Saturday, October 22, 2016

the more the work and the pressure pile up, the more i tend to get involved in the poetry - last night, wrote five on delaware, of all places, and now i've moved on, in my mind, to virginia maybe. virginia is full of wild and beautiful places, like chancellorsville, full of history, and so is delaware too i'm sure, but they're hard to find in delaware. for one thing, i've only been in delaware at the middle of the night, if at all. sometimes my memory is a little hazy. i did hawaii about a week ago and i have no memory whatsoever, never set foot in the place. everything i know is what i've read, or what i've found on google images. and the last one like that will be north dakota - it's a place i missed, back in the day, when i was trying to catch as much as i could.

so in this volume, which i'm working on furiously, i'm trying to make it true to the original trip, which was back in the seventies. i try not to include things that have arrived on the scene since then, like black friday and walmart, and try to really show the emotions or the feelings of traveling around, which does not have to be in the exact place where it actually happened. so in delaware for example i have the feeling of being stuck way up on the icy memorial bridge, behind a jackknifed truck, and i'm not sure it exactly happened that way, but it happened somewhere, and in fact the memorial bridge is possibly the only thing i remember about the whole state. and, the memorial bridge at night. i didn't actually see it, though i could get a good shot at it through google images.

back in the house, it's stick gathering time - the last clear pretty weekend, probably, before it gets really cold. we've hauled in a few cords of firewood and we aren't sure if it will be enough - never been in the high mountains for an entire winter - and my guess is, it won't be, entirely. or, it will last a bit longer if i can go get some sticks to help start the fires, and don't always need to cut up whole logs just to make sticks to start the things. so, my plan is to go to nearby neighbors, who have sticks lying around all over the place, and just ask them. as one neighbor said, they're just sticks. to me, they're more than that - they look like kindling on the mountainsides, and if i can gather them, they will last me a little longer through the winter. i have that late fall, gathering impulse. plus, the need to get out into the fresh air.

in virginia, it's the civil war. tales of stonewall, chancellorsville, stuff they all know by heart, and we're just travelers, amazed that it matters so much. or it's arlington, or the tomb of the unknown soldier, both of which are in virginia. lots going on down there, it's a big state. and it needs to be rewritten. as i look at what i have, three or four of them, in the spring, i've used three years in a row. time for some new stuff. time to get t'writing. the good news is that i can do five, six, ten at a single sitting, if i have my mind on it. some of them require planning or research. but the feelings i have, left over from the trip, they're still there.

beautiful day - time to pick up sticks, and recycle.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

these days with a lot of driving back and forth and less time for the blog or poetry, well actually i kind of got obsessed with poetry, though i had lost one of my scrawly sheets with about thirty poems on it, and it happened at a time when i was driving a lot, and didn't have the clarity of mind to recall them, as i often can. in this case i didn't even remember which states they were from, as that would have helped, and though i suspected a few were from texas, i couldn't recall which ones. slowly, after about a week, a few came back to me and i recaptured them, stuck them on the poetry blog where i publish them. then i counted up - i have two hundred, and i need a thousand by the end of the year which is half over. so i'm three hundred behind.

slowly, as i said, i began to pick up the pieces. about thirty were lost. i checked my office, and my home thoroughly, but figured i'd dropped them on a bike trip in lubbock when my front tire was flat, i was going uphill, against the wind, about three miles. the one place i'd never recover them, on the street. so i resigned myself and slowly started writing more.

fall has hit the mountains and the hunters apparently came through as it's just about anything goes now, not just bowhunting but whatever suits you. go out and get them and haul them out. the aspens have turned a bright yellow against the evergreens and other stuff has changed color too. down the mountain, this one old cactus sits atop a rock in the sun like it somehow found some dirt to sink its roots into - i imagine it did, how could it still be sitting there otherwise? i found an old cousin of mine down there - she friended me on facebook. i'll even meet her someday - it's only a matter of time. went down and saw my sister and my dad across the valley. went down there twice, in fact. it's a steep and narrow road, wild mountains and caves all over the place, and then that big old cactus, stark, in the sun, on the rock.

so anyway finally i had my little pink folded up tabulation sheet, and i lost that. it went flying from my soft chair, and i simply couldn't find it. one more poetry sheet missing, and i was beginning to lose it, because my tabulation is important to me. unbeknownst to me it had fallen in my briefcase. But in the process of looking for it, i found my other one, the yellow one, with thirty poems on it, some of them, of course, recovered by now. bonanza! it made my weekend. restoring the poetry, getting it out there. i'll be counting it soon, it could be over three hundred.

i write more easily now. on a good day i could get eight, ten or more. today, maybe only four, all hawaii. but hey, you do what you can, and the night's not over. went through a tunnel, several times, and of course, that reminds me of my pennsylvania days, they had a bunch of 'em back there. as a kid i'd be curled up in the back of a station wagon. the mountains, though, would be big and endless. as is life. time to get back to it.

