Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Truth About Beauty.



The woman in the photo isn’t wearing any make-up, or at least not a lot of it, and she wears no jewelry.  She is far too skinny and she doesn’t look like she’s eaten well lately or for that matter, slept in a couple of days. Last year, even though she was out of work with an injury for a few months she made over eighty million dollars in the United States alone.

I can be made to look like a super model in a photo if someone who knows how to run a computer works on it long enough.  Here is an average looking woman who is magically transformed into someone who she wouldn’t know if they passed on the street.


Most of the people you see in movies and on television you really wouldn’t know them in person. The women in particular are made out to be images not real women.  The computers are programmed to produce images that we have been programmed to accept as beautiful.  The truly odd thing about the beauty thing is not that we continue to expect it from ordinary women who will never be able to achieve the illusion the media offers, but now we’re slowly creeping towards setting those same goals for men as well. Haven’t you seen the commercial where the man is in a rocking chair because he has grey hair yet as soon as he colors his hair he’s instantly mobbed by a model? The object men are supposed to desire is not something obtainable without a computer and now we men are buying into the same game we’ve forced women to play.

Has this produced a nation of beautiful people?


This is a video by a woman named Cameron Russell. She’s a very wealthy woman, who at the age of twenty-five, is nearly spent at her chosen profession. She’s burned out and she’s had it with the way things are, even as they continue to go her way.






Now we have skin cream for me. There is a perfume marketed towards young men that claims beautiful women, who do not really exist, will fall out of the sky if they use it. There are High Schools who have blocked the use of this stuff in school, not because of the damage to their roofs or ceilings due to dropping beauties but simply because the guys think it is not working they aren’t wearing enough of it.

So where will this all lead us?

Along with great skin and beautiful hair there is also the perception that only the young are desirable. Those of us who are not too skinny, are imperfect, and who lack the genetics or the computer skills to have high cheek bones, are simply nonentities. There are even some companies who have written us “others” off and wouldn’t want us wearing their products. They’ve done what they can and we are simply…well, now what they or anyone else are looking for, if you believe their CEO.


When Adele broke into the music scene in a big way there were those who said she was too big. “Fat” was a word that was tossed around even as she was scooping up awards usually handed out to made up women who look like heroin addicts and who synch their way through their shows.


So what does it say when a woman who makes a living doing this poses naturally? She has cashed in on the fame and fortune of her showmanship and her ability to change costumes faster than us uglies can Google her real name. But she seems to be, like Russell, sick to death of what it’s doing to her and to everyone else.

I may be overly optimistic. I am not known for it.


Oddly, the world I live in gets more real the less attention I pay to mainstream media. The same computer systems that stream photos of invented people also stream the music of the unknown and unheralded. The same social media system that allows for the superficial to become supreme also allows me to meet people whose passions; writing, dog rescue, and healthy living.

I suspect things will not get better before they get worse, but at the same time, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. When a less than beautiful girl was nominated for High School Homecoming Queen,  the students took it and ran with it, and elected her, not because they thought he was beautiful, but because they were sick to death of all the meanness.

And so this ends as it begins; with the photo of an average girl who somehow became something much different. The first became popular because of her looks and ability to sell herself as something she was not. The second became famous, at least for a little while, because as a culture, we might be waking up a bit.



Take Care,

Mike

Discussing PMS With Your Girlfriend.



Don't!

Friday, July 26, 2013

I Fought the Lawn and the Fawn Won



Mowing is a chore I dare not procrastinate in doing. If I don’t mow every seven days then by the eight day the Bahia grass in my yard will be knee high and as thick as thieves in Congress.  This stuff sprouts a stalk that splits at the top where the seeds come out and once it tassels out it is as tough as wire to cut with a mower.  No, on the seventh day, and preferably on the sixth, mow I must and today is the sixth day. The next time I mow it will be August which is the last month this year for weekly mowing.

It has rained nearly every day this month and it has rained very hard several days this month. July is the wettest month of the year in South Georgia and it is historically the hottest. It’s been too cloudy to have the killer heat but the grass keep growing without it. I drag out of bed late, eat breakfast late, and by the time the espresso kicks in, it’s already past nine in the morning. That is super late for me to get started on anything, really.

I mow a tiny section of my neighbor’s property because if I don’t mow it with my mower he will mow it with his tractor. The tractor tears the driveway up and I rather just go ahead and mow it. I also push the mower down the driveway a bit just to keep the grass from taking over too much and it makes things look nicer. The driveway borders the pond, which is usually dry but isn’t this year. Earlier in the day I was discussing the Alligator population and these thoughts are still lingering when movement in the corner of my eye lets me know something is moving near the pond.

There isn’t a reason not to bail. If it is harmless I’m out nothing and if it’s a gator I best be moving. Hell, the possibility of a gator attack is so low I wouldn’t recommend anything to prevent it, except don’t swim after dark. But something just moved in my periphery and I am going to find out what it is from a distance.

Whatever it is has gotten into the water and left really large ripples, small waves actually, and so it might be a large gator after all. I leave the mower running and start trying to get a closer look. The brush is heavy as hell but there! Something is there! It’s brown and it’s a mammal and oh wow! It’s a fawn! A doe has left her fawn at the edge of the pond and me mowing has spooked it.

My phone is in the house, by the way, so no photos or film.

