Tuesday, April 29, 2014

the wind has been blowing hard for days; it's a hard dry dusty wind come from new mexico or maybe colorado, down out of the mountains, bringing cool air with it, but mosty dust. we are well aware that there are tornados further east, east texas, arkansas, mississippi, even oklahoma, and that those tornados are swirling around too, not going anywhere, raging and blowing down people's ramshackle houses. here it's a steady 40 mph wind, harder in the late afternoon, it dies down a little at night, but you don't want to go out in it, you get sand in your teeth, and it makes you think you'll get a sandy coating on the inside of your lungs.

further west, on the edge of town, it's worse, and you can't see anything, you even have to put your car lights on and it doesn't help much. it doesn't keep people from driving around. it seems there's a little less traffic, but what there is is hostile, not to mention blind. some people have their trucks rigged so as to make more noise, as if that diesel sound will help alarm people of their coming, and make them get out of the way.

the kids fight in a shrill way in the van and it makes us all feel a little trapped by the dust; i also feel that even having the van out in it might not be so great, as i certainly wouldn't want this sand to mix in with every darn fluid in there, until the oil and radiator and such get that feeling that my lungs have. but life has to go on; it's been four or five days now, and you have to get groceries and do the things families do. like pick kids up at school.

had a friend once, a french guy, pierre, i think of him a lot. we were hitchhiking on a road to alaska, and it was a dirt road but it had been raining heavily for days. so the road was a little muddy in spots and the woods that surrounded us were completely waterlogged, no way we could camp in there or even make a fire. we weren't having much luck there on the side of the road, nobody wanted to pick up two soggy young fellers with moldy packs and wet dirty laundry, or whatever we were carrying. we played catch by the side of the road there, with some piece of fruit or something, because we had a long time to wait between cars. i think the problem was, it was miles and miles of mountainy woods up ahead, people figured, if there was trouble, they'd be stuck with these two guys and responsible for them. finally some irish guy came to pick us up, in an old mercedes, or a german car of some kind, classy, but old. we went a while until it started raining hard and eventually we were stopped by some mountie who said, the road is washed out ahead, you can't get through. the mountain roads gave way, there isn't a road anymore. you might as well turn around and go back.

pierre himself had trouble understanding english. it's true, we were in canada, and everyone was supposed to be bilingual, but the fact was, way out west where we were, people weren't bilingual. i certainly wasn't. i tried my best to explain what i knew. he was good natured. what else can you do, when you're hitchhiking?

the reason i think about it is, you have these pairs of kids out there, in the world of foster placement, and as pairs, they're hard to place, but of course they have the advantage of having each other. they're kind of in a limbo world, if they don't place. who will take the two of them? and they need each other, love each other, get along ok most of the time, yet, given a safe environment, free to be siblings, might fight like cats and dogs. might have some feelings built up, especially those generated by one being younger, one being older, one always getting her way, one capable of shrieking louder, or digging one's feet in. these are the tools children have as they move through this world. fortunately somebody usually feeds them. fortunately they're cute, and they get by, and hopefully nobody is cruel. sometimes they have very little concept of shelter from the storm, a house free of dust and wind, a washrag as protection. who knows what they've been through though. we are their fourth family. they've seen a lot, and they try to adjust to each place.

the wind rattles at the windows, and hazes up the streets as you get out near them, and look north or look west. i'm about to walk to campus the third time, as it's my busy day, but this walk takes me across a nine-lane street where the dust blows hard. i'll come home soon, put stuff away, shut the blinds and hunker down for the night, no walks around the park in this kind of stuff. i've lost my taste for adventure, and instead prefer a warm bed, where i never seem to get enough sleep, and where i have these wild dreams, which i cannot even begin to document. life itself makes me dig in and feel grateful for the extra weight i carry; i hold onto my hat. the cars at the corner, i hope, can tell a red light when they see it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

april rocks!

happy birthday!

april rocks!


the great raccoon

the great raccoon's main concern is that you hide 12 easter eggs, and only find 11. if you have done this, you have left an offering for the great raccoon, and he is sure to not curse you with terrible luck in the coming year. the great raccoon is a mythical creature, like the great pumpkin and the easter bunny himself, but the great raccoon is keeping track, and he doesn't like it if you hold your egg hunt indoors, or only have chocolate or marshmallow bunnies.

some people think they can get better luck by losing, say, an entire half-dozen eggs; in fact our quaker meeting has done this a number of times, back when we had campouts on easter and people brought all kinds of eggs for the little kids, and we couldn't even keep track of how many there were or where we had hidden them. but the fact is, you can't win the lottery just by losing a whole half-dozen eggs; in fact, our campouts began to be rained out and were rained out for a number of years in a stunning show of bad luck, for bad luck for a campout is when you can't even make a fire because the wood is too wet. but back to the great raccoon's promise: it's not that you'll have good luck, or great luck, it's only that you'll ward off the truly terrible luck of the ones who are so out of touch with the forces of nature, they wouldn't know a raccoon if they saw one.

