Sunday, June 30, 2002


I have been out in the corn patch this afternoon, imagining pulling those first full ears off the stalk in about a month. The first planting (a block of only about 10 x 20') is about waist high, dark green, and healthy...mostly. Largest of the grasses, corn is a garden marvel.

Somewhere, invisible down in axils of the sheathed leaves, are the buds of little embyonic ears of corn...the nursery where what we eat and enjoy will be 'born'. If our corn ears were born in their current state, they would be totally without kernels, and not 'corn'. A corn abortion.

Here's the birds-and-bees story of corn that I pondered as I pulled the purslane out of the corn this evening:

What has to happen in our corn patch in the coming weeks is that each little incipient corn kernel (the 'ovary') will start growing a long tube that will eventually lead the guy corn sperm to the female egg in the ovary. This tube is the corn 'silk' that forms the collective 'tassel'.

Completely free of perfumery, eye makeup, or female seduction, the egg housed in the potential kernel has only to wait on the vagaries of nature (wind, water, and heat) to receive a mindless mote of pollen from the male part of the plant...the part the sticks up on the very top of the plant, up where the wind is best able to send it floating below where the girl corn parts hang out.

When the microscopic wind-blown pollen finds a sticky corn silk tip, there is the chemistry of recognition and the pollen sperm begins to migrate its way down into the cornsilk tissue. It travels slowly, traversing the entire distance of the silk that may be 12 inches long! When it enters the embryo where the egg is housed, a baby kernel is formed. It begins to make its own food (the starch, or hopefully sugar that we prize as food in the corn), and grows until it is a full, rounded, delicious kernel of corn.

Not every silk meets up with a pollen/sperm speck, and some silks are eaten by worms or bettles. Boo! Those kernels will be empty when you peel back those shucks expectantly in August. The amazing thing is that most of the kernels are sucessfully impregnated to form those many dozens of plump white or yellow niblets that are so wonderfully sweet, and taste like summer itself.

Each vegetable has its own story. Helps me to give thanks all the more for the amazing nature of Nature that blesses us with summer's abundance. And makes me glad my children were raised in the country, where they could watch and help with the gardening. Lots of good life lessons out in the bean rows, folks. .

How Big is Your Foot?

A recent controversial study states that (surprise!) mankind is using up old Momma Earths resources faster than they can be regenerated. They describe this as man's FOOTPRINT. Use of fossil fuels, intensive farming and fishing, harvesting raw materials for housing and industry...these are some of the contributors to the size of our 'foot'. Contributing to continued future swelling of our FOOT are population growth (that promises to wait for non-voluntary and possibly catastrophic means before it will be checked) and rising standards of living (and who do ya think is the world model for that standard?)

They say: "The calculation provides evidence that human activities have exceeded the biosphere's capacity since the 1980s.

"This 20% overshoot means that it would require 1.2 Earths, or one Earth for 1.2 years, to regenerate what humanity used in 1999.

"The global average per capita area demand for 1999 adds up to 2.3 global hectares per person.

"This (2.3 hectares) is significantly lower than the area demands in industrialised countries such as the US (9.7), or the UK (5.4) and Germany(4.7)."

I like the way this study goes out of its way not to step on toes, so to speak. "Mankind" has all sorts of shoe sizes, notice above that we in this country wear a Circus Clown Size 9.7.

The results are debated because there are some fairly arbitrary assumptions being made. But note that, comparing apples to apples, 1961 to 1999, the trend is certainly not toward reducing "our" footprint.

In 1961, the authors say in their "preliminary and exploratory assessment", humans were using 70% of the capacity of the global biosphere. By 1999, that had risen to 120%.

Mind you, this is not BORROWING from our children's future: it is STEALING. Once unique plant and animal communities are extirpated, oil reserves depleted without sustainable energy replacement, agriculturally productive land is lost to desertification, salinization and erosion, our basis for existence (which, contrary to our Prezdents logic, is BIOLOGICAL and not ECONOMICAL) is fouled and unavailable to those that walk in our footsteps.

What size shoe do you wear? Do you want China, Indonesia, and South America to grow into our shoes? Can we live well with smaller feet?

Starving Artist

Now that the concert is behind him and he has a job lined up in Vermont for later this summer, Nate will probably return to the notion of finding a publisher for his book, How Many Roads, about his sojourn on foot between Bar Harbour and Goose Creek, and in particular, about the people who touched his life on that journey.

I will ask him later today if I can post another chapter to my auxilliary weblog. Some of you have commented that you have read and enjoyed the first couple of chapters. If interested, I suggest reading about Frank Kingsley , one of my favorites among quite a few distinctively American eccentrics the boy was blessed to meet and know as he followed his naive nose home.

I'll let you know if additional chapters are posted. Anybody that has an uncle in the publishing business, let us know.

After the Ball is Over

The 'gig' last night went very well, considering. We were using another performer's sound system, with no mic check before our turn to imitate entertainment. It was well received and we all felt like it was worth the effort. The best part was the thrown-together practice session Saturday morning and afternoon in our front room here, where we heard what we would sound like for the first time, ran through everything two or three times and said, 'let's do it!'

I was recruited to participate on Thursday, started out gonna 'do just one' with me, pappa, and ended up singing on seven of the thirteen numbers we did. That was fun. I couldn't really see the audience much for the lights, but I am sure you were all out there. Right?

Friday, June 28, 2002

Lost in Space

I have had maybe a dozen calls from a PT recruiter begging me, offering more and more $$ for me to PLEASE come and help them out at the Failing Arms Nursing Home, to do Medicare evaluations.

"It's very near where you live, in Shawsville" she said. She told me the name of the facility, then a later conversation when I could not find it in the phone book, she gave me the road name. Later, the telephone number and that it was between Hiway 29 and 64.

I kept saying things like "I'm not familiar with that street" and "I am not aware of a hiway 64 in Shawsville". We continued this dance off and on for about three weeks.

She became a bit indignant, assured me that SHE had been to the very facility and it did indeed exists, and did I think she was crazy? I assured her that if she had been there and was sure it was in Shawsville between Salem and Christiansburg, then it must be there and I was the idiot. She was sure of her facts, and maybe I should just call and get directions from someone at the facility.

With a bit more research (like the AREA CODE she gave me that just did not compute), I come to learn that all the stated facts about the facility fit if applied to CHARLOTTESVILLE...three hours away from where I live! Yes both towns have the SH sound up front and 'ville' on the end. But they are not interchangeable, honey.

It was with a certain amount of glee that I left a message on this young lady's machine after confirming that she indeed was the LOST SOUL, suggesting that, if she gets paid by placing therapists in facilities, it might be very helpful for her to have a map, learn how to read it, and develop some sense of where she was on the planet so that she could get Therapist A to Point B. Wonder if she is blond? Should we send out a search party?

Award Announcement

The EXTRA CREDIT prize for correctly attributing the "many parts are edible" phrase to Euell Gibbons is my buddy Curt, who probably has many psychological scars from old 'fessor First' sticking various crushed creatures (almost exclusively PLANTS) under his nose in a demanding, authoritarian sort of way, for a "NATURE SNORT!"

I swear, though, no matter what Curt or anybody else says, I never did actually make the Salamander Souffle I often bragged about. Really.

Saturday Night ~ Oak Grove Pavillion ~ 7:30
We Would Love to See You There!

Nathan First, a Wytheville native, blends various Irish and American folk styles into his own particular flavor of provoking original tunes. He has performed in Germany and Northern Ireland as well as in various local venues such as the Doe Run Inn and Chateau Morrisette. Sharing his set will be a visiting friend, Dennis Stamper, a stellar songwriter in his own right who performs often in the Boone area of North Carolina.

Heck, the old man might find his way to the mic for a number or two as well. This ought to be fun!

The Inscrutible World Traveler

I am weak. I admit it. I have succumbed to the desire of vicarious travel and bought the map program I have been looking at since last Christmas.

