Sunday, November 25, 2012

Twas the night before... a day I like more than Christmas


Twas the night before whitetail deer, antlered with rifle
And beside me was stirring the mouse in my wall
My camo laid out in a pile in my room
To prepare for the morning which would come all too soon

My father was nestled all snug in his bed
While visions of twelve points danced in his head.
And I ‘neath thick blankets and in fleece PJ’s
Was too excited to sleep because of opening day.

Cause a friend of my brother has seen a monster buck
And I’m crossing fingers and toes for good luck
An 8 point he says with 13 inch tines
And a 23 inch spread hangs out in the swamp pines

I guess that I’ll shoot the first buck that I see
But I’m hoping it’s him, that he’s destined for me
And when the clock inches past six fifty-five
He’ll be in my sites and I’ll let the lead fly

I’ll be perched on a cable spool on a bench on the hill
With wide views all around for making my kill
Above me a large field and a deer trail by my side
Beneath me a swamp where deer like to hide

I’ll wait near the edge of our private ground
For locals in the game lands to push deer around
They’ll be funneled down into my ravine
Where I will see them without being seen.

And elsewhere on other parts of our range
People I love will be doing the same
Beside cable spools or on the tower will stand
My brother, my father, and our friend Sam.

We can’t see everywhere but we can sure try
We’re well spread out with views wide and high
They get a chance at the deer I don’t see
And the deer that they miss should filter through me

For now I’m in bed and fighting for dreams
But when you’ve got the fever it’s harder than it seems
So if you’re also too excited to sleep tonight…
Good luck and straight shooting and a deer at first light.






1. I don't think this is the first time I have abused this poem. If it were a better poem or harder to do I probably would leave it alone.
2. WHY AM I NOT SLEEPING?!?!?!?


Saturday, November 17, 2012

November


Things I did not expect when I set out to write 50K words in 30 days…
  • I get stuck thinking in a different world sometimes
  • I feel extremely guilty when I do something awful to one of my main characters
  • I am occasionally genuinely surprised and/or disturbed when I discover something new about the world I created.
  • I am afraid to take off my watch

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mid-Morning


I stir, remove my binoculars and replace my sunglasses then zip everything securely in my bag. I hoist it, fasten it. I linger long enough to scan the meadow one more time, then another “one more time”. Still empty of the things I seek. I take off a glove and slip it over the barrel of my rifle to bar dirt from slipping in, then gingerly place it at the edge of the rock. I sit on the edge and brace myself with both arms. My foot stretches to the tall stump and now that I am balanced I can step down onto the top of the slanted log wedged into the crack in the rock. My other foot reaches and with two feet planted I retrieve my rifle and replace my glove. I jump from the log to terra proper and lumber upwards towards the trail. This maneuver is far from graceful but it is well practiced.

I take my time returning to the cabin. As with my ascent this is in no way related to concern for my corporal form. This may even be worse. I am perusing (in the TRUE sense of the word) each meadow along my route. I am still hunting. More than I was hunting in the morning darkness. Maybe I missed a deer in one of the valley rifts, perhaps a bear wandered into the field while I was walking to my wheeler. Should there be something, anything, I would not hesitate to slam on the parking break and leap from my wheeler, scurrying the requisite number of feet away from the trail to a stump while chambering a round to take my shot. I've practiced this scenario countless times in my mind as I have ventured up or down. Even now, as I scan for some animal that has made a critical mistake I plan out the process. But this degree of concentration on the open spaces and primed actions by definition reduces focus on the trail to the barest minimum required to keep the quad on course. No attention is spared to steer around the dents and divots as I drive down and down and down. There are far gentler ways to reach my destination.

I am met by an old man in a pickup hauling a trailer with a fancy-dancy quad on it. It has a wind screen. A WIND SCREEN. Seriously? This is clearly government. Why on this green planet would you drag a truck and trailer way the heck up here (cause I am WAY the heck up) over all of the Kelly-humps and waterbars when you could make the trip in half the time and twice the comfort on an extra fancy wheeler? And seriously, what real live person actually has a wheeler like that? Oh…and he has a key to the gate that keeps your average local from getting to the trail with a motorized vehicle in the first place. So he is either with the timber company or some government branch. Either way I would take his gate key over his wheeler any day. I pull off the trail in a wide patch of huckleberry bushes to wait for him to pass.

It is more than obvious what I am up to seeing as how I am the color of the wilderness with a thin strip of orange on my face and the rifle slung across my back. His appearance gives less away. I eye him suspiciously and nod my head in acknowledgement of his presence. He doesn't eye me at all. I want him to wonder how I got up here on the wheeler. Everyone asks that question when they see us on that side of the mountain. You can get around the gate but it isn't common knowledge. It is unintuitive and tricky and it makes me all over adrenalined and what with all the taking the guns off and having to do a three point turn on the side of a hill, it isn't any faster than the trail we cut through the back of our property to get to the old logging trail even though it is a good half mile or more closer to the cabin so I avoid it. 

He is gone and I pick up my focused and calculating decent. I note every stump that looks like something else. I cut the throttle often when I think I see a something. To date this has always been something like a change of perspective on a shadow or a leaf falling in my peripheral vision or my extremely overactive imagination. Down and down the dusty road until I have passed the last of the meadows. I pick up speed and shift my focus to the trail. Now that I can and choose to see I can miss nearly all of the bumps. I am traveling faster than in the morning dark but the ride is smoother anyway. I am still alert. Grouse like to sit on the edge of the road. I like to chase grouse. They will fly in front of the wheeler until you almost catch them and then they dive into the brush. Dad thinks they do it for fun, to mock you and it seems right. Since I chase them also for fun this seems fair. If they are too far off the road I will stop and give them a long stare which they will return until they get bored and take one or two steps into the bushes and utterly vanish. This too is a game. We also chase the rabbits that run down the road but that isn't as fun for either party…they are in the way and too panic-stupid to leave the trail and usually they are only out after dark when all we want is to be home eating dinner.

Today, no large game. No small game. No chicken game. No game.

Just before I make the turn onto the ancillary trail that connects our property to the main road I see a wheeler pull out. It is a carbon copy of the wheeler I recently passed and the old man driving it might as well be the same old man. I am still not convinced that it wasn’t a glitch in the matrix. He is carrying an official looking piece of yellow paper, some form documenting some bureaucratic information about the quality of the forest or noting the work to be done. He DOES choose to eye me suspiciously though he does not ask my origin, purpose or destination. For my part I slow, give a friendly-like wave, and wait until he has turned his attention forward before I dive onto my trail.

I feel alarm. They are going to log this piece, my favorite part of the trail. I can think of no other explanation. This is bad bad news. If they log it they can gate it or otherwise block our entrance. Granted, one of our friends would very likely unblock it with his tractor but that just starts up a pissing contest. I have seen that at every location where a barrier was set on this mountain. You never know if you can make it through until you get there because you never know who is winning. We hunt this side of the mountain because we can do it easily and because no one else can. What will happen when they cut the timber?

I force myself to refocus on the trail. On the present. Things that are certain. Holes that can throw me over the hill and into a creek. For my dedication I am rewarded with a string of bones in the center of the trail. Three other wheelers had come this way in the past hour and no one had seen or crushed this treasure that had been there for who knows how long. I determine that it must have spawned there just for me. “You have found strange bones. 1. Poke with stick? 2. Investigate? 3. Place in backpack? 4. Ignore?" [Investigate bones] "You do not have enough exp to determine the type of bones. 1. Poke with stick? 3. Place in backpack? 4. Ignore?"  And like any good RPG player I place the new item into my nearly bottomless cache. Contents: 1 rifle, 8 rounds of ammunition, 1 knife, 1 flashlight, 2 pieces of jerky, one apple, 1 flask of water, one change of clothing, 1 bones. I will present them to the taxidermist in residence of whom I am an apprentice. I will gain +1 research exp and I might be able to barter for something at the market.

