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Ed on Cold Mountain
Did Jim Morrison practice for the on-stage flashing routine that gained him so much press coverage and was so offensive to parent groups and church groups but not groupie groups, in front of a mirror by himself and to himself? It feels odd to imagine it. The Lizard King (wasn't that what they called him?) alone in a small room with a big mirror, pre-planning his apparently spontaneous exposures. The image fits with the "100 Words a day"game. Scribbling these words in front of a computer, imagining myself melting into the space behind it, revealing myself as strangers watch.
So, what actually is the point of writing 100 words a day? One part of me, the grinning black-robed bald-headed Zen know-it-all, grins his placid idiot grin and shrugs as he laughs and mocks me, repeating the word...-point,"and finishing his utterance with some un-named punctuation sound that means both exclamation point and question mark. The fifth grade nun part of me scowls and says "discipline, you delinquent." The hipster with the goatee says, "Just wail, man."and punctuates his comment with a double thumb paradiddle on his bongos. I am trying to lose myself in this clamoring, opinionated crowd.
The cat dozes in front of the glowing wood stove. The house is silent except for the kettle's hiss. Outside, the dark night is brightened by a spatter of stars and the snow crust has been re-hardened by frost. I sit here, warm, dry, peaceful. Last night I dreamed I was an American soldier in Iraq. My job was to encapsulate myself into a metal cocoon affixed to a troop transport truck. The front of my pod was slit, the opening a gun port for my rifle. The troops called these pods "gun buns-, "slabs-, "kill pills"and strangely, "Englands.-
A ragged tear in the thick low-lying gray wool coverlet of cloud through which the clear light pours out is passing above the ski hill. An attractive contrast between the dark inter-tree shadows and the bright whiteness of the runs is the result. From my parking spot on the causeway road, (now empty of the swarms of parked vehicles common in the summer) leading to the water inlet, I look across a wide bay of the lake. An irregular scribble of silver inks across the ruffled gray surface of open water to the dark green ice of the inner bay.
Some one at work today made a scornful remark about Catholic priests, and her tone implied that the religion itself was disgusting and contemptible. The "clergy abuse"scandals have tarred the whole community of Catholics. Interesting to me however was not that some one could dislike Catholics (so, what else is new?) but how instinctively I bristled defensively. I have not been to Mass in years, except for the increasingly frequent funerals, constant as a clock's ticking, and no longer count myself among "the faithful-, yet the comment evoked a fierce, protective impulse. At some level, Catholics remain "my tribe.-
Today was a day of secrets. I secretly spent work-time on line, a relative kept a secret from an insurance company, somewhere secrets of sexual politics created a space between a sleeping couple wide enough for a third person to lie in. The ingredients labels on cans and jars in supermarkets are written in doubletalk. Clouds of fuzzy numbers instead of clear words make a secret of sodium, fat, and sugar percentages. In an urban supermarket a kid, beyond the toddler stage, throws a tantrum that goes on for half an hour. What domestic secrets are unvoiced in her screams?
I like that there are no restrictions on the content of the postings to this site, unlike the Yahoo! Groups to which I subscribe. You have to stay "on topic"with those guys. Rambling, woolgathering and discursive free-associations will likely get a poster bumped. At "100 Words"on the other hand, I can say whatever I want. And what I feel like saying today is that everyone within reading distance of this post who has ever tried to sort out the truth about Global Warming should read chapters 3 and 4 in Harm de Blij's new book, "Why Geography Matters.-
After a little more than a half-hour of work on my driveway, the chute on the snow thrower plugged itself with a thick slush ball. I had to shut the machine down and clear the icy mass from its mechanical throat. It felt pretty scary to put my hand into the auger chute of an 8 hp thrower, even with the engine off, so after poking at the ice with my fingers a couple of times I went to the woods for a stick. Then, like a gorilla fishing for termites, I poked and stirred until the iceball was dislodged.
Driving across town today, on my way back to work from the Post Office, I saw a banner planted in the front yard of a small house. It had to be three feet high and twenty feet long. Large green block letters on a white cloth commanded readers to "PRAY FOR PEACE." Now, I believe in the power of both prayer and peace, but something about the commanding tone of that oversize bumper sticker made me think of Reagan's famous "trust but verify"and made me want to sing that old war horse "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.-
A prolonged snowfall began yesterday, endured all night and was still going strong in the early day light hours. The snow was wet and heavy. It bent small-boled trees double and snapped brittle alders. Hemlock boughs sagged onto power lines, shorting them out and denying power to thousands. In fact, I jot these notes by candlelight. Leaving for work early I watched a snow-covered branch touch a power line and burst into flame. A ball of orange, flecked with yellow highlights blossomed and a shower of glowing orange sparks, brilliant in the pre-dawn forest darkness, fell on the new snow.
