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Jul 31, 2007

July 31st, 2007

It is hot. Simply moving your diaphragm up and down by taking a breath will cause one to sweat. And of course, I could also cook a frozen pizza inside my car right about now. I came to this conclusion over lunch as I was driving into town and I had to think hard whether or not I should stop at a convenience store and grab a bottle of water for fear of sudden, mass dehydration. Stopping at stop signs felt like I was waiting at Checkpoint:Hell and I knew then that my car would have to stay at a constant speed of 40mph or higher in order to sustain the required amount of water in my body to remain conscious, and keep myself from bursting aflame.

Not a good day for the air conditioning in the Hyundai to cease functioning. Normally, I never flip it on and opt for open windows so that I can take in the wind, and the scent of the land as I roll along. I call upon this wonderful human invention just once now this summer, and what happens? It doesn't come through for me. Air conditioner, you and I are officially through. Immediately after work I will head to the store in order to stock up on deodorant and hand towels.

Also not a good day to wear a black outfit.

Action and consequence. I elected to buy a used, problematic, fuel efficient, minimal options car, and also to do as little laundry as possible. Choices. You make 'em, then deal.

Jul 27, 2007

July 27th, 2007

The sky opened up and dropped a brief, light rain over the land during the drive back to work. So light that there wasn't a need for me to roll up the window. I had my left arm resting on the window sill, my hand partly down the side of the car, and felt the cool spray of the wet road on my finger tips. I held my hand there until it was soaked and dripping, then pulled it back inside the car. It smelled like metal, and gasoline, like oil and wet rubber. I smelled the earth as we have made it.

Jul 26, 2007

July 26th, 2007

The idea of pretending, of the fantastical and make-believe. These concepts are best and most frequently seen amongst children. I grew up in a neighborhood that was overrun with kids, and all within a close age range of each other, boys and girls. Looking back I'm grateful to have been surrounded by so many imaginative and visual minds, as I'm sure they impacted my own development.

For instance, sticks of wood were not simply sticks. They were swords. Property lines were the outfield walls on a baseball diamond. The creek and the surrounding foliage in a backyard was where the crick monster lived, an entity that we would swear looked like a walking, oozing willow tree. A hollowed-out grove of bamboo was an impenetrable fortress.

Then, we grew up. Families moved out of the neighborhood into larger houses, in quieter places. Then we went to high school. Acquired boyfriends and girlfriends. College. Some of us graduated. Some of us are on our own now. Somewhere, reality had set in. Inevitably, some of us will stop using our imaginations. Some of us already have, as so can often happen when the true nature of the world has been shown as large, naked, round rock floating in a seemingly endless galaxy, a galaxy so large we can't know for sure whether or not we're really alone.

Now, we go back in our minds to those places of childhood in order to see if, like toys left out in the front yard after dark, any lessons remain to be collected.

Jul 25, 2007

July 25th, 2007

The morning is a haze with thin clouds strung out low over the horizon, making it look as if somewhere in the distance a great fire burns. The air is humid, sticks to the skin. Farmers have begun to reap their hay fields. Somewhere out in the country the red-tailed hawk circles the sky, alone, still crying out in intervals, waiting for its call to be answered.

Jul 24, 2007

July 24th, 2007

Last night as I drove out into the country, the sun was setting, although peculiarly obscured from view. Across the expanse of the western edge of sky a thin layer of clouds blocked out the sunset. However, there were two particularly interesting breaks in the clouds: two rectangular slants lined up parallel to the horizon, spaced evenly apart, and there the blazing red light from the sun shone through, and it looked as if two great, red eyes were glaring across the land. For a brief moment it felt as if someone, or something might be watching this all from a distance.

Jul 23, 2007

July 23rd, 2007

Last night I was out at local bar to see an extremely talented, up-and-coming band. The music was great, something of a blend between progressive, funk, reggae, jazz, and alternative. Looking down the bar I spotted a man I used to work with. He was there for the same reasons as I, and was waiting for the band to start.

Partway into the set a beautiful, blonde-haired hippy girl started to dance just in front of us. He looked at her, looked at me, slightly red-eyed, and said with a sly smile, "That's just not fair man. That's not right."

I looked at her and shrugged.

"I'm old enough to be her father," he said.

