Thursday, October 23, 2014

Satisfied Mind

The crackle of a fire. Distant sounds: a train in Kentucky, a barge on the river. No animal noises, the dark is heavy and thick. I wanted to just stay asleep, but I had to get up and pee, and I knew that would wake me. Bowed to the inevitable, put a log on the fire, got a wee dram, rolled a smoke. Sat in my pool of light. Usually I read, in these intervals, but sometimes I just stare into space. All that stuff that rolls around. Could you, should you, the conditional comes to bear. I'm good with this, I've talked people off ledges. In my experience you just need a narrative. Oh, hey, did I mention that my phone was out again? White sand and scrub pine. Scraping by, two crab traps and a trot-line, grits in a crock-pot. Finally, a beautiful cool day, Sara calls to postpone lunch until tomorrow, because she got a last-minute hair appointment for the gala fund-raiser; fine with me. I clipped brambles to the back and front of the woodshed, split the last rounds, and got out the wheelbarrow. Mindless work is sometimes a good thing, on this occasion it buoyed my spirits, hauling wood I felt like a real person, in the actual world. I knocked off mid-afternoon, because I had a book of B's that was inter-library loan (I was tired), and a card that had arrived in my mail saying that his driver's license needed to be renewed. I drank a beer and gave him a report on the book he had loaned me. His former wife, Dawn, was dropping off the twin grandchildren, Owen and Harrison, and left. We watched the boys, playing on the hillside. Frankly, I'm amazed. I told B early that I'd surprised if the Hot Cars even made it to the bottom. But they did. Both boys cheated, Owen always jumped the gun, and Harrison always pushed his car, to give it a good start.That's just the way I remember it. Fact and fiction, don't get me started. Read more...

Broken Silence

Overcast, threat of rain, but tomorrow promises to be nice for hauling firewood. Met TR for lunch, hadn't seen him for a week, and we were catching up on the news when Sara came in. In town for the big museum fund-raiser this Saturday. She wants to have lunch before they go back to Hilton Head. I stopped at Kroger to get what I needed to make pan of Johnny Marzetti. I haven't had this for years and usually just buy it as a boxed meal at a church social. Picked up some ramen and some instant mashed potatoes for the winter larder, both ten for ten dollars, and headed home. No denying that it's fall. The leaves are in banks on the verge. The driveway is completely obscured, it's only because I know where the ruts are that I can drive in and out. Confident, though, that I can deal what's dealt me. Good at banter, mobile enough to avoid a slow rock, and I've always been able to start a fire.

Ill (I'll) but oddly prepared.
In his alembic system,
to accept anything as more
or less true.
Read more...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Meals

Soups, of course. A kale soup with chorizo and chick peas that I'm fond of, various game stews (my hunting and trapping friends will be leaving dead animals on the back porch), ham and bean soup, squash soup, fish and shellfish soup. Cornbread and polenta, the winter's supply of cornmeal and grits arrived. When I buy something at the supermarket now, if it's a thing I use regularly, I buy an extra one. I need a gallon of olive oil. Split another couple of rounds of the oak this afternoon, but I was feeling it in my back, after working hard yesterday, so I just went for a walk. Mindless, stopping to feel the texture of leaves. I always forget how beautiful it is, when the slanted light rakes the hillside. Casseroles, right? we were talking about dinner. Rolling thunder, more rain. better go. Rained like a mule peeing on a flat rock. I catch enough water to see me through the immediate future, I think there is no more than that. The immediate future I mean. I make a force-meat against hunger. Chicken livers and mushrooms; slivered hard cheese and sweet pickles. Two in the morning and I don't know where I am. Your sofa or mine. More rain and my firewood plans are shot. Supposed to be sunny on Thursday, so if I get the other eight rounds split I can haul everything then. Worked on editing myself for a few hours, then read a Michael Connelly novel to give my head a rest. In a break between squalls I got a small walk. Luminous fungi on a log, two crows, a log-truck laboring on the road below. County politics, some favors change hands. A logging concern has gained rights to harvest a large section of timber but the access had been closed. New culverts are installed, some grading, some gravel hauled; THEN they can't go out the convenient way, out Mackletree and onto 125, because of a bad bridge, they have to go other way, up Mackletree and out Upper Twin, but the road is a mess. Repair on top of repair. So the county paves that end of Mackletree, Chip-And-Seal, which is just hot asphalt and gravel. Enough repair to get the timber out. This is transparent. All that it means to me is that for three miles I have to drive very slowly, so I can pull off the road if a log-truck is coming the other way. There are a great many things that threaten you every day, that you don't see; the least you can do is avoid the things you can see. Read more...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Steely Gray

