Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frozen Drain

It warms to almost freezing but everything is still frozen. I have to wash dishes in a dishpan and throw the water outside, not a big deal, just don't throw the water where you need to walk. Slops go off to the side. The muffled sound of snow is oddly reassuring. Us rednecks tend to die in harness. Queen Maud. Three crows calling for their dues. I don't maintain that any of it makes sense, but I play the game. It's supposed to get bitter cold again almost immediately, but, for the moment, the house is warm, two in the morning, so I stay up to write for a couple of hours. Made a cheese omelet with toast, read at the island for an hour. Jim Harrison cooking dinner with some hunting buddies at a cabin in the Upper Peninsula. The drain will be frozen for the rest of the winter, but I've found I use less water if I wash dishes in a dishpan, so I don't really care. It's awkward, going out to throw the slops, but I keep a chair (a straight-back porch chair from Selma, Alabama) near the back door and change into studded rubber boots. The dishpan requires two hands, so I'm very careful. I don't like walking on ice without a stick. When I get to town again, and I need a few things, it will have been a week since I left the ridge. A week is good, you need to be able to do a week without thinking about it; a month, if things turn for the worst. What I've learned is that things usually get better. It wasn't an actual threat, it was just a test, what you need to do is pick up the pieces. I could as easily argue that hauling wood could be done mechanically or with hired labor, but it wouldn't be the same. Another cold night, it never did get above freezing yesterday nor today and back down to 10 or 12 degrees tonight. Outside only briefly as I should have Saturday and Sunday to restock the house and it's supposed to get warmer. Had a nice fire going all day and by bedtime I'll have burned an entire rick, which is about as much as is possible to burn. I'll have to leave the electric oil-filled radiator going tonight. I've started bringing the outhouse toilet seat inside and storing it near the stove. I think a ham and bean soup is next. Six books read in the last six days, which is more or less normal, all fiction, so I was glad to hear from the public library that they were holding a couple of things for me. Tuchman's China book, and a book about the Papacy. Thus, a trip to town, but I can pick up a few things, have new books, start a soup on the cookstove, then split wood and build ricks on the weekend; and the driveway is passable, which makes it all possible. Just settled in with a drink and a smoke when I get a call from an old friend in California. I hadn't heard from him in years, but he found me; he said that on Google Earth I showed up as what might be a driveway. The green roof was a good idea. He's still out on the road, the advance man for rock-and-roll shows, he'd found some of my writing somewhere online, and wanted to tell me that he was impressed I was still alive. I had to laugh. Later, after we'd hung up, I sat for an hour thinking about that. Not so much lucky as careful. The last of the stew is hot and the last of the pone of cornbread is toasted. I have to go. Read more...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Several Layers

I slept in a couple of layers last night in the mummy bag. The house was 42 degrees this morning, inside. Another day in paradise. Pull on my robe and slipper socks, pull Linda's hat down over my ears and start a fire. Go back, wrap up in a blanket and listen to NPR, read for a couple of hours. B had passed on the second (in a series, I'm sure) of detective novels by J.K. Rowling. I'd never read her at all, but this is a pretty good book. A great way to get through a frozen morning. That, and thinking about how often I go back, when I'm writing, and change a preposition to a comma. Or add a preposition AND a comma. Wind is sweeping the ridge. My one foray out, I split a couple of rounds, brought some wood inside. It's harsh out, but partly sunny, which is welcome relief. I fear Mac is buried in snow, south of Buffalo, and we just have a dusting here; I'd feel guilty, but he'll be spending the winter in Key West and other points south, and I'll be buried in a snow-drift. The weather isn't such a hurdle if you don't have to fight it. If you don't open the door, you don't let any cold air in. Fuck protocol, I walk around draped in a blanket. Those army wool blankets are the best, but they're getting harder to find. Read more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Collating Information

