Monday, November 30, 2009

ok so i'm thankful; i've been thankful all year, every minute really, more so now than ever, and i like the family, nuclear & extended, all of it. so i ate too much...what else is new? we actually had three dinners, all with turkey; lots of pie; all kinds of specially made dishes, the whole works.

i'm a calendar-maker; this year is maybe my twelfth; i've been doing it for a while, so i'm getting used to cutting tiny little "independence day" slivers of paper and taping them onto a rectangle that represents july fourth. i can tell you that may is a calendar-maker's dilemma since it has days in six different weeks; that's as rare as a blue moon or rarer. the usual decisions- how to represent jewish holidays that actually start the night before- whether or not to eliminate ones that very few people actually celebrate, or ones, like groundhog day, that nobody cares about...what is a person to do? this year i added chinese new year & ramadan- but i ditched ash wednesday. i went back to the old template with slightly funky, curved letters & put dragons & lions in the picture- it's of castle park.

got out of town, and up to peoria, and from there to davenport iowa, where i saw my daughter who is pregnant and got to tell her that everything would be ok, even though everything she hears from relatives, and particularly her mom, is that it might not. it will. she's healthy and together & is looking good with that baby. iowa was its usual self and it was a beautiful day, but i hardly noticed. davenport is an area with excellent radio- so i drove out among the wide flat farmland, over which the sun was rising at one point, and blasted different kinds of music, even country.

the road up from carbondale is relatively predictable- through the villes, up through lebanon into madison county, up past benld and the mother jones memorial, and into springfield. in springfield familiar landmarks flew by- toronto road, stevenson
drive, sangamon county line- while we decided, over a phone, to save our cat's life if only just for a few days. he's an old cat, sick, but he's been around a while, and what can you do. he's hanging onto his life, i guess; i was driving, and didn't want to be responsible for such a decision anyway.

up near use, my favorite part of the trip, it gets really empty and there isn't much traffic. wide white windmills with three blades, evenly spaced, dot the landscape. indian creek and the mackinaw river pass through and cause some hills, and also some areas that they can't farm, so they let it go and it looks quite beautiful. trees grow over the rivers and the bottomlands spread out from the highway. at some point a little mole runs across the road, right in front of me- it's probably hunting season for his predators, too- he's in a hurry, but who knows where he'll hide if he gets to the other side.

in peoria itself we have the dinner- and it's fantastic- and, we're in a kind of a city, which is unusual for us, being from a small town and all. an interstate, a downtown, a hockey team, and lots of radio, this is unusual. it's still illinois, but it's unusual.

back home, the rain has started; it's cold, and bleak, and now, finally, it's winter; the days are short, and i've got to have decent shoes. it's back to work tomorrow; it's almost over, almost break time, but there's still one last push, a couple of weeks to go. everyone's tired; they needed the turkey week, but it was only a taste of the big one, and now it's back to the grind for a little while. i'm going to try to put the calendars together, and move onto the bigger stuff, the books, the short stories, maybe even just passing through, which is entirely on this blog if you look for it; i like how blogs kind of hide stuff, and you have to know the dates, or have some other way, to really find it. hidden in plain sight. it suits my style.

which reminds me: i know i don't make it easy for readers. i write, mostly so that in dry times, like now, i keep writing. so that, when it comes time to write a story or novel, i won't be stuck. i haven't done much to make it easy for the readers. for that i apologize. i might reform myself, but maybe not right away.

