snoozer the cat

People feel good.

Nov 7, 2017

Today I went to Concord, NH, to get my truck undercoated. While my truck was being undercoated, I walked with my dog along a nearby disused rail line. There were trees growing up between some of the ties. Lovely grasses and autumn colors. Large rusted old industrial buildings along the rail line, each with its own rail siding. Along the rail line, I saw a rusted old boxcar now blocked in by trees grown up around it. I thought of the hobos of the early twentieth century.  

A stoutly constructed 2 story brick building was overgrown but appeared to be in good shape. Presumably, it was where the railroad officials watched for trains and directed traffic. 

Also present were aspects of current American activity: unapologetic plastic trash, colorful graffiti, and constant traffic noise from a bordering highway. And numerous soggy mattresses, stray shopping carts, and chairs.

Farther down the track, hidden in the dense undergrowth, I noticed a group of 3 tents. They appeared to be in good condition and I presumed that they were inhabited. 

As I walked on, I started looking more carefully and noticed tents at other locations along the tracks and along the highway nearby. 

There are supermarkets and restaurants abutting the rail line and suppose the tent dwellers scavenge there.  I presume that in the winter they find indoor accommodations or move south. I didn’t see any dwellings that would endure the weight of snow.  

Twice I encountered lone pedestrians, 30 to 40-year-old males. Each had a backpack and each looked a little gruff. Each dressed in the kind of clothes that would suit either a manual laborer or a homeless person. It occurred to me that the tent dwellers might also have jobs. It also occurred to me that they are the least environmentally objectionable segment of our society. I very much wanted to talk with them but I didn’t want them to feel like objects of curiosity. I was worried that I might be seen photographing their surroundings.  I didn't want to make them feel bad.  I was a little cautious for my safety but I reminded myself that they certainly feel the same way about me.

Earlier in the walk, I had noticed a sign posted by someone looking for their lost dog. Later I noticed another identical sign. I thought these odd places to post such signs but I realized that tent dwellers might have the time and inclination to befriend a timid lost dog. I noticed several examples of what appeared to be intentionally made shelters for small animals, dogs I presume.

I saw a small memorial to a deceased person. There were numerous small items: a pair of sandals, a collection of tiny liquor bottles, a statue of a cherubic angel, toy race car, some plastic flowers, several Christian crosses. 
There was a very faded photo of a reclining and smiling lad of perhaps 25 years. Scrawled was the inscription, “In memory of T. Milligan” 

I saw along the rail line much recent evidence of intention.   

Along the rail line is this round brick building constructed in the 1800's by the local natural gas utility company.  This is what municipal natural gas storage tanks looked like before large metal tanks replaced them.  Surviving brick examples like this one are rare.  The cupola was tilted by the hurricane of 1938 and has remained that way since.  That's a slate roof.

After my truck was finished, I drove down route 3 instead of getting back on the superhighway.  I saw this memorial in Pembroke.  Although one can't see the hat very well in this photo, the soldier looked like he was in Union Civil War garb.  I wondered if the monument was any less objectionable than the monuments to Confederate soldiers.

A little farther south, still in Pembroke, I saw a cluster of about 20 tiny houses on about 2 acres.  They looked to be at least 50 years old.  They were placed at various angles and there were several large sugar maple trees.  There was a dirt driveway that snaked between them.  It was all very tidy.  I thought that we should permit and promote this kind of sensible development in Massachusetts.

The end.

Sep 12, 2016

The weather was gorgeous but I worked most of the day at my desk. I got out to walk the dogs for a couple hours in the last of the bright afternoon sun. The temperature was comfortable and there was a little breeze tickling just the upper leaves of the trees. There's a big aspen along the field where I usually walk. Aspen leaves flutter like no other. After walking for an hour, the bright sun was gone and most of the field was in shadows. The sunlight became more orange and red. The light came in horizontally to light up the trunks, the underside of the branches, and the interior of the taller trees that are usually in shadow most of the day. I really love how this kind of light seems to "warm" the big branches and the trunk in the dark middle of a big pine or oak, the same way it comes in a window of a west-facing room and warms the white walls with orange and red. I wished I was sitting up in that tree. The demarcation between sunlight and dark shadow rose rapidly up the trunks until only the tops were bathed in red light, against the blue sky and pastel pink wisps of clouds. The brick-red light on the oak leaves and pine needles made the already deep green foliage look even darker green. I watched the trees go dark until only a few of the taller still had light on them.After the sun dipped fully below the horizon, the light changed again.  Visibility was still quite normal, but the colors of the dry hay grass, the tree trunks, and foliage were all muted. In this phase of the dusk, the light seems to settle on things and linger, and to dim almost imperceptibly slowly by comparison to the more alarming, even cataclysmic way that the brighter afternoon rays beat their hasty withdrawal westward. This what some people call "flat light". I noticed that my shadow was gone. I looked for my dog's shadow and could discern none. It felt a little creepy. I was a bit hungry and decided to give the dog 10 more minutes and then head home.I got home, turned on the bright white fluorescent light over my desk, fed the dogs, and took off my boots. I stepped back outside and it was still light enough to see pretty well.  Sometimes at this point in the dusk, if it's cloudy, the light gets a greenish cast.  But today, of course, since the sky was clear, the light was what you might call rosy.  It seemed to me wasteful to come indoors until it was more fully dark. The last of the light seems so precious. Often, as the last slips away, I feel just a bit pensive and wistful and I imagine the primitive as he worships the sun so earnestly. 

