The endowments and the foundations won't, but you can help support my long-term exploration of the middle west, Vagabond In the Middle. Any donation to help defray expenses will be appreciated. Send to Tom Montag at: PO Box 8, Fairwater, WI 53931.
arrived yesterday, along with 85 degree temperatures. It's bright and blue and cool this morning. The whoo of mourning dove, the twathle of a robin, a loveliness of light.
The flags at the cemetery blow briskly west to east. No clouds visible in any direction, nothing for the wind to blow away. Where the canning factory sprays its water just north of town, part of a field of the tall grass has been taken, cheap hay.
Everything is lovely, I cannot put away my heart. Loveliness in love.
The wager of spring undone. Summer coming on. All the green velvet of everything, all the bird song. Nothing that's gone is lost forever; the world coughs up everything again, eventually.
Such leaps we make are great - from a day to eternity, from a speck to everything. That we make them is why we're human.
Animals do not deal with classes of things. Like me, they must encounter the thing itself, not the idea of it.
High humidity, high temperatures are promised for today. I'm sweating already, even in the breeze. The day's charms are still hidden; it's going to let me sweat my way to wisdom, which likely is the only way to get there anyway.
Learn to read the signs. Shadows can lead you to water, the wind may take you to farther wisdom.
in the early light. The stillness of the morning pond. A robin's song and other quietness across the sky. We have prayed for nothing; we received everything we need.
There was some rain last night, some dampness in the street now, here and there a puddle.
Cut glass separates the light into colors; the mind separates our hopes into plans and evaporation. Everywhere we turn, the insistent world.
Lilacs along Washington Street in full and fragrant bloom. A wet flag hangs down at the cemetery. A haziness in all directions; to the west, a thunderhead. In the heaviness of air I sweat, therefore I am.
At Five Corners the old, retired farmer works his flower beds. The cap he wears has a flap turned down to protect his neck against the sun, assuming that we'll see the sun this morning.
You moan with emotion for the earth. The earth moans too.
Ivan said, "an approaching-middle-age farmer asked a young farmer what the ground temperature was. The young farmer said 45 degrees. Over the din, an old farmer said, 'Was that at two or four inches?' The young farmer said, 'Yes.'"
"It was three o'clock Monday afternoon," Ivan said. "The local coffee and iced tea drinkers at Paul's Cafe were trying to figger out what it cost to build a mile of fence. Some of em used the old pencil and paper route. Others used the calculator on their cell phones. I don't know what they came up with, because just then Lyle Morgan executed a curving arc on his Harley and parked outside of Paul's Cafe. He shucked his helmet and strode into Paul's Cafe. He had barely hit the seat with his gluteus maximus when he whipped out his ground-testing thermometer. When he was asked what the ground temperature was, he said, with authority, 70 at two inches and 60 at four inches."
"I can remember hearing LaVern Meyer saying that she and several others who grew up south of Athol were double first cousins," Ivan said. "Can someone 'splain that to me?" [Yes, Ivan, someone can. You married your wife, and lets say your brother married your wife's sister, and lets say they had children. Their children would be double first cousins of your children, because they are first cousins to your young-uns once through their mother and a second time through their father. Or say your wife's brother married your sister. Their children would also be double first cousins of your children. I myself have, I believe, 22 double first cousins, so I know of where I speak. --The Middlewesterner.]
"Patty Meyer says the ladies at the Second Cup should call their club As the Brain Fills," Ivan reported. "Her reasoning is, the men call their club As the Bladder Fills and they think more of a kidney function, while the women use their heads and think more of a brain function. Maybe that is why they have long lines at a women's restroom and none at the men's restroom."
"Oh," said Ivan, "the cost of a mile of fence came up again on Tuesday morning. What I know about building fence you could put in a gnat's scrotum, but I do know that it costs a lot of money to farm any more."
"Linton Lull paid me one of the finest compliments I've had in a long time," Ivan said. "Linton said he only found two errors in last week's Echo."
"Jack Benn is no race car fan," Ivan said. "When the subject came up at the As the Bladder Fills Club, Jack said he would just as soon watch a skunk fight in a fog."