right in the middle of moline illinois- right before crossing another big bridge, there were a few deer. they do that thing where a couple of them cross and a couple more are scared and know it's getting increasingly dangerous, yet they want to be with their friends who just bolted and finally they bolt too and you might hit them if you're going too fast or thinking they would use any kind of reason to cross an interstate. but this was right in the middle of town, really. at the bridge the whole wide river stretches out below, the sun making it a stunning blue; i like this valley, this river, being on the edge here, between east and west, between iowa and illinois. there are some islands out there on the river; they really don't have much on them, except some sand, and a few trees; i've always thought, maybe someone ought to just go out there and claim one, and sit there as long as they can. i'm sure it's been done. but i'm already living kind of on the edge, kind of in both, kind of one foot in one state, the other in the other. the way i write, you probably figure, i'm all over the road, i'm a dui, or an omvui, whatever. no, i'm quite sober. my mind wanders a little; but, i'm here; i'm at the wheel, i'm on a two-lane, sometimes letting the left wheel glide over the rim of the center. when the light of the oncoming cars blind you, keep your eye on the yellow line, down and to your left; watch out for deer; don't let screaming kids distract you. the windmills slice the air, ever so gently, but winter's coming. soon, they'll have something to turn for. their white ghostiness towers over a brown, muddy prairie, trying to dry out enough so that the harvesters can get in there and haul in the last of the corn. some old barns, the pretty kind, with the nice lines, have still made it. back in the old days, i'd come up here, and it would be blizzard, even on thanksgiving, i couldn't see a thing. now, it's just cold; i haven't forgotten how to drive on ice, if i have to, but i won't, if i can avoid it; i'm not looking for trouble. i'm just passing through.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

it's cold; town is empty; the walks, the streets, the building, the parking lot, all is empty. i'm working on my calendar (below); have also been working on the index of my wife's book, which is about victims and the way people see them. it's kept us busy- that, and two kids who around, literally every minute.

here's the christmas paradox. it's a small town; they have to ship supplies in; the stores don't want to get too much in the way of christmas decoration, or crafts, because they'll be stuck with it for a year if they don't sell it. so they get less than they need; just slightly less, but less never-the-less. in any case, shortage breeds panic; people buy it earlier and earlier every year. so that, this year, if you want any christmas stuff, you'd better get it quick.

this is why town is half decorated already, and it's not even thanksgiving. that, and the weather, which, as i've told you, you have to take it when you can get it. the city, and about half my neighbors, have lights up already. guess they figured, if they had to buy any, they might as well get on with it, 'cause if they're late, the stores will run out.

with the trees, what this means is, by christmas day, there isn't a tree in town that has been dead less than a month. that makes for a huge fire hazard.

but we live dangerously. we'd rather get our trees in mid-november (saw a couple of trucks with them today)- let 'em dry up and die out, we don't smoke like we used to anyway. it's a town full of over-decorators. valentine's stuff will be coming out any day now. why not? the christmas stuff is long gone.

oh that reminds me- tomorrow is thanksgiving. football? shopping? i've forgotten what this one was about. i'm thankful, yeah, sure. actually i'm very thankful. every minute, every day, every dinner, every time i see one of my kids. they're all around, and they're all getting by. there's not a single one of us that doesn't have some kind of human frailty, disorder, whatever you call them, except for one, and he's got his own baggage, being adopted and all. but we've been taking care of each other ok, i think; when the chips are down, we're a family, and that's good; i am truly thankful. we may be late with the deco; that seems to be par for the course, we being academics, chin deep in the semester, with this book hanging over us. i'm behind on the book; behind on the calendars, behind on everything. and the town, as i've mentioned, is way ahead; bad combination. so that's ok, don't mind, it'll pass. the winter descends; we're off to peoria, and then me to iowa briefly; that will be saturday, but tomorrow, it's a day at home with the family, small version. and that's ok, i can handle it; it's one deep breath, before the madness starts for sure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

it came around to warm again, and that's not unusual for this area; often what we might have called "indian summer," politically incorrectly, in my childhood, would have been done before Halloween, but here it stretches on, past veteran's day, through thanksgiving, sometimes well into december and past christmas. people keep thinking it will get cold any day though, so they get those christmas lights up as soon as they can, feeling like they might have to put them up in an ice storm if they wait too long. so here it is the saturday before thanksgiving, and everyone, the neighbors, our friends, and the city, everyone has the lights up.

it raises the stress level considerably for those who have always felt that society is pressuring them to conform to christian traditions; in fact, the lights might as well spell the words "surrender" or "conform" since that's the way people see them. we christians, the light-bearers, tend to feel it's all just pretty, and we're just expressing our belief, our faith, or maybe our love of colored lights. but, knowing that in effect it's like pressing those stress stimuli buzzers that make the rats go bonkers in our psychology book, has made me want to put it off as long as possible, if only to give a little rest to a few people, for a little while. the silence, the darkness, the shadow of the bushes and trees, that's my preferred decoration.