But the fawn feels trapped. It’s panicked and tries to go out into the pond so I back off and head east. I want to herd the fawn to the west so it can get into the woods. As planned, the noise of the mower to the north and the approach of a human from the east drives the fawn west towards the woods and where mom is likely fretting away at all the commotion.  The fawn crashes into my neighbor’s fence twice , stumbles and falls to the ground. Damn. The fawn just lies there and I am hoping it doesn’t have a broken leg and I am hoping the mutts haven’t spotted it.

I try not to say it but each time something happens that involves the dogs the contrast is there; Bert would have never let a wild animal get that close to the house without hammering it with a bark and going crazy. The dogs totally miss the antics of the fawn. Moreover, it says a lot about how safe the doe feels hiding the fawn within fifty feet of the house. Clearly, she feels like the dogs help her more than they are likely to hurt the fawn.

Before I fenced off the back acre and before Bert and Sam aged I watched as a herd of deer crossed the back acre on the way to the pond. They didn’t seem to care that the dogs were there and when the deer were coming back, I watched as Bert raised his head to look at the deer, and then went back to sleep. I opened the door to take some photos of the deer and suddenly the dogs were both “BARK! BARK! BARK!” at the deer as if they just noticed them.

Busted.


So it isn’t like I expect the dogs to go wild every time a deer shows up, which isn’t rare, but I would like some sign they know there is something on the property.  The fawn rests for a moment then it gets up and gallops along the fenceline and into the woods. Mom shows up and they disappear.

Fawns are such pretty creatures.  If this one would have broken a leg I have no idea what I would have done but there’s no way I would let it get back into the woods. I can see me trying to get a fawn into my truck. I can see me trying to keep on until its leg healed. None of these images look like a happy ending in the making.

Back and forth, back and forth, around and around, the same old path for the same old chore; I’ve changed the pattern a few times but this one is the quickest. Once a week since May means I’ve done this at least ten times this year and I will likely do it four times in August, three times in September, and once in October.  Eight more times around the yard as if it were some religious ritual.  I tried not mowing before but the yard gets so bushy the dogs begin to get more ticks so…

The sky clouds up as I put the mower away. It will rain again today and maybe again tomorrow.  But today I got to see a fawn and helped it own its merry way. I wonder if mom will put it back near the house again. I’ll have my phone ready next time.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Is Concrete and What Is Not.

A friend of mine asked me to speak to someone he does not really know. This is about concrete and I do know concrete. I also know that he’s doing her a favor by not letting her submit a contract for bidding until she knows a little more about prices and quantities. He can’t do this because, technically, he might cost his employer money but the reality of the situation is no one really wants to see anyone get hurt in the business world, at least not around here. It’s already going to cost her a lot more money than she likes. It’s my chosen responsibility to explain this to her while not giving away who asked me to do it. I am the disinterested party here. I try to be firm but friendly without it seeming like I’m trying to be a little too social. My personal life is a little too much of train wreck right now for me to flirt with any woman much less one who I am doing commerce with.
One thing I’ve noticed about a certain percentage of married women is they’ll get into a conversation with a man and wait a while to let him know she’s married. I think they just want to know he’s interested or that she’s interesting, and then “I” becomes “we”. This woman lets me know up front she’s acting in the interest of her husband and her family. He’s over in Texas buying equipment and she’s here trying to nail down their infrastructure. I like her honesty. She’s plain spoken and she isn’t very happy with the business rules and regulations that are not going to go her way, much less the idea that concrete isn’t cheap or easy. I tell her that I’m a customer, just like herself, and I was cross referencing some prices.

The conversation drifts towards the overall state of her trying to get business licenses and labor laws that sort of thing, and suddenly she opens her phone and shows me photos of a desk she built because she likes to work with wood, and I realize she enjoys talking to me. A ten minute conversation stretches into a conversation that wanders a bit, but it’s friendly not flirtatious. I don’t mention the fact that she’s pretty. I don’t compliment her on her looks at all and it’s not that she’s beautiful, but she’s wearing no make-up, no jewelry, no ornaments of any sort and her hair is pulled back, tight and severe from her face yet this is a face that a man could sit across from at a table and be enthralled. She has lively blue eyes that seem to dance a bit when she smiles.

At the same time this is someone who does her homework so she closes the desk photos on her smart phone and starts looking at concrete prices as I have suggested that we both do. She had let a subcontractor give her quotes but now she knows what I am telling her is the bare bones truth. She’s got a head on her for business and we talk for a while about what she’s done with what she’s got on her place, she and her husband, that is. She catches herself, that one time, and mentions his name, touches base with her reality, and I know I’ve caught her drifting a bit into a world where she’s doing her own thing. This isn’t flirting still, but she’s beginning to think of the things she does as her own and she reels herself back in.

I don’t offer her anything at all about my personal life because it isn’t something I would do anyway. I’m sure as hell not going down that road, even if I thought it was open, and there is nothing in this woman’s voice or demeanor that suggests there might be, but damn, you know what? The thought comes unbidden and unsummoned; this is a hell of a woman.




