Life defies the spring

Spring has sputtered along this year. There was frost on the ground Thursday morning, and the weather people say we had only two or three days of average temperatures this April. The rest of the days have been 10 to 20 degrees below average.

But the leaves on the willow trees are starting to emerge, the ground is getting greener, and the daffodils are coming to life in defiance of the cold.

Life goes on, no matter the inconveniences or the challenges or the obstacles. That’s the reassuring thing about life — it always finds a way through the storm.

It’s less than two months until the first day of summer, when, soaking in gobs of Vitamin D from the sun, we will laugh about the timid spring that was afraid to come out and play, until it did. 

Rabbit hole revenge

“Hey! What the —” the rabbit said as I tumbled onto his head.

“Sorry, bun,” I said. “How did I get here?”

“I am so over people like you,” said the rabbit, his whiskers twitching. “You fall into my hole, eyes all glazed, rude as can be, land on my head or wake up my kids, and you have the nerve to ask, ‘How did I get here?’ You know dang well how you got here. You’re just too embarrassed to say.”

These last few words were accompanied by a series of strong finger jabs to my chest. And before you try to tell me rabbits don’t have fingers, let me point out that rabbits also don’t talk.

“Honestly,” I said apologetically, “I’m as surprised as you are.”

“Then you’re not surprised at all,” the rabbit sniffed, and sniffed again. “What did you think would happen? You pick up that insidious device all the time, knowing it can send you down a rabbit hole, and you scroll and scroll until you find a perfect little rabbit hole to dive down. Well, enough is enough. Come on, guys!”

All of a sudden I was surrounded by rabbits. Drumming started to thunder out of the walls, and the rabbits began to sing along with a jangling electric guitar.

“We’re not gonna take it, no, we ain’t gonna take it, we’re not gonna take it anymore,” they sang as they swarmed over me.

I will probably post a link to this story, like always, but as I glance over at my iPhone and contemplate opening Facebook, I break out in a sweat, remembering the hordes of vengeful furry animals crawling on my chest and weighing me down, shouting Twisted Sister in my face.

My therapist says with a few years of hard work, I may be able to function normally again. But in the meantime, I can’t go out in the backyard.

There are bunnies out there.

Squalor sneaks up on me again

The piles of debris are back. I have accumulated new old records and CDs and books, and more papers have been delivered and not filed away or tossed, and so I see chaos everywhere when I sit down in my easy chair to supposedly relax and write. 

It’s not easy to see all of this. When I finish this session, I will have to take some small action against the clutter — at the very least a donation or two to the recycling bin.

I don’t mean to live in squalor. It just sneaks up on me. I mean to come back and read that book, so I set it on a pile instead of returning it to, or making room on, one of the shelves. I want to file the electric bill eventually, so I don’t toss or recycle it after I write the check. We can get a rebate for the dog’s medicine, so the receipt is under here somewhere. Enough little things like these, and pretty soon the room is not a retreat but a constant reminder of tasks undone — even the pleasant tasks like listening to the music I scored at that sale the other day.

On the other hand, this is my little corner of the universe, it’s full of stuff, and I like stuff, especially old stuff like these albums by Lobo and Jim Photoglo that I found in a $1 bin at the library, of all places. And there’s the decades-old copy of The Note-Books of Samuel Butler that I’ll be using to guide my layout of an upcoming Roger Mifflin Collection edition. And I really should dive into that Ray Bradbury tribute collection filled with stories inspired by the old master, so why not leave it where it lies? And for cryin’ out loud, will I ever hook up the microphone I bought to revive my podcast career?!

A little clutter is good for the soul, I think, and Bradbury opened his TV show with a review of his cluttered workspace.

This is not a little clutter, though. This is a lot of clutter. I set some of these papers in a pile because it was important that I review and perhaps file them, but I have gone months in some cases without doing either, and the world has gone on.

Finishing the thought, however, it would be nice to relax and close my eyes knowing that when I open them, I won’t be assailed by the sight of something undone, something that belongs somewhere else, or something urgent that I should have taken care of by now. And so, when I get up from writing this, one or more of these piles must cease to exist before I move on to the daily grind. Really. I mean it this time. Here goes …

Our scary science-fiction present-day

Photo © Wellphotos |

Do androids dream of electric sheep, as Philip K. Dick asked? Do smartphones dream at all?

