3 short blog posts or one long one

The wind chimes were a present from our dear friends who witnessed our at-last exchange of vows almost 20 years after we met. The chimes hung from the eaves outside my window in the old office and provided a tuneless melody that played during these musings for most of the last nearly six years now.

For that reason — and the fact that Red can’t sleep with a tuneless melody constantly ringing along — the wind chimes had to migrate with the rest of my office to this end of the house. Alas, Red will not let me mount the 20-foot ladder that would be needed, or let me on the roof to approach from the top so I can hang the chimes from the eaves at this end. Before, I could casually reach from the deck and hang them by the window.

And so I bought a shepherd’s hook and hung them in the garden underneath the window, It turns out the melodious no-tune is just as soothing from below as from slightly above. And there’s a gale warning tonight, so it’s quite a tune.

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Summer needed a walk, so we went out on the field, up on the mound, beside the old irrigation trench, and into the woods, where she sniffed around and found the perfect stick, which she carried all the way back to the house, passing occasionally to lie down and gnaw at it.

I wondered if she would still love it after it had lain on the porch for a few hours drying in the sun. Not only did she still love it, but for the past four days, every time we go out the front door, she has picked the stick up and carried it into the yard for more gnawing.

Quite a few years ago now, I bought a pack of Uni-Ball Jet Stream Sport pens and fell in love with how they fit in my hand. It’s the most comfortable pen I ever owned. I have not written with anything else since, and I routinely buy refills so I can reuse the pens over and over. It feels weird to wield any other pen.

There I was, writing with my ever-present Jet Stream Sport about Summer’s obsession with one particular piece of wood. I know all about finding the perfect stick.

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I was browsing through an old journal and found a reference to an adventure story I was working on that I’d completely forgotten. And so there’s another item on my list of unfinished projects. Strangely, instead of raising the same old frustrations, I felt a jolt of pleasant rediscovery. 

Not: “OMG, I can never finish anything! It’s miserable!”

But: “OMG, look at all these stories I have yet to tell! It’s wonderful!”

I’m finding that wonder is more fun than misery.


The things they will search for again

© Spelagranda | Dreamstime.com

I felt dry as a brown pile of fallen leaves, unable to muster an image or a passage of serviceable words for my humble service for the day, so I do what I sometimes do to lubricate my imagination: I pulled a book of Bradbury short stories off the shelf.

The Machineries of Joy, first published by Simon & Shuster in February 1964. Mine is a New Bantam edition, second printing, from February 1983, purchased new for $2.75 sometime shortly afterward.

I read “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” because I opened the book to that page first. Ray Bradbury, like me, was baffled by the concept of war, and this story of a chance meeting between drummer boy and general the night before the grisly battle drips with melancholy. “You’re the heart of the army,” the general tells the boy.

I needed more than one dose, and second to last in the table of contents was “To the Chicago Abyss,” which I’m sure I read before but forgot. Ironic, that, because it’s a story about remembering.

In a post-apocalyptic city, an 80-year-old man is beaten, then sought by police, then protected by Samaritan strangers, because he dares to remember and remind people of the simple pleasures of better times, like the aroma of a freshly opened can of coffee. He hopes to inspire people, discouraged by their totalitarian overlords: “For the things, silly or not, that people remember are the things they will search for again.”

Sometimes I remember the soothing balm of a Bradbury story, and I search for one again. Thank God there are hundreds of them.

For me it is a Bradbury tale. Others seek out a Beatles song or an Eliot poem or an old-time movie about a ghost in a wishing well. We need these reminders that there is beauty to be found and good that comes from human hearts.

The man in the story dug even deeper, to remind people of fresh coffee and candy bars (“Milky Ways — swallow a universe of stars, comets, meteors”). Remember good things inspires us to seek out good things while they are still there to be had and preserved and cherished.

Getting a room

I got the paperback shelves up Friday, a row of Bradbury, a row of writing books — Pressfield and the like — my most cherished science fiction paperbacks, and a top shelf of classics. The office is coming into shape, but a bunch of stuff remains in boxes and may not be displayed in the new space.

It’s kind of daunting to see how much stuff I still have in boxes and bins while the nooks and crannies of this supposedly larger room appear to be almost full. I have accumulated much in almost 70 years — that’s a long time, so I guess I should not be so surprised.

I have three clocks strategically placed around the room, so I can always see what time it is from whichever of the three chairs I’m inhabiting. “What time is it” has always been an important question in my work; the date, not so much, and so the calendars are not as prominently displayed. The music system is in the center of the bookcases; it can be tucked behind doors, but I love to hear and listen to music, so why would I hide it?

The room is a museum of where I have been, a collection of influences, a place to explore and reminisce — what can I build and create from these resources at my fingertips. They are the finished products of hundreds (thousands) of other creative minds, and they are the fuel for my own journey, that meandering quest here and there that I hope will lead me to, if I may, strange new worlds and new civilizations, or at least to a little something that will encourage, entertain and perhaps enlighten other folks along the way.

This is my “attic” — I know what Bradbury meant when he looked around his cluttered office and asked, “Well then, right now, what shall it be? Out of all this, what shall I choose to make a story?”

I’m thankful for a world where I’m free to explore and accumulate and learn and thrive in my way. I am not a wealthy man but some days, when I look around at all the neat stuff at my fingertips, I feel like “the richest man in Bedford Falls.”

Well then, right now, what shall it be?

Seasons turn

The dogs and I were out back when a great honking came from down by the bay.

Our 3.33 acres are divided in three parts — up here where the house and field are and we spend most of our time, a woods we visit sometimes that slopes downward toward the water, and finally a wetlands that essentially belongs to us only on paper, where the wildlife have at it undisturbed.

The property line is maybe 150 feet from the bay of Green Bay, so this would count as “water view” property, not waterfront, if it weren’t for the woods. It’s only water view when the leaves are off the trees, and technically then it’s an ice view most of the time.

The honking came nearer, and soon about a half-dozen to eight geese lifted noisily over the trees and turned southeast in a “V.” More honking, and maybe another dozen or so followed the first bunch. Finally the third and largest wave came into view, maybe 50 geese in this group, turning in the same direction, three Vs each larger than the one in front, heading southeast. Actually, late November seems a bit late in the season for their migration, but there they went.

I waved and said, “So long, see you in the spring.” The dogs kept sniffing the ground. No doubt they notice the turning of the seasons, but they don’t make as much of a deal of it as humans do.

The Thanksgiving Pencil

The new desk has about 3,523 little drawers, so I saw an opportunity to organize some of the stuff that has traditionally been out in the open in my home office, like the cup holder full of old pencils, or scattered about in various places, like the 50,000 paper clips. As I stocked the pencil drawer, this relic from the radio station where I worked from 1975 to 1982 stuck out, so I posted it on Facebook. Why not?

“It’s official: I never throw anything away. I left the Ripon radio station 40 years ago this year,” I posted.

You never know what’s going to charm people, so I was surprised when the old pencil got a pile of “Likes” and a couple dozen comments, which was fun because most of them were from people I knew from way back when, as well as colleagues from later venues wondering if I kept any mementoes from those days. Yep, it seems I have. I always knew I was a bit of a pack rat, and as I unpack and repack the office, I’m seeing just how much of one I am. I still think I’m not quite in “hoarder” territory … yet.

But this is Thanksgiving, and today I’m thankful for that pencil, which sparked a pile of fond memories and reconnected me for a moment with quite a few folks I haven’t seen in those 40 years.

I’m not a pencil chewer, though. I wish I could remember what odd habit I had that left pencils kind of beat up like that.