I’ve photographed enough wildlife to know better than try to enter the scene because it will break the spell. What I admire about this woman, this person, is the life she is describing of working with tools, bringing food from the earth, landscaping and planting trees. She mentions her daughters but doesn’t reveal anything about them to me at all, and caution is a worthy trait in anyone who is a parent. We talk about property taxes and where they are highest and lowest in the area and this is someone who is thorough in her research. There comes a time in a conversation where there is a natural pause and everything that I believe that is right tells me to leave now. I hand her a piece of paper with various prices that have been charged by a couple of companies and I tell her that she cannot tell anyone where she obtained the information. She studies the figures against what she found online and asks me point blank who I am working for. I tell her that while a company protects itself the people who run that company protects the potential customers and in this, I am helping a friend.
“And I owe you what in this?” She asks and the way her eyebrow raises I can tell she isn’t used to people just doing the right thing. The woman takes a step back and offers to hand the paper back to me. She’ll take a loss in money before she sells anything of herself, however small.
“If you see a chance to help someone in this situation then do it and ask for nothing in return, and I will have been repaid.” It’s time to go. It has been time to go for five minutes, maybe longer, and I wonder if she knows it. Businesslike and professional, we shake hands and part ways.


I make the phone call and tell my friend the contract will not be submitted and he sighs. I suspect very strongly that he found himself caught between his job and his ethics. It is a perilous place to be.

It’s an odd form of relief that I feel, a mixed emotion, because I am glad she is married. I don’t want to be attracted to anyone at all right now and any excuse to keep from extending my emotions out past what you read in front of you is a good excuse. I feel burned. I feel burned out. I feel empty inside. But at the same time I am capable of seeing good in people, of seeing good in woman, and this gives me some sort of hope, like a man on a deserted island, who finds a piece of a treasure map, but still has no boat.



No, it isn’t very much at all, but right now, it’s all there is.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mutts and Moonlight



Moonlight affected Bert like no other dog. After he was gone Sam and Lucas kinda settled into a routine where unless there was a seriously bright moon they weren’t going to get too terribly jacked up about the whole thing. It’s the brightness where there ought to be dark thing that really gets to them or at least that’s my theory. Because they can see when they usually cannot see they think they do see. Even when there isn’t anything at all there they’ll go to the window, look out, and wow, I can see!

Bert couldn’t see worth a damn on his best days. Most dogs, unless you own a sight hound, are not long range visual creatures. Oh, but I do so happen to own a Sight Hound and that would be Sam. Greys hunt by vision so along with Bert’s sense of smell and hearing, Sam packed a good set of eyes. Between the two they were deadly to small mammals. If you’ve never witnessed two predators hunting as a team you cannot truly appreciate the power dogs have. It’s an awesome thing, really, and as someone who wants to live with large dogs for the rest of his life I realize with that power comes responsibility. Yet once Lucas arrived the older dogs were getting into their dotage and Lucas never really learned to hunt with a sense of proficiency. It’s just as well considering his size because he could bring back elephants.

I suspect Lillith was left by herself for hours on end and she never really learned to socialize until she arrived here. At first I thought she was just a little shy but as it turns out Lillith’s comfort zone looks a lot like mine in that she would rather be by herself. I’ve gotten her trained to stay in the same room with the other two dogs and myself and she seems to really enjoy our company. Lillith loves Lucas. They are constant companions and although she’s given away twice again her weight Lucas allows her to wear him out. She gives Sam kisses even when he snarls at her and I think this is her way of letting him know she cares about him even though the one and only time they tied up fighting she nearly cut his throat. My sweet little baby girl can and will defend herself with extreme prejudice and Sam is elderly. He hasn’t attacked her again. The chick in the pack is strapping and packing and it’s a good idea to remember that she is only small in relative way.

But the moon, remember we were talking about the moon? We were actually talking about the full moon and Lillith has discovered, much to her delight and to my dismay, that she likes moonlight. Last night I work up to discover her standing on her back legs with her nose against the screen, looking out over the silvered landscape. Bert did this, many years ago, and I remember the silhouette of his peaked ears against the backdrop of the night. As he aged Bert liked going out late at night less and less, as this also happens to most of us. Lillith reminded me of another dog as she stood looking out into the night and I felt an urge, a compulsion, to release her into her chosen element.

Lucas went with her but I knew he would be back soon, and he was. I left the back door open to the night, knowing it will teach her not to stay in all night, knowing that this is a bad habit and I need to break it, but I also know this is a part of who Lillith is; she likes this. And she likes it a lot. Lucas comes in and puts one of his massive paws on the edge of the bed and then, finding no resistance, puts both his front paws on the bed. He leans over and snuffles me. It’s far too warm to have him on the bed but this is something Lucas likes. I move over and a hundred pounds of dog takes over half the bed. Bert-like, he has to turn around three times before dropping like a rock.

Lillith is my smallest dog but she’s still pushing over fifty pounds. That size of mammal in the dark is fairly safe. I am not worried about coyotes or owls getting her and I’m decently sure there isn’t a feline out there willing to cross over the fence to tangle with the Pibbilated Princess of mine. Before a predator of any size moved in or around my territory it would have to make certain, really certain, Lucas wasn’t close by. Lucas is much bigger than any coyote I have ever seen and size matters in canine fights. No, Lillith is safe in the woods and she has back-up not too far away. I drift in and out of sleep but I know she isn’t back yet because I can’t hear her breathing.

All three dogs have very distinctive breath patterns. Sam is old and he snores mostly. Lucas is large and breathes like a sleeping dragon. Lillith is a light sleeper and when she has dreams she has a little yelp. Lucas, in those odd times he is actually a floor dog, snores loudly but has learned I’ll elbow him for snoring on the bed.