we have, however, started the first of two vacations: this one a week, or eleven days to be more specific; the next one the big potato, more like a month. true, they both include the stress of the season, in our case traditionally, lots of time, but bad weather, and not whole lot of extra money when it's all over. the weather, as i've said, is not that objectionable; today, four boys including myself went out without coats; one put a baku-gan on the roof; I got it off the roof, all without jackets, or in my case, with sandals on. we laid in the grass; we took in the sun; when we left the car windows up, it got hot.

so, vacation, nice weather, sun, free time, you'd think everyone would be very mellow, but it's not working out that way. there's a lot of stress, some of it based on figuring out what to do with one's lives; some of it due simply to doing what one already has to do in life. and, some of it is the stress naturally building up when young children are around needing a lot of attention. also, cats that are constantly on the make, and puppies that chew up everything, literally everything, they get close to.

this is not to mention a city that is what, twelve million overbudget, forced to consider either laying off workers, or privatizing the water service; and a state that hasn't met its budgetary requirements for months; it's got a third the people as bankrupt new york, but well over three times the debt, and no relief in sight; the money's not there, and they don't know how to make it come out of nowhere.

the wailing train passes through town regularly, but it goes through places that are by and large just like us- new orleans, devastated by katrina; or chicago, origin of most graffiti in these parts. when i slow down enough, forget my work a little, i actually hear the train, but, it brings me mixed feelings. first, i feel called by it; it lifts me out of here, and gives me the feeling, at least, of carrying me over the plains to another place, better or worse. but it also leaves me behind, and gives the feeling that it is flying through the night, inaccessible, while I stay behind, only hearing the whistle, but unable to respond, really. the weather, at least, is warm, the stars out; you can see the unlit part of the moon, while the hedgerows, the trees, fade into wintertime browns, and the leaves turn into another layer of soil. all this, one could see, if one were out on a flatcar, but as for me, i'll probably just dream it, as i'll fall asleep just as another whistle whines its way up the valley. I tend to think of this as a peaceful dream, one without lights beyond the warning lights of the train crossings themselves, one with the vast expanse of prairie in every direction, but in fact, it's not; it's one of vague apprehension of the future, and unsure landing, in an unsure place, in a terrible economy. it would be one thing, if one could just go somewhere and get work. but we're going back to the days when they look at those people on trains and say, we don't need more of them around. you can jump on those things if you want, but don't jump off, at least, not here.

i dream this, and i wake up a little less rested.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a cold wet chill has settled in on the valley, though this isn't especially surprising; november is the cold wet month, and things are often chilly to the bone. this year, more so, because my shoes aren't keeping the water out, and every time i go out in the rain, i get very cold and miserable feet. time for new shoes, and a new outlook.

but instead, on cue, i put on afel boucum, malian musician, with a kind of out-of-this-world sound, as i drive around the same old quiet streets. the town is actually quite beautiful in november, in its own peaceful way, not too many traffic hazards, except one family i know who just had a baby, right on my route, and lots of people are there, apparently, fussing over the baby; another place, the road has given way right around where i turn, and it becomes a kind of shaky experience, if i don't swing wide around it. the rest of it, pretty boring, and sometimes i crank up the african music, put the windows down, let the cold chilly rain come pouring in. nobody can even hear the music, i figure; very few people are out in the night.

i take the opportunity to drive because, unlike my wife, i find it restful. the rest of life seems so demanding, sometimes, but the car, which is virtually new, is only demanding in a subtle, gentle way. it just turned 30,000; that's demanding- take care of it, or let it go to h-. but, it runs fine and smooth, either way, and in this town, anyway, nobody's too surprised to see it.

