A Screen To Protect

screendoorDon’t slam the door!”  But I always did.

That door, with its spare wooden frame, was so simple…. a tall pine rectangle with a couple of wooden braces across the middle, plus steel screening stretched length and width with a hope of tautness.

A handle on the outside to pull it open and a spring attached from the door frame to the door itself helping it close and there you had it…. the screen door.

The sound of the spring stretching and the door— “don’t slam it”— sung something like a metallic, “Reeeeeeek, bang.” Every time (a hundred times a day) when one of us kids flew outside, those same lyrics, “reeeeeeked” and “banged.”

The door spoke of must and rust.  Must when the wood got wet and rust from the oxidizing screen itself. The smell from the screen was the same as that from distant lightning, wafting through a dry sky, not yet dampened by the rain promised in the bass voice of distant thunder. Continue reading A Screen To Protect

Pope Francis and Freckles

redhairedgirlGeorge Will, quoted in Rolling Stone, opines, Pope Francis speaks “in the intellectual tone of a fortune cookie,” saying things like, “People, occasionally, forgive but nature never does.”

On the other side, Steven Colbert, in response to Congressman Paul Gosar’s announcement that he would boycott the Pope’s address to the Congress, quips, “…you do not disrespect the Bishop of Rome.” Then, tongue in cheek, tells Gosar to send his tickets to him at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York.

Who cares what the clever say? Continue reading Pope Francis and Freckles

Forgiveness and The Good Guy

Image result for free clipart forgiveness keyHe, let’s call him Bob, was always a good guy.  That’s what he told me recently, but, “back in the day”, he had done some pretty bad things.  It doesn’t really matter what his bad things were, but, if this were the game show, “Family Feud,” and the top ten answers were on the board, the two things that he did would have been there.

Bob was a good guy– a stellar person.  Probably, would have been in the 99th percentile of goodness.  Does the evil that men do always have to live after them?  Yes.  That seems likely.

It is so interesting– everyone knows the despicable things that he did.  At least, that is what Bob thinks.  Bob is wrong. Everyone is never every one.

I was with him at a conference a few months ago and everyone seemed to like him. He sat at an empty table and people, who were acquainted with him, filled up those vacant seats and he was, quickly, in the midst of earnest and enjoyable conversation.  Our table hung together longer that the others and Bob and his cohorts were loathe to leave.

While walking with him in the conference hallways, our conversation was frequently interrupted by greetings from passers-by.

One woman in the hallway was cold to Bob, avoided eye contact and refused to even say, “Hello,” when Bob, cautiously, greeted her.  Right after that, Bob and I sat in the hotel coffee shop and I noted how pensive he had become.

I asked, “Are you all right?”  He said, “You know, I used to be a pretty good guy.”  The chill in the hallway left Bob frostbitten.  All of those warm greetings and the great table talk from the night before had been forgotten.  “I used to be a pretty good guy.”

I told him that he still was a good guy but what I said didn’t matter.  The jury of one– and there always seemed to be someone– reminded him that he didn’t, always, behave like a good guy.   He didn’t have to be reminded. He knew his shortcomings. He, always, remembered and his shame, guilt, and embarrassment wrapped him in solitude when he was laughing with even the most accepting group.

“I was a good guy.”   Bob would, in his own mind, never be that good guy again.  It didn’t matter that most people didn’t care that he did some bad things. Some didn’t even know that he had transgressed. Some knew the real Bob. He didn’t care that most had forgiven and forgotten, because some would never forgive or forget.

He would look in the mirror and think, “There I am. I was always a good guy. Well, I used to be a good guy.”  Bob wasn’t angry or bitter. He was just inside sad and lonely.  It made perfect sense that some people pretended to not recognize him.  He didn’t recognize himself.

Bob knows about the mysterious “forgiveness” key. He holds it in his heart. He uses it, almost, too eagerly with others. He just hasn’t figured how to turn that key in his own life.

Damocles Gets His Wish

Dionysius, of legend, was a very rich Greek king.  He had it all.  He employed people just to flatter him.  Really sounds Trump-like or like John BoImageehner, for that matter.  The flatterers complimented him at every turn.  Dionysius could do no wrong.

One time a fellow by the name of Damocles, a hired flatterer, was extolling the riches of Dionysius.  The king was so clever and so wise to be so rich.  He had art and jewels.  Armani was his designer. Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck each made meals for him everyday and he, only, ate the one he liked best. He had lobster flown in from Maine. Everyone wanted to be Dionysius including Damocles.