Sleep has over taken me when Lillith returns, wet from rain or dew, but very excited about something. She kisses and wiggles her way closer to me and Lucas tries to push her away with his nose but he isn’t serious. They trade nose rubs, greet one another with affection, and Lucas goes back to sleep as Lillith squirms around a bit. It took her a couple of months to be this aggressive about asking for attention or getting on the bed and it’s still fairly rare. I’ll have to wash the sheets, again, tomorrow, but tonight there is a little girl dog who wants to get up close with her dog dad.

In a few seconds my wandering daughter is in a deep sleep. Lucas has returned to slumber also, and now I can hear Sam over on his blanket, snoring softly. From the open window moonlight floods into the room and I fight off the urge to go to the window and look out, just in case there is something, or someone, to see.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Missing Rat's Nest.



It doesn’t seem like 2010 ought to have been three years ago but it was. That was when I took down the Oak in the front yard. I used the stump as a pepper garden the first two growing seasons after that but this year the stump was falling apart. There’s an old saying the stump of a tree will pester you for as long as the tree itself stood but I know this isn’t true. Most people try to burn stumps away but all they’re doing is cauterizing it the wood making it less easy for insects and bacteria to break it down. Two years as a planter did the trick and now the stump is surrendering large chunks of the main roots.

It seems wrong. It seems like it should be tougher to pry the old wood out of the ground. There ought to be a price paid in sweat to remove the bones of an ancient Oak but there isn’t. With nearly no effort and no use of an axe I quickly fill up half a wheelbarrow with moldy wood, some of it with shelf fungus still attached, and that’s the last testament of a tree. I had some great fires out of the wood and got some great exercise splitting it all up.

The wood split easily enough but there was just so much of it. The tree was hundreds of years old and even though it was dying slow there was a lot of life left in it. I stacked the wood up near the house and on cold days it was nice to have. But on very cold days a fireplace doesn’t heat an entire house so the heat pump sucked smoke out of the chimney and that was a disaster. I do realize that for thousands of years people lived without central air and heating and I bet if we had to we could too.

Last night I sent a text to Peg asking her what time she wanted me to come over and help clear a rat’s nest out from behind her dog pen and received no reply. I send her another message this morning and an email, too, but still nothing. Finally, I called her and I think she kind of forgot that she wanted me to come over and she, like me, is in a yardwork dither because of all the rain. Peg gas spent more time, effort and energy trying to keep her dogs from destroying her house when if she put that energy to use training the dogs there wouldn’t be a problem. But I just work there.
It’s the Alcatraz for mutts, that dog pen, and for that matter, her whole backyard is like this. She’s got fencing and wire and all sorts of anti-dog devices put up everywhere. Her two dogs are good people but she doesn’t spend enough time with them to make a difference. We have to take down four pieces of time and three pieces of metal grating. All of these are attached by some means or method and no two are the same.
Peg is beginning to worry me. Her mind isn’t nearly as sharp as it once was and this sort of thing is happening more often these days. There was a time, not long ago either, this woman would have all the right tools, have a plan, know what came out first, knew how to put things back, and man, there wasn’t a second of wasted time or effort or a drop of sweat misplaced. Now she forgets the rights tools, forgets how she put things together to begin with and seems lost. Of course, she isn’t taking any direction or advice from me so I let her run her trip. We pull all that stuff out and… there is no rat’s nest there. There are a couple of pieces of debris that might have or might not have been dragged there by a rat but no nest. She’s been telling me for days this thing would be massive and dog only knows what we would find there.  The absence of the nest seems to confuse her and it irritates her, too. We put all the stuff back together again and I leave.

I remember when she and I discussed the idea of the two of us taking the Oak down. We had taken a giant down before, because it had died, and that act of teamwork helped define who we were as friends. That job was too much for us but we got away with it because we’re good and because we’re always so well prepared but she didn’t want to tempt it again. Now, as I was driving back from her house, and it is only a few miles, I realize this might be the beginning of more than a question of physical ability but more of a human mind beginning its decline.

There have been older friend of mine who began that dark journey but Peg is close to my age. Surely not, but like the first close friend to need glasses or a hearing aid or a walker, and finally you know someone close whose mind begins to clutter and drift. Not Peg. There would not be a greater injustice in my life than to lose so great a mind. She’s a PhD and she always works so hard at keeping herself sharp. Not Peg. Pick someone else. You can’t have her.

But no one picked the Oak in the front to die either. Limbs fell, others died off, pieces rotted away until finally I had to take it down before it became a hazard every time I walked out of the front door. I still look up when I leave every day, still miss that canopy hanging over me, and I realize that I am beginning to miss someone who is still alive and still my friend.

As I walk by where the tree once stood and a stump once grew peppers I realize in a few years all trace of that tree will be forever gone.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Fought The Lawn and The Lawn Won.






It would help if the weather would cooperate with my plans for yard work. True enough, unlike the rest of the country South Georgia is experiencing one of the mildest Summers on record. The rain has beaten the heat into submission and we haven’t seen the usual day in and day out triple digit and mid ninety degree furnace weather that we always get this time of year.  Today I went all day without AC and that is rare for this late in July, truly.

But the rain has fallen and fallen and fallen which means while mowing isn’t the hellish endurance test it has always been in the Summer, it has to be done more frequently. An inch of rain has come to visit nearly every day and so my plants, the flowers and tomatoes and the coffee plants, are all doing very well indeed. The downside is all of the work I have done on the back acre to have a trail is being undone. And the grass needs to be cut every single week or it’s knee high after the eighth day. I have mowed at least once a week since May and after mowing today we got another inch of rain.