I've crossed the culvert that the beavers are stuffing with anything they can chew now. Up the hill and I am home again. The last one home. Why am I always the last one home? But as soon as that negatively skewed ponder rises up in my mind it is driven out of existence by the odor of bacon wafting out of the open front door. Getting home late has its perks. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dawn is breaking


The strap of my rifle digs awkwardly into the already sore muscles of my neck. I think to myself how my roommate would not approve. I am by myself on a wheeler, not my wheeler but solitary all the same and I am celebrating by reminding my body just how little I care about its groanings. Even so, I cut back on the throttle and knock it in to a lower gear. Not for the sake of my neck or the patch of somehow bare skin on my wrist that is numb from cold or my thumb that seems cramped into place on the throttle or my eyes that water from the dust and wind. No. This is the first of a baker’s dozen of waterbars striping the next third of a mile to keep the road from washing out and between these and the holes left behind when the bulldozer scraped out rocks to “fix” the road it is becoming hard to navigate at my preferred speed. 

I was next to last out of the gate this morning but I have passed two quads from our party to put myself in the lead. We all left later than we intended but I appear to be the only one trying to make up for lost time. Then again I also have the farthest to climb. And there is a pair on one wheeler so bumps are harder to mitigate. And my uncle just had his hip replaced, so he is “taking it easy”. My nephew would be in front of the pack but he elected to hunt on foot from the house. If it weren’t for the freedom of four-wheeler that his choice gives me I would be jealous of his good idea, his extra half an hour to sleep.

It is still some time before dawn when I reach my habitual parking spot, just past the orange ribbon on the tamarack and just before the upturned root that looks like an elk shed. I pull the key and find myself surrounded by nothingness. I shimmy the rifle over my head, remove the scope covers and chamber a round, safe on. I am hunting.

But that is stupid and I know it. I cannot see to shoot will not be able to shoot for another half an hour at least. If I am hunting while I am walking I will have to wait. And this is a good meadow for critters to bed down in. I should wait. But I am right up against the woods and they are dark dark woods. Instead I follow my usual pattern and tromp through the brush guided by the little circle of red emanating from my headlamp which sorely needs new batteries. To put the stamp of approval on my instincts I am less than half way to my perch when I hear a pair of startled animals crashing in to what sounds like everything on their way to and then through the thick timber on the south side of the meadow. I never do see them although I started maybe only 30 feet from them. Such is the pervasive darkness of a land without light pollution. I settle into my nest recognizing that my morning chances of seeing anything probably leapt away on the swift feet of ungulates in a rush. I “hrumph” in frustration to my sheltering tree but it remains unconcerned in the blackness.

I think this is my favorite time of day. It is like saffron, precious, transient and well worth the price of admission. A faint sliver of the waning moon graces the cloudless sky. Little is left but it shines with enough intensity to drown out all but the most persistent stars. Out of vast blackness silhouettes of trees emerge. At first they are merely breaks in a skyline of domed mountains. But slowly, silently, mountains separate from other mountains, each a subtly different shade of almost too black to be grey. And the sky has the slightest hint of a color. It is as if the landscape has been tinted barely blue. Or maybe the color is more violet…Or could it be green? Next the birches and alders and poplars take on definition and they too are bathed in the soft almost-color. I look for markers, remembered places, huckleberry bushes with fiery red leaves, evergreens that live up to their name, the yellow crowns of leaves topping the alder trees…I can imagine their hues but for a few more moments I am captured in black and white. I am mesmerized. Images cannot capture such beauty; words cannot possibly describe it. Who has ever seen such a morning except me? Who will ever see this morning again? I am utterly alone but to be lonely seems impossible. And suddenly, instantly, colors appear. Orange, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, born of nothing. Dawn is breaking. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Opening

This night. The night. Infinitely and no more important than any other night. Rituals set in motion. Final preparations wound up and let go.

Tonight coffee was made ready so that the first bleary-eyed human need only flip a switch before they stumble to the bathroom and with the promise of caffeine brewing. Tonight (with help!) veggies were chopped and tucked into a slow cooker in the fridge, to be started in the morning. Not unlike the coffee there is a promise of hot and hearty stew to greet the hungry hungry hunters after daylight shifts to darkness on the far side of tomorrow. Tonight one after another drift from the table or a TV towards a shower and then meticulously set out clothing and gear for ease of access in the cold pre-dawn. I reverse this order because the showers are full.

Into a large plastic bin go honeycombs of plastic that smell eerily and perfectly like rich forest dirt. I shove in my backpack- already loaded with water, snacks, rain gear that I won't need and the ever expectant knife. Then in layers, my hats and neck gaiter, two pairs of gloves and hand warmers, my jacket and overalls, a lighter jacket, a down vest, a fleece, a long sleeved shirt and then a tee that both wick sweat, pants, thick socks, wool leggings...In too few hours I will methodically reverse the process of laying the items in the box and instead place them on my body. I am mocked because I wear too much...but I am not cold.

This task completed, it is my turn to get wet. I fetch the special soap that "eliminates 99% of human odor" and I scrub and scrub until I feel like have been turned inside out. Not because I believe that it is in any way effective. I don't believe this at all. But this is what you do. The sent block clothing, sprays, soaps, potions and incantations are one more ritual. One more good luck charm. One more essential in every hunter's toolbox. But even the most well scoured hunter will avoid being on the wrong side of the wind if there is ANY option.

I am the last one to head to bed. (Why am I always the last one to fall in to bed?) My final ritual comes just before I allow myself sleep. I read two of my favorite passages from Aldo Leopold's essays. I choose "The Deer Swath" and "Thinking Like a Mountain", always at least these two. If I didn't re-read them I would consider them at every turn in the morning anyway and I would rather remember the details exactly. Both feature hunters and deer, one also features mountains and wolves. I will be stepping into this world in the morning. I will be taking part in the dance that is so integral to the fabric of Idaho that it is up for a vote this year to give constitutional protection to hunting and fishing rights to citizens.

Tomorrow is opening day.

Tomorrow is opening day. 

Tomorrow....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Asked to update

I don't know that this has ever actually happened before. VW is special and not just because she has the same initials as my car.

My semester started a week ago and I have gone all emo kid or something because of it. The world is ending. Pain and death. First world problems coming out my ears.

I have never had a good experience registering through UCDenver. I live 2 time zones away, I have to do everything online, and since everything I do is online I get special privileges and have to fill out special forms to prove that I am special. I've got special freaking little snowflake written all over me. I can't sneak in to a class to force my presence to be accepted on the roster, I can't walk over and hand people papers or confront them face to face for information. It makes things easier and it makes them harder. It is just different.

So at the end of last semester I registered for this and it only took two weeks to get all of the paperwork through. Amazing. I was overjoyed. Until a week before classes when I checked my roster and discovered I was only enrolled in one class. One of my classes got dumped due to under enrollment and no one notified me. I was floating around below full time status which screws up my loans. I HAD to add a class.

The class that was canceled also happens to be a class that I got a C in. Meaning it doesn't count towards my degree. Meaning I have to take it over again if I want it to count for anything. And I want it to count. I very much wanted to take the class because I LOVED the class the first time around and it directly and concretely connects to a project I am working on. Coursework and real work can be the same thing. And it is only offered in the fall so if I want to take it again I am constrained to wait until next fall and fingers crossed it will have enough students to run.

The course I most wanted to take was canceled and I needed to pick up another class. This combination short circuited my logic processors and I was in all go no quit freak out mode trying to figure out a new solution to my life. I added the two other GIS courses that were offered this semester so that I would be full time for sure and then spent a day trying to figure out when and how I could graduate.

There is a nasty little intertwinedness with my other degree going on here. I took more than enough classes to graduate from UMass and even enough classes to earn a GIS certificate. I have not managed to slog through my thesis or I would have that degree. I was going to shift some courses over to UCDenver. But the more I play around with this idea the less freeing it becomes. It does not significantly speed things up and it puts other things in danger of not happening. It gets very messy. Each semester I back away a little more from that option. But I have taken enough courses that I should be able to waive a few courses at UCD and fill them with electives. The two classes I added in a panic are the 2 that I could waive. But I decided to get over it, take an easy semester. Figure out my schedule and go. One day thrown at planning and replanning.