Once again, life proves my most universally-applicable bromide: It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

I dreamed one day that there would be a map software program that allowed the user to virtually fly over anyplace on Earth, at any altitude (even orbital heights), any speed, and with three-dimensional photo-reality options. I could envision flying along Noland Creek in the southern Smokies, cresting the rim of Big Bald on the NC/TN border; venturing out West to places I have never been, but would 'be there' in my map program. At last, on Tuesday, I was to have my dream come true.

Delorme's Topo USA 4.0 is not the program of my dreams. But it IS way cool and the more I use it, the better I like it. The shaded 2D topos are more useful than the 3D, but the latter is a step in the direction of the ultimate zoom-over-the-treetops map program that hopefully will come along before I move on to a more hospitable planet.

I have put pins on the map for many of my old favorite hikes, especially around the Wytheville area: Henley Hollow, Raven Cliffs, Walker Mountain, Grayson Highlands, Burkes Garden. More impressive are the spots near Morganton where we used to live: Grandfather Mt., Linville Gorge, Table Rock, Shortoff. Of course the Smokies near where we lived in Sylva are impressive to look at on the maps, but I never really 'bonded' with any of those remote but beautiful places. Traveling further in time and distance, I have revisted Camp Winnataska, Scarem Bluff, and the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama where I grew up.

I have a lot of wonderful memories attached to the natural places I have known, visited, inhabited. This software is an aid to memory and a guide to such places I have not yet seen, but can visit now with ease. I can pretend, I can travel hopefully if digitally, but eventually I know I will have to return the tough world of the here and now. Or maybe not...

They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them. It was two blocks to the parking lot. At the drugstore on the corner she said, "Wait here for me. I forgot something. I won't be a minute." She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it. He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking. . . . He put his shoulders back and his heels together. "To hell with the handkerchief," said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

Thank you Mr. Thurber; you feel my pain.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Many Parts Are Edible: Fred goes Wild

I have decided to take the jujitsu approach to vegetable gardening: "let the force of your opponent work to your advantage". I am going to cultivate and eat the weeds.

Nothing new for Nature-boy here, really. You wouldn't believe the 'wild foods' I have inflicted on my poor trusting family. There were the milkweed pods that turned bright green and looked like sea slugs; the elderberry jelly that inadvertently was populated by stink bugs; the tooth-cracking touch-me-not faux hickory nut cookies; and the ramps (wild mountain onions) I brought home at which point my wife said that if THEY were coming IN, then SHE was going OUT!

So by comparison, turning garden weeds into potherbs and salads is not that radical. Actually both of the plants I have in mind are cultivated to some degree in Europe (where both are native, spread as 'exotics' to the 'new country'.)

I'll let you do the homework. Check out both purslane and lambs quarters.

Extra credit to the one who can identify the source of "Many Parts Are Edible". Anyone? Anyone?

When the Well Runs Dry

Dry. Blank. Blocked. Inert. I have lost the will to blog.

And writing about my early morning ennui or depression or whateveritis puts me squarely in the camp of those who parade their every nuance of emotion before the world on their weblogs. I will probably delete this, once it is complete. Caveats: it will never be complete because life will go on and the source of funk will persist no matter when I 'end' this word-emesis this morning; and digitally trashing this will not have nearly the degree of satisfaction I would get from ripping a printed paper page out of the back of a typewriter, wadding the waste and throwing it disgustedly at the corner trash can.

It's the heat. Seasonal Affective Disorder, but around the longest day of the year in late June. Happens every year, and I rather forget about it, until, like today, I awake and there it is, sitting heavily on my shoulders like a sack of sand. The mild depression today is anticipatory, knowing that heat will make me lethargic, lethargy will make me inactive, and inactivity will make me ineffectual and guilty. Fall will come, even hints of Fall in late August, and the sandbags will lift, but today I will feel their dull oppression, I can tell. Another cup of coffee is not going to help.

It's the drought. We are missing the water because the well is dry. Not literally, thank God. But the creek is so low that we cannot hear it's comforting babble at night with the windows open. Fields are brown as old haybales, and the garden barely responds to the hand-watering. Rain will fall in spots today, and if it comes I will lie in it, out on the walkway under the maple and let it infuse hope back into this dry sponge of a person.

It's the job thing. Once again, the call I was promised hasn't happened. I always have a 'Plan B'. I don't even have a 'Plan A' if this one falls through. I dread having to endure the corporate hokey-pokey if I get the job. I will be glad to be back in the saddle again as far as getting to know and care for patients, but don't look forward to breaking another health-care bronco.

It's knowing that today, I have to tell our son that his 'big sister' Lynn died while he was in Vermont last week. He came home last night with such excitement and zeal for his upcoming Americorp position in Burlington. He is so full of life now, and so inexperienced with death, and this is a bitter task that cannot be put off. Lynn was very special to him, and he will have to go through the phases of incomprehension, denial, anger, and grief to reach the zone of numbness where Ann and I reside now, after almost of week of dealing with it.

And as I am wallowing in this whiney-snivvley mire of self-pitiful verb-trash, Buster the dog comes up and rests his chin on my leg, like the hand of an old friend on my shoulder, wordless, comforting, reassuring.

Maybe another cup of coffee might not be such a bad idea, after all.

This world is not my home, I'm just a'passin' through
If heaven's not my home, then Lord, what will I do?


Stories you won't hear from me today:

  • Hormones in Semen Shown to Make Women Feel Good

  • Pledge Ruled Unconstitutional

  • Scandal Puts WorldCom Near Bankruptcy

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Ouch! That's gotta hurt.

Zing! THUD! Straight to the heart. Do take a look at this cartoon indictment of bloggers. Color me Mr. Taken with Himself, I guess.

That was the point of the bit about The Point here yesterday. I want to resist ALL FIVE of these blogging trends. Can there be a purpose, a point other than these caricaturizations suggest? And if there are others seeking the same SIXTH POINT of blogging, where are they?

I see mostly PUNDITS in my wanderings throught the Blogosphere. Now there is a word that has taken on a new life.

PUNDIT: noun
a person who knows a lot about a particular subject, or someone who gives opinions in a way that makes them sound knowledgeable.

Maybe I could just become a pundit. Lets see...knows a lot about a particular subject. Thinking of a blog name...Hmmmm. OvaltinePundit. LabradorRetrieverPundit. OrthopedicPundit. Its not working.

Think I will just stick with Fragments.

Parts of a greater whole; remnants of a now-missing and once complete document, tapestry or sculpture.

Fragments it remains. It's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Everything's Got to Have a Point!

The Point!, which spawned "Me and My Arrow" (later recycled in a popular car commercial), tells the tale of Oblio, a little boy born into a community in which everything--the people, the buildings, the animals--literally has a point. Everything, that is, except Oblio, who is hopelessly roundheaded and is banished to the Pointless Forest as a consequence. Eventually, after many odd adventures, Oblio and his canine companion, Arrow, return home, having learned that everything--particularly that which seems pointless--has a point, including our hero.

Or does it? Listening to my good buddy Harry Nillson (author of The Point!) this morning, I wondered again, as I do every day, what is the POINT of this weblog? Why am I guilty of adding to the teething sea of words that waterlogs our poor brains in this age of "information"?

Hmmm. I am not doing it for the fame and glory. Far as I can tell, I get about 10 unique visitors daily (some are clones of prior visitors) and am 'linked' on, oh, about two other weblogs. There has been an occassional reference to some snippet I have written (I specialize in snippets, which are like haiku, except not as cerebral, without meter, and they don't usually have a point).

I guess if Fragments has a point, it is this:

It has opened my eyes and ears to things that before I would think: that's interesting, I would like to share that with someone, no one is around to listen, forget it. Now, even if no one reads it, these little brain cookies have the potential to reach thousands all around the world. Weblogs are about potential.

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" said Alice (or was it the Hatter, or...) Writing in a permanent, accessible and widely available form gives me a motive to write, and accountability to others, strangers, family, gifted writers. I confess to a long-latent urge to write, more than that, to have a purpose and an object of my writing. I can't say that I have found that yet. But this weblog is a first step out of the boat onto the glassy sea of faith. If it makes me a better writer, even if it is only for my own satisfaction, then I am willing to get water up my nose a few times.

