It was one of those days when the urge to create crackled like electricity in the air. Every nerve in his body that wasn’t snap-crackle-popping with age was shouting silently, “I HAVE TO MAKE SOMETHING!”
He searched his mind for an untold story. He reached toward the top shelf to drag down an inspirational metaphor. He toured his heart for a lost puppy dog fable.
The sun cast a brilliant light and the world shone green as can be — green, the color of life and peace and, well, joy if you must know.
The eager dog rested her chin on his left arm impatiently, seemingly saying, “How can you sit here like an enormous lump when there is so much adventure in the air? This is a day for run and play and jump and bound and exhaust the thesaurus! Come, let’s let the sun bathe us while we scamper — it’s such a scamperous morning!”
Indeed, the sun shone and the wind rose and the dog scampered, and it was all one melodious symphony of light and sound and feeling all day long and into the night, for it was summer and the sun refused to sink in the west until every last scamper had been scampered, and the dog curled into a chair, happy to have had nothing to do that day except to be a dog with a full heart and a place to run and play.
He sank into his own chair and read the words he had been scribbling. They were enough for him to be content, and so he sipped his coffee and started preparing to prepare the words and tell the world, “I made this.”
But then he realized with a tingle that the tingle was still there, and he wasn’t finished making things today. A grin snuck over his face and he paused his preparations, because he knew the making wasn’t done, and instead of saying, “I made this,” he raised a finger and said, “Hold that thought.”
Probably my favorite wildflowers here at Three Willows are the compass plants, so named because supposedly their leaves always point north.
For two years I thought the compass plant was a bit of a bust. It had big interesting leaves, but that just made it kind of a fun little bush. I guess it takes some time for compass plants to mature to the point where they flower, and that third year made up for the boring beginning.
For the first few weeks, the then-lone compass plant showed its floppy leaves, same as always, but then one day a stem shot up about eight feet in the air, and a few days after that a half-dozen blossoms burst out. Talk about your ugly duckling transforming into a swan!
The flowers drop seeds as those long stems droop at the end of the summer, and after a few years we have compass plants all over the wildflower gardens. Between the compass plants and the cup plants — who deserve their own story one of these days — the field is a glorious display of green and gold, which is a lovely and appropriate sight not far from the shore of the bay of Green Bay.
I don’t think of myself as especially as a futurist, but I have at least two things I’m kind of pleased with myself for getting into early: I was a Spider-Man fan from the moment I discovered that obscure comic book in June 1963, long before Peter Parker was a household name. And I was podcasting before most people knew what a podcast was.
I produced 80 episodes of a little endeavor called Uncle Warren’s Attic between September 2006 and November 2012. It was “a whimsical and eclectic journey through pop culture via the mind and aural stash of Warren Bluhm,” basically whatever I felt like tossing into a half-hour on a semi-regular basis. It had old records, old-time radio, old-time television, stuff I’d written, dramatic readings of old stuff other people wrote … basically it was a paean to my love of old stuff.
It was sparkling, flavorful and distinctive, and it had a small following, but nearly 11 years ago it faded away. It just now occurred to me that I stopped going up to the Attic around the same time Red and I moved into the new house we’d built not far from the shores of the bay of Green Bay. Everything from the old Attic was in boxes piled in the new Attic, and 11 years later I still need to move some boxes to get to other boxes to find the stuff that was more or less readily accessible in the old Attic.
In any case, I was poking around among those boxes not long ago …
Uncle Warren’s Attic #81 arrives Sept. 1, 2023. We’ll see what happens after that.
And suddenly it was Friday, August 18, 2023, and the days had turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months into years, and the years into decades, and here he was in the future, in a world that resembled where he had begun but somehow was mostly transformed.
It was not merely that the walls full of books and music had been transformed to fit — all of it — into the palm of his hand. His sharp 20/10 vision had deteriorated, and the world was fuzzy even after he put on his glasses. And what he saw with those reduced eyes was troubling.