But the panic and general wrongness didn't subside as the days ticked off. My first Tuesday night class was canceled. I didn't get any information about the when or wheres for another class until Thursday morning. And somewhere in there I got an email from a fellow online MEng-GIS accomplice about which classes he is taking. One of them is through the business school and surprise! it counts as an elective in our program. 

I had been considering adding a certificate to my degree. I had and still have no idea if this is actually practically useful. Does it mean anything? Is it a waste of money? Can I make it happen? I cast several emails to the four winds and the carrier pigeons have yet to return. (One came in while I was writing this with hopeful and helpful information!) The class my friend is taking is the first course needed to start the certificate program.

That spurred me in to a second day of planning panic. I had considered taking all of the courses towards the certificate if I wanted it AFTER I did everything I could towards the GIS part of the degree. One thing at a time. Eat the peas, then the potatoes, then the steak. Order. But when I started over my schedule again I discovered that I could graduate a semester earlier if I mixed things up. Stew. Mixed food. Hrumph.

So I charged in to the virtual admissions office and said sign me up for any of the Information Systems courses that are currently being offered. And was told no. The class I should take first was full. Wait-list running even. I consigned myself to the anonymity of the wait-list. I'd never been on a wait-list before. It felt lonely and cold. I wasn't even number one on the wait list. I was number two. Second rate waiter. That's what I was. Woe is me. I checked my wait list status every hour I was home. On Friday I magically discovered that I had slipped into the first position. I was the number one waiter. This gave me an undue amount of hope. I was the champion of waiters and I would wait with authority. Checking every half-hour. Or maybe every 15 minutes! I begrudingly went to babysit Friday night and had to leave my OCD post of hitting refresh like breathing. I got home late and before I went to bed I indulged one last time to check. I was in the class.

The other course that I could take (no pre-requisites required) wasn't even supposed to be offered this semester. I called to ask about it and surprised people. And I got passed around a bunch. Lovely people. (Everyone I talk to at UCD is lovely. I want to be friends with all of them.) The end result was that an email was sent to some person who knows everything to ask whether a Hybrid (on campus/online mix) course could be taken by the likes of me (all online) and would that effect my tuition and could anything be done about this. I got my final answer this morning. Yes I can take the course with the instructors permission (got that), yes it will change my tuition slightly (charged full out of state tuition for all courses plus on campus fees on the assumption that I will come to campus at some point during the semester, also vaccinations required and please get health insurance- aka NOT A slight CHANGE), and no there is nothing that can be done to waive any fees or requirements because they are based on class not student. So I will not be taking that course.

And now I am in a strange other position. I have to drop at least one class. Top on my list is the intro class in which I will learn very little. It also happens to be taught by my adviser. And whereas I thought my adviser was much older than me. He's not. He's not much older than me at all. That is very strange to me. I emailed him about my new course of action and I have yet to hear back. Is he angry that I would drop is course? I have no idea. I am dropping it regardless. I will "attend" today I think and then drop it. I am still considering dropping the other course. I think I will keep it. I go back and forth. But I attended one round of it and I think it will be ok. With or without it I could still graduate by the end of next fall.

Why is there so much doubt and fear here? And why did I slip into panic mode? Not entirely sure. I think it stems from having no concrete schedule all summer though I craved it. I was so hopeful to nail some things down. School is also something very important to me and something I feel like I should absolutely be doing right now, but it pulls me away from doing other things with other people who I am also invested in. Most everyone I run around with is free in the evenings or Saturday morning/early afternoon. These happen to be the most likely times for me to be in class. This is hard and somewhat scary. I have been looking at what disconnection can do to relationships and I absolutely do not want that. So I think more than anything I was desperate to figure out my school schedule so that I could fix times each week to see the people I need to see.

I think my mind hovered around my fear. Not naming or claiming it but shrouding it. What if being a student gets in the way of being a disciple. I will give it up if I have to but I absolutely don't want to. What if I can only pick two of student, disciple, employed. Which is more important...student or employed. I came to this semester, this "problem" expecting that I would have to give something up and that it would be hard. I took this for granted. So I am waiting and dreading what the "giving up and letting go" will look like. But in reality I might NOT have to give something up. Somewhere in there too is the fact that I really want to work somewhere and I am afraid they will turn me down. I have been turned down for almost every job I ever honestly applied for whether or not I was qualified. If I never apply to this place I can never be turned down. But I need a job and I want this job and I think I would be good at it. And my roommate picked me up an application today too.

So that is where I am at. I never switched degrees. I may or may not have added something. The world is not ending. I was worried and things got uncomfortable. But that is a far cry from everything being ruined for forever.

-Jn

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dialog Exercise

I am in a write club. This excites me more than I have words for. It is something I have wanted for a long time. Our assignment for last week was to write a short story using only lines of dialog- no narration or anything else. Short stories are hard. Dialog is hard. I had to write this in chunks over a period of days instead of in one binge writing spree. That's hard. Then someone else read it out loud at me and I wanted to crawl under the picnic table. HARD! And now it will be less hard next time.

CLEMENTINE

Bobby! Jo! Bobby! Tim! Mikey! Mikeeeey!

Zeke! Zeke where are you?!

Jo! Thank God, Jo! Over here! You okay?

Everything’s ringin’ is all. Shine your light so I can find you.

Me too. I can’t. I’m pinned. Where’s the others?

I donno. They were way back. I see you!

Christ Almighty! Piss on me! Find the others. I’m still breathing.

Okay! Okay! Mikey! Shane!

Check for gas! fires!

I know. Fuck. Timmy! Shane! Bob where are you?!....Mikeeeeey!...

----

Zeke?! Where you at Zeke!?

Hey, Jo! Here! I’m over here.

No fire. Air’s ok that way, No sign of the others. I donno know how far back they were.

Are we cut off then?

Yeah. The tunnel is gone up that way just before the main shaft. Can’t see or hear nothing through
the fall. Rocks still sliding loose.

Okay. You in one piece? How’s your radio?

Uh, I’m ok. Just scratched up. Radio’s dead. You?

I don’t know yet. I can’t reach the radio.

I meant are you hurt? Besides the obvious.

Uh. I donno. How big is the pile on my arm? Think you can pry me lose without burying us both?

It’s...It’s one big rock and some loose behind it. Lemme find a bar or somethin’.

Do you see my light?

Yeah. Good call. Here. I’ll be back.

---

What’d you find Jo?

I got a shovel. Whatcha wanna do? I lift, you roll out?

Um… that’s as good a plan as any at this point. You count to three, I’ll roll right.

One. Two. Three. Hrmph… Well your radio’s busted how’s the arm?

I donno. It’s probly broke. Help me up so I can see if my legs work.

You sure?

I gotta know how fast I can get if something else happens.

Do you want to splint your arm or something first?

No!

Ok. Fine. Here.

Yeah. Ok. No. I’m good. Ok, help me get my shirt off we can tie it up.

Christ, Zeke, just use my shirt. Hang on. Hold still.

Ahtch! Ow.

Better?

Yeah. We gotta get moving. How long’s it been yet?

No idea.

That’s probly well enough anyways. Let’s start moving towards the back.

You don’t wanna be there to meet them?

No. Start walking. I wanna move back to where the roof is more stable in case they’re in a hurry
when they come through, which I’m hoping for. You seen the safety videos Jo. Think!

I never paid no attention to them movies. Everybody knows PA mines are the safest and nothing
ever went wrong for Rosebud. I never thought I’d end up in a mine disaster. I took a nap.

You’re an idiot. Every mine is a grave that ain’t filled yet. And this ain’t no disaster.

No?

No. Five dead makes a disaster. I ain’t ready to go yet and I suspect you ain’t either.

Shane? Tim? Mike? Bobby? We donno where they are…

Makes four.