We are geographically and socially isolated here on Goose Creek. That has got to change. We must find community, connectedness and a place to serve. Granted, electronic relationships are a poor substitute for the protoplasmic sort. But the sense of being 'in the current' of the social phenomenon of weblogging honestly gives me a small taste of doing something communal. Who knows how the web of connections via Fragments might open up opportunities to meet people in my county, region, state? Again, potential.

Lastly, (and the congregation breathes a sigh of relief), this online diary thing can be a legacy of who I was, what I thought, where I lived, what my world was like...for my children's children' children. I know precious little of those who begat me. I never cared to look until recently, and now, most are gone along with their memories. Trite perhaps, but I long for roots. Maybe fifty years from now, my great-great granddaugher will dig a CD out of a dusty trunk, copy it onto a microdot, and play it on her wristphone, and learn more about our times and one link in her chain of ancestry. I will have given her roots.

So...will I resign the weblog and skulk wimpering to the Pointless Forest, or stay and blog in obscurity with the illusion of Having A Point? Tune in tomorrow for the continuing story from Goose Creek.


Fragments now has an ABOUT page (or ABOOT if you are from the coast) that so many of you have asked for. Okay. Nobody asked for it. Consider it an unsolicited piece of unwanted information. I'm not above spam, except for the lunchmeat.

"About" will reside under the header text and above the first entry, so you can come back time after time, and in three short weeks, you too can become a GooseCreek expert! That's right! And if you order by midnight tonight, you also get Boxcar Willie's greatest hits!

Time for a vote: How many of you will be glad when Fred gets a life again? Raise'm up there...

Monday, June 24, 2002

Digital Exploration

Sorry. I couldn't resist posting this one, taken crudely of the picture hanging on our wall (complete with reflection of the banister). It seemed an appropriate companion to the previous picture posted today.

This is Abby's mother, at about 16 months. She will probably seek to have my parental license revoked for posting this one. I carried it to her wedding reception, she was horrified to find it on the table with all the girlfriend and high school pictures.

That's what fathers are for, sweetie.

Our Town: In Floyd We Trust

I am spending more time where I live these days, including the 'rural/progressive' geography for which this blog is named: Floyd County and Floyd, the town. Unique place, I am recalling with delight. If you can't find it here, you probably don't need it. If you can't afford what you find, well, just barter. Even for healthcare.

Nobody could call the Barter Clinic a typical doctor's office. Nor could anybody call Dr. Susan Osborne, D.O., a typical doctor. A member of Floyd County High School's class of '79, she returned home a few years ago to open a clinic with a different attitude toward health care.

"We take chickens," Dr. Osborne says with a smile. That's her shorthand answer for why she calls her practice the Barter Clinic. The long answer: while she certainly accepts the more conventional methods of payment, her patients have the option of trading goods or services for their medical care. People have traded garden vegetables, cleaning help, plumbing skills, child care, and more. She will even accept a patient's work on a community service project, supervised by herself or a member of her staff, as payment. Sometimes it's something as simple as helping do chores for another patient who is elderly, or volunteering time at a free clinic. "Those sorts of things can often help in healing," Dr. Osborne says, "and they certainly aid in community building,"

Sue sees usually eight patients a day. She told me once she sort of hoped one day to make a five-figure income, so she could eventually pay back her school loans. Do the math.

Or, if your chickens flew the coop, pay with the "money" that is printed in Floyd, by Floydians, to stay in Floyd County. The blue bills are called Floyd Hours.

Hours are real money, backed not by the federal government but by dozens of Floyd folks who have agreed to take them as payment for math tutoring, piano lessons, gardening, bonsai trees, driveway repair, custom belt buckles, pizza, hammocks, marriage counseling and almost anything else that can be done, raised, made, sung or played in Floyd County.

The notes are decorated by local artists and bear phrases such as "economic kinship with our land" and "exchange your services & goods locally." Each bears a dot that at first appears to be a spaghetti sauce stain, but is in fact a special temperature-sensitive ink used to deter counterfeiters. Touch it for several seconds and it changes color just a little.

Gotta love it. There's no place like home.

Into the Mouths of Babes

Well it seems like time to post another image or two. This one is from my recent visit to Wyoming to visit my daughter and family, including 16 month old Abby here.

Little Miss Abby had refused the chicken prepared her for supper. But when the visiting stray cat was offered the same meal, it started looking a whole lot better. And why not cut out the without hands, right out of the dish!

Not that anyone asked: I use a Nikon Coolpix 950. As you will note if you have seen prior images posted here, I am fond of rendering nature scenes in a painterly manner through Photoshop (as a wannabe oil painter...'one of these days'). I typically don't apply the same treatment to people pix but this NormanRockwellian image of child eating from cat dish just seemed to suggest that to me.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Flotsom from Floyd


~^~ Ever heard of digital gardening? Yep. Invented it myself. Really zaps those bean beetles, totally non-polluting and actually, low tech. Method: use terminal digits of thumb and index finger. Digitally compress insect. Wipe fingers on jeans.

~^~ For all those to whom we bragged about how many blackberries and black raspberries we were going to have this summer: Sorry. Temps in the low 20s 5 nights in a row in Mid-May pretty well wiped them out, especially the raspberries. If we had invited you out to pick, we'll put you on the list for next year.

~^~ We are in the midst of a drought (who isn't?) and really need rain. Hay made about 60% of normal (drought plus the freeze) and the fields are brown as August. I rigged a watering system for the garden using a small pump (from Northern Supply) and a lawn-and-garden battery. We can get water from the creek...but only as long as the creek flows. So far, fine, but please Lord, send rain this week!


~^~ I have been thinking about my flight home on Tuesday, how the flight out of O'hare made me remember all the many tricky take-offs and landings I have made from there and from Urbana-Champaigne in a Cessna. I actually crashed into the main hanger at Urbana once. Now its been about 5 years since I piloted an aircraft. Yep... 'cause I never upgraded to the Windows version of Flight Simulator.

~^~ We may now be Presbyterians...again. And via a tip from a blogger-son of a reformed theologian whose books grace our shelves. Serendipity? Providence? We have been church hunting for five years, so it feels like Providence. It is the Virginia Tech church for the denomination, lots of international students and Tech faculty, not too big, and a 40-minute drive. I have a lot of respect for the pastor who is very articulate and intelligent, understands what he believes, and is very unpretentious.

~^~ Along with the flower-children of Floyd, I helped with some of the construction/preparation for the Floyd World Music Festival on Saturday. (Self-serving, really: they 'paid' volunteers $8 per hour worked off the ticket price of $40 per day). The presenters of the festival are also the owners of Oddfellows Cantina; they served over 120 people lunch of gourmet food on paper plates, and ice-cold beer, with a bluegrass band playing for three hours while folks worked. There were too many indians and not enough chiefs, so I'm not sure they got there money's worth for the day. But it was fun.

~^~ It was interesting how we dealt with our friends death this week. Ann found solace in walking down the lane picking wildflowers. She has finally understood my saying once that 'flowers are some of the best friends I have': individuals die but the flower comes back year after year, always the same, always perfect. I found a bit of comfort Saturday night, standing on the bridge over the branch, under the night stars and the waxing moon. Like walking in a cemetery, star-gazing to me is very grounding kind of exercise. Brings to mind Psalm 8:

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"

I'll shut up. Just needed to vent. It's been a tough couple of days.

Paradise Suddenly Lost

The choice to move our lives to rural Floyd County removed us physically from large chunks of humanity, at least large chunks experienced all at once. Our further choice three years ago to move to Goose Creek put us in one of the sparsest parts of a thinly settled place. These choices, and our lack of the joining instinct, have made us learn to tolerate having few friends here.

Joe and Lynn have been our only true friends here since the very beginning. Joe was the physician in whose clinic the Floyd PT clinic was begun. I met him on my second or third visit before taking the job, by which time we had decided that we would indeed move to Floyd. Learning that, Joe suggested he knew someone who could help us find a place to live. And he called his wife, Lynn. Lynn, at the time, was a real estate agent in her own business, and I have never been befriended so fast and so genuinely by anyone in my life. We finally found a place that was suitable, and were invited to Lynn and Joe's house for a meal of home-made vegetable soup, and to sign the papers. That was our first of very many meals together, and drinks, and music, laughter and deep discussions.