God damn it's cold. The stew, however, is extraordinary. Since the stove was going full-time, I caramelized everything. It took hours, but I was just sitting at the island reading. I had left-over juice and bits from the last roast, and had picked up a package of 'rib meat' which I assume to be the outside of a loin, still adhering to the bone, so I seared it with a coating of masa and ground peppers while I roasted root vegetables, then I mixed everything together and left it on the stove overnight. I got up once and stoked the stove with a Live Oak billet, so I cooked this stew for eight hours.If they gave awards for this kind of thing, I won. The natural sweetness and depth of flavor is amazing. It's so good I feel guilty eating it. I made another pone of cornbread, which I split and toasted, and the combination was sublime. I'm suspicious I would be so blessed, surely the wrath of god should follow. Indulgences pave the way. Buy your way to heaven. I sweep the back deck, so I won't fall on my ass, and I sense the presence of the waning moon. I'll deal with the real world later. Fifteen degrees this morning, and windy. Too awful to work outside other than a short walk to collect kindling. B stopped by, to say that if I got too uncomfortable, or the power went out, to come down to his place. I get the house warm enough to survive and heat up the stew. I have another Live Oak log for the nighttime fire. It's supposed to warm above freezing tomorrow. I could get to town, since B got in this afternoon, depends on the weather. For the rest of the winter, I'll go to town when it's possible, not when I choose. You have to think ahead. I don't need anything right now, but if I could get out tomorrow I could get back-up supplies that would see me through the next weather event. Sure, I need to split some wood, but I have to get outside, so what's the downside of that? This kind of windy driven air, heavy with humidity, I'd say there was more snow coming. It smells like carnations (Linda had asked) with no musky overtones. Musky always means rain. My great grandmother thought me that, and eerily, she was always correct. Rattlesnakes do smell like cucumbers. Read more...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold Front

The rain wakes me, 2:30 in the morning. I don't usually put it on before Thanksgiving, but I dug out the space-age long-underwear from Colorado because I'll need it, the next few days. Make stew later today. A surfeit of books. TR is on me about the libretto. Turn on a couple of lights and stoke the stove. This is a dangerous part of the day to feel sorry for yourself. I read for a while, fiction; made a cup of smoked tea. Stood at the island and delivered a terrific oration on the various temptations.Top of my form. I try to stay inside myself. B and I were talking about carrying firewood out of the woods: you just think about where the next foot falls, the rest of mind is free to wander. I think about making a stew. Another nap, before dawn, then awaken to that muffled noiselessness that indicates snow. It's lovely. The ground contour, even across the hollow, revealed. Two generations of logging roads. Temps steady falling, twenties now, dropping to ten degrees tonight. I split a Live Oak round I brought back from Florida, a twisted, impossible piece that involved two wedges and the maul, which yielded several nighttime logs. The ribs of 'Old Ironsides' were Live Oak (specific gravity .95, 59 pounds a cubic foot), spaced just four inches apart with four-inch thick White Oak planking. Great firewood, and one of the most beautiful wood-piles I've ever seen was Kim's brother Kurt's pile of split dry Live Oak outside of Tallahassee, Florida. It's brutal outside, with the wind. It gets your attention. I split a few pieces of wood, then walked along the ridge top: no animal tracks, no birds, no sound but the last rattle of the few dead leaves that remain. Coming back home, into the wind, I have to wear a face-mask, have to stop and laugh. I felt like the Pillsbury Dough Boy dressed as a Ninja. I'd let the stove die, so I could clean the air passages (the 'smoke-chase') and dump the ashes. For the next 48 hours I'll have my sweet Irish Belle, Stanley Waterford, going full bore. I'll have to move a chair and foot-stool over near the stove (you have to get your feet up off the floor), and a music stand, for my dictionary; and I'll sleep on the sofa, but that's hardly any adjustment. This is the first weather event, that if I had been still working at the museum, I would have gone into town and holed up there for a couple of nights. Not because I needed the creature comforts, but because I needed to be there the next day. Now I just watch the snow fall. Yes, I am trapped, yes, my Jeep is on top of the hill and I can't get off, yes, I have enough food. It's always whiskey and tobacco that I worry about. I can always eat crow. Working on the conditional. Jesus Christ, I just spent an hour changing a comma back to a semi-colon. The sense of language changes as you parse it. Every little thing matters, Pinter and Beckett, not to mention that incident on the driveway with the fox. Read more...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bedside Manner

