By the shovelful

A letter to friends. First things first. Snow.

There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.

It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.

That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.

Wheels are not really ideal for snow.

Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.

A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.

Show up.

A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.

Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.

The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

Farm. Or be Farmed

The farmer kills chickens when he is hungry, and Japanese beetles,
when they are too, clipping his corn. The farmer still does it.
Crushing shiny bodies between finger and thumb. Red guts.
Wiped on long wagging green tongues. But the beetles keep on.
Out around twelve, more toward dusk. Man has a husk. Armor.
Which can be pierced, eaten into, through.
And chickens, beetles, they do too.

I suppose the farmer feels bitten. Harmed.
And this is why he ends them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

Animals

Back of the throat, out through a double barrel twelve gauge nose.
Hoof smacks hard earth. And drags. Once. Twice. Three times.
Then open eyes, contact and hold. Horses. Undulation always.

Curious little tickle of a sound. Cracked opened mouth.
Pupils flat lining. Sweet feed pining.
Unhelpless hapless little mammals.
Goats. Have you heard, a herd?

Pushed around light as a plaything by one.
Whipped hard like a little boy’s baby doll.
Like you were one of them?

Another reason I love animals. No rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical anything. No rhetoric alone. Flat teeth
stained mustard roots. Bow brown. Wet chin.
Ankle thin. And thick headed.

Where there are a lot, you call them livestock.
When there are a few, you call them ‘hey you’.
Old goat. Old horsey coarse. Ye sheep.
Not something you own, but something you keep.
Live stock. Mute slave. Sit high up on a saddle
like steak stacked up on a dinner plate.

But need is need.
Regardless the animal.
Never mind the breed.

And we do, so much, and so money.
For what is a farmer now, except for fences?
And that is the ticket, isn’t it?
To answering rhetoricals.

The fallacy of believing you can own a living thing.
Simply because you keep it in a pen.

There is no freedom on either side of the fence.

Voiceless

Their eyes speak volumes.
Eyelashes turned up way too loud.
Milky white bleeds over onto the pupil.
That is how you know he can’t see you.
That. And the way his ears follow you across the room.
Which. When there’s animals in it. Is called a barn.

Little ones three to a stall.
No matter how small.
One of them
has to be
biggest.

What a perk. They let you eat first. She leaves two other pails just for us.
An orange and white tabby tearing at a frozen bird some other thing tried to eat yesterday. Reindeers wore their antlers bare. And I didn’t know, they don’t need so much water.
Because reindeer eat snow. And geese hiss like snakes. And donkeys crow.
The music mules make makes me believe this animal understands sympathy. And guilt.

The low. The rising raspy bellow. The arched head bowed down.
Salt peppered hay speckled crown. Makes me want to feed him again.

He knows this.

You know, it really isn’t voiceless.
Just because I don’t speak the language.

But when we listen through our eyes
we always strike some understanding.

Apes with big brains and too much time on their hands.

We’re sticking out sideways on a salty rock with dry patches shifting like rashes from so much tectonic scratching. Everyday we move menial amounts of dirt, and waste, and value, and paperwork, and then we go home tired, pretending there’s no tomorrow until tomorrow is honking beside the bed at six in the morning. It’s not nothing. And yet, it’s also not the something we imagined it would be.

It’s just apes with big brains and too much time on their hands, with a highly developed imitative faculty, building termite mounds and anthills, while failing to cite their sources.

We’ve invented nothing. We’ve failed at conquering our own backyards, let alone any frontiers. We are infants, evolutionarily speaking. We’re bees. Who forgot all the scavenging we’ve been doing for fifteen thousand years. We believe we’re actually shitting out honey.

We’re surprised.
Every time.
We remember why
we’re the only apes
that live in hives.

Unmistakably Living

I am hypnotized by blue skies. I am cold beer at noon. I am fire, and in the other hand, I am ice. Somehow, I am holding the two together. And neither is reduced by the presence of the other one. I am scared by my own happiness. To possess a thing so precious. As a smile. I am afraid of what it speaks. To others. Who will believe contentment makes me weak. Drunk. Perceptible. And I am. But I don’t want them to know I am.

Flowers that bloomed and wilted in fields never witnessed by the feet of men or women.
I am the best water you have ever tasted. Pouring from a permanent spring in the mountains. Every drop. Wasted.

Sometimes when I eat good food, I taste my neighbor’s hunger soon after. Call it guilt. In my gut. There are some essentials I don’t want, unless my neighbor has them also. But if my neighbor wants what is mine in spite of my need. I will be war. I am the answer to that ancient prayer, something something or other about how we treat one another. It is not axiom.
It is not advice. It is basic, universal, physical and primeval law.

