while we patrolled the garden looking for rain-damage to our drought. I came upon this creature --Norma took a photo:
I: Well, hello there! Get through the rainy night all right?

It: Yes, thank you...I mean, uh, why are you asking?

I: I thought it only polite.

It: I mean, why are you talking to me?

I: Because you're a living creature.

It: Nonsense! I am some punctuation. One of those Roman things.

I: Roman thing?

It: Yes, Et , in Latin cursive, O and t were contracted to write And as &.

I: You're an ampersand?

It: Well, obviously. Trouble with you humans is no imagination. Think about it!
I: Ah, I see. Wonder why it hadn't struck me before.

It: It's because you jumpy humans spend so much time thinking up unpleasant things to do. Other animals accept our camouflage because their calmer imaginations are capable of it --and they'd rather not attack mighty forest beasts like us squirrels. When threatened, we keep perfectly still and the illusion is complete.

I: How do you remain still?

It: We meditate. We ponder the meaning of life. Think about where you have seen me.

I: Well, when you were growing up last summer, I saw you a lot atop our almond tree.
It: And now you see me carrying the almonds I buried off to my shelter in the laurel bough. I also socked a lot of walnuts away from under your neighbor's tree. That's the meaning of life.

I: You mean...

It: Yes, life is nuts!

I: You'll get no argument from me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Aisle 15 Again: Wheat Or Reality?

You may be wondering why I called you all here today to my favorite Mexican restaurant (I sure am). There was a good reason, having something to do with how flimsy reality has got lately and the best place to sort that out is lunch in a really good Mexican restaurant. With whatever you order, I recommend a bottle of Corona cerveza --one of the most cheerful beers in the world. For those conscientiously disinclined, ask for a pilsner glass --you will be brought a different  drink from the one in this bottle, that is equally cheerful (because it is Corona cerveza too). 
Let me begin by discussing an aspect of 'flimsy reality' that concerns the Muse. We write here, you and I. We found this medium because we wanted a place where we could say what we want and write as we wish. Surely you have all considered the nearly unthinkable importance of that license. The Muse's job is to negotiate between divine impulse and human consciousness.

What happens to the Muse's job when all her gods retire among metaphors in English 1-B classes? Gets harder, that's what. Reality suffers. We suffer. Writers suffer --of course you all know that. But I am not a writer. I am a gardener. I reluctantly consent to reality but expecting everybody to approve of it is a bit much. That's why we're going on a field trip after lunch. Now settle down, it's just to the market next door. Orderly line (and remember where the train's parked!).
Now, here we are in the cracker and cereal aisle, take note. I am pointing at a product of woven wheat. Those of you who insisted upon corn tortillas at lunch wouldn't know about wheat being called THE STAFF OF LIFE for 10,000 years, only that it has gluten in it --our concern is elsewhere. 

When we first tried shredded wheat cereal in the 1950s,  my brother theorized it was baled straw from some sort of miniaturized field operation. I disagreed, said if it looked like wicker and squeaked under pressure like wicker and...well, I thought it was wicker. Then came woven crackers and I imagined wheat woven on tiny looms by tiny slaves in tiny countries and, if I ever became a writer, I'd write about it --but the Muses never brought any divine impulses to encourage or contradict me, so I avoided the subject (and the whole occupation) because the reality wasn't anything I could always consciously consent to. 

As a human being, as a gardener, I consent to the basis of free expression, of true civilization, that is, I consent to compassion --and, if we're done here, another Corona.