I catch the fire perfectly at 2 in the morning. Rekindle with poplar branches. It's colder than anticipated, with half a moon and a few stars. By 3:30, and half a novel later, it's warm enough in the house that I take off the hooded sweatshirt I sometimes wear over my bathrobe. Balmy. I'm wearing the fingerless gloves Linda knit me, and the watch cap she knitted when she was offstage. I do need to get to town because I need butter, oil, and some bacon. Fried potatoes in the last of the sausage fat and they were wonderful. My right shoulder is a bit sore, from bow-sawing the poplar, but I didn't want to listen to the chainsaw, and a little soreness comes with the game. Pain and suffering. A few scratches from blackberry canes that I wipe clean with alcohol, nothing untoward, I always wipe off the blood when I come inside, take off my boots, shed a layer. Nothing we can't handle. Two phones and a secretary, I could build a bridge. Only half-kidding, because I could build a bridge, but that's not the point. Lost power while I was writing and lost a paragraph. No weather, no wind, just a black-out at an early overcast dark. Read with my headlamp for a couple of hours. Then took a nap. The power coming back on woke me, stoked the fire. Both B and TR have referred to me, in the past week, as an interesting character. The two of them are interesting characters. Split wood and carried a couple of ricks inside against the projected snow and very cold temps. I feel pretty good about who I am right now. Warmed a bit today, and it's rain right now, just before it turns solid. Sleet, then snow. I should be trapped by tomorrow morning. I'll need to spend an hour outside, to replace the rick I'll burn, but I need to cook and clean out the fridge. Which certifies that tomorrow night, on the compost pile, there will be a performance piece. Two coons and a possum go into a bar. Already it's snow, falling straight down. B and I were talking about that, the way snow muffles sound. Read more...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Much Later

The object becomes the subject of change. Note to self. Still below freezing when I get outside. When it gets below twenty degrees it's all about survival and it's supposed to be below twenty the next couple of nights, then snow. I hope to get to town tomorrow for more supplies, but today I loaded up on wood, enough of everything to get through the cold snap. It takes a solid half a day to get ready for a week's fires. Right now I have twenty half-rounds that need to be split into quarters, ten quarters that need to be split for the stove, and another ten barrow loads to bring to the shed. It's a winter-long saga with me. Gets me outdoors. On cold days it's nice to get out and work physically, while the stove gets going. On a day that I don't go out I burn 25% more wood, trying to get the house warmer faster. When I came back inside today I had a good bed of coals and a warm stove, got a hot poplar fire going and then switched right over to oak. I want to get the house warm enough for me to clean up and shave because I won't want to for the next couple of days. The young squirrels are all frantic, stocking their middens. They're both cute and annoying, they chatter all the time and it's a grating sound, like my personal gang of crows (I love that they eat my dead mice, but I hate the sound of their arguing) chowing down on my largess. I don't expect any return on this investment. Dead mice in the freezer is not the coin of the realm. Though it could be the coin of mine. Dry bark and twigs is enough. Starting a fire is easy, once you start a fire. Just a spark is all you need. Cotton-wood pulp, then soft-wood shavings. I write for a couple of hours then crash, totally used up, but I drink a glass of water before I go to bed, so I'll have to get up and pee, when I'll stay up for an hour and restock the stove. Works perfectly, and I catch another bed of coals, stoke them up with poplar then oak splits. I needed another dead poplar sapling today, to fill the wood box, and I had seen two or three out near the outhouse. The bark splits and they get a white mold, easy to identify. I went up to one, maybe twenty feet tall, and just broke it off at the root, hauled it back to the woodshed. It provides both kindling and starter sticks. I had to laugh, I'd broken off the branches and the tip, taken them back to break up as kindling, and I was dragging the sapling back through the blackberry canes. Bent to my chore. And I saw myself from the outside, old dude, ratty clothes, dragging a sapling back home, gap-toothed grin on his face. As good as it gets. Read more...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Arcane Explanation

