Airy Distractions

Whew! What a week, what a day and, finally, here I sit at my favorite perch, one distraction after another keeping me away Monday and Tuesday.

Still, the Spartan walnut chair softened by a thick red cushion is comfy, and life is good. The tall clock just struck noon as I walked from the shower to my raised flagstone terrace outside. There I discretely toweled off and brushed through the tangles in my wet, flowing locks. Truth told, it’s awfully late to start my column, which I prefer to pound out a day or two earlier, leaving time to pick away, tinker, add splashes of color here and there, maybe even occasional daggers for targets I suspect listen. No such luxuries this week. Nope. At this point I gotta just let ’er rip unfiltered and see where it goes. Ah, yes, dangerous indeed with a mischievous mind working. Then again, some with whom I most often correspond suggest I’m at my best when spontaneous, impulsive and raw. Although I can’t say I agree, there’s no choice today. Deadline is approaching like darkness to the  evening deer stand, twilight to the daybreak riffle.

I must say this new sliver of a Sturgeon Moon has brought in the most refreshing, invigorating air, crisp and clear on morning rambles with the dogs, the cool, refreshing summer breeze blowing from the north Monday and Tuesday when — ah! — it seemed life couldn’t be better, yard work notwithstanding. But, hey, even yard work ain’t bad in weather like this. Whether toiling with loppers, clippers or pruning saw to overfill the wheelbarrow or just out running the dogs in green, wild nirvana, I enjoy being alone with my thoughts, many of them, all connected; some appear and pass like a bad odor, others linger, intensify and design an intricate labyrinth to new frontiers; then even brief detours to troubling places, all of the thoughts swirling through your brain and sparking internal conversation during repetitious, mundane chores. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit that these days it seems some of my best conversations are with myself, always trying to complete the big picture, one with hidden chambers contributing to obvious conclusions. I call it processing thoughts, and for me it works best walking alone, even in the rain. What’s disheartening is the realization that just when you get to the point where you’ve figured it out and know you have much to live for, you know your days are numbered. Who knows what’s next? Hopefully we start where we left off.

But enough of that, back to the task at hand, which is shaping up as a ramble fueled by personal observations the past few days, not to mention internal queries, such as this Sturgeon Moon slouching like a vertical hammock in the night sky. The Indians associated this moon with sturgeon, so the month of August must have been significant in their relationship to this a strange, prehistoric-looking fish native to our Connecticut River. My question is why were sturgeon so important to the Indians, and what besides food did they provide? Just curious. Fact is, probably no one knows. Indians left no written history. But I sure would like to know because the unknown fascinates me more than the obvious.

Actually, I tried to get going on this weekly writing chore Tuesday afternoon around 3, two days of trimming hedges and tidying up the yard in the rear view. I sat down, wrote a paragraph I knew I wouldn’t be happy with as a lead, went into the kitchen to pour a fresh cup of coffee, returned to my desk and discovered that my computer had shut down and re-booted. Uh-oh, I thought, and, sure enough, after signing on, I was greeted by a disturbing message from my Norton anti-virus program. After a few unsuccessful tries to remedy the problem with quick-fix links, I knew my day was done and went through the familiar process of cleaning out temporary Internet files, running chkdsk, and performing a time-consuming full-system scan, which takes hours. Hopefully, those drastic measures would solve the problem and allow me to fire-up the machine Wednesday morning without further troubles. No such luck. When I returned home from work Tuesday just before midnight and checked the computer, I knew morning phone work would be necessary. Oh well, I’d get through it, and off to bed I trudged, stopping midway in the dining room to leave my clothes in a pile on the seat of a leather, burgundy wing chair, my Birkenstocks tucked underneath, out of the way.

Oh yeah. I left out the UPS delivery of a book that came to my doorstep Tuesday evening around 6, after I had departed for work. My wife accepted the package and left it out on the counter for me. She didn’t know I was expecting it: “The Books in My Life” by infamous American author Henry Miller, a controversial expatriate and wordsmith extraordinaire whose books were banned here and in England into the early Sixties. Tell me, how can a man wired like me, or any avid reader for that matter, not be attracted to novels the government wants hidden from the eyes of its citizens? In my way of thinking, that’s gotta be some mighty interesting reading. Just me, I guess. Anyway, I had several times in the past thought about buying the book before deciding it was too pricey. Then I finally broke down late last week and bought it online in paperback, which I’ll liberally mark up, unlike my hardcovers. Who knows? I may even wind up buying the hardcover if I decide it’s a must-have for posterity, not to mention future “corruption” of my grandsons.