Rain, so I blow off going to town for the Saturday lunch with TR. The sky is completely uniform. Enough chill that I wear my bathrobe over my clothes. Putting away some books and I found a couple, translations and commentary on 'The Dead Sea Scrolls', with which I spent the rest of the day. Barely aware of the passage of time. Several rounds of finger food, and several cups of smoked tea, before I get a glass of whiskey in the late afternoon. I've been told by house guests, that have a chance to observe me as the solitary human I actually am, that I'm a very intense reader. I mumble, squirm, tease out meanings and look up words. Sunday dawns lovely, so I make a second cup of double espresso and make an omelet, toast with peanut butter. Cleaned a couple of corners in the house that had been bothering me, but I could only see the spaces in the morning; then filled the woodbox, split some kindling, then went out and split half of the remaining oak rounds. A branch had fallen down over the driveway, but was caught up in some young poplars, so I had to lop off some of the smaller branches so I could drive under the damned thing the next time I go out. Since I intend to do the same work tomorrow, I don't clean up or shave, or even change clothes. When you're walking up and down in the woods, this time of year, you're going to smell like leaf-litter no matter what you do. Very nice outside. I sat on the stoop with my first whiskey and rolled a smoke, rolled my shoulders, felt a little sore. I liked the feeling, my body responding to what I needed to do. I knew I had my dinner cooked, left-overs, high quality left-overs, pork tips and greens. So I sat outside until the darkness was nearly complete. Duck under the radar, eat a great meal, sleep for a few hours in a hollow, on the beach of imagination; you might choose one path, and I another. Rolled over, on the sofa, I didn't want to dare the stairs. Jesus, I'm sore. I remember I'd bought some generic Aleve, the last time my hip was hurting and I get up to find them. Waiting for the drugs to kick in, I got a last wee dram, rolled a smoke, and laughed at myself. At my age, to find myself here. Eight more oak rounds to be split, then haul everything to the shed. Every piece I haul to the shed needs to be spilt two or three more times. This time of year, what you do is try and set up a situation where you don't die. Split wood, collect water, gather acorns. When I wake up later, aching in every pore, I wonder what futures, what gains. Read more...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dappled Light

My sister had fixed slaw-dogs for lunch one day. I hadn't had one in years, so I bought some good hot-dogs (Nathans) and a bag of slaw. Especially good topped with kimchi. Beautiful day, intensely blue, so I drove into town the back way, admiring the light and the color; the bluffs of Kentucky, across the river, were spectacular. Failed in my search for a three-pound hammer head among the junk shops, but I refuse to pay thirty dollars for a new hammer. The Chestnut oak splits so easily, as expected, that I can split it on my knees with a hatchet and the smaller hammer, saving my back. I do need to make a handle for a lovely, unused, six pound splitting-maul head that I picked up for two dollars. B swears by Black Gum for handles because the grain is so convoluted that they never break. Never is relative, city friends break handles trying to be helpful. I have another maul, with a fiberglass handle, given to me by someone, but it needs to sharpened, which means several hours with a file because I don't want to lose the temper. The pub was quiet, after the lunch rush, and there was a guy I knew sitting at the bar, Michael, a graphic designer, who's been stripping copper and other salable stuff from a building a friend of his bought in Ashland. He's making very good money and bought me a beer, we talked about taking buildings apart. I love salvage. I'd as rather take something apart as build another something. When you take something apart, you see the whole process in reverse. Vitruvius, in De Architectura, lays it all out, the physical part of things, then the next year, Poggio found Lucretius. Which opened that whole debate, the immortal soul, Dante, the circles of hell. Coming back in the dappled pools of light were glowing. And the leaves. I knew going out that we were having a major leaf-event day. The driveway is inches deep in them. On Mackletree, through the forest, you can't see the edges of the road. Vehicles make rooster-tails. They pour out of the beds of pickup trucks. They carpet the terrain. They make walking difficult because you can't see the ground. I wonder how many pounds per acre. I make a rough calculation, based on questionable data, and it's a great many tons. Worms and nematodes process that, the dust of volcanos, bat shit, the bones of the dead, and leaves, into tomorrow's topsoil. Where do you think that air came from? Chemical reaction? Best guess, you let the dust settle, sift the fines, bury a dead herring for every ear of corn. Read more...

