Could it be that simple?
I opened a set of writing prompts online and felt uninspired by almost all of them. And then thought, I have nothing to say. Whatever it was about life that used to compel me to observe and take notice and want to record has dwindled. But I am typing this, and that's a start. There's a way of being in the world I was meant for. Mostly austere, mostly unencumbered. In my mind's eye, I am walking along the edge of the ocean south of Gold's Beach in OR, Bird Dog beside me, the sky a deep, western blue. I've seen sorrows enough that they've lost their romance and I don't feel much like staring them in the face to write them. The one thing remaining that still calls to me is wild places. Deer standing still ahead on a trail, hawks circling, rivers running wild, and trees that have integrity far beyond anything I've ever mustered. The road has run out into a vast plain. To go forward, I have to busque and discard much of what has defined me to this time. What will I need to save to make Hailey feel safe? What will I need to keep to let her feel tethered to her childhood?
I keep circling around what kind of job I want. None of them. I don't seem to want any of the jobs there are now. Is it time to go back to school? To seek a TA-ship in history again and just see where it all leads? Do I set up a table and computer in a living room of a house in a crack neighborhood and feel the night air of the southern plains calling me to write again? Could it be that simple? Could it be?

2014...Beginnings and Endings
I opened LJ this morning to write for the first time in a long time.
One sentence of an abandoned draft from last spring opened on prompt:

"This year has already been embued with kairos time...the day after Hailey returned to Davidson, I succumbed to the blues."

Given the course of this year, it seems right to preserve this cryptic statement. From March through June, I was a bundle of feelings, and not good ones. Like fuel for a bonfire, my days were subsumed by unwanted and uncustomary thoughts and emotions. Eroding events of the previous year and a half - congress eliminated funding for TAH projects; four or five years of faculty position apps came to naught; work at the barn trickled to one or two clients -- coincided with my realization I have been very good at giving others a launch into careers and hobbies while somehow not nurturing my own. A bitterness that had lurked for months if not years in the hot coals of disappointing events suddenly roared into a fire I couldn't contain.

And so I began to walk away instead of fighting the flames.

I left the barn where I had worked,
laid off my mare and didn't seek a second horse.

I cut off contact with two or three people who only connected when they wanted or needed something.

I began walking every day.

And recently, the mantra "stop striving" came to me on one of those walks.

It's the antithesis of what we admire in the U.S.,
of what we post about on FB,
of what we tend to talk about when we get together with friends.
But right now it feels like peace to me, it feels like the place of balance.
When I feel myself sprinting back toward the flames,
if I summon the mantra I can slow and turn my steps.

There it is.
A story of me.
There's no pride or ending.
Mostly it's a story of humbling,
with my own reaction to diminishment being the most humbling part.
But at least I do now have a personal answer to the riddle
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
In 2014, it's peace.

In 2011...
I'm quite late posting this truncated and spontaneous reflection on the year that ended almot 6 weeks ago. In 2011, my girl was a CIT at her Camp Wapsie, she finished her junior year and began her senior, went to all the dances, applied early decision to Davidson and was accepted, and took and loved a job at the winery. Her show choir won a grand championship in Mt. Pleasant, and many of her good friends who were seniors graduated and went on their way to colleges all around the country.

In 2011, I was shunned for the elementary SS ed position at the UI, and wasted some time feeling bitter. I bought Call, tbred gelding from Pennsylvania, worked with him and just sold him a few days ago. Mandy joined Holly Apple at Cedar Valley Stables and eventually thrived, tho I think the first three months were hard for her; she doesn't like change. Had one paper accepted for publication and wrote and submitted another that has been returned in 2012 for revision and resubmission. Jay and I went to Colorado alone for spring break as my girl went to NYC for the school choir trip. We ramped up our band by asking Ruth Anne to join us on her cello, and played gigs in Iowa City, West Branch, Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon.

The summer trip to NC was harsh. Mom went into the hospital psych ward with depression the day before we headed down for scheduled trip. Dad and I didn't get along. And we had an extra teenager along for the whole shebang after my girl's mission trip in Asheville concluded. The christmas trip was better...we spent just 3 days and that seemed to stress mom and dad less. But it still seemed to be a day or two too much. The relationship with mom and dad has become more and more complicated this past year instead of more comfortable, as it seemed to be for a while.

In 2011, my work lame duck year began in earnest. I've never been able to work as directly with the Cedar Rapids teachers as those in other districts, and I've lost vim and vigor in general for my enterprise. It's time for a change, but I have no strong sense of what I want it to be. This past year was not a gathering of momentum for a launch into the next thing. On the whole, it's felt more like a hibernation, a dwindling of energy, a sense of been there, done that. Trouble is, I've not id'ed what/how I want to be and do next.

I suspect some of this drift is the nature of being in my girl's wake as she leaves home. She's already so independent, her presence in the house is much more like a boarder than an integral part of the family. I have not wrapped my interests and life up in my girl, but my sense of the timing of my life feels a bit as though it is now trapped in the amber of my girl's childhood, which for 17 years felt as though it would last forever. While I could intellectually know that was an illusion, my experience of the time was what it was, and what it was felt as tho it must be eternal. My girl was a willing vessel for my fierce love for so could I have known, really known, that the years in which my infinite love could be freely poured out and received were finite.