"Sometimes all you can do is sit back and appreciate," I said. "It's kind of like with nature. You sit back, watch it, appreciate it, and let it grow. You don't fuck with it. That's when things can go wrong."

He nodded, smiled, and took a draught from his beer.

I went on, "If you can learn to be content in that position, you'll die a happy man."

I then realized that I was giving this elder of mine some life advice.

"I agree," he said. "That's exactly it."

So he didn't mind after all. Maybe I was right.

Jul 22, 2007

July 22nd, 2007

-for Em

The morning sky is feathered with thin clouds. A paper white butterfly flutters by, then disappears into a large patch of Queen Anne's Lace. A red tailed hawk circles the sky above, its screeching call unanswered. It rounds farther into the distance until its cry can scarcely be heard. It is easy to understood how on the seventh day the Lord rested and deemed everything good.

Around noon the air cools, the sun dims behind a group of clouds. It is comfortable here, where things so clearly appear to be in rhythm. This is my country. This unmolested land is to be my own, even if only enjoyed alone.

It is sad to say that I do not know this land well. I cannot call many of the plants by their names. I do not know how they've all come to be here, what their cycles are like. At the same time I don't give it much worry. This entire landscape seems like it may have once been a blank canvass, and since then a great work of art has been performed across its prairies, its rolling hills, its valleys and knolls. I will not ask the artist to reveal the secrets that were put into his labor. Rather, I will thank him for his labor and remain silent, listening for the hawk, in anticipation of remembering what it's like to have an answered call.

Jul 19, 2007

July 19th, 2007

It is against our nature, as humans, to commit wrongdoings, whether it is done unto ourselves, or to others. I am a firm believer in that idea; it is programmed inside us. It is behind the force that moves our blood. We innately know. It is a nagging sensation, closer to us than our given names. It does not feel natural to hate, or to kill, or to harm. This concept has become more and more evident as the years pass. But then why do we still make conscious choices to do things that will bring harm to ourselves, and to others? After some sort of transgression, whether the next minute, hour, or day, we find ourselves in a great imbalance.

There is discomfort in this imbalance. As humans, prone to make mistakes, these are things we deal with. It's the stone stuck inside the shoe; the sliver caught in the palm of the hand; the eyelash swimming in the eye. We tread across the land with that stone digging into our soles. We try to mold our environment with injured hands, and try to perceive the world clearly through a blurred lens. Sometimes it's not even difficult. Sometimes we carry these burdens without giving them much thought. We grow accustomed to them. We accommodate them.

Still, try to flip the equation and eliminate regret from your vocabulary, for this is only something that humans settle on when they can't learn anything from a situation. Don't regret the mistakes. Learn from them. Learn from them right now. Take off your shoes, turn them upside down and shake them clean, and think about how next time you'll avoid the rock laden path all together.

Jul 18, 2007

July 18th, 2007

Just across the street, outside my front door, is a massive expanse of graveyard, the largest one to be found in this city. Many of the headstones date back to the middle 1800s; those are the simple ones, square, anything but ornate, and set into the soil where the grass would overtake them were the grounds not kept in good care.

There are three of these gravestones just on the edge of the yard, right off of the sidewalk. Upon learning the dates of their births and deaths, my heart sank. Each respective birth and death happening in the same year: 1880, 1889, and 1894. Born July 11th, died July 17th. Born September 5th, died September 8th. Born December 17th, died December 19th. All infants.

Much worse, they were of the same family.

I had to steady myself. A fourteen year span, three children lost. I had to believe that for the three that had not made it past their first week of life on this earth, there must've been five or six others, who during that fourteen year span, were conceived, birthed, and had survived. I had to believe that, in the end, the world is not so cruel.

Jul 17, 2007

July 17th, 2007

I play an online computer game where characters with specific abilities, controlled by other users around the world, often band together to complete a series of tasks or missions. It is interesting to see group dynamics there on such a trivial and pixelated scale. One player last night commented on how he felt "useless," when as a result of an unfortunate in-game event, he was unable to carry out his required task.

For some of us I suppose it is easy to feel useless in relation to other human beings in our lives. We often ask ourselves, what must I do in order to feel like I belong? Like I am connected to all of this ordered chaos? I find it simpler and less exhausting to worry little about that fact, and to instead ensure that indeed my existence isn't a hindrance to anyone else's. That is doing my job, fills in a neat little nook that actually counts for something.

