the town

The highest point of the town held a water tower and once I rode down that hill on my scooter using my new shoe as a brake and when I reached the bottom I found the scooter’s tire had burned a big gash into the heel of my shoe.

The lowest point of the town held a lake and once I stubbed my toe in its silty bottom resulting in a trip to the doctor who poked holes in my toenail to relieve the pressure.

The town took away and it gave and it took away and it gave, sometimes it left parts of itself in me, parts that had to be removed, other times the parts remained encysted and grew into hard black stones that never went away.

The town visits me now, frequently, in my dreams. It is the setting for all types of absurd scenarios, completely unrelated to actual events, only tapping memory for details of setting, and even then playing sly with the facts, bending and shaping, but always leaving things just recognizable enough.

I find this unsettling as the town means nothing to me in my present life and I have not been there in many years. There is nothing there for me now. And yet it is the skeleton of my early life. The streets are the bones. There is a house somewhere that serves as the skull, with windows like eyeholes, looking out onto a world I was seeing for the first time.

I feel a pull toward the town and I don’t know why. I think it is the aching for a home, a place I know so well it is a part of me, inseparable from who I am and what I do. A known setting for my life, however I choose to live it, with scenery grown like vines through my blood and bones. The place where it all starts and ends. Home.

subject to unmeasured confounders and biases*

Inside it’s freezing cold. Outside it’s blazing hot. I walk out there into the world and my arms remain cold to the touch for a time. After that passes, my hair follicles feel like they are burning in my scalp. My coworker is back visiting from Dhaka, where she reports it is hot, crowded, and smelly, so not much different from Baltimore in summer. I forgot my music today. I don’t even have headphones. This pains me. I also forgot my ID badge. I have no identity. I am no one. I am all of the things we don’t say. And that is a lot. If we even knew them, whatever would we do. A thing occurs and it causes effects and those effects affect you and you wish the thing never occurred even though you made it occur and you could have not made it occur. That was your choice. But you took a stand, for better or for worse. And now there’s just this sort of empty place. Anyway, I read a book and it was the Collected Stories of Carson McCullers and I wrote a long review of it over on Goodreads, but I want to mention it here because I loved it so. I read a lot of it in the cabin when I should probably have been talking to people but I wasn’t, because that is how I am and I know I won’t change and I don’t even want to change, so there. And this book included the novel The Member of the Wedding and it was sad and dark in the way many good books are and it placed me even more in awe of Carson McCullers than I had been before. Growing up is hard and life is not very kind to adolescents and then suddenly you are an adult and what the hell is that. I mean, it’s hard being an adult, too, but maybe not as hard as being a teenager because at least when you are an adult your youthful idealism has been wiped away instead of still in the process of being stomped on by the awakening realities of life and the human condition. I feel strange today, but not in the way I felt strange last week. Perhaps it is the heat, perhaps it is how today is my only day of work this week and it’s odd to me that tomorrow is Friday already. It seems like it should be Monday. And it just keeps getting hotter and hotter and I fear we all may explode like ants under a magnifying glass. But the tomatoes and jalapeños are ripening and new cucumbers are growing, so I guess a few more of them were fertilized after all. The heat is good for that, but not for my mental state. The radio tells me this heat may last well into August and if that is so, I very well may lose my mind. I will lock myself in my room like Kurtz and plot and read and scratch out words and maybe something good will come out of it. But first there is this and that of which I don’t feel like doing on account of my awfulness, and so I will sit here and brood over my jasmine tea for I am into brooding these days and perhaps the tea will warm me up.

Note:  In the American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd edition, the third definition of brood reads as follows:  a) To be deep in thought; meditate.  b) To focus the attention on a subject persistently and moodily; worry.  c) To be depressed.

I am thrilled that this definition of brood offers such a varied and expansive range of what I do so often. I can use this term broadly and no one will know if I am actually worrying, depressed, or just deeply in thought. Some words are so convenient.

*Title of post lifted from a random journal article I saw in a list of search results

