Late August, they gave me a map and instructions. I planned my route, studied the names of the rivers, noted the areas to avoid, and headed out. Like all of the journeys before this, I set out with a heavy backpack and a light heart.
I have made this long trek across the months before and knew I would pass some familiar places. My legs, unused to walking after the long summer of watching clouds, complained and then grew silent. My back has never ceased to speak.
I have been schooled in maps, known, and walked them. A map is the story of the road, told true from first to last, but it is not the road. Contour lines, floating on the flat surface like ripples in a lake, are someone else’s story. Your feet must walk the road and find what elevation means.
I follow a path of beauty, canopied by a wide blue sky, days lined with slow smoldering trees that light the way. I know the sun will turn soon and the winds still the fires. I have a long acquaintance with winter.
Faces wait for me at each encampment; they are why I journey. The weary climb, the bruised feet, the hours setting up the camp – all are forgotten when we meet. I offer them my strength, teach them all I know, and trust they will remember some of what they learned for their own travels.
I have journeyed often and I have journeyed long, but I have never been so tired. Mid-October means I am halfway there. In December when the earth sleeps its longest night, I will sit before a fire and rest, tell stories of my trek, and remark on the terrain I covered.
For now, most of my writing must be in the lives and minds of my students.
Before World War II, it wouldn’t have been unusual for someone at a cocktail party to uncover the canapés and remark, “Tin can’t resist being foiled.” Now we know that tin can. But back then, tin foil covered America from coast to coast.
After the war, aluminum rolled into town. Why, you may ask (just as my imagination does in its Dr. Watson–like voice inside my head). Elemental, I answer in my best Sherlock imitation. Ductility and malleability are aluminum’s middle names. It can be stretched and pressed within an inch of its life, 2.34 x 10-4 inches to be exact. Aluminum, nickname Al, is a one-eyed all-American element with the number 13 tattooed on its arm. If you don’t believe me (about the eye), try using the British spelling, aluminium, on my computer. If you’re like me you have my sympathy but if you are, you will be delighted that it now rhymes with potassium. Brace yourself, however, because you will also discover it rhymes with the odium of Miss Spellcheck, Microsoft’s unforgiving editor, who will scribble her furious red line at the very idea of aluminum as a two-eyed element.
All of this background information leads to the question: Why wouldn’t Aluminum Man make it in the top ten list of superheroes? Iron Man made it. Does he have more mettle, is he steamier, or is he just hotter?
Iron Man is denser than Aluminum Man, so maybe brute strength wins over brains, at least periodically. Aluminum Man resists corrosion better than Iron Man, but he tends to crumple under pressure. And although Aluminum Man is a good conductor (that’s his alterego), he’ll never play at Carnegie Hall.
When my imagination first started talking about Aluminum Man, I assumed that no such character existed. I looked forward to developing the character, gaining worldwide fame, and retiring some place warm and balmy. Sadly, he does exist. I know because I looked it up on the Internet.
And that, of course, leads to the question, Why is the Internet like a broken refrigerator? Because it spoils everything.
I hate to brag, but I have a large group of adoring fans who are Russian factory workers. From what I gather, they work day and night producing the luncheon meat loved by comedians worldwide. WordPress created a special folder for their e-mails, even though it’s misspelled. Remember, WordPress, when pork products meet in a can, you have to capitalize all of the letters.
Their words of admiration and encouragement fill my “spam” folder, spurring me on to garner even more of their praise. I imagine them tirelessly tinning tiny piggy tidbits, talking about their favorite TV show “Dancing with the Tsars” and their favorite blog: mine.
Ivan: Have you do got read yearstricken? I discovered her web site unintentionally, and I’m surprised why this accident did not took place earlier.
Boris: Ivan, the terrible way you speak English! But, yes, her blog is like big accident. She make it appear really easy together with her presentation however I find the post Why I don’t call myself a writer: part one to be actually something that I think I’d never understand.
Supervisor: Comrades! Work and quit stallin’.
Ivan: We are not stallin’, Joseph.
Boris: It sort of feels too complex and extremely extensive for me. I am looking forward to her next post, I will try to get the dangle of it!
Ivan: Oh, yes, to get the dangle of yearstricken is simply difficult.
Ivan: Fortunate me I discovered her web site unintentionally.
Boris: Her writing article, I find very useful information particularly the ultimate part. I maintain such info a lot.
Ivan: Its like she learn my thoughts! She appear to know so much about this, such as she wrote the e-book in it or something. I feel that she simply could do with a few % to pressure the message house a little bit, however instead of that, she has wonderful blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.
Supervisor: Comrades! Work or I simply pressure the message house a little bit on you! I could do have transfer you to factory of Siberia, simply place of nuclear winter.
On the street, they call me Johnny or The Flusher. My father gave me my name, John Flusher. He always hoped I’d grow up to be a plumber like him.
“Pops,” I told him, “that kind of work drains me. I need some excitement in my life. You know me, ‘danger’ is my middle name.”