…or what other tunnels got closed off.

You got no way of knowing one way or the other. Why be in a hurry to bury them?

Fuck!...Fuck!

What?

We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’ and no one up top knows where we are cause we were taking
our time coming down the tunnel. We’re fucked.

The whole damn county knows by now. If you’d a paid attention in safety training you’d know
that Rosebud keeps a stable full of boy scouts turned miner who got nothing better to do but dream
about their chance to be a hero. Every time they feel a boulder settle they reach for their gear. You
just hang round and wait and some boy’ll get a chance to make his daddy proud.

Oh Hell with you, Zeke.

Look around. I’m already there with you.

Exactly. And I don’t wanna be trapped in no mine.

We weren’t even halfway through a shift. On a good day you’d still be here a handful of hours and
you’d be working. What plans you worried ‘bout missin’? You taking Sadie out for a night on the
town? Don’t you worry. She’ll be so frisky and tearful when they pull you out the hole, she won’t
wait ‘til you shower to throw you on the bed.

Fuck Sadie. She was running around on me with Mark. She thought she was clever, us in the mines
on different shifts. He worked nights, I worked days, she worked both. I got wise when he started
smackin’ her around some. I knew I never put a bruise on her.

Sorry.

She made her choice.

Mark Scheidemantle?

No. Mark Klause.

Don’t know him.

He’s over at the Long Run mine.

Makes sense. I been at Clementine since she opened. I don’t know any of the guys out that way.

It don’t matter.

I think this is far enough back. Beams look solid and nothing looks loose. You ok with camping
here?

I don’t have much choice.

So what were you gonna do tonight then?

I was going to Harry’s after to watch the game with Shane.

Well then when they punch the hole through you ask ‘em the score and for a pair of fish plates.

Dinner? I donno why you are so damn confident. It’s gonna be a week before they clear that
tunnel.

Harry’s has been there since before you were born. It ain’t going nowhere in the next few days.
And we’re playing Cleveland so we know who wins. Why wouldn’t I be confident?

Who says we make it that long. We’re trapped and you’re joking about fish and football.

What the hell else are we gonna do? You’re right. We got a few days. If you think about it, we are
already dead and buried. If they get to us in time then we ain’t dead no more. The way I see it, it’s
pretty hard for things to get worse but that means lots of room for getting better. You got a lot of
time to think in the dark. Be miserable if you want. I won’t.

If you know so much then you tell me what’s good about this.

Oh, I donno. I’d say they get us out of here in a few days and we’ll be all over in the papers and on
the news. You’ll be able to pick up any sweet looking girl in any bar in the tri county with your
story. We both get a coupla weeks R n R on the company and a nice hazard paycheck. You can
get your ma something nice for Christmas. I can take my wife on a cruise. How’s that sound?

I donno. Just wanna get out of this hole.

Or I could always bust you up good with the shovel. Then you could file for disability too.

And sue you?

Nah. I went crazy underground. Rock hit my head. I was trying to put you out of your misery and
mine. You wouldn’t get a cent.

And they’d never let either of us down a shaft again.

Now you’re starting to get the picture.

You are crazy. Go ahead and retire old man. What am I gonna do?

Did you really wanna work in the mine all your life anyway? What did you wanna do before you
stuck yourself here?

If I had any idea I wouldn’t be here. Ma wanted me to join the state police.

You didn’t like that idea?

It was ok. My driving record is pretty bad though. Shane’s brother got denied cause of his. I didn’t
try.

DWI?

No. But I got lots of points for speeding.

That’s easier to fix. What’s it hurt to try?

I donno. Maybe. I could do steel or iron I bet.

Army?

No. Never been interested. Isn’t one of your sons Army?

Both actually. Well Travis is out now and doing something with computers in Columbus. Chad just got himself a promotion but they are also shipping him out next month. He’s flying up on Friday.
Did you know Chad?

Not really. I think he graduated the year before me. But I knew Jenna. She was in a few of my
classes.

Really? I thought you were older than Chad.

More beat up I guess. What’s Jenna up to?

She’s down at Slippery Rock. She started doing nursing but last time she was home she said she
was gonna switch to special ed instead.

I can’t picture her as a nurse.

Yeah, no one could. Listen, we’re fixing to have a party for Chad on Saturday. The kids’ll all be
home. I promised Jody I would do up steaks on the grills even if there was snow on the ground.
Why don’t you come?

You think they’ll have us out by then?

Come Saturday we’ll be dead or we won’t. And if we’re not dead that’s one more reason for a
party. So you come over and bring your ma and some beer and we’ll all be alive together.

Whatever.

Or there won’t be a party and neither of us will care.
Just beer then. Ma’s in Reno with her fat sister for a few weeks anyway.

Fat sister? Shirley?

Yeah.

What in the world do you have against your Aunt Shirley?

She won’t sit in the same room as me ‘cause I look like Karl.

Shirley’s bent that you look like your father? Who’s she want you to look like?

It don’t matter.

Guess not. You can’t change your relations. Speaking of, how is your pa these days? Last time I
seen him he was trucking for McClymonds.

No one’s seen him. He got in with some long haul company going down to Louisiana and back.
They were either too desperate or stupid to piss test him. Last summer he was broke and got edgy
south of Wheeling on a run and tried to rob the wrong gas station. The kid held him at gunpoint
until the cops showed up.

Where’s he now?

Hell if I know. I hope he’s still in jail. He called Ma for bail money but she was out somewhere. He
tried his story with me. I let him finish and hung up. She hates him as much as I do but I know she
woulda sent him the money.

Really?

I don’t understand her. Hey, did you hear that?

What?

I thought I heard tapping.

I can’t hear nothin’ any more.

Maybe not…no I’m sure. Can you hear it now?

Yeah. Grab the shovel and tap back on one of the beams. You know Morse code?

Are you kidding?

Me either. At least they’ll know they got a reason to hurry.

I guess if they match the beat that means they got it?

I’d say so.

What happens now?

We keep waiting, they keep digging.

Okay. I can bring chips too.

What?

I’ll bring chips and salsa on Saturday. And beer.

Good idea. I think I am gonna take a nap while I still can. Soon we’ll both be famous heroes.

Yeah, ok. I’ll wake you up in two days when the fish gets here.

---



-Jn

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

200 Days

Because I am ABSOLUTELY counting.

It is 200 days until the big bad Twinkie day.

I encourage you to consider joining me and the other Jn on a hillside in Punxsutawney, PA for the culmination of our culinary...disasterpiece.

If you've been keeping track, I came up short 1 Twinkie somehow. So there is now only 1 nine-ish year old Twinkie floating around that we know of. The other Jn has it (I just have an empty box still under my bed) and we have plans to meet at a great big groundhog's day celebration to share it.

I have been told by many people that they want to participate in this. Awesome. We want you to be there. We are crazy. You love us anyway. Lets celebrate it together. This is what I expect you should expect...

I ate one of the many Twinkies there once upon a time and have pictures to prove it. The experience defied my expectations. There were tailgaters galore. The all night Walmart parking lot where we parked to catch the shuttle was filled with equal measures of families sleeping in RVs waiting and drunk college types who had come from colleges up to several hours away and declared their own holiday. The school buses of the down had been transformed into an armada of person shufflers, shifting a steady stream of humans towards a hillside turned carnival. Once in the magical place you were accosted with all manner of groundhog paraphernalia from hog shaped pastries and hats to large metal sculpture and carnival games. The majority of the crowd stood, sat or lay curled facing down on the slope of the hill and the participants were split down the middle for everyone's enjoyment and protection. One side of the divide was family friendly and had all the pent up excitement of children waiting for Santa at Christmas, the other side was raucous and teaming with the energy of a spring break beach party with the exception of donning every layer of clothing possible instead of removing it. These sides bantered playfully and without malice by tossing beach balls and balloons back and forth. At the base of the hill was a large stage and a team of cold but chipper cheerleaders moved to the beat of obnoxious music and encouraged the watchers to dance hypothermia away. There were flags and camera crews from many nations. There were periodic updates from men in long coats and top hats regarding the status of the day. How long must we wait, had the weather report changed, and heaven help us what has the temperature dropped to now? And during these intermissions all manner of people were escorted to the stage for recognition. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, distances traveled, number of Feb 2nds celebrated at that spot, the eldest, the youngest, the tallest and shortest. We applauded with gloved hands and cheered through muffling scarves and we shivered together for the sake of a very strange tradition. When called upon we would even sing. Shortly before dawn we collectively turned our gaze to the left to watch a frosty morning fireworks display sneaking above the treeline from a nearby field. At the appointed time the ground hog entourage arrived and the formal ceremony was performed to practiced perfection but while this was the climax and the purpose for the day it was by no means the most exciting bit of it.