Lynn died in her sleep last night. She was forty-five. How is it possible that she, the youngest of our foursome, should be the first to leave; and without any warning? What does one do in a shattering situation like this? All I can think to do is to write. And the words won't come.

Lynn, you wore purple while you were young. You gave way more than you got. You sucked the marrow out of life and excelled from a caring heart at all you did in this life: as a woodworking student at Berea; as a nurse in Laurel Fork; as a Park Ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway; (it never seemed appropriate to call you an 'agent', you were so much more:) as a real estate care-giver; as an investment care-giver. And your greatest role was certainly as devoted wife to our dear friend Dr. Joe.

We will miss your quick wit and mock-sarcasm; your little-girl dimples, tiny voice and lisp; and your genuine appreciation for the elderly, the Appalachians, and Floyd County. Thank you for being our friend, WOODGAL.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

The World Comes to Floyd County

The jury is out on whether this September shindig will bode well or ill for tiny, out-of-the-flow Floyd County. The Floyd World Music Festival is expected to draw at least 10,000, with performers like David Grisman, Tony Rice, Sam Bush, and including Floyd County residents Solazo...rumour has it that Willie Nelson is considering a visit.

It will be held on the rim of the Blue Ridge, just off the Parkway, near Chatteau Morrisette Winery. The biggest concern for many is road congestion and the lack of lodging and eating accommodations in the county. we could rent rooms at a sweet price for a couple of nights.

This event will put Floyd on the map. It is already a bit of a mecca for both the new-agey artsy-fartsy types, and the older retirement types for which Ann and I are understudies. Land prices are going up considerably, and pressure will likely build to provide all the 'necessities and comforts' of city life for many who might move here. At present, we have a single traffic light, no Walmart, and a distinctly progressive-rural population that seems to co-exist in relative harmony.

I would hate to see this area become another Blowing Rock (NC) where tacky cheaply-built chalets face each other from opposing peaks, only the rich can play, and you can't get there from here for the traffic of summer home Flor-idiots (sand gypsies). It would be okay with selfish me if Floyd County remained a well-kept secret.

Please disregard this post. I am making the whole thing up. Floyd County is a fiction of my imagination, like Camelot, ShangraLa, Tralfamador. There used to be a Floyd County, but it was cancelled. Shooo...go away.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Some Teeny Pictures From Wyoming

I finally had time to play around with my images from Wyoming last night. I was really pleased that the panoramas stitched together nicely. I especially did not know if it would work to stitch VERTICAL images since I had never done this before. But the Devils Tower pictures done in this way turned out fine!

The full size and quality images are nice! I attempted to upload several of them, but they run more than 600K and it is just not feasible to upload or for viewers to load into a browser. So...

Here is a link to some rather sad, small images from Devils Tower. You will just have to come to my house to see the full version. Call ahead. Bring snacks.


Speaking recently of MISSED anniversaries, it occurs to me that this time four years ago, my daughter and hubby were on their Honeymoon. Strange word, I thought. Wonder where the term came from? Ever the word-smith, here's what I found:

The first (or only) full moon in June is called the Honey Moon. Tradition holds that this is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.

This time of year, between the planting and harvesting of the crops, was the traditional month for weddings. This is because many ancient peoples believed that the "grand [sexual] union" of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltaine. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June. June remains a favorite month for marriage today. In some traditions, "newly wed couples were fed dishes and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love and fertility. The surviving vestige of this tradition lives on in the name given to the holiday immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon."

So, kids, congratulations on your fourth anniversary. YOU DID REMEMBER, didn't you? Have some honey on your toast as you scurry off to jobs and childcare. After the first one, the Honeymoon is over. It's still a "grand union", though. Right? Anyone? Anyone?

Whatta Hell was Dat?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An asteroid the size of a soccer field whizzed by Earth at a distance much nearer than the Moon, the biggest such space rock in decades to get this close, scientists said on Thursday.

Asteroid 2002MN was not detected until Monday, three days after its closest approach on June 14, when it got within 75,000 miles of Earth and was traveling at a speed of some 23,000 miles per hour, astronomers said.

Kind of reinforces your confidence in Bushy's missle defense program doesn't it?

As long as THE EVIL ONES shoot missles the size of a soccer field, make that TWO soccer fields, so maybe we can defend BEFORE impact.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

You don't bring me flowers, anymore...

It was just a couple of days before my much-anticipated travels Out West and I was fretting over the details of the trip. Ann called out from the kitchen: "Isn't June 11 somebody's birthday or something?"

I did a flash-scan of the cerebral date-data and came up with no birthdays, and went back to figuring out how many pair of socks I would wear in Wyoming.

About 5:00 on June 11, my daughter called me: "Congratulations!" she exclaimed. I said thanks, then waited for the punchline. "What did I win" I asked?

"It's your anniversary, daddy. YOU DIDN'T REMEMBER?"

That's right. Fred, the keeper of calendar trivia, who can tell you what date we moved into each of the eight homes we have owned, the day of the week I got my digital camera, and when we brought the dog home as a puppy...had forgotten the event of his (I hesitate to reveal this number) 32nd wedding anniversary. My daughter was both mortified and hysterical with laughter. This all taking place about 2 hours before Ann comes home from work.

Dig a hole, crawl in, pull dirt after. We be up the proverbial creek, and if there is a paddle, it's gonna connect with my tush. Only salvation was that, I was ALMOST sure, she had also forgotten. Almost sure.

My reaction in panic was to just take my lumps. Do nothing. You're good at it, Fred. But no, my son, ever the romantic, prodded me to action. I mean QUICK action, bubba. CYA.

Together, Nate and I created the illusion of planning. We quick chilled a bottle of what-ever and secreted it to ShangraLa. At the head of our valley is a wooded glade where the valley narrows, the hillsides are lush with Rhododendrons and huge oaks and tulip poplars, and the creek pools and plunges down below. Ann and I set up a crude bench there, and often talked of 'one day' taking a bottle of wine there and watching the sun go down. In two years, 'one day' had never come...too many chores to tend to merely SIT. Sigh.

She got home per usual, and when the time was right, I told her I had something I wanted her to see up the valley. This is not unusual as we often find wildflowers, old chestnut rails, remnants of old farmtools, and such that we show each other. We approached the 'park bench' and she soon saw the top of the wine bottle peeking out from under the plank.

"Wow! What's this for?"

I breathed a quick sigh of relief. She didn't have a clue. "You forgot our anniversary?" I exclaimed with mock-indignation? She laughed hysterically; we both did. She marveled in her laughter at how insanely busy our lives have become that she managed to miss the occasion of NUMBER 32. Admittedly, things like this are not all that rare in our lives of benign desparation. She thought it was funny. And I was on the other side of anniversary crisis!

I confess, at first I tried to pull it off that I had remembered all along, even when she had asked about 'who's birthday' on June 11. But I couldn't go long with the deceit, and I confessed. She found it easy to believe that I too had lost the day in the flood of daily routine. We both laughed at the pathetic irony of lives so long that another circuit of Earth around sun since 1970 is just another day.

I had forgotten to bring wine glasses. We passed the bottle between us a few times, reflected on that June day when we were so young and had such great expectations. Now, here we were, sitting on a plank, swilling cheap wine, some expectations achieved, some regrets, some hope left even yet.

We corked the bottle, packed up, and walked arm in arm in the dusk, back to the familiar, the routine, the forgettable everyday mix of joy and disappointment that is the year of marriage.

And you can bet your sweet acetabulum, I have my calendar marked for June 11, next year.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Testing: ONE, TWO....

This ugly mug for the purpose of a test to see if NEW images are loading. The old ones are still lost in space. We're working on it. Your regularly scheduled program will be back shortly.

This cheezy picture of Tree-Hugger Fred is from Tensleep Canyon, probably my favorite place on the BigHorns car tour with my daughter last week. It was a bit of a tease, as we were just starting to get into some really dynamite country, and wildflowers and wildlife were everywhere, when we had to turn and go home! I'll probably link to some more, larger-sized images from the trip, as the small pictures don't do justice to the enormity of the landscape.

