Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Morning on the Teche

A great egret patrols the shallows across the bayou.  Another races its reflection along the still water.  The rising winter sun lights the tops of the cypress trees on the near shore.  These are the sights that greet me with my morning coffee.

The winter here is quiet, so unlike the warmer seasons: no  jet skis, no pleasure boating,  just the birds and the occasional silver mullet breaking the surface of the water.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dog Sitting on Bayou Teche

It all started when I made a plane reservation for the only contiguous seven day slot I could find in my "retirement" calendar before late spring.  Non-refundable tickets, naturally.
I called the Louisiana relatives to give them the news, only to find out that they were spending that weekend watching auto racing at Daytona Beach.  I arrived Wednesday morning, they left Thursday afternoon.  They'll be back Sunday night, I'm leaving Tuesday.  So much for the various itineraries, now for my weekend companions.

There are two dogs, a big friendly Weimareiner named Blaze, and a tiny nervous Mexican Hairless named Lizzy, who snaps at the big guy's heels and generally becomes a royal pain; oh yeah she also tends to pee in the house.  The kids bought those fancy mats for her to pee on in case she has an "accident", but she ignores them, preferring the ceramic tile floor.  It seems not to matter how many times she goes outside.  All that said, she's kinda sweet in her own warped way, though it does feel weird petting a dog with no hair.

So here I am, in one of my favorite places on earth, with the bayou in the backyard and cane fields across the highway out front.  It's a quiet place with a constant breeze cooling the carport even in the middle of summer.  This unusually warm January Friday, the dogs and I are watching HBO after a morning of editing my book (the dogs slept through most of it), and a workout at Anytime Fitness (just me.)  

It's a gorgeous sixty-five degree day here in Acadiana and the beginning of an interesting weekend.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The moving finger writes ...

Home from a week of writing within sight of the Atlantic Ocean.

I wonder at the lovely strangeness of living in a small cottage with four articulate opinionated people, who for hours at a time are completely silent.  Before computers became the writer's tool, there would at the very least be the clatter of typewriter keys or the skritch skritch of pen on paper.  Now the minuscule tap of fingertips on laptop keyboards is overshadowed by the sound of the surf a few hundred feet away.  We were together in this tiny house, but alone in our work.

In those five writing days, I finished the second draft of my second novel (the first is lying in the slush piles of various publishing houses.)  Today I'll print a copy to work with this coming week.  For this third draft I need the printed page: to cross out, underline, insert, add notes in margins; but even more I need to feel its bulk, the weight of a year and a half's work, to make it real.


Three young people died yesterday in a terrible house fire in Poughkeepsie; lives ended before they'd really begun.  Each of them must have had plans: places to see, adventures to have, things to accomplish, people to love, all with an eye toward a future they do not have.  I am so sad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sunrise, Stray Cats, and Words

It's half-an-hour till sunrise in Rodanthe, NC on a cloudy Wednesday, but the impending dawn is already separating the ocean from the sky.  The dense clouds make it likely that Old Sol won't be visible as anything but indirect light this morning.  Sitting here in the cozy warmth of the cottage, I'm recalling several Januaries ago when I shot the cover photo for A Month on a Barrier Island, the book Steve Lewis and I collaborated on - his poems, my photos.

To get the shot I envisioned of Bonner Bridge, I left the cottage just as the sky was greying, drove quickly the dozen or so miles north to Oregon Inlet, and set up my tripod among the rocks on the southeast shore.  I wanted to capture the bridge in the red-orange glow of the morning, and I figured I'd just barely made it.  I took some test shots and waited.  And waited.  And waited.   It is a remarkably long time between daylight's beginning and the actual appearance of the sun, especially on a cold, windy January morning.  By the time I got the shot, I'd been there nearly forty-five minutes, and I was chilled to the bone.

My only company on that outing, other than the ever-present gulls, was a young, feral cat perched on the rocks several feet away.  It had no interest in coming closer, nor was it amenable to my closing the distance between us, but it stayed.  It listened while I whined about the cold.  It didn't leave when I mused about the tardiness of the damn sun.  In fact, the youngster remained until I packed up my gear, at which time it disappeared among the rocks.  A photo of my friend appears within the pages of our book.

I come to the cottage called Duckdog to write.  Steve holds weeklong retreats three times a year, weeks that have become so important to me that I pretty much schedule my year around them.  My favorite is this one, January.  Distractions are minimal since nothing is open, most of the cottages are vacant, and the weather is not conducive to long afternoons lounging on the beach.  It is a time devoid of any responsibilities other than to write.  So I write.  Words and phrases that may not get past my next draft, but for now are gems that simply need a little polish to bring out their essence.