So as you wander through the next few hot, hot, dry, dry days of summer I suggest you start thinking about a cold, early Saturday morning foray into planned madness. Come for the company. Come for the celebration. Come just to say you did it that one time. It will be a party. And there will be Twinkies.

-Jn

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's too hot to sleep

I forget when I wrote this. I hate when I don't write important things down. Now I have to work to find the answer.



Photographs of Rain

If you show me yours, I'll show you mine first
Not that I believe you will cause no one ever does
But these things can't hurt me any more, I'm pretty sure
My eyes aren't wet just yet so it must not be real pain,
More like photographs of rain, every single stain on a soul
Kept in a shoebox under my bed in the back of my mind
Waiting for such a time as this, my hair and my heart slightly amiss
And eyes that plead with a deep desire to be fully known
And you sitting there with nothing but all the time in the world
Sometimes these days I even feel whole
When the sun is shining down 
Like it will shine on forever, and never leave me alone
Yeah I'll show you mind if you promise
Promise you won't make mine worse


7/7/12
Union Hill




Sunday, July 08, 2012

Early July

I woke up this morning surprised it was Sunday. I love Sunday although this one is more unusual than most. I spent part of a busy yesterday making the house chores past tense and the roommates that I usually bump in to while I lazily do whatever a morning requires are both absent this weekend. One bizarre consequence of this is that I have been fantastically productive which leads directly into a soothed and gregarious muse. I say bizarre because in reality I spend most of my days pleasantly alone so having no one in the house should not feel any different but both my conscious and my unconscious are acutely aware of the complete solitude that I was gifted for a few days.

I've come far enough to understand that I would make a horrible and miserable hermit. I need to be regularly brought out of the internal dialogue to reconnect with a 3.5 dimensional reality and the humans which inhabit it with me. But not too regularly. I have a pleasant enough balance right now. I can go a few days without saying more than a handful of words to my roommates as they pass in and out of the dwelling to tend to their frantic schedules. But no more than a few days. I typically get a day spent in solitude to accomplish my tasks and in the evenings I whisk myself away to be with real people living real life in situ. I posit that this is a wonderful way to spend a life and I will be immensely happy if I find a way to work from home for the duration of it.

I mentioned that I have been productive. It's true. It actually started Friday evening after I dropped off one of the mates at the airport and came home to see the other one lock the door and step out. This opened up a world of possibilities and I spent a good hour running in mental circles searching for some traction. I settled on a scandalous evening of downloading lectures from last semester while filing papers which I had sort of started and stalled around 4am some weeks in the past. (I know how early my roommate gets up and when I see her walk down the stairs headed for work I know I have forgotten to sleep.) The caveat of this previous filing was that there was very little left to throw away and that all of the easiest things were already handled...which is why I hadn't picked the task up since. I chose to distract myself with movies I had not seen- with my mind distracted I could not focus and obsess over the minutia to the point of halting progress. I sped through 2 movies that turned out to be much lamer than advertised and turned to a fallback favorite to finish off the night. It is still a favorite. And then it was nearly 2am. I am left with a pile of "stuff to deal with" and "papers that require dedicated thought to process" and a sense of accomplishment.

Saturday "morning" I spent a great deal of time cooking. I made breakfasts for many days to clear out some produce and freezerables that were on their way out one way or another. And I got things ready to do the same come dinner. Then I voyaged out to the farm where we have our CSA. Normally I am chaperoned but the boss is in another state...sort of. So in addition to the box of wonderfulness I brought home several packs of orphaned plants and many mini cucumbers. I had a vague idea about my time, about the state of the garden and the pots in the garage, and the number of cucumbers required for pickles. And vague was more than enough. I am equally likely to bring home a stray plant as a stray puppy...or piranha for that matter. (On that note I swear I saw a pen of skunks for sale on my way to the farm. You cannot imagine the depths of my disappointment when I discovered they were border collies. The only good thing to come out of that discover was I did not have to explain myself and my new pet to my roommates. But can you imagine? I can!)

Once home I commenced to rearranging the soil in pots and committing my plants to holes in the ground. I started by relocating tomatoes. I did not plant a single tomato seed this year. But last year I had the good sense to buy heirloom tomato plants from the super discount dying plant rack at a big box store. The chipmunks thanked me for their bounty (I ate very few of the tomatoes) by planting for me. And so, come spring I saw wee tomatoes coming up of their own volition stacked on top of each other in absolutely horrible places. But I was beyond giddy. I think I would have been less excited (albeit more surprised) had an orange tree sprouted. I am growing mongrel tomatoes. As it is I only ever knew what 3 of the 4 tomatoes I planted were in the first place. So my flock will likely be some combination of black prince, Mr. stripey, pink brandywine and un-identified red pear shaped wonder. But I also had some cherry tomatoes kicking around from before before. Those got replanted too. I waffled for weeks about relocating the tomatoes and right after I decided that it was too risk at this point (1ft high) I did it anyway. I am pretty certain that I now have 6 plants in the garden proper. They are most certainly still too close together but the are at least not touching and only 2 are devouring my peppermint. Nestled around the tomatoes are dark leaved basil plants. I saved 4 spindly 'matoes and one that was more robust to stick in pots (again with basil) mostly out of curiosity. I also planted hot peppers (I couldn't find jalapenos :( so late in the season.), one clump in the garden and one clump in a big pot. Round the outside I laid a hedgerow of marigolds which I love love love. The rest of the garden is laid out with peppermint and chives from this spring and spearmint reseeded from last year. Basil and mint love tomatoes. They help the tomatoes grow and enhance the fruits' flavor by changing the soil chemistry. They also repel pests and attract pollinators. All this and they are tasty in their own right. Likewise marigolds attract good guys and repel bad guys and while you can eat them they are more visually than gustatory satisfying And ruling over the whole bunch is my calamondin. It almost died a few weeks back but it is recovering in a hurry. It is putting out new leaves all over and getting ready to flower! 


I finished out the evening with a flurry of more cooking to prepare for the week coupled with cleaning the house in between stirring, shifting and savoring. And then to complete the night I wrote and wrote some more. 


So this morning most every necessity that requires doing was done save reheating. The transplanted tomatoes seem no worse for wear and I found myself with a chunk of hours to transcribe. I have filled them wholeheartedly. And now I will shift gears to showering and readying myself all around for a trip to the lake where I mark my starting over where I will meet up with a platoon of like-purposed and very real peoples. While this is one of the most challenging appointments of the month for a raging introvert it also has the potential to be the most fulfilling. 






Friday, June 22, 2012

More Idaho Things

(This apparently never got posted. Whoops!)

Open travel mug. Discover hobo spider. Close travel mug.
In truth it was probably not a real hobo spider just another viscous looking fangly spider.

Everyone claims they have bizarre weather. We do too. Right now the sun is shining and it is raining on a diagonal. The clouds that dropped the rain moved from overhead probably half an hour ago but they are so high that it takes that long for the rain to fall. Likewise when a rain cloud is over head dumping rain it isnt necessarily raining. When it gets particularly dry the rain and snow will evaporate before or as soon as they hit so you can stand in the rain and not get wet.

My phone keeps getting itself confused and bumping in to 2 time zones at the same time. At least one is consistently right.

