Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wood is Good, But I'm Done With Robert Frost

Stacking wood day. Finally got it all in the shed. It's funny,  I'm not about celebrating simplicity or sustainability or any transcendence greater than what is. It 's just a good feeling seeing the wood all in a dry place and knowing the winter can come now. It helps that we aren't stacking the twelve cords the Connors used to go through back in their day. Insulation in a house is a saved labor year after year when you're heating with wood. Five cords will easily see us through the toughest winter. It also helps that we aren't cutting it and hauling it out of the woods ourselves. That would have been a deal breaker. We get a grapple load every two to three years delivered out behind the chicken run. The cost has risen from $800 the first year to about $1000 for the last load, which works out to between about a half to a third of the price it would take in equivalent heat by propane or oil. It is dirty in the house through, and the work involved is not to be undertaken without some effort, but on a beautiful late fall day like today it is nothing but a pure form of pleasure that never gets old. The girls still like to ride in the empty trailer back to the wood pile, and the new dog makes their short journeys extra special this year with his floppy companionship.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What To Do When You Hit A Deer

I hit a deer last Monday on my way to work. It was such a beautiful creature, so strong, and it flew out of the woods over a stone wall in the dark just before dawn. It was a young buck, maybe three points. I noticed the antlers as it kicked on its side in the ditch, trying to stand. It seemed so wrong to have such a strong body unable to get back up, so fatal. The front and driver's side of the car was crumpled in, even though he came out of the woods on my right. A few more inches and he would have missed me, sailed right over me.  I had to push hard against the door to get it opened. The car was a goner also. You could hear the leak of transmission fluid in there somewhere under the mangled metal. I called my wife and then dialed 911, standing in the middle of the road. As I talked, the deer somehow got back into the woods, still unable to stand, and I could hear it rustling loudly through the leaf litter. I wanted to run and hug it, hold it, do what I could, but what could I do? The thing about wild creatures is they are beyond our pity but not our tragic incompetence.
Then later I learned that the police found it in the woods and shot it. They contacted the landowner who hauled it out of there with an ATV. At least he got a good supply of venison, I hope. I got to work in my wife's car and she walked home while the policeman filled out the accident report. It all happened so fast and today we went car shopping and the salesman said unlike in the past people generally know exactly what they want when they come into the showroom thanks to the Internet and the newly transparent nature of information flows. I wish we could do something about our transportation flows to make them less damaging, though. I'll always think of that buck when I drive past that spot on the road now, where the stone wall dips a little and gets lost in the slightly darker shadow of the woods. The rains a couple of days ago washed out the dark streak in the asphalt where the car leaked its fluid. I'll miss that car, too.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ancient Heart Wisdom for All Soul's Day

Reading is important because our thoughts determine the state of our souls. Be artful and careful and  read books that are good for you and you will guarantee a long life for yourself and your descendants. That is the teaching of the ancients.

This weekend marks the turning point in the calendar that our ancestors recognized as a special time, the time when the boundary between the world of reality and the world of spirit can be seen and traversed by those with trained eyes. And indeed, with the leaves off the trees the earth has a skeletal, spare look that reveals the essence of the landscape around us. In Mexico, the remembrance of this special season from the still living past carries on in the ceremonies of the Day of the Dead, when the ancestors walk among us; the friendly ghosts of the past are invited into our homes to be with us once again. In America, the belief has devolved into the horribly commercialized pursuit of candy and forgetfulness that is Halloween, neither fish nor fowl, just a vestige of what was once a proud link to our ancestral birthright. We, who have sold it for a mess of junk, prefer not to think about what we have done. Instead of honoring the past we have relegated the spirits of our ancestors to the dustbin of our minds, much like we relegate our young and old to the dustbins of public schools and nursing homes. When the bottom line is all that counts and we reject notions of communal responsibility, then we get what we deserve, a horror story.

So the practice of Dia de los Muertos can be a healthy corrective for what in the West amounts to the cult of the material world that gives us the Miley Cyrus's of our popular culture and the overt sexualization of our children. But what if the need for correction becomes a hatred of the living world? Such an over-reaction gets explored in my book Savior, which will be published in the spring by Harvard Square Editions. You can read more about the cult of death at the heart of the book, and share in the launch by going here. Spread the word and take action in the name of life.