Nov 12, 2014

     I was walking my dog today. I noticed a kid, maybe high school age, sitting with his head down and his back to me. He had a smart-phone in his right hand, screen facing up at him. He was quaking and crying periodically. I said, “You OK, brother?” He didn't turn or say anything. I said, “You want some dog?” He looked up and back at me. I explained myself, “....make you feel good?” He turned away and said, “Yeah.” So the dog went to work on his face with her tongue. I think the kid liked it because he didn't shy from her and he touched her a little. Then I said, “Hope you feel better.” and I left. He put his head down and resumed quaking and crying. The whole exchange took less than a minute. It was like a scene from a movie and here's why: When the dog was licking his face, I saw that the kid had a prosthetic left leg, a single round olive colored fiberglass shin, cylindrical, about an inch in diameter with a sneaker at the end of it.
     I continued walking my dog. I wondered what the kid was crying about. I supposed it was a girlfriend and hoped it wasn't something worse. Whatever it was, I'm pretty sure he felt worse about it than he felt about the leg. On my return trip I saw that the kid was gone. I wondered where he went to.
     When I first spoke to that kid, I was worried that he might feel intruded upon or threatened. But I never had any hesitation or doubt that I was going to express compassion because that's what you are supposed to do. I didn't have to think about what I should say. I knew when to leave. Nor did I feel bad about leaving him sitting there crying when I left.
     We all know exactly how to do this. I had a girlfriend who knew how to do this. Approaching that kid is something she would have done. She never hesitated. She never felt awkward. She never feared that her intentions might be misunderstood. She was never afraid to get involved in difficult situations. I saw her do it many times. As I was walking homeward with my dog, it occurred to me that I learned it from her. But then I realized it was already in me. She merely showed me that it's other people too. Opportunities for practice abound. Everyday life can become like in the movies.
     I walk my dog by that spot every day. Tomorrow I'll walk by, look at the place and think of what happened there. I might encounter the kid again. And I will know him in an instant, because of the leg! If I do see him again, I won't feel awkward at all. If we have occasion to speak, I'll say, with an easy smile and an upward inflection in the tone of my voice, “Hey brother.” That's all I'll have to say and he will understand.