"I sure wish I had of known that the Hubbards were going to mow grass last Thursday," Ivan said. "I would have liked to help them. That was the only open date I have all summer."
"John Bodin was on his best behavior at the Second Cup last Thursday morning," Ivan said. "The reason for his pious and sanctimonious behavior was because he was accompanied by his wife and was sitting with Greg and Noel Hubbard. He didn't act like the king of his castle, like he says he is when his wife isn't around."
"Do you know," Ivan wondered, "that in 1924 John Levi, Haskell Institute, was named to the All America football team? Walter Johnson, from Coffeyville, Kansas, was named the American League's 'most valuable' player. He pitched for the Washington Senators. Virgil Barnes from Seneca was a member of the new York Giants' pitching staff. And E.C. Quigley, graduate of St. Mary's College in Kansas, was a big league umpire. But the really big thing that happened in 1924 happened in Smith Center, Kansas. That was the year that I.E. Burgess was born. Smith Center has never been the same."
"Dr. Bill Grimes wanted some okra seed," Ivan said. "So Jack Benn brought him some from Okrahoma. Jack said that okra seed from Okrahoma was the best kind."
"Some guy at the As the Bladder Fills Club asked, right out loud he asked, how did that hockey game come out last night. That brought a lot of blank stares from the As the Bladder Fills Club regulars. The word 'hockey' hadn't come up since Jim Fetters left town. Jim spent spent some time, well, very little time, as the Zamboni machine operator at a Wichita ice rink. He now works at the airport in Hutchinson."
Bright sun burns away at the bit of haze. We had a lovely, long weekend. The temperature this morning is nearly 60 degrees. The green things are greening, trees are all leaved out, lawns thick with grass. A lovely way to go.
A flag went up at the cemetery for Memorial Day. The wind this morning finds no direction. The flag is cluffed against nothing.
Just south of Five Corners, a pasture of donkeys, a field of donkey tails slapping at flies, at imagination.
Farmers are out working their fields this morning. The year keeps unrolling like a carpet moving north.
darker to the west, a dreariness that doesn't run down the window yet, temperature in the 50s, lilacs showing color. Today puts its pants on one leg at a time; common as a penny this sensation of morning.
Wind ruffles the surface of the pond - the half that's open, free from the sludge of algae. Thicker than ripples, the wind makes the water, not as thick as waves.
The smell of manure is on the morning air - not strong, but enough for the farm boy to catch sense of it.
Three blackbirds on a Fairwater lawn, strutting like crows, black against the green urgency of grass.
Even when I'm sad I feel as if I hold the world cupped in my hand like a breast, like a beating heart, like a small bird trembling.
Above East Fond du Lac Street in Ripon, a stretch of crow, wide and black, heads for some back forty in the country where it can settle into some disgusting breakfast.
a locomotive sun pulling this box car day. Hooray for everything. You wake and want to sing, you want to shout - Hooray. The temperature is in the 40s, the day is on track, the whiners have nothing to put in their sacks for tomorrow. It is good to be alive. I hope everyone knows that.
At Five Corners, soon the flowers will bloom.
Newness. Trueness. Is anything more true than spring? What?
Ivan said, "when two guys got to arguing, it always seemed like one of them was afraid to fight and the other one was glad of it."
"I don't know what Kendall Nichol done to deserve it," Ivan said. "He always seemed like a nice but sometimes uninformed fellow to me. But just in the past week Dennis Reinert has referred to him as a shyster and Jenny the wawitress said she wasn't afraid of him because he had a lot of hot air. Like I say, he always seemed like a pretty decent fellow to me. But last Tuesday he was struggling to find something derogatory to say about a Democratic president. He had to go clear back to Jimmy Carter before he found a speck of criticism to lay at the feet of a Democratic president. He remembered the interest rate on loans under Jimmy Carter was seventeen percent."
"You remember when the speed limit was 55 miles an hour?" Ivan asked. "That law was put into effect to save gas. So if you see me driving down the highway at 55 miles per hour, don't say 'There is some old man driving slow, he is dangerous.' Just say, 'There is some old man on a fixed income who is trying to save some money.'"