the parking situation at the university is actually quite crazy, and involves a lot of parallel parking, some of which is impossible; also, often one is breaking the law, and has to decide which regulations can be broken and gotten away with, and which, on the other hand, will elicit a ticket in seconds. turns out everyone even affiliated with the university has to be registered, at the risk of a pretty steep fine, but even those of us with the big blue sticker have to park in the no-parking sometimes, or drive right up to a door (loading, obviously) or, park in the "police vehicle only" when dropping off or picking up young children. sometimes i park right on the crosswalk, so as to avoid sticking my bumper right in that poor cop's grill; i figure he doesn't want me double-parking, or standing in the road, waiting for something to open up, which could be forever, when people are loading young children. the children will fuss, or drop a toy; they'll drop their jacket, or they'll run away; in any case, you could be there all day. better to just pull into some god-forsaken in-betweenland and do what you have to to get out of there.

i mention this because it's still more restful than, say, getting the boys ready for bed, or, discussing with my colleagues why some poor guy is at the end of the road, and can't get what he came to the usa to get. or, walking across campus in the rain, when my shoes have holes in them, apparently.

which brings me to one last point, which i'm sure is obvious by now, and is certainly something i've said before. the whole town is so darn insular, it's like, this whole parking thing is my whole world. we have a new chancellor today; she's coming in from milwaukee, and you'd have to guess, she has very little idea how much we rely on our whole insular world for everything. it is my anger, my hope, my future and past; it's my hassle and my breeze, my destination and departure gate. getting out of it, as i did recently, just makes it seem all that much more so. if i could bend that chancellor's ear, that's what i'd tell her. sometimes we make up this stuff, just 'cause we got nothing better to do. you think we fight all the time; we get all bent out of shape because some administrator plagiarized, or went bonkers, or got caught saying something silly. lady, we get bent out of shape when one street makes our car go bump, and then, when they close a road, or a bridge, or something, all hell breaks loose.

i don't mean to disparage the place; if anything, travel has made me appreciate how lucky we are. i pull into traffic, and they go around me; some of them know who i am; they aren't surprised at my car's behavior. i keep my balance on the steering wheel; i try not to run over squirrels, and other animals that scamper off unwilling to stage a confrontation. piles of leaves reach up toward my window on both sides, making the street narrower, unless i'm willing to drive right through them, and that's a test of whether i truly believe there's nothing but leaves in all of 'em. when i was a kid, we once raked a pile of leaves into the middle of the road; then, when a car came by, we kept yelling at the pile as if some kid was in it; we yelled and yelled ("get out! get out! a car is coming!") but finally walked away as if the dumb kid just wasn't coming out. the idea, of course, was to see how long we could keep that car suspended, waiting, wondering if, by driving through the pile, he would actually kill somebody.

in those days you could actually pick up old black-and-white televisions in junk piles; people didn't want them, because the color ones had come out, and everyone rushed to get a color one, and then a better color one. you could save these televisions, and half the time you didn't even have to fix them. but what was the point? television is mostly fantasy anyway, it's like seeing christmas lights that aren't there, imagining people in piles of leaves, or pulling parking spaces out of thin air; at some point, you have to deal with what's real, and say, hey, there isn't much i could do about it. i'm just me, and there aren't that many hours in a day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

took a weekend out of the usual routine, missed webheads and the quaker meeting, not to mention my saturday morning lay-around-and have-a-big-cup-of-coffee; this was because it was my turn to take the eight-year-old down to cape for a soccer tournament, both early saturday morning and early sunday morning. it was a pleasure to spend a little time with him, as he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle, with his busy life, and my fussing a lot more about his older brothers, and his younger one. but he's plugging away in there too, doing his best at soccer, learning spanish and english at school, and in general, being totally eight.