Usual Silence

Utterly still. I got some flash paper and did some magic tricks on the back stoop. Off beat drumming. I like salmon, I like tuna, I like sardines four to the can. Crickets are 22% protein. Rain, and everything is saturated. I was just fixing to turn on Black Dell when the power went out. Then the quiet was virtually complete. Enough overcast light that I can back against a window and read. I make a cheese, salami, olives, and kimchi plate, eat with my fingers, using one hand to read; put on a bathrobe and a knit hat, start a fire. Just a little fire, to chase off the chill, enough heat to fry a small steak and two eggs, toast with jalapeno jam. Comparing variant spellings. Codifying language is no easy task. Idiota was originally someone who couldn't read Latin. All the text, hand-copied, on vellum or parchment, was in Latin. The information was all there, but in a language almost no one could read: how to raise wheat, how to build the Parthenon. It was all there. Greek, transcribed lovingly (Hesiod), into beautiful, fixed, Ciceronian Latin. With the addition of all that Roman engineering. AND, from the very beginning of recorded text, there's all this mysticism, fear, self-doubt, such a deep and strongly held desire to be told what to do. The Humanists are the thread, which was my point. Poggio Bracciolini had a great couple of years; 1416, 1417 he won thirty games, batted .442; found Vitruvius, in ten volumes, at St Gall, then Lucretius the next year. On a roll. The Vitruvius is fairly common, there are eighty copies (or so) of the original, when he found the Lucretius there was no other copy. There are two others, now, but this was a tenuous thread. It held, barely. A sidebar: Robert Johnson to Eric Clapton. I can't help it's that way. Twist and shout. Read more...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Service

The phone rang, startled me. What the hell is that? My personal phone guy calling to apologize. He'd been in Michigan where a bunch of lines had been taken down by an early season storm, came right out and found that one of the 'splice weather housings' had become an acorn storage silo. A squirrel. I immediately sent all the posts in storage and plowed through emails. I'd made a quick run to town, to call the phone company again, and they said they thought I was restored. Celebratory pint at the pub, a jar of kimchi at Kroger. A dial tone had never sounded so sweet. I made a few calls, my oldest friends, established myself in the land of the living, and it feels good to have some connection. My tendency is to retreat, to a cave or a tree-tip pit, if anything happens. I want my back against a wall, and I'd want that wall to be solid rock. I've slept in caves many times, mostly in Utah; you build a fire at the mouth and you're pretty well protected. Dead wood is always available and any ledge is solace from the storm. One more wee dram and a glimpse of the future. Mad Tom tangles with the devil. A Super 8, Norton, Virginia, St. Elmo's fire. You can believe whatever you want. Three or four times in my varied career, things have not made sense, but generally beams fall into place. Oh. Right. She was left-handed. Like that. It suddenly all makes sense. Lunch with TR and our banker friend Ty at the bar in the pub, excellent conversation ranging all over the landscape. More rain. I forgot to go to the library, but, fortunately, I already have thirty or forty books in the winter pile, which I now keep atop the aquarium that used to house exotic frogs; on a plank, but they have a wall to lean on, so they rarely get knocked over. I bumped into the pile of Natural History pamphlets the other night. A lot of them have glossy covers and they tend to slide; it was a fucking mess that I shoveled into a corner, with a snow-shovel, dare I trip going out to pee. Two hours, the next morning, sorting things out. There were hundreds of pamphlets. Bees, butterflies, moths, bats, moles and voles, small mammals, large bugs. A certain solace in knowing what's what. I'm getting better on common weeds, but I still call things what we always called them, in the vernacular: Caxton should be placed on the same throne with Shakespeare. When I come in now, from a stint outdoors, I pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone. Small pleasures. Read more...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Up The Creek