"You heard about the couple lying in bed," Ivan said, "and the husband began rubbing his hand on the wife's breasts, bottom, outer thighs, and inner thighs. Then all of a sudden he quit. The wife, in quite a state of arousal, said, 'How come you quit?' He said, 'I found the remote.'"
"It used to be," Ivan said, "before TV and computers and fax machines, that the time to plant corn was when the hedge tree leaves were as big as squirrel ears."
"I see where Mike Hughes is advertising for umpires for the summer baseball season," Ivan said. "I wonder if I could get a job as umpire. My resume would include one blind eye. The other clouded by a cataract. But I can still drive a car."
"You know," Ivan said, "back when I was a youngun, which admittedly was a long time ago, everybody started their meal by passing the bread. Or at least we did and all the places I ever ate did. You would start out by passing bread, then you would pass the butter. You always had a slice of bread and butter on your plate before you had anything else. And if the place where you were eating was affluent enough, there was downtown bakery sliced bread on the table. We had home-made bread and the slices were always the same thickness. But it was better than boughten bread, even if it had oleo on it."
"There are a group of ladies who drink coffee every morning at the Second Cup," Ivan said. "I don't know what they call themselves, but every Friday morning they are late to coffee. They all go to the Hardly Used Shop to take a look around. Last Friday morning, on their walk from the Hardly Used Shop to the Second Cup, they were all having a Bad Hair Day. I really think they ought to come up with a name for their group. Got any suggestions? If so, mail them to Bernadine Duntz or maybe even the Second Cup. My suggestion would be The ABCD Cup Crew from the Second Cup. Their motto could be Bra Bra Hoorah."
It seems to promise summer but maybe it's just jerking our chain. We've had these temperatures in the 30s, it's mid-30s again this morning. People are making this joke, that you don't want to sleep in on a Saturday, you might miss summer.
The smoothed fields - the sight of them moves me. Something in the blood, being a farmer's son, seeing the farmers' handiwork rolling away from me in all directions. Soil gets in your blood, you cannot wash it way.
The flag at work blows southwest to northeast lazily - what else comes from the direction tornadoes come from?
at the beginning of May, and as soon as I had final grades turned in, I was headed west. It had been several months since I'd seen the Colorado daughter, and I would get to spend nearly a week with her.
Along the way, I stopped to visit my parents in Faribault, Minnesota. We hadn't seen them since January, when we celebrated my Mom's 80th birthday. They provided me with some old-fashioned comfort food for supper, a bed overnight, breakfast the next morning. And we had the chance to catch up on family news.
I headed west along I-90 into South Dakota and - my, my - there was snow piled up in the ditches along the way. I drove west, and south, down to Valentine, Nebraska, and west from there on Highway 20 to Chadron.
The best laid plan was to spend the rest of the afternoon and the next day poking about town and the area. I expected to visit Mari Sandoz's grave once again, for instance, somewhat east and south of Chadron. I did visit a store in Chadron, a combination music and archery store run by a fellow who collects old acoustic and electric guitars, which hang on the walls around three sides of the place. He makes a living selling archery equipment and musical instruments, teaching guitar, and playing banjo in a bluegrass band. Yeah, I bought a copy of their most recent CD, and I'm gonna play it as soon as I unpack it.
The news from Chadron: Pizza Ranch is closed, and the building is for sale. Darn. I like Pizza Ranch.
That night the Weather Channel couldn't stop talking about the blizzard that would blow through western Nebraska and South Dakota the next day, threatening to close highways. News the next morning was similar, yet a little more urgent. So instead of poking about, I decided to start for Gering, Nebraska, where I'd promised to take my friend Joe M. to supper. It was later morning when I poked my head into Joe's office. He said something like "It's a little early for supper" and I said something like "I'm trying to beat the winter storm and thought maybe we could do lunch instead." Well, Joe was busy over lunch, "but we could go down to the Coffee Cabin and have some breakfast right now." And I said, "I'm buying." And that's what we did: we had breakfast together, instead of supper.
And I got to Fort Collins, Colorado, before the storm got to me. In fact, the storm missed Fort Collins entirely. It did hit western Nebraska on schedule, and South Dakota, which got two to three feet of snow in places.