Oct 9, 2014

Diary entry, 2014-9-30, day #8560.
    Again this month I cooked all my food outdoors each week on a wood burning cooker. I resumed eating some boiled grains every day again after a 6 month hiatus to see if I had a gluten intolerance. I still felt fine after eating grains every day again and they kept me filled up a little better It felt good to have the gluten intolerance test done and my body felt generally quite good every day.
    My nightly showers got rather cold by the end of the month as the weather (and thus the tap water) cooled off. They had the first frost one night in the normally colder parts of the state. The shower water will be warmer when I start running the wood stove but I have been procrastinating because I don't feel like running up and down the cellar stairs frequently to stoke it. This time of year still makes me nostalgic for the coming ski season despite fact that I have not skied for 15 years. I got my last swim at the lake this summer. I only swam twice this summer and no biking, rope climbing, unicycling, skating or anything like that this summer. I had very few visits to uncle Winslow this summer that I had frequently in previous years. Just a lot of long, lovely dog walks.
    One sunny Saturday morning this month I locked myself out of my house. I walked through the neighborhood at 10 am in my underwear to get my spare key from its distant hiding spot. I expect recurrent nightmares about it to commence soon. Luckily my underwear looks like regular athletic wear.
    This month Richie, Beth's brother, long suffering from Parkinson's, went into hospice and died a couple days later. I went to visit the family and Tom asked me to launch a Chinese “sky lantern” as a memorial. A sky lantern is a paper hot air balloon about 3 feet tall powered by a wax candle. I had bought a dozen a year ago and had been dying to try one out. But they regrettably had languished on my desk until Tom asked me. So it felt so good to finally try one out. It worked great! The family all came down to the lake at dusk. It was a beautiful, still evening and the balloon made a lovely flickering golden yellow glow in the blue evening sky as it floated, slowly and silently above the very tall pines, over the Mass Turnpike.. I know it eventually ran out of fuel and fell to earth but we all imagined that it went all the way to heaven. I was just hoping that it did not run out of fuel prematurely and I was relieved to see it continue to rise until it was out of sight. There were tearful smiles and hugs there on the same dock where just a year before some us had gone for a swim together on just such a warm, gentle evening.
    Also this month I found out that one of my favorite regular long time customers is moving away. I drove by her house by chance and was surprised to see a for sale sign. I was quite hurt that she did not tell me. And I had very much hoped this month to bring 86 year old Bunny down to meet the elders of my family in Manomet because she had been childhood friends with them there and has not seen them since then. But I don't think that will be happening this year. And my friend Judy from protest had a loss the same week as the. Her 18 year old grandson had been bullied about his medical condition, Tourette's and killed himself.
    I did very little tree work this month because I wanted to address some of the other worries on my list.. I very much wanted to get taxes, roof, house maintenance and autumn tree spraying planning and preparation done but I did almost no direct work on those projects. I fixed the chipper carburetor, reorganized my tree tools into cab of pickup truck, got trucks' lights repaired and inspections done, established a good relationship with new periodontist at Tufts and got my teeth further inspected, detected, neglected and rejected. I cleaned the house wood stove chimney in preparation for the heating season, split a couple pickup trucks full of giant firewood logs, and sealed up the house foundation to keep mice from entering as the weather gets cold. I felt pleased with all that but none the less tense about the looming projects of replacing the roof of my house, income tax preparation and tree spraying. I got all the little things off my list so I will be able to focus more singly on those larger tasks. I felt a lot of stress and I spent a lot of time typing on the computer and thinking. I looked up a lot of jokes this month. I incidentally continued to learn tricks on how to use the computer better and I am getting pretty good at it.
    The most significant event was that Pepper the Dog got extremely lethargic and would not eat. She became emaciated and weak. When I first held her in my hands as a wee puppy, I knew the day would come I would bury her and I would cry and I would be OK with it. It's just was not ready for it to come so soon. I had some things to do first, some things that don't matter.
    Diary, 9-5: “The part of my day I cherish the most was when I was sitting in the grass watching Pepper slowly eat a piece of bread during our walk in the warm afternoon sun. It was a thrill to see her eat anything at all and I harbored hopes that this meant she was getting better. After she ate she wobbled over to me and just wanted to be scratched. I love scratching her because I feel like I can give her at least one thing that feels good in contrast to all the discomfort she must feel. I am watching her slowly lose her will to live. She just sits outside in the dirt or the grass, staring off or laying with her eyes closed. If it wasn't for her labored panting, I might think she was dead already.”
    9-6 “The fact that Pepper may be dying soon, that I may have been watching her end days without realizing it, is starting to sink in to the pit of my stomach. I noticed her belly swelling as the vet said might happen. I am very tense and it will be difficult to wait until Monday to take her to the vet. I took a nice long time to walk her today. Soon it will be just me and Loki, I think.”
    9-8 “Today was the day I went to the vet and got the really bad news I was not expecting. The uncertain had become the definite. Previously I was a bit melancholy but hesitant to admit more than that to myself. Today I was overcome. The vet told me it was a heart condition and the prognosis was poor. The cough that she had all summer was not kennel cough as originally diagnosed but was cough from chronic congestive heart failure. I called Laura who cried. I got a wonderful, heartfelt phone call from our puppy period friend Nicole who was the human caretaker for Colby, Pepper's brother. Colby was euthanized about a year ago because of a big cyst.“
    9-10 “I can't get it all off my mind and I don't even want to. I wake up in the morning and realize it was not a bad dream. My stomach feels like lead. My throat is cramped and sore from getting choked up so much. My thoughts race frantically. I feel happy and sad at the same time. I have all these feelings to deal with and no time because I am trying to make it good for Pepper. The things that usually make me happy don't matter to me now. I have to let this matter for a while. The good thing is that she does not know what is coming.”
    The week after that vet visit I wasn't good for much.  I spent a lot of typing in my diary and thinking. I thought about all the particular fields and woods I had grown to love so much when walking the dogs, sunny and fresh in my mind. I saw Pepper's little toys on the floor and thought about them still laying there after she has died. I felt like I did during September, in 2010, when I was told I had cancer.  I thought about how people who are losing a child often say, “I wish it could be me instead.” I thought about Richie's elderly mother and my friend Judy, also 85 years old, who lost the grandchild to suicide. I thought about the period of time when I was gradually losing my marriage, also in September. I felt like I wasted a lot of time in my life. Some nights I did not sleep so good. September 11 came and went. I recalled when Laura and I lived at Tom's house, I recalled watching the planes hit the buildings on tv. September is such a beautiful time of year. I notice that when something bad happens, things around me all suddenly become iridescently beautiful.
    I have long entertained a dream that I would someday take a trip and drive around the country with the dogs, visiting relatives and exploring, opening the truck door every once in a while to let the dogs run. It hurt to realize that was not going to happen now.  But nonetheless, I found myself feeling exhilarated, excited, happy to savor these last weeks, maybe months with Pepper.  It was the strange sensation of being happy and sad at the same time, as I felt when Laura was packing to leave but we were still living together, quite happily.  