Usually I have to water my compost pile once a week but this year I haven’t watered it at all. It’s melting away in front of my eyes.  The compost that is generated by the pile is decomposing faster than I can add to it. I had one hell of a good start this year to the compost pile and I thought I might have enough for another raised bed for peppers next year but at this rate I’ll be lucky to have any to spare at all. I am growing some of the best soil ever but it’s disappearing in front of my eyes.

It’s a good thing I started clearing the back when I did because every living thing that is green is supercharged this year. The downside is the trees, who have suffered through drought for a decade aren’t strong enough to handle their own limbs. They’ve filled up and filled out but the infrastructure they’ve grown is accustomed to a scarcity of water.  The trees are drinking deep and their limbs are falling off, breaking off, with branches filled with green leaves. If we get a hurricane or a tropical storm by the end of the Summer this place is going to be a mess.

I need some mindless activity and mowing is just that. Back and forth and around and around, mowing is something I have always hated. I still hate it but this is activity that has a purpose and it keeps me busy and I need it. My personal life is still a wreck and this is something that I can do to fill some space and to think a bit. But the rain falls and falls and falls some more so I have to stop three times to let the rain stop for a while, then mow again. It’s frustrating and it irritates the hell out of me not to be able to finish something I started.

It is so very odd for the temperature to be so low. The humidity is still jacked up so high it’s not funny but the killer heat isn’t here today and hasn’t been bad all month. The rest of the country has been getting our Summer and I won’t complain at all about that.  But we’ve been getting the rain that was destined for places that have damn near burned down and that’s just wrong.

Living in the woods means I get plants that aren’t grass and I have places where grass is scared to grow. Thick green vines and fern like stuff sprouts out of the shadows of trees and if left unchecked become thickets that a dog can disappear into and never be seen again. Those spade leafed vines that cover every damn thing come up from odd corners and even in the middle of the yard. These things can kill young trees they so cover them so I cut them every chance I get. I’ve nearly driven tem to extinction on my property and that is no mean feat.

The way I figure it, if a man can push a mower for three hours straight then he can run for that long, and maybe that man can do a marathon. He could at least run for a couple of hours and that could get him half way there if not more. This is training with grass stains but the rain keeps breaking it up for me. I really need some exhaustion right now and all I am getting is soaking wet.

At the end of the day, right as the heaven really open up, I managed to finish the yard. The back acre still needs attention but it will not get it today. I am wet and I smell bad even to me. The rain begins and the dogs race me to the house. Lillith doesn’t like to get wet, Sam hates bad weather, and Lucas doesn’t mind anything like that. He pads alongside of me, pushing me a bit, hoping I’ll push back but I don’t feel like wrestling in the mud with a large dog right now. I feel like running, walking, mowing, doing anything at all to be in motion, but not mud wrestling.

The rain continues. The Weather Channel keeps promising drier weather but the rain doesn’t stop. All my plans for working outside turn into plans for working inside but it really isn’t the same is it? I am accustomed to the heat but I am glad for the break. I wish it could be cooler without being so damn wet but it looks like one comes with the other.

I will have to mow again this month. Then maybe five times in August. Then four times in September. Then at least once in October. Ten more mowings this year before I push the mower back into the shed until May.

I’m more tired of not working than I am from working today.

Take Care,

Mike

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Doesn't Anyone Have An Editor At That Station?

One of the best proposals,,,EVER!

Friday Firesmith Fail.



There was already a good start to stuff in the firepit when I took down two smallish trees and added them. But trees grow once they get on the ground and these were no exception. What I mean by this is that when a tree is standing tall and healthy it doesn’t look as large as it does when it hits the ground. Out of the two trees I got four pieces that were over ten feet apiece and a lot of smaller sections as well. But that’s not a problem, really.

The problem came when a fully healthy limb fell and I had to add it to the pile. Suddenly there was a lot of green stuff in the firepit and not a whole lot of the little dry stuff that is like baby formula for fires. I despise using accelerants on fires. Gasoline is a sign of desperation or outright stupidity.  If a man cannot coax a fire out of one matchstick he has no business tending to a fire to begin with.

So! Time to eat those words because this fire simply was not going to start. Nope, nuh-uh. Not at all, actually.

But let’s make it even more interesting by having it rain an inch every single day of the week and instead of burning the green stuff in the pile began to rot. This meant the fire that had been hard to start was going to be a lot harder to start the longer I waited. I dragged the propane torch out and gathered some small sticks in a pile and let her burn. An hour later after more work than most people put into building a house I had a very small fire burning independent of the torch.

Clouds gathered.


Now, the way things usually work in a fire is that the smaller stuff will burn more quickly and go first and the larger stuff will catch on and then the fire really gets cranked up. But in this large pile of brush there was some larger stuff underneath the bramble that caught on and all the green skinny stuff on top of the pile petulantly refused to burn. This made it impossible for me to feed the fire because it was trapped, trapped mind you, under stuff that would not burn at all.

Does this seem right to you?