The beauty of the slope across the river, in Kentucky, was so striking I had already decided to drive home the long way around. An outing, one extra gallon of gas, $3.06, a cheap date. First a stop at the library where I found a Dorothy Sayers that I'd either not read or forgotten; a stop at the pub for a Saturday pint, a stop at Kroger for a few things. I have a nip of Glendronach in my bag, and figure to stop at the first ford and let the recent rains clean my undercarriage. The colors are lovely, the red sumac, the yellow poplars, and some of the maples are orange. The vegetation is still close, along the creek, but opens up on the slopes, where I can now see the ground again. B's place is on the way, when I come up the creek, so I stop there, just for a few minutes, touching base; he's playing with two bands and rehearsing four nights a week. He seems content, to be up to his ears in music, and hauling firewood on a Saturday afternoon. He has a book for me, the rise of the new sciences 1400-1600. The Humanists. I check the notes and the index and naturally my old friend Poggio is there. A New Yorker in the mailbox, with fiction by Murakami. Weather permitting, I want to haul wood for several hours tomorrow, and cut up the junk I've collected since last winter, small stuff that makes fine fires for cool evenings, but that will still allow hours for reading, then hours later, for writing. A new pack of dogs, in the distance, real hounds, on the trail of a coon. They sound quite lovely. Found a fine ginseng root today. I was parked in the creek and using a small telescope to look closely at the banks. I noticed the red berries and distinctive leaves. A park ranger had pulled in next to me, opposite direction so we were driver's side to driver's side. He had a sip of the scotch and I rolled him a smoke. He asked me what I was doing, in a friendly way, and I told him I was fixing to dig a nice ginseng root (there's a season, opens September 1) and he watched while I dug out my little mandrake, we both figured it was four or five years old. He was impressed that I had found it, sitting in the middle of a creek. I chopped it into some very high-proof moonshine. This works very well against skin diseases and congestive heart failure. When I was younger, I used it to stay up for 48 hours at a time, to make a special effect happen, or to drive 24 hours to get laid. The follies of youth. Now I take a sip to swage the local pain. Not that it makes any difference. But it seems to help, as I limp toward the door. Firewood, right, I see where we're going. Trying to not freeze to death. A noble ambition. Read more...

Easy Day

Take it slow and easy. After coffee and a protein shake I split some wood, go look at what arrangement I'm going to make in the woodshed. A Pileated Woodpecker sweeps in and lands on the other dead tree I want to harvest. I'm dressed in extremely grubby clothes, they'll never see the washer again, with the baseball cap my girls gave me that says 'Porn Star', red on black, when the State Police officer showed up. He was in one of those new cars, I think they're Chevy's, goosed up, with superior suspension. I read about them somewhere, they stopped making whatever had been used before. Anyway he was grinning like an idiot, because he'd been warned about the driveway by the forest service guys, but it wasn't his car, exactly. So he took a run up the hill, to see if he could make it. If you can't, you just back down, it's not a big deal. He wasn't going to walk. The stolen vehicle thing seems to be getting out of control and the county called in the state. This guy was using GPS to check long driveways that apparently went nowhere. He'd checked in with the forest people, and they had tried to call me, to warn me he was coming, but my phone was out. It didn't matter, I don't do very much that's illegal. I don't steal vehicles, but I did make a very nice pun about my chop-shop. I think he missed it. He couldn't wait to get turned around and away. When he first came up I had a hatchet in one hand and a maul in the other. I put those down, right away; he was cautious, a Glock on his hip. I really don't want to get shot for splitting wood. We had a friendly chat about stealing cars. Still no phone, which seems more and more incredulous. Just enough rain to keep me from working outside so I read the book B sent over (Rise Of The New Sciences, 1400-1600). I'm chewing it slowly. What it is, I think, is an update on what might be called the sociology of scientific knowledge. And it's a period I'm becoming more interested in. Something to pursue this winter. A walk out the logging road, then back along the driveway. Found several ginseng plants but didn't dig them, I don't need them right now. I did look at them closely. It's a nice little plant, very slow growing. Winded, from a uphill slog, the slope very wet and slippery with leaves, I stopped at a convenient stump and rolled a smoke, dug out an ashtray in the duff, with the toe of my boot, and sat there for a long time. We're so alone, well and truly alone. There's great hoopla, and nachos, in the next room, you don't have to suffer the death of ten-thousand blackberry canes to know it's excitation, but the fact is each of us is a monad. I only use that word because it's available. I tend to think in terms of seed. You and me Babe. I have to go, I need some sleep. There's a lot to think about. The Dark Ages were essentially a crisis of language. Consider walled cities, the plague, most of the oaks had been cleared so grain could be cultivated, and almost everyone had forgotten how to read, so the great classics (Roman and Greek) had been lost. The vernacular wasn't established until moveable type, 1450. It's all about codification. To my mind, Caxton is the most important figure in history. I'm just a printer but it seems to me that communication opens out, as Olson said, and we must, then, face our devils. Fixed versus whatever passes as the creole of the day, the patois of the moment, I never understood a word you said. It didn't matter. I really have to go. The light is gaining in the east. Read more...