If this is starting to sound like Uncle Vernon's dreaded vacation slide show, you can just go to your room!

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

I'm gonna sit right down and burn myself a letter...

Thanks to Newton'sKumquat for the link to this pathetic situation:

CASTLE ROCK, Colo., June 17 -- She spent a rugged life in the outdoors, wearing the ranger's green uniform, planting trees and warning careless campers that, as Smokey Bear puts it, "only you can prevent forest fires."

But when Terry Lynn Barton appeared this morning before a federal magistrate in Denver, she was dressed in jailhouse blues and charged with deliberately setting the worst wildfire in Colorado history -- and doing it as she burned a letter from her estranged husband.

Barton faces three federal felony counts: setting a fire, destroying federal property and lying to fire investigators. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. State or county officials also could prosecute charges against her.

Lesson:flush, don't burn.

There could be a heap of catchy titles for this tale, with all the love-song allusions to fire, smoke, rejection and calamitous endings. I will be flying through the blue haze from these fires today between Rapid City and Denver, will let you know if I come with something.

Home again on Wednesday. Thanks to all who have visited the weblog, left comments, sent emails or generally wondered how Nature-boy here was doing in Wyoming. It's been great, and I anticipate feeling quite clostrophobic for my first day or so back in the snug cleavage of Appalachian valleys once again. Boy, I could use some GREEN in my surroundings again, though.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Playing the Tourist

Yesterday, Holli and I visited Devil's Tower National Monument, about an hour's drive from here. Understandably, this 800 foot monolith is sacred to several Indian tribes, as it appears from the plains, dark and massive, as if by magic.

It was the FIRST national monument in the national system. Over 5000 people climb this sucker every year, and there were a couple of gals about half way up the south face when we were there. Made me dizzy to watch'em.

I had assumed the Tower was a volcanic dike. Apparently however, it is an igneous intrusion into surrounding sedimentary rock, which has been eroded only in the past million years by the Belle Fourche River that meanders through this area of red rock canyons.

Neatest thing we saw, other than the tower, was the very active prairie dog town just inside the park boundaries. They are smaller than I had imagined, ranging from 1 to 3 pounds, and are shaped like fat bellied earless squirrels, without the tail. At one time, one prairie dog 'town' covered 25,000 square miles with an estimated 400 million residents! These were exterminated by poisoning in the 1800s, and the only remaining towns now are in protected areas.

Additional recommendation: Never hug at tumbleweed. You see these rounded tufts of dry plantstuff rolling across the prairie on all the old westerns. They look soft like vegetable dustbunnies. They're not. The plant that forms them is very spiny and tough when it dies and breaks off at the roots. They tend to aggregate as their spines entangle and they do tend to pile up along the fences.

Oh well. Another misconception shattered.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

First Fragments from the West

~*~ First time to see at least two dozen unidentified mountain wildflowers. My internet queries before the trip had prepared me for a sparse flora, but that is the fault of poor internet resources for Wyoming, not an impoverished flora! I could have spent all day in a two-acre glade identifying and photographing. Known plants: lupine, larkspur, shooting star, Sierra stonecrop, phlox sp., Wyoming paintbrush, lots of others identified roughly to family.

~*~ First experience of being quite comfortable when the temp is >80 degrees. The wonderful deciduous forests back home sure pump a lot of plant breath into the air (hence the blueness of the Blue Ridge, the smokiness of the Smokies) and contribute to the oppressive feeling of heat plus humidity (in the 60% range in VA and 25% ballpark here in WY). No water, no green. That is the price we pay for trees.

~*~ First time to see mule deer, antelope, pronghorns, and a moose in the wild!

~*~ First time to spend 5 hours in the car with my daughter driving, or to travel at 80 miles an hour with her at the wheel and without severe white-knuckles.

~*~ Farthest west and highest elevation ever (checking on this, I REALLY need to get that Delorme 3D map software, Santa).

Home and the Heart

Why is there 'no place like home'?

Because I am away from home, I am wondering just what it means to feel 'at home'. I deeply love the southern Appalachians where I live, but feel certain I could love other places as well, had the Great Gumball Machine yielded ME in another instance of place and time.

I sometimes wonder, if I had grown up in some flat and featureless place (Kansas, maybe), would I have ever developed a 'sense of place', a feeling of belonging to a place that, upon leaving, all I would think of is how much I looked forward to returning, of standing in my own fields again?

I'm talking about a relationship with the land, WHERE you live, not the people, not the city, not the community. What makes one either bond to the physical features of where they live, or not? Is it simply a matter of loving the one you're with, geographically speaking? Growing where you're planted? I don't think so; at least not for me.

I grew up in central Alabama. To my mother's great disappointment, the land could not hold me. As soon as we could, we moved to Wythe County, Virginia, and it felt like moving home. Twenty years later, Floyd County feels even more like home, and I doubt we will ever move again.

But the roots of my belonging may go deeper. Traveling through the foothills of the Bighorns this week, I felt potentially 'at home' in the Buffalo, Wyoming area. I had the strong sense that I could live there and find a truer ME perhaps than in the gentle green, wet mountains back home.

Even stronger, almost eerie, was the profound certainty that I 'belonged' in the Highlands of Scotland on our visit there last year. It was as if I remembered having lived there. My very favorite place around home is Grayson Highlands State Park near Mt. Rogers in Virginia: a five thousand acre fragment of high elevation fog-enshrouded, wind-swept rock and low heather-like growth and 50 mile vistas...very similar, on a tiny scale, to both the Scottish highlands and the western mountains I have visited this week. Is there a message for me here? Were the seeds of rootedness in mountains born in me?

My fate was to be 'from' the Heart of Dixie. My heart, it seems, belongs in higher, rougher places. I have such a small experience of this planet, and I can't help wondering: if I knew all that was on the menu and could slip back into the Giant Orb, what would I order for a place called HOME? Or is the longing I feel for my true home on Earth an unfulfillable desire to reach a place I cannot know in this lifetime, but perhaps only in life to come?

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Paint it Black

I could hardly wait for our trip back to Gillette to take a look at the images I had taken in our travels to the Big Horns yesterday. Especially I wanted to try to envision what the 6-shot panorama from *Tensleep Creek Gorge (*probably not the real name but have yet to consult the topos) would look like. I proudly imagined a stunning printed and framed copy hanging in our entry hall back on Goose Creek.

What I found were six perfectly black frames...stunning and highly detailed renderings of the back of my lens cap. Humbling.

I may make the panorama and print and frame it anyway. "Tensleep Gorge on a Moonless Night".

Friday, June 14, 2002

Greenhorn to the Bighorns

Heading out today for a trip to the Bighorn Mountains, about two hours north of here. Seems like a good place for some panorama shots, hopefully something like this. I don't expect to achieve any real immersion in the countryside, mostly auto-touring of necessity, so will let you see these photos from the net instead. More as it happens!

Thursday, June 13, 2002

Go West, Old Man, Go West!

I am arrived safely on the planet Wyoming. My luggage however remains firmly terrestrial. Hurrah for the carry-on underwear and toothbrush, thanks to Mother Ann in her infinite wisdom.

Roanoke to Chicago to Denver to Rapid City.

Waiting in airports. In all airports, each individual, rarely more than two or three souls together, become enveloped in a bubble-of-solitude protective shield. Look carefully, out of the corner of your eye. It is round, vaguely opalescent, brittle, preventing close seating or conversation. It may persist in the plane or it may disappear when necessity seats one bubble in the domain of another. (Insert here the tale of the two complete strangers in front of me whose bubbles instantly merged and remained so, becoming turgid with unbroken soul-bearing, from Roanoke to O'hare).

Boarding the toy jet out of Roanoke, we stood on the plank outside the cockpit waiting to board. Bad omen: I got a really good view of the pilot. Balding, frumpy, and lumpish, he was created by Gary Larsen and I know his name was Bob.