Friday, October 07, 2016

these are wild times. everyone is just a little worried trump might get elected, and start a race war, or build a wall, or whatever. when i'm in new mexico i figure we might end up on the other side of it, since he doesn't know one mexico from another, he might even build it in mexico missouri or whatever. but in any case, we feel safer, high in the mountains, 9000 feet, fall descending, and true to form, my instincts kick in and i go out and gather apples and firewood.

the apples make really good apple sauce, but the firewood gets burned up pretty quick and i have to go back out for more. of course we ordered two cords of logs, and it's quite a bit of wood, but we're not really sure how long it will last or whether we should lay in another cord or two just to be safe. we have propane too. we are not off the grid. i sit here on my blogger, and i play boggle, and i do google, whenever my students plagiarize, i'm all over google.

still have my job, but it's back in lubbock, and i have to drive four and a half hours each way, on mondays and tuesdays. that, my dear blog, is where i've been. it's a long hard drive, even though it's only four and a half; it goes over the oil fields, the cotton fields, the wide open grasslands, so dark, so totally empty, that you see absolutely nothing at night. coming back this way you end up in the mountains, and you wind around so sharply that it tends to wake you up and keep you in the ball game. cliffs drop off sometimes on either side. you see a wild mountain go straight up from your passenger-side window but you can't follow your eyes because you have to pay attention to the road. and there are deer and elk out; why they like to come out and stand out on the road, i have no idea. some people say they like to lick the salts off the roads. i had no idea the road had any taste at all.

so i'm out there, every week, crossing the time-zone, teaching my class and coming back to the high mountain refuge up here, where it's cloudy and cool and the colors have pretty much changed already. rest of the southwest, it's warm, they're waiting for it to cool off, but way up here, it's already happened, and we're thinking electric blankets and warm jackets. writing them right into our budget. i go out and gather more apples and more sticks; it's like gardening, i do it more for my health, and my anxiety, than for the economic benefit one might get. but i did plant the apple seeds. i figured if they were doing so well - there are about eight trees right around the corner - then i might as well keep them going around this way, see if i can get some apples for the future generations. not sure my plan will work. but they're red, juicy, delicious, and they seem to do well at 9000 feet.

came through artesia one night with 120 miles left in the gas tank; cloudcroft is about 95 from artesia. but cloudcroft is 6000 feet straight up. by mayhill i had only 30 miles left in the tank, and 25 to go. in mayhill my credit cards didn't work; my wife had changed the zipcode. i couldn't imagine that, and set out to see if i could get 25 more miles off the car. about halfway the car started flashing hard at me and i pulled over. you don't want to offend a car by letting it go bone dry anywhere. this is more true nowadays than it used to be - i once let a car go bone dry all winter. but my point is, there i was, way out in the high mountain, one thirty in the morning, out of gas. i called my wife, woke her up, and she agreed to come get me. actually i had a bicycle in the car. i'd never even thought of it; i hadn't used it in texas. i probably could have ridden the last ten miles on the bike. but i didn't think of it.

so there were these huge elk out in the middle of the road, maybe a half dozen of them. my wife was driving the van. they ambled out of the way and i wondered, later, how they would have responded to a bicycle rider. it's still an open question. they were doing their road thing, licking the salt or whatever, maybe it's that at the road, they can finally reach and eat the grass without actually stepping in it, or whatever.

the problem is that all this stuff adds on to my week. i grade papers like crazy. i try to set up my blackboard so the students get a shot at everything they normally would. we have an actual online class every thursday. i look forward to thanksgiving of course, when i'll take a thursday off. i will continue to drive hard, seven or eight more times.

up here, on the mountain, i play my banjo off my porch, and it's close enough to the center of town so that i feel like people are listening. elk and deer come up and take what they can get off the fruit trees down below. hikers pass by every once in a while. out in the mountains, colors are changing in raging glory. i take my wife out there every once in a while.

