A photo of my house from just yesterday.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Begins the deer-crossing time of day just as dawn seeps into the unruly line of hills east of my home. Trees emerge from the darkness first. Bullpine standing there with arms and fists held out. Then sagebrush slowly appearing like puffs of green smoke frozen in place. Then bunchgrass just as the sun swells orange and yellow inside the clouds where they lay extended across the hills. And finally, three mule deer detach from the solidifying landscape and cross the grassy span before me as I stand watching.
Of this I never tire.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
My dearest X,
Somewhere back in the 14th Century, William Ockham wrote: “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” This notion is now referred to as “Ockham’s razor.” And we have been struggling to comply with this philosophy ever since.
The common, if not terrifyingly simple, interpretation of Ockham’s reasoning is that at any point where competing ideas or theories are found to make the same conclusion or explanation of something, the simplest theory should be adopted and the other left behind to flounder in the dust.
I am not opposed to simple. I am good at simple.
Scientists have applied Ockham’s razor at various points to whittle away at over-complication in the circus of theoretical studies that ever surround us. Even today, guided by this principle, physicists are seeking a “Grand Unified Theory” that will glue together gravity, electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force in theory that explains everything.
Well, as they say, we ain’t there just yet.
And, X, what of us? Our lives have become far from simple.
What do either reflective theories or empirical foundations have to do with my desire hold your wrist as we step stone-to stone across a meadow stream or my wish to shield you from ocean spray with my outstretched jacket?
And here is this: Whether 10 feet away or 10,000 miles apart, we are still apart. I don’t want to be apart.
What if, in one theory, I decide that I adore you and I take your hand into mine in some public place?
What if, in another theory, I lean over and kiss you.
Which of these do you think is the simplest?
Which might I choose?
Friday, April 27, 2012
I purchased a pair of sandals yesterday for an upcoming trip to Hawaii. While unlocking my truck to leave the store where I made the purchase, I noticed an SUV pulling up along a curb near the storefront entrance. Just as I started climbing into my seat, I saw that a tattered old woman had climbed from the SUV. Leaning against her cane, she struggled to step out of the way so she might close the door.
She looked as if on the verge of tipping over.
I quickly pitched my new sandals to the far side of the bench seat and scrambled across the parking lot to reach the SUV. I arrived just a she managed to swing the door closed. “Would you mind if I walked into the store with you?” I asked.
She eyed me with doubt, still leaning hard against her cane.
“It would be my pleasure,” I assured her. “Where are you headed?”
“The beauty parlor.”
“Not that you need it!” I said. I watched as her doubt softened and then I reached to link my arm with her free arm. “Please allow me to go with you.”
The old woman linked her arm with mine and we slowly waddled toward the glass doors of the store. The high sun made her ridiculously red hair glow as if neon. I asked her how she was doing. “I feel pretty good,” she told me. “I battled the flu for a while, but I am on the mend now.”
“Good! I am glad to hear that.” I progressed slowly and made certain that I did not outpace the placement of her cane. “And now we have this great spring weather.”
“Time for planting,” she said.
“Yep. Flowers,” I added, smiling at her.
I helped the old woman navigate through the two sets of doors. Once we got inside the store, the woman said to me: “I’ll be fine from here.”
“Okay. I want you to have nice rest of the day.”
With nothing more said, I left the store and walked back to my truck. Not until I had climbed inside the truck and shut the door did the thought strike me that, on perhaps this very day one year ago, I allowed Uyen to slip from my arms as I tried to transfer her out of her wheelchair. She fell to the floor in a heap, no longer able to so much as convince her body to sit upright.
My serene wife was fading away. In less than two weeks, she would be gone.
Uyen lay on the carpet that day, laughing, thinking it so very funny that I dropped her.
I stood above her, not laughing, but crying.
As I sat in my truck yesterday, I realized that I should have kissed that old woman before leaving her there in the store. I should have looked her straight in the eyes and then kissed her cheek. I started my truck, backed out of my parking spot, and drove away while wiping new tears from my under my eyes.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The laundry basket plumped full with only my clothing.