    It was after my marriage was finally over that it really sunk into me.  I expect it will be the same when I lose Pepper. It took me some years to gradually start caring about things again. During those years I experienced an unexpected kind of bliss, a permission to enjoy little things.  “Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...” Janis Joplin.  
    I know sadness eventually loses its power over you. But this month I didn't wanna let the feeling go right away. I wanted to have nostalgic memories of my experiences with Pepper and feel the love for a while first, and the regret and wistfulness too.
    I did a lot of research. I read technical papers about the relationship between dog breed, dietary taurine, and dilated cardiomyopathy. The more I read, the more grim it looked. I found the best vegan commercial kibble. I called the tech people at the manufacturer and Tufts veterinary school in Grafton and satisfied myself that it is nutritionally adequate. I stopped feeding Pepper home cooked and started feeding kibble only. I started taurine supplements and Enalapril cardiac meds. In a week she was like a new dog and continued to gain weight and energy the rest of the month. By the end of the month she was almost like normal and eating voraciously.  She plays again and periodically mauls me. She even bothers the neighborhood with barking again, wants to fight other dogs and kill wildlife. The way she has been improving makes me harbor some unrealistic expectations that she will live some more years. I have to remind myself that it will most likely be months.
    I had blood drawn from Loki as well to test for taurine deficiency which can be the cause of the kind of heart problem Pepper has. I fear that my home cooked vegan diet may be the cause of Pepper's heart problem. I am anxiously awaiting the results of the expensive test.  One thing I won't miss is the vet bills.
    I love going to the vet's because the dogs love going there.  I will miss that.  I thought about asking for a job there when this is over.  
    For the last couple years, since the divorce, I have felt overwhelmed with work and other worries and have not been taking the dogs out for walks. They spent every day confined in their grassy fenced in dog yard. But this last winter I could not stand to look at them like that any more. Around January I relinquished some other daily tasks and resumed taking them for daily walks. Now, in the early afternoon every day, they start to get excited. They know that they will get a walk every day without fail. They are finally getting some of the freedom to dig, roam, chase and sniff that they so desperately need and the change in how they act has been dramatic. I am so glad I did it when I did back in January.
    This month as Pepper got sick and weak,  All the times that she pissed in the bed, chewed up the inside of my car, and ran away didn't bother me anymore. Frankly, I guess they never did. When she got sick all my strict little rules for her went out the window as did most of my other cares and worries. At the beginning of the month I decided to defer most of my work ambitions for a couple months so I could take better care of her. We went on lots of long walks. I developed a 100 foot “dragline” leash that allows the dogs great freedom to run but gives me full control of their safety. I found the old cowbells from years ago that they again wear so that I can find them when they disappear in the underbrush.  They really perk up in the afternoon when they hear me get those bells out. They finally have what I have always hoped for them, to be off-leash dogs able to explore freely.
    But I can only walk one dog at a time so daily walks are time-consuming. As Pepper improved, all my troubles seemed small. But after I while worries returned. I have much to do before winter; replace the roof on my house, annual truck maintenance, tree trimming for customers, tree spraying. The neighbors, who are trying to sell their house, are getting sick of looking at the tarp on my leaky roof. I fear they may rat me out to the building inspector which would make my life exponentially more difficult. Since Pepper started doing so much better toward the end of the month, I decided to resume spending more time on some of my other now urgent worries. By the end of the month I had reduced the length of the daily walks to a more sustainable one hour per dog per day.
    When my mom was dying, she and my father had hoped to get up to the ocean cottage at Manomet one last time. Sadly they didn't quite make it. I would really like to get Pepper down to more time. I have memories from when she was a puppy of us both running joyously in the sun on White Horse Beach. But it does not look like that is going to happen this autumn and instead we have both instead been very content with walks at the local fresh water beach. I feel very fortunate. The only unfortunate thing is that I have so many other demands on my time right now. But I do what I can. I am looking forward to at least a couple more good months with Pepper. It doesn't suck for me now, it sucks for Pepper. For me it will suck when she is gone. Right now I have my wheels back under me.
    I know people might think it silly that I have been so distraught at losing Pepper.  I was a bit surprised to feel as affected as I have been. I did not really want dogs but  my wife did.   My marriage was a bit shakey and I wanted to make her happy.  So I agreed.
     But then something happened.  Every morning I woke up to a marriage that was dissolving under my feet and work I didn't care about. Every morning the dogs stared longingly over the fence into the fields and the woods and then look back at me expectantly.  That patient look of excited expectancy always gets me.  Prisoners is what they were. That's what I jokingly called them, “The Prisoners.”  A lot of people don't want to admit their pets are just prisoners kept for their amusement and comfort.  I didn't want to be one of those people.  I couldn't enjoy my freedom when I knew that they didn't have theirs. I wanted to do the right thing by them, as I had committed to do.  I would phone my customers and tell them I was not coming work for them today.  I would take the day off to do the right thing for the dogs.  After a while I started doing that most days. I felt very good about myself for that.  
    I spent a lot of time learning about dog training. I learned directly from some of the most knowledgeable in the world. A dog starts life not caring about the human at all. The human seeks to make himself “relevant” to the dog. The dog is coaxed and forced to look to the human for everything it needs and eventually seems to realize that it is utterly dependent on the human. That's when the human knows he has the dog in the palm of the hand. It is a happy symbiosis after that. The human makes sure the dog does what it's told and makes sure it gets what it needs every time it does. The dog gets hungry or wants to go out to pee, it comes to the human and looks up with expectancy. 
     In order to secure reliable compliance from the dog, the human strives to be a reliable provider every time the dog comes with a problem.  The human does this to insure eager and reliable compliance, but after a while it's more than that.  After a while the human can't bear to let the dog down when it comes with those eyes.
    Of course there are times when it is inconvenient for the human to oblige the dog.  But at these times the human doesn't want the dog to sit there persistently trying but not getting rewarded.  If that happened the dog would give up trying and cease to think of the human as relevant, as someone who will solve the dog's problems.  Such times the human will say something like, "Go be a dog." and after saying that the human will then ignore the dog's efforts.  The dog will realize that it won't work at the times when the human says, "Go be a dog." and the dog will come back another time eager to try again.  
    A day will come when Pepper will come to me with a problem that can't be solved. She will come and look at me patiently, waiting for me to figure out what she needs.  I've seen it.  When she was at her sickest she feebly came to me and sat looking at me.  I offered her food but she just looked at it and then back at me.  I opened the door for her to go out and she just looked at it and then looked back at me.  She just sat there looking at me with those eyes and she couldn't understand why I wasn't doing it right.  After a while she gave up and spent her days outside, sitting in one place for hours, staring over the fence.
    I've had a temporary reprive since she's been better.  But I know it's coming.  She'll come to me.  I won't be able to do a thing and it's tearing me up.  I'll betray her and it'll be the last thing she knows. She won't understand and I'll say, "Go be a dog."