You can look for that, something that would make sense; in my experience, it's never quite there. But you can look for it nonetheless, a white lily, like Emily presented to Higginson, a field of black poppies, Norton, Virginia. Cold house, so I start a hot fire of poplar and red maple. Ice on the back porch and the leaves crunch when I go out to pee and dump my nighttime piss-pot. Overcast. My three crow friends await their morning repast, so I go back inside and microwave a couple of frozen mice. The field mice are moving back inside. Early in the mouse trapping season they're quite stupid and I catch two or three a night. A Pileated woodpecker arrived and set up quite a drumming in the early morning air. They are a beautiful bird, the crest so vibrant. I love watching them, they're so goddamned industrious they make me feel like a slacker. I don't get everything done that I had intended. Split wood for a while, then walked down the logging road. Slipped into a meditative state in which I pretty much questioned the validity of everything. How did I end up here? Have I wasted my life? Is the reward worth the sacrifice? On the way home I found a nice edible boletus, probably the last mushroom of the season, and I immediately imagined mushroom slices and beans on toast. I have eggs and bread in reserve, I'm a careful guy, for the most part. And it is worth it, whatever price I pay. The biological imperative becomes a footnote. Ultimately you're left with yourself. It's the hard lesson, that we are utterly alone. All that ersatz communication plays into the myth. Those French guys were correct. When I raid the Tim Horton Fall Arrangement for the squash before they rot, I feel I'm doing a public service. Doing right by doing wrong. Read more...

Battened Down

If all the wet leaves freeze on the driveway (20 degrees tonight) it'll be slick as a hockey rink. It was fine today, zero slippage. Went to the library, met TR for lunch; though Brandy, who works with his mother, had arrived before him, and we had a chance to gossip. She left me half of her lunch for my dinner. Excellent. There's some ground veal for half-price at Kroger, so I get a package, with no idea what I'm going to do with it. Meatballs maybe. Supposed to be cold but clear tomorrow, and I'd like to get two more ricks of wood inside, and haul a couple of barrow loads from down the way. Everything is uphill to the ridge. Everyone warned me about the weather today, which is interesting, because I don't have to drive in it and they do, and there's very little chance I'll freeze to death. I pull a chair up to the stove and read for eight hours. Then spend an hour with the dictionaries, checking definitions. I don't qualify as a threat, nor as a defense... I just don't qualify. The temps start falling mid-afternoon, no smell of rain, but I picked up some whiskey and tobacco just in case. I made my yearly raid on Tim Horton's Fall Arrangement of corn stalks and squash. I salvaged three acorn squash and two butternuts, before the freeze could turn them to jelly. Later, I halve one of the acorn squash, putting the seeds in a small bowl of water, so I can clean and roast them, with a little garlic powder and salt tomorrow (I love them). Stuff one half with sausage, and put a tablespoon of orange juice in the other. Prop them up in an iron skillet (I have some small rocks I use as shims) and put them in the oven. I made corn bread. When the squash was done, I took out the sausage half, filled the second half with raspberries and popped it back in the oven. This was a very good meal. I only burned myself once, which is pretty good, considering two extremely hot cast iron skillets. The eggplants were lovely at Kroger today. I want to make a parmigiana with thin slices of cured loin on the side, for which I can buy all the ingredients; but I also want to cure a loin, which is one of those things that I enjoy doing. Make it your own. Read more...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wood Work