Words...

Cleaning Out the Attic
Union Hill, 6/22/12 0415

Minutes past the middle of the morning
Or the middle of an hour
Midway through the middle of the night
And the minutia has been gathering
As I sort through all the usta was
Bits of a paper person
Who she is and what she does
From pay stub to receipt
This is who I am supposed to be
I have forced my mind to focus
On each scrap of paper
Saved like shards of a broken heart
Collected over years
In cardboard boxes
And moved from state to state
Kept with me, kept close, kept safe
As if to prove that I was here
And all of this was really real
That period of fuzzy perception and diffuse pain
Is suddenly become clear again
The love seat beside me is littered
With letters from old lovers
And saved stamps from international mail
And the pile to file grows
While the garbage overflows
And I’ve got a long way to go
But I’m beyond the point of caring
I’ve caught myself staring off
Into the space between the molecules of air
Still, I’ve stopped myself from reading
The cards that I know will bring tears
But photographs are less concealed
Memories of past selves revealed
Ready or not, they come
Fodder to feed an evil dream on
If I should pass that way
When I finally slip into my subconscious
And I will know soon enough, if only because
I’m losing the battle against my eyelids

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Twinkie story has been published.

http://www.gordon.edu/article.cfm?iArticleID=1295&iReferrerPageID=1676&iPrevCatID=134&bLive=1

I need like 10 copies for my grandchildrens' grandchildren... or something.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seen/heard today

If at first you don't succeed, reload.

No shirt, no shoes, no worries.

Bananas are really expensive. We should buy a bunch and stock up in case the price goes up again. How's that sound? -Vern to me the banana hater

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Traveling Ponderings

I asked a cop to run my car info today. It was very strange. He loved that the paperwork featured Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York info.

While we are at it I will visit all of my states today. Started in NY, drove to PA, layover in CO and end up in ID

I passed so many cops today going well above the speed limit. Lu-This is one reason why I drive a soccer mom car.

The drive felt like it took maybe 2 hours.

Selfishness/pride/self righteousness grows exponentially as you approach the TSA baggage check.

Pittsburgh must have the absolute worst possible TSA check in. Think hundreds of people below a balcony in a clump help in place by a net of lane barriers.

Dress like you respect yourself, be polite, smile and be kind. You will be in the minority and it will go a LONG way in the eyes and actions of others. If nothing else your attitude will be better. But you may also find your interactions with others moving more smoothly and bonus goodies along the way. I made 3 humans laugh and many more smile and I got an extra meal and an extra shot of espresso today and the day isn't even half over for me.

I love watching my bags go up the luggage ramp.

I am so excited to travel I tried to get on the wrong plane.

I love coffee.

Bring your own plane food. I just watched the pilot wash his own Windows.

Most people are idiots. Some people are brilliant. I rarely see a middle ground.

You have to turn off e books during take off. Always bring real paper.

Monday, April 30, 2012

28 is such a lame number


I mean seriously. It's super even. When you divide it by 2 it is still even. Both numbers are even. And I swear no one is ever 28. When do you ever ask someone how old they are and they say 28? Never. I can't wait to be 29. It's a prime number. My prime number years were always the best. And it will be my golden birthday. I have to wait 364 days for that. Anyway. Enough.


To celebrate I spend the day with my Rochester family at my house as a part of our house church gathering. And I made stew and chocolate cake because I love to cook and I wanted it and I had the excuse and I love making good food for family and friends to enjoy. The discussion was excellent, I was encouraged all around, and the dinner was wonderful. It was the perfect way to spend a birthday. And I've been reflecting...



I have been thinking about a recap and a rewind. What has a year in my life looked like. And the answer is absolutely ridiculous. So many things have changed and so much has happened. For instance my drivers license was NH while my mailing address was NY and I was attending school in CO although more than half of my time was spent in ID or PA and I worked in MA. (pause for breath) At one point I had vegetable gardens in 3 states at the same time. I am not making this up.

I started a new degree and will hopefully be half way through with it in 2 weeks. (It was supposed to take 3 years not 2!) I moved to a new state. I got baptized. I shot my first deer. Then I shot a deer at 1000 yards. I learned how to babysit children (yes this is a milestone). I ate a 9 year old twinkie. The twinkie story is going to be published. That's a smattering of big/weird events at least.

Another way to account for a year. Today I interacted with many people. I was talking to AS when the clock rolled over to B-Day. Then LE texting me at 00:08 to wish me a happy. And KN sending me a Happy 23rd card that she drew herself. I woke up to a text from the LT. KH brought me flowers when she got home from her race. MB, SW, D A M & AG came over later for church. And then B and B came over later. And later I texted SO. I also got calls/emails/texts from mother, father grandfather, best friend, past roommate and a few others. And I don't want to diminish these in the least because they are incredibly important humans in my life. But can we talk about how 14/20 people who interacted with me were complete strangers. (2 I met today for the first time so...) But there are 12 people that I love dearly and get to regularly spend time with and enjoy with and adventure through life with that are as close as family and incredibly new on my life calendar. And that is just a handful of people. There's about 50 others who are in the same category- as trusted and loved and loving as those that I had the good fortune to spend time with today. That's mind blowing.

So at the end of a day of reflection this is what is standing out to me most...

Dear Rochester family, a year ago only 2 of you had met me and only a handful even knew my name. You are an incredible gift. Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and showing me truth and love on a regular basis. Thank you for being honest, encouraging me, teaching me, helping me break bad habits and build new ones, laughing with me, crying with me, eating my food experiments, giving me a place to serve others, and standing beside me when I face hard things. I have been grateful for you at least once every day since I was introduced to you...and while it hasn't been a full 365 yet we are getting close. I love you dearly.

I can't wait to see what the next year brings...



-Jn

PS. I turned off my Facebook birthday and wall as a gift to myself. I ABHOR Facebook birthday wall spamming because it is impersonal, generic, and mindless. Shame on you if you are only sending me a message because the Facebook told you to. If you miss me hit me up on a random day when we both probably have less going on. And if you can't come up with a better, more creative way to wish me happy I would rather you didn't bother. This is also consequently why you did not find me spamming your wall on your birthday. But you didn't notice the lack of my presence because 40 people you haven't spoken to in a year spent 2.5 minutes coming up with a catchy way to say the same thing that everyone else said. ...Ahem....Stepping off soap box. Sorry.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I do what I do

It's not finals yet but it's close enough. The first big thing due hits on Saturday and a torrent of other due dates follows. The week before finals will actually promise to be more all-nighter inducing than finals proper this semester. So it goes.

I have been fighting a database all day and I have settled down in to robot mode. Do things repeatedly and hopefully efficiently and by all means in a huge hurry. Everything is details. And all details need to be done yesterday. Don't think. Don't feel. Just finish.

So this morning I unwrapped a still slightly frozen roast and stuck it in the slow cooker and forgot about it. I shoveled breakfast in my mouth and started working on SELECT statements. I had to DELETE everything and start over. By lunch I had everything back in where it belonged. Leftovers went down rapidly and without fan fair. And back to SELECT statements. I'm sure by the end of this I will have lost articles from my speech and my capitalizing imperatives will be instinct not example. Dinner alarm goes off. Yes I have alarms to tell me when to eat. And to tell me when to go to class. When I get in to mass production mode I won't stop until I fall asleep. I hit snooze for a good half hour and I was starting to feel off. So I wandered downstairs nuked some frozen veggies and prepared to vacuum everything in and get as much done before class as possible.

I was on my 3rd mouthful of meat when the strangest thing happened. I stopped mid chew. My brain registered that it was not eating cow and gave pause to the whole system. The report came back: "This is not cow. This is deer. You killed this deer." And then all stress slipped out of my body. I was completely relaxed. I took smaller bites and chewed more slowly willing the taste to last.