The reason I'd stopped at the music store in Chadron, and the reason I visited every pawnshop in Fort Collins in the days after I arrived was this: I had a notion that if ever I was to upgrade my electric bass, I should do so in time to record our album of trains songs. I looked around the Guitar Center in Fort Collins one day, and went back the next afternoon with serious intent. A nice young man patiently took down one Fender bass from the wall, then another, and another. I tried several.
The first one I played was one I liked the looks of; it had a natural wood body in the classic Fender shape, but it didn't have the sound I like.
"Try this one," the young fellow said. I didn't like it either.
"Let me get you the same model I play," he said. He plays in a rock band and uses a pick. So I tried the bass he plays. Finally he came back to see how I liked it.
"It's good and sharp on each end but I can't make it round in the middle, the way I like," I told him.
"Oh," he said, "this bass will never give you round in the middle. I know what you might like." And he got down a Fender Jazz Bass that has two Jazz pick-ups and five controls - volume, pick-up selection and mix, bass, treble, and intermediate tone.
I played it for a while, fiddled with it, played some more.
"I like the sound a lot," I told him. "It's sweet, and is round in the middle. But I don't like the action. Can you adjust the action?"
"Yes," he said. "Can I get that Fender Jaguar bass down for you while you wait?"
"No," I said, "I've got enough on my hands already, without trying to play a Jaguar."
He adjusted the action on the Jazz bass and brought it back. I played a 12-bar blues progress in E for awhile. Was it my imagination or was that employee with a guitar off behind a distant counter also playing 12-bar blues in E, in time with me? He sounded pretty good. He never looked at me, that I saw.
I broke off playing in E then, and played the progression in each other key, from G to F#. I played the F# in the high position on the second string, which is the point at which a bass will tell you what it's made of. This bass was made of good things. The F# sound as sweet and warm and as round in the middle as all the other positions. The bass sold itself.
I already had the world's best flat-top acoustic bass, my Guild B30, Miss Thunder 1-3-0; now I had in hand the only electric bass I should ever need. I gave the guy my Squirer II Precision bass and a pile of money, and he gave me my Fender. I walked out of the store a happy man. Indeed, the sun was shining.
I went back to my daughter's house and sent my bandmates in Trinity an e-mail telling them all about the purchase, and how sweet she sounded.
The next time I talked with my darling wife, she gigged me. "So, you bought a Fender Jazz bass, huh?" she said.
"Yeah," I said. "How in the world did you find out?"
"You sent us a copy of your e-mail to Doc and Dean," she said.
"Guilty as charged," I muttered to myself.
The back-end of my vacation was a long weekend in Kansas with Doc and Dean, to hammer out the train songs. I had already written the lyrics, and Dean had already put music to them, chord progressions and melodies. This first weekend of work on the tunes was meant to massage them into singable tunes, and to teach them to Doc, who sings lead for us and produces Trinity's albums. By Sunday Dean and I were able to record rough versions of all the songs, with Dean singing and playing keyboards in one version and singing and playing guitar in a second take, and me playing bass. Doc will use these as rough guides as he learns the songs and fashions them into finished pieces. He will lay down his guitar and vocal, and at some point I will return and add bass, and Dean will come back to do his harmonies and instrumentals.
The Fender Jazz Bass sounded terrific. Doc liked the way it sounded, and he noticed an improvement in my playing, too, I think: a couple of times when we were cookin' I caught him peeking around the music stand to see what I was doing with my fingers.
It isn't all sweetness and light, however, this business of creating music. Dean and I had orginally created words and music for 18 songs, and we had already reduced the list of "possibles" to 15 by the time we got together. The first hours in the studio further reduced the list to 12 songs and one possible, with Tom saying, "Let's sleep on it overnight before we eliminate it completely."
About 4 a.m. Johnny Cash came to me in a dream and sang the troublesome song. I remember I was lying on my side while he was singing, and was rocking back and forth to the beat, as "the box cars wildly swayed." Johnny finished singing and I found myself awake. I couldn't go back to sleep. Who could, thinking he'd been visited by Johnny Cash? I tossed and turned for a bit, then got up and took my shower, made myself some coffee, found my copy of the lyrics, and laid in a new chord progression, to match what I'd heard in my dream. I'd never written a chord progression before; it wasn't like writing music, I was just writing down the song as I'd heard it played.