So Dionysius said to Damocles, “You know if you like what I have so much, how would you like to be me? Would you like to sit on the throne, wear the latest fashion, and display the finest bling.”

Damocles quickly said, “You betcha,” or, perhaps, ” All royal and wise king.  If your great beneficence so chooses a lowly wretch such as I, for such an august role, just command your humble servant and I will assume the throne.”

“Okie,dokey,” chirps Dionysius.  “Get some sleep. You will need it. Tomorrow you will reign.”

The next day Damocles was groovin’ in the throne room, one leg thrown up over the arm of the throne,  listening to the cool sounds of the lyre, the lute and the sackbut on his Beats By Dre headphones . The crown rested easily on his brow.  He was checking out culinary offerings by Gordon and Wolfgang when he looked up and, much to his surprise, saw a very sharp sword dangling by a horse hair just above his head.

“Whoa,” he says, “this is not good.”

He moves but the sword follows him.  Right above his head. All the time. He goes to the royal pool to swim some laps and the sword follows him back and forth.  He goes to the royal privy and the sword is still there and the horse hair seems even thinner.

The crown now weighed like an anvil and Damocles begged out of the deal. Dionysius agreed and Damocles re-assumed his old role.

Cicero, in addition to being a Chicago suburb and a lyric sung by Velma in the musical, Chicago,  was also a famous Roman orator. Of this incident, Cicero asks, “Does not Dionysius seem to have made it sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy for the person over whom some fear always looms.”

Maybe, the words of Rocky Horror Show bring it into sharper focus, “The sword of Damocles is hanging over my head, and I’ve got a feeling someone’s gonna be cutting the thread.”

A New Path

 The coniferous and deciduous were the same as before. Dune grass was, as always, dune grass. Fallen leaves, long decaying, still decayed.  The 20150913_125509crushed pathway rock guided many feet before mine. Flowers, insects, squirrels and the small and unseen, had been seen so often by so many.

But they were all new when my eyes looked on them.  The path was fresh when it first lead me. Bark of the tree came alive with my first touch. Bark of the black squirrel, chased resolutely by the gray, sprung into existence when I heard it.

If a squirrel barks in the woods and there is no one to hear it, does it…..

The whole forest was my masterpiece– my oeuvre. I and it made each other new.

Sky Destroyed– Film at 11

While walking today, I noticed the sky was not stretching to the horizon. It was Image result for Puddle Pictures freeframed with curving, irregular borders.

The clouds were there but something was a little off. The depth was gone. The sky was only two dimensional. Gulls wheeled in flat circles.

Looking more closely, in a small nod toward depth, someone/something was stuck in the sky. A gnat was drowning in the blue.

As I was leaning in more, drawing nearer to the sky, a monstrously large face appeared….. Mine.

I jerked away, the face vanished, replaced by a giant Nike sole pausing briefly above the sky. I stepped down into the depth of the depthless welkin and everything rippled away.

Great Pumpkin Invasion

The season of the pumpkin is upon us.  From Spice Latte, to pie filling, it permeates smells, tastes and sights. Cool people drink it. Commercials proclaim it.  All bow to the Great Squash.
There’s pumpkin for the whole family– even the dog can have pumpkin infused dog biscuits.
You may not smoke, now, but how can you resist tobacco “imbued with the flavors of pumpkin and the spices that usually accompany it…. a warm comforting blend that can be enjoyed all day long.”
With your pumpkin packed pipe cupped deftly in one hand who could refuse a vodka martini which includes the “sweet pumpkin spices with a warm vanilla finish” that “are sure to dress up any occasion.” No wonder Linus kept anticipating the coming of the Great Pumpkin.
Waiting for you is pumpkin soda, soy milk and tortilla chips.  Perhaps, if you are looking for just a touch of sweetness behind each ear, the “simple, subtle, singular scents” of the pumpkin pie fragrance is just what you have been looking for. Although, if you are looking to attract men, I think a dab of bacon would work better.  However, no fragrance with the main accords of “warm spicy” and “cinnamon” is to be lightly dismissed.
In the cucurbitaceae family there are two branches, squash (including pumpkin) and the gourd which is hard shelled and tastes terrible, but can be used for decorating.  For eating, pass the squash.  To decorate, go for the gourd.
Just drop in a little pumpkin magic and you can have all kinds of pumpkin baked goods that go far beyond the ubiquitous pie. Pick up some yummy pumpkin chewing gum, hummus, potato chips, almonds, beef jerky, M&M’s, pumpkin spice nail polish, marshmallows, burgers and cat shampoo. Does cat shampoo impact the smell of a litter box?
Check with your vet, first, but I have even read that canned pumpkin, not pie filling, can help alleviate the heartbreak of canine flatulence. If the dog eats the canned pumpkin and it stops his gas, you can reward him with a pumpkin dog biscuit.
Part of me resents the spotlight that shines on the pumpkin.  Pecan Pie has been around for a long time. I like it better. It’s discrimination against nuts that keeps us from having pecan pie chewing gum.
For right now,  let’s just enjoy the jack-o-lantern and the creepy glow that spins from its triangular eyes as we wait for the season of the nog.