So there I am, hand feeding, damn near spoon feeding, tiny twigs into this fire trying to get it up far enough to break the bramble barrier and suddenly Lillith goes into torpedo mode. Of all the dogs I have ever loved, Lillith loves fire the most. No matter how warm it is outside she likes to be by a fire. When she takes off like she’s fired out of a cannon I notice. Up through the ponds and lakes that inhabit my driveway these days is the FedEx truck,  Lillith and the two male dog now decide to declare war on FedEx. I already have. Since the rains began they’ve delivered every package to my neighbor’s house because it’s closer and easier than going all the way to my house.  Finally, they’ve decided to make the trip in, but at the worst moment. I call Lillith back and just like I want her to do she comes back and sits at my feet, looking back at the truck with bad intent.
Now, I am going to be friendly with the truck driver but he’s got a reason for being here past delivery. I can see my box but he’s making a show looking for it. All the while he’s asking me who owns all the land around here and if we let anyone hunt out here and what’s all that past the gate while we’re talking about it?

I tell him it’s none of my business what goes on past that gate because it isn’t my property. He looks around as if he has just noticed there isn’t anyone else alive anywhere near where we’re standing. That’s my box, the one over there on top of the others, like if you were going to deliver it next that is where you’d put it.

Let’s move on, shall we? Kthxbye.

The fire has missed me. It’s grown weaker and small since I left and I try to coax it into being something that can been seen from ten feet away. It grows but grows very slowly and I realize I’ll be out of small fuel stuff very soon. The fire catches just enough to give me hope. The sky grows dark. The fire begins to get bigger and bigger. And just as I am about to give up, it roars into life and burns through the bramble.

Yay me!

For a full hour I have fire. The fire leaps up into the sky, devours all the green stuff and I am down to nothing but the big stuff then, which is blowing with orange fire, quite nicely, if I do say so myself. The heaven open up and rain comes down like it is falling off the side of a mountain during a hurricane, an earthquake, and the Texas Republicans thinking it’s a woman.  Not just hard rain, but rain that can drive nails into granite rocks. Not just rain but rain that can wash away anvils chained to Wal-Mart scooter riders. Not just rain, but fire killing, frog drowning, tree uprooting, thundering and lightning, and all hell breaking loose rain.
The fire sputters and it dies.

So here it is Saturday morning and I finally got the fire going again. There are seven really large pieces of wood left and the skies are clouding up again. At this point, I’m ready to start selling these pieces of wood as rain generating hardwood.

Any takers?

Take an umbrella,

Mike

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Our Old Friend Fear,and You, and Me"





There’s a keening sound, like the sound in a man’s ears when he’s too close to a gunshot and I’m up before the dogs are. The backdoor is open and I let the flood of canine activity pass by me before I move. Lucas’ bark tears through the darkness and I wait for some reaction. Lillith sounds off a second later but Sam is silent. Where is Sam? I pick the shotgun up and listen. Sam is still in here with me. He’s milling around in the bedroom and I can barely see his silhouette against window. It’s nearly a new moon, it’s cloudy, and the night is as black as death.

The L Hounds are in the backyard and I assume nothing human is with them. I could care less if a stray mammal enters the yard because Lucas and Lillith are proof against that. But what was that sound? Something set them off. Something woke me up. Something is out there and I do not like it. I enter the living room a quarter step at the time. My ears tell me Sam is behind me, dawdling, not wanting to go out, and as long as I don’t back up quickly I won’t trip over him. There was a noise or the dogs wouldn’t be rocking. I ease the shotgun up and wait for a sound or a sign. There is nothing.

Never trust the human eye in darkness. Lacking true vision the human mind creates things out of shadows and nothing becomes something. If I am very still I will become a shadow, too,  and so I do.  Anything in the dark cannot be seen by the human eye. But there are ways, there are ways, to see. Keep the eyes closed for a few seconds then open them again and then focus long, focus short, close the eyes and keep perfectly still. The shotgun is heavy but there is something out there or the dogs wouldn’t have reacted. Sam walks up to the front window, in the line of fire, and I know better than to call him back. Tick, tick, tick, goes Sam’s nails on the floor and I can barely see him in such darkness. Please, Sam come back. Please move.

When a shotgun goes off in the dark it creates a maelstrom of fire and death. There is going to be a thin line of flame erupting from the barrel and a swarm of lead pellets. By the time the pellets get to the door they’ll be in a tight pattern about the size of a basketball or maybe a little bigger. The door, the walls, or flesh won’t slow any of them down very much at all. Dog head high is safe but anything over that isn’t going to like it. I don’t want Sam over there. I can’t call him back. I hear the L Hounds coming through the doggie door in the back and I know Lucas well enough to know if someone is at the front door he’ll lay down a bark or two at them.

Did that shadow move?



I close my eyes and count to ten, open them again, try to memorize what I see, close my eyes for another ten seconds and then open them again. There is a shadow at the door. It’s far too dark for there to be any difference in light so… Don’t stare at shadows or they’ll move. I know this and the gun is getting heavy. Lucas comes in and heads to the door but doesn’t bark. Lillith joins her brothers but no one is making a sound. Dammit, a friend won’t come up so silent in the darkness so it can’t be someone they know. I feel sweat begin to form. I stand up and step out into the open, barrel raised. Fingers off the triggers, fingers off the triggers, fingers off the triggers, and I wonder how it will sound when this thing goes off. If I open up on someone my life will change and most certainly theirs will also. But why are they here? What are they doing out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of night? Why would anyone do this? I step forward, easing one foot out and down before moving the next. Nothing is there and nothing is there and nothing is there. I can’t see the dogs but they are milling around the door. I pull the shotgun up to port arms. Whatever it is, it isn’t dangerous.

The sound of metal on the door creates an instant reaction. Lillith, of all people, hammers down. She doesn’t have the volume Bert, had but this is still a war cry. It takes the other two a full second to join her. At this distance the shotgun will create a softball sized hole in anything short of quarter inch steel plating and even Kevlar can’t keep the impact down. Two fingers, one on the front trigger and one on the back trigger, and now, now, let it come.

