Wild horses could drag me away

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Female_horse-champ_Kitty_Canutt_(1919)_by_unknownThe spoken language is a herd/heard of wild mustangs, thundering through the mouths of millions of speakers who ride the nearest horse at hand. And because they’re wild, you see and hear fights breaking out between verbs and subjects who are never going to agree this side of Wichita, Texas, so you may as well get used to it. Wild horses don’t care if the verb and subject agree; in fact, it doesn’t take much to pit one against another as they rush through the air straight into your ear. Listen now and you’ll hear them stampeding by, saying, “My brother and his family from Illinois lives just down the street.” And if pronouns concern you, you may as well start wearing earplugs or walk around with your fingers in your ears because I guarantee some horse-whipping fool is going to tell you a secret and warn you not to tell anybody because it is “between you and I.”

 

The written language, on the other hand, is a corral of horses, tame or almost so, taught to let the writer/rider hogtie other people’s minds and hearts, just so the horse whisperer can win the rodeo, even if there’s only a few people in attendance. Once you fall in love with horses, you can’t do anything else. After you make a few of them eat out of your hand, they own you, and you spend the rest of your life lying in wait in cold canyons biding your time until some of those wild mustangs stop to eat; then you lasso as many as you can and take them home.

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It’s a cold and lonely business, and it’s not always pretty. Their hooves are sharp and they can leave you bloodied, dirty, and discouraged. Not a few can jump any fence you can build. But sometimes, just sometimes, you pick yourself up from the ground for the one-hundredth time, ready to quit and swear off horses, but you don’t. You dust yourself off, climb back on, and the horse lets you stay. When that happens, nothing else matters. It’s just you and the horse, and you feel like you can ride forever.

 

 

Death in two parts

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I. Death is an empty place

 

The heart dies first, emptying slowly until its fragile shell sits silently in your chest. The lungs resist, hungry as wolves in winter, biting after the air, until they starve, buried in the noiseless snow.

 

The ragged-edged knife of sorrow scrapes the bones clean. Despair burns the bones to ash, washed away by what tears are left. The rest follows until you are hollowed out, your body weightless, floating through the world, tethered against your will.

 

The dreams are the last to go.

 

Only the echo of your voice remains. Your family, friends, and acquaintances fail to mourn you. They cannot tell the living from the dead.

 

But you know.

 

Death is an empty place.

 

 

 

II. Rising from the dead is harder than it looks

 

In death you grow fond of silence. You rest in the stillness, free from pain or want.

 

If you could only close your eyes forever, you could remain in that emptiness. But the world lies in wait. A leaf splattered with red and green falls and when you stoop to touch it, the sun’s fire scorches your hand. Longing with its pain enters you, furtively like a thief. The moon waits for you behind a hedge of cloud, reaches out and holds you like an old lover. Its soft light cleaves the darkness. In the distance, you see hope and turn away. Too late. One by one memories trudge back, dragging promises to fill the empty room.

 

The lungs resist breathing again. You dread that old hunger, the desire for air that can never be satisfied. Every breath seeks another and another.

 

Life abhors a vacuum; it forces its way back in. The daily meals, the work, the cleaning, the bills, the neighbors, the care of children, they all crowd into you, jostling for space, clumsy and needy. They crush that empty shell of a heart. You spend the rest of your life trying to put it back together again, looking for the pieces. It will never be the same. When your misshapen, patched-up heart finally beats again, you cry, because you know the heart is always the first to go.

 

 

Dear Canada, we need to talk

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united-states-canada-mapDear Canada,

 

I like you. Really, I do.

 

I love the way you keep polar bears away from Wisconsin. Few things are as disconcerting as finding a hungry polar bear on your porch when you walk out your front door.

 

I feel a great deal of loyalty to you, too. Probably because when I was younger I drove up the Alcan Highway with my family from Texas to Alaska. That time with you so long ago probably explains that incident a few years ago in France when I committed a fox paw (that unlucky charm of the French, which they spell faux pas). I was so embarrassed, but I smiled sheepishly and said, “Sorry, I’m Canadian.” Honestly, I felt Canadian then, and proud of it.

 

Wisconsin and Canada are close. Maybe not as close as you and Minnesota or some of those other not-Wisconsin states. But that lake between Wisconsin and the part of you known as Ontario has helped the two of you develop what anyone can see is a Superior relationship.

 

I wouldn’t criticize you if you weren’t so close to Wisconsin, but since no one else seems willing to talk to you about it, I feel I have to. It’s your problem of passing wind. Please don’t be offended. Meteorological flatulence is no laughing matter, and it’s difficult to talk about, but we need to have this discussion.

 

Arctic wind, as you know, is powerful stuff. This month, the wind you passed was so cold that people here couldn’t talk when they were outside. Their speech bubbles froze in mid-air and shattered on the ground. We’ve all had to carry axes with us when we go outside. If you walk too slowly, you freeze in place and have to chop yourself free. Many of friends now wear a much smaller shoe size. No one knows how many of the snow mounds dotting the landscape are people who didn’t move fast enough and froze in place. We won’t know until spring. Your wind is so bad that when small children cry, their eyelids freeze shut; then they bump into flagpoles, cry out, and get their tongues stuck. It makes it really hard to raise and lower the flag when that happens.

 

Please, Canada, if you can’t control your meteorological indigestion and you have to pass wind, turn the other cheek and let it rip toward the north.