Never Met A Pizza I Didn’t Like

I know, if Buffet is in the name of the restaurant I should not be grazing there.  But, there I was—at the Pizza Buffet.  And there she was—a little old lady— 70ish.

She bellies up to the pizza bar.  There were 12 varieties of pizza on the bar.  She tells the young man tending the buffet, “Why do all your pizzas have to be so weird?”

She, “They all have so many different kinds of stuff on them.  You’re lucky I come here at all because of my gluten.”

He, feeling blessed, says, “We will make any kind you want and it can be thin, medium or thick crust. Even gluten free!”

She, “What do you mean?”

He, “Really, any kind you want.”

I, as I munched on my thin crust, sweet chili, chicken pizza, believed him.

He described one of his delicacies.  She whined, disapprovingly, until he got to “green pepper,” then she, with force,  said, “I hate green pepper.”

He said, helpfully — maybe hopefully, “I can leave the green pepper off.”

She: “I don’t want you to do that.  It’s too much trouble for you.”

He said, “Tell me what you want on it and we will make it up for you.”

She, “You know you are lucky I even came here because of my gluten.”

He was now edging for the kitchen and escape, but still trying to help.  He started another description and it was going well until he got to “broccoli.”

It sounded good to me. I will order it next time.

You guessed it.  She, feebly, moaned, “I hate broccoli.”

He made the leave-it-off offer.  She declined in full whine — a rich, full-bodied, with a hint of tannin, Muskegon whine, “I don’t want you to do that.  It’s too much trouble for you.”

He escaped. She took pizzas of four or five different varieties came back to her table and said to her sister, “We don’t have to tip at a buffet do we?”

Judge Bunning of Kentucky

Judge Bunning is the conservative son of a conservative Republican, former US Senator, Jim Bunning.  I remember Jim Bunning, the father of Judge David Bunning, because I had his baseball card
back in the 50’s. He is a baseball hall-of-famer who threw a perfect game.
In case your head has been buried in the sand, Judge Bunning, is the one who jailed the county clerk (Kim Davis, Rowan County) who wouldn’t issue a marriage license to the gay couple in Kentucky.  That’s right— a conservative judge did that.  Here’s what excerpts from the Washington Post say about him.
“Bunning would charge Davis with contempt and sentence her to jail time, rather than fines that she could potentially pay without complying with the court’s order. Her deputy clerks would also have 30 minutes to decide whether they would comply or face jail time themselves.”
The Post says Bunning is a “devout Catholic… the first U.S. judge to issue a jail sentence to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling that made gay marriage legal across the country.”
“Personal opinions, including my own, are not relevant to today,” Bunning, a federal district judge, told Davis and the courtroom Thursday. “The idea of natural law superseding this court’s authority would be a dangerous precedent indeed.”
“But throughout Davis’s months-long legal battle, David Bunning has made it clear that he knew his decision to force the Rowan County clerk to follow the law put him at odds with the deeply held personal beliefs of a lot of Americans, himself included.”
“Our form of government will not survive unless we, as a society, agree to respect the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, regardless of our personal opinions,” Bunning wrote last month in his decision ordering Davis to begin issuing marriage licenses. “Davis is certainly free to disagree with the court’s opinion, as many Americans likely do, but that does not excuse her from complying with it. To hold otherwise would set a dangerous precedent.”
Bunning’s mom said,  “David is an honest person. He doesn’t agree with the Supreme Court but has to obey the law.”
Mark Guilfoyle, a Kentucky attorney and Democrat who grew up with Bunning, told the newspaper that his old friend “leaves his political views at home.”
A democratic attorney, Phil Taliaferro,  in Kentucky was quoted in the Post article,  “He has guts. He will do the right thing, regardless. That’s the reason he has such great respect. … He’ll follow the law, and I know this sounds funny, but he will fight for justice.”
What a concept!  Whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not, whether the judge likes it or not— he’s following the law.


