Monday, October 5, 2015

Aft of Eden

October brought me flu, far earlier in the season than expected (although the counties surrounding mine are dark blue on the flu map), sooner than me getting the vaccine. What I have for you is pix of the most creative amphibious camper/trailer I've ever seen parked at a Jack in the Box in Pulaski County. Christened "Aft of Eden," from Monterey, California, it's half boat and half camper top, and it seemed to work for them.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sleeping with Nature

I spent last night in the tent, because I can, and the weather's been gorgeous and clear, stars are vivid, and this meadow is my own yard--I'll always remember nights in the tent. Set it up while the sun set and loaded it with sleeping pad, sleeping bag, extra blanket, and pillow, all ready to crawl into about 10 p.m. The tent's roof looks invisible but is transparent so all night the bowl of heaven and the almost-full moon shine down on me. I woke once and saw Orion rising in the east. In another hour I saw Venus, the morning star. The coming  lunar eclipse is Sunday, at maximum at 9:47 p.m., Midwestern time, in the sign of Aries: the Harvest Moon. An auspicious time to sleep as close as possible to it all.

Remind me these are dewy nights so I'll hook the rain fly on my tent and won't have condensation dripping on and -- surprise -- soaking my pillow before I even get in there, and waking me in the morning when the tent is in fact brightened by sunlight more so than anything around it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An "End of Summer" Essay

The Summer of 2015 began with me exhausted and bedraggled, burnt out to the core, and spiritually dead. I teach year-round but took this summer off from teaching, my first summer off in three years, and made two great journeys: for the first time to the capital of my own country, Washington, D.C., and then the tour of Newfoundland and Labrador, strange wild Canadian places, as I've longed to see for four years. I got my spirit back. True, no money came in and all my accounts are kaput, but it's been worth it, worth it, worth it: I completed and published a new ebook (under another name), and drafted some new poems; returned some favors; yesterday, glorious weather, I fly-fished all day at Maramec Springs in Phelps County--only my 2nd fishing trip this summer (the first was two days before that). In my tackle box I found the last fishing license I bought: 2012. How did I let that happen? I joined a spiritual group; very helpful. The mammogram was normal for the sixth time in a row. I read books, actual books, which I never have time for, and magazines. I saw friends and met some new ones. I breathed deeply, even outside of yoga class. I bought a bottle of bourbon. I hunted and picked mushrooms, reorganized my computer files, sometimes simply lay on the carpet, relaxing. I went to concerts and a play. On a recent walk I took this photo of the horse farm on Doc Sargent Road.

There are 10 days of vacation left. I will spend them being worshipful and grateful.

Here's to Our Autumn Equinox

September 23 at 8:20 a.m. UTC or 3:20 a.m. here, the 2015 autumnal equinox, when daylight and darkness are almost precisely equal. Now, I will determinedly list the good things about the autumnal equinox:
  • Fall colors
  • Fall mushrooms
  • No bugs
  • Clear starry skies with the Milky Way at the zenith
  • Baking season begins
  • Harvest
  • Hunting season
  • Time to tour wineries
  • Time to prep the fireplace/fire bowl
  • Walnuts and hickory nuts
  • Caramel apples
  • Low humidity
These pink camo wineglasses were a gift from a friend who knows my taste in stemware.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ringless Honey Mushrooms

In mid-Missouri woods this week choirs of these mushrooms are growing close to the ground, their cymbal-like caps anywhere from half an inch wide to two inches each, clustered at the bases or stumps of oak trees or bubbling up from buried wood, and from a distance they resemble "hens of the woods," but they've got gills and separate stems and no rings on the stems, so they're ringless honey mushrooms. Whether they taste honeyed I'll never know because the Mycological Society says, "Never eat little brown mushrooms." There's also a "ringed" version, and a semi-look-alike fall mushroom with a bright orange cap that also grows in "bouquets" like these: the Deadly Galerina, also called the Jack O'Lantern. Edible mushrooms to hunt for now include puffballs and "hens of the woods." A famous mycologist told me he frequently receives emails with photos from people who write, "Can you identify this mushroom? I didn't know what it was, so I ate it." Poisonous mushrooms can dissolve your liver and kidneys. Don't risk it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Turkey and Crow Calls

Saw turkey calls for sale in the farm & home store and couldn't imagine how they worked and was too embarrassed to ask anyone. That issue got cleared up this weekend when I got to see and toy with a variety of bird calls. Two of them, top and bottom, work on the same principle: friction creates a throaty squeak. The coffin-like "fool proof" wooden box and the disk that gets scraped with the drumstick sound alike to me, but I'm told that every turkey hunter knows the difference and has a favorite, including the kind that are like a trumpet. The gold whistle in the middle is not a turkey call but a crow call. Why anyone would want to call crows when they could call turkeys, I don't know, and was too embarrassed to ask. Demonstrated also was the very slight difference between a tom's call and a hen's -- hers is warbly, more chicken-like. I am told that upon hearing it the excited tom "will come all over himself" to find the hen. There's so much to learn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Something Completely Different

On Sept. 1, I started tae kwon do as a "white belt," the stupidest belt. I did know I must respectfully bow as I stepped onto and off the mats, but not toward blank walls, dummy; toward the U.S. and Korean flags hung in front of the room. I received an all-white uniform and a white belt, symbol of what is kindly called "innocence," and was shown how to tie the belt properly. At home I worked for 30 frustrating minutes before succeeding in tying it. Next class I proudly showed up in uniform with a well-tied belt, and a black belt said, "Your top is on inside out."

Each class begins with calisthenics: pushups, situps, stretches, twists. My 11:00 a.m. class consists of three four-year-olds, a three-year-old, and myself. The sympathetic black belt instructor who knows I'm 58 told me "Do what you can." Thought I was fairly fit from lifting weights and walking.

Because I'm the only adult in the class, the master instructor, Dien, patiently leads me in a set of slow-motion pushups and situps. Then we stand and I follow the master as we practice, in slow motion, intricate arm movements: the head block and I forget what else. Then slow-motion kicks. Unlike a flamingo I can't balance on one leg; the master either holds my hand so I don't fall over, or I grip for dear life a stationary punching dummy. I'm learning the front kick, roundhouse, and back kick, discovering they take foot and ankle strength, exactly the muscles that weight training ignores. Then, drenched in sweat, I punch the bag with my bare knuckles, lightly, concentrating on the target and my form. The knuckles split open anyway. The goal is 60 punches in 15 seconds. At the end of the lesson the master and I bow to each other. Then all other belts shake hands with any black belts present.

Why do this? Because it's only 6 highway miles to the gym. Because the natural year is declining and instead of getting depressed as usual I'm setting a healthy goal: a yellow belt. One must be able to block, kick (without someone holding your hand), punch, obey three commands and count to ten in Korean to pass the exam. After I stuck out my first three lessons, I received, not a new belt -- that'll take months -- but a new top with the school's emblem and the U.S. and Korean flags.