On Spring, 2013

To mark a year’s passing since my “last” post on this blog, I decided to post an email I just sent to a few friends about this year’s “spring”:

“Pardon my self-indulgence: I want to talk about the season.  It’s what current social practice calls “sharing,” a word I could never have brought myself to say in earlier parts of my Oklahoma-inflected life.  Probably to my detriment.

Calendar says it is Spring.  Bones say: “still winter,” and I know that’s so for many of my addressees.  It seems to be the identifier of 2013.  As I type I look out my office window to endless monochrome gray sky, leafless gray trees, and clumps and mounds of gray snow on gray earth, bordering the gray asphalt.  The weather pundits say we shall be 6-8 weeks behind last year’s pace for Spring’s arrival (which, admittedly, was ridiculously early).  I find it hard to accept.

Oh, there are reasons for hope: I’m hearing bird calls that come only in Spring, and some of the old crowd are now at our feeders.  There are a few hardy crocus and daffodils snugged against foundation walls on my morning walk.  The snow piles are shrinking.  There are firm plans for trapping and expatriating the groundhog who has taken up residence in our neighbor’s basement through an entrance tunnel just by Fran’s intended tomato garden. The flowering tree buds are bulking up.  The rhododendron leaves are no longer curled into cigarette sized cylinders against single numbers on the garage thermometer.

And there is my own stirring: I am two days into a three-day plan to prune the plum tree (so tempting to say plum the prune tree!). I’ve simplified and opened most of the branches that I can reach, so now I must go buy a pair of long-handled shears to do the top third of the tree.  No fruit the last two seasons from our neglect of this ritual.  And I refuse to do this job on an unstable ladder.  Dreams of plum preserves or cobbler next autumn.  Maybe.

Also dreams of escape to warmer climes.  I’ve been checking prices for Amtrak and the airlines for an April vacation south.  But as usual, driving takes too long, and is too tiring.  Amtrak takes much too long for a short vacation.  And air fares are ridiculously high, when added to car rental at the southern end.  And where?  We are tempted to revisit port towns we visited by boat 20+ years ago: Elizabeth City, NC, Beaufort, NC, Beaufort, SC, Charleston, SC, Wilmington, Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, SC, and so many others on the Intracoastal Waterway route south.  But the promise of food options and lodging on land in those regions could never resurrect the joys of our original sailing adventure, and so much has changed since the early 90s.  Including us.

My hermit side says: “Stay home.”  I dream of reading Virgil’s Georgics –the most poetic agricultural manual ever written, and dating from 29 B.C.  By the fire. An instruction manual for how to get the gods back into your garden.  I’m not big on the Farmer’s Almanac, seed catalogs, and, happily, have no responsibilities involving birthing lambs, castrating male bovines, breaking horses, plowing fields, incubating chicks, or building rabbit hutches.  But….there is something in the blood that wants to join the dance of spring, cultivation, renewal.  I suppose I’ll settle for the usual lawn care, and Fran-support for her flower and vegetable gardens.  And maybe a small trip somewhere for whatever purpose.

I have attached a photo of my grandfather (dad’s dad) and family taken probably around 1905, standing (most barefoot) in front of their sorghum mill (sorghum is a sweet tall grass used for sileage and making sweet syrup like molasses).  Oklahoma. My dad is not among the children: he had not yet arrived.  My grandfather is in a straw hat at far right. Zooming will reveal that maybe we do share some DNA in facial structure.  I would not wish this life, but I’d wager that grandpa, born before Lincoln was president, would understand some of my “stirrings” and discontent on this still-winter day?

Anyway, happy spring to all”

Au revoir…

Philosophers love to quote Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
My ex-colleague, Alphonso Lingis (google him!) said it should be added that
“The unlived life is not worth examining.”

The past few weeks have been fun, but please consider this blog closed, and have a good year!


Lest We Forget…

The catastrophe.

“Monday marks the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war and occupation. The rationale for that war was fabricated in the highest reaches of the U.S. leadership.

First came the lies, so many it was impossible to keep up. Then came the shock and awe, the crudely invented Iraqi jubilation, the torture, the renditions, the secret prisons, the indefinite detentions, the deluge of unaccounted-for cash, the no-bid contracts, the flaccid media, the spectacle of “mission accomplished,” the smug claims that there was no insurgency, the lousy armor …

The endless flow of blood.”