   The dogs are sleeping at my feet now, waiting patiently for morning teeth brushing and meals. Pepper has that cardiac cough occasionally, though much less than before we started the medication. She groans occasionally too, as she always does when she shifts position to get comfortable. I recognize the groan as the same sound that she makes when I scratch her each night as we are falling asleep, an indication of exquisite pleasure I'm pretty sure it's the same groan I hear now, a groan of pleasure, satisfaction and contentment.  

May 22, 2013

Lonely John's Nature Report
2013-4-21 The vernal pond near my house is now covered with thick green algae. Looks like you could walk on it. That same pond was being skated on just a few months ago. I heard first bullfrog of the year. Soon the pond will dry to mud and grow over with weed.
I noticed, for the first time this year, some shade under a tree. Today my first day wearing short pants. I found the first tick insect of the year attached to my skin. First housefly, dogs madly leaping and snapping at it. 80 degrees outside. My tap water temperature is now up to 57 degrees from a low of 37 in winter. Almost time to turn off the water heater for the summer.
Carolina silverbell trees shed their brief and extraordinary bounty of white flowers like a late season snow storm. Red maple “helicopter” seeds on the ground everywhere. The tiny peaches on Tom's peach tree are already starting to swell at an alarming rate. Flowering dogwood, the fragrant lavender blooms of lilac and Japanese wisteria. The distinctive fragrance of the invasive Russian olive by the sides of the highways. Tremendous genetic diversity in the areas near the cities due to the many plants and insects imported since the time of Olmstead.
Tree caterpillar poop is on car hoods. I noticed one tree with all the caterpillars inside shelters they constructed of leaves, leaf edges folded and bound together with silk.
Many rabbits, small ones. Always a lot of them in spring and early summer, relatively tame and eagerly consuming the tender new shoots.
I saw a great woodchuck lumping across my dead end street.
The neighbor kid now rides his motorcycle around his tiny yard everyday after school..
Friend Tom reports newly migrated bears may be in the area, may maraud his bee hives at Fay field in Sudbury.

The cardinal bird of a month ago seemed to be the only bird singing in the bare limbs of the trees at that time. Now that the limbs have leaves, he seems to have stopped. Now there is a bird that I have often heard in spring time who sings with a will. It repeats one phrase a couple times and then switches to a very different phrase and repeats that a few times. It has an un ending variety of melody, rhythm and never seems to repeat any of the phrases. I was thrilled when I was able to spot one and was surprised to learn that it was not a mocking bird but a common catbird. I had known their typical feline call from other times of year, but it seems that this time of year they become more inspired.

I visited a friend Chris at his house. We heard a couple owls calling to each other, marking the radius of their territory by the distance the call carries. The call seemed to echo among the many tree trunks in the deep and open forest. It seems unlikely that a forest would return an echo, but I have perceived such a forest echo from other sounds like the barking of my dogs. It seems that owl calls are relatively consistent for a given species and readily described by words and so easy to look up on a computer. Cornell has a great ornithology website. These owls were barred owls. (I thought it was spelled 'bard'. Oh, well, it was a nice thought that there would be a poetic owl.)

Friend Chris is a sound engineer. He told me about the effect different weather has on the way sound carries. Contrary to what I had thought, the humidity of the atmosphere does not have much to do with how far sound carries. Wind does carry the sound farther. And air temperature changes sound dispersal. When the air is warmer at higher elevations in the atmosphere than down by the ground, sound carries more because the sound waves travel faster in the thin air and so the sound that was radiating upward from a source on the ground tends to curve in an arc back down to earth again at some distance away. He said the effect is most pronounced a mile away from source. And when the air is warmer at ground level than higher up, sounds about a mile away are less noticeable. He said that on a clear, sunny morning, the ground air starts to warm up more than air up higher, starting at around 9 am. And this effect lasts until about 6 pm when the heat of the warm soil starts to rapidly radiate away from the earth, warming the air above. Then we hear the distant noises well and this effect then lasts until 9 am the following morning.

I recently read that there is a kind of cicada insect called the “Magicada” that only emerges from dormancy once every 17 years. It makes a nearly unbearable racket for 2 weeks and then goes back into the soil to benignly live off the sap of tree roots for another 17 years. The big news is that a large cohort of this 17 year cicada is scheduled to emerge this springtime. I was disappointed that they will be present and singing in Connecticut but not Massachusetts.
There are also 13 year cicadas. Notice anything? Both prime numbers. An adaptive mechanism. If there is a predator of the cicada whose population levels fluctuate on a consistent multi-year periodic cycle, then the years when predator population is at peak levels will coincide with the years that cicadas emerge much less frequently, as the product of the prime number times the number of years of the periodic cycle of the predator. For example, if there is a predatory wasp that has peaks in its population levels every 4 years, and if the magicada were to have a periodic cycle length of 16 years, then the wasp population would eventually synchronize its cycle with the magicada's and every time the magicada emerged the wasps would be at peak levels, which would not be good if you were a magicada. But if the magicada's period length is 17 years, their cycles only coincide every 54 years. (4X17 = 54). And it works for every single other predator of the magicada that has consistent multi year peak population level cycles because 17 is a prime number and is not divisible by any number except itself and 1. It almost seems that the cicada has some kind of collective unconscious. I can see why some people might be tempted by the idea of intelligent design.

Today I was climbing in the very top one of my trees and noticed the spruce next to me had small new seed cones. The juvenile cones of the spruce are the most indescribably divine hues of deep and brilliant red I have ever seen. Very few of cones this year, last year there were many. This is thought to be an adaptive mechanism. Those squirrels that eat them will famish on a year when the cones are scarce. Then the next year when the tree has saved energy, there will be many cones and few squirrels to eat them.

I recently found an extraordinarily large European beech tree. I searched the internet for a list of giant trees in the area and was surprised to find no lists. I telephoned the location of the beech to state forest health director Ken. One of the rituals Ken dutifully conducts is the measuring of the girth, height and spread of ancient trees. Wonderful government supported poetry. The measurements are recorded on a list which is not publicized in order to protect the trees from evildoers. There are many of these so called “champion” trees among us, often in suburban areas where farming and logging has long departed. I went to sleep that night dreaming of mystic and enchanted places, not to be found on any map, nearby and overlooked.