The mailbox bottomed with letters addressed to “Mrs.”
A single glass standing upright in my sink.
Bluebird pairs frequenting my fence rail and pirouetting into the sage.
A long song layered with saxophones and piano flowing through in the dark of my house.
The first stemless daisies boosting up bright as new cotton from the prairie soil.
Fumbling through the grocery displays of mangos and sweet pears.
Snipping away my own flicks of errant hair.
Stars falling through clouds above.
Needy cats at my feet.
I can tolerate all of these things.
But that bed, ever made, always there exactly as I last left it has become too much for me.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Many years ago, I read an article about how forms of normal human behavior will continue to persist even in the most brutal of conditions. Much of the article dealt with how children cope with violence and death when war invades the places where they live. Essentially, the war-torn streets and the blown-apart countryside become their fields of play.
A certain detail of that article has stuck with me to this day. Time and time again, from country to country, whenever grade school children were asked to draw pictures of the war images that most bothered them—the invading tanks, the streetside skirmishes, the battered people—they never forgot to place a big sun up in the sky and a few flowers in the foreground. Amidst the blunt and profane the hopeful elements persist.
Monday, April 23, 2012
As a general rule, I do not alter the color of my photographs. I try to keep the images exactly as the camera captured them. I never use colored filters, though I will happily adjust shutter and aperture settings to allow the subject and available light to change results. On occasion, however, a photo that I have taken will scream to be dramatically altered.
The wild photograph I have posted today is one that I toyed with a bit. The final image is just a small snip from a landscape image I captured on Saturday afternoon at Little Prickly Pear Creek. As a reference, I have also posted another image from the same time and place.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
· You cannot look through a stone wall with your eyes closed…or with them open, for that matter.
· Knitting with a single needle is the surest path to a sweater with one sleeve.
· You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him open your can of chicken noodle soup for dinner.
· A man driven by greed could probably afford a chauffeur.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Yesterday, while reaching for a file inside a file cabinet at work, I caught my finger on a jagged something-or-other. Though I experienced no real pain, blood blossomed like a poppy on my finger. My instincts forced me to immediately draw my hand to my mouth and press my lips against the poppy. I am not sure why we have this reaction to a small cut, but most people instinctively react in this way. As I stood there, I realized that my own blood—vital as it might be—tasted like an old penny pressed against my tongue.
Am I a vessel filled with old pennies?
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
When alone and without a steady barrage of outside inputs, each of us will likely shuffle and sort our thoughts down to some simplified form. As my day nears an end, I tend to gradually boil down my salvo of considerations, gleaning out all the trash from my whole life and from the present day. I jettison my reflections on the last prickly conversation I engaged in at work. No more news of an earthquake from a country I cannot properly spell (that has somehow transferred into my occipital lobe is blinking incessantly). Gone, the Indy-car circulation of money-making ideas.
Finally, as I exit my living room and head to the back of my home for bed, I shut down all of the lights and plod toward my rest. Only then do I finally reach that point of having a single thought, a keen and concise flag in my mind. Often, after a whole day of hard work, good and bad news, enmity and joy, my final thought sifts down to this question: ”What if I step on a spider in the dark?”
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
My friend’s mother is seventy-something and living on her own. Recently, she informed Bill, my friend, that she wanted him to help her purchase a gun.
“A gun?” Bill asked incredulously. “Why a gun?”
“For protection,” she assured him.
“Protection from what?”
“What if someone is causing me trouble or tries to break in?”
“Call the cops.”
“I would feel better with a gun. What if there is a rapist out there?”
Bill considered for a moment. “Mom, you are in your seventies…some guy is not going to bust into your place and rape you.”
His mother smiled. “If I have a gun, he will!”
Monday, April 16, 2012
Yesterday afternoon, while a group of us sat in the dining room of a friend’s home chatting, I pointed outside and said: “Look, spring rain!” Naturally, everyone swiveled around to see curtains of snow descending onto the valley floor and swaying over the nearby homes. Soon, huge snowflakes swept by the windows horizontally before looping down into the greening grass and quietly melting.