I woke up feeling good, hopeful and a bit joyful for no particular reason.
My girl called because she had lost her chem binder. She did her usual snarly thing when she's stressed
and when I hung up I accused Jay of initiating the snarling when he answered the phone.
When the full round of snarling was done, I returned to my office and sat here a moment,
contemplating that I wanted to recall my anger and return to peaceful and inexplicably hopeful.
And then I thought about all the snarly angers I've sent out there to the universe and it occurred to me that calling anger back is a bad idea; I don't want it all back, or if it came, I would not want to hold onto it, as one does not want to drink poison, and so I imagined its stream flowing off to some sort of outer space storage site. It then occurred to me that such a site already exists. It is black holes; they are already the depository for darkness.

The scary thing is that black holes don't just roll harmlessly along like so many self-storage units. They suck in stars and galaxies. They extinguish the light when it flirts too close to their edges for too long.

We feel so self-contained, so autonomous. But we are part of a whole so vast, by our nature we will never comprehend its scale. And yet each one of us is a blueprint for that unknowable whole.

To the degree that you have loved something...
Precisely to the degree that you have loved something:
a house, a woman, a bird, this tree, anything at all,
you are punished by time.

Excerpt from "At Summer's End" by John Engels, from Sinking Creek, The Lyons Press, 1998.

It's later than you think
I heard that phrase on a British mystery last night.
Instead of it floating away with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of the script,
it resonated at cell level. My girl has one more year at home. I'm sorry to be a cliche,
but I'm haunted by a simple question...where did the time go?

The origins of raindog
In the spring of 1990, in my second season tree planting,
I met Hank. He was ten years older, had a long beard, long hair,
and wore absurd plaid polyester pants on the units because he'd spent the winter in jail
and gained too much weight to fit his usual jeans. Hank was funny and sarcastic and had few boundaries. For whatever reason, we hooked up.

Since he was on home arrest and had to check in with a breathalizer at random hours between 7 pm and 4 am, he didn't camp with the crew.
When he'd gotten out of jail, he couldn't move back to the cabin where he lived up the West Fisher; he had to have telephone access. So he'd gotten what he could afford, which was a unit in the nastiest shack-like row of apartments in Libby and possibly Montana as a whole. The space was one room with a cooking area and a bathroom with a toilet and a tin shower stall.

While the apartment ambiance was akin to a pay-by-the-hour motel room in which someone had smoked three packs a day for 50 years,I didn't mind that -- we both smoked then, albeit outside on the tiny concrete stoop. And where I slept had nothing to do with who I was. I didn't stay in one place long and I loved where I did stay to feel impermanent. The more impermanent it was, the more tangibly a place seemed to embody the freedom I felt. But in that flophouse apartment, I did find the shower floor truly disgusting. We worked around it by standing on a wood palette and averting our eyes.

For some reason, Hank had a stack of old Rolling Stone magazines. One night he read aloud part of an interview with a musician whose nickname was Raindog. The musician said a raindog was someone who didn't wear underwear and slept in patterned sheets. That pretty much described Hank's dressing habits and sheets; I always called him my raindog after that. We were together for two and a half years, though we only lived in the sleazy shed row until he got off home arrest at the end of planting season that spring.

In '92 the apartment shed row was demolished to make way for a Pamida store.
I broke up with Hank around the same time. It was one of my least finest hours. Our time together included some of my finest.

It's kind of odd that in 2001, when I was learning to use a computer and a friend pulled me into Live Journal, I chose Raindog for my username. It's not so much a name as a map of a territory that was rare and mostly beautiful.

(no subject)
April first, and I'm scoring teacher lesson design assessments.
It's almost 80 outside, and that's where I want to be.
What a long, strange winter it's been.
97 days without making it to 50.
Rarely made it above freezing in that time.
Snow on the ground from November 11 through March 11.
Spring fever...
Bring it on.

Supreme Court ruling allowing corporate funding of elections
Democrats lost the Senate supermajority
Howard Zinn died last night

And I'm working on a paper on 3rd graders studying history.
Feels rather irrelevant and self-indulgent in the midst of this year's events.

It occurs to me that I need to be ready to be strong
if disaster comes to my corner of the world this year.

It also occurs to me that I need to stop paying much attention
to the wider world for a while.

A recent brawl on my FB page has given me a glimpse at conservative
delusions. I don't hold out hope for enlightened change.

So I'll work on small things close to home
and it will have to be enough.

On Resisitng Change in the Weather
This morning the weather's changed. It's gray and chilly after a week of stunningly beautiful days -- sunshine and temps in the 70's. A few weeks ago I planned to go gently into that good night of Iowa winter (I use the word "good" loosely here, and only in the interest of preserving the original Wolfe quote...) but I'm no longer feeling complacent about the coming cold. In fact, I'm balking at the thought and contemplating what it would take to move to a year-round warmer clime say, oh, next week.

I know, I know. I should consider the weather in a broader environmental context, how it affects farming, etc. And I need to remember that I typically draw jolts of energy from changes of season. Here's the thing; I'd like my changes of season to go something like this:

Winter = 1 month
Spring = 2 months
Summer = 6 months
Fall = 3 months

Unfortunately for my preference, during the past few years Iowa goes something like this:

Winter = 5 months
Spring = 3 months
Summer = 2 months
Fall == 2 months

During our first few Iowa years, summers were long, hot and humid and winters, while long, were quite mild. While I loved the extreme summer heat, by the time temps cooled in September, I was ready for a change. Things changed a couple of years ago. By this year, summer came late and brought only what I consider fall temps, which means that a cooler day now feels like the verge of winter.

While I contemplate a change of venue, I think I'll spend the rest of the morning clearing out the clutter in my office. When I consider moving, I feel better when I know I have stuff whittled down and organized.

Stuff. A topic for another post's musing.


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