This entire experience we call life has one clear singular inarguable purpose. Balance.
It doesn’t make sense if it was meant to be all good and this is what it is. And sitting where I am right now, though I know it will change somehow, I can not tolerate the thought it is all bad. Even if it’s just me. This child. That dog. Sitting in this little well insulated box on the edge of a great glacial lake. Enjoying the long awaited sun. This scene means the universe can’t be all bad. Or all wrong.

I farm the fabric of the existence. I am the great great great grandchild of two polar opposites. Inexorably attracted. We are all what happened when they finally banged together. We’re the universe’s passion child. We don’t make sense. Because we’re screaming at the top of our lungs love babies. Illegitimate children. And yet, here we are, unmistakably living.

I know I am.

By the Quiver

Dangerous language. What else is there?

Bad words. Try one on me.
Hello. To any enemy.
Goodbye. To the precious few who love you.
Alive. Really. A bad word. When you think about it too much.

A live what?

Emotions are objects that live in the earth.
On the ground. All around.
Straight arms off oaks and hard yet carvable stone.
Taxes off turkeys and twine made out of your mother’s hair.

But language is a spear.
Arrows dissecting the air.
Touching some poor soul. Far off. Over there.
Nothing they can do about it.
Vocabulary owes much of its origin to weaponry.
Warfare and posturing.

When discourse on discussions leads disagreements
to breed dissent against the didactic despondent diatribe
of how we describe our very overly literary lives.

Dis. A latin prefix. Means apart. Away.
Dangerous language. Bad words.

You there awkwardly outholding a vibrating bow.
Same as you. Once you release the string.

Standing there holding on to what you really mean.

But not the part of you sent off flying into the unknown.
That is what you call an arrow. Vocabulary. By the quiver.
With good enough aim, language is incredibly dangerous.

You get good enough with words.

No one may ever come too close to you again.

The Most Local Project

No matter the specific product, we are all in the business of ideas.
The farmer, entrepreneur, developers of worlds, one through three,
and the architects of our very homes. Minus a captivating thought,
some broad yet sort of singular gut impulse to generate,
we are a fairly static unchanging species.

The first tool put to use by the squat, ape-faced ancestors of modern humans was stupidity. Weakness. The reason we try and will not stop, is need. Tall mountains,
flooded rivers that will not obey their banks, changes in the weather.
This endeavor is both yours and mine.
To recognize and study the constant pursuit for the source of ideas.
Great, humbling and even exhaustively lucrative imagination.
Where would such things come from?

The same place as the minds that gave birth to them.
Inspiration is in our houses. With us where we slept.
Thrown out discarded with other objects we could have kept.

Yours. Mine. All of us share a piece of this project. Ourselves.
The sole source of this place’s most impressive life changing product. Us.
Where value has always come from. An entire universe begins and ends within.

All people are a local project.
And where our feet touch down, meet and grip ground, is an ancient foundation.
The first. And because this structure has been around so long,
it has not been given due consideration. The human being.
Our local project. An invaluable resource.

One that we do not have to go too far or dig too deep to retrieve.
It lives with us, in our homes and wherever we work.

The soil that cradles our most prolific pursuit is thought.
It is our most local product.

Grammy’s

We went to Grammy’s. She has a place down by the lake. We love Grammy’s. Sequin everything. Little copper dollar store statues. The good vintage barbie dolls. Grammy keeps those put up for special occasions though. Or if we behave. Everyone gets an elegant plastic little woman to have and to hold, and put back inside the Tupperware container soon as we’re done. Music is like carbon dioxide. We make it, but it is a slow kind of seductively suffocating poison, as well. In other words, music thrives best when it isn’t the only presence in the room. Not in a vacuum. Music is informed and refreshed by topics and content that are not in any way music. And yet, by the time an artist is through with it, the connection is undeniable.

Grammy has an insanely eclectic record collection. At least once a year we go there, shoes off by the door, playing them one after another, some of them so fresh, this has to be the first time they’re outside the cover. Grammy doesn’t always have time to listen to them all. Just knows how much we smile over shiny plastic. She stacks the ones that really pop on top of the pile. Grammy’s good like that. Not everyone has a Grammy who can pretend-listen to so much rap.

I do wonder sometimes if Grammy picks her music by the air someone was breathing, and not their creation, their poison. The carbon dioxide. Slowly filling the room. Making us all light headed and silly. Forgetting there are seriously billions of dollars sitting in Grammy’s living room listening to vinyl intravenously feed sound and poetry into the air. I love going to Grammys. I enjoy the music. I like the atmosphere there. I listen. I really do. I’m one of the few.

But nothing I ever heard at Grammy’s should have made someone a millionaire.