Sunday, December 5, 2021

I've Cocked My Arm

The projectiles are lined up on the porch fence.  The door to the outside is unlocked.  I have the zoom bridge on mute.  Another part of the world is talking on this global call.  They’re out there, again.  Quietly, I slide the door open.  As soon as my foot crunches on the ice, they look up and most of the herd dashes off.  One deer remains looking up at me.  He’s hoping I will just go away.  I reach for a block of ice on the porch and by the time I’ve cocked my arm, the deer has dashed off and I send the ice rock flying, but it gets absorbed into the juniper tree and falls to the ground silently. 

This is the seventh or eighth time this morning I’ve repeated this process, after having tossed out a gallon of sunflower seeds.  As I understand it, there really are hunters who climb up into position in the trees, waiting in the cold, for hours sometimes in the hopes that some hapless deer will stroll by, so they can aim and fire.  The deer in my yard, it would seem, cannot be scared away.  The mere sound of gunfire wouldn't mean a thing. 


It’s supposed to warm up today.  It’s already over freezing.  The sun is out.  I am hoping that the hard packed ice on the trail has softened up today.  If it really goes up to 45-degrees it will be corn snow out there.  Easy to kick off.  Smooth sailing.  I won’t need a coat.  A fine day, but all that warmth will eat away at the ever-dwindling snow.  It is March 3, today.  How many more snow days can we expect this year?  I doubt we’ll have anything sufficiently commanding with a cold spell behind it to hold much cover beyond the week.  Hope I’m wrong. 

I first came across David Keightley in the Cambridge History of China speaking about the Shang.  Finished one call at 1:30AM and had just a few hours to enjoy before another call commenced at 4:30AM.  I tried to proceed ahead beyond the second page of this book I just received: “These Bones Shall Rise Again,” from 2014.  And so it’s been when there is a bit of down time between calls or nature demands I put pause to calls.  I steal away a few more pages in the is book.  He’s looking at tall, thin necked pottery and musing about: why they made pots that way in, say Shandong but not Shaanxi.   Did they have better spinning wheels? Or a paucity of space in their kilns? Were these people making pots with the posture that they aspired to?  I’d love to do nothing more than simply read this all day long.




Wednesday, 03/03/21  

Throw Rocks That Miss


The 4:00AM call was on.  Quick.  Mostly in Japanese.  It was important to be there but little was expected of yours truly.  The five AM got cancelled.  It often does.  I wondered about getting back into bed at that point.  Must have been the paper what did it.  I read one and then another article in the New York Times and then the Washington Post and soon I was heating up a cup of yesterday’s coffee and welcoming the dawn.


Deer, hungry, desperate suburban deer are out here regularly.  They’re cocky.  You can’t just scare them by showing up.  There’s always one who’s the punk of the pack who stares at you while you throw rocks that miss and acorns that don’t matter.  But today, down below, a dozen deer passed by.  It must be that two or three extended families have decided to get together and graze as one. 

Today, I had to admit the skiing wasn’t good.  It’s been so wonderful of late.  Today there was simply and icy covering that had no forgiveness.  It was only thirty degrees out and whatever had melted the day before was now a forbidding grey covering.  The sides, still too thick to allow for an easy progression.  I ran out of time heading up to the orchard and turned around early to make my call. 

Back home, under my hood I could hear the sound of deer, dashing off as I walked up into my yard.  Sure enough I had heard correctly.  Three deer were crashing off into the woods.  And it occurred to me that it was a good thing that the deer had no natural predators.  This was ultimately a good thing.  Because if that sound had been something predatory, it could have taken my old-man ass out in a heart beat. 




Tuesday, 03/02/21


A Strange Ochre Pool


You can still ski.  I seemed to catch it just right.  In the morning it snowed and then it turned to drizzle, just above freezing.  The snow on the trail was packed hard but soft enough after the rain to get some good speed on and I made it down to Sojourner Truth Park quickly.  I passed the lady I often pass who walks her greyhounds.  She is always so friendly.  Her dog is always so agitated.  Today she seemed to look at me to make sure I really said “hi.”


On the way back there was a guy who I’d passed heading north.  Now, returning south, he was right in front of me.  I could sense that I was gaining on him.  But I’d said I wanted to stop near the waterfall.  I liked the way the melted water had formed a strange ochre pool, revealing rock and earth.  I didn’t overtake him though, before I reached spot.  Behind me by fifty yards was another woman with a dog. 