one day, i'd come home from lubbock late and woken up early, which is my usual routine. she said let's go out to the mountains, i need a walk, i need to get out of here. we picked a trail that took us back behind a mountain on an isolated road. we got about a mile or two into it and saw a couple of bears. it was a mother bear and a teenager bear, best i could figure. they gave us a dirty look from the trail way off ahead, then ambled off, up the hillside and out of sight. we walked by the spot, making plenty of noise, grateful that they didn't spring out at us. it was a long path; we were way out there. but we had a story to tell.

and, it uplifted my spirit considerably. people around here weren't especially surprised; they see bears all the time. but i myself haven't seen a bear, especially a wild one, in twenty or thirty years. or more. and the thing is, we all got along fine. i told them that i told stories about them (true) and that i never made them out to be bad guys or anything (also true) and that as far as i was concerned, boys and bears could get along fine (true) and that i was the boy in most of the stories (well this one might not be totally true, but was pretty much true). their silence spoke volumes from back on the hillside or wherever they went off to hide. we might have been the first human beings that teenager had seen all year, or in its life. the trail was in its blazing glory, and it was way isolated. the ones near our house are urbane in comparison.

we forgot, though, what it was like to live in a truly small town (<1000). it's a bit different. it'll give me some color, if i can get my writing chops back. i've been set back a little; wrote a few stories (see below), but i'm way behind on the poetry. just being on the road, you would think, would be enough. actually i wrote about eight on the way to lubbock. but only two on the way back. i was tired. it takes it out of you, this hard traveling. it's all i can do to remember my toothbrush.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

new story:
Eastern Elbow Time
comments welcome...enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

new story:
Shower of Fear
comments welcome....enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

a movie i made about new mexico:
on the mountain
just so i don't lose it! it features me on the banjo, but the name at the end, "32 acres," is not entirely correct. it's my version of 32 acres, maybe.
new story: House Party
enjoy! Comments welcome as usual

Thursday, September 01, 2016

of course i'm not afraid of putting my entire course online, in a blackboard shell, where you might have some advantages, like the students can doodle on the class board while you yap or text over to the grad assistant to ask what the heck you say, and of course this could offend you but it also opens up a whole new world, if you can just get used to it, because blackboard can record it, and some of these things are worth recording especially when we talk linguistics which we will probably not. most of my students of course are better at blackboard than i am, and i found out tonight it's all a matter of perception: what you think they see is not necessarily what they see, and what they say they see it seems to me, is not always all they see. it's all very virtual but we were stuck there for a while, couldn't do a thing.

then i'm also in this situation where once a week i go across west texas, through the rangeland, the oil fields, the vast empty quarter and up the mountain to the clouds here where, in my comfort, i will get on blackboard tomorrow. i have done all this, moved my family to the mountain, in order to save my wife's sanity, but i kept my job, which means i have to go back once in a while to check in back at the west texas headquarters. back there, if they though everyone could simply move to the high mountains and do their job, they'd have mass exodus, but a little nobody like me can apparently do it and still have my job, if only because i do it well and very few others can. so i teach my two classes, yesterday, and load up the van with a shed full of junk, and then go play the fiddle for a while, and about eight-thirty i take off heading west on a four and a half hour drive uphill and into the mountain time zone.

but it's pouring down rain and it seems to be getting worse, as i snake through the cottonfields of west texas, the peanut farms and occasional oil derricks, it's coming down like crazy. the roads are ok, but it is really pounding the car and when i come to those 'watch for water' signs i get real nervous but they've mastered the art, in texas, of raising the road just enough that the roads seem to be ok. you have this very flat countryside, nowhere for the water to go, bad and non-porous dirt, but apparently if the road is just six, eight inches up, that's enough. and that's what they have. i snaked across the new mexico line just as the rain was letting up.

but alas, the rain had come from the west, had been in lovington earlier, days earlier, and in new mexico, even though that road was fairly new, it was perhaps not six to eight inches above the ground. now, when i encountered a 'watch for water' sign i actually flew through a couple of feet of water, a puddle maybe thirty feet long and two or three feet deep. ouch! fortunately i was going about sixty five, and, though the car slid a little, it made it to the other side. just in time for another one, about the same length, same depth. you wonder if that water's going to get into your engine. it's hard for it not to.

high in the mountains i kind of got into a zone and pretty soon i'd passed some landmarks and hadn't even noticed. where the empty quarter road comes around this major bend at an elementary school, i didn't even see it. all of a sudden i was in the mountains, with rock coming up right at the road there, and the possibility of course of landslides, and more commonly, deer all over the place. they like the road. they like the late night. they don't always even think about making room for the cars.