i bring it up, because the trip down to cape takes one through what is by far one of the prettiest areas of southern illinois, the river bluff-shawnee forest stretch of 127, down through pomona and alto pass. i find this area stunningly beautiful, even more so on a foggy sunday morning, but it opens out into this vast lowland swampy area, a place where the trail of tears ended for a large contingent of native americans, where the water stretches out in wide vastness and simply can't be crossed, if one doesn't have the means. when we got to cape, we crossed a new bridge down there, an interesting structure that i should have taken a picture of, but which, instead, i will probably just borrow a picture of, picnik it up, and stick it here as if it were mine. such is my moral laxness these days; it's more that i'm just tired, and didn't bother to take the picture myself, when i was there. my friend, father of my son's best friend, tells me about how the word 'bridge' is masculine in one language (german maybe?) but feminine in another (spanish? or do i have it backward?) thus bridges are given similarly gendered descriptions (strong, graceful, whatever) depending on whether they are seen as male or female. i'd like to look this up. the vast river flows below us; it's blue, reflecting the sun peeking through a warm cloudy day.

the tournament is a disappointment on a strictly win-loss basis, but, having spent time with my kid, on a fresh-air weekend day, i guess it's mostly a win, for me at least, regardless of the team's record. we are clearly in the south, though we just crossed the river, from the east to west. it's a slightly different culture, maybe a way-different culture, but, we're only an hour from home, and, what we see, on the river, is very familiar. cape was once the capital of french louisiana, i am told. it now has a large building with rush limbaugh's family name on it, but otherwise looks like many other missouri towns- that, plus a little of french louisiana thrown in. we're tourists; i don't have to take it all that seriously. i realize that i'm a little prejudiced against missouri- having lived so close to it for so long. but i actually kind of like missouri, too.

on saturday i got into a conversation about different experiences with the amish- this was because i'd had several, and they were quite interesting. in general blogging helps me recollect them, think about them, tell them better- i'm here, basically, because of blogging. so i tell this story about the amish and my banjo, and a bridge over the english river, and kalona amish, who to this day i don't know all that well, in spite of living amongst them. in other words, even though i once dreamed of having one of those beautiful amish farms, down by shiloh and the english river valley, deep down i knew it wasn't much more than a pipe dream, this was a dream that wasn't going far. but, if a community is divided about whether it's ok to have lace curtains, what does that say? we pondered that question for a moment.

on sunday, though, getting out on that beautiful road, on its way snaking through the apple and wine country, there were a couple of amish, a man and a woman, walking right down the highway, black and white as could be. this would be sunday morning at about seven thirty or eight. i almost stopped the car dead in the road and asked them who they were. but, that wouldn't be polite i guess, i mean, i'm sure they wouldn't do that to me, if i were walking in the road. and yet, hmm, maybe they're moving in down here; that would be nice.

i have other memories of the weekend- a town where "fusion" dining seems to be all the rage; a mural celebrating missouri natives, and at the same time protecting against flood waters; a little town called 'ware,' not far from the road to tamms, and the big new bridge. the bridge itself- a high, white, graceful yet simple structure. i don't generally have much good to say about the state boys, the infrastructure folks, but here i've got to hand it to them- it looks nice. it's graceful, like a dove, or, maybe, a seagull. which is not to say it'll last forever. but, for now, i'm here, on this side, and, when you live on the river or near it as we do, one thing that's your regular lot, and a good thing to boot, is to put your feet on the other side, just as a matter of principle. it's one huge country, it's one huge river; and, a kind of double-winged white-spirited bridge can help remind you of that, if you let it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

i've moved my own holiday season to the beginning of november; it's now over, with veteran's day in the rearview mirror. i saw the first christmas-decorated house a couple of days ago, but it's on my regular route, so i've already seen it three or four times, and it's beginning to make inroads into my consciousness. before veteran's day? you couldn't wait until veteran's day?

walmart has already announced plans for special hours on 'black friday' though it's already open 24 hours in most places; isn't that already special? it's almost as if, fingers on the pulse of small-town america, it just couldn't contain itself any longer; the halloween costumes are off the shelf, and those empty shelves are just crying for something which can't be turkeys or indian corn; those go bad too quick, and in fact, have been rotting since early september.

what, do i sound cynical? let's just say, now that christmas has been stretched right over the turkey-day holiday like a fitted sheet, being thankful has taken on a different tone. i used to be thankful that they held off until at least thanksgiving, but they don't do that anymore. i used to be thankful that november was by far the most beautiful month, which it is, but now i'm thankful mostly that there will be some free time in the bargain, albeit later, and almost certainly filled up with running around as most of my time has been up to now. thankful that i'm too busy to get mad about it. thankful that i got out of town once or twice this year. thankful that, if i don't post a status on facebook every day, the world will go on and do without it.