There was a slight delay from Chicago to Denver: some minor mechanical problems with the aircraft. Finally, the steward announced "We will be underway now. We expect no immediate problems with the aircraft". You could feel sort of a group-squirm as we all questioned the significance of the word IMMEDIATE.

Last leg in a crop duster. A service of Dairy-Air, the Cow's Rump of Airlines. Provided were leather helmet, scarf and goggles. My window seat view just opposite the propeller was a lesson in time, rocks and water. The latter: former. Obviously used to be a lot more water out here to cause eroded canyons that have since filled almost to the rim with dust. Dust is the color of everything north of Denver. Why would we want to go the moon when we have this piece of geography RIGHT HERE? More water to the north, and even the rare color GREEN as we entered South Dakota; cows, even.

It is another planet out here. Sky from horizon to the other horizon and 150 miles between. Thought: I want to hear Wyoming thunder. I have this observation-supported theory that thunder in the Appalachians has a unique timbre, rhythm and resonance created by the baffled mountains, gently dissected valleys, and muted nap of deciduous forest. I expect thunder here to be flat, quick and without the familiar roll and echo of Goose Creek thunder.

Birds, trees, flowers and ferns, and the local aliens. Much to explore on Planet Wyoming. I prepare to don my spacesuit (the one I fortuitously packed in my carry-on) and venture out. One small step for man...

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Pavlov's Voters: Boobs or Booze?

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech voters are having to make some hard election choices -- should they support the party offering free alcohol or the one using topless women in its campaign?

With the Christian Democrats handing out free shots of plum brandy in the Moravian town of Valasske Mezirici during a weekend election rally, the Communist party had to quickly change its strategy for a meeting in the same town square.

Soon the party had five topless women handing out campaign literature, forcing people to decide between a free shot and a free peek.

If it feels good, vote for it.

Ballycastle Beach, Northern Ireland

Here I am getting what a countryfied coworker long ago called "journey-proud". I have a trip coming up; an infrequent traveler, it is a big-ish deal. In getting down the luggage, I found the airline tickets from London Gatwick still attached, from our Ireland trip last spring. Our son was in an exchange program at Queens U in Belfast, we went over for a brief and wonderful week.

Our last full day there, we hopped a local bus on a cool and misty day, and traveled the backroads to Ballycastle, far north on the Northern Ireland coast. We had no tour guide, no particular objective in mind, just to see at least one fragment of non-touristy Ireland.

When I ponder on the image above, I can recall the smell of the salt spray and seaweed, feel the biting seawinds, hear the seagulls, and remember how good it felt to be 'lost but found' in a strange land with my son, my wife, and my mother.

May my pending travels leave me with similar memories.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Goody Goody! Things are looking up.

~~Fragment~~After two weeks of stripping, scraping, steelwooling, and cussing, the steps are almost ready for the sander. Through pink paint on top of burgundy paint on top of some very ancient blue stain (probably original, on 130 yr old heart-pine treads), through snow and storm and dark of night. The sanding will take a couple of days, can't put the hands through too much contact with the vibrating death-grip Porter-Cable. Pictures to come soon.

~~Fragment~~Thanks to Susanna Cornett for the FRIED CORN RECIPE. Our Silver Queen is only about mid-shin high (and another batch is ankle high) so it will be a while before we can try this dish. Susanna does indicate that it would be helpful to remove the worms from the ears prior to preparation.

~~Fragment~~I (alas) may have to shed my pink taffeta house dress and crystal slippers and become a skullery maid, er physical therapist, once again. A position has been approved, and an application came off the net and went completed into the mail today. I may have some room to negotiate for less than full time, and in our struggle for life-pace-control, this is my first option. We need TIME in our spaces more than we need to save more and more for the Flaccid Arms Rest Home retirement program.

~~Fragment~~And lastly, I am going to Wyoming on Wednesday! YeeeeeeHa! I fly in to Rapid City, SD and my lovely daughter will ferry me back to her place, about two hours away. You can expect some weblog entries FROM and ABOUT my trip, pictures also a likely possibility.

Revenge of the Ampersand?

All is not well in BLogLand.

I have been (slightly) encouraged to continue in the care and feeding of this weblog since installing GeoCounter on May 28. Not getting a huge number of hits, but enough to reinforce my aimless verbosity for a bit longer. Got YACCS commenting too, not long ago, and all was well with Fragments.

Now, GeoCounter server is gone for the past three days and like so many 'freebies' it may never come back up for a final gulp of air before sinking under the weight of server-overload. So, I hunted around this morning for a replacement and seemed to be okay with CQ Counter. They emailed me the script, smooth sailing. NOT.

My problem possibly has something to do with javascript, which I understand to be the written language of those living in the Indonesian archipelago. It appears there is a problem with ampersands in the Blogger template editing window, so I cannot make changes to my template. No changes at all. So, no replacement counter. I am at the mercy of Blogger helpdesk. Any recommendations out there? If you visit Fragments, please just leave a hash mark here on the screen: ||||\ ||| ||\| |||

Music Hath Charms

So why is it that my kids always told me my singing and whistling was driving them crazy? It was driving them SMART!

...In the Mozart Effect, Don Campbell, founder of the Institute of Music, Health and Education, lists the benefits of using your voice to enhance mood and memory. He says that all forms of vocalization, including singing, chanting, yodeling, humming, reciting poetry, or simply talk can be therapeutic.

... in astudy with 36 undergraduates from the department of psychology who scored 8 to 9 points higher on the spatial IQ test (part of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence scale) after listening to 10 minutes of Mozart. Gordon Shaw, one of the researchers, suggested Mozart's music may be able to warm up the brain, "We suspect that complex music facilitates certain complex neuronal patterns involved in high brain activities like math and chess. By contrast, simple and repetitive music could have the opposite effect."

...Certain music can also be very destructive. It is no coincidence that the majority of teenagers who end up being sent to residential treatment facilities or group homes listen to more heavy metal music than other teens. Music that is filled with lyrics of hate and despair encourage those same mind states in developing teens. What your children listen to may hurt them. Teach them to love classical music when they are young.

...The College Entrance Examination Board in 1996 reported that students with experience in musical performance scored 51 points higher on the verbal part of the SAT and 39 points high on the math section than the national average.

So, children, King of the more time?

Saturday, June 08, 2002

Travel Reading

We went to hear Robert Morgan speak at the Presby Church in Floyd last night, a very impressive southern author.

I picked up a signed copy of "GAP CREEK" for my travels to Wyoming next week. I will heed the warning I read at "Warning: Do not read this book while you are the least bit depressed; it'll have little to give in the way of hope". I think I am in a positive enough state of mind to handle it right now. Next week? Who knows.

Slow Living: It's about Time

My wife and I have settled happily and permanently in Floyd County. The next time we relocate, Lord willing, it will be in a pine box. We love it here; it feels right for us. But apparently, not for everyone.

I recently found myself defending our decision to live in rural Floyd County. An acquaintance, newly transplanted to Blacksburg from a large Mid-Atlantic city, was lamenting her new "life in the sticks", as she called it. I felt obliged to educate her regarding "real" rural living as I experience it. You could see the horror welling up in her at the idea of an even "stickier" location where there is only one traffic light in the entire county. "Where do you go to get STUFF", she asked.

I described the twisting gravel road that we live on. "I bet it takes you forever even to get to the pavement. How do you stand it? Give me a traffic jam any day!" I swear she actually said this. "Yes", I replied, "you can only go SLOW on our road, and that is why we like it. And traffic is never jammed in Floyd County."

At that moment, I sensed that my new acquaintance mentally branded me a "cull" from the fast, urban society of her experience and preference. I was just someone who couldn't stand the heat of modern life, and so he got out of the kitchen and "went rural". Gads! What if she was right? For days I was oppressed by a mood of self-doubt. Why had we abandoned the swift main current of society and opted for a life in the slow lane? What did this say about the time-values upon which our family lifestyle was built? These questions ruminated some deep place in my mind, just under the surface of conscious thought, during the following week.