and what do they think about the rain? here it is, still drizzling out in the mountains, and it still is, by the way, and those deer, mark my words, are still out there not worrying too much about the drizzle. lots of weeds growing on all sides, plenty to eat. they don't like the cars, but, in the end, there aren't a whole lot of them. you stop out there, for any reason, and there are millions of stars, more than i've ever seen in one place.

and it's back to the online class; i teach it tomorrow; i hope everyone will be there. i have students who will have trouble; i'll have trouble; that's the way it goes, but eventually we'll see it, we'll get together in a virtual environment, every thursday except thanksgiving. i look forward to it. thanksgiving, i'll be up here in the mountains, eating turkey, or maybe elk, and not getting online. and that, i'll figure, will be life as it's supposed to be lived.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

sometimes the high altitude gets to you. it's usually at the end of my walk back up to the house, which is on a ridge, slightly above the center of town. the center of town is 8700, i think, and our little drive is 8707, according to a car we drove in that told the altitude. tomorrow a football team comes to town. i wonder if it will matter. matters to me...

published my book of quaker plays, and it was kind of a mini-hit on facebook, with two friends saying they'd actually bought it. i saw no record of that, though, in the createspace place where it should record sales. i think maybe they wait until they actually print and send it, and it can take days. i'm a little aggrieved that i've been putting out books for years and get maybe a buck here, a buck there, if i'm lucky. i have to admit, though, i've enjoyed the luxury of not having to worry about it. what do you do when you actually need sales? i have no idea. keep cranking out books, maybe. turn to novels, maybe, which might have a higher price tag. i don't know.

then there's the banjo; i've picked it up again. it's harmonic ringing goes well with a 8707-foot, piney wet cloudy clime, and my back porch kind of has a little alleyway pathway to the center of town, so that i feel like i'm playing, sometimes, to a main street that hears the echo, maybe, better than the music itself. it's a kind of scottish place, cloudcroft, with the clouds sometimes coming down and literally hugging the place. or, from the back porch, we watch them roll in and collide with each other. it's a late-summer thing that some of them actually have water in them, and dump it on us quick while they're in the high mountains; surely they're the only raining clouds in the entire southwest. we go down to el paso, alamo, or maybe las cruces, and they've had none, none at all. we dry out for a while then turn back around, go back up the hill to our little aerie in the clouds.

in such an environment, i try to turn myself into a writer, or perhaps a musician, but mostly i make lots of cups of navajo tea and sit on that back porch and just watch the white sands go through their various different glows as the sun hits them differently. tonight i swear, i saw rain way out there, or i thought i did, though it's hard to tell how far away the rain is, and it's possible it was just an illusion. it does actually rain out there occasionally, especially this time of year, when anything can happen, and all the neon newts and gilas go scurrying around trying to catch their one opportunity of the year, or one of the few, at least. i think, probably, there are places drier than the tularosa basin, but not many of them. in alamo i'm sure they feel like they can climb the hill any time and catch some water, some rain, maybe a mountain hike or a cloud or two, but they very rarely do; more often, the hikers we meet are from germany, or the netherlands maybe, and speak with a european lilt but who knows where they live.

there's a steady display of hummingbirds right off the front porch, and they occasionally come right up to me, even when i'm playing the banjo. they especially like pink stuff, i think, so when the girlies bring a barbie out to the porch they're likely to fly right up and see what the pink is all about. they like to hover. in fact, i'm kind of fascinated by that idea of hovering - it's an advantage, i'm sure, that they use in many ways but i'm not sure they can actually escape danger with it. it's great to watch though. they just kind of hang in the air, moving slightly one direction or the other, or back and forth, their wings flapping furiously. seems they have big wings and not much body, so that's possible. and also that neon desert-kind of glow, that doesn't hurt either. it's their social life - hovering over our garden, white sands behind them, checking out the exotic bushes and the barbies.

and one other thing - they're living in the high mountains. they could have it sunny, warm, dry, like everyone else, but they don't. they're like us - they like it here - though who knows, when the snow packs in, they might be long gone. i'll try to get some pictures, but, they're pretty hard to catch with the phone i've got.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Quaker Plays for First Days

$7.28 + shipping at Amazon
All profits go to Quaker organizations

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

on the mountain

little movie i made
about our first days in new mexico