Overcast

Nice weather for splitting wood. Hope to get everything under cover this weekend. Came inside when the overcast started leaking, and I'd used my shoulder muscles enough for the day. Picked up an old oak tabletop from a dumpster in town, a bit rotted but it should make nice kindling. By the looks of me, if I do haul wood all weekend, I'll need a motel room next week. I was talking with an exotic dancer friend at the pub and she offered to come with me and scrub my back. She thought an evening of Chinese take-out and watching some of the new shows on TV sounded like a fun time. She doesn't own a TV either. We discuss books. She's a reader and asked me for a list, and now we talk about those and she wants more lists, and I give her books. We had sex, ten years ago, but now we just talk. I got her into Emily Dickinson, and we have incredibly convoluted discussions about feminism. Oddly, I come across as the feminist. She's one tough pragmatic lady. Paul swore I'd have a phone by five tomorrow afternoon, and if I do, I'll call my sister, to check on the death watch, then Joel, to see how his kidneys are holding up, then Kim, to check on his arm recovery. I'm being very careful, as I go about my chores, very careful; I look where every foot falls, I plan my trips outside to pee; I know where every irregularity is embedded. You can't be too careful. I burn any mail that's addressed to me, start fires with bank statements or offers for life insurance, and generally try to disappear. That pack of young dogs showed up again. I hate the way they invade. Stupid and loud, I ran them off with a firecracker. Firecrackers are the perfect defense up to anything other than an Army Ranger or a Navy Seal. A sudden explosion is proof against almost anything, snakes, bears, mountain lions; the ingrained ethic is flight. I can light and throw a dry firecracker in two or three seconds, quick enough to avoid most situations. People move slowly, for the most part, so that anything you do quickly is missed. Sleight of hand. Crashed early, sore muscles and a tad too much medication, then awake before dawn to more rain. I stay supine, listening to rain on the metal roof, for a long time, picking out time-signatures in the drip patterns. Spent the day reading The Old Gringo, by Carlos Fuentes. I made a small batch of chorizo sausage (very easy to do) and had it with beans on toast, topped with Kim Chi. A lovely meal that I repeated later. The deadline comes and goes and, of course, there is no phone. Leaf fall all day is a constant distraction. I love watching them twirl and get blown about, and I love that I can just sit and watch. A cup of tea, a book, a pillow for my back; I don't ask much, so I'm seldom disappointed. I need to get another radio / CD player, as I had to go out to the Jeep last night, to listen to the end of the book-on-tape I had taken to Florida. It's due back at the library. I enjoyed going out there, with a drink and a smoke, listening to someone read to me. Like going to a drive-in movie. Next time I'll have some greasy popcorn. I've always read. I read at the new third-grade level when I was in kinder garden. There weren't books at the house, but both Mom and Dad read, swapped books out with a used book store, 2 for 1, so they could read westerns and Nero Wolfe novels, and I read all of those. Then teachers started sending me home with other books and libraries became very important. Because we moved so often (Dad was doing pre-induction physicals at Navy recruiting stations) and because my school years spanned three tours of duty (between which were 90 or 100 days of 'lay-over' times, which we spent in Mississippi or Tennessee with family) I ended up going to school in eight or ten different states. They all had libraries. You tend to meet other readers in libraries. And, too, books are easier than people. If a teacher really likes you, they give you a copy of either Shakespeare, Whitman, or dear sweet Emily. Through a chance encounter (I love that, and's it true) I read Olson, then Dorn, then hundreds of books, thousands, that weren't even on my list. This winter I want to read everything Flannery O' Conner ever wrote, in order, you know, in sequence. Mary Flannery and those fucking peacocks. Read more...