Perhaps because of all the rain, snow, drizzle and slush since the New Year, I find myself in the mind of an aquatic creature today. I feel as if I am swimming through the hours, moving in a medium thicker than the air I am accustomed to, unable to see clearly. A cloudy murk blankets all that goes on around me. I peer through a marine soup in which drift particles of silt, cultural jetsam and unusual plant life. The light is filtered and diffused. Now and then large shadowy shapes cruise slowly by, seemingly without purpose. I avoid them
A Thursday. The electric power finally came back on after we spent 48 hours living life by candlelight. We had pressure in the pipes thanks to the storage tanks, so cold water was available. The firewood in the woodshed worked just fine without electricity. We heated the cold water on the wood stove for washing up. T baked veggie sandwiches by wrapping them in foil and heating them on a rack on the woodstove. Nicest thing about having the power back is the freedom to use both hands. Without electric lights one hand is always dedicated to holding the candlestick.
An insistent rain continues to soak the foot of snow surrounding the house. The springs have started, and the noise of the freshet near the (proposed) sauna site sounds like a small river rapids. A large crow descends on the compost pile and scratches through the new snow in search of melon rinds and banana skins. CIA drone planes burrow through rock walls in search of AQ leaders. The insistent rains drive rivers of feelings to rise to flood stage. The questions remain unanswered: Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day? Who'll stop the rain?
His eye patch was a tarnished silver dollar strung on two of strands of greasy rawhide. The twists of rawhide disappeared into long black hair that emerged from under a dusty gray hat. The face, not yet old, was lined and creased. As the man stood staring through the window at rain dripping from the ends of the roof poles, Billy studied the reflection on the surface of the glass. It was the eye patch that held Billy's attention, not the worn leather boots or the heavy wooden-handled revolver. These might have been the things others would notice with concern.
It turned cold last night, making ice of the slushy white mud that remained from the recent snowfall. With the cold temperatures came sunlight, the first in days. I used to try to put a good face on winter by calling the cloudy skies such colors as Ãƒâ€šÃ¢â‚¬Ëœpearl' or "hammered silver-. It was a cheering game, and still is, although nowadays it is often the case that I see these same clouds as simply gray. But games are unnecessary when sunlight bursts on the scene. Green trees are trimmed with gold highlights, distant mountains seem nearer, and the body relaxes.
This long weekend, like a long-playing Broadway production, approaches its last act. I don't dread returning to work on Tuesday, but I am not excited about it either. I know my eyes will be burning by mind-afternoon and my thinking turn fuzzy. Fluorescent lights, conditioned air and people with problems will bring on these conditions. After 6 coffee-free weeks, the fog lifts, and I see that all these years it has been caffeine that has made work bearable. Caffeine and a well-instilled work ethic. If my system should clear itself of the work-ethic as well, where would that leave me?
A snow-thrower leaves neat crisp-edged paths. At night the garage light makes a stage set of the forest and the paths shine like marble floors. The ground around the house is covered to a depth of 14 or more inches, with a compacted, ultra-white snow. I think if the temperatures would drop to the single digits this snow would be perfect for making igloos. I have never built an igloo, but I can imagining that this snow would cut like dense Styrofoam and stack like kindergarten alphabet blocks. Smooth, polished blocks, with the letters, numbers and cartoonish farm animals removed.
The news about the kidnapped Christian Science Monitor reporter has really upset me. I wish there were a way to release some fabulous dog of war to rescue her. Under the thrall of powerlessness, my daydreams imagine a conscious supercomputer in control of bombs in orbit and, realizing that humans cannot be permitted to squander resources it needs for its next evolution, elects to rule the world using Skinnerian mechanisms, punishing and rewarding immediately and impartially. Wars cease; a Pax Robotica compels cooperation and swords are beaten into faster and faster cpu's. The computer's name is "The Mind of God.-
I had my performance review today at work. This is never comfortable; having to sit quietly while someone passes a formal judgment on you. Well, on certain of your behaviors anyway. And people being the way they are, the behaviors equal the person, so the experience is always taken personally. Cats on the other hand, deal with things differently. A cat being petted can relax so completely that it will roll off the edge of the couch before it can catch itself, and a cat being criticized will listen for a moment then ignore the noise and clean its paws
I was changing clothes in the locker room at the athletic club this afternoon and found myself paying attention to the piped-in music. This music is usually just part of the room's background, like the hiss from the steam bath or the repetitive pattern of locker doors, but for a moment, as I pulled on my socks, the music caught my ears. It was Springsteen's "The Rising"and my reaction to his familiar voice was a flash that while Bruce probably thinks he has matured from raw energy to thoughtful insight, I think he has moved from poetry to pedantry.