How do they know what we’ve been talking about so they can show us relevant ads? Oh, we know the answer to that, but we don’t face the implications.

We’re entertained by the pretty FBI agents on TV stalking criminals with their cellphone data and the GPS devices in their cars, and we don’t tremble at the idea of constant surveillance.

Scary science fiction was written years ago about authorities watching the innocent 24 hours a day, and it was brushed off as fantasy or a future to be avoided. Now that it’s a reality, we brush it off as no big deal, or even a blessing — we can be found if we get lost. And maybe if the cameras catch us doing something really embarrassing, We’ll win $100,000 from America’s Funniest Home Videos.

The ghosts of Winston Smith and Julia aren’t laughing, though.

Every life is precious

If we teach kids that people are made in God’s image, each a unique individual to be treated with care and respect, then we teach them to be gentle and loving and caring.

If we teach kids that people are squishy targets and it’s fun to blow them away, then we teach them something else.

It’s amazing how hard the computer geeks and special effects wizards have worked to make the simulated shredding and maiming of the human body look realistic in our movies and TV shows and video games, for entertainment purposes.

And I wonder if there’s a relation between running up points for every gory simulated death in a game, and cheering when the bad guy comes to a horrific end in a movie, and the cheering for war and violence on otherwise peaceful streets in real life.

Actually, no, I don’t wonder, I believe there’s a connection. When you cheapen the value of a life, you invite warlords and murderers to do their thing.

When a life ends, any life, something precious is lost forever. That’s what we must teach our kids if we are to survive as a species.

I’ve got a bell and a song to sing

© Sergeypykhonin |

“In the folk classic ‘If I Had A Hammer,’ the hammer represents justice, one of these freedom.”

The answer to the Jeopardy! question was a no-brainer. “Bell,” I said to the air. “The bell of freedom.” Next question. 

But wait, the three contestants — none of whom looked old enough to have been alive in 1962 or 1963, to be fair — stared into space with confused looks on their faces. 

As happens at times like these, I said to the air, a little louder, “Bell! The bell of freedom! Really?!?!?” And the time buzzer went off.

“Bell,” said Ken Jennings, hosting, “the bell of freedom.”

I guess they don’t sing about freedom these days. Why would we want young people to sing about freedom? 

Do they even know what freedom is or what freedom feels like?

A generation doesn’t know what it’s like not to be surveilled and monitored at every turn. They don’t worry if someone’s listening because someone is always listening, even if it’s just the AI on the nearest electronic device.

They don’t know what it’s like to get on a plane without being treated like a criminal suspect. If someone in authority tells them to lock themselves in their homes, they stay home.

Come to think of it, there’s one more item in the song that the kids ought to be taught to sing about.

“I’ve got a hammer, and I’ve got a bell, and I’ve got a song to sing all over this land,” the last verse of the song goes. “It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom, it’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.

There’s still talk about justice these days, but freedom? and wait a minute, love?! When there are people in that other party to shut up and people in those other countries to kill? What the heck kind of a song is that, anyway?

I think maybe it’s a song that needs to be sung and taught to our kids, so that when that episode of Jeopardy! is rerun, everyone watching will yell at the screen, “Bell! It’s the bell of freedom!!”  

The (possibly) last cat

The cat enters the room while I’m scratching out some thoughts in my journal. She has some comments to make about how breakfast appears to be slow in arriving, then sets to licking her coat over by the door.

The sole survivor of our cat posse that surged to seven in 2007, she has seen us slowly turn into a dog home (not that we weren’t already) as her elders moved on one by one. If she misses her kind, she is philosophical about it, keeping to herself and touring the house on a regular basis.

It will be 15 years in July since she darted across the on-ramp to U.S. 41, igniting my protective instinct and letting me take her home, where we assured ourselves that seven cats was too many and we would find her another home, but we didn’t try that hard. The vet estimated she was 4 weeks old.

We named her Blackberry, but I initially wanted to call her E.T., because she seemed to be crying “Home! Home! Home! Home! Home!” as she looked around for, I presume, the family she had left behind. But she has become part of our family in the meantime.

She does not snuggle or sleep on our shoulders or any of the affectionate things her species has been known to do. She does love up the dogs, however, and licks the dirt out of their eyes on a regular basis. I don’t think we’ll get her a companion or replace her when the inevitable comes, but you never know. Another kitten may cross our paths someday.