Cast Iron

Six skillets were out, just because there was a flat surface. I clean them with kosher salt, rub and heat them with walnut oil, hang them on their nails. Then I clean out the throat of the stove, where the hot gases condense. Though, through, thorough. Clean-up, shave, off to town, lunch with TR, and call the phone company. They promise repair within 24 hours, which I don't believe and explain to Maggie (in Austin, Texas) that I've been dealing with this problem since August 26. She gets her supervisor and he agrees to cancel my bill for last month and get me credit for another month. He swears that I'll have a phone by 5 PM on Friday. He's a nice guy, Paul, and I manage to not vent at him, though I had actually written down some phrases, and practiced the tirade several times on the way to town. An artist friend has opened a second-hand shop with his studio in the back and B says he must have a hundred pieces of cast iron cookware, reasonably priced. I need to go look, though it is certainly true that I don't need any more. I wouldn't mind owning one of those small gravy boats with the guaranteed-to-get-knocked-over handles. I had my own cast iron, then, when Mom got one of those glass topped electric ranges, I got all of the family pieces too. So I have maybe 20 pieces that I use, and another two that need reconditioning. One of the skillets, that I use often, is ten inches, used for decades frying fish on campfires, and it is a pitted beauty. The Romans had cast iron plows by 1100 BC, but the Brits were still using wooden ones until around 700 BC. In the Dark Ages people were always hungry, they no longer knew, to read, Latin, the great books about agriculture and growing grain, so they quietly starved in their keep, with narrow slots, through which they shot arrows. Barley and rye bread with sawdust and weeds. They knew that they used to live on acorns, but the previous generations had cut down all the oak trees to plant fields, which were now outside the walls, and dangerous. The 900's were awful, ergot in the rye, whole urban areas died, only in isolated monasteries was there any sense of continuity, because they grew their grain and ground their meal, and copied old books, for which we are eternally grateful, and ate a decent bread. Bread and brewing are closely related via yeast. Christ and the sacrament. Blood and body. A very old argument. I prefer my wafers with pate and a smear of stinky cheese, if there was a god, he would understand that.The French are always one step ahead. Thunder, better go. Read more...

Slippery Slope

A little sore but I get the day off due to thunder showers and general rain. Finish the history of bread (a very good book) and read some essays about Pynchon's work. Thinking about family, my father. Wish I had a phone. But then I'd have a hell of a phone bill. Watched a spider battling the elements on a web outside my writing window; a large fellow, and tenacious. An odd thing, there were no birds in Florida. No songbirds. A few crows and jays, but Brenda had extensive feeding stations, out back, where my smoking porch was located, and I never saw a single bird. Several species have all but disappeared from the ridge (the thrushes, alas) but there are still working populations. We've fucked with Mother Nature and she's coming around to bite us on the ass. Old statuary is useless against a rising tide. You might be able to use the plinths as a kind of revetment, build a retaining wall, terraced beds, massive rock steps that lead nowhere. I live in this extremely rural community. Did I say it was extremely rural? And though I've lived here for fifteen years, I'm a newcomer. No one trusts me. As well they shouldn't. I'm just a snake in the grass. Another rain day, this one heavy, with rolling thunder. Couldn't turn on Old Black Dell so I read a mystery by John Dunning about the rare book business. It's good to stop by the Good Will bookstore once a month, to get some cheap books for when you can't get to the library, and the library actually has an ongoing book sale. After six o'clock it breaks out beautiful, slanted light on colored leaves, grows very still. I quickly eat a wild-duck hash with a perfect fried egg on top, then take a wee dram and a smoke on the back stoop. Life is good. I have oak against the winter, wood I will finally dry inside, near the stove, in ricks of twenty or so pieces, and I do love stacking wood, each stack of which serves me for a day or two. The ephemeral nature of reality. The games people play, I can't believe it, I'd rather just shoot myself than deal with all the bullshit. Oak (red) has a specific gravity of .71, 44 pounds a cubic foot before you add in the water. Even bone dry wood holds 10-14 percent water. A decent day, working wood, you move a ton of it. On the other hand, you don't have to think too much: split it into smaller pieces and move it from one place to another. You can be philosophical, the conversion of plant life into BTU's, why you're so difficult to live with, the nature of grain; but you might just hum a song, the blues, anything in G, and get on down the road. Read more...