The storm did not last long. When the low snowclouds lifted and tumbled away again, leaving azure skies immediately behind them, the higher mountains around us shone a brilliant white.
We have fickle weather in these parts, but the results are always sincere and beautiful.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
· Does a single note struck and held at the high end of a piano make you feel empty or does it fill you?
· Do you know why some tufted phlox plants bloom lavender while others bloom white?
· Which drives you to awaken early on Sunday morning and assemble metal-wire shelving units without bothering to read the instructions: loneliness or ambition?
· What is not in a name?
· Which of the following best describes distance to you?
o The measurement on a map.
o A sense of undefined longing.
· What is in a name?
· Have you ever sat in a deep forest rainstorm as the hard raindrops gradually turned into fluffy flakes of snow?
· Have you ever watched a herd of over two-hundred wild elk pour silently over a grassy knoll like seafoam over a sandy shore?
· Do you prefer the smell of freshly opened earth to the smell of split wood?
· Would you miss the sight of a brutish August thunder and lightning storm brawling with the high mountains and surging over the prairie if you lived by a lolling sea?
· If a tomcat nudged at your hand until you awakened late at night, would you soft into his fur and pet him?
· Is it your hands or is it your heart that gets you in trouble most often?
· Do you sometimes dance around an empty space while imaging that someone you lost is there with you?
Saturday, April 14, 2012
The Missouri River defines much of the landscape where I live. Yesterday, I drove the frontage road back from a meeting in Great Falls so I could stop at a few favorite places and admire the “Mighty Mo,” as the river is sometimes called. Though the trees and grasses in our north country are only now fringing with green, the sun stood high and warmed my face at each place where I stopped to get out of my car. I have posted a couple of photographs taken where the Great Plains, the Missouri River, and the Rocky Mountains meet under the sun for the very first time.
Friday, April 13, 2012
“Love is not a yellow bird to perch upon your finger, singing,” I say to you, watching carefully for the reaction of your hands, which tentatively draw into fists and then open again. We have reached a new morning and are side by side in bed. I watch you stretch—becoming catlike—the sleep from your smooth body.
Your eyes seem certain and dark, with a small bright window in each where they reflect the dawning light.
What I meant to say is that I have fallen for you. I am now falling.
In the night, I crossed through a dream that became the whitest clouds blooming into the bluest sky. Soon, the clouds became doves quick to flight. And, though I tried, I could not chase after them.
“I admire you,” is your reply after a long, thoughtful silence.
I am not disappointed that you do not love me. I touch the back of your hand with a single finger and imagine a yellow bird taking flight.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Elk Park sits at an elevation of about 6300 feet in Jefferson County, Montana. Not particularly lofty, but high enough to hold onto the tail of winter while springtime weather settles into the elevations below. I took these two photographs three days ago while on my way to Butte.
Monday, April 9, 2012
In a given year, countless experiments are conducted in a variety of settings around the world. These experiments may be conducted in schools of higher education, corporate laboratories, government facilities, and, finally, in the back of cars parked along Sunset Strip. In many cases, the people conducting the experiments are paid handsome wages and receive fringe benefits. In other cases hospitalization may be required.
My favorite experiments are the ones where “researchers” in white lab-coats purposefully make regular everyday stuff explode. On a recent episode of MythBusters, for instance, the “mythbusters” caused a plain-old hot water heater to explode and launch itself right through the roof of a mock-up building. I actually found myself sitting there on my sofa whooping and clapping after watching that.
I have no doubt that the folks on the MythBusters television show receive handsome paychecks and royalties extending far into the future for their “work.” Pretty cool when you consider that they spend whole days trying to light ships on fire with mirrors and shooting frozen chickens at airplanes from giant air cannons.
As the saying goes: “That’s entertainment!”
Perhaps my all-time favorite experiment is one I read about some twenty years ago. In the experiment, a bucket filled with sand is placed directly in front of a large mirror. A high-powered rifle is then aimed and fired at the bucket of sand. Interestingly enough, the mirror will not shatter. Instead, the sand in the bucket stops the slug cold. You can dig the slug out of the sand if so inclined.