It's truly remarkable how fast the day goes.  We begin work in the morning after breakfast; when next I look up from my writing nest on the love seat in the living room, it's after noon.  Too bad time doesn't move that fast when I'm waiting on a windy shore for the sunrise.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Triskaidekaphobia and the human obsession with numbers

Triskaidekaphobia is morbid fear of the number 13. Friggatriskaidekaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th. I wonder if 13 is the only number with two phobias dedicated to it? It is not the only number that has some superstitious significance.  In some cultures the number 4 is avoided; 3 is all over the place in both religious (ex: the trinity) and secular (bad things happen in ...) instances. 7 is called "Lucky", and our buddy 13 "Unlucky". I could go on, but if you've stayed with me this far you're probably about to click on the 'X' and end your agony, so I will leave further examples up to the reader.

The intriguing aspect of all this is the significance we humans place on numbers.  When did it start? Who was the first to assign a number to a set of things?  Where did it happen?  Why? (I kind of sound like a reporter here.)  Oh yeah, How did it start?  Naturally I don't know the answers, but that doesn't stop me from theorizing so let's do.

First - Why/how did numbers happen?  TT (Tom Theory) - As human society moved from  the early hunter gatherer stage to growing their own food, they clustered in groups.  Members accumulated livestock, that needed to be quantified.  Let's say an owner kept track of the stock by retaining a small stone for each head of stock, that way the herd could be inventoried by moving a stone from one bucket to the next as each animal was tallied.  Maybe this led to notches in wood, and finally to symbols representing different quantities.

Sound plausible?  The who, when, and where are beyond my theorizing powers, so have at it if you wish to muse.

Well we all have numbers in our heads, on lists, in our phones; numbers that are important to us.  Right now one that I'm focusing on is 70 - for on February 16th it will be the number of years I've been on the earth.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bare Feet and Wide Feet

When it's impractical for me to traipse around barefoot, wide (EE or EEE) shoes are comfy on my feet.  Medium shoes are not.  I trekked to our local shoe store this afternoon to  buy a pair that could replace my beloved boat shoes, worn to the point that the sole separated from the rest of the shoe.  I saw two pair that would do, though not an exact replacement, and asked the young lady, "Do you have this in ten or ten-and-a-half wide.  I only see medium on the shelf."

She proceeded to look at the shelf then announced, "We only have them in medium."  I thanked her then asked about the second selection.  Her answer - "We only carry mediums." I thanked her again and left.

Now, I know each of us is unique, but I can't imagine that there are no other wide feet in New Paltz.  Do those folks resort to my alternative, an on-line order from a company that specializes in wide shoes?   Or am I truly the only one in town that can't walk into the local store and come out with a pair of shoes that fit?

I wonder whether the amount of time I spent, and continue to spend, without shoes caused my feet to widen.  I'm reminded of the Chinese practice of foot binding to make women's feet small and dainty; perhaps keeping the feet free of any boundaries lets them widen.

Hmm ... I sense a conspiracy here.  Maybe big shoe corporations encouraged parents to keep their children in shoes by telling them how dangerous it was to walk barefoot.  Since those little bodies were just forming, putting them in medium width shoes forced their feet to conform to an arbitrary 'foot norm'.  This meant cheaper manufacturing cost by making only a standard width shoe.  Or, since most shoes, like almost everything else we consume, are made in China, we are being reformed to some bizarre oriental standard of foot beauty.

Or maybe I have weird feet.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wasting Time as an Art Form

While in the throes of straightening up my office (read "disposing of unnecessary papers and other miscellany",) I chanced to browse Wikipedia.  What's that got to do with organizing my office you ask?  Haven't a clue.

Anyway it all started with me typing January 4th into the Google search engine. 

Here are some things that happened on January 4th:

1785Jacob Grimm, German philologist and folklorist (one of the Brothers Grimm) is born
1885 – The first successful appendectomy is performed by William W. Grant on Mary Gartside
1903Topsy, an elephant, is electrocuted by Thomas Edison during the War of Currents campaign
1999 – Former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura is sworn in as governor of Minnesota.
2010 – The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building is officially opened.

Let's think about a few of these.

First successful appendectomy - How many unsuccessful ones were performed before this?  And what does an unsuccessful appendectomy look like?

An elephant is electrocuted by Thomas Edison - A bit harsh as a way to say AC current is lethal, don't you think? It turns out that Topsy was a murderer, but apparently TE's assistants executed several non-felonious animals during his DC vs AC campaign, which they lost.  If you're interested in some of the history of the electricity that we all use, click on the War of Currents link above.  One remarkable fact: the last utility-generated DC current in NYC was terminated in 2007!

Jesse Ventura as governor - a strange and wondrous experience to hear a politician actually say what's on his mind, not that it helped him stay in office.  Now he probes theories about government conspiracies that TruTV thinks we need to know - and maybe we do. TruTV's slogan is "Not reality. Actuality."

The world's tallest building - My building's bigger than your building - one more phallus designed and built by guys?

I think it's time for me to go back to straightening up my office.