Thursday, January 06, 2011

the temps hover around a little below freezing which is typical for this area; we're known to have very cold spells, but also very warm spells in january, and to have a steady consistent window-scraping chill is not all bad. it's break, so i'm reading all the mail; this includes the newsletter from the power company as well as the newsletter from the food co-op, and even the letter from the publisher's clearinghouse, busting at the seams, with an orange do not ignore sticker on it, announcing that i'd already won a million a year for life, if only i'd just sign up; i played along for a while, imagining i was one of my students whose english skipped over the fine print; inside was a you-stick-em bingo, which i also won; this one promised me $50 immediately, if only i'd just get on the ball and send the sticker in with my name and address on it.

i searched the you-send-it-in flyer for evidence that i'd just signed up for several years of magazines, but i didn't find it; i did, however, find proof that i hadn't actually won anything, not even the $50 bingo. i could be applying my skills to making these things more devious, i thought, as i have now got down, in my web restoration project, to the part where i'd studied web marketing, maybe seven or eight years ago. it was 9/11 time; it was hard to get students to come here, and i studied the web as it was one of the things we could upgrade that would make some difference. and now, ironically, everything i did wrote & said has been consigned to a disc and must either be saved (put back on the web, by me personally) or left on the disc. i have done most of what i wrote (put it here) - about language, language learning, etc.; i'm trying to figure out what to do with it; might make a book, but in fact, i've already given most of it away. this is a continuous running theme in my life - i've devoted it to being a better teacher, and knowing what i'm talking about, yet in some ways i compulsively just give it away out the back door, as if it's worthless, and anything that is so casually given away is often given very little respect in the world.

my wife has made the local news several times over (in the local morning paper as well) and is enjoying her day of fame out there in the world of people we know, people who read the paper or at least know what's in it. i've had that fame, or something like it, at times, as living in a small town, you get it eventually whether you want it or not. i am glad that i veered away from web marketing and am not the area expert on why people click on yellow instead of red, more often, or what psychological associations they have with, say, blue. there is a level at which we hide a lot of this stuff; don't want our friends to know, for example, what kinds of problems we're having beneath the surface, or, in some cases, we don't even want to face them ourselves. is this much of life subconscious? on another level, i think, this kind of thing finds its way out regularly, with a twisted ankle, or a milk spill, or anything else that we don't necessarily see through.

at the quaker gathering last night the topic of grace came up: what was it, how we experienced it, how do you know it when you see it. i had two stories but only one i really wanted to tell in public, and i never made it to that one; others told theirs, and i thought about them for a while. mine is here and to tell you the truth, that story, which was on the tip of my tongue, is what is still with me today, in spite of a night of wild dreams and a busy morning getting folks out the door. grace, really, is that slight reminder that happens every once in a while, on a train, in a car, or maybe on the edge of a cliff. we are here for a reason; we could be gone but for the simplest blindest luck; we should remember that every moment, and not squander considerable energy, if not talent, on the trivial. my wife bought pants at rural king: real american clothes, for real americans, said the red white and blue tags; reminded me a little of wal-mart. made in pakistan. as a real american, i'm not offended so much, buying something that is made by someone in another country; i do that all the time. i'm offended that lying or misrepresentation is such a way of life in our culture, that i'm embarrassed even explaining what i've seen. my students bring me their mail; they want to know if they've really won a million dollars a year for life.

there are at least three kinds of drunks around town, and i mention this because we're in a very small town, and there may be more kinds out there in the real world, but maybe only three in mine. there are the ones who are on their way down, and i saw a couple of these one very cold night, maybe new year's day or the day after, when i went for a huge walk and downtown, at a local bar which was surprisingly open, out on the porch, were two people, very drunk and very absorbed in a conversation about whatever relationship had resulted from that. then there are those who are at the bottom or who have turned around and are on their way back; they can see the darkness because they've been there; they know how it happened and they're going the other way; this would be kind of like us and the people i usually hang around. and the last are the academic drunks; these are tough nuts to crack, because they'll hide it all the way to the bitter end, and when you're a high-achiever, and smart to boot, and make a difference in this world, and the world offers you a red carpet and business class, and a rent-a-car in an exotic city, then a couple of martinis go down easy and it isn't anybody's business. now a good cold look might tell you that the first kind is an awful lot like the third kind; who's to say those poor kids on that porch weren't smart, but i'll tell you one thing, the policeman is hanging around outside that bar, waiting for people to drive off, so he can put them through hell; so are the people who roll drunks for a living, in the shadows of the alleys behind the downtown area, where sometimes the graffiti will sit there for a few years, until somebody finally gets a coat of paint out there to start over again. this time of year, you drop a straw in the grass, out by the door of the car, and it might sit there until march, when finally the warm spring morning makes you feel like walking around, and picking up little stray pieces of garbage.

excuse my rambling. the high canadian rockies' snow remains at the peak; the babbling brooks come tumbling down the mountainside; the animals graze on the grasses in the distance; the tiny hole that at one time was an all-encompassing tunnel, recedes into the distance, but it never goes away. by grace, i saw that tunnel; i went through it; i'll not forget it, nor the train that got me through it. the truth may be the rumble of the iron wheels beneath me, or the sun itself; i'm waiting. within about a week, it's back to work, and then it gets too busy to even notice sometimes.

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