 

Your friend,

 

Yearstricken for Wisconsin

 

11954231981253062345wisconsin__larry_m._smit_01.svg.hi

 

 

 

Seven degrees of separation from busy to lazy

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1_Earth_(blank)Before Walt Disney had the Sherman brothers, Rob and Rick, create the earworm* known as It’s a Small World (After All), the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy wrote about the small world concept in his short story Chain Links. If you take the time to read the four-page story by clicking on the title, you’ll see how Karinthy is able to establish an association between two people unknown to one another with just two acquaintance links between them, and another pair with four acquaintance links between them.

 

Most people today attribute the idea of six degrees of separation to Karinthy. According to the 6° of separation theory, every human being is connected to every other human being by six or fewer links (friends or acquaintances) between them. In its various iterations, the concept now includes Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game connecting every Hollywood actor, ham or otherwise, to Kevin Bacon in the required six or fewer links. Go here to test it out.

 

Chain-link-Fence

If the SDS theory is true, we are all just six or fewer acquaintance links from Pope Francis, Macklemore, your crazy neighbor, and every terrorist on the face of the earth. This is good news for the acronym known as NSA (National Snooping Agency / No Secrets Allowed), because the theory can justify snooping on all of us. We are all guilty by association. Of course, the national acronym shows some restraint, restricting its snoops to three degrees of separation for persons of interest. Or so they say.

Someone is watching all your links.

Someone is watching all your links.

What does this have to do with busy and lazy? Back in the old days of crossword puzzle books, I used to play a word game in which you had to start with one word and end up with another by changing one letter of the word in a designated number of steps. I thought of this the other day when I realized how I seem to alternate between busy and lazy. So I started a word list and discovered the two states are separated by seven degrees of separation.

 

I start out BUSY, and all that frantic effort leaves me BUSHed. Tired and frustrated, I begin to BASH my head against the wall and LASH out at some of the people around me. Then I withdraw and build a flimsy retreat of LATHs. Confined by a cage built by my own hands, I postpone what I am supposed to do and find I am LATE for deadlines and for completing my well-laid plans. Once that happens, I lose focus and begin to LAZE around. That hammock-like verb leads to LAZY (hours wasted staring at moving objects on my computer screen).

It looks something like this:

busy

bush

bash

lash

lath

late

laze

lazy

What does this all mean? And why do I keep starting paragraphs with questions? I don’t really know, so I’ll make something up. First, words and how they are spelled can be linked. I like that because I enjoy words and wordplay. Second, ideas can be linked, for example, Frigyes Karinthy’s chain links and Kevin Bacon’s cinema links. Someone clearly needs to discover the links between toilet paper and nuclear fission, as well as vaccines and peanut butter. And I could be that someone if only moving from lazy to busy were as easy as moving from busy to lazy.

 

*Earworm = A song or musical phrase that 
burrows into your head to consume part of yourbrain. The earworm extracts tiny bits of 
sanity, extruding addle, which causes you to
become addle-brained. An ear worm can also 
make bad words come out of your mouth.

 

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia:   Big chain link     Earth

 

Love, marriage, and freezing weather

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Courtesy of the Commons.

The best way to avoid cold weather is to be careful who* you marry. My husband and I met and married overseas, and the fact that he was from Wisconsin didn’t seem important at the time. I visited the state once before we wed, but it was summer, the season that makes you believe anything is possible. I won’t say I was deceived, but I will hint at it. When we lived overseas, I told my husband repeatedly that I would never, never live in Wisconsin because it was too cold in the winter.

 

And I meant it. It is too cold in the winter. Although Wisconsin boasts that it has four seasons, it really has two: winter and springsummerfall. They both last about six months. And while it’s true that the last one, the non-winter season, can almost make you believe Wisconsin is God’s country; in winter, it turns into God’s icebox.

 

It’s common knowledge that everything is bigger in Texas, my home state, but I’m here to tell you the uncommon truth: it aint so. The winters in Wisconsin are way bigger than the winters in Texas. Winter there is a little bitty bunny that burrows in your yard for the season and plans to eat the bark around the saplings in your yard. Winter in Wisconsin is a great big old polar bear that lives on your front porch and plans to eat you.

 

You can’t tame a polar bear. They fear you about as much as you fear a rib eye steak or Texas brisket. So what can you do?  Here are two tips to help you stay alive in winter if you accidentally marry someone from Wisconsin:

 

  1. Avoid going outside.
  1. If you must go out, don’t.

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*Yes, it should be whom. No, I do not plan to change it. Maybe the war is over.

 

Happy One More Lap Around the Sun Day!

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Image converted using ifftoany

If you’re feeling dizzy, I don’t blame you. I feel dizzy too. We just finished another lap around the sun, moving 108,000 kilometers an hour. It doesn’t sound quite so fast in miles – just a little over 67,000 miles per hour. (When it comes to numbers, it doesn’t matter that the distances are equivalent, the bigger number makes me feel that we are going faster in kilometers than in miles; in the same way that 100 pennies looks like more money than 4 quarters to small children and people like me.)

 

Add in the fact that the earth is also rotating at up to 1000 miles per hour each day,and I start to feel a tiny bit panicky. Too much thinking about it makes me want to stay inside lest I accidentally get spun off the earth before my time. Yes, it’s a far-flung idea, but just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t.

 

The last million or so kilometers of the 940 million kilometer course (or 584 million miles plus a few yards) I traveled this year were exhausting. I’ve been doing these laps for decades, so you think I would be used to it. All the scientific types assure me that this year’s turn was no faster than any other year, but I think it was.

 

However, reaching the finish line on December 31 and pushing through the midnight tape stretched between the two years is always cause for celebration. So, I want to wish you a Happy New Year! May the next 940 million kilometers be good ones for you and yours!

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