I was on a rock. My father was behind me. I'd lost a deer once already in the trees. I couldn't see antlers. As I was questioning my shot my mind drifted to thoughts of steak and the sights were perfect and the rifle shot straight and then there was nothing left to question but where was the rope. He made one valiant bound and died mid air out of my line of sight. My father, my nephew and I (mostly Alex) drug him to the 4-wheeler. We skinned him in the garage over which his antlers are now displayed. And over the next few days I worked earnestly to wrap up parcels for such a time as this. A harried Tuesday not unlike any other day. I spent hours inside with my eyes focused on task and not on the mountains surrounding me so that on a begrudging future day in flat suburb in an eastern state I could take a bite and the world would stop. And I would pace out the events of the day, hear the forest, smell the trees, see the landscape, feel the presence of family and taste the victory of every part of that adventure.

Field to table. Amen.

-Jn

Monday, April 09, 2012

Apparently I am Gordon Famous

Friends and I have been bantering on a Google + post about about Strawberry Icecream Oreos. It goes like this:
SL-  i just gagged out loud- way to ruin strawberry icecream and oreos!
Jn-  Oh nasty. That is SO gross. Did you eat one on purpose?
JW-  Actually, I ate 1 from the goading of my little sister.
JW-  WAIT. How is this grosser than your twinkie-eating-habits of 9 years???
SL-  Tu shay J!
Jn-  True story...look of shame :(


About an hour after JWilly posted the Twinkie habits comment I got the following email:

Hello! I am looking for a J K who went to Gordon College, was a biology major, graduated in (2006?) and wrote a wonderful post about Twinkies in your blog. If that is you, we would love to run a brief mention of it in the upcoming STILLPOINT. Please let me know if that is (or is not) okay. I would be happy to send you the text we'd like to use. Many thanks!
P H
Gordon College Communications Office




I of course immediately emailed the other Jn. And then I emailed Gordon Communications out of sheer curiosity. Seriously? This is more than likely the most bizarre thing I will EVER do. You want to put it in the Alumni Magazine?


My life gets stranger every day.

-Jn

Man cannot live on bread alone. Man cannot live on Twinkies at all. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The first day of Spring and 15 years

The night my sister left…

In my head that was when death was the most real. But that acute loss wasn’t death. Not the sudden parting of soul and body. Death was the slow and steady breakdown of a fragile body. Decay of flesh still indwelt with spirit. The opposite of growth. Instead of counting words acquired, the words were lost.

This slow insidious creeping death had her months before. She ceased to be herself, ceased to be ours, long before her heart stopped beating. But as long as there was a heartbeat there was some small hope that maybe this wasn’t the end. There was still a chance for the miracle of pulling her back from the grip of creeping death.

But death maintained its hold.

And perhaps still does. At first the day by day hollow ache. A room not lived in. A chore no longer required. Everything we’d grown to consider normal hat to be re-written and new habits formed. This too was death. Day by day the acute pain faded. Life didn’t feel so strange. The lack became a usual part of life and then it wasn’t a lack any more. Week by week things were boxed or sold or given. They weren’t needed. They were in the way. They were a reminder. And year by year reminders slipped from consciousness, followed by the memories they marked.

This too is death

Somewhere in a teapot in Virginia are the remains of my sister. DNA reduced to component parts. Carbon to carbon. Ash to ash. Dust to dust. There is a painting of her too. A hopeful vision from a family friend. These are the remains. But not all that remains.

I have my own urns gathering dust in the shadowy corners of memory. Mementos to mark a loss. Trophies proving an existence. This person used to be in my 3 dimensions and now she is not. They only way I can still connect is to skew the fourth dimension with a concerted effort. I can think back to what was or project to the present of what never could be. And the interaction must always be solitary and one way. Even a memory shared by others is tainted by my own experiences. The colors of the paintings the study of my mind have faded based on how the sun shines in through my eyes. This is not the real thing, only my best rendition. And as years approach decades, the death of memory continues. I can hold fewer images and those become ever more altered to fit my present desires.

As ashes don’t make a body, memories don’t make a soul.


Written 8/6/11. Edited 3/20/12. Spencerport.

-Jn

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Surprise Blizzards aren't Surprising anymore

When I left my house this evening there was a hinting at foul weather. It was raining and balancing on the edge of 33 degrees. The drive to the highway was shockingly dark. I waited for the LT to get out of work with the heat blasting and the radio loud to cover the sound of the rain. We sped east of the city to our destination but the weather tapered as we went and there was barely a drizzle when we arrived.

We walked into the dark house and hailed the inhabitants. We bantered for a while about the lights and the baby and then set our minds to progress. Hours passed. It was time to head for home.

While we were distracted we missed the beginnings of the surprise blizzard. One of the lake special effects of Rochester fame.

My furnace of a car was the only vehicle not covered with half an inch of snow. I helped the others brush and sped towards home alone. East to the road of rotaries. Round and round and generally south, aiming for the highway. Nothing was particularly dramatic until I reached the highway. The yellow incandescent lights were hazy and ill defined. The snow was falling more thickly now and dense and wet and absorbing all stray light possible. Everything seemed vague and dim with the exception of the masses of flakes streaming at me in the brilliance of my headlights. Insert here the perfunctory reference to flying through the stars in a space ship.

I was still in 6th gear and still going at least the speed limit but this was slowly becoming unwise. The ground was beyond saturated and though some of the snow melted as it landed the water had no place to go. It built up on the road surfaces and became a slurry as more crystals fell from above. I was driving through at least 2 inches of slush and though I was not hydroplaning and I had decent traction I was being guided from side to side by the uneven pull of friction on the corners of my car.

I turned the radio down and the heat. The noise of slush on tires was drowning them out anyway. Forward. Onward. Slush. Slush. Slush. I passed a car on the right because it was easier than shifting left two lanes. I was rewarded by and enormous blast of water to the windshield. I jumped. The only break in the overpowering sound of wet friction came when passing under overpasses. No snow snuck beneath them and the roads were merely wet. For the first time I realized just how many roads cross over the loops around the city.

I crossed the bridge which designates to me that I am on my side of the city. A plow is spewing salt in a single lane without removing the snow that’s building up. I don’t understand. I pass it and wonder at the salt denting my car. The snowflakes are growing in size. Quarters perhaps but round. Can snow even get that big?

Around the bend are myriad brake lights in every lane. Against my better judgment I slide over to the far left lane, boxing myself in and nearly assuring that I will be in the line of the accident. The slooshing sound of snow subsides with my speed and is replaced by the overly anxious alarm of my radar detector alerting me to what I already knew. There are police ahead. Shortly reflected blue and red lights confirm all of this and I am as expected directed to shift right.

There are many officers. A man is being arrested. Patted down. Alcohol I suspect. He looks less unhappy than I would have suspected. He looks like I wouldn’t want to meet him in an alley. Then a line of cars too close to other solid objects for comfort. OneTwo together then Three and Four against the wall. A woman is standing in the back of an ambulance talking. I glance at Four. There is a man in the passenger seat leaning against the window. No one else is around. He must be dead. I will have to check the news tomorrow. We are past the accident. We pick up speed again.

The sound of slush again increases as do the size of the snowflakes. We are up to sliver dollars. That cannot be true. They cannot be that bit. But they are. I continue on the left side of the road. No longer in 6th gear but still passing, still getting sprayed with water. Still heading west towards home. I pass a pair of plows in tandem. The rear is dumping salt. The front is pushing snow…and dumping salt. This makes less sense than the previous plow. I pass.

I curve gently off the interstate onto the highway that will lead me the rest of the way home. No plows have touched this road and few cars have passed this way. The road is not lit and the slush is much thicker. I have driven this road in much more ferocious snow but the roads were less dangerous. I pass a small pickup. I am in the far left where the roads are the worst. I feel as though I am in complete control but my traction control light strobes to tell me otherwise. I acquiesce to physics and shift right. I regret my decision when I find myself behind a slow minivan. I consider passing it. Then I consider the depth of the slush. Then I consider myself in the ditch. Was that guy really dead? I consider how painfully slow we are going for the next two miles.

