Saturday, August 31, 2019

August Night, September Morning

About three days ago a stony chill manifested in the atmosphere, day and night, regardless of temperature. It introduces the change of seasons, and normally it arrives around September 20, when summer is truly technically over. That should be the significant date in the "living out here" calendar, but it's August 31, turning at midnight with the flip of a page into September, that erects a whole new defensive rather than celebratory mindset. What kind of winter is coming? How to prepare? What didn't I do this summer that needs doing? (Say "Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits" at midnight for luck.)

This is Late Summer. It won't be autumn until September 21. Yet I've begun having soup at every meal, stockpiling what I "feel" is enough coffee and examined the fleece bathrobe to see if one more year might be wangled out of it. Trees in the understory are faintly yellowing. I don't want to be this way. (And in December, in winter's grip, I always light the firebowl and think, "This isn't so bad after all!") Several work projects require other people to make the next move and I'm waiting. I've waited for a couple of years on some of them. Wish progress were as constant as the changing phases of the moon. Here's the August 2019 full moon. May it be so: September 2019 will be greatest month of our lives.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Warmth. Light. Clarity.

Deciding "how I wanted the rest of my life to go," seeing the chances of remarriage receding and deciding to remain here, certain things had to change, like how I burned last winter three 400-gallon tanks of propane by defiantly keeping the cabin's temp at 70 degrees, like normal people. All year I dreaded winter and winterized the single-pane windows with inch-thick foam insulation cut to fit -- a tradeoff between warmth and light, lasting six months: half the year. Neither pleasant nor healthy, and I didn't want company to see my lightless house either.

With old furniture and a ton of books, scrapbooks, yearbooks, etc. hauled or thrown away and by moving a few pieces, I enjoyed the airiness of a non-furnished living room, but it should have, like, seating. What type? Where to put it? I was getting ahead of myself. I listed on my whiteboard my priorities: Warmth. Light. Clarity. Secondarily: Fun (twice over!), welcome/hospitality, wanting to stay here all year, and consciousness -- meaning setting the room up for gladness and ease.

Choosing according to priorities and not budget, style, or whim, I began to change. I sit erect now (forced to, by a new office chair), wear my hair off my face, have pencils and pens nearby.  Bureau-drawer dividers -- $2! -- and a box for gym clothes saved time. Why had such items never crossed my mind? The gorgeous Divine Fireplace has never worked and never will, a daily disappointment. So why in all these years hadn't I sought an alternative? New windows the landlord wouldn't pay for, and I couldn't pay for, but indoor storm windows could offer light and insulation in winter. Did that meet my priorities? Yes. Should I invest in them, given that the house isn't mine? They're custom-made, so not returnable. But how do I want the rest of my life to go? The Divine Cabin needs five. I bought two, and we shall see.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

What I Did on Summer Vacation

Things are different up north.
So my sister and brother-in-law unexpectedly agreed to come with me "up north" -- that's all we've ever called it -- this summer and visit a few childhood sites I wanted to see after 51 years. I said, "To see them one last time," but truly wanted to confirm whether I live exactly here because I was imprinted for life by the landscape and farm in Ashland County, WI, where Mom was born and our family had visited with hers maybe five times, certainly in 1958 and 1959 and a few other times, ending in 1968. Neither had my sister, three years younger than I, seen those places since.
Ashland County, WI

I remembered the place was at a crossroads and we drove 15 miles up the main highway but did not find it. The motel keeper gave directions and we drove four miles out of town on a nearly exact copy of a road not a mile from the Divine Cabin, one I nicknamed "Memory Lane" because it matches my ancient memory. "I am imprinted! I am!" I breathed. My grandfather's tavern, built of stone around 1930, still operates under the original name, "Maple Grove." Contrast this with a bar called "The Ripsaw" we passed in a godforsaken dust-bunny of a town half an hour to the south -- northern WI was once all sawmills and turpentine. Now it's all fishing lakes and taverns. In our grandfather's tavern at a crossroads I drank a beer in the same dark and thickly varnished interior, the stovepipe in the wall gone, though, and two flat TVs tuned to sports.