“Mike?”


The Lost Deputy told me he thought Bert was going to tear through the door to get to him and it took hours for Bert to come down after that. The sleepiness and exhaustion is gone. Adrenaline courses through my body and the shadow moves. Two steps closer and now the hole created by just one load of double ought…
“Mike”

…will create a hole the size of a baseball and if it hits a human being it will cut right through. Now one blast will light the room up and whatever else may happen I’ll have a flash of light to see what is out there, to choose enough target if I have to, and then…

“MIKE!”

She screams my name and puts a hand on my left arm.  I pull the barrel up hard and away from her, my fingers into a fist to get away from the triggers and there is nothing there, nothing but silence. I can feel my breath tearing its way out of my chest, I can feel the sweat pouring off of me, I can feel my heart pounding away in my ears and the keening sound drowns out anything that might be real.
“Mike, Mike, this is rage.”  Her voice comes out of the dark, from nowhere at all, her hand gone from my arm, and the sound of her voice seems small. “Mike, this is rage.”

I know this isn’t a dream because I can feel the weight of the gun and I squeeze it hard not willing to let it go and I reach my hand out to touch her face. In total darkness she pulls away from me and I can feel the gun dissolving. I awaken standing in the living room, in totally darkness, nude, sweating, panting, and alone except for the three dogs who are circling me as if they’re searching for something or someone.

This is rage. I had forgotten what it felt like.

It takes three more hours before light will enter the room with us.

Take Care,

Mike

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Fire That Was and The Fire To Be.



There is no wisdom in trying to start a fire with brush that has been rained on every day for the last three weeks or so, and some of that heavy rain.  But at the same time that heavy rain has caused green branches to fall because they are so heavy with moisture.  Today I find a massive bushy limb with really green leaves all over it and this all has to go onto the fire pile once I get it off the fence.

I’m lucky the dogs didn’t find it first because it flattened the fence low enough for the dogs to jump over it. The first problem was moving it. That was solved through straight brute force which I don’t have a surfeit of to begin with.  Okay, then what to do with it? I do have a chain saw but let’s face it; getting someone over to help me would take as long as using an axe and I like using an axe a lot more than I like using a chainsaw. I like my axe.

There are five main bushy branches coming off the limb and I cut there off first and drag them to the pile for future disassembly.  I have to make three cuts on the big limb to make it small enough to drag them all off and with the humidity at ten billion and six point five percent it’s a lot like trying to hack through a rainforest with a butter knife. Worse, the branches on the limb are springy and they’ve got the main branch in a bind. I have to hack them off first and I have to watch where the main branch is going to go when I do. Of course, using an axe means this goes slowly but it also means it goes with more safety. And the dogs can watch from the shade.

There are a few things you may notice I never talk about in detail here; my work, my family, and my personal relationships. Anything else I write about can be questioned or talked about but those are three subjects I’m not willing to share a lot of information on. Suffice it to say, however, I’m suffering from Post-Traumatic Personal Life Meltdown right now that has to do with one of those three categories. I need to hit something with an axe repeatedly for an extended about of time. This is working out because this is a truly massive limb.

Exhaustion brings a certain amount of clarity and gives the mind time to settle into some rhythmic work. I’ve come to the conclusion that long term relationships and the internet are two mutually exclusive creatures for many reasons. At the end of the day if two people cannot communicate face to face then there isn’t much hope for resolution. The distance is an escape hatch in troubled times.  Even extended stays have an expiration date on them, much like the work week does, and no matter how bad things get you know there is always Friday. But there isn’t a Friday on this limb I’m hacking away on and I have to finish the task at hand. Relationships ought to be that way too; there ought not to be some sort of end point or a date defining the end, or it will.

Yes, I know that I am at this point comparing interpersonal relationships to cutting a tree apart with an axe. But I’m frustrated, mad, and I have a limb to dispose of this very day.


Getting advice from me on relationships would be like getting some sort of inside information on how to survive clashes with Native Americans from Custer. Knowing that you’ve lost and lost big doesn’t mean you’ve learned anything at all, and in point of fact, considering the emotional mess most people are after a divorce, I’d say the odds were very distinctly against anyone learning anything from a relationship sinking any more than the Captain of the Titanic learned anything about Navigation Of Ice Fields At Night.

The springy limbs have to be sectioned again once I get them to the burn pile, did you notice I no longer call it a “firepit”? That’s because the fuel has filled up the basin and has overflowed to the point I can now look forward to a Russian Spy Satellite mistaking my fire for a nuke launch.  I hope I can burn this thing before all those leaves totally turn brown or they’ll go up like they’re soaked in napalm.  I like the smell of napalm in the morning; it smells like my life.

I don’t have a kill switch on this activity and it does occur to me that high humidity coupled with stress and cutting wood with an axe is enough to cause me to overheat. But work is what you do when you have to and exercise is what you do when you can, and I can.  The muscles all over my body get to come and play on this one. My back, my arms, my legs, and my cardio system are all getting blown out by this sort of work. It’s hard, grinding, hot work but this is what makes it what it is; I need the release. I need to find that place where exhaustion takes me down past emotion, past hope, past anger, and leaves nothing behind but the need to drink water and write.

This is as close as I get to having a religion.