Soybeans, Soil and Scattering

I never lived on a farm.  I did live among farms. Some of the farmers hired me Dirty Beanswhen I was a teenager to feed the pigs, bale hay, drive a tractor and shell corn. One drove his cattle to market in the kind of trailer you have seen on the highway.  It was full of cattle doing things that cattle do. I shoveled it out after the sadly empty trailer returned sans steer.
Every year during my precocious teens, I went out to the soybean fields.  My name is Tim and I carried a hoe ( given the way the word ho, hoe is used today let me explain).  A hoe was a long handled, 5-6 foot piece of wood, with a 2 1/2 ” diameter, to which was attached, at right angle, a sharpened piece of steel. So it has been established that I was carrying that kind of hoe– not any other kind.
I marched forth because the soybeans were under attack.  You Tofu eaters should sing my praises.  Riding, well… walking, forth each day, I was a knight of the soybean table— my lance a hoe.  I, Don Quix…., no Tim, the hoe-wielding soybean warrior, went to slash pigweed and smart weed and other noxious weeds that were supplanting the bean, and depriving mankind, of the 719,711,717 products all derived from the noble soybean.  That’s me — St. Soybean.
Now, these soybean fields were big — over a hundred acres. When I walked one direction, I strolled the slight downhill rows.  But when I came back the same hills were climbed as cruel inclines.  At the end of the day it was uphill in both directions.
Most of the land was as flat and black as fresh-laid asphalt.  The top of the hills was much lighter than the rest of the field, gradiating to a top of pasty gray. The hilltop topsoil was thinner than the rest of the field.  The soybeans were dense & green, for the most part, but sparse and yellow at the top.
Wind and rain eroded the hills.
Erosion has taken its toll on the hills of my life. Life bumps into me at those knolls. Hills appear, interestingly, at both my strongest and weakest points.  Rain flushes away and wind scatters the precious soil.  The topsoil grows thin and the, newly, graying soil just isn’t what it used to be.
It is not surprising that life attacks where we are weakest.  For instance, we don’t make decisions well so the wind blows there.  We don’t evaluate our options. The wrong choice is made– consequences occur– a price, often very steep, is paid.  Top soil erodes and productivity diminishes.
Now, let’s suppose our strength is making friends very easily. We have lots of top soil here. No problems? Well, yes we do, since life wears us down at our strongest and weakest points.  It works this way.  Having many friends is exhilarating.  We accumulate them like precious coins.
Careful.  Friends take time.  Productivity declines.
Having friends is intoxicating.  The wind blows. The soil scatters. It is difficult to drive a straight course when inebriated by your own popularity.  The richest vein of topsoil in you thins.
And, responsibility is required in any friendship.  It is easy to take advantage of friends– especially when your chemistry with them focuses on your gain.  Money– easy to pick a friend’s pocket.  Morality— easiest to choose a wrong path with a friend.  A friendship can become one-sided— all about you.
 It’s great to be able to develop friendships.  That gift left unstewarded, will erode who you are and, left unbridled, will leave you, ironically, friendless.
I hesitate to say, “Now, that I am old.”.
The reply, “You are not old,” causes me to wonder, “How many other ways do you lie to me?”
When I say, “Now, that I am old,” and there is no reply, the silence suggests you agree. I don’t particularly like that.  Perhaps, I should stop saying, “Now, that I am old.”
One more time, now that I am old, I take fearful and hesitant looks at the field of my life.  The snapshot gives instant feedback.  There is so much gray.  So much erosion.  There has been, planting, cultivation and harvest.  Weeds have been hoed.  Missed some.
But there is so much gray.  So much of me is gone.
All sorts of room for moralizing here and I, certainly, love to do that, but …….
Be noble, gracious and responsible where you are strong.
Get help and improve where you are weak.
Then— when you are old, there will be less gray.