On this late Sunday afternoon there were three other customers. My very Christian sister and brother-in-law, who never drink, were clearly uncomfortable -- brother-in-law, age 61, ordering Pepsi for them both, confessed he did not know how to sit at a bar or when to pay. So we stayed only the length of my beer -- having driven several hours that day -- and I took a few snaps with my sister. I said to the bartender, a man slightly younger than we who looked as if he'd enjoyed a lot of good rock 'n' roll music, "Our grandfather used to own this place."

"What was his name?"

I told him and said our uncle had later owned and run the tavern, and he said, "I used to work with Dorothy (our aunt, who long survived our uncle) at La Croix," manufacturers of the world's finest fishing rods, its factory and factory store in the next town over. Outside of La Croix a machine vends bait. I said I would take its picture for my blog. My sister, who left the workforce in the 1990s to stay home and be a mother, asked "What's a blog?"

In the pouring rain I did not try to photograph the tavern's unique exterior, but we briefly slowed to look up a gravel drive at the farmhouse where we'd slept a couple of times -- I remember waking to see frost on the window's inside -- and the house, barn, and silo sat as we'd left them a half-century before. Brother-in-law was willing to drive up to the house (because it didn't serve alcohol?) but I told him strangers shouldn't do that. I didn't feel I could ask my sister and brother-in-law to return the next morning, after the rainclouds cleared, to take exterior snaps of the bar, because now I wanted the favor of seeing the local lake I'd never seen, where my mother said she had taken visitors out in a boat to fish. (She'd told my sister that, but I never heard it.) We went. There I took a picture and said to the pretty lake, "Hi, Mom. Thanks. We have not forgotten you."

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Please Don't Rob, Jail or Shoot Us, Because We're. . .

"The Lord is My Shepherd," "I Can Do All Things Through Christ," "Grateful Thankful Blessed," "I'm Not Lucky, I'm Blessed," "Saved by Grace and Faith," "Worry Ends Where Faith Begins," "Corinthians 13.7," "Trust in the Lord," etc. etc. in an establishment owned by folks with Hispanic surnames who appear to be Hispanic too. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

When I was in Branson, MO for an overnight I saw similar sayings papered all over, worked into the shows, Jesus this and that, at a size and volume new to me, and I've been alive and a Missourian for quite some time and I'm an Aquarius so I analyze everything.

When you love God or Jesus and are truly sustained by faith or keep wise sayings and verses and gratitude close to your heart, you don't need to blare that all over, do you, unless 1) You want everyone to know, which is the opposite of how Jesus said to handle it; and 2) You want everyone convinced that you believe these things; 3) you want make it plain you belong to the same Jesus Club most other people around here belong to and know enough not to offend the club's ruling class by displaying graven images; and 4) you think these decorations have power beyond their decorativeness, or you think others believe that and want to keep them comfortable and pacified; 5) you wish to make the point that you speak and read English and not any of those offensive "other" languages except for the bit of Spanish everybody speaks, consisting of "Mi casa, su casa"; 6) you are somewhat concerned that other Jesus Club members will bust your door down and deport you whether you're a citizen or not, or rob you or spray your place with an AR-15 because they are bothered by your surname or skin color, and you are doing your best to establish yourself as entirely non-threatening supporters of the home team who only hope to make a living selling really good food.

Emphasis on #6. In fact you don't even have to be brown for that to happen to you.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Meet and Eat?

Where the grass is mown, I saw a lone mushroom the size of my palm, perfectly developed with a cap so artistic I left it untouched and came back later. It grew low to the ground and the underside and stem were not visible. Overturning the mushroom showed a smooth white stem and a white lace of pores instead of mushroom gills. This identified it as a bolete. Most are edible -- the prized Italian porcini mushroom (doesn't grow in Missouri) is a bolete. The pores are tubes. Now and then a bolete has six-sided pores. Not this one.
In situ
Bruised from handling
Spore print
Picking it, I removed the cap to make a spore print. This bolete cap bruised at a touch. To make a spore print, set white paper and black paper side by side and set the mushroom cap down the middle. This will then capture a spore print whether the spores are dark or light. The spore print can confirm an identification. This bolete's spores (after three hours) were a doughnut-brown.