My wife and I, in our country life, are as busy as anyone. We can't be faulted for running away from things to do. But there is a difference between being busy and being hurried. It is hurriedness that our gravel road helps us to avoid when leaving home, a kind of meditation that prepares us to enter the faster world in a slower state of mind. And upon coming home, experiencing our slow road one bend at a time is part of the detoxification process that brings our blood pressure down, calms our racing minds, brings us to center again on the simple acts of living here in the present moment. I imagine I am as busy as my city friend, but I know I am not as hurried.

The 90's was a decade afflicted with "hurry sickness" or "time urgency". The problem shows no sign of diminishing here in the new decade of palm-piloted instant gratification and mock-convenience at any cost. Society has one rate of life-flow; fortunately, we, as individuals and communities can have another. Where and how I live is part of my quest to "simplify, simplify, simplify" my life. I think of poor Mr. Thoreau, who exhorted us to "suck the marrow out of life". Did he intend for societies to live fully by cramming the maximum activity and consumption into every mile and minute, each effort and motion? For me, successful time management happens when I open up spaces in my calendar and they don't get filled in, while my new friend may have successfully filled in her Day Planner with no lines left empty for months ahead. Guess it depends on what one wants out of life. I think it was St. Augustine who said that God wants us to have everything we want, provided we want the right things. Is a disposition that shuns haste and tinsel a right thing, or a character flaw?

And so my thoughts ebbed and flowed, and I wondered if I this point of view was just one of my personal idiosyncrasies. It was good timing that I should happen to hear Sylvia Poggioli's piece on Public Radio that very week, and to know that I am not alone. There has been a movement beginning in Italy during the past year to say NO to the American invasion of Fast Food into their venerable towns and cities. The Slow Food movement is organized into enclaves or "convivia" that see the meal and food sharing as a metaphor for a city's or a region's soul. They are seeking to protect the meal as a convivial, shared experience, not merely the utilitarian digestive process it has become in much of our country. The issue is larger than a return to hedonistic enjoyment of local foods and wines, however.

What encourages me in this development is the next logical step of "slowness" that is also spreading from Italy, embodied in the "Slow Cities" movement. (Their objectives can be found online via your favorite browser search engine.) Many of the Slow Cities principles express a pace and value that seems to fit my time-values, and is shared by many southwest Virginians. This is probably not the case for my friend who is more comfortable in a traffic jam, munching on a Biggie Fries.

The solution to hurry sickness is not in where one lives. One could live "fast" in the country, or "slow" in a city environment. It seems to be more a matter of individual and collective discipline and temperament than population density. Slowing down requires purposeful and difficult choices in our stewardship of time, and we must become less passive in this unspoken struggle between competing philosophies. The more we succeed at guarding ourselves from speed addiction, the louder the purveyors of façade and tempo will shout for our attention: bigger signs, louder ads, flashier graphics, gaudier plastic and neon, Happier Meals. Where does it stop, and when?

Can we and should we seek to protect our lives and our towns from the onslaught of haste and mock-convenience? For many communities, it is obviously too late. The pseudopodia of homogeneous bigness, hurry, urgency, the Chicken McNuggets counterfeits for sustenance of body and spirit are already engulfing some of the more "developed" parts of our region. There is lots of STUFF there but they are no longer "convivial". I pass through these places, but I do not tarry, and I sure don't want to live there.

If the Slow Cities philosophy or something like it should find support in our region, then I can hope that a healing correction might take place in the coming decade. Then, at least some communities may protect and maintain a more human rhythm, where solitude, quietness, genuineness, honesty and slowness might supplant the hype, noise, pressure, artifice and speed that have driven us in the past. We must make some hard choices. And some of you will understand: It's about time.

Of Midnight Mice and Men

Now I am a tolerant and gentle sort of a guy. I can co-exist with the Phoebe nesting on our soffits, the neighbors peacock pooping on our front porch, and an occasional crow in the garden. But I'm sorry, the mice in the ceiling were a bit too much.

For weeks on end it happened. It's 2:34 a.m. Ann elbows me out of a very superficial grogginess: Fred, do you hear that? Do I hear it! Well BLEEP yes I've heard it for the last 2 hours! Whaddaya want me to do about it!

Here's the scene: You must remember the Looney Tunes character, Speedy Gonzales here(more about him later, and I apologize for the obnoxious animated rodent, but don't you just want to SLAM it off your screen? evokes just the right mood). Our mice were not 'wee timerous beasties' I tell you. What we had was a track team of Speedys *ARRIBA! ARRIBA! running wind-sprints in the spaces between joists, in the dark spaces between our ceiling and the upstairs wooden floors. From the sound of it, they (and there had to be a whole team of them) were wearing their dirt-spikes and were approximately the build of a small groundhog.

Having placed exactly THREE open D-con bait trays in the room above us, plus a mousetrap, with no noticable effect on the four-mouse midnight relays, my only recourse was loud cursing (which made me feel better but our rodent-athletes could not hear above their ARRIBAS) and an occasional pounding on the ceiling with a shoe while standing on the bed in the dark (and this terrified the wife way more than the mouses).

Last resort, I gotta get some sleep: One morning last week, after another track meet upstairs, I resolved to end this man-against-nature stand-off. If they live in the space under the floor, well, that's where ya gotta fight'em. So, with a 1" woodbit, I sunk a hole in the old plank flooring, poured in a couple of ounces of delicious green D-Con, and pulled the rug over the hole (I'll patch it with a 1" dowel one of these days). That oughta do it, I gloated.

And sure enough, that sprints, relays or broadjumps! Ah, victory. Sleep all night! NOT. The next night, and the next, Speedy and Crew were back again. OH, PLEASE get hungry, eat hardy and DIE! Think brain, think brain, think! I stumbled up the steps with the little radio I keep at my computer desk, put it on its side on the floor about the mouse-stadium, and tuned in to the only channel we get: Smooth Jazz. All night long. And....No mouses ever again. Nighty-night!

I always sort of thought enough Smooth Jazz could be lethal if taken internally.

* Full text of mouse-sounds overhead: "Arriba, arriba, arriba, andale, andale, ole, ole, ole, andale! – Hello, pussycats, you looking for a nice fat mouse for deenner?"

Note: I'm afraid our friend Speedy is a victim of Political Correctness. Noticed that you have not seen him lately on Nickelodeon?

Friday, June 07, 2002

Duct Tape Confessions. I'm not proud of this.

Wednesday I was creative. After holding the phone MUSAKed ad nauseum for more than an hour with Olympus tech support, bumping slowly higher and higher up the Heirarchy of Incompetence, I was thinking that I might suffer permanent elbow joint changes holding the danged phone to my ear for so long. You can't even cradle this little cordless between your neck and shoulder (a posture that provides its own musculoskeletal risks!)

So, withp l e n t y of time on my hands (and idle hands are the devil's workshop, ya know) I resorted to invention. I grabbed my cap off the rack, ferreted the Duct Tape out of the drawer, and taped the phone to my cap. Voila! Hands free for 21 more games of Mindsweeper while I waited. Another victory for problem-solving Physical Therapy Man! (To be fair, I acknowledge that this would probably be coded more appropriately under Occupational Therapy. Apologies to my daughter.)

Hey, others have been creative with the life-force known as Duct Tape. Take a look.

The sky IS falling! Tra-la...

No longer able to hide behind ignorance of what the rest of the world knows about global climate changes, the Bush Administration feigns helplessness and continues business as usual.

In fact, the most startling figure in the report has nothing to do with snowfall or sea level. Instead, it's the official government prediction that U.S. production of greenhouse gases will rise 43 percent by 2020. We'll pour half again as much carbon dioxide into the planet's atmosphere 18 years from now - that's our promise.

It's as if a drunk had finally hit bottom, announced to friends and family that he accepted the fact that he was an alcoholic and that it was destroying his life - and then said that his plan was to drink three bottles a night from now on instead of two, and see if maybe he could find an artificial kidney.

Our addiction to oil (the wealth and power it brings to those who control it) is 'forcing' our 'leaders' to sell the planet's future health to get it. Can't we put these folks in some kind of rehab program for bipolar hydrocarbon addicts? Are there no 'countervailing market forces' we can bring to bear against this outrageous sell-out to greed and power? Are we still confused about what it is that the WORLD dislikes about America? Tra-la...