My goodness, it has happened again! It's almost 

May 5, 2013

Rowing through space, pedaling through time, splashing around in my sensual experience.
Prove to me that you are not a robot
in this unlikely coincidence that we exist.
Do you like what you are doing with your life?
Be soft
Get out in front of the mood
Be an open book
Think about what we have in common
Watch for the surprising differences between the person in front of you and the person you imagine they are.

Apr 4, 2013

the war is over stop
stalemate stop
money gone stop
tell the others stop
come home stop
fences need fix stop

Not over until we say it's over stop
Still have ammunition stop
Fence repair tools in barn next to stop

10 years enough stop
I love you keys in mailbox sorry stop

Mar 7, 2013

I am standing in my garden. It's like a dream. I taste a raspberry, a perfect one, warm and ripe from the sun. It overwhelms my mouth with sweetness and fragrance. All around me are berries, leaves and little white raspberry flowers. A few bees are buzzing from flower to flower. The sun feels warm and nice on my skin. I wiggle my bare toes in the cool, wet grass. I make a copy of all this. I hear some robins and my lover calls softly to me from the doorway. I make some sounds with my mouth, giving a copy of my dream to her. I send some vibrations through the air and make her know my thoughts and feelings like a mind reader. In this way we make our minds match.

I can experience something and then save a copy in my head so that I can re-experience it immediately and then again years later. I can share a copy effortlessly through the air and make another know my thoughts and feelings. This by itself is astounding to me.

I can create a new experience in my head without first having to experience it in the world of reality, one a little different than the ones I have saved. This can happen to me spontaneously or I can make it happen by intention whenever I wish. I can share a copy of these new experiences to others.

I could lose any of these remarkable facilities in a moment by an injury.

When I was young my brother said to me, “Imagine what it would be like around here if everyone lived up to their potential.” I saved a copy of that experience.

What if we conducted ourselves in a way proportional to the magnificence of our splendid possession? We could spend our time thinking only great thoughts and only saying to each other words worthy of these delicate and unlikely facilities.

Apr 6, 2011

My heart beats yes, yes, yes.
Breathe in the suffering of the world.
Breathe out joy to all creatures.
The smell of wet earth and springtime
in the air we all breathe.
I hear a distant voice.
Breeze and warm sun on my face.
I see a school of brightly colored fish
all veering exactly the same direction
at exactly the same instant
as if directed by an invisible signal.

Mar 16, 2011

A plain water glass,
curving around on itself to contain what is put in.
Flavorless, colorless,
looks like, tastes like only what may be put in.
Becomes a glass of milk, a glass of orange juice, a glass of coca-cola
with bubbles and ice.

Each time slowly emptied, washed, no trace of what was,
to become again what it fundamentally is,
an empty glass,
no matter how many times filled.

Eventually gaining scratches, stains.
Eventually to be dropped, broken,
and so not capable of being even an empty thing.

All I have ever
known how to be.
Sometimes empty,
sometimes milk, juice, water,
pebbles gathered by a child,
Happily I become again for a while
all I can ever be,
with bubbles and ice.

Jun 26, 2010


A man I watch he thrashes trapped inside behind the glass, cuts himself on it, stopped he looks out desperately at me. Reaches towards me, stopped again by the glass, getting as close to it with his face as he can. I look again and he is standing back again, unperturbed identical to me. We think we move and the man in the mirror must move. It is the man in the mirror that moves us as a puppet.


May 30, 2010


"The passenger of the airplane or the train need only provide his destination and money and receives a swift and comfortable travel experience isolated from the region he travels through. The automobile passenger is required to provide more, constant attention and direction, and in return receives more contact with the environment through which he travels and is free to stop any time and examine it. The bicycle traveler is even more exposed and stimulated. In addition to providing constant attention and direction, he must also provide the motive power by his muscles. But to receive the most sensation, and freedom to explore the details of the world, one needs to be a walker!"----Homer Tressenger


Mar 25, 2010


Left Is As Good As Right When You Are Lost

If things are as bad
as you are saying
you need to do something
before you crash your life.
Make the decision
before something happens
that makes it for you.

You can and you must.
You don't need a new car.
Stop talking about
what you can't do
and start making choices
to change the results
that you get in your life.

Change your food,
change your sleep,
change how you think
and talk to yourself.
If you can't do it for youself,
do it for them.

When I insist
that you do something
that seems out of reach,
you may realize
that maybe you can.
Realize this now
because if you don't
you will just be older
when you finally do.

Look at the clock.
The time you see there
could be the time
that everything changed for you.
The minute you stop doing things
the way you always do
and do them a little more
like how you want to.

When you are frustrated
just let it be easy.
Wake up from the nightstorm
to a world freshly washed.
You are living a perfection
that leads to a way
that grows to an answer
that has always been in you.


Mar 24, 2010

My Dog Wakes Up

"Oh my god, look, I'm alive!
And look, it's so cool here.
I've got to look around
and bark
and dive under the pillows.
Oh look, I can bite things.
I wonder what it would be like if I was upside down?
Oh, I've got an itch
and I just realized I have to pee.
I think there's something I want.
I have to go look for it......

I'm back!
Oh, what's that sound?
I better go smell it......"

"Loki come....Come, Loki, come!....LOKI! .........Loki?"

"Loki? What's Loki."

Mar 2, 2010


I thought I wanted a boat. A pretty boat with clean white sails that would take me to the island where I could be happy. I tried the idea in my mind but I decided to wait. I thought it better not to have the boat now because there were many other wonderful things I wanted too. 

I never had the boat.  But I had the chance.  And the chance to have the motorcycle.  And the little farm.  My whole life I've always had the chance.
You can't take it with you. It is not that kind of cake. You have to eat it here. 
Be happy with the cake you are given.
What ever kind of tears you might have, they go very well with friends and sweet icing.