i feel pressure, as a content provider, to keep it coming, in a world that is both starved for anything interesting, and at the same time overspent, in its mindless consumerism all for the point of just what? having more consumerism. we are as bad at this as anyone; the whole country is bankrupt, but the country is made up of people like me, who are, in our own ways, also bankrupt. actually having any money would be pointless; that would focus attention on yourself, much as having too many facebook statuses would, or, running down the street naked, as college students used to do. the state of illinois is not paying its bills, and being charged, what, 70 million for being late, or something like that; the union is raising its voice as there has been no agreement with the university, but who cares about voice in this din? and, people click "apply now" to go to siuc, and get a 404; this has been going on for years. i start babbling to myself as i drive through the streets; the lights just put up on the house reflect off a dirty windshield.

some people keep their christmas lights up all year; maybe somebody will do that with the icicle ones, and give a kind of ironic light show, some midsummer night as i'm walking home. i, however, have not been producing stories, and now wonder if i should just go into production with the ones i've already got, pull what i have together, and see what kind of actual paper i can produce with it. geocities crashed its free pages on me, and actually warned me beforehand, but i didn't see it; i wasn't checking my yahoo e-mail at the time, and didn't see it coming. my ancestors were on there, and now they're out in cyberspace somewhere. i can find them; i don't consider them lost permanently; they're only lost if i forget that they were dumped, or don't have time to go chasing after them. the nerve of that geocities, dumping all that useful information. they're like atlantis, setting up a city that the world calls a "lost city" and then can invest their entire imagination in, only to find out that, well, it was all just virtual reality anyway. the rest of it is just dust in the wind, ok, but your ancestors, somebody has to keep track of that, put it on paper, maybe, and tuck it away in a bible somewhere.

i go to a "random picture generator" and, out of idle curiosity, type in my name. this results in a tour of a buddhist peace pagoda in leverett massachusetts, which quite dominates the name these days, although there is also some bird and nature photographer who does justice to the trade, and a few other random rockers, and also, a very interesting death's head gravestone of one of the early dudes, maybe the governor of the colony. but it's mostly the pagoda; peace is just a click away, and i'm thankful now, that my pictures aren't all over flickr, or wherever this generator is pulling them from. more and more, i want to change my route, find different back-roads, and, if i photograph anything, hide it on some disk that i will also lose like so many of the others. i've also been not-producing on the photography front; i just can't bring myself to grab the camera on my way out the door. it's a beautiful time of year, the most beautiful, really, without a doubt. piles of leaves everywhere, and my newest book is called, pile of leaves, and will probably have a big old pile, with its brown and yellow and black textures all over the cover. so what's holding me up? don't know. you have to go where the spirit leads you, sometimes, and if it's leading me to leave the camera on the ledge, then that's where it will stay, for the moment.