When Dean got up and moving, we went downstairs to the studio and he adjusted the melody to fit the song's new chord progression. Some lines he sang in a Johnny Cash voice, and it gave me goosebumps.
I'm not sure the song is in its final iteration, nor even that it will make it onto the album, but at least we haven't thrown it away. Yet....
Our music is a group effort. We all have to be satisfied. And Doc - as producer - has to be the most satisfied of all. He'll work with that song some more, to make it worthy of the rest of the album.
But you can bet that I won't forget the night Johnny Cash sang one of our songs for me.
On Saturday night, taking a break for our hard work, we went to "a crawdad boil and Rocky Mountain oyster fry" in Manhattan, as guests of the band. Cuzster had played the wedding dance for the daughter of one of the couples hosting the party, and parents of the bride wanted the band back for the evening's entertainment. Rain and high winds had driven the festivities indoors. The band set up on a trailer in the arena of a big horse barn at a large stable in Manhattan.
One minute crawdads were wriggling in a tub, and the next minute they were food on the table. And the Rocky Mountain oysters - well, if you have to ask what they are, you probably shouldn't eat them. They were awfully tasty, however. There were potatoes and beans, too, and something cold to drink.
Our hosts graciously took care of us "guests of the band," and we enjoyed the first set of music. Cuz, who plays pedal steel and fiddle and saxophone, had helped Doc mix our Fairy Tales & Nonsense album; and Jed, the electric guitar player, is the fellow who mastered the CD for us.
There were two drum sets on the trailer, one for Russ, the drummer who also doubles as sound man; and one for 6-year-old Nathan, Jed's son, who sits in on some of the songs. Indeed, he played more than half the first set, then came down and sat with us for a bit. He was called back up for the last song of the first set. At one point during the song Russ hit his drum and then twirled the drum stick on the tips of his fingers. On the next beat Nathan hit the drum, then twirled his drumstick on the tips of his fingers. The crowd erupted in applause.
No doubt that Nathan is the best 6-year-old drummer I'll ever see; and I'll make book that someday he'll be the most accomplished musician I've ever seen. He's a kid with a lot of talent.
During the break between sets, the three of us from Trinity got our picture taken in front of the bandstand with Cuzster:
From left to right: Dean Schechinger, Russell Dockins (Cuzster's drummer), John Richard (Cuzster's bass player), Jed Wymore (Cuzster's guitar player), Nathan Wymore (6-year-old drummer extraordinare), Doc Abbick, Rick 'Cuz' Garver (behind Doc, Cuzster's pedal steel player, fiddle, saxophone), and Tom Montag. Photo courtesy of Cuz Garver.
Trinity in front of Cuzster's bandstand, left to right: Dean Schechinger, Doc Abbick, Tom Montag. Photo courtesy of Cuz Garver.
Afterwards, the band played on. Trinity had to get back to the ranch and get some sleep. We had another day of work scheduled for Sunday, hammering our train songs into something lovely and loveable.
we said yesterday, and it did. It blew and blew. We've got blue sky blown in this morning.
We choose our happiness; we choose sadness. We say I'm going to carry this weight. Could we cast off the heaviness? The drooping of shoulders is habit. Break the habit, put on the vestments of joy!
As I drive north out of Fairwater, I see that my blue sky is disappearing into a haziness everywhere, thick greyness, light locked up in moisture. Even when the sun breaks through the haze briefly, the light is almost liquid.
of blue sky. The lid of night has been torn off, darkness banished; the sun will have its way. A great shining loveliness. The middle of the month is anchored solid: you cannot be more pleased; you won't be more disappointed if you lose it.
The season is slinging greenness like a mad artist with only one color in his palette, too poor to buy others, too rich in green sensation to see the need.
It's as if the poet has only one adjective - green. Well, today it's as if the poet has two adjectives - green and blue. It's as if the poet has only three adjectives - green and blue and bright. Hold the warm light as if it's a blanket. Love this, love this, love this.
Dewy-gilded lawn. A race of robins. A lovely lay of sunlight on everything. How can I complain?