sure, a raccoon has that mask on; he's gray and black, he's not all pink and cheerful like the easter bunny. he's kind of a king of the underworld, since he comes round at night and he's always looking for lost eggs, or fallen graham crackers, or a burnt marshmallow that some kid wouldn't eat. he's not especially friendly, either, he sneaks around, doesn't really like people all that much and even shows his teeth if you get too close. but don't confuse him with the possum, the true ghost of the underworld. the great raccoon does live in a very human-oriented environment; he cares about your offering; he cares about your delicate balance with nature; he accepts your offering gratefully and wards off bad luck, as you are the kind of person who gives to nature, a colored egg, as an offering to the great outdoors, and the great raccoon.

this easter there were a few more kids. texas had a rare spring rain, and things were unusually green, so the pink and yellow eggs stood out and most were found quickly. some were plastic and had jelly beans in them; the raccoon doesn't care for them, not so much because of the jelly beans but because he can't even open them. they however will last an entire year, whereas a true egg will get hauled off and devoured within a week. though boiled dyed eggs in our house sit around generally until i get around to eating them, this year i have some competition in that two young children who just joined us actually like eating them and have a voracious ability to find them out in the wild amongst the wood pieces in the woodpile, and the little tufts of grass. still, though, i think, the great raccoon got his, so all's well with the world, and it might even rain again tonight, which would be glorious, and a real blessing for a very dry texas.

may the great raccoon help us out of this miserable drought, and make it so the water we put on our grass and dirt doesn't just evaporate right away, before it goes anywhere where anything can make a living off of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

three venues

we now have four kids at home, ranging from 5-12, and we need places to go that are outside, safe, friendly, and accessible. our first choice is the lazy river, an outdoor pool at the university that has just opened up again, and we are all avid swimmers, so this works out great. it has some downsides: if you forget your sunblock or aren't thorough enough, you're dead. the kids lose clothing or leave it in the car. they refuse to leave, which is a good side, i guess.

the science spectrum is another place. this weekend we went there for a while. there was a little animal show, back in the stage corner of the basement, where a guy was showing live animals. one was a skink, a large fat kind of lizard from australia. another was a tarantula named hollywood. in order to get to that stage you have to walk through an exhibit on the brazos river watershed, with large pictures of lowland swamps that exist in a certain narrow corridor down through the state of texas. for a hot, dry state as huge as it is, you might not even know we have any lowland swamp, but we do, and when you're in that museum basement, you feel like you're in the middle of it. i like to sit on a bench in that basement where a radio plays an endless loop on the lubbock weather, which on this day was windy with a fire danger, but still warm. the kids tear around; it's hard to keep up with them, but they generally aren't too far beyond my awareness.

last place: it's called legacy village, and i'm really beginning to wonder about it. it has a huge fort, an old village area, and lots of play equipment. it's generally popular with lots of kids but the pure number is a little overwhelming. some kids are not all that nice. the other day there were kids who had been instructed to leave families alone, but who still didn't. ah well. came back and told my friends at work, and they said that needles and condoms had been found at the park. i guess it requires pretty constant supervision of all kinds. i was always a fan of letting kids run off and do physical things on playground equipment, enjoying the fresh outdoor air, and relating to people in a healthy environment. i guess, in some ways, we'd be better off out on the plains in a dusty riverbed.

it used to be, you could let your kids run out the front door and they'd pretty much wander the neighborhood, getting into some trouble but usually treating woods and fields like a large playground. whole afternoons would go by and they'd come back when they were hungry which was generally dinnertime. the evenings were slightly more guarded. they'd go outside again for a few more hours, this time for a nighttime game of tag or capture the flag but this time parents would want to know where they were and what they were doing and pretty much didn't want them wandering off at the edges, on the busy streets, or even where people couldn't see what was happening. in the day this wasn't an issue because people were around, and they could see. windows were open. if somebody yelled or something happened, people would come out and look.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

the girls are here, have been for a week, and life is a lot busier. i may be writing less, parenting more; we parents are outnumbered and burdened. but we will survive too. there may be a bit of chaos as we get adjusted.

the girls make demands, and have a chorus of letting us know their feelings, much as the peepers would up north. for us, used to boys getting dressed quickly and running out the door, mornings are long as they try to get their hair right, etcetera. we try to make them happy; sometimes we can't.
Across busy Flint Avenue, a castle-like house stands empty, unleased for about a month. i've kind of gotten used to the silence of nobody living there; it's an awesome castle-like structure with dormers and turrets, and additions out the side, and it's so quiet, so nice just now. but there's construction and the like all through the neighborhood, also fire trucks, medivacs at night, things happening. the governor came to town and spoke like maybe four blocks away, in the arena. traffic was busy, but it's always busy.

got some onions and garlic in; i'm planning how i can accomplish sunflowers, and maybe peppers and some tomatoes. don't know if i can grow anything in this texas soil. but i've met some people who do, and actually my jalapenos did just fine last year, i'll stick with what works and see if i can keep cranking it out.

then, out there in the world, there are lots of nice cars, in a hurry. after i go out, i rush back home, shut up the fence, water the vegetables, and do some throw with the dog. let the traffic sounds fill out the background. beyond the fence, the castle; the street, at its busiest, comes through a little spring-like tunnel there, as the enormous elms are greening up, and we try to sustain the charm index for the entire neighborhood. it's april, time for some graphics.