What type of bolete? My guess is boletus chrysenteron, but I didn't cook and eat it because I'm not sure. Anyway, that summer day I was into it as an art object, and into the art it created by itself. They say that spore prints can be so lovely that people frame them. I put the cap back where I got it and hoped it had spores to spare, to replicate itself. It made me want not a mushroom but a doughnut.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Amateur and Pro

How humbling it is after 45 years of writing and publishing to still be forced by criticism to do better -- and actually do better.

For half of 2017 and all of 2018, besides doing my job, I worked on writing a long complicated article. I have never worked so hard, frowned so much, stayed up so late. I sent it finally to my target journal. Its editors sent it back saying they'd have rejected it outright except that it was so well written, and they had scads of suggestions for me to rewrite and add a lot, and if I did that, they'd consider publishing it.

This was like doing the awful precision labor of sewing by hand a tailored suit of fabric you wove yourself, with a lining, cuffs, lapels, buttonholes, and zipper, and then ripping it apart because it didn't fit right and doing it over. By hand? Yes. Writing is one of the last hand-crafted things left and well-written is not enough. It has to fit. Fit not me, but a readership!

Not wanting to waste the months of work, I patched in and blended in all the footnotes, bibliography, analyses, quotations, details, references, rewriting, etc. they suggested. They accepted this version, and I hoped never to see or think about it again as long as I lived. Then, months later, I read it. My. It really was insanely good, with two or three brilliant spots. They'd set the bar higher. I'd cleared it. I'm not proud as much as humbled. Somebody had showed me I was capable of more.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Shameless Confession

Thirteen brand-new notebooks and 20 pens!
Demetrius (bless his heart) would say I'm queer for office supplies. I enjoy viewing and holding fresh clean notebooks, pens, file cards, legal pads, typing paper, highlighters, folders -- if you can write in it or on it, or keep paper in it, it is for me a fetish object and I can't get enough, and Back to School sales at stores with these things stacked high move me to tears -- so much blank paper, so much potential -- and in 2018 with one-subject college-ruled notebooks being sold for a quarter apiece I spent half an hour winnowing out at Walmart all the college-ruled notebooks with a yellow cover -- ten of them. Shamelessly I bought them on Missouri's No-Tax-on-School-Supplies weekend, ecstatic because I could also write them off as business expenses -- yes, I use these!

So allow me to carol and rapture over this year's dreamlike garage-sale find: a whole bin full of 13 blank notebooks, an unused set of 35 glitter/neon pens, 2 packages of 10 pens each; 4 packages of ring-binder paper totaling 450 pages; 2 magnetic whiteboards; 1 package notecards; 1 pencil case, 1 pencil, 2 plastic document wallets, 2 stretchy book covers, 4 picture frames, 2 upright file holders, plus I asked them to throw in the plastic bin itself, and its lid -- and although each item was individually priced I snagged the whole kit and caboodle for $10! Oh my! Isn't this pen set just the living end?!?

I have been this way since I was very small and adored and coveted Ticonderoga pencils, Pink Pearl erasers, the Crayola 72-crayon set (although I would have settled for 32); our elementary school had a school-supply closet with a Dutch door where once a week we could get stuff for pennies -- it was like crack cocaine -- I loved rulers, protractors, colored pencils, diaries with little locks, pencil sharpeners and the scent of pencil shavings; I stole my mom's stapler -- of all the items in the garage-sale bin, only the larger of the two whiteboards was unsalvageable. Man, this stuff is better than money!

This weekend is Missouri's No-Tax weekend; take advantage!

Friday, August 2, 2019

"July 29, 2019"

The previous entry discusses a painting titled "July 25, 1949" and I couldn't imagine its landscape, with that spit of land all wooded with evergreens, being based in some actuality, but as luck would have it, in Ashland, WI on July 29, on Lake Superior, I saw that landspit, with hills in the background too, which I photographed at once, noticing that if the painter, John Wilde, a notable painter and lifelong Wisconsin resident, had been painting his painting outdoors, from life, he would have been standing in what is now a lakefront park, so it is entirely possible, except now the sandy flats have been filled in and a concrete walk laid down for lakefront strolls, and anything resembling a dilapidated wooden shack with a handbill affixed is long gone.