Looking out the window yesterday at lunchtime I noticed that the snows had resumed. There was no wind; the green tree branches were absolutely motionless. A thin white highlighting of new snow was forming along their feathery dark edges. The snowflakes were about average size and they drifted purposefully downward from the sky without any wayward swirling. The space between the flakes was large, and I realized that English doesn't have any words, other than "heavy"or "light"to describe the density of a snowfall. In other words, no word that means "so many flakes per cubic unit of space.-
Do American people have a "right"to their opinions? One might argue that only those opinions that are based on reasoned investigation and logic should be permitted public exposure. This would mean that all public opinions might be worth a listen. But the Constitution disagrees, and grants not only the right to an opinion but also the right to freely express the opinion regardless of its genesis. The Constitution is mute on the right to an audience, however, and therein lies one of the most fundamental of American freedoms; the freedom to disregard half-baked notions, re-cycled generalizations and fully-developed nonsense.
I never knew 3 out of my four grandparents. My Mom's folks were dead years before I was born and Dad's mom divorced Grandpa and re-married when my Dad and Uncle were both still children. Grandma's second husband was her first cousin; she took his name, which was her maiden name, but let her children retain her first husband's name. I am wondering today what effect it might have had on the way I think about myself if my last name had been the no-nonsense borrowed name of Germanic stock rather than the expressive Italian bequeathed by a divorced man.
I guess it's finally time to face up to it, to wake up and smell the fresh-perked coffee so to speak. I really, really would rather keep the curtains closed, keep the door shut, keep the blanket wrapped around me, cover my head and remain in total stuck-mode denial, but the truth is like some persistent DEA agent pounding on my door. He's got a warrant and I guess he's going to come in, and after informing me of my rights tell me "sorry, son, but chocolate is harder to kick than coffee." Don't believe me? Try it for yourself.
It's mid-week already, and the energy is holding out pretty well, supplemented as it has been on a regular basis by chocolate chip cookies. A heavy fog hung like yesterday's towel over town all day and the people I spoke with only wanted to talk about things that were going to happen rather then things that are happening. It was like every one was interested in avoiding the present, which was the experience of gray fog and damp cold. The cat stayed out all day without complaint. Any day without rain or snow is a great day in her eyes.
An expert on Hamas, a professor from New York University, was interviewed on the Savage Nation. He was optimistic about Hamas' success in the election because he believes that their militancy, terror tactics and homicidal intentions towards Israel must be moderated for 2 reasons: First, the voters elected them as a reward for honoring the year-long cease fire, providing social services and moving towards the two-state solution, not for terrorism. Second, Israel's overwhelming military superiority acts in just the way that Sam Colt envisioned for his invention, that famous old instrument of equalization, the 6-shot revolver he called "The Peacemaker.-
Tonight I watched the sad story of Tim Treadwell, the "Grizzly Man-, founder of the organization known as "Grizzly People." Treadwell, (not his real name) became enamored of grizzly bears (not his real species) and spent thirteen summers, unarmed, living with the bears in the Alaskan wilderness of the Katmai Preserve. While ostensibly studying the wild bears, I believe he was actually populating the preserve with his own emotional projections. He saw not real animals whose actions were motivated by those powerful natural forces of hunger, anger and sex that he could not acknowledge in himself, but animated teddy bears.
It snowed most of the day today. I stayed indoors, worked on the budget, paid bills, wrote e-mails, read books and drank ginger tea. On heavy snow days like this it used to be easy to imagine that I lived on the edge of the great North woods. The new reality of this place, however, is that condos on the lake are selling for millions and developers are punching in new subdivision roads even out here, 4 miles beyond the end of the blacktop. Expensive pickup trucks now commute back and forth, making rush hours on our little county road.
I dreamed Dad, F and I had to scale the brick wall of a tall building 40 or 50 feet to an open window. Thin stones protruded from the wall at irregular intervals and we used these as holds and steps. Rain and darkness made the climb difficult. F and I made it, then turned to look at Dad. Nearly to the window, he gasped, "Falling! Grab my arm!" I grabbed and we pulled him through the window. Panting with fear and exertion, Dad looked up and said, "Can you imagine a climber trying that without first greasing his mind?-
So, what is on my mind this evening, after a long, listless day of tired eyes and ringing ears? I could discuss how surprising it is to look through the cat's eye from the side. The lens is so smooth, so perfectly curved and most incredibly clear, defined by the gray line of the outermost surface, without which I might not even recognize that the eye had any limits at all. Or perhaps I could mention my suspicions that week after week of wintry gray skies are finally getting to me, weighing on me like a rain-soaked old woolen overcoat.
Tonight was President Bush's 6th State of the Union address. I heard that there were demonstrators outside the hall, banging on pots and pans, attempting to drown out the President's words. Hearing this, I thought it an appropriate image to characterize the current state of political debate. No freedom of speech for those who say what you don't want to hear, and yet nothing of substance to bring to the debate yourself, only a din and a clanging. Two tribes of warriors grimacing at each other across a dusty field, each group beating their wooden shields rhythmically with heavy spears.
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