Saturday, December 31, 2005

naught six

A time for resolution and I, a man of little resolve, look to the right-hand column of this blog and see the quote with which it began. My vow is to try, to make an attempt, to live by Whitman's words. Now where the hell did I put my hat?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Ledger

photo by nancy vaughn

I suppose it's traditional to take stock, as the old year wears down; to do a bit of accounting, see how the books balance. It's never really been a tradition of mine, but I'll indulge myself so that this entry isn't just a black, blank page.

On the debit side, I seem to have lost my way in the gainful employment area, having done a pitiful job in attracting new architectural clients, and a less-than-stellar job of serving those I have. The offsetting credit: an upturn in my writing quantity and, arguably, quality. Not a lot of groceries purchased with the proceeds of the writing, but I need to lose weight, anyway.

Some good friends were lost, to death and attrition, and nothing will make up for that. I did, however, make some new friends, whom I've come to value quite dearly.

Another grandchild appeared; my fourth, and I got to spend a bit of Christmas with the whole lot. This outweighs any possible shortcomings in all categories.

We have squeeked by the shortest day of my 61st year without the screen going entirely dark, and there were a few moments when it didn't look like that was likely, so, perhaps we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne. I'm running out of red ink, so will try to record a few positive developments in the coming year.

I can do no better than to wish you peace.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More Greetings


For Better or Worse

On a recent archeological dig in one of the literary areas of our attic, I came across a number of old hard-bound friends, and decided to see how they'd handled their interment. Not all faired well.

Next time you feel certain that the world is just now going to hell, remind yourself of the things we used to read.

Case in point: I re-read Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth, which I still consider to be one of the great classics of beat writing, although it predates the beat "movement". Cary's hero, Gulley Jimson, is a grimy modern artist-outlaw-ne'er-do-well-Robin Hood-thief-philosopher-jailbird and, as such, is pretty easy to love. He also beats women. Yeah, just kinda matter-of-fact like; he beats women. One dies. Did this book model the misogyny that was an integral part of the beat movement? I can't remember being so repulsed by that aspect of the book (published in 1944, the year of my birth) when I first read it, in the early 60's. Maybe the world's changed, maybe I have.

I looked at a few other old books from my collection -- an anthology, Poetry Out of Wisconsin, another book which is mostly quite good, and edited by August Derleth, contains a few pieces that refer to African-Americans in such hateful terms that you can't imagine they could have been printed in Poetry Out of Alabama !

Even Mary Mapes Dodge's Hans Brinker has some pretty hideous references to the Jewish communities in the Netherlands. Of course, disrespect of Native Americans was so widespread that I'm hard-pressed to single out an example.

So, just when I think things couldn't be worse, I look back and see that they were. At least the sound of most modern writing makes me think that things have, indeed, gotten better. I hope that our attitudes have changed, as well as our words.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Season's Greetings


Brown trucks and white, with red and blue;
trucks of indeterminate hue carrying, cross-continental,
and to Tupelo and Wichita,
mountains, monumental, of stuff: mundane,
sentimental stuff bearing the urgent message,
I have not forgotten -
that you’re hungry, that you love, that you ordered,
that I owe, that I love, that our love bordered on a need,
not greed, so I am sending, from a catalog from Texas,
some smoked meats to Vermont, sweets,
from San Francisco to Duluth, floor mats, taupe,
for a Lexus, vermouth from someplace to someplace else,
hoping, against hope, that your order is filled,
your stomach is filled, your wishes fulfilled,
you’ll love me still, for a while, and hoping, too,
for something in return; things not returned, spurned,
things not carried by truck: a good thought, luck,
oh-you-shouldn’t-have but, really, you must send hope
on wings of a dream, or a joke, a smile
on wisps of blue smoke; make it worthwhile.
I have not forgotten - too much;
not forgotten you . . . your style.

- Ralph Murre

William Proxmire

So long, Bill Proxmire -- you served us well. Give our best to Gaylord Nelson, if you should meet up in some sky-bound senate. The state and the nation will look long and hard to find more of your sort, and if a few exist, I fear we won't elect them.

'til death do us

a female cardinal
her soft brown dress
blending with fallen leaves
lies beneath my window

a male cardinal
balanced on balsam
resplendent in crimson contrast
is ill-dressed for grief

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Sacred and the Sold-Out

A friend has gently chastised me for citing the sites of the sights photographed for this blog, or even hinting at the locales. She says that if I love these places, I will tell no one. This will sound pretty extreme to some, but she is right on the money. If you have lived in a beautiful place only to see it overrun -- even if the overrunners are wonderful people -- you will understand her concern. A few clues have been removed from the blog.

This business of vanishing wilderness and vanishing countryside is a fence that I've tried to straddle for a long time, with limited success. As a rural architect, my living has been earned by designing all the sorts of buildings which are gobbling up acreage and shorelines and encouraging people to visit once-wonderful places so that they can return to the city with a Chinese-made trinket and a pocket full of real estate brochures. I can rationalize, to myself and my ecologically aware friends, that if I hadn't done it, someone else would; and they might have been architectural boors.

I haven't done any commercial projects in a while, but have concentrated on home design, which seemed, somehow, less damaging. Still, the homes are marching over hill and dale, through the woods and up the beach. Everybody needs a piece of the pie, and then their appetites for pie increase, and they need bigger pieces, and more of them, and it occurs to them that they could make a tidy profit selling pie. (is anybody getting hungry here?)

Wouldn't it be just dandy if I could wrap this entry up with some clever solution -- some way to quench the thirst of the advantaged -- without wrecking the economy, either the nation's or my own? That would be nice, but I'll need to think about it. Meanwhile, I'll do my best to keep the secrets of the sacred places of solitude.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Like Water . . . for what?

Are we just water lapping at the feet of cliffs of granite, or mounting full-furied attacks, our energies spent in dazzling spray, rainbow-hued flower children dashed against a five-sided fortress? When will mothers stop giving their sons, and when will the old men sleep? When will the cliffs erode, and when can we dance on the beach?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

On September's Shore

a harebell dwelling
on granite and good wishes
dares the coming ice
- arem
a fond glance back at sunnier days
( click on any photo to enlarge)

Got a Pulse?

Here, perhaps, is a link to some of my poetry and an interview by Henry Timm. This was printed in the Peninsula Pulse, and appears on their website -