“Your middle name is Mortimer,” he says.
We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, Pops and me, mostly because I was six inches taller, but he taught me to go after my dreams. “Be a plunger,” he always told me. So when I left home, I plunged into a life of learning how to survive on the streets. Now, I’m a P.I., just like the circumference of any circle divided by its diameter.
And I got more stories than the Empire State Building. Here’s one of them.
I pushed open the door, noting the busted lock. I seen the dead monkey when I walked into the room. Next thing you know (which ain’t really the next thing, but to save time, I skipped the scratching of my posterior), I stepped on a big wad of gum. As I looked down at the gooey strings connecting my shoe to the floor, the squirrel says, “Hey, gumshoe, looks like you stepped into another mess.”
I wanted to make a riposte, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
“I been tailing you, Louie,” I says, in spite of knowing better. All morning my subjects and verbs had been disagreeing, and I needed more coffee to do anything about it. “Your wife sent me. She knows you’ve been putting your acorns into more than one tree.”
Louie smiled, pointed to his tail, and says, “I’ve been tailed all my life, Johnny.” He smiled when he said that last line and put his arm around the dame beside him. She wore a fur coat that matched Louie’s and laughed every time he cracked a joke. She had the biggest two front teeth I’d ever seen. When she saw that I was staring, she flashed them at me and said, “Yeah, they’re real.”
I jerked my head toward the primate, “Who’s the guy in the monkey suit? And what happened to him?”
Louie cracks a nut and mutters, “Just a guy with a big mouth. We called him Howler. I told him to get off my back, see, but he wouldn’t listen. Plus he was a real swinger. Kept making moves on my doll here.” He pointed to a sock monkey the dame was holding. “I told him to get out of town and I warned him I wasn’t monkeying around.”
The dame seemed too classy for Louie, but I could tell she was nuts about him. “Were you here when it happened?” I says, watching her crack an acorn with those teeth.
“Louie gave him a chance” she says, twitching her ears. “He told Howler to make like a banana and split, but Howler came out swinging. It was self-defense.”
I ignored her. Dames will say anything to protect their squirrel. I looked at Louie. I start off phonetically and asks, “Whadja use to kill him? A hammer, a gun, a steel object, or a Remington?”
Louie pointed to a pistol on the table. I walked over to the monkey. Poor sap looked like a PowerPoint presentation, he had so many bullets in him.
“Whose gun?” I says (incorrectly) again.
“It belongs to my son, Louie Louie.”
“Gun of a son,” I says, “I should’ve known.”
I walked back to the door and looked at the busted lock. “It’s a Shure Lock, Louie. They’re hard to bust. The monkey musta thought his home was safe with that thing on the door.”
Louie eats another nut and says, “Yeah, but Shure Lock homes don’t always keep you safe.”
Photo courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cthulhuwho1/
In deep summer when our fireworks splattered the night sky, the trees watched, admiring our short-lived brightness. Twenty seconds of spangled light is not bad for creatures who can’t sit still and have no roots.
Early October the trees ignite a firework display of incandescent reds, yellows, greens, and browns. The lucent leaves flare up, blazing in blue sky for days on end, burning memories on our callous hearts, consuming all our indifference.
The month ends in ashes, colors fading to somber brown, but not before the trees remind us that we are alive, that the world is full of pageantry, and that a beauty fierce enough to split the earth, a beauty anchored by desire in time and place, is here, now, waiting for us to open our eyes and look.
Few people realize the dangers involved in blogging. Since I started one year ago, I wake up with more wrinkles that I ever had before. My dentist has capped one tooth and filled another with the contents of my bank account. My teaching schedule has gone from sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in to watching sharks circle around me as I thrash and call for help to a lifeguard who is busy talking on his cell phone. Gas prices have gone up 45 cents and reality TV has not gone away. Thirteen full moons have appeared since I started blogging, something that happens only once in a blue moon. The coffee pot at work broke and in this past year, no classes were cancelled due to snow. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been clairvoyant. And had I married someone with the name Voyant, I would have named my first child, Clare.
But be that as it wasn’t and won’t be, I think I would have still started blogging. I’ve made friends with several gravatars, discovered a lot of great blogs, been mightily encouraged by people who don’t have real names, and been mistaken for a truck blog: year’s truck. My ice orchid has bloomed not once, but twice this year, something I attribute to the blogging. The orchid sits beside me as I type, patiently listening as I read my words aloud.
Starting the blog, dragging my words out to the curb, and putting up the “For Free” sign scared me. If I’m honest, it still does. But the blogging has helped me bloom in my own way. I dress up my words, wash behind their ears, and send them out. Sometimes they are well received and sometimes not, but at least they’re not hanging around the house complaining that they are bored. Now they can go out into the world and do the boring.
This past year I wrote about a time in high school when I had an overdue library book. I received a note with just my name and the title of the book on it. The book was Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. That note still describes me well, but now that I am opening up as a typist and almost writer, I feel like a blooming idiot.