To his eternal credit, Maine’s representative, Tom Allen, was among those who voted NO on the authorization. Try to remember what life was like under a Republican administration before you vote in November!!

“Memorandum”…and A Temporary Exit

E. B. White, one of two or three of my favorite writers, wrote  “Memorandum,” in his book of essays, One Man‘s Meat, in October, 1941–just a couple weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The title refers to his listing the approximately 200 chores that need to be done before New England winter sets in on his Maine salt-water farm–each sentence beginning with some variant of “Today I ought to…” After a few pages he notes that the sun is going down, and he has spent the afternoon at his typewriter, thus avoiding the work, postponing acceptance of winter.  He decides to go into town, since he “ought to get a haircut.”

If you run a large farm in Maine, October is a time of reckoning. Chores not completed will be impossible a month later, and a price will be paid, up to–and maybe including–disaster.
For a city-dweller like me a similar memorandum could be written to myself in October, (I ought to put on the storm windows, clear out the spent tomato vines, shut off the water-line to the outside faucet, put away the hoses, put on snow-tires, have the furnace inspected, take in the outdoor furniture, and so on.) But April involves a much longer list in preparation for putting in the gardens,  and preparing for warmer weather, while doing repairs necessitated by winter’s toll on paint, stain, asphalt, and plantings.  And this year the list is heavily augmented by other more pressing factors: F. has a photography exhibit to prepare for the month of May, and we have decided to reconfigure in several household categories–vehicles, home improvements, and budgeting strategies, among others.

So this is all in the way of saying that this blog gets shoved aside for a few days, to allow more hours per week to be spent looking for used vehicles, drawing up lists, AND doing what’s needed around the place (new window boxes, new garden plans, painting, and much more.)

I will leave everything online as it is, so feel free to check back from time to time in case I found time to post new entries, or to read older posts that you may have missed.  But I will no longer wake each day thinking about what might be fun to write or put online.

Thanks so much for your kind responses and interest, and have a great Spring, which arrives officially in a few days.  Having no hair, I will not be going into town to get a haircut, but if you know anyone selling an old 4-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, I might be interested, since that garage  MUST be cleaned out before gardening season!




In the Spirit of Fairness, Some Post-Modern Alternative Theories…

My detractors and opponents on issues of critical theory have set up a site to provide a virtually infinite series of essays contrary to the sense of my own views.  The Postmodernist Generator is quite hilarious–especially if one dallied in the intellectual vineyards next door, and read students’ papers rooted in that critical inclination. NOTE: Other such generators can be found in the right margin of the site. Have fun.  (I wonder how many of these essays have won a B+ or better in literature and philosophy departments around the English-speaking world…)

On “Folly”…

As the right column shows, one of my categories is “Folly: the Human Comedy As Universal Condition”.  As a former philosophy prof, I consider it my duty, on the record, to affirm that the two greatest texts in the philosophical grounding of the nature of folly are: (1) Juvenal, “The Satires,” and (2) Erasmus, Praise of Folly, the first published in the 2nd century, and the second in the 16th century. You will not believe how much Juvenal’s comedy resonates in our own time (gays, millionaires looking for status, women, orgies, drunks, pedants, and so on). Ditto for Erasmus, who shows how life would be unbearable without humor.  You know that I love Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Steven Colbert, and other people with pins to prick the balloons of current political gas-baggery, and the latest excesses of the media,  but you will be able to find almost all of their material in passages from hundreds/thousands of years ago–minus the references to modern media.  Human beings are a strange, funny, awful species!  (Thus saith the Exocentrist).

What’s Wrong With this Picture?

In Ohio Kucinich was defeated in the primary, and will leave the House. Joe, the Plumber, was elected. In the country teacher job security and satisfaction are plummeting… And we will still be waking up to pictures of Mitt & Rick & Newt & Ron.

On the other hand, spring is less than 2 weeks away, and the time change is this weekend. 50 degrees in Portland today, and 60, tomorrow. And Obama is still leading in the matchups…