I exit the highway to even deeper snow at the bottom of the off ramp. I brake well in advance to prevent a slide and find myself thankful. A car speeds through the intersection at too great a speed for even normal road conditions. The light changes on them when they are between intersections and they slide too far into the middle. They take their foot of the brake to slide backwards down the hill and avoid being hit. Luckily I am not going that way. I don’t want to see another accident.

A few cars have preceded me towards the townhouses and left trails for me to follow. I am home with an inch or more of snow and no roommates. One is tucked safely away in Arizona where it never snows this way. The other is working until I don’t know when. I hope she makes it home safe. I hope she is safe. Did I really see a dead man? I leave fresh tracks everywhere I walk. The snow in the driveway looks white and clean and innocent.

I am as convinced it was a man as I am that I saw him and that he was dead. I would give it a bold 75%. This is not the first time I have witnessed dead human. I’ve watched a man drown. I’ve held the hand of far more intimate death. But I am not yet immune to the shellshock that the permanence brings. I think I saw a dead man tonight.

I unshoe, unjacket, unload. I find pajamas a laptop and a bed. The thoughts are already fading as I start to scrawl. I think I saw a dead man tonight. I put it down on paper because I decided I would when I noticed the different hues of the incandescent lights in the snow and thought it worthy of composition. This was miles and paragraphs before the accident. Before the dead man. But in timeline probably after he was already dead. After the ambulance had arrived on the scene. I decided I was going to write and so I was already writing in my head and absorbing every detail when I happened to look over and see a dead man wearing green.

Maybe it was just a jacket. Maybe what I saw was something other than a hand against the glass. Maybe the person in the ambulance was once in that seat and was now being rushed towards a second chance of life.

My roommate is home. I heard the keys in the door. The keys find a hook. The shuffling of a work weary body in the house. Safe. And of course the news has no story yet. It is still unfolding.

-Jn

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Groundhog's Day!!!

video

I recorded it for posterity. Also if I die you can remember what I look and sound like.

The post Twinkie reaction-A very real headache and a completely mental stomach ache.

Here is the running list of previous Twinkie updates: (Here is the running list of previous Twinkie "data".)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Groundhog's Day Eve - Recap

Tomorrow makes Twinkie number 9 of the box of 10. Let me remind you where we've been...

Feb 2, 2004 - Twinkie number 1, Year 0. Jenn Hayden, Eric Mehlberg and I shared the moment in the second row back on the left hand side of the ultra orange organic chemistry classroom. Orange tile, walls, furniture, benches, art and periodic table of the elements- with Carbon painted gold. We dined on Twinkie before class started and before Irv Levy popped open his perpetual can of soda. We got the idea from him of course. All of his industrial examples were about extending the shelf life of Twinkies from 5 years to 10 years. Our real goal with this experiment, to have a reason to keep in touch for as long as possible if only for one day a year. This was before Facebook mind you. It worked so far.

Feb 2, 2005 - Twinkie number 2, Year 1. Jenn Hayden and I partook together shortly after lunch and before biostats class started. I remember having to move the desks around so we could sit together and that the room was very hot and we were very nervous and shocked at how much it was Twinkie like.

Feb 2, 2006 - Twinkie number 3, Year 2. I don't remember. Jenn help me out? I'm willing to bet money that I ate the Twinkie in the bio library with Mel Kel and whoever happened to be there at the time. This was our senior year and by that time I lived in the library almost constantly.

Somewhere between Feb 2006 and Feb 2007 one of my Twinkies went missing. I think it was during MBI which means I have 5 suspects. Seriously guys, how could you not know what you were eating? They were super stale at that point.

Feb 2, 2007 - Twinkie number 4, Year 3. I was in Punxetauny PA for the big Groundhog's day celebration with my mother. I ate the Twinkie after the Phil predicted no more winter. I called Jenn from the celebration.

Feb 2, 2008 - Twinkie number 5, Year 4. I was alone in my weird little studio apartment that was next door to Krista then Faulks' apartment with my cat Gurgles chillin. Called Jenn that evening.

Feb 2, 2009 - Twinkie number 6, Year 5. At my desk in my bedroom in Malden, MA. Early afternoon. Shandra was not around to watch but she did ask a lot of questions when she got home. I think this is also the first year I know that Sarah Ripley has told her Rochester friends about this adventure and that they refer to it as pray for Jenn day. I also didn't call Jenn until the next day. SHOOOOOOT.

Feb 2, 2010 - Twinkie number 7, Year 6. 8th floor of the library of UMB with my dear friend Aimee Young. She was incredibly concerned and she photographed the events more than willingly. I texted Jenn from the library but I called her later.


Feb 2, 2011 - Twinkie number 8, Year 7. Late afternoon in the kitchen of the Dover, NH kitchen. My dear father had to dig through boxes I stored at his house after the Twinkie and mail it to me. He told everyone he met the day he put it in the mail what the Twinkie was all about. Jenn and I caught up that afternoon and I cleaned snow off the back deck while we talked.

Feb 2, 2012 - Twinkie number 9, Year 8. TBD and TBA
Update: http://jnkcmd.blogspot.com/2012/02/groundhogs-day.html

Feb 2, 2013 - Twinkie number 10, Year 9. I am desperate for Jenn and I to be reunited to share the last remaining Twinkie and also split a fresh one for comparison sake in Punxetauny PA. I am also desperate to have as many other humans as I know there to join the party. Please come.



And yes Virginia, I liked groundhogs day a ridiculous amount BEFORE the Twinkies. That's why we picked that day in the first place.

-Jn

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The coolest made up animal ever made up

Writing for me is not a task, a chore, a verb. It is an animal inside my being and scurries and scatters, digs and climbs, uncovering emotions, burying thoughts. It lays dormant for hours, months, long winters of internal time. It wakes slowly, stirs, tries to find a way out here or there. I fight against it. External time has constraints. I feel compelled to keep the animal in stasis from guilt. There are things to be done. What things? It doesn’t matter. It’s the doing that matters. Do things. Do more things. Can’t writing be a thing that you do? No. Because. Or when acceptance has finally been come around to by force or pain, the animal scraping and digging fiercely for escape, for breath and the guilt of occupation has been won over there still remains stifling obligations. There is the subject matter to consider and the audience. You should apply yourself to writing about x or y or z not n! and may all social constructs forbid that your composition be addressed explicitly or implicitly to p or q. Much safer to broadcast to the set of m=[a, a+1,…h]. But it doesn’t take much to trace this back into the former guilt of a thing to be done. This is writing as a verb. A verb is not wrenching my insides out in the panic of a dark tomb.

The current dilemma is one of theme. Squalor. I question myself. Why do you choose the dismal? Or let me be more clear, why do you choose the dismal when your life is so obviously and clearly on the upswing? Is it healthy? What with this or that human think? What do you know of fetid existence really? What right do you have to speak towards such things?

I imagine the slant towards the miserable has something to do with the most recent selections in reading material. Whether up beat or beaten down the backdrop of my most recently visited fictional worlds have been painted in hues of grey, brown, poverty, sickness, pain and steely blue. I recognize also that the atmosphere of any selected story, place or occurrence trapped by the strokes of a pen will be colored intimately by the specific pile of words wrestled into the line of a sentence. A sewer filled with vagabonds and ruffians can be papered over with the warm and festive feel of a fair just as halls lined with gold and silver gilt can be transformed into a prison given the appropriate cadence and tense. The written word is dangerous and powerful.

However, my literary intake can only account for so much of the shift towards stagnant puddles in my mind. No, I have become convinced that the largest compulsion comes from the hours I’ve been awake, the flavors of the company I have spent my time with, and the shades and tones of the building in which most of my conscious time has played out. Nocturnal. Police. Emergency Center. Dispatch.

Over and again the questioning of my obligation to write or not write this or that phrase. By what right? I feel the claws sink deeper into the unprotected internal flesh.

I suppose that the best writers of fiction are in fact the best liars and they are the best liars because they approximate most accurately the elusive phantom of truth. So it goes.




I crack open the den. I write.