Outside at 8, lovely morning, but clouds moving in and rain tonight. I split enough stove wood for three ricks, one of them of larger nighttime logs. Wheelbarrow them to the back door, then carry them in and dump them on the kitchen floor. I make one trip, with the barrow, to the outside pile of rounds furthest away. Put up my tools, then come inside and stack the three ricks. 2 x 2, twenty splits in a rick. Filled the kindling bucket and split starter sticks. Feels great but I'm a fucking mess, tattered clothes, unshaven, dirty hair, so I heated water. Washed the few dishes, then a wonderful sponge bath, hair wash, and shave. Left-overs for one more night, then I need to either make a pot of soup or a casserole. Meat balls and egg noodles is a possibility. Also, I'm hankering for some fish cakes. I'm more than a little sore, so I self-medicated, thank god I have some left-overs. I have a few minor dings but nothing that required stitches. The house smells great, fresh split chestnut oak giving up it's surface moisture, I'm building a hash with the last of the left-overs, and it smells pretty good too. Another common interest I share with B is making hash, using up everything. I make a duck breast hash, with parsnips, that is fantastic; serve this on a slab of country bread, with a fried egg on top. Now we're talking. Because I have almost everything I need, I decide to cook a stew. A stew, I figure, with cornbread, would cover all the bases. The rain starts just after dark. A Bach cantata. Too tired to think. Dozed off for a couple of hours, listening to the patter song. Woke up to pee, got a wee dram, rolled a smoke, made a cup of tea from willow twigs. I'd overheated the house, burning junk wood from the woodshed; so I stood in the back doorway, in a tee-shirt, until the cool night air had settled me. Temps are supposed to drop thirty degrees tomorrow. I need a few things from town, not actually so much need as simply want, and I need to get down to the bottom of the hill to collect my mail. The rule is that if you get to the bottom of the hill, you might as well go to town. I have things to do there, the library, the liquor store, butter and bread, AND it's the authentic world. What did Emily say. "I only plant perennials." Don't get me started. Read more...

Vade Mecum

Phone is out again. My guy was right out, late morning. He monitors the line now, to see that it's working (for all I know he works for NSA) and calls me in the afternoon, with his handy snap into the line anywhere phone, and tells me he's going to be another couple of hours, so that he can splice in a new piece of line. The line is beat to shit coming into the forest on Mackletree. Dozens of dead trees have fallen on it, the white oaks especially, since the ice storm, and then the fire. I'm a little sore, I have to admit. Slept late because I was back up finishing last night's piece, even if I couldn't send it. Because of circumstances I know that I spent 6 hours writing yesterday's page. That may be typical, I'd be lying if I said I know. Spending so much time alone, I don't differentiate that much between the ways I spend my energy. The Weather Service has given me another day, tomorrow, to get some things done, so I don't work too hard today. A finite but vast amount of wood, and it all needs splitting, but the new system, the hatchet and a three pound hammer, works very well. The last pieces, if they're unsplittable, you just keep as night-time logs. You load them through the top. I don't have a notebook, what I have is a folded sheet of paper: a shopping list and the numbers to call if either my phone or power goes out. Foot-free. I've cut wood in several places, and need to collect the rounds. I'll bust these in half and put them in the back of the woodshed. It's all wheelbarrow work, and I'll need to clip access through the briars, which means I'll be bleeding and bitching. It's fairly brutal, but I love it, and when I get back to the woodshed, with another wheelbarrow load of wood, I tend to kick my heels together. Uncertainty comes into play. A wheelbarrow load of wood might last two days or two weeks, but it's still cause for celebration, and I have 10 or 12 loads yet to haul. Just short of gleeful. I look at this pile of wood and tears come into my eyes. I can't imagine a better way to spend my time. Read more...