my thoughts dried up so i wrote this instead

When you isolate yourself, you have no one else to blame when things go awry. There is some small comfort in this. It is possible to go days without talking to anyone. This can be a magical combination of your own self-imposed silence and a general indifference on the part of others. Together we can make it work. The woman in the alley enjoys screaming hateful words at her grandson but she is sweet as pie when I say hello. This dichotomy hurts my brain. The alley is loud in the summer. The ladies across the way gun their motorcycles at all hours. The level of their inconsideration for people living together in a confined space staggers me. Small children yell and sing and talk like adults. I brood at the kitchen table. If it weren’t for the swatch of overgrown vegetation threatening to engulf my porch, I would have to see, as well as hear, the denizens of the alley and that I could not bear. Meanwhile, in the plus column, the city installed four solar-powered compacting trash cans on a main street in the neighborhood. I was overjoyed to throw my dog’s poop in them. Then they took one away. It was the most conveniently located one. Why. On another street near my house the city erected an expensive-looking fence in the median. A few weeks later they removed it. Why. Every day I see the thousands of dollars I pay in property taxes hemorrhage out onto the streets in the form of Kafkaesque activities such as this. It pains me. I could make much better use of those thousands of dollars than by funding the erecting and dismantling of fences. Segueing into the employment realm, it’s summertime at work which results in a curious laissez faire attitude toward attendance. I like it but it confuses me. I am always suspicious of it. Yet there is a natural relaxed cadence I cannot ignore, and so I allow it to carry me in its wake. When I feel agitated, I look at the little pictures in the dictionary and this soothes me. Last night I had a pleasant time in dreamland, but I forgot most of it upon waking. I don’t like that. I need to remember my dreams or waking life seems vacant. Do you ever wonder about the nature of friendships? They are curious things. Coming and going, rarely staying. Sometimes they wane; sometimes they wither. Sometimes they fail over the stupidest things. And you wonder if it could have been avoided, but in reality if it was a strong friendship it should have been able to withstand most of the nonsense we manage to self-generate. Which then begs the question of why the friendship existed in the first place. Convenience, perhaps. Boredom. Desperation for human contact [see: possibility of going for days without speaking to anyone, as outlined above]. I have had many friendships through the years, for all of these listed reasons and more. Not many have lasted, but the tiny few that have are worth more than gold. The question is then, do I now need more friends? What purpose would they serve? It gets harder to make friends as you get older. It’s horrible but I find myself more judgmental than I used to be of people when considering them as potential friends. I am also perhaps even more guarded now. Friendship requires time and effort, both valuable resources that I don’t expend lightly. How can you know if it’s worth it. Most of the time I am content to be by myself. I also have a dog now. The ultimate friend. Always dependable, always happy to see you. Can’t go to the bathroom without your help, which is a little weird. Doesn’t talk, which is both good and bad. Sometimes I wish he’d talk, just a little. See, even though I am content by myself, I have this annoying urge to reach out sometimes. It’s irrepressible. Sometimes everything can’t be found in books. Or nature. Most things, yes. But not all. This is the curse of human nature. We are not 100% autonomous. And I am so restless. This incessant unease shadows my every move. The panic. The urge to drop out. The crushing confinement of your own mind. We’re all so spread out. Held together by weakening links. I trip over my own shallow roots and fall face-down in a mucky bog. Roll around and let the clay harden on your skin. Let it cover all that you see as wrong. It feels so good.


Seventy years ago you smoked and talked at the same time. Seventy years ago you drank scotch and sherry and rye. Seventy years ago you flirted with every woman that crossed your path. Seventy years ago you were larger than life, transposed from page to screen. Seventy years ago you dished out repartee like so much small talk. Seventy years ago you moved fast, thought fast, dressed fast. Seventy years ago you always figured out what to do and why. Seventy years later I fall short, nearly every day. It doesn’t matter. Not as if you’re a person. But it’s still cause for thought, anyway.

this just in: subtle schedule shift forces new cracks in worn shellac

The pendulum swings upward again. Remember a sky of polished stone. The tree of many birds. Cracked sidewalks underfoot while perched alone at the end of the earth. How hard it is clawing our way up to have a look around. How sweet the first taste of syrupy mania when we finally do. Tap your foot to the mighty dirge. Scream ’til you’re hoarse inside. Run until your soul leaves your body and then keep on running until it returns. Record your dreams and re-read them until you understand. Untether yourself from what you think matters and wait for a sign. Pay attention to the crows circling above at dusk. Their presence is no coincidence. And neither is yours.


“We are living in the dark ages”–NMN

The crows are gathering…

Life is in the interstices.

In the moments after what happens is where we find ourselves.

It’s all we’ve got left.  It’s all we ever really had to work with.

Not answers to find, per se, but maybe a subtle understanding.

Maybe some rocky, unsettled…peace.

in the morning or the late afternoon or in the midnight hour

When sleep still clouds your eyes, and the day has not yet dawned upon you. When dreams still stuff your head from ear to ear, and sleep still lies in reach. When there’s still a chance the day belongs to you. When you haven’t yet sat down for hours and when your mouth can form words and electricity showers the air with invisible sparks. There is a single moment, plucked from so many others, where you feel it, that which you grew up without but saw in others instead, from afar. Then later, sifting through a pile of the day’s written words, stacked up in your electronic woodlot, a certain desperation grows again. Even later still, the banjo duels with the fiddle across the orange light seeping into the wooden floorboards. The country in the city, within these four walls, shut up in the stale air, but breathing life. The night’s sleepy eyes begin to shut, and in between each drowsy blink, I think of you and you and everyone.

being yourself?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that being yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.  It sounds like a hokey kind of quote that’s been overused to the point of meaningless…the sort of thing you might hear during a high school graduation speech.  But it holds a sharp and poignant truth that many refuse to confront.  Last night I sat on the deck and watched the clouds drift into each other. Swifts chittered as they hawked insects above me, intersecting each others’ flight paths in and out of my field of vision.  The air felt clean from rain and the sky showed off its blue behind clouds stained by the setting sun. It was true beauty, despite the power lines, the roof lines, all the straight and narrowness that makes me restless.  I try to be myself as much as I can, and doing that has mostly made me feel eccentric and alienated.  But I’m okay with that.

I have a couple of photos to share from my wandering, but my camera’s battery is dead at the moment.  Migration is slowing, almost halted…I only saw a few migrants last time I went out.  Now I plan to focus on finding and getting better looks at some of the local breeders, particularly some of the skulking warblers like Kentucky, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Worm-eating.  I’m pretty sure I glimpsed a Kentucky at Soldier’s Delight the other day, but he wasn’t singing and popped down out of view and refused to show himself again.  At SWAP, I heard a chat sing just a few notes before clamming up.  I’ll be back to seek him out again.  As much as I love migration, it’s very hectic and for someone still learning all the songs, it can be overwhelming.  I’ll appreciate some quieter time where I can hone my ear birding skills and hopefully still see a few new birds while I’m at it.

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