the small town, in its relentless anticipation of all major holidays, is probably wiping the dust off its valentines posters already. as for me, i'm preparing my defenses. here's my policy: i'll start seeing decorations all over town, already. i'll see them, whether they are there or not; that way, when they show up, i not only won't be surprised, i'll simply move over the ones i'd already had, in my mind, so as to make an entire city of light, every decoration not only noted, but also expanded, doing double duty, up all year 'round, whether its owner intended it or not. the squirrels will have to walk gingerly across the street, trying not to step on shattered ornaments that have been carelessly tossed aside or dropped when people were trying to decorate entire trees. all streets will be bathed in light, bring it on, baby; it's the season, and the traffic will bear it. sure, everyone's shopping on credit, but that's always been true; it's not anything new, that fewer and fewer people actually work for it anymore. one year, i think it was three or four years ago, but it could have been fourteen years ago for all i know, it actually snowed on christmas, and that was a sight- white snow gently landed on all the yards, making things ghostly white and being clean, white, peaceful, and actually cold, for days on end. seems to me i went shopping that year too, in spite of it, when what i should have done, is take a long walk out to the country, out to the dog improvement, out by the civil war graveyard, a place they might not let you go anymore, except how would they even know, it's so wild and peaceful out there. i kind of need a break, and i'm thinking, once a year isn't quite enough, especially when it falls, as it does, at this time when everyone is crowding the roads around the mall. i'll get in the spirit, i promise. i'll put 'thankful' posts on facebook; i'll buy & cook a turkey; i'll make a calendar, if i can get it together. i'll keep you posted. i'm on the side of life; i put stuff out there, and i keep it coming; this year, we're doing another christmas concert, and it's time to pull out all the old christmas songs, but this time around, pick a bunch of really good ones, ones people haven't necessarily heard for years, but still recognize instantly as part of the genre. it's got whole hymnals of them, a rich tradition, kind of not politically correct, but still, musically, unique, and that's all the more reason to really explore the different cultures, and see what one can turn up. that's what some of my role models did- it is, after all, our job as people, to take what we want of this culture, embrace it and pass it on- and take the rest, or what remains of it, and let the rains wash it down the valley. spring will come again, a new dawn, and when it does, let it find, and light up, a better place.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

it's a veteran's day holiday; beautiful, cool, clear weather outside, but i'm inside with sick kids who are slowly getting better. the 4-year-old is watching an alphabet movie, which is a good idea, he's just ready for it. i've got a vague sense of unease partly from being too close to a heavy dog smell when the weather is so good. if the lad would fall asleep i might get some work done, but if not i might just sit here and play a while and might just do that anyway. the fact is, we don't quite know what to do with this holiday; it seems good enough, possibly even worth trading presidents' day for, yet again we have no customs, traditions, barbeques or ways we can expect everyone to be celebrating. so we sit. in our case, we recover from a bout of flu.

i've become interested in the way computers alter everything we write- either by reminding us, by red and green line, of what is "correct"- or by simply changing it. it turns out to be a complex science- i guess i already knew that- but slso thoroughly overlooked and misinterpreted. if the machine actually affects the writer, then why not perfect it, and simply allow the machine to teach the writer? or make it good enough, so that the writer no longer really needs grammar at all? all worthy questions to ponder; in the meantime, i'll just make a note of what the grammar-checker actually does to its victims. and keep you posted.

leftover coughs, aches, the residuals of flu, take their place on the couches and floors of the house. i consider yet another cup of coffee though the last one put me a bit over the line. the alphabet cartoon becomes a little grating. morning turns to noon.

i need a story- that, or maybe a few new poems to put up- to keep me in the creating mood. instead, i'm in the collapsing mood, falling apart already in advance of the upcoming serious vacations, really the only ones i get in a year. a solid week in late november, a solid month at the end of december. an occasional spring break, unmarred by tesol or other schedule conflicts. and that's it, really; it makes a person tired, around this time of year. but surprisingly enough, i haven't got the flu yet. i hand around home with it, get in its face, and still come out with nothing worse than the boring yawns of lethargy. another cup of coffee is in order; it's a beautiful day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

it's after you come back from far away that a small town can feel the most cloying, the dirty or run-down places just incredibly oppressive, not that you can't clean them up, only that they seem to have been there forever, and have every intention of going nowhere except back into the nearby earth. i speak even for the room that i type in, with its junk on the floor, cartoon movies, dog crates, windows stuck shut. the weather actually has been beautiful, warm, fall's stunning colors fading into browns and golds; i guess you could call it indian summer, but whatever you call it, it would be good to be outside in it, rather than taking care of a young lad with the flu. we thought the flu had passed us by, almost thought it anyway, but he got hit with it yesterday, and here i am, unexpected break to blog.