Taken Alone

Bundled against the chill, sitting on my foam pad on the back stoop. Very dark night, but after a while I can just discern a deep gray where the moon is above thick overcast. I feel a bit fragile and I've never felt that way before, intimidated by what I need to do and uncertain in my resolve. The good news is I've burned all the bridges. It's the ridge or oblivion. I can't imagine what else I'd do. Stopped down at B's, on my way back home, and we talked about books. He'd read the Tuchman and we talked about the 14th century as if were yesterday. The Mid-Term elections. Listen, I retreat to an island in the stream. The stupidity of the electorate, I mean... really. I try not to get sexual or political, our relationship seems to preclude that. I didn't want to damage my body, and as the forecast was for another nice day tomorrow before the outrider of the Alaskan storm arrives, I only split wood for a couple of hours. The oak is lovely, straight grained and sweet smelling. Splitting wood in this new fashion, on my knees with a hatchet and mallet, is very precise and I can split everything, kindling, starter sticks, overnight logs, from a single round. It's interesting and enjoyable work. There's a disconnect that happens when you focus on the task at hand; and there's something about spending a few hours out in the natural world, where the woodpeckers are screeching and the dry top leaves blow in concert, that allows me to give up aspiration. This is fine, I think. The uncertainty of outcome. It's not any political conviction that motivates my action, I'd just rather spend my time alone. Another product of being a military brat, my answer was sitting off in the corner and reading a book. Or finding a brook or pond where I could catch pan-fish. Later, in Colorado, I took to catching trout and cooking them over a twig fire. I enjoy good conversation, but there's something about camping alone, above 10,000 feet, where the only sound is snowflakes melting on the outside of the tent, that seems to me to be absolutely essential. Not that you have to suffer, just that you have to experience. Basho hiking the last few miles to an unheated hut.

The leaves are all dead,
color a thing of the past,
and still the green briar.

This is not me, I mean it's very close to being me, but memory is fickle. I was reminded, recently, that most of what I remembered was fictitious. Over a long life. I had to laugh, what's the alternative?
Read more...

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Deep Silence

Something woke me. I was napping on the sofa, after reading and writing, and it was so quiet I was sure it had snowed. Put on slippers and a robe, went outside to pee, and it was so still I sounded like a mule pissing on a flat rock. The air was heavy but it didn't smell like snow, not humid enough. Cold enough for hoar frost and a full moon behind layers of cloud so there was dull gray glow. Pleasant. I cracked open a bottle of Irish whiskey and got a wee dram in the glass I favor, rolled a smoke, went back out and sat on the stoop, a foam pad for my bony ass. I had been dreaming, I remembered, about that time my sister stepped on a moccasin that would have bit her, but had a frog in it's mouth. Dad had shipped over and we were spending some time in Tennessee. It's very vivid, in memory; my favorite cousins, a stock pond where we caught the same fish over and over, Aunt Sadie frying sweet potato rounds in bacon fat. Memory often comes from a specific smell, or from hearing a specific sound. Sitting on the back steps, I lost track of where I actually was. I propped the door open and put on the Cello Suites. This usually works for me, in terms of bringing myself back to normal, but occasionally Bach, with his change-ringing, takes me further out. I sat there until I was shivering against the cold, finally came inside and nestled under a blanket. Low thunder. Excellent. A storm would be good. I could hole up and read about the 14th century, butterfly some tenderloin slices and stuff them with wild mushrooms. Dealer's choice. High-Low splits the pot. In the parlance, I'm all in. My sleep habits have gotten wacky. I was having a large breakfast at 3:30 this morning. To town, to meet TR and see the new shows at the museum. Drew did a great job with the historic photographs show upstairs. Odd thing about the trip was that the driveway has completely disappeared under many layers of leaves. I know where to drive, but especially coming back in, it was comical. The Miss Ohio pageant is at the university theater, this weekend I guess, and the judges came into the pub for lunch with last year's queen, and I saw several of the contestants around town. Of a type, a kind of plastic ideal of beauty. One thing though, they really know how to apply makeup. Twenty years in theater I know good makeup. I never worked this pageant, the years I was at the university, though Leo always asked me to; there were plenty of eager seekers for my job and I found the whole event depressing. Picked up a few more things for the larder. A pint of ultra-pasteurized half-and-half with a long shelf-life, an extra dozen eggs, a loaf of bread for the freezer; I'm waiting for butter to be on sale, so I can buy a couple of pounds. I have beans, I have rice, and now I have this Tuchman person that I have to read completely. Read more...