Does the wind blow from southeast to northwest? A slow flap, perhaps. Haziness, far off in all directions. Some clouds, farther off. A diffuseness above the black soil, not as thick as fog, yet thicker than light.
North of Five Corners, a shrub in blossom - white and green along the ditch. Finally - winter has its tail nailed into the northland. It shall not return; for now it shall not return.
Ivan said. "Not in her own kitchen, but in Beverly Lambert's kitchen. Not literally but figuratively. For months Arden Devlin has been castigating Joe Lambert and Kendall Nichols for their well-intentioned vote for George W. Bush. Arden explained, in great detail, what a dumb-assed mistake that was. Then one evening last week Joe Lambert invited Kendall and Hazel Nichols and Arden and Lynn Devlin to a soup supper at the North Main home of the Lamberts. Between courses of the potato soup and the chili, politics reared its ugly head. When Lynn sorted through the conversation, she understood that Arden had been questioning the intelligence of Joe and Kendall for voting for George W. That's when she said, right outloud, 'Arden voted for Republicans in the last election.' Joe and Kendall jumped on that like a linebacker on a loose ball. But, like Arden said to them, 'At least I admitted I made a mistake.'"
"If you missed the sign in front of the Methodist Church," Ivan said, "the one that tells the time of the service, sermon topic, preacher's name, and maybe a thought for the week, it is in David Grey's garage/shop. It wound up there by a circuitous route. Jack Yenne, maintenance man/janitor, noticed that the sign was rotting. He told his wife, Kathy. Kathy told Mimi Grey about it. Mimi volunteered her husband to repair it. So if it isn't back and you want to know what it says, drive out to David Grey's place and look in the garage/shop."
"You know," Ivan said, "if you just listen, you will hear some profound statements. Last Tuesday morning Mel Lyon said something about ten dollar wheat making it imperative that you do a good job of farming. Then someone said with the price of fertilizer, you had to have ten dollar wheat. Then Kendall Nichols made this profound statement: 'I would say that the price of wheat can come down a lot quicker and easier than the price of fertilizer.' Now you just don't get profounder than that. I wonder, with the price of fertilizer, weed spray, and fuel, if the farmers' profit margin might be less than it has been for several years. I don't know, but it seems like the expense has a huge appetite that would chew up and swallow a large part of the profit."
"Martha Coon was here a couple of days last week," Ivan said. "She joined the As the Bladder Fills Club, where she was overwhelmed by the knowledge that was so casually slung about by the ATBFC. She was wanting to take some of it home with her, but she failed to take notes or tape-record any of it. It is doubtful that she will get home with any of the knowledge because she has reached the age where she is even getting senior citizen's discounts here in Smith Center."
"Casey Edell had part of his iron fence knocked down in an automobile accident last fall," Ivan said. "He kept saying that he was goig to get it fixed, but he couldn't get it put up until the frost went out of the ground because it required some post holes. With the advent of the spring-like weather, I would think the countdown of days to fence erection would be dwindling down to a precious few."
"Some car company makes a car called Probe," Ivan said. "Wouldn't that make an excellent car for a proctologist."
are leafed out fully - I'd say they are probably a week or so ahead of the trees here. There - it's a great green murmuring. Here - it's a whisper perhaps.
We've got greyness overhead. That extended all the way west to Des Moines yesterday. Saturday was a hanging grey day too.
I have not been writing much. My writing likes a regular schedule, to bed by 8:45 p.m., up at 4:00 a.m., else it plays hide and seek and I can't depend on anything. Sometimes I can't depend on anything even if I do my voodoo rituals and my regular sleeping pattern. That's because when it finally comes down to it, writing is not something you choose, writing is something that chooses you. All you can do is be ready.
An oriole in a branch of the willow at the end of our driveway, in all its fireball orangeness. Color in the tulips along the garage, a few are nearly ready to open. The peonies are stretched to their full height, they don't seem to have set buds yet. The sky is starting to disappear behind some of the trees - those half-leafed out to the half-hidden sky.
Wet streets this morning. Flowers in bloom in spite of the weather, because of it. The two-sided, double-edged nature of things. The ying and yang, up and down, yes and no of things. Goodness and evil are different ends of the same string.