Eager for a little taste of the book Wednesday morning before running the dogs and embarking on my column, I arose early and started reading out in the green parlor off the midriff inset porch before my wife got up, poured her coffee and started preparing for work in another room, out by the carriage sheds where she gets her morning boob-tube fix, usually the Today Show. She passed through a few times on her normal morning routine before cutting up a delicious cantaloupe and hollering goodbye on her way out the door to work. I heard her car start and saw it heading down the driveway when I caught a vaguely familiar sound I didn’t like. It sounded like a flat tire to me, so I jumped up and dialed her cell phone from the kitchen. She picked up on the third ring, had already figured out her problem and turned around to head home. She parked on flat ground in the driveway, left her car behind and drove my truck to work. So then, column and dogs looming larger by the second, I had an unwelcome project on my hands, one that promised to consume time I didn’t have. Just one of those weeks, I guess. Maybe that new Sturgeon Moon is the culprit.

With no time to waste, I fetched a four-way lug wrench propped against the carriage-shed wall by the red cupboard, laid it by the car and went into the barn — all the doors open to circulate dry, refreshing air throughout — where I retrieved a heavy hydraulic floor jack and one of the four studded snow tires stacked and inflated on rims along a cubby-hole wall. I then returned to the flat and loosened the five lug nuts before jacking the car up and removing the tire, which had picked up a small screw somewhere in my wife’s travels. I threw the flat in the trunk, put the snow tire on and drove up the Brook Road gorge to John Allen’s garage on the ridge above, where I left the tire, briefly exchanged pleasantries and headed back home to walk the dogs, clock ticking valuable minutes into oblivion.

But I still had to deal first with my computer issues. So, upon entering my home, I went inside, called Comcast and a rep gave me the toll-free Norton technical-support number, which I called and got a rep who asked a few questions before remotely commandeering my computer from afar, probably, judging by the name of the woman, in Bangladesh or somewhere not far from there. She assured me she’d have the problem fixed by the time I fed the dogs and returned from a brisk, two-mile romp with them. She didn’t lie. When I got back to my computer, sure enough, my old Norton software had been removed, replaced by a newer version and I was ready to roll once I ate some of that succulent neighborhood melon my wife had cut up, showered and dressed. Then the fun began: crafting a column on the heels of pig-piling distractions.

I had a few ideas: things like turkeys and cougars and the reserved Yankee way I learned from my grandfather and his spinster sister, both of whom I shared a home with as a boy but never really got to know before they were gone. Also — who knew? — maybe I’d even jump off to replay parts of a conversation I had this week with an aged neighborhood Yankee, whose “Patch” with a catchy name easily remembered by a rhyme attracted strawberry pickers. Plus, I was dying to say goodbye to Matt Wolfe, the biomass huckster who’s long gone and hard to find, likely cooking up another scheme for a less sophisticated, less alert community that asks few questions.

I started by writing a new lead segueing into the paragraph I had written the previous day, then was just getting started — into the swing, so to speak — when my phone rang and the Caller ID indicated it was an unfamiliar local number. I took a chance and, lo and behold,  none other than the Wolfe-slayer herself, lovable activist Janet Sinclair, a peach of a lady who spearheaded sharp, organized opposition that sent the wily Wolfe a fleein’, tail tucked nervously between his furry legs. Sinclair was chatty, just wanted to talk and tell me she had hoped to see me at the previous night’s party in Turners Falls that drew a big crowd and lots of high-spirited chatter. She said she was taking the high road, had absolutely no need to dance over the pro-biomass corpses.

“We won,” she said. “I couldn’t be happier. But why be rude and obnoxious?”

Good for her, a class act. History will smile upon her mission.

Well, supper time is near, then work, so I must cut it off here. I hope I haven’t bored you. I must throw something together to eat before my wife returns from work. Maybe I’ll even get a chance to look at the new Rolling Stone magazine that arrived in the mail. Or I suppose I could briefly revisit Henry Miller, the artist America tried and failed to silence. Miller was cut from a different bolt of cloth, one with which I am familiar and fond of. I met the first man to publish Miller in America, a brave activist with a bedrock spine. I didn’t know Miller but can tell from reading him that he never shied away from a friendship out of fear that he’d fall in love, and laughed out loud at the Dead-Bird Society perpetuating the Christian myth that birds mate for life and live out their lives in lonely solitude when a mate dies.

I hope to discover something worth sharing in “The Books in My Life.” We’ll see. I’ve learned to be careful after reading a man like Miller. His defiant style can rub off on a reader of my ilk and spin him off into dangerous rants that irk the Chamber or Commerce and meeting-house flocks. But what the heck. I’ve turned 60 and am way past the point of caring what others think of my more unpopular views — an admission that would likely humor those who know me best.

Yeah, I suppose those folks, my true friends, would just crack a subtle smile and ask with a wry, affectionate chuckle and a glint of sarcasm in their eye, “What else is new?”

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