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Things I hate, right at this moment

~~Fragment~~Heat. I hate heat. I hate myself when I'm hot. I don't sweat like normal people, the heat just stays in there raising my core temp to failsafe levels, and I shut down. My will to move vanishes, motivation dissipates, I wait all summer for late September. In early June (about right now), I have dreams of burying myself in the creekmud up to my neck, and staying there until the corn is ripe and I have something to live for.

~~Fragment~~Sounds I hate: 1) the sound of 37 miniature ponies with tap shoes = my hard drive defragging, and defragging, and... 2) gnats, Kamakaze gnats who give their lives to attack my auditory canal, nostrils and conjunctiva. Can't some of them hummm a different KEY! I'm going mad, I tell you! and 3) the 412th refrain of musak, holding for Olympus technical support, call number 6...that endless loop of 8 bars of lounge lizard documentary music.

~~Fragment~~I hate people who make lists of things they hate. They sound like Andy Rooney. And don't ya just hate Andy Rooney?

And the living will envy the dead.

When I hear of the casualty report from the daily horrors in Israel, I tend to listen with more agony to the "injured" figures. The dead have left this valley of tears. The 'survivors', on the other hand...This article contains some graphic Xrays.

Reports of people being injured in suicide bombings are not rare. Since September 2000, 498 Israelis have been killed and 4,021 injured in acts of Palestinian violence. In suicide bombings alone, 208 Israelis have died. On Monday, there were several reports on the suicide bomber who killed an 18-month-old baby girl and her grandmother and left 27 people injured. The reports, however, rarely go into the medical details to explain just what is meant by "injured."

Messing said one of the victims he saw while in Jerusalem had around 300 individual metallic fragments within his body. The metal fragments, measuring from millimeters to centimeters, were imbedded in the young man literally from head to toe, he said.

"Several of the fragments penetrated into his vital organs. He sustained a punctured colon, a collapsed lung, and a lacerated liver and kidney. I could actually feel the nails under his skin where they had burrowed and lodged," Messing recalls.

It's official: I'm an OLD FART!

I have truly lost touch with the pulse of American family life. I confess that I only saw ONE episode of the Simpsons (correction: make that SOUTHPARK, but I only saw one episode of the Simpsons too) before pulling the plug on that piece of pigpoop (sorry, watch your language, Fred). And now, I have already decided NOT to purchase any of the Osbourne Family memorabilia soon to hit the shelves.

The Osbournes, America's new first family, are planning a big push at the Licensing Show in Gotham, Tuesday through June 13, betting their wacky MTV rocker reality will play well on sleepwear, dartboards, backpacks and a voice-activated plush bear that yells "I'm the f---ing prince of darkness!"

Many of the toys talk ("Shut the f--- up and go to bed" and "I'm not cleaning up the dogs---, I'm a f---ing rock star!"); others are edited for a general audience. Lola the dog just wrapped up a photo shoot for a new calendar. Other merchandise includes action figures, socks and key chains.

Ya young whippersnappers! Ya oughta be happy with a Davy Crockett coonskin Cap, dang ya!

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Early June in the Summer of our Discontent

I slept in til 5:30 this morning, plagued or blessed with B grade dreams of high school friends, flying things, and futility. Dreams are supposed to keep us from flying apart from our own centrifugal mind-motion, but I am skeptical.

The creatures are fed now, wife and son have left for work, and I am watching the beginnings of a humid, empty day through windows that badly need washing. Cleaning glass would give me something to do to justify the fact that I am home, in my slippers, just waiting, and pointless, early into my second month after resigning my job. Waiting on promised calls, epiphanies, miracles-beating-my-door-down, hot tips, solace, inspiration.

In truth, I feel guilty that I don't feel more guilty. It gives me comfort that we are not in debt, have modest needs and few greeds, have low expectations for after-retirement, and live in a true spot of peace and beauty that my eyes and internal rhythms are finally adjusting to. Solitude, health, beauty, time empty waiting to be filled and a smattering of expectation... blessings brought home to me in the dark, last night.

It is late, and I am last to bed, past the usual time; but I have less soul-fatigue these days, and can not face eight hours of oblivion just yet. So, I step out onto the front porch into the mercifully cooler, syrupy sweet air of Early June, and sit on the top step quietly as if not to disturb the wildlife, whose time I am entering.

The pasture grasses just beyond the maples are in full flower and their pollen smells like midnight bread baking; the creek sends wafts of spearmint, wet mud and turbulence. So familiar, almost painful, these olfactory memories of summers past, from calm childhood Alabama nights...and with this thought, I can smell too the pines, both here and there, and at summer camp, and backpack encampments with friends long lost.

My eyes learn to see in darkness and there are soundless flashes of summer lightning, and stars overhead, my night vision comes and goes with each flash and pause and flash. Rising from the grassy field along with fragrance are tens of thousands of 'lightening bugs'. Put them in a jar, shake and watch them illumined with the cold, translucence of memory. They pulse and rise in counterpoint to the atmospheric strobe, sending an ancient binary code that we could understand, if we were more often still, less guilty, and lived more in our own fields.

Gravity moves me downward and I lie on my back, on cool stone, horizontal, facing out not up, into a mock-infinity of space, wondering what is my place in this world of men and words. Do I deserve to be so blessed among Earth's anthill of humanity? What must I do with this grace that is given me tonight, and how should I then live? Perhaps I will try to write something about this in the morning, after the house is quiet and the fireflies have gone to bed and the world smells of heat and ozone and toast.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

You CAN get there from here!

I have created a WebPipe tour of a few selected portions of my 'old' webpage. Frankly, the webpage these days is like an abandoned mineshaft, creaking, dank, with dust settled thickly on all its surfaces, since I started 'blogging'.

Maybe parts are worth a visit, though. Especially you might like some of the images. If you do, and let me know by way of the comments (either weblog comments, or page comments in the WebPipe), and I will put some more here from time to time.

'nuff said. If you want to try this out, go to the Goose Creek Webpipe. I will probably move this link to the left sidebar after a week or so, and it will be 'permanently' attached to the weblog...for a while. Hope you enjoy it, both of you.

Quick! Before its gone!

I have just discovered an entry from Fragments on Blogtoday today.

My guess is the selection of blog entries to include on Blogtoday is done via a mindless algorhythm on a computer in an empty basement somewhere.

I was always fond of mindless algorhythms. May I call you Al?

Thanks to Chris at SidePipe for his email (posted on Daily Phred) with a bit more of their vision for how this product might be used, with or in some instances, instead of a weblog.

Monday, June 03, 2002

The Price is Right: SIDEPIPE is FREE!

This seems like a good idea waiting for applications. This page tells you all about it. Especially may be helpful in collaborative webpage-based discussions.

Click on this link to go to a quickly-constructed SidePipe (webpage tour kind of thing, with comments) and see what you think.

Surprise the heck out of me and actually click the links, then add a comment to one of the pages. THIS IS JUST A TEST.

Clown relocation program

There are so many good reasons to appreciate this picture from the Billings Gazette, suggested by headline at Random Walks today..

1) You have always hated clowns in general. Period. You are not alone, visit the ihateclowns forum.

2) You hate Ronald McDonald in particular. It could be argued he is the caloric counterpart, in purpose and health outcome, to Joe Camel (who had his humps cut off a while back). Is Ronald next?

3) You dislike McDonalds Corporation of the Cosmos as Ronald's parent company for any one of a large number of reasons...take your pick: The ISSUES are too numerous to detail, but take a look at this extensive site of greivances against our orange haired fiend's family.. You'll get the idea.

Well Ronald, you are an easy and perhaps appropriate target for individual indignation, subject to a lynching from groups opposing cruelty to animals, cheap exploitation of children, false advertizing, mistreatment of employees, destruction of tropical forests for cheap meat production, supplanting local quisine in small town America and Europe's great city centers, nutritional poisoning, and more. Other than that, you're a really likable kinda guy...always smiling and McHappy! Well, see ya hanging around.