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bourgeois Rising

I'm concerned with the confusion of road and row. If you've never held a hoe you might not understand. One doesn't hoe a road. One hoes a row, to clean the weeds around a plant you favor. Hoeing a road might mean planting ornamentals along the verge, but that's a stretch; though there are vast reaches of the Interstate in Iowa that are beautiful. As soon as it warmed up a bit, I pulled on bib-overalls and went outside. Filled the wood box, then took a walk. Brisk and lovely. Picked up a batch of acorns from a white oak tree, they're somewhat less bitter, to make some meal. Totally captivated by the Tuchman book, the 14th century was truly awful. The Black Death, of course, and the endless fighting between France and England, the incredible suffering of the peasant class, a chaotic church (three popes at once) literally selling salvation. A sorry state of affairs. Interesting to note that the first thing Gutenberg printed at Mainz, 1454, were indulgences. I'm very careful, using tools, but I was splitting an oak round today (I set a wedge with the back of the maul-head) when a fox appeared down the driveway. I hit the inside of my left hand with the maul. Nothing broken, but it hurt like hell and I gave up splitting for the day. Getting dark anyway, now that we're back on Standard Time, so I went inside and made a pot-roast and root vegetables on toast that was excellent. I don't have the stamina anymore to work hard physically for 8 or 10 hours at a time, but I do like to push myself, now and again, though I end up tired and sore. I was so happy to get back inside today, strip off the outer layer, wash my face and hands, get into slippers and bath-robe, stoke the fire, get a drink and roll a smoke, that I was almost ecstatic. I like not being accountable. I'm pretty sure it's Friday, finally change the calendar and listen to the radio to get a fix on time and place. I was close. Which is all that matters. Navaho sense is not the same, and ever since I lived on their reservation I view clocks with suspicion. Read more...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reading Emily

I had no intention of reading Emily for hours, but in the letters, I stumbled on the line "November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.". So I read for a few more hours. She takes walks, entertains a few friends, bakes bread, tends her flowers. She writes incessantly, and bitches when people don't write back immediately. I can read at the island, while I cook, so after the cookstove is fired move over there, start the roast, prep the vegetables. Foreshortened time, but over the course of hours, I braise the roast and roast the vegetables, mix them together. The liquid has become something special. I love root vegetables anyway, but simmered in that liquid, turnips and parsnips become transcendent. Seriously. A pone of corn bread might provide the key. Assume you thought you knew what you were doing, all I have to do is split wood tomorrow. Easy enough. In many ways, a man is judged by his woodpile. Read until dawn, then napped for a couple of hours, awakened by the rattle of wind-blown leaves. It's too dreary to go outside, so I make a huge breakfast and resume reading. The Tuchman book on the 14th century is 700 pages of small type and will take me a while, but it's not a novel and doesn't require a reading straight through, so I intersperse my time with the history of cheese making in America and Emily. She often signed her name Emilee until 1858-1860. A wonderful thing happens for me when I read her now, in that whenever I reread a section we used in the performance piece, I hear Linda's voice and Zack playing TR's music. An unexpected transport. Written word becoming something more, an audio-visual experience. It's always interesting to hear an author's voice, the parsing. It's not necessary, for a close reading, but it helps. Linda does Emily so well, it's like an introduction into the inner circle. I've heard Pound , and Olson, and Bly, I can hear their voices, but for Prince Hal or Macbeth I have to rely on a specific interpretation. We all have our favorites. Linda sets the bar for me, when it comes to Emily. As the evening wears on I realize I'm not going down to B's for dinner because the weather threatens and I don't want to get stuck down there. Wind and scudding clouds, far off thunder. It's not cold yet, but the temps are falling. I'm sure I'd have enjoyed the comradery, but I'm secure, wrapped in a blanket, my headlamp close at hand for when the power fails, reading about goat cheese. I'd rather not risk a driveway slick with wet leaves. Wet leaves are like goose shit, I swear. This morning, walking out to the woodshed, I slipped, but was saved from a fall by my mop-handle walking stick. That third leg. Joel would argue that I shouldn't be doing it at all, working that hard, physically, and Kim would argue that he couldn't wait to get the use back into that arm, so he could lay brick with both hands. I don't know. I'd rather be left alone. Read more...