With leaves in the trees, the wind roars this morning. It's not a hard wind, but enough to keep us alert. There's a heavy greyness in all directions. Whatever you think I mean, add 10%. That'll be closer to true.
The brightest spot of sky is not where the sun is. The sky is a pack of wolves.
We want to believe in redemption yet the world keeps going the other way.
of the dove. How much sweetness would be enough of it? Is the mourning dove's call like the light of those stars which still shine for us but have long since been burned out? Does the dove's sorrow come to us from a million years ago? How should we respond?
The greening has been coming on, we've seen it, yet yesterday it seemed so sudden, intense, like falling in love.
There must have been some drizzle or splash of rain during the night. There are raindrops on the windshield of the car still.
A flash of Baltimore oriole streaking across the driveway. Robins, oh robins are everywhere.
Today the wind seems to be from the north, blowing yesterday back to where it came from.
The question on the radio today is: is public art in the public domain? My question: who owns the skyline? who owns the sky? Who owns the air we breathe, who owns our sunlight, who owns your laughter, your sorrow?
A kind of wiseness to the wind. The way the shadows lay. The play of everything.
I feel my aging. My shoulders have been sore for months. A man ages in body; he ages in mind and soul if he lets the years restrict him rather than allowing them to open up possibilities. I can see that it is so easy to say "this is enough, there is nothing more." That's a trap we all get caught in. Yet, each time, I want to pull myself free of it, start fresh with no preconception about how things should be.
The trees are leafing out. We should all be leafing out, continuing to set blooms, growing. Yet it is so easy to stop growing. A little adversity, sometimes, we throw up our hands, turn, retreat. Though sometimes we do put our shoulder into it. I want to put my shoulder into it, every day.
Each sentence I write is a leap, I fall towards the period at the end of the sentence; but - starting - I don't know where I'll end. It is freedom to acknowledge that it is okay to go off-track, to run yourself into a failure you don't foresee. You can't tell yourself beforehand what perfection will look like: that would freeze you up.
Part of the challenge I face is learning to stop driving the bus. It is so easy to think you are in charge. You are not in charge. Yes, we have to accept responsibility, but we are swept up in so much more than what we can be responsible for. What fate has in store lands on us: sometimes it's star dust, sometimes it's shit.
as I drove home from work, a wetness during the night, the streets are still damp this morning; there are beads of moisture on the windows still; the sky is grey; the day, such as it is, is underway.
I am set to retire as the end of August of this year - I will no longer be making this workday morning drive to Ripon. What will this change mean for this journal? What will I capture if I am not forced to go anywhere, do something other than sit at my writing desk at home? What will come of this habit of creating a kind of repository? A fellow never really knows what he will do. I think I shall try to continue - to keep setting aside a time and place to make this side-wise kind of record. It's not a log of doings, so much as a log of "seeings," real and imagined.
I keep two kinds of journals - a daily events log that won't mean much, I suppose, to anyone but myself and some future foolish biographer (Tom laughs); and this log of observations and ideas. This one holds superior interest in the long run. I also keep a tally of random notes - not really a journal, but phrases, ideas, and observations that I set down as they occur to me, material that I sometimes eventually find useful in other contexts. None of my experience with keeping journals really prepares me to teach anything about journals beyond what I've learned here. Though I would like to teach. But I have nothing to say, no ideas but in the things of my experience. If I find opportunity to teach, that's the place I'll have to teach from.
I step outside to leave for work, some patch of blue sky. Far off to the south, storm clouds. A lighter cloud cover in other directions. It's a chill morning, even in the greenness with some sun.
There is still no flag at the cemetery. Nothing flapping to indicate the direction of the wind.
Out in the country I see storm clouds off to the west, too. And far to the east, over Lake Michigan.
Do we invest ourselves in each day, or simply swim through it as through water, there but not committed to it? What is this investment, this grabbing hold?
A flag just south of Ripon says the wind is hard from the west.
I guess the investment in the day is every day choosing to live as if it's the last day. That kind of meaning in the acceptance of what is. Can a fellow do that? He can hope so, he can strive his damned-est to do it.