Jul 13, 2007

July 13th, 2007

The Perseid meteor showers in the middle of August are supposed to be especially brilliant this year. I hope to find a nice patch of land well outside the city and set down a blanket and lie down on my back from dusk until dawn. Supposedly at peak time people will be able to see a few falling stars every minute. For each dusty streak I see I mean to attach to it something I'm thankful for. A person, an idea, an experience, a feeling, a phrase, a word, a book, a favorite childhood stuffed animal, empty space, the star itself and this will continue for hours and I will bathe in it all as the sky falls. To be appreciative until the lights go out, for at that point it won't matter, where I might not ever have the chance to sit under this Midwestern sky again.

Jul 12, 2007

July 12th, 2007

- for Jade

A look out over the open expanse of farmland reveals that still, the earth has not soaked up enough rain and refreshment this summer. It might seem that not enough progress has made. The storm clouds huddle together like a herd of elephants, and pass by without much effect, emptying upon the land only enough water to wet the dry topsoil. And of course, having the luxury of knowledge from recent years, it is simple to settle on the idea of what could be. How much more could be reaped of this land is evident. It is the potential, that potential which comes with the changing seasons, the potential in all people to change. But that is just it: potential. A prospect, an idea, that which might be. The truth of it is--whether it is the corn stalk or the shadow of a promise or a human being--all one has is what is there in the now, right there in their midst. Let the sleeping dog remain in his slumber, until it is time for him to rise.

Jul 10, 2007

July 10th, 2007

I stand out underneath an open expanse of sky, the stars' shimmering unimpeded, bathing in the dark of night, in the absence of street lights. Clouds creep out from the western horizon, the thin, grey veil wraps around the dome of the sky. Within minutes the sky clears again, revealing once more countless pinpoints of celestial beauty. From one end of the field to another, crickets call out to each other. The sounds, smells, and the view vibrate a chord deep within my bones, and I once again feel in rhythm with the cycle of this life. This is what I need, want, and desire. Nothing more. This is a true cleansing, my lunar baptism.

Jul 9, 2007

Deterioration of Youth

The wind relents in the middle of the second nine. Three friends and I, disc golfing on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Their wives at home, there is only us, and the dying wind, and our awareness of our age and how things have changed. Today the sun blesses all who tread beneath it.

We overtake three teens dressed in black, two guys and a girl, the same group we'd seen a few holes back. One of them had asked us for an extra beer. There was one can left, and if it weren't for that fact Luther might've furnished him with one. I'd have asked for his ID. When we come upon them the second time they have just finished smoking a joint, and aren't too successful at trying to disguise the fact.

We ignore and move on and Luther asks me if they had been smoking. I nod and say nothing and we move on.

Two holes later, after I'd had my first throw, I watch a young man sprint from his car to where my disc rests. He stoops low in his stride to snatch it up and whirls on his heels back towards the vehicle, no moment of hesitation to heed my calls. I am a torn human being.

I tell the other guys what I've witnessed walk down the road. The car is now parked a few hundred yards ahead and its engine is still warm when we get there and the car is empty. I deduce the thief is in the company of at least two others for the passenger side front seat had been pushed forward to let at least one person from out the back.

A small crowd of teenage boys gathers when seeing our interest in this car. Steve explains, and I sit atop the trunk. We will wait as long as the thief can. I brood, and remain there, over principle.

We decide to split up, canvass the entire park. Thirty minutes through trails snaking alongside a wilting river, under the cover of oak and maple, fern, and brush, no luck. I am a provoked animal, and I am harmless. People begin to follow me with their eyes, the sight of a man desperate, unsure of what he's actually lost. Though not in dismay over the value of the lost item, but the greater idea behind it, and this gnawing 'conviction to deal with the world's wrongs when they come up,' as a dear friend put it so well.

Just before giving up I overtake a group of four boys in their late teens. The thief is the alpha in the group. Politely I ask if we can talk. He barks defensively while I try to keep the event from escalation. My friends fall in behind, and Luther screams at the alpha from the rear. I ask Luther for silence.

The thief's friends shrink while I talk sense and shame into their leader's head. I question them and their company and they shrink further and say they want no part in this. There is nothing else in the world but these four youths, and the prospect of confrontation. There is no sound, no smells, just heat of the sun and my heavy heart. Denials ensue until finally I convince him to take me to where he had the disc stashed.