Now the man was much further ahead, and I set out to catch up to him.  And by the shale cuts I went off to the side where the track was frozen and imagined myself blazing a new trail that I'd use in the future, there to the side.  The man, however remained the same distance he always was.  Was he going faster?  He stopped and looked once or twice.  Or was I going slower?  The woman behind me remained the same distance as well. 

Back home my copy of the Shu Jing, by old Kong Fuzi (aka Confucuis) was here.  I’ve read “The Analects” more than a few times over the years.  But the “Shujing” is less about aphorisms and more about the explanatory tales of dynastic glory and indignity, that was the imagined utopia of the Western Zhou.  This, other texts had been telling me over and over was where much of the thin accounting of that primordial time recorded.  I want nothing more than to go take a ninety-minute left turn into the toilet but I have one and then another call I need to get ready for. 




Monday, 03/01/21

You Can Just Ski


Last day of February.   Trouble has managed to turn me on to Patricia Brenan, a contemporary vibes player who is vibrating around my room just now .  I have a secret fantasy to secure a vibraphone and have someone come by and offer me lessons on how to play it.  What a beautiful combination of percussion and melodic possibility.  I suppose we always had our primary exposure to xylophones as kids.  What a shame we didn’t keep it up. 

Pulled out one of the aspens I planted last year.  I tied them all to stakes that were supposed to hold them up.  It seemed as though five of the six transplants died  and one sort of made it.  But I held out hope that they were nurturing themselves down below, mystically connecting and healing one another across the twelve feet of ground I’d planted them all in.  I went up to this one today to stand the stake back up  It had gotten bent in the snow.  I carefully pulled back the wet snow from the stem only to find that it had broken and was no longer connected to the earth.  In a few weeks we should be able to tell if any of the others made it through the winter.


Skiing in the drizzle but was wonderful.  The hard packed snow is easy to get speed on and you can slide convincingly with each thrust on the now like it was today.  Epiphany yesterday:  don’t count.  Training wheels, I’d needed support when I was getting started with this cross country skiing initiative this year.  Thrust with each foot once and then again and count it as one and then two and then three and see how many sets of one hundred you need to cover a half an hour out, then turn around and repeat the count home.   And it’s important to be able to measure your progress for a while.  Then it strikes you that it doesn’t matter at all.  You can just ski .

What possessed me this morning?  I read one and then another treatment of “The Songs of the South” by Qu Yuan.  The noble official who is devastated that the king doesn’t take his advice and is listening to slander about him, he throws himself into the river as a form of protest.  Yesterday I’d read the Arthur Waley translations of “The Book of Songs” the oldest collections of Chinese poetry.  Many of them simple, northern folk songs imbued with the potency of scripture.  “The Songs of the South”, from the kingdom of Chu is the next oldest collection of Chinese poems and it seems expressive, and experimental in comparison.  I had wanted to read the Six Dynasty poets before I dove into DuFu and that led back to the Han poets like SiMa Xiaongru  and with these, at least, there isn’t any extant material, further back to consider.




Sunday, 02/28/21


These Bronze Age Ditties


Reading along with the assignments for my older one’s history of psychology course, I  particularly enjoyed the reading in the George Makari book, “Revolution in Mind” which does a wonderful job of narrating Freud’s intellectual exploration from disparate imperfect theories, into explanatory thesis named after him.  Infectious, reading about someone who sharpens his ideas, or disposes of them, moving towards a consistent, integrated theory.

The oldest collection of Chinese poetry is the Shijing.   The Zhou Dynasty, heaven on earth, the idealized Confucian archetype for moral rule.  I feel as though I’m splashing around in the primal fertilizer from which every subsequent writer draws nutrients.  Folk songs, most of them.  Blues songs too.  Take for example, “Peach Tree”


Buxom is the peach-tree;

How its flower blaze!

Our lady going home

Brings good to family and house.


Buxom is the peach-tree;

How its fruit swells

Our lady going home

Brings good to family and house


Buxom is the peach-tree;

How thick its leaves!

Our lady going home.

Brings good to the people of her house.