Feb 18, 2010

My Sun, My Wind

My stars, my sky.

I give them to you and now
Our stars, sun and air.

I am the sun, I am the moon.
I'm raining down on you
in tiny pieces of me.


Around My House This Morning
Ripening is what is going on around my house. Laura opened an avocado and exclaimed, "This is not ripe." I saw the label and it read, "Ripe when soft". I noticed we have a lot of things ripening. The other avocados, mangos, of course the obligatory bananas, and (s)pineapples too. "All tropical.", I thought.

I have not been listening to the radio lately. I realized that I have not heard the president in a couple weeks, expounding as he does in his distinctive way. I feel good, like I have just gotten home from vacation. Like I have to think for a moment to figure out what day it is.

I just realized: I woke up with the theme from the British tv show "Benny Hill" cheerfully replaying again and again in the room that is inside my head. You know, that bawdy, impish saxophone solo at the begining and end of the show where Mr. Hill is chasing or being chased by girls in bikini's.

We have an old cook book called the New Vegitarian Epicure. I noticed that the dogs had tried to eat it. I got up off the floor from wrastling and snuggling with them to let them out and I decided to step out with them.

I know that first breath of fresh air when I first step out in the morning always smells the best. The subsequent air does not hit me the same way as that first faceful. Today's smell: Late Winter Morning Sunshine and the Smell of Melting Snow.

Jan 14, 2010

I went walking on the lake today. Astounding experience. Surreal. Dazzling sun. I had to squint even with sun glasses on. Crystal black ice, warm breeze, 625 acres of dead flat surface and 500 yards to shore in every direction, not a soul in sight. Fantastic and eerie shapes in places where wind and wave had frozen water in unlikely positions. In several places I saw fox or coyote foot prints crossing the lake in mostly strait lines. Groaning, cracking, creaking, squeaking, pinging, zinging noises moved toward and away from me as the sun warmed the ice and as I added my weight to different places on the lake. Not once did I think about work or other worries.

Solitude, desolation, tranquility. Mother nature's unforgiving fury of the previous night frozen in time and yet also a busy 4 lane highway touching one shore that reminded me how close the madness is.

I noticed that after a couple hours of warming by the sun, that the previously crystal clear black ice started to get clouded by tiny air bubbles in the ice.

Jan 6, 2010

Laura:  Aren't you lucky today?!

Hi hun. I was thinking what a pleasant morning I had with you and this little conversation (below) came to me. Aren't I lucky to have hung out with you this morning?!

"Here friend, I give you the sun.

"Don't be ridiculous. Do you think you are god?

"You were thinking about something else before I came to you. If I had not brought your attention to it, you would not be having the experience of the sun right now. I have just given it to you. And who but god could do that?

"Do you see this rock? Pick it up, hold it, examine it. Why does it exist? Because it exists? Because of the extreme pressure and heat deep in the earth? Because of the big bang? Because of god? Or because you say it exists? Because you can sense it, feel its coldness, its hardness, its heaviness, see its greyness, because you can bump it against your forehead and feel the pain it makes. Does it exist because you can perceive it? Because you can describe it, know it? There is no way to know it exists other than by your senses, your perception of it in your mind. Perception is equivalent to reality.

"Since you received a perception of the sun just now, I gave you the sun and that makes me god. And aren't you lucky to have met me today?!

Honey, no one else knows who I am so it is our little secret, ok? Enjoy your sun today and please think of me occasionally. Tonight perhaps I will give you the moon and some stars.


Dec 13, 2009

sun sand warm
sand warm sit
bright....close eyes
wave sound
wave sound bird sound
ocean sky bird move
sand push hand warm sand

hold hand walk sand wind
sand rock water wave bird sky sun

Why couldn't that have been enough?
So long ago.
I listen for your feet behind me.


Dec 10, 2009

I had a cool experience this morning that made me feel like I have turned a corner. I have been loving the smell of the snow when I first go out in the morning and it reminds me so much of my days at Killington. I realized something....I can taste my life again! For so long down here I was working and worrying and rushing. I realized something might be wrong because it occurred to me that I could not "taste my life". That is to say, I could taste food, smell air, feel warmth of the sun, see the lovely things, but they did not thrill me as they should. I was not excited about anything...I spent all my time solving problems and being serious. I could not think of anything that I wanted. I could not remember a time when I was really happy! Wow! Seriously...I was out in the middle of a lovely lake in a kayak and I challenged myself to think of one time when I was really happy and I could not. This was about 5 years ago. All I wanted was relief. I could not sleep well. I could not remember who it was that I was supposed to be. And guess what? I think I can remember now...the ghost of a distant memory came to me in the smell of the snow. I was amazed. This has been happening in the middle of the "great recession" and also at a time when things have been tense between me and Laura. But none the less...I feel ok! Who knows, maybe it is just a coincidence, but I like to think that it is because I have been observing my thoughts and feelings, forcing myself not to work much, and focusing on my daily life...eating right, practicing good sleep habits, moderating the exersize. I think the key is that it is all alot easier to deal with when my basic needs are met...not just emotional but biochemical...sleep, nutrition, stress factors.