We walk there side by side, the thief and I, not a foot apart. Could've been hand in hand. From the corner of my eye I watch and wait for him to take a swing, hoping I have the reflexes to duck out of the way. It is most tense crossing the narrow bridge over the dribbling water.

In the woods he shows me where he tossed the disc. And there it is. I hesitate and wonder how desperate a liar has to be in order to be trusted again. He picks it up and holds it out for me. I thank him. My heart rate returns to normal, the body cools, and the pity that had been stayed by anger rises.

We walk back to the thief's car, side by side. His head hangs low. I tell him to be thankful that I am who I am, that my friends are who they are. I tell him to be thankful that he's not laying in a puddle of blood. I tell him to think about how I could've been anyone, and how he can be, too. I tell him to think about decisions and choices and how they might affect him, and others he doesn't know. He says no words, his eyes angled down into the asphalt.

My three friends and I get into the jeep we rode there in, without finishing our game. I cover my face with both hands laugh. I wish to be a fly on a rock in that moment, sitting in the midst of conversation between the alpha and his pack. A tear slips out of my right eye and I wipe it away but not quickly enough before Steve, who sits next to me, sees it. I make sure to laugh all the harder, to deceive him into thinking that this indeed is a tear of joy.

July 9th, 2007

This morning the clouds were spread thin like cream cheese across the western sky, such a rich texture. The forecast had called for isolated thunderstorms all day long, and one by one the storm clouds lumbered in; by God they've finally gotten it right, and the heavens fall and the sky groans even as I write this. I never turn the lights on in my office, so there is little light spilling in save for the orange din of the fluorescent bulbs in the hallway and the dim glow from this computer screen. This is a welcome respite from the sun who has been rather oppressive as of late.

Jul 6, 2007

July 6th, 2007

A single, white feather drifts across tufts of dry grass. It rests, turns on end, coaxed, lilted by a soft wind. It is the only white I see in nature today as the sky has been laid bare, the thunderclouds from last night having long since dispersed. Rain didn't fall long, or hard enough for one to notice much difference in the lushness of plant life. Cornstalks aren't reaching up out of the earth nearly as far as they were last year by this time. And how could they with little rain, abundant sunshine for their sustenance? A tease, it has been, this great summer.

Jul 5, 2007

July 5th, 2007

There have been wars going on throughout the last six Independence Day celebrations. Afghanistan in the earlier years, and Iraq more recently. Plagued by an annoying summer virus, I refrained from the festivities and fireworks display yesterday evening. With a box of kleenex and a garbage can overstuffed with tissue, I am reminded that even in the midst of summer, winter's bite can still reach.

As the skies darkened, I waited in anticipation for the first thunderclap that would signal the start of the fireworks. Just a few miles from where they'd be setting off the rockets, I could hear the explosions well. The higher-decible explosions sounded like gunfire, one after another, crack, crack-crack. The lower-decible pops sounded like bombs going off in the distance. Every now and then, the whoosh of sparks burning in the air, the sound of a flying mortar round.

Last year at this time, as I watched the display with a friend who'd be leaving to join the armed forces in a few weeks, I remembered thinking about how the sounds of our evening must sound much like some of the neighborhoods in Iraq, as the machines of war passed through. This year I felt it.

Jul 2, 2007

July 2nd, 2007

I have this irrational fear of being killed in a head on collision. It's irrational because it takes place on a single-lane country road, where an oncoming vehicle at the last second veers into my lane. Purposefully. The other driver is committing suicide, and has no reservations about taking someone else with them. Couldn't place where this originates, but we see examples all the time. Domestic murder-suicides. Columbine. Virginia Tech.

Early last week, a singer from a local band killed himself. Possibly this is why the fear had resettled upon my mind during the drive back to work. What does that say about humans in general when, for one out of every hundred of us or so, life has so little to offer that it is decided pointless to stick around?

Then I turn to animals, and wonder why we don't see this behavior. Say what you want about the family cat darting across the highway, but don't think I'd dare to call that suicide. And there's not much else out there to support the idea, either. Maybe it's because they are not conscious enough. Maybe the animals can't understand the true state of things as humans do. Or possibly it's the other way around.