This was not the world he had been told it was, where freedom was a universal goal — freedom to dream and to pursue happiness, freedom to speak and to speak truth to power without fear of reprisal. “Live and let live” was the quaint ideal, he had been taught to believe: Live the life you chose as long as you didn’t harm your neighbors’ ability to live the life they chose.
He saw a dark cloud pass over the land and wondered what had become of those ideals or even if they were ever real.
If there was to be a light, let alone a beacon, he figured he would have to shine it. He was growing old and tired, and his body assailed him with aches and pains and weariness, but no one else seemed to be carrying a flashlight or even a candle.
So he climbed to the stage and turned on his beacon and shone it on the emperor, who was revealed to be naked, shriveled and a buffoon. But then he turned the beacon on the emperor’s chief rival, and he turned it left, right and center stage, and nowhere was to be found anyone wearing even a scrap of clothing, let alone the armor of liberty. No, all of the caretakers were naked, shriveled and buffoons.
“Who will stand for liberty?” he cried. “Who will shout ‘Live and let live’ from the mountaintop?”
“Foolish old man,” said one of the foolish old buffoons from the stage. “The peasantry does not want to live and let live; that carries too much responsibility. No, the peasantry wants to be led, and so we lead.”
“Liars!” cried the old man. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those are our birthright.”
“It is you who believes in lies,” said the naked buffoon. “What say you, my fellow peasants? Should we allow this liar to live and let live, or shall we take care of you all and show you how to live?”
And to the old man’s dismay, there arose a hue and cry of, “Show us! Lead us! Take care of us!” and nary a peep of “Live and let live,” so he retreated back to his home by the water, to rest his old bones and tend to his aches and pains.
But as he walked here and there, every so often a passing neighbor would whisper, “Live and let live,” and sometimes a note would appear on his door or in his mailbox, saying, “I agree with you” or “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness,” or simply “Freedom!” And he would remember that the light may be reduced to a flicker but it never dies altogether, and dawn always follows the darkest of nights.
Sometimes I think about how any number of things may have unfolded differently in my youth had I had the ability to call or send a message/text at a key moment.
Think how many classic stories would be ruined if they were set in the modern era — stories where something tragic happens because of not being able to communicate, say if Romeo or Juliet had been able to send a text saying, “Don’t be alarmed, I’m going to try something, it’s not what it looks like.”
We have in the palm of our hand, the ability to reach across the miles and avoid all sorts of catastrophes and misunderstandings in a way that was unfathomable when many of us were younger. We are linked. We can connect at a moment’s notice to anyone almost anywhere on the planet.
And yet the same catastrophes and misunderstandings keep happening.
It seems the ability to communicate is not the same as the will to communicate.
The other morning a little before 5, Summer lingered near the front door in a clear signal that she wanted to go out in the front yard on a leash to do her business like the old days. It’s been weeks since I did anything except send her into the fenced-in back yard, and the last time we went out front that early in the morning, there may have been snow on the ground.
This particular morning as we wandered this way and that, up and down the driveway and across the front yard, I began to realize there was an odd humming in the air, an alien buzz that took a few moments to register in my consciousness. It sounded like a truck might sound as its tires sing along the highway, but this sounded like a huge truck in the distance or perhaps an armada of trucks, mercy sakes alive.
I was at a loss as to what it was or where it was coming from, until we headed back to the porch and I saw the dozens of lake flies hovering toward the lights. It was a fresh hatch, and there must have been thousands of them buzzing just over our heads as we patrolled the yard and the driveway. We’re back to the days-getting-shorter half of the year, and 5:15 is before sunrise again, so we could only hear them in the semi-darkness.
A single lake fly has to be close to your ear to be heard, but they make a mighty and eerie and very clear sound when there are thousands of them. What I thought was an alien craft or some other strange vehicle up the road, or down by the bay shore, was a cloud of flying insects not far over my head. It’s a good thing lake flies are benign creatures with no apparent interest in us. A swarm that huge could inflict some damage if they chose.