Locally Plentiful

Peaches, or persimmons. Sugar converts easily to alcohol, the best way to convey corn or apples. Dinner with B, a nice little organic, grass-fed London Broil on the grill, stuffed tomatoes, potatoes. Then he was over this morning to cut one of my standing dead oaks. One tank of gas, twenty-five rounds tapering from 18 inches to 14 inches in 30 feet. An hour's work. I bust about half of them into halves and thirds, so I can haul them. B dropped the tree right on the driveway, not 100 feet from the house, and I'll be able to use the wheelbarrow to get the wood to the shed. I stop working after a couple of hours, not wanting to strain or sprain muscles that haven't been used for a year. I need to replace the grate in the cook-stove (ten bucks at the welding shop) and get the wood under shelter, but I've gone from being unprepared to being quite a happy camper in a single day. Straight grain oak which I can split down to stove size with a hatchet. I haven't felt so giddy about firewood in several years. One more tree (even closer to the house) and one more tank of gas should see me set for winter, even staying at home and burning more wood. I came inside and cleaned up just a little bit, I'm going to be doing the same thing tomorrow and I have no plans to see anyone, no reason to scrub very deeply; I usually wear overalls when I'm working wood, and peal off the outer layer when I come inside. Need fuel so I fry an egg, beans on toast; flop down on the sofa. I consider an aspirin, but get a wee dram instead, roll a smoke, walk out and admire the split wood. I'm a little stiff, but it feels good. Sore in the course of duty. It is brain science, actually, that splitting wood is good for what ails you. For six or eight weeks I have to cut back my reading to four hours a day, in exchange for heat and various other labors, not a bad price to pay. I like using my body and feeling the physical effort; when I get centered in that, all the other cares of the world slough away. That word, slough, is very interesting. I spent an hour in various dictionaries. Took a nap, Jesus, I was tired. My body is not what it used to be. Now I just nod toward whatever might be of interest, I used to pick it up and shake it, to see if it made a sound, now I just listen. Fucking goat-suckers, them goddamn Whip-O-Wills. And it doesn't require chicken entrails to predict the future. Read more...

Leaf Day

My usual method to decompress is to spend a day reading and the Utah Kid sent a fine book during my trip. B collected my mail, so I stopped down there after a fitful night's sleep. Up before dawn, with a wee dram and a smoke, making notes about Dad. One line descriptions of specific events or traits. I could do a paragraph, easily, from each of them. For instance, his name. Buren Jackson Bridwell. He answers to a great many names. BJ, most commonly, but also Jack (which serves a sailor), and Chief (which also), the usual Dad, and the occasional expletive when our beliefs ran contrary. The book is Six Thousand Years Of Bread, by H.E. Jacob, the 70th anniversary edition of a classic study of wheat and bread. I knew about this book, but I hadn't read it, and here it was. Deep clover, as we say about new pasture. All day the wind blows colored leaves off the trees. They're more brittle now, and the sound they make, in the wind, carries a harsh tone. And the acorns falling. I suspect I've bitten off more than I can chew. Still, I'd rather fail; in the great scheme of things, success is the kiss of death. Replenish my store of rainwater, four five gallon buckets, plus the three gallon kettle (waiting on the stove for tomorrow's fire and bath, temps in the forties). I have to say that a week with hot running water was very nice. And all those home-cooked meals. Brenda makes bran muffins and various egg dishes for breakfast every day, great sandwiches or left-overs for lunch, and dinner with two vegetables at night. Always dessert, so Bill can have his night-time snack. I do love pie for breakfast, though I seem to have been born without a sweet-tooth. Mona, one of the hospice nurses, is as skinny as me, and to the dismay of everyone else, we talked about trying to gain weight. In the interest of which, outside Paintsville, Kentucky, on the way home, I bought some wonderful cheese and butter at a farmer's market, also some tomatoes and kale, and a breakfast sausage that smelled divine. A grind or two of nutmeg I think. I make a frittata, any egg dish with multiple ingredients, and it's so good I'm rendered speechless. I'd cooked the greens for several hours, with fat-back, onions and peppers. Brown some sausage in a ten-inch skillet, caramelize an onion in the fat, stir in the greens, add some whipped eggs. Best enjoyed with a piece of toast, jalapeno jelly, and a peaty single malt, Sheep Dip, for instance. Glendronach. Getting back to you is important to me, I hate being disconnected. Read more...