I’m still mad. I’m mad at me because I don’t seem to get it. I don’t understand it. I’m not an easy person to be with and I know it but like Custer, I have to take an arrow through the heart before I realize something is amiss.  The whole damn thing about being with someone seems to slip past me like trying to do rocket surgery with an axe.

As soon as things dry out there will be a fire. And as always, I’ll find myself smitten by some woman with a good smile and a nice conversation and I’ll lead a Cavalry charge into the iceberg once again.

But right now, I need the clarity of my religion.

Take Care,

Mike

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Dozen Years Of Dog. Happy Rescue Day Sam!








After twelve years nearly everyone who knows me knows the story of Sam. It begins “Sam, Sam, the Happy Hound was almost dead when he was found.” But Sam wasn’t very happy when Bert found him in the woods and it would be a while before anyone thought he would live. “Death Camp Dog” is how a friend of mine described him and this was a week after Sam had been taken in and fed every day.  Sam went from thirteen pounds to twenty-eight pounds in two weeks. Oh, and the thirteen was after three days of getting three meals a day. Sam was a wreck.

Sam spent quite a while in a state of semi-shock when all he wanted to do was eat, drink water, sleep by his food bowl, and go outside to let his bodily functions take their course. He wasn’t interested in love, play, interaction, exploration, or for that matter, anything else that lured him away from food. It was food Sam wanted most and I shoveled it to him as fast as he could eat it. Sam looked worse than he was and he looked a fright. After a month of feeding, love and affection, and with nothing else going wrong in his life, Sam peeked out of his shell. But that dog still looked damn bad. It would be months before Sam filled out entirely.

When I first saw Sam I wasn’t entirely sure what it was I was looking at. It certainly didn’t look like a dog. After the vet declared Sam to be part Black Lab and part Greyhound, I was stunned. Sam? You mean to tell me this is going to be a big dog? No way! But Sam topped the scales less than a year later at seventy-five pounds.  He was never a big bodied dog but rather lean, tall, and long. Sam was my first speed merchant.  Head down, necked stretched out, legs spinning, and oh my god that dog was fast. Bert never had a chance in the open against Sam’s speed and all he could hope for in a game of fetch was piracy.

There is an old story of a man who had a little boy that had a bad temper. He told the lad to go hammer a nail into the fence every time he got mad instead of taking it out on someone else. The boy did as he was bid and soon the fence was full of nails. The child settled down shortly afterwards and the man told him, “Now, go pull the nails out of the fence!’ and the boy did this, too. But the little boy noticed the fence was full of holes and he wondered aloud what was to become of the fence because of the holes. The man told him, “This is what you have done to people with your actions and words, in forgiving you they may pull the nails out of the fence but there will always be a hole there.”

Bert found a three month old puppy who was barely weaned. Sam was damaged beyond my ken in this sort of thing because I have never been around anyone who abused animals to this extent. Sam had been beaten, starved, and he had been abandoned.  I did not think the first three months of Sam’s life would haunt him forever but they have and they still do.  Sam sees the world in cases of black and white, good and evil, life and death, and there are no grey areas at all. His reaction to me getting a cat several years ago was to try to kill the cat because that was all he knew. When I tried to train him not to kill the cat I realized that scolding Sam sharply frightened him so terribly as to traumatize him. Rather than change his behavior Sam would simply lie down and whimper as if he were being beaten. Training Sam was not only difficult but in some cases nearly impossible. Worse, after I brought Lucas home three years ago, Sam tried to kill him too, and had my hand not been in the way, Lucas would have been killed outright. Sam put two teeth into my left thumb; one to the bone and one clear through. He was aiming for Lucas’ neck. Recently, he chomped Lillith by her neck but Sam is diminished. A dozen years weighs heavily on him and Lillith gashed him good for his attack. Sam is reactive in some cases and I cannot tell when this is going to happen. Fortunately, other than accidently, Sam has never bitten a human being.

Sam is better. Sam is a lot better. He no longer wakes up yelping as he once did. He doesn’t hide in the closet like he did for a while. He makes friends with people and he is a love sponge.  Sam seems to play well with others, at least until he doesn’t, but his days of play draw now to an end. He watches the younger dogs play and he’ll get into the fray very rarely. Both Lillith and Lucas allow this, treating Sam very kindly and they never knock him down. Lucas has twice, that I know of, stood between Lillith and Sam when Sam growled at her and tried to stand over her. Despite Sam’s snarling Lucas just looked at him, ears up, tail up, but not aggressive. Lucas is a gentle giant and his time on the road is not the burden that Sam carries.

I never thought Bert would make it to twelve but I’m willing to bet Sam makes it to next year at least. Ever it may bring, Sam survives. He finds life where others have died. He has held on when others might have let go. Sam was called to lie at Death’s feet and Sam curled up his lips and growled a threat that was heard.
Really, there was a moment like this; Bert stood over Sam and there was Sam looking at a full grown, eighty pound in the prime of life Alpha Dog that was part Husky and part Chow.  Bert reached down to snuffle the poor dying puppy and Sam raised his head, curled his lips to expose white gums, and he snarled a death threat at Bert.  That was my first sign there might be a really large heart in those skin and bones body.

Life, my friends, can be saved from damage and death, but only with love. There is much we can do and much we have done. There are holes in that fence beyond reckoning and beyond repair, however.  Take what the road gives you and patch it as well as your talent and love allows and know that no matter how small the good you may do might be, the evil you undo is greater.

Take Care,
Mike