Apparently the, Confucians tried to twist all the stories within into reminders of the need for Confucian probity.  Enjoying these Bronze Age ditties, I was reminded of the “Song of Solomon” or the “Book of Songs” from the Bible, which is also disarmingly familiar and approachable, where all of a sudden, we are reading about being mesmerized by a beautiful woman instead of having God be disappointed one more time in His people.

It snowed and then it rained in the morning.  It stopped in the afternoon like they said it would and I went out to ski.  It was slick but it was wonderful and easy to slide quickly on.  The motion comes easy now and for a moment I see the sun open up, behind me and light up the white woods all around me.




Saturday, 02/27/21

Strawberry Type of Cheerios


My dad and I continued our weekly exploration of this Empire Trail path that links the Walk over the Hudson out to New Paltz.  Drove over to the Rotary Club Caboose.  This is few miles down the road from where New Paltz Road veers off of 299.  We’ve walked the first few miles from that lot there across from Lowes the about three weeks back.  The next Friday we continued on from there, beneath the old stone house there up on Kisor Road along till the next underpass.  Man was it cold that day.  Last week in snowed and we didn’t go out. Today we traced the trial down nearly all the way to Highland.

One house there along the trail had a whole lot of tall bamboo.  What was it doing there?  Where do you buy that?  It looked so tall, and full and green in the winter.  The deer weren’t going to mess with this bamboo, unlike the stalks in my backyard.  One or two other couples were out on the trail but for the most part we had the path to ourselves and though it wasn’t the pristine wilderness atop the Gunks, it was helpful to slow down the pathway I’d otherwise only sped along in a car. 


My dad had a visit with his old pal.  They went to grade school together and later college.  He said they got together and picked things right up from where they last left off.  I asked if they laughed for I imagined that to be one of the most precious things about getting together with old mates and yes, they’d gut laughed.  But interestingly they didn’t spend their time reminiscing.  I can only imagine I’d want to spend some time in memory lane. 


Later I had to take the little one over to pet store to get her older sister’s lizard some meal worms.  I dropped her off at the near by Barnes and Noble and I told her I’d get a few things at Stop and Shop before heading over to my moms.  My shop took a while.  The place is enormous.  I was a bit overwhelmed and when I got in line and called her and asked if she was almost ready she suggested she’d called me three times already and was standing at the car with the espresso I’d ordered.  I looked at my phone and it didn’t show her as having tried to call.  A chatty woman in front of my was buying a strawberry type of Cheerios because it was on sale.  It made me want to look away.  It made me sad. 




Friday 02/26/21

The Snow, The Heart


At dinner, I didn’t eat.  I’m missing the meal last night and again tonight.  But we took or I took the time from the meal to introduce The Song Dynasty tonight.  The book we are using for comparative history has things organized so that the Tang, the Song, the Yuan and the Ming all come in one successive chapter after another.  Periods in other parts of the world are more likely to be looked at in detail rather than covering fifteen hundred years, so swiftly. 

We talked pizza during dinner.  I wanted some, of course.  I was hungry.  But it would have to wait.  Tomorrow night though.  The younger one has fond memories of Dominos in Beijing.  Apparently they had some special cheese in the crust type of offering that has lodged itself in her memory as the final-word on pizza.   I fought the fast-food option at first.  But hey, we're on a mission to try different types of pizzas.  We’ve tried seven or eight local spots so far.  And so, tomorrow, when we are over picking up worms, we will visit the Dominos of Poughkeepsie, as there isn’t one conveniently located on this side of the river. 


Lovely warm day outside.  The snow was melting, sure.  But that meant the skiing worked even better than usual.  I went down to where the brooks flows under the trail and considered the water which had risen with the melting snow.  There, twenty feet from me was that nondescript apple tree that would soon command all attention up river, luring in bees by the hundred, when its blossoms turn.  It can’t be long now. 

Hackneyed perhaps, but it occurred to me, returning from the apple orchard, enjoying a pretty crisp clip, heading slightly down hill on the return, chasing a barred owl that kept flying forty feet ahead of me, and then again, in a straight line ahead of me over and over until finally tiring of me, he arched left and cut over the long field that usually hosts the cow and banking up and into a maple tree down in the valley that there was essentially nothing about cross country skiing that was in any way inferior to downhill skiing.  The sun, the snow, the heart pounding, and the ease of rolling out the back door onto this passageway immediately at the ready, that this was as good as it gets.  




Thursday, 02/25/21