i tend to be thinking in terms of life and death lately- partly due to an incident at work, and in relation to people i know, who i hope can stay on a well-lit path toward hope and good futures. but with the leaves crinkling underfoot, and the birds, drunk on the berries in the tree in our front yard, crashing into our front window, one doesn't have to go far to be reminded. we're always one click away from a 404 message, you could say, and i'm trying to keep all the gardens blooming and facing the sun, but i have a garden or two more than i can handle, and sometimes have to concentrate on the ones closest to me. also, i have to be careful what exactly i say, as it infringes on all kinds of privacy to get any too personal, so i'll tell the story of the applyPage. siuc somehow changed the applyPage link to applypage, thus rendering thousands of applyPage links invalid, leaving them pointing to a 404. and not only that, they didn't see the irony- that they'd told us, forced us, to put these monstrous templates on our pages to begin with, years ago. thus it was the people, like us, who had obeyed them and put all pages onto these marroon templates, who are now telling customers to "apply now" and sending them off into 404s. my complaint about the matter has landed on deaf ears; it's as if there's nothing for it, but to go back and dig into 3-400 templates and change the code. but, if i'm going to do that, why not point it to wherever i'd like it to point? like to a panorama of good sights in the carbondale area.

that would also be ironic, as i'd run out, before i got halfway down the template, though at least i'd have the gratification of being sure the links would work for a while. the usual route to work, a set of west-side peaceful roads with boring, boxy ranches along it, gets too boring, so we take a road that borders the wild lands, where you can actually go a little faster, it being a country road and all. people fly along here, but often hit deer, which come right up against the edge of town, all hours of the day, to graze on lawn grass. i try not to use my high-beams, but nevertheless see deer on both sides; they're crowding me. at the quaker meeting the little children run to the window when the train comes; our meetinghouse is old, ready to be torn down, falling apart at the seams, but the train, big, powerful and colorful, comes up right close to its big picture windows. i haven't taught them much religion, but i have taught them this: that the names on the cars, canadien, santa fe, illinois central, are something to read, along with the graffiti. richest man in the world, wb, plunked down billions the other day on the burlington northern, an 'all-in gamble on the american economy;' the burlington santa-fe is by far the best; and though our meetinghouse sinks slowly into its ancient creek-bed mulch heap, the train in all its glory flies above it on the hard gravel. later, the kids are at the japanese garden, throwing bright red berries into the pond at the goldfish, as if the goldfish would like them. a thin film of oil stretches across the surface; this is to prevent mosquitoes from hatching, supposedly. the berries cut the oil, but the goldfish ignore them. they remind me of the berries in the tree by our house, where the birds are all a-chatter, and occasionally fly into our own front picture-window. the cats stare out, at that window, and one time, a cat times a jump right in time with a bird, and both end up, on either side of the glass, smashed up against it, frustrated. the cat would have the bird in her mouth, if it weren't for that window. the bird may or may not learn his lesson, or even know how close he was to certain death.

the place is actually full of life, in its own way, so the question really is why i seem to see the crackly leaves of death, the 404s, in everything. time to clean out the cobwebs, and take out the old pumpkin, which is now full of thousands of fruit flies. time to keep the boy away from the social places, where he struggles, day after day, to behave, follow directions of the grownups, and go face-to-face with children from all over town. like the deer, or the fruit flies, the flu lives out there, on the edges, opportunistic, gravitating naturally to the children of this world. as for me, i'm just resting; i'll take care of this little guy, who seems to be ok, and i'll take care of myself, first; i'm exhausted, yes, dead-tired, one could say, due to the events of the last month, but, it's my own personal holiday season, i've decided. the most beautiful time of year, by far. the only holidays i really resonate with are all-saints and bonfire day; both are becoming personal to me, and i don't care if the rest of the world doesn't know from halloween. i don't know about sadie hawkins, guy fawkes or veterans; this seems to be more of an inner thing. i look out, see the trees fading into brown, dying for a few months, and yet the earth, the grasses, the berries tell me, it'll all be back soon enough. life can win this one, and will prevail; i'm sure of it; on the highway, in the middle of the night, the deer graze right up against the road, but don't budge if i leave my high-beams off. i'm ready for them, if they do; i don't want deer on my bumper. but i'm also not in so much of a hurry; if i have to slow down a little, take in the warm smell of fallen trees sinking into the wetlands, i will; it's all part of the cycle of life, and it'll all look like an open field, when the sun comes up.