Were this the end of the experiment, I would be sorely disappointed. But there is more.
In the next step of this experiment, a bow is used to fire an arrow at the bucket. In this case, the arrow handily skewers the bucket and shatters the mirror. As I recall, this can be explained scientifically, but that is hardly the point. The lesson here, plainly enough, is that if you have any reason to suspect someone may shoot you with an arrow, don’t stand in front of a mirror.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
For many years, we have gathered at my sister’s house in Butte, Montana to dye Easter eggs. When I say “we” I mean me, my two sisters living here in Montana, and our spouses. This tradition started one year when, in a phone conversation, I lamented to Connie, my sister, that I missed dyeing Easter eggs since all of the children in our lives had grown and left for faraway lives of their own. We began then as a gathering of forty and fifty-somethings and gradually aged into fifty and sixty-somethings without really noticing.
The competition for the most strikingly decorated egg was often fierce, though light-hearted.
This year, by great fortune, my nephew’s little girls happened to be in town. Having children at this event added greatly to the fun. I have posted two photographs from yesterday. One (though not of particularly great quality) is of Margo jumping for joy on my sister’s back porch. The other is Elizabeth and me with our recently dyed eggs.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Sometimes, we will find ourselves riding along the highway—just me and my dog side by side in the cab of my pickup truck—and he will slowly rotate his head and look over to my side of the bench seat, giving me one of those all-knowing expressions with his keen eyes. I swear, those expressions of his can be unnerving at times, making me feel as though he has everything figured out, like he knows that I should not allow him to be driving.
Friday, April 6, 2012
All of us, man and beast alike, live with some kind of fear that penetrates to the very core. We do not all share the same fear, of course. For some, a fear of germs might be the red flag ever waving about in their mind, and this fear will dictate how life is lived. Those with a fear of germs will modify their lives around the anxiety. Perhaps they will decline public dinners, live in a virtual disinfectant bath, or avoid physical contact with others as they attempt to allay their fear.
A cat may fear the sight of a large bird that hangs in the air without flapping its wings. I recall how one of my cats would circle the house with his flank always in contact with the foundation when such birds were aloft. He knew that proximity to the house protected him, that the raptors could not swoop down and ambush him there. If this cat happened to be in the open and a shadow suddenly crossed over him, he abruptly hunkered down and slinked away.
I, too, have a fear certain.
My fear is that there actually exists some verifiable need for children to suffer…that a reason of some sort might accurately be derived from a careful knit of mathematical formulae or metaphysical structures. I have no proof of such a reason. Only the fear of it.
If but that I might fear raptors instead…
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The older I get, the more spectacular seems the color gray.
Dusky gray arms of spring rain reaching down into the jade-colored mountains from the copper and India ink sunset clouds.
Silver-gray streaks of hair framing the smiling face of an older woman as she brushes the platinum hair of a child given entry into this world by one of her own children.
The soft gray of a sleepy kitten curled next to a pair of old boots.
The gray of moonlight caught metallic in watery catchments of stone and in beads of freshly fallen rainwater on willow leaves.
Fading gray that gradually blackens and then pulls me into my dreams when I close my eyes to fall asleep each night.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
I captured the image I posted today along the coast of Vietnam in 2009 as I walked the beach early one morning. The coastline, for as far as I could see in either direction, was patterned with squid pots and small fishing boats. The approaching rain soon drove me back to my seaside room.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
What is the meaning of the statement: I have yet to meet a woman that I would rather know as a man?
· Generally, I prefer the company of women.
· Where I have deep friendships with women, the friendships sometimes incite jealousy in a significant other, but I have never wished that my friend was a man to make the friendship more palatable to anyone. A friend is a friend exactly because of who they are.
· An example of inherent sex change confusion: Chastity/Chaz Bono.
· Initial sexual response is the foundation for all future response and the foundation for all other types of response—for my part.
· All women are at least one step nearer to Salma Hayek than any man. Why would anyone change that?
· Salma Hayek…