Laura went to work and I had the strange feeling of being the housewife left at home after every one else has gone to work or school for the day. Strangely quiet, just me and the dogs. And we all chased each other around and around the living room table madly for 10 minutes for no reason. And I had the feeling I used to have when I was a kid at home in the morning, didn't have to go to school and it was just me and Mom for the lovely....everything is good! And why shouldn't our whole life be that way....emotionally anyway. Perhaps we still must deal with our struggles and be rushed a little or distracted, but why can't we still keep a little place in our head at all times where we feel as if it is just me and mom for the day. A place where we know that it will be ok no matter what happens and these are the good old days and mom is drinking coffee at the kitchen table and one of her friends or the mailman stops by for a few minutes. I think this is what I mean when I ask: "When do I get to live like everyone else every day and just feel good. At what point do I get to stop preparing and start doing the cool stuff?" We worry so much about how to have our cake and eat it too so that we can avoid having to choose. How about just letting go so that we can have what we have!

Thinking about this made me feel good, I hope it has a similar effect on you.

Nov 16, 2009

Expect something extraordinary. Witness the day in a new place. Let the seal and the seagull be your spirit guide. Will you come be a part of something remarkable? Come to the place where we can be alone together. Hold hands in the place of your childhood. Join the sturdilies of the beach in story. Sit and let memories recall themselves to you. See all the rocks that you recognize. Let the smell of the wood smoke remind you. Notice how food always tastes better on the beach. Think of the ocean, the sand, the wind as your ocean, your sand, your wind. Start to relax in the warmth of your sun. Become aware of something that you did not notice before. Let pleasant sensations of wonder and beauty flood your waking dream. Imagine a shy hobbit darting and hiding among the low tide rocks. A mermaid might slip between the waves, a wood nymph peeks over the bluff for a second. Listen to the great rocks whisper as you pass. Return slowly to the place where you belong.

Jun 5, 2009

We are always starting, making a fresh start, so that our whole life is starting, never finishing until we come to the end and realize this. I think we must at some point come to the middle and feeling it repulsive, turn back to the start, never turning forward again, and so end as a child.

Mar 21, 2009

Try this: take a deep breath. Retain it as long as possible. Notice carefully everything after that point. Tonight when you brush your teeth, review what you observed. After you brush your teeth but before you rinse, lift your hand and brush them very carefully again with a toothbrush that is imaginary. Now pick up the glass,turn on the faucet and watch it slowly fill with cool, clear water. Drink as much as you want, until all your thirst is gone. Notice the difference this makes.

Mar 9, 2009

Running: Gust of wind lifts me up and shoves my whole body from behind. Legs going as fast as they can, now cover more length with each stride. Feet struggle to find ground to push on. I touch down and coast to a safe landing. My big friend the wind disappears ahead of me.

Swimming: my big friend the ocean lifts me up. Laughing, gasping for air, I tumble. I get spit out on the sand. Laughing too, he rises up and falls onto me again.

Sleeping, I surf the darkness on my bed all night. Waking, it all comes back to me. I step off my board to swim in my big friend the day.

Feb 27, 2009

Today at the parking lot....windy:

Suddenly, a confusing black thing at the tree tops, too fast to see. Tumbling, blown sideways and down by the wind. Black mass of feathers, stumbles, falls dangerously, and quickly flies back up and away.

As I watch it fly away, I see it all again in my mind. Tumbling through the air sideways. I see it now, a crow, now stopped and falling, upside down, changing shapes. Reaching, arching to see, flaying at the air. I see its eye for a second, its urgent expression. And in an instant curling to a ball until it faces the wind, now opening muscular feather arms. Finally safe, flying, it looks like a bird again and joins the crow I am watching fly away. Standing there, I don't know what to do next.

Just a few seconds that I relive again and again.

Feb 22, 2009

Monday. The best thing that happened today was yesterday. I spent the whole day there. This morning was so bright I had to put on sunglasses to work at my desk. The afternoon went on forever.

Sunday was sunny too. Long aimless afternoon bike ride. I stopped to talk to a midwest trucker unloading cars for a dealership. I felt good there on the side of the road. Lonely thing to be doing on a Sunday, far from home, us both. I asked how is the country? Looked at me for a second, thinking. Said, "People needing someone to talk to. People feeling bad." I rode around looking in the yards of a thousand houses. I had a donut and a glass of water from McDonalds. Sitting on the curb in the winter sun, eating. I felt good.

I went back there so often in my mind today that I decided to go there again on my bike too. I had fries this time. I felt good again as I watched traffic. Tomorrow supposed to be sunny too.

Feb 20, 2009

Today I saw some birds, not small, up higher than average, in a grey sky, windy. I have been up there. Just floating at first to watch. Then to chance a try with them, to feel what it is like to do that and to try to fit in unnoticed as one. I think it is something anyone can do.

Once a year in late summer some large white birds come to some dead trees in a swamp by my road. People gather. The people and the birds watch each other, each perched quietly together with their kind.

Their cry is not the song you might expect of a large white bird. I think of it the sound a human might make when trying to squawk.

When these white birds fly it is not the graceful soaring you might expect of a large white bird. It looks more like a newspaper being blown among the tops of the skyscrapers of windy city. Tumbling, folding and spreading, floating down and then borne high up suddenly by a draft.

There are, of course, also near me the common small birds that zip suicidally through the briar's. One can see how a large bird can float, borne up by large buoyant wings, rowing the sky. But these little birds, fat with little wings that hardly seem to do a thing for them, they are too fast for my eye and I can't see how they stay up.

These small birds can hide from the wind storm. What can the large birds who cannot fit in a nook do? Take their chances in the air instead. And being in it, feel it's air still as the eye of a cyclone and instead watch the earth turn safely beneath. And when it stops turning, come down in a place different of smell, appearance and sound, lacking the foods they require. Sea birds blown far inland. Or worse, land birds blown far out to sea.

What must it